Self improvement is always a great choice, but positive decisions don’t always come to fruition overnight. Health goals can be hard to maintain and current restrictions caused by the pandemic have inhibited many people’s access to a gym, in addition to the obvious mental impact. It’s important to remember that healthcare professionals are always available to discuss your unique health needs and to help establish a plan that is efficacious long term.
Mark Nelson, MD, a family medicine physician at M Physicians Mill City Clinic, recognizes that setting goals can be daunting at first, so sometimes it’s important to take a step back and break your goals into smaller parts.
A lot of times, patients will come to the clinic with a large, overarching goal. Things like ‘I want to get in shape’ or ‘I want to lose 40 pounds.’ These are all great goals to work towards, but the challenge comes in figuring out all the small steps to eventually get you where you want to go. A good primary care provider can help you break the mountain down into individual, achievable steps so that a patient can continue to see real improvement and stay motivated to work towards the overall goal.
Mackenzie Dougherty RD, LD, Registered Dietitian at M Physicians Mill City Clinic, also sees firsthand how small dietary changes can have a positive impact.
“What we decide to eat kind of sets the tone for if we’re taking care of our body. Just being realistic is the first thing. People looking at changing their diet and food patterns shouldn’t look at it as a bunch of drastic changes right away, because it’s subtle changes over time that make the biggest difference. People should be asking themselves: ‘Can I maintain this for a year or more?’ If the answer is no, then you need to find where on the spectrum you can make a change that’s sustainable,” Dougherty said.
Comparing yourself to other people is a losing strategy. People are complex and unique, often making success dependent upon someone’s unique circumstances and preferences.
“For me, creating goals is about what each patient is looking for and it’s really individually driven. They’re the ones that have unique parts of their life that they need to improve. Some people have specific needs, whether it’s diabetes or blood pressure, and some people just want to feel better by having more energy or losing weight. It really depends on the person to determine where we begin,” Dougherty said.
Analyze your situation and develop a pragmatic approach that can be maintained. Putting serious thought into your goals is the first step. Even after devising a plan, it’s important not to be obstinate about it.
Sustainability can change with life experiences. I think we should constantly be reassessing, since how your nutrition looks right now might be completely different two years later. Have some go-to foods that will work for you when you’re busy or overwhelmed. If you’re wanting to try new things then maybe a new way of preparation or one new meal a week. You want to have options that you can fall back on.
Mackenzie Dougherty, RD, LD
Nutrition, exercise and visiting with a healthcare provider are all great steps that can reverberate throughout multiple aspects of your life. Working with a professional to achieve your goals holds you accountable to someone that can provide you with expertise throughout the journey.
“The thing I try to emphasize is that nothing we do for our health is done in isolation. Regular mental health counseling can lead to significant physical changes. Healthy choices in your diet or activity level will have a positive effect on your mental health and how resilient you are to stress and anxiety. This can also positively impact things like sleep, which can then help with your energy levels when you want to be physically active. You don’t have to change everything all at once. Make small changes and they can ripple out into the rest of your life in amazing ways,” Dr. Nelson said.