Set goals to become healthy in 2015!

Many of you are regular readers of this column. You read all the articles and understand how to become healthy. Unfortunately, it stops there. Another year passes and you have not lost any weight, reduced your blood pressure, or reduced your blood sugar levels. Your medication list is getting longer. You know what needs to be done, but never take any action. (You know who you are – I have lectured you in the office!) Now is the time to take action and make this year different!

If you want to succeed, you need to set goals. Without goals you lack focus and direction. Goal setting not only allows you to take control of your life’s direction; it also provides you a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding. To accomplish your goals, however, you need to know how to set them. You can’t simply say, “I want” and expect it to happen. Goal setting is a process that starts with careful consideration of what you want to achieve, and ends with a lot of hard work to actually do it. In between there are some very well defined steps that transcend the specifics of each goal. Knowing these steps will allow you to formulate goals that you can accomplish. Here are 5 steps to help you out.

First of all, find a goal that motivates you. This is important. If you have little interest in the outcome, or your goals are irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals. What are your priorities? Do you want to lose weight, reduce your blood sugar levels, get off one of your medications, reduce your dress or pant size, or just look better? Goal achievement requires commitment, so to maximize the likelihood of success, you need to feel a sense of urgency and have an “I must do this” attitude. When you don’t have this, you risk putting off what you need to do to make the goal a reality.

The second step is to set SMART goals. Make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound. First of all, your goals must be specific. Your goal must be clear and well defined. (For example, I want to lose 20lbs.) Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don’t provide sufficient direction. (For example, I want to lose weight or I want to lower my blood sugar.) Remember, you need goals to show you the way. Make it as easy as you can to get where you want to go by defining precisely where you want to end up. Examples include: I want to lower my hemoglobin A1c 1 point, or I want reduce my pant size 2 sizes, or I want to get off one of my diabetes medications. Second, your goals need to be measurable – include precise amounts, dates, and so on in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. If your goal is simply defined as “To lose weight” how will you know when you have been successful? Without a way to measure your success you miss out on the celebration that comes with knowing you have actually achieved something. Third, your goals need to be attainable. Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence. (For example, I want to lose 100lbs.) Fourth, make sure your goal is relevant to your life. Your goals need to be about you, not your friends, family, or spouse. Finally, make sure your goals are time bound. Your goals must have a deadline. Again, this means that you know when you can celebrate success. When you are working on a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and achievement will come that much quicker.

The third step is to write your goals down. This step is important. The physical act of writing down a goal makes it real and tangible. You have no excuse for forgetting about it. Post your goals in visible places to remind yourself every day of what it is you intend to do. Put them on your walls, desk, computer monitor, bathroom mirror or refrigerator as a constant reminder.

The fourth step is to make a plan. This step is often missed in the process of goal setting. You get so focused on the outcome that you forget to plan all of the steps that are needed along the way. Plan what days and time you will exercise. Plan your grocery lists ahead of time. Plan your meals. What needs to be done to achieve your goals?

Finally, the fifth step is to stick to your goals. Remember, goal setting is an ongoing activity not just a means to an end. Build in reminders to keep yourself on track, and make regular time available to review your goals. Think how you are going to feel when you have lost those extra 20lbs, when you are off your blood pressure medications, or when your have dropped 2 pant sizes. Visualize success.

Now is the time to take action to get healthier. This is the year you are finally going to make a change. Do not put this off any longer. Do not procrastinate any more. You are going to succeed. Get started now on some goals to improve your health and change your health forever.

Holy Cow! What do you mean I am overweight???

Obesity is the number one health epidemic in the United States today and quickly becoming a world-wide epidemic. Obesity directly leads to many other health conditions including cardiovascular disease. Are you overweight? How does one know? There are several methods for answering this question. A fairly good method is the body mass index (BMI). BMI is a number calculated from your weight and height. It provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories which may lead to health problems. BMI does not measure body fat directly, but research has shown that BMI correlates to direct measures of body fat, such as underwater weighing. It will give you a reasonable idea if you are overweight. It allows you to compare your own weight status to that of the general population. You can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight in pounds (lbs) by height in inches (in) squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703 (BMI = weight (lb) / [height (in)]2x 703).  With the metric system, the formula for BMI is weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (weight (kg) / [height (m)]2). An easy way to figure out your BMI is to use an online calculator from the NHLBI (  Normal is 18.5-24.9. Overweight is 25-29.9. Over 30 is considered obese. Over 40 is morbidly obese. Many people are shocked at their BMI and associated category. BMI can be used as a guide for setting weight loss goals. A good initial goal is a BMI less than 30. A good long term goal is less than 25. Reducing your BMI can reduce your chances of type II diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, cancer, and an early death. Use your current BMI as motivation to lose weight. You can do it! On the other hand, an even better method for figuring out if you are overweight is your weight circumference. Belly fat is bad! A high waist circumference means you have too much abdominal fat which puts you at high risk for many diseases including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and stroke. It means you need to lose weight! By measuring your waist circumference, you can track your body composition over time. A high-risk waist circumference in men is a waist measurement over 40 inches (102 cm). A high-risk waist circumference in women is a waist measurement over 35 inches (88 cm). To measure your waist circumference, use a tape measure. Start at the top of the hip bone, then bring it all the way around (it will be level with your navel). Make sure it’s not too tight and that it is parallel with the floor. Don’t hold your breath while measuring it. Remember that these numbers (BMI and waist circumference) are only guidelines and not absolutes. Use them as a general idea of where you currently stand and what your long term goals should be. Start today. Make a goal and stick to it. Be consistent! Do not give up!

It is never too late to start taking care of yourself

Many people seem to feel that they are too old to start taking care of themselves. They say, “It is too late.” “It is too hard to change.” “It will not make a difference at my age.” These are all excuses. Many smokers feel that since they have smoked for so long, there is no point in quitting. I have seen many long-term hardcore smokers (40-50 years) who have been able to quit. It was not easy but they were able to do it. And you know what? They found that they started to feel better. They had less shortness breath and better exercise tolerance. Food started to taste better. It clearly was not too late. The same goes for one’s diet and weight. Sally was a feisty 76 year old widow. She was 75 pounds over weight. She was a diabetic and hypertensive on multiple medications. She was chronically tired. It was an effort just to get off the couch. She felt like pill time was another meal due the large handful of medications she was taking. She lived alone and never felt like cooking just for herself. She had multiple aches and pains that made getting out of bed painful. Her arthritis was getting worse. Her PCP told her she might soon need insulin for her diabetes. One day she decided that she had had enough. She did not want to live this way anymore. She started to change her diet. She started to increase the number of fruits and vegetables she ate every day. She stopped eating sweats. She increased the fiber in her diet to help her feel full. She started walking. Initially it was hard. She could only walk for 5 minutes. Soon she could do 10 minutes. Eventually she built up to 30 minutes. Slowly, the weight started to come off. It was slow, but steady. She lost 5 pounds the first month. She slowly started to feel better. She started to have more energy. Her shortness of breath improved. Her mood improved. She continued to watch her calories and her weight slowly continued to decrease. Before she knew it she had lost 25 pounds. Her blood pressure dropped. She was able to come off one of her blood pressure medications. Her blood sugar also dropped. She no longer needed insulin. Her PCP stopped one of her diabetes medications. People started to notice. They started to comment how good she was looking. She was able to get some nicer fitting clothing. She also noticed her aches and pains were improving. Her hips and knees both started to feel much better. Her mood was continuing to improve. She was feeling happy. Her entire life was changing – at age 76! It is never too late. She made a decision to live a new life. She was focused on overall good health. Good health is something we earn, especially as we get older. Making a commitment to maximizing your quality of life as you age is the greatest gift you can give yourself. Start today. Make a commitment to improving your health and your life. It is never too late!

What is One Thing I Can I do Today to Start?

One thing you can do today to start is to get rid of all the junk food in your house. Throw it all away or give it away. Anything that is high in calories, high in fat, loaded with sugar, or highly processed just throw away. Get rid of food that has little nutritional value. Do not bring it into your home. Avoid temptation. It is too easy to give into temptation when it is lying around the house. Make it as difficult as possible to eat junk food. Make it necessary to go out of the house to get junk food. Make it easy to do the right thing. Keep healthy food available. Have fresh fruit available. Cut up vegetables so they are ready to eat when hunger hits. This is an easy step that is highly effective to help you do the right thing. Do it today!