Long Term Changes Require a Gentle Approach

Starting a new plan can be scary and overwhelming.  Many people feel very motivated to make a change to feel better but once they realize it means coming out of your comfort zone and trying new habits and learning new routines, the enthusiasm can wane.  Sometimes I see that patients are so motivated to loose weight, have more energy, clear up skin conditions, and/or reduce pain that they take on too many changes too quickly, burn out and return to the same old bad habits.

Tortoise vs the Hare Approach

How do you get healthy and make lasting changes and avoid these common pitfalls? Just like the old adage of the hare and the tortoise that taught us a valuable lesson of perseverance and slow and steady, we can apply this same lesson to our healthy changes.  One of the most important changes we can make first is to love ourselves.  If we love ourselves, then we wouldn’t make drastic changes that are too severe for our bodies.  If we love ourselves, then we give ourselves a grace period of learning new tricks and new habits without beating ourselves up.  If we love ourselves first, we ask for help and make time for ourselves by delegating out some of the day to day chores where we can. If we love ourselves, we don’t injure ourselves by doing too much too quickly.  We know that loving ourselves means going about change in a slow steady pace that is gentle.

Case of Overwhelm

I had a patient in this month who is determined to finally start and keep up with the healthy eating plan she has been constantly falling off of for the last year, start an exercise plan and finally start loosing the weight that has been steadily increasing.  She is also balancing work and raising small children that require a lot of time and energy.  She is constantly battling the need for time for self care, grocery shopping, cooking, exercising, and resting with time spent caring for her children and taking them to their activities.  After discussing her plan and looking at the demands on her life, she realized she was trying to do too much too quickly and she was already burning out and starting to loose hope again.  We discussed strategies and she realized she needed to pick only 3 small steps for this month.  In addition, she realized she needed to ask for more help from her partner to do more of the driving and caring for their children so she could have some time to herself.  We made a plan that the most important step was to achieve small steps without adding more overwhelm and disappointment to her life.  She needed to first remember to be gently and loving with the actions she was taking to be healthier.

Loving and Gentle

As you work to establish new healthy habits for 2017, ask yourself, “How can I approach this in a loving and gentle way.” Our bodies and our health respond much quicker to loving and gentle approaches compared to self imposed suffering by trying to change too much too quickly or being unrealistic about what we can accomplish quickly.  Building on a few small changes can result in reaching our long term goals with a much more enjoyable and lasting impact.

Dr. Jill Scott ND