It's All In Your Head: A New Way to Approach Your Health Goals

Most people know what they need to do to get healthier. After all, we are all inundated with messages about the best exercise system or latest diet plan – all which promise to make us feel and look better.

However, knowing what changes to make to get healthier and consistently implementing the changes as part of your daily routine are two very different things, according to Janis Newton, director of the MUSC Wellness Center.

"Healthy" Mindset: 1) Clear vision of Why. 2) Take Responsibility for What's Self-inflicted. 3) Get Help and Make a Plan. 4) Don't Lose Hope

“What I’ve noticed through the years is that it’s easy to know what to do, but it’s hard to follow through consistently enough to get long-term results,” said Newton.

Newton has worked in the health and fitness industry for more than 40 years. She said the biggest difference between those who are successful at reaching their health goals and those who aren’t able to make lasting, sustainable changes is usually where they are mentally and emotionally rather than what kind of plan they’re following.

HAVE A CLEAR VISION OF YOUR WHY

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they decide it’s time to get healthy is not having a clear vision of why they want to make a change and not having appropriate strategies, Newton said, noting that many of the wellness center clients ask her to give them advice through what she called “clarity sessions.”

“I help people discover their purpose and have clarity with articulating that so they can be authentic through their journey,” she said. “That gives them the courage and consistency it takes to make a sustainable transformation. It is very important to prioritize personal growth throughout the process. It shouldn’t be just about losing a few pounds or following the newest nutrition plan you read.”

Though it might seem obvious, people start working toward varying health goals for all kinds of different reasons. There are times when the real reason isn’t even obvious to the person on the journey until he or she takes some time to reflect.

“Creating new habits can be overwhelming," Newton said. "Some changes can be easy, but many are complex. Clarity with your ‘why’ and knowing the right strategies are critical. And don’t underestimate the importance of positive mind-set and joy to change the brain!”

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT’S SELF-INFLICTED

Sometimes it takes a little tough love to help people understand that it’s their own habits that are holding them back. For example, many aches and pains and lack of energy that people blame for not being physically active can actually be alleviated by cutting back on alcohol, sugar and processed foods which can cause inflammation. People are shocked that their bodies and brain improve and they sleep better.

The good news about being real about how we sabotage ourselves is that if the problem is self-inflicted, people have the power to change that, noted Newton. Understanding that you have the power to change your health is empowering, and it’s much more motivating than being in victim mode.

GET HELP AND MAKE A PLAN

Once you’ve identified your why and gotten clear about what you need to change in your life, it’s a good idea to figure out what kind of help you need to get where you want to go.

“There is so much information out there and many people grab things from every article," Newton said. “I suggest getting help from a professional, keep it simple and initially focus on a few important changes that will improve health and brain function.”

“Proper exercise and eating nutrient-dense food can change the infrastructure of the brain," she added. "It is an amazing feeling!”

Health professionals can help redefine your lifestyle needs as they relate to your age, life situation, health information and focus on physical activity, sleep, stress, nutrition and other self-care topics such as mental and emotional health. They can teach mindfulness, positive mind-set and help infuse joy into the journey.

Whether you need to seek the help of a nutritionist or personal trainer, life coach, a therapist or just a good friend who can lend an ear, having a support system and knowing that you don’t have to do it alone can make all the difference.

DON’T LOSE HOPE

At the end of the day, the people who are able to make lifelong changes in their habits and become healthier overall are the people who believe they can. Those who have trouble sometimes have really given up on themselves, whether they realize it or not.

“There’s a saying that if there’s hope in the future, then there’s power in the present,” said Newton. “Hope is extremely important. It takes hope to be powerful and courageous enough to make the changes necessary to improve your lifestyle.”

By Erica Rodefer Winters

INFOGRAPHIC: Health Goals by the Numbers
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