SLCo Healthy Lifestyles Blog
Stages of Change
Rehabilitating Your New Year’s Resolutions
Did you know that only 8% of people are successful at achieving their New Year’s resolutions? Getting fit, staying healthy and losing weight were among the top resolutions set for 2014. In fact one third of Americans set some sort of resolution for the New Year. Of that third only 64% stick with it after the first month and after 6 months only 46%. Ask yourself: “Did I stick to my New Year’s Resolutions till the end of 2014?” If you answered “No”, but would like to improve your chances to succeed this year, than this post is for you.
New Year Resolutions are goals we set to help us to make needed or desired lifestyle changes. While situations, influencing factors, and attitudes can vary between people, the stages one must go through to create lasting change is the same. We will explore these stages of change, how to set SMART goals, and why waiting till the 1st of January to start a New Year’s resolution is a recipe for failure.
Stages of Change:
One common misconception about behavior change is that it is often referred to as a single event or moment in time such as quitting smoking or beginning to exercise daily. The Stages of Change model refer to a process of progressing through stages over time. Success is best achieved when going through these 5 stages:
- Pre-contemplation- People in this stage do not intend to take action in the next six months. An individual in this stage will most likely not set a new year’s resolution because they either don’t see a need to or simply just don’t want to.
- Contemplation- Contemplation is the stage in which people do intend to make a change in the next six months. They often have mixed emotions or contradicting idea’s which will often lead to behavioral procrastination “I will start next week” or “I’ll try again next year”. Individuals in this stage are not ready for immediate action. Trying to go from this stage straight into the action stage on January 1, 2015 with a new year’s resolution will not likely succeed.
- Preparation- Preparation is the stage in which people intend to take action within the next month. These individuals have consciously created a plan for action. They have made SMART goals (below), anticipated potential slip ups (i.e. how to prevent and handle them), and have completed all necessary steps to be ready for action (i.e. purchased gym membership, found a sponsor, written goals, budgeted funds, made adjustments to schedule etc.).
- Specific –This will tell exactly what you are expecting to achieve. A specific goal will answer what you want to accomplish, why you want to, who is involved, where it will happen, and how you plan to achieve it.
- Measurable – If you can’t measure it than it is probably not a very good resolution, it is much easier to follow a plan with set milestones or checkpoints signifying that you are making progress.
- Accountable – Share your resolutions with friends and family, this will help deepen your commitment and resolve. It is much easier to finish the race when people you care about are cheering you on; this concept applies for goal setting and resolutions too.
- Realistic – Is this resolution one that can actually be achieved in real life? There are certain things that can’t be adjusted such as 24hrs in a day, personal workload, needs and responsibilities. Consider the things you do have power to change. Ask yourself; “Am I prepared to make this commitment and ready to tweak aspects of my life?”, If not would a different target be more realistic?
- Timely – Don’t expect success to come overnight! Remember that a New Year’s resolution is for the entire new YEAR! We need to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint! A resolution is one that you can sustain for 1 full year.
- Note: We are constantly overwhelmed with flashy fad diets, health guidelines, products, services, quick-fixes, and miracle pills. Most of us know that these “one-size-fits-all approaches” don’t last and leads to discouragement. Yes, we all want to see fast results, but it is apparent that quick results don’t equal permanent and sustainable change. Although either you or someone you know might have had success with a given diet, it is almost always short term. Extreme restrictions can lead to quick weight and fat loss but cause muscle and bone loss as well. To make it worse these restricted diets lower the body’s metabolism. Then as an individual goes back to normal eating, they gain all the weight back (in fat) and then some.
- 4) Action- Action is the stage in which people implement their plans and are making specific observable modifications to their lifestyle. This is what we hope takes place on January 1 each year when people attempt to begin their resolutions. However, many of us try to jump right into this stage with our resolutions without adequate preparation.
- 5) Maintenance- Maintenance is the stage in which people have made specific modifications to their lifestyles and are working to sustain the behavior changes made. Individuals in this stage find themselves becoming more confident that they can continue their changes.
Note: During both the action and maintenance stages the majority of people will experience slip ups or “relapse”. Does this mean that you have officially failed and should just try again next year? No it doesn’t, you planned what to do for slip-ups during the preparation stage! You can quickly return to the action or maintenance stage by reviewing your plan, identifying your strengths that have helped you so far, and then learning how to prevent the same slip-up next time.
Take a minute to consider possible New Year’s resolutions for the 2015 year that you might make. Assess which stage of change you feel that you are in, and ask yourself what needs to happen for you to progress to the next step. After all, when it comes to making your own change, nobody knows what it takes better than you do. Start making the necessary preparations, find support, and prepare for action over the next few weeks. This will help to ensure that you are ready January 1, 2015. For additional info and tips to move through the stages of change, check out the following:
A ‘Stages of Change’ Approach to Helping Patients Change Behavior. American Academy of Family Physician
Transtheoretical Model (or Stages of Change) - Health Behavior Change. Prochange.com.
New Year’s Resolution Statistics. University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 1 Jan. 2014
Kicking the Seasonal Blues
You have probably heard the term “seasonal blues” or “winter depression” used in reference to the decreased energy and increased fatigue that many experience during the cold winter months. As daylight gets shorter, the weather colder, and having watched the holidays pass by, you may find yourself feeling a little “blue”. Is it normal to have these mood changes during the fall and winter months when we tend to get less natural sunlight? Why does it happen and what can we do about it?
Medically they call it “SAD”. No, not the emotion (although it can make us feel that way), it stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder – a subtype of depression which comes and goes in a pattern based on the seasons. As with most forms of depression SAD can lead to a gloomy outlook, feeling hopeless and irritable. People experiencing SAD tend to be withdrawn, less motivated, and can have problems with sleep and weight gain. In most cases, SAD symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Fortunately, feeling the “seasonal blues” does not mean you have Seasonal Affective Disorder which is diagnosed only when symptoms interfere with daily functioning. For the most part however, the symptoms and causes will be the same.
Most people know that during exposure to sunlight, UVB rays enter the skin and are converted to vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight also causes something to happen to specific chemicals in your brain. Just like during exercise, exposure to sunlight causes the release of important neurotransmitters called serotonin and melatonin. Reduced sunlight exposure can cause a drop in these brain chemicals, both having a significant role in regulating your mood and sleep patterns (circadian rhythm).
So what can we do to help balance these important brain chemicals and combat the winter blues? Here are some simple tips that anyone can do, and will help make you feel more like you, and less down in the dumps. These tips will compensate for and prevent the imbalances caused by light deprivation.
1. Get More Sunlight
Of course the best way to do this is to spend some time outside. If weather permits take a brief walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up some sun. Even on colder cloudy days the outdoor light can help. Do what you can to get more natural sunlight in your home and office. Open the blinds, trim tree branches, and sit closer to the window.
Exercise isn't only for maintaining your weight and staying healthy. Physical activity helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. The effects of a little exercise can last for several hours. You’ll have more energy throughout the day, and your metabolism will stay elevated too. Exercise also helps release the neurotransmitters that improve your mood.
3. Eat Smart
What and when you eat can affect your mood and energy levels. Replace refined and processed foods (like white breads, rice, and sugars) with more complex carbohydrates (whole wheat breads, brown rice, veggies, fruit). Drink 8 cups of water a day, and avoid excessive alcohol which is a depressant, and rather than improving your mood, only makes it worse.
4. Act on your Resolutions
A recent study from the CDC showed a strong link between healthy behaviors and depression. Individuals who exhibited healthy behaviors (like exercising, not smoking, etc.) had less sad and depressed days than those whose behaviors were less than healthy. You may even want to read last month’s post on the stages of change and Rehabilitating Your New Year’s Resolutions. In case you are off to a rough start – this article will help you learn why.
5. Rest and De-stress
Stress is one factor that can enhance and
aggravate feelings associated with the winter blues. Quality and adequate sleep
can help to relieve stress and restore energy levels. If you would like more information on sleep
and resting then the upcoming Rest and De-stress program is for you! In
this 3 week program (January 20th - February 8th), we will
explore how improving your sleep quality can lower your stress levels! Each
week we will focus on several areas that impact sleep quality. Click here to register for the program.
Now that you know what “seasonal blues” really mean, you will be better prepared to handle it. By identifying the cause as a lack of exposure to sunlight we can make changes to prevent and reduce the imbalance of brain chemicals this winter season. When it comes to kicking the blues, your recipe to a brighter outlook will include sunlight, exercise, eating well, reaching your goals, and by participating in the Healthy Lifestyles Rest and De-stress program!
American Accreditation HealthCare Commission. (2014, February 24). Retrieved January 5, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002499/
Nichols, N. (2013). 10 Cool Ways to Beat the Winter Blues. Retrieved January 5, 2015, from http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=341
National Institutes of Health. (2013, January 1). Beat the Winter Blues: Shedding Light on Seasonal Sadness. Retrieved January 5, 2015, from http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/jan2013/feature1
Information on the latest vitamin D news and research. (2013, June 1). Retrieved January 5, 2015, from https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health-conditions/depression/
Sodium and Blood Pressure
Salt Lake County Health Department
Sodium and Blood Pressure
Salt is a mineral made of the electrolytes known as sodium and Chloride. We need electrolytes to retain water, and to send signals across our nerves allowing our muscles to move. Sodium is needed to maintain blood volume, blood pressure, and help the kidneys to clean our blood. But getting too much sodium can raise blood pressure which increases risk of heart attack, stroke, and can even result in death.
How much do we need?
We measure the sodium we get from our diet in milligrams (mg). Just one teaspoon of table salt has 2,300 mg of sodium, which is almost double the recommended daily amount. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), we should be getting less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. This can be pretty difficult to do when the average American consumes 3,400 mg daily. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that if all Americans reduced their sodium intake by 1,200 mg a day it could prevent up to 99,000 heart attacks and 66,000 strokes every year.
Where do we get sodium?
Sodium comes in almost everything we eat because it occurs naturally in most foods like table salt, milk and celery. Generally animal meats will contain more sodium than fruits and vegetables do. Even drinking water contains some levels of sodium. Sodium is often added to give flavor and it is also useful in preserving food.
Some foods that are particularly high in sodium include soy sauce, processed meats, canned soups and vegetables, frozen foods, and soda. This is one reason it’s generally healthier to eat freshly prepared food. Fast food is generally very high in sodium, including the healthy options like chicken salads and soups.
So how do we reduce sodium intake?Here are a few simple tips:
Tip #1 - Think about what you eat– (gasp!)
Some might call it a diet. We like to think of it as intuitive eating. We don’t need to completely restrict ourselves with complicated rules that are hard to follow. Besides, as we discussed above we do actually NEED some sodium to survive. Just being conscious of and recognizing where we are getting to much sodium from can give us power to make small changes and make smarter choices.
Tip #2 - Track your Sodium
A good place to start is to find out how much sodium you are currently getting in your diet. This
tracker from the American Heart Association is a very helpful tool you can use to see where you are at currently on your daily intake. Try it a couple of days to get a good idea, then identify where you can cut back a little.
Tip #3 - Read the Label
It isn’t too difficult to turn the packaging around and identify the amount of sodium contained per serving. Compare Nutrition Facts labels on food labels for Percent Daily Value or amount of sodium in milligrams This link will show how to easily do this and what to look for:
Reduce Sodium Intake by Reading the Label
Tip #4 - Shop Smart
When you are grocery shopping be conscious of the different options available. For instance stick to fresh foods over canned and packaged options that are more likely to contain higher sodium for preservation, especially in processed meats. Look for options with reduced or lowered sodium.
Tip #5 - When Eating Out
Even though eating out at restaurants and fast food joints is generally going to have more sodium, we don’t have to completely remove eating out, just do it smarter! It is worth it to find out what is in the food you are eating, whether searching online beforehand or asking your server for more information. Some restaurants will even have a printed sheet with the nutrition facts for menu items. You can also ask that no salt be added to your meal, then just watch out for the hidden sodium sources like salad dressings and soda.
Here is a re-cap from the CDC:
- American Heart Association. (2015, January 1). Sodium and Salt. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Sodium-Salt-or-Sodium-Chloride_UCM_303290_Article.jsp
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013, November 22). Salt Matters: Preserving Choice, Protecting Health. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/cdctv/SaltMatters5/
- Food and Drug Administration. (2014, February 1). Reduce Sodium Intake By Using the Nutrition Facts Label. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://www.multivu.com/mnr/65492-u-s-fda-reduce-sodium-intake-by-using-the-nutrition-facts-label
- National Institute of Health. (2015, January 15). Sodium in diet: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002415.htm