Posts for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

26 Tangible Practices for Self-Care and Self-Love

By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

This year, it seems as though I keep hearing the term “self-care” everywhere. “What are you doing for self-care?” I continue to be asked. What is self-care, why do I keep hearing about it, and why is it all that important anyway? Well, until recently, I hadn’t really dug into what the term really meant. On the surface I knew it meant daily practices that gave me an opportunity to treat myself well each day. But the term is really about a deep connection, and genuine respect, for yourself; and the tangible art of expressing kindness to yourself.

Self-love is not just a concept in our head but unfortunately, we’ve been taught for a long time that if we’re not constantly working hard or taking care of others, we’re being selfish. What we’re not taught, is that taking care of yourself is actually the only way we can truly care for, or give to others. If you don’t work on yourself, if you don’t take time to express love for yourself, you don’t feed your soul, and you can’t authentically show up and be loving to anyone else.

Self-acceptance, self-esteem, and self-compassion can get us through painful times in our lives, help us to bounce back from failure, teach us to love others better, and help us reach our goals. For many of us, however, self-love isn’t a given. We’re not all taught the deeply valuable art of holding ourselves with kindness, and truly treating ourselves well.

Changing our thoughts or our emotions by simply deciding to do so can be challenging, but there are ways to accomplish this through the art of choosing physical actions that support different thoughts. When self-destructive thoughts start shouting in your head, you can decide to do something — to take an action of kindness toward yourself, and behave as if you love yourself unconditionally. Doing so sends messages to the subconscious mind that you actually do love yourself, and deserve the kindness you’re experiencing.

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” – Louise L. Hay

As we slowly learn how to love ourselves better, we start to expect others to treat us with kindness as well. We start to realize that of course we love ourselves. Of course we deserve love.

So how do we live in self-love? Just like anything else: we practice.

If you’re like me and weren’t taught the art of loving yourself, the list below may seem trivial at first, but commit to putting at least 1, if not more of them into practice, every single day. You’ll see a noticeable change in your overall outlook on life. Pick one from the list and start today.

  1. Buy yourself fresh flowers.
  2. Clean your house or apartment.
  3. Organize your work space and files.
  4. Eat while focusing only on your food.
  5. Make a list of fun activities to do and post on your fridge.
  6. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself.
  7. Each night before bed write down the happiest moment of your day.
  8. Start the day with two minutes of meditation.
  9. Wear clothes you love.
  10. Put your fork down between bites.
  11. Get eight hours of sleep.
  12. Read a good book.
  13. Buy something you’ve always wanted.
  14. Be of service — volunteer, help a friend, etc.
  15. Compliment someone today.
  16. Get your sweat on. Go for a hike or long walk.
  17. Smile.
  18. When you grocery shop say, “I am choosing this for my body because I love her/him.”
  19. Stand up straight and tall.
  20. Try something new: dance classes, cooking lessons, yoga.
  21. Invite your friends over for a girls’ or guys’ night.
  22. Call your mom and tell her you love her (or your dad, sister, etc.).
  23. Play with your pet without distraction.
  24. When someone offers you a compliment, simply say, “Thank you.”
  25. Clean your fridge and fill it with fresh foods.
  26. Hire a personal trainer, life coach or counselor.

What other ways do you practice self-care? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Easy No-Cook Lunches, AKA the “Adult Lunchable”

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Packing a lunch is a great way to stay on track with your health goals. Sometimes it’s hard to get ideas for what to pack. Some office environments have limited kitchen resources, or you have limited time to cook.

Try no-cook lunches, or what I like to call “Adult Lunchables.” These are also referred to as Bento Box lunches. You’ve likely seen pre-made kid’s Lunchables at the supermarket – boxes of crackers, cheese, meat, etc. This is a healthy twist on that idea. The varieties are endless — you can pack anything you like, from the classic crackers, meat, and cheese, to more complex combinations with wraps or salads.

Adult Lunchables are both easy to put together, and easy to eat. Preparation is fairly simple — keep some go-to options on hand. I’ve put together some ideas in categories. If you pick an item from each category, it will help you create a balanced meal. The goal is to make it simple, but add variety without overwhelming ourselves.

For example, I put together a lunch with the following: 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 cup berries, 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter, and 1 cup of raw veggies. That combination includes protein from the yogurt, carbohydrates from the berries and veggies, and fat from the peanut butter. You can certainly add or subtract items and amounts to make sure you eat enough calories for your body.

Categories

Protein:

  • Greek yogurt – ½ to 1 cup
  • Cottage cheese – ½ to 1 cup
  • Hard boiled eggs – 1 to 2 eggs
  • Canned Tuna or Chicken: one tin or pouch
  • Deli slices: 3 ounces, look for nitrate and nitrite-free options
  • Leftover grilled chicken or other protein: 3-4 ounces
  • Edamame: 1 cup
  • Chickpeas: ½ cup

Carbohydrates:

  • Whole grain crackers: for example Triscuits (6-8 crackers) or a single serving based on the box of crackers you choose
  • Whole wheat tortilla: 8 inch in diameter, or look for high fiber options
  • Whole wheat pita
  • Serving of fruit: apple, banana, grapes (1 cup or 32 grapes), berries (1 cup of any variety), kiwi, orange, 2 cuties or mandarin oranges
  • Unlimited vegetables: carrots, celery, sliced cucumber, sliced bell peppers, salad greens

Fats:

  • Individually portioned nut butters: peanut butter, almond butter, or keep a tablespoon with your designated jar and stick to 1 to 2 tablespoons
  • Servings of nuts: pistachios (40 nuts), almonds (23 almonds), cashews (16-18 nuts)
  • Avocado: ¼ to ½ of fruit
  • String cheese, or 1 ounce of cheese
  • Guacamole: 2 tablespoons
  • Olives: 10-12 small to medium sized olives of any variety.
  • Olive oil: 1 tablespoon
  • Salad dressing: 1-2 tablespoons
  • Hummus: 1-2 tablespoons

Below is a sample week with some combinations I put together to create a balanced lunch. This may also give you some ideas to build your own “Lunchable:”

Monday
6-8 Triscuits
3 ounces of deli slices
1 string cheese or sliced cheese
1 cup berries
Carrot sticks
1-2 tablespoon hummus

Tuesday
1 cup cottage cheese
½ cup blueberries
1 tablespoon almond butter
Cucumber slices
2 tbsp. hummus

Wednesday
Whole wheat tortilla
Lettuce or other salad green
Sliced cucumber, bell peppers, onion
½ of a ripe avocado
1 tbsp. hummus
Small apple or orange

Thursday
Whole grain crackers
Chicken salad-made with 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt, mustard to taste, salt and pepper
¼ of an avocado
Celery and carrot sticks
Serving of grapes

Friday
Whole Wheat Pita
Tuna salad-made with 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt, mustard to taste, salt and pepper
Sliced cucumbers
Apple
1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter

Monday
Two hardboiled eggs
Grapes (1 cup or 32 grapes)
String cheese
1 cup Veggies sticks
2 tablespoons hummus

If you want something complex, especially with the summer weather, then prep ahead a veggie-rich pasta salad with healthy fats like avocado. You can also prep fresh fruits salads at the beginning of the week to accompany your lunch and save time.

For additional ideas and inspiration check out 25 Healthy and Photo-Worthy Bento Box Lunch Ideas from greatist.com.

What great lunches did you put together? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Summer Workout Chart

By Richel Stropky, Take Control Health Coach

Summer officially begins June 20th! You may not be inclined to head to the gym this month, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ve put together a summer workout chart. Pick your category, then pick your activity — whether you’re completing chores, or spending time with friends and family, there is something for everyone.

CHORES
Wash your car

Mow the lawn

Play a game of chase or tug-of-war with the dog

Paint or stain the fence

Wash the dog

Wash the house windows

Sweep the sidewalks, patio or deck

Clean out the garage & gutters

Volunteer to walk dogs from humane society each week

Ride your bike to the local farmers market

PLAY
Hike to a place to pick berries or just for a picnic

Fly a kite

Toss a Frisbee

Climb a tree

Play at a water park

Rock Climb

Power skip

Road race

Ride a roller coaster

Visit the State Fair

Ride a horse

Build a sand castle or walk on a beach

Play Sand volleyball

 WATER
Kayak

Water Ski

Paddle board

Tread water or on your back

Rope Swing

Fly fish

Play fetch with the dog

Run through the sprinklers with the kids

Have a water balloon fight

 FAMILY
Relay race

Sack races

Play a game with the kids: tag, flag football or Red Rover

Join a kickball league

Have a family fitness scavenger hunt

Jump rope

Power skip contest

Raise money for a local charity with a car wash

Play badminton or croquet

RELAX
Watch the sunset

Play relaxing music as you cook dinner

Enjoy an outdoor concert

Eat a meal outside

Read a book in a lawn chair

Buy a hammock

 

What did we miss? Add your suggestions in the comments!

IN CONTROL — Person of the Month: Jill B.

By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

Jill is the perfect example of how addressing stress can make you physically healthier. She really focused on creating a lifestyle that would allow her to decompress to help her manage her stress levels, and manage to lose weight as she hoped, but also saw an added benefit of lower blood pressure. She’s really a great example of how simply living healthier produces the side effects of risk reduction benefits without focusing on them directly. It’s simply just a side effect of living healthy and treating herself right. Just the right amount of self-care in each day created those benefits.

What made you decide to join Take Control’s Lifestyle Management program? It wasn’t a conscious effort on my part, but rather a phone call from the Take Control program itself. My health screening results put me on the spectrum as a candidate for the program. When I received the phone call to join the program my reaction became, “Why not? What do I have to lose?” I was curious to see what a health professional could do to help me turn my poor health screening results around to a positive direction.

What were your reasons/motivation for wanting to make changes regarding your health? Simple and numerous. I did not feel comfortable in my clothes (I was already stretching for the “fat clothes” hidden in the back of my closet), I was embarrassed to see myself in photographs, I felt bloated/heavy, I dreaded wearing shorts or tank-tops in hot weather, I was always tired, and I was ALWAYS hungry.

What are the biggest challenges and accomplishments in your health since you started? What do you feel was your biggest obstacle? The biggest obstacle was my own mind. Fighting the internal struggle to tell myself to make better eating choices, and to tell myself to stop eating when I knew I had enough. There has always been an inner voice telling me it was okay to have a little bit more, have a little something else that was salty or sweet, I’m not quite full yet, etc. What a challenge to have your biggest enemy living inside you, there’s no getting away from yourself. The accomplishment was using rationale. I had great advice from Take Control health coach Linda Hogg. Once I had my healthy plate in front of me, Linda suggested that I put my fork down between each bite, add a sip of water and then wait 20 minutes after I was done with my meal to decide if I was still hungry. About 95% of the time my fullness would kick in and I wouldn’t even be thinking about my meal ~ I was ready to do something else.

What did you do to stay motivated? The best way to stay motivated is remembering how good it feels when you make the right choices. Find the activities that clear your mind, that make you smile, that make you glad you got off the couch. Eat the foods that sustain you, give you energy and nutrition. Consistency is key. Get into a routine that works for you and stick to it. If you are enjoying the routine and it melds with your lifestyle it will become a natural habit and less of a “chore”.

What have you gained through this process? I have gained the knowledge of what is healthy and nutritious for my body to function, what I enjoy doing to clear my mind and help me sleep better at night, and how to deal with the inner self that doesn’t want to break the bad habits. Most importantly I learned why I thought I wanted more food. What was the void I was trying to fill? I knew I’d had enough to eat, so why do I want more? Thanks to health coach Kelly Sedgwick for helping me realize that our dinner time was actually a social time with my family. We had family dinners at the table each and every night with my daughter. After my daughter graduated and left for college, our dinners are a lot less social. The void was actually just missing my daughter and the one part of the day when we had each other’s attention. I learned that I could get up from the dinner table and give her a quick phone call to check in and see how she’s doing.

What differences do you see in yourself and the impact it has had on your health and life? The difference I see in myself is a better understanding of what works for ME. I can’t follow someone else’s plan and expect to see the same results. Once I started understanding what cleared my mind, what made me smile, what made me feel better, what gave me more energy the health had no choice but to follow. After working with Take Control for a year and putting everything “behind the scenes” in place, I started losing weight. Everything fell into place once I learned why I was stress eating, why I wasn’t sleeping, why I felt so heavy, why I wanted more food. So instead of just focusing on the scale – which was the only thing I had been doing before – I went to the root of why I was making poor choices. Not only do I feel better on the inside, the shedding of the weight is a reflection of me feeling better.

What advice or encouragement would you give others in our program? As stated above, the most helpful thing I learned was finding out what works for me and my lifestyle. I hate the gym and did not want a personal trainer, but I discovered that I absolutely love walking my dogs in our fields. I look forward to it each day. It clears my mind, I enjoy watching the wildlife that lives in our fields, I inhale the fresh (and sometimes crisp) air, and I loved watching my dogs explore and play. Additionally, understanding the reasons why you’re making poor choices can really help you identify the root of the problem and get you back on your way in a positive direction.

Jill is great inspiration to those who might struggle and feel like they should be doing more to really see big changes. Living healthy isn’t just about numbers and you’ve really learned the value of that – mental health is the ultimate reward of living healthy.

Results:

  • Weight loss of 34 pounds
  • Inches lost: 18
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased cholesterol
  • Gained nutrition knowledge and awareness of food triggers
  • Identified the activities that she enjoys that help clear her mind and reduce stress
  • Better sleep
  • Addressed background issues that blocked healthy choices

IN CONTROL — Person of the Month: Marlena S.

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Marlena was persistent despite a lot of things that were thrown her way. She was always positive, and had a great mindset. Marlena didn’t let the tough times bring her down, instead she pushed past them.

What made you decide to join Take Control’s Lifestyle Management program? After age 30, I developed thyroid-related health issues that caused severe weight gain. Nothing I did to lose weight worked. This went on for over six years. Then a co-worker told me how successful she had been with Take Control, and encouraged me to at least look into it. Trust me, I was not convinced. Because no matter what success story I heard from someone else, if I tried it, it didn’t work. And we all know how depressing and discouraging that can be. After I found out there was no cost to me to join Take Control, I realized I had nothing to lose, and at least I could say I tried again.

What were your reasons/motivation for wanting to make changes regarding your health? Even though I am generally a very positive person, severe weight gain takes an emotional toll. The excessive weight affected me physically, emotionally, mentally, and even socially. I stayed away from people because I didn’t want to be seen. I wanted to make changes because I wanted to feel healthy, more energetic, and happy. I wanted to get in better shape, increase my energy level, and enjoy the things I used to, like hiking, fishing, cliff diving, rock climbing, and camping. Things I used to do, but had literally become breath taking. I have two teenage boys, and I wanted to be able to go have fun with them again without being in pain afterward.

What are the biggest challenges and accomplishments in your health since you started?  The biggest challenges were severe health issues that resulted in multiple surgeries. Being a single mom of two teenage boys has been challenging, because I don’t want to burden them with my health issues. My biggest accomplishments were staying positive, disassociating from a lot of the toxic people who were in my life, and meeting a lot of new, wonderful people. I have lost a lot of weight. I went from a size 22-24 pant size to a 14. I can now go hiking, walking, climbing, and hunting; and I hang out with my kids and friends. I am not nearly as depressed as I was. I am much more energetic and happy. I feel like I look like my normal self again.

What do you feel was your biggest obstacle? My biggest obstacle was staying positive — not just for myself, but for my children as well. I had a hard time making myself exercise. So I set appointments on my calendar to walk until it became a habit. I struggled with accepting things I couldn’t control. I overcame that by coping with things that were out of my control, and focusing on changing the things that I could control. I like to laugh, play, and spend time with the people I love. I want to be a good example for others who are going through difficulties.

What did you do to stay motivated?  The phone calls from Alicia kept me motivated. I know at times she may not have been sure of exactly what to say, but she always came up with something encouraging despite the situation. She was always very punctual and easy to talk to, and had suggestions to help me stay on track. I used a web site to keep track of my wellness plan, and used the additional education resources. I found that the more involved I became with different activities, the more motivated I became. The additional benefits really motivated me as well.

 What have you gained through this process? I have gained a friend, self-confidence, and self-worth. Take Control has helped me to not only set feasible goals, but also follow through with completing them. Which has helped me in all aspects of life.

What differences do you see in yourself and the impact it has had on your health and life? I can see my toes without having to squat! I feel better, my skin is clearer, and I can find nice clothes to wear at any store. I am more active and ready to just go, it is no longer this long debate with myself about the pros and cons. I don’t look in the mirror and nitpick about my clothes and how they fit, or if I’m fat. I am more comfortable in my skin now than I was when I was a teenager.

What advice or encouragement would you give others in our program? My advice is that no matter what you have tried that has failed, never give up. You are the only one who can really make a difference. You have to take the first step to start the process, and you will not regret it. If it is easy, then you may be doing it wrong, or it isn’t worth doing. When it is hard to do, it is usually working, it is worth doing, and you will see results. Follow the instructions and suggestions, set up reminders and calendars so you don’t forget to do the things you want. Remember that there is no such thing as fast changes. I have been in the program for a year, and I am still working on it. My favorite quote is: “Live like you’ll die tomorrow, act like you’ll live forever.” Have fun, don’t judge others, and treat others the way you want to be treated. (Not the way they treat you.) Life can be short, so make sure you let the good people in your life know how much they mean to you, and let the bad ones go. Remember only you can change you, and you cannot change others. Don’t worry about what other people think of you, they don’t know what you are going through. If anything, feel sorry for them and treat them with love and kindness. Misery loves company, and there is usually a hidden reason behind their actions. Don’t expect people to make a difference in your life, work to make a difference in theirs.

Results:

  • Weight loss of 63 lbs., and has continued to lose weight since completing the program
  • Besides weight loss, she is a great example of being persistent and never giving up
  • Maintained a positive attitude
  • Disassociated from toxic people
  • Dropped five pant sizes
  • Can now do activities she previously could not
  • Decrease in bouts of depression
  • Much more energetic and happy

 

 

Why it’s Okay to Struggle

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Making lifestyle changes or a major life transition is hard. Every person who is working to improve their health struggles along the way, and feels uncomfortable. Sometimes we fight the uncomfortable feelings, because we don’t like it. We forget how much can be learned from being uncomfortable and struggling. Some of our greatest lessons and insights come from these moments.

This is especially true when it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle. Exercising, losing weight, or making any healthy change is never easy. It’s easy to forget this. Creating and following healthy habits is a process and a journey unique to each person. The journey will be full of challenges, but also full of success. You must be willing to embrace the tough times, and find each lesson that comes with struggle.

When you notice yourself struggling during your personal health journey, ask yourself whether or not the change or choice you made was right for you. A lot of times our goals or choices are created with an intention of what we think will be a good fit. Sometimes it turns out that the goal is not a good fit. Rather than question yourself about your motivation, take another look at the goal you set and try a different method of accomplishing it. Changing your plan doesn’t mean you failed, it just means you need a route that’s a better fit for your personality or life. Or, if accomplishing you goal via the first route is something that you feel strongly about, keep trying. Whichever route you take, you will learn, grow, and move past the struggle.

In the end, your successes will be the culmination of your struggles, lessons, and persistence. So I encourage you to embrace the process – particularly when it gets uncomfortable. The struggle will lead you to incredible personal and physical strength.

It’s Okay to Be the Turtle

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

A common frustration I hear from clients is disappointment about slow progress. Many feel like they should be further along, or expect greater change more quickly. However, habits don’t change overnight. It took months, or even years, to develop the habits we have, whether they are good or bad. So it is safe to assume that it takes just as long to change them.

In fact that is an important lesson we all learn in life at some point; that with time and commitment change can happen. It is perfectly ok to be slow, in fact, I encourage you to be slow. You have far more opportunity to really learn and evaluate what works and doesn’t work for you, versus rushing through a quick fix. Besides, how many times has a quick fix lasted long-term? Rarely, in fact, most of us become more frustrated and discouraged as a result of the quick fix schemes. And I get it, the quick fix is so tempting. It seems as if everyone around you is trying them, but remember to look at the long-term. How many stuck with it for the long term? Typically not long. And the reason is that most quick fix ideas are not sustainable or they don’t fit you.

Losing weight, making healthy lifestyle changes, or changing a habit is like a marathon. At first we are excited for the challenge and feel motivated, and head out fast. Then we hit mile 10 and wonder what we were thinking. Finally, we hit a hill and think we can’t do this, and then we finally see the end of the race, and we think I did it! All the while going slow, having ups and downs, but fighting through to the end.

As they say, nothing in life worth having is easy. Neither is your health. It takes hard work, patience, understanding and flexibility. So, the next time you feel like your progress is slow, take a step back and look at just how far you have come. Remind yourself of the big picture, what your end goal really is, and you will see that you are right on track to being successful. Truly the key to long-term results is creating change that makes sense for you and fits the lifestyle you envision.

Kitchen Spring Cleaning

– Organizing Kitchen Zones for Healthy Success

By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

The kitchen tends to be the center of the household, and the place where everyone congregates. A kitchen usually serves many purposes: cooking, eating, a family meeting space, and often the place where kids do homework. Given the multi-purpose aspect of the kitchen, it can be a challenge to keep its focus on its essential function, creating nutritional meals.

A cluttered kitchen is distracting, and can be a roadblock to living healthy and making good nutritional choices. So this guide is designed to help you organize your kitchen in a way that re-focuses it for its true purpose. We’ll start by removing items that don’t belong, then move on to creating zones for specific purposes.

Step 1: The 10-Minute Toss

The purpose of a 10-minute toss is to quickly move things out of the way and create physical and mental space between where we are and where we want to be. Simply go through each cupboard and drawer quickly and efficiently, removing anything you no longer use or doesn’t belong in the kitchen. It should be easy, obvious, quick decisions without much thought or decision-making.

Quick purge items:

  • Anything broken, stained or chipped beyond use
  • Anything that belongs in a different room of the house
  • Anything you don’t like

Step 2: Set Up Zones

Once you’ve cleared the obvious items out of the way, assess the overall layout of the space and where your “zones” are. Because kitchens often serve as multi-functional spaces, it’s important to set it up for multiple uses for several people at once. Each zone is centered around a particular task.

  • Cutting Zone: Keep knives, cutting boards and any items used to prep meat and/or produce near the sink and garbage where you’ll be able to clean and cut them at the same time.
  • Coffee Zone: Create a section of your counter where you maintain your coffee fixings. Coffee maker, coffee grounds, tea and other hot beverages, mugs, silverware, etc. Anything that makes a quick cup of coffee easier
  • Cooking Zone: Pots, pans, and cooking utensils should be in the space near the stove and cooktop. Include cooking spray, oils, herbs and spices in this area so you don’t find yourself crossing the kitchen to simply add a dash of pepper.
  • Dining Zone: This space is designated for eating, and centers around your table or breakfast bar. Keep silverware, plates, bowl, glasses and napkins nearby you’re able to sit down and enjoy each bite without having to get up mid-meal for something you’ve forgotten. Try designating a specific area for dining that is as far away from the food prep area as possible, so you’re able to sit down and enjoy each bite. This allows you to take your time eating, and helps avoid the temptation of second servings. Include a source for soft music in your dining area – it’s a great way to slow down, relax, and enjoy the meal so you’re not racing through and overeating.
  • Storage Zone: Keep your food storage containers and wraps in one area near your sink where you’ll be emptying dishes at the end of the night.
  • Bill & Mail Center: Create an “in” box for items you bring into the house that don’t have anything to do with food. Choose a location away from the center of the kitchen, to keep the space clean and not contaminate food as you prep. Include pens, stamps, sticky-notes, etc. to make it simple to process the paper items and move them on to their next step. Place magazines immediately into a magazine bin so they’re available for reading right away. Sometimes we don’t get back to the mail pile for a while, and magazines can stack up quickly.

These are just a few simple ideas to organize the zones in your kitchen to make it more functional and supportive to your healthy lifestyle. Different households use their kitchens differently, and we all have different interests or time available for cooking and making meals. Create the appropriate zones that really work best for you and your lifestyle. Recognize the top 2-3 zones you might use most often in your kitchen and start there.

IN CONTROL – Person of the Month: Bill S.

By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

Bill was smart with how he used the Take Control program. He saw it as an opportunity — a vehicle to get him moving in the right direction — despite his challenges with back pain. Rather than focusing on the numbers, he really had his heart set on the ability to get out and hunt.

Bill worked diligently at his own pace. He recognized that he needed to begin farther back than he’d hoped, but he didn’t beat himself up about it. He just recognized it, worked at it, and gradually saw improvement.

What made you decide to join Take Control’s Lifestyle Management program? I honestly joined on a bit of a whim. Shortly after my first health screening in 2015, I got a friendly phone call from Take Control folks telling me that I qualified for the program and asking me whether I wanted to participate. At that moment my answer could have gone either way, but the friendly voice and no-downside approach influenced me to say, “sure, why not.” I’m very glad I did.

What were your reasons/motivation for wanting to make changes regarding your health? Years of “driving a desk for a living” and a series of painful lower back injuries had left me in neglectful shape. High cholesterol runs in the family, and I knew on some level that it was something that I would eventually have to watch. My 2015 health screening revealed my total cholesterol to be at a scary 290. I was well on my way to heart-attack territory, and I was only 35. That was one of those wake-up calls that concentrates the mind. I began thinking about the many things that I liked doing and still wanted to accomplish in life. At the top of the list was home ownership (and all the physical demands that entails), backpacking, fishing, and hunting trips. My wife and I were even discussing becoming parents, and the thought of not being there to raise my (at the time) hypothetical kid was sobering, as well.

What are the biggest challenges and accomplishments in your health since you started? What do you feel was your biggest obstacle? The biggest challenge of getting started was simply getting started. Inertia is a very real thing, and deep-worn physical and mental ruts are tough to break. Beyond that, my always present, usually mild, occasionally debilitating back pain made it hard to progress in any real exercise program. My back was in such bad shape at times that even mild physical activity could send me to the local urgent care, writhing in pain and in need of medication to function on even a basic level. At the beginning of the program, setbacks were the norm, and this reoccurring injury made it feel like I was never going to be able to progress. This project felt like fighting a war on multiple fronts, and setbacks in one area would cause setbacks in another. “Exercise” presented itself as a goal, a solution, an obstacle, and something that could actually harm me from time to time, if that makes any sense. In any case, I felt stuck. Cole, my Take Control coach at the time, helped me realized that I needed to start WAY back at the beginning — physical therapy — in order to push the reset button. Slowly, painfully began the non-linear process of repairing my lower back so that I could begin very mild exercise and gradually progress from there. Progress was slow and arduous at times, but I eventually began to win back mobility, strength, endurance and confidence.

What did you do to stay motivated? There were definitely times that I wanted to give up — especially at the beginning. It’s a rotten feeling to know that you’re doing everything you’re supposed to, following all the experts’ advice, seeing tiny bits of progress, and then having everything fall apart and the lower back pain return. And when it did, I had to stop everything, literally lay on the floor, put my feet up on a chair or couch, and stare at the ceiling for hours or days on end. During that downtime, I would often pass the hours listening to hunting and fishing podcasts and videos. I started to get really excited and motivated about the 2016 hunting season, and I even dared to dream about roaming the mountains on foot looking for deer and elk — one of those unmet life goals I had often thought about in the preceding years. This was a ridiculous dream at the time for someone who, on those really bad days, needed help putting on my own socks. But I can be forgetful and stubborn, and those qualities kept me dreaming, and, unlikely though it was, I set my sights on getting well enough to hunt in 2016. I doubled down on my motivation and recommitted to doing everything the physical therapist and doctor told me to do. I had to recommit a few more times after that, too, but each ensuing setback was gradually less severe and shorter in duration. I began to bounce back quicker and develop some resiliency, which served as verifiable positive reinforcement. I was beginning to reclaim bits of my life and all of the sudden, extended hikes in the backcountry didn’t seem to be such a distant dream. During this time, an interesting thing happened. I actually stopped thinking altogether about my cholesterol or any typical training metrics one might set for improvement. I just simply thought about getting myself in good enough shape to get out in the mountains again, under my own weight, and be able to carry a pack. Everything that happened next followed from that mindset.

What have you gained through this process? No sane person would have voted me the most likely person to notch an elk tag in 2016, but in November I did just that. It wasn’t easy and it involved months of training in the gym, weeks of scouting in the mountains, and long days of hiking a lot of miles over steep terrain. But eventually sweat, hard work, determination, and a dash of luck coalesced into the opportunity I had been imagining for months. Getting the animal out was a slow process that took numerous trips over two days, but I packed every last bit out on my own back using my own two legs. That’s an accomplishment I’ll remember forever and a memory made sweeter by knowing what I had to first go through before showing up for opening day. A freezer full of elk meat is a very nice fringe benefit, but what I really gained through this was a better understanding of my body’s own resiliency and awareness of my ability to simply decide to change course. Inertia, after all, works both ways — it may be tough to get started and establish a routine, but keeping things going is relatively easy by comparison.

And the hypothetical kid my wife and I had been talking about earlier? She’s not so hypothetical now. My baby girl will be born in March, 2017. I swelled with pride at Christmas this year, as my wife and I ate Montana bull elk, knowing my unborn daughter was receiving the nutritional gift of the elk through my hard work and persistence. I’ve given her a father who is in better shape, and who (thanks to exercise, lean meat, and a statin), now has a cholesterol number that is down to a less outrageous 180. I’m nowhere near as good as I’ll be, but I’m a lot better than I was. My family deserves that and so do I.

What differences do you see in yourself and the impact it has had on your health and life? I’m still the same lazy, stubborn, flawed person that allowed my physical health to slowly deteriorate. But thanks to Cole, Kelly, and others at Take Control, I’ve identified some life hacks that allow me to recognize those challenges and work around them. One of the biggest differences is that I say “yes” more often to invitations to do things that involve physical exertion. As recently as a year ago, I would regularly turn down invitations to go skiing, for fear that my back would suddenly go out. Now, my back episodes are much fewer, less severe, more manageable, and less frightening. The resiliency I’ve built has increased my confidence to venture further out from my comfort zone, which has, in turn, created opportunities for larger successes, which again increases confidence. I’m in a positive feedback loop now that reinforces my commitment to exercising, eating well, and taking care of myself.

What advice or encouragement would you give others in our program? The main advice I have is simply to follow that old Nike tagline — just do it. No matter your starting point, just accept it, and begin as slowly and thoughtfully as your situation allows. And when you don’t feel like keeping up with your commitment, do it anyway. Eventually the changes become part of your daily routine, and from there everything gets easier. It’s probably also worth pointing out that, for me, it was far more effective to focus on a genuine aspirational motivator (“bring home elk”) that complemented my fitness goals rather than to obsess about abstract obligations like “lower my cholesterol” or “lose some weight.” In my case, those secondary benefits manifested as happy byproducts, not ends unto themselves, so consider talking with your Take Control coach about identifying your own fun, meaningful, big-picture goal.

The best part of his accomplishment was hearing the pride in his voice as he told me about his hunting trip. He recognized the consistent effort he invested in his goal and was incredibly proud and grateful to have been able to accomplish it. It’s the ultimate goal as a health coach to have someone prove to themselves that the CAN achieve the goal and to know the FEEL the pride in that achievement. Was one of my favorite coaching calls with him – I could not have been happier for him.

Results:

  • Reduced total cholesterol by 119 points
  • Decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol by 111 points
  • Maintained HDL (good) cholesterol levels
  • Reduced systolic blood pressure by 10 points and diastolic blood pressure by 20 points
  • Reduced back problems
  • Accomplished major goal of harvesting and hauling a Bull Elk on his own
  • Is expecting his first child as a healthier man
  • Now accepts friend’s invitations for physical activities

 

Key Strategies for Setting Goals

By Linda Hogg, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

A journey in health and wellness begins with a vision. Create an image in your mind of where you are going — your end result — and what steps you need to take to get there.

As with any challenging adventure, it is important to acknowledge your individual goals – have you brain-stormed or written them down? Is your plan “S.M.A.R.T.” (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound)? Before any long, successful journey, yet especially with nutrition and fitness, setting goals becomes your chance to get specific with your intentions and to state how those intentions will become effort. The best actions are those which are realized and brainstormed, well-written, and then adjusted along the way. Early on, taking the time for creative thought is essential! Honor your interests and preferences so that your goals are realistic and will make you feel successful.

Based on your personality and abilities, it is important for you to either be broad with your goals, such as stating that you will join the YMCA by March 1st, or if it helps you to stay focused, get specific by stating that you will join the gym and attend your first class by March 1st. Remember that you will feel more empowered by choosing your goals, rather than letting a health care provider, a trainer or a health coach determine what your goals should be. You, as the leader of your team, will be more likely to come up with ideas which are achievable and appropriate to your life. Your health coach can help you pinpoint what is most important, and help maneuver your way around any obstacles you encounter.

As you set up your plan, what specific goals would you like to work on first? What changes are you interested in making? Is there a specific exploration activity or an experiment you can set up to see if one of your ideas is a good fit? Perhaps a trial run would be helpful? For example, you may be contemplating joining a gym. You may know of several facilities available to you, yet you are not familiar with them. Try setting a goal to purchase a one-time guest pass or arrange a free tour with a couple of facilities which interest you. By contacting the facility, you would meet one step in a goal. By showing up, you have taken the next step. By looking around and imagining yourself at that facility, you have taken an important step. It may be too much to go from thinking about the gym to joining blindly. Know more!

Here is an example of how to set a goal and break it into steps:

Goal: I will join the YMCA and attend a beginner yoga class, 3 times per week.
Breakdown of steps:

  1. I will arrange a tour and orientation by a staff member at the YMCA.
  2. I will check on the fees involved and plan the cost into my budget.
  3. I will initiate the membership by paying fees and signing an agreement.
  4. I will make sure I have supportive shoes and comfortable clothes.
  5. I will determine what days works into my work and home schedule.
  6. I will prepare my gym bag, water bottle, and a light snack in advance.
  7. I will show up and do my best by learning yoga and asking questions.

When setting a goal and breaking down the steps, try to follow these guidelines:

  1. The goal or step supports your personal autonomy
  2. The goal or step instills confidence within
  3. The goal or step promotes independence with future goal-setting

If goals seem too lofty, simply step back, have patience, be graceful to yourself and approach the goal slowly. Avoid talking yourself out of the goal, but instead go back to it when the time is right. Let goals be either too small or too big, and then keep practicing until they seem right.

One way of practicing is to set up a trial run. Make smaller goals that are achievable, and once you have success with those, you can start creating larger goals that lead to permanent lifestyle change. Set up a temporary change, test out behavior, and visualize it from many angles. Reflect on it from many angles? Are you capable of the change? Do you like the change? Does the change influence others around you? Collect data and decide if the results are positive or negative. Decide if you need to change the plan or re-think it completely. Goals related to nutrition and fitness must be aimed at excellence – avoid perfectionist thinking and an all-or-nothing attitude, or you may give up. Instead, begin anew by taking different steps toward the goal!

Remember that motivation is based on factors such as your individual abilities, your personal confidence, and your internal belief that efforts to change will work. You must give yourself applause and feel the small successes within to continue on your individual journey in wellness!

Let others support and encourage you – look for those who will help celebrate your successes and help you work through obstacles you discover along the way. Empower yourself with knowledge about yourself and what works and what does not. Use what you have learned to move forward on the path to success – to the overall vision you saw from the start.