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How to turn New Year's resolutions into life-long habits

Morning Mix- Spectrum Health
Posted at 11:27 AM, Dec 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-30 21:33:06-05

Year after year half of the population makes New Year's resolutions to eat better, get fit, and swear off their vices. They have good intentions, yet after a few week they give up and turn them back to old habits.

Leanne Mauriello, PhD, with Spectrum Health’s lifestyle medicine program, is an expert on behavior change and says that for so long people haven’t had the kind of support that it usually takes for changes to stick.

When people attempt to make a positive change to improve their health, they have been typically going it alone. The healthcare field is recognizing that there is a bigger role that clinicians can play in supporting people to get and stay healthy.

Enter the new medical specialty of Lifestyle Medicine – which brings together a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare clinicians who have specialty training even board certification in supporting and empowering people to make healthy lasting change. With Lifestyle Medicine, rather than spending a few minutes talking with your provider about your weight, poor eating habits, or smoking, you can have consults specifically focused on your health behaviors and how you can prevent, manage, and even reverse chronic disease.

Health coaches are a key component of Lifestyle Medicine programs. With their role being to support people through the change process, teach them how to change, and empower them to make realistic changes that can work and stick for their lifestyle.

Spectrum Health currently has program offerings for culinary medicine and tobacco and nicotine cessation, weight management, and metabolic wellness, with many more offerings coming in 2020.

It's also important to keep in mind the following when trying to transform resolutions into lifelong habits:

  • Take it slow and steady. While complete overhauls or cold turkey approaches work for a few, for most people change is more successful if it is incremental.
  • Have Quick Wins. Begin with small changes that will be easy to make. Success will give you the confidence to make further and more difficult changes.
  • Don’t go it alone. Change is easier, more successful, and more fun when you have support. In addition to family and friends, consider a health coach. There are low-cost ways via health apps to have personalized coaching.
  • Forget fads. Have long term perspective. Make changes that will be sustainable for the long haul. It is tempting to try things that might produce fast big wins, but often they don’t last and leave people even worse off than where they started.
  • Don’t expect perfection. Be forgiving. Change takes ongoing effort and it’s easier and quicker to re-start than to start from scratch.

To learn more about lifestyle medicine, go to spectrumhealth.org/culinarymedicine.