Q: In your column last week, you shared Life’s Simple 7, designed by the American Heart Association with the goal of improved health. How in the world do I focus on all seven at once?
A: Even though some of the goals may overlap — for example, eating better may lead to lowering your cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar — it’s important to not even try to focus on all seven goals at one time.
The first thing to consider is where you’re at in the “stages of change” when it comes to improving your health and lifestyle. The Cooper Institute has given me permission to share an activity sheet taken from their book titled “Nutrition Now — Dietary Guidance for Life” that focuses on “Ready or Not?” when it comes to changing your eating habits. The full activity sheet can be found on our Web site at www.douglas.ksu.edu or by contacting me at 843-7058, or you can create your own. Across the top of the activity sheet, in columns, lists the “stages of change.” They include:
• I’m not interested in doing this.
• I have thought about doing this.
• I have tried to do this off and on, or I intend to try again very soon.
• I am doing this successfully already, but for less than six months.
• I have been doing this successfully for more than six months.
Along the left-hand side of the activity sheet, in rows, lists several “Healthy Eating Habits” including:
• Eat more whole-grain foods.
• Eat more vegetables.
• Eat more fruits.
• Eat nonfat or lowfat milk products regularly.
• Substitute beans, nuts, fish and poultry for meats regularly.
• Choose sensible portions
• Make low-fat choices more often.
• Limit intake of low-nutrition/high-calorie snacks, sauces and toppings.
• Limit intake of high calorie beverages such as soft drinks and alcohol.
• Prepare foods with methods that lower calories and fat.
• Reduce my overall calorie intake.
• Keep track of the food I eat.
• Keep track of my physical activity
Many more “Healthy Habits” could be added to this list, such as: “choose more local foods” or “increase muscle-strengthening activities.”
The intent of the activity is to mark where you are at in each of these “Healthy Habits” and which ONE (or two at the most) are you willing to move one step (or stage) to the right on? It really makes you stop and think.
If you’re ready to take action, then write down your action plan. An action plan should include:
• What you are going to do?
• How much you are going to do?
• When you are going to do it?
• How many days a week are you going to do it?
For example: This week, I will eat one serving each of two different vegetables for dinner five out of seven days. Or, starting Feb. 15, I will walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes before I go to work each morning five times during the week.
Once you’ve made your action plan, ask yourself on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 being not at all confident; 10 being totally confident), how confident are you that you can complete this plan. If your answer is seven or above, it is probably a realistic action plan. If your answer is below seven, then it would be best to look at it again and ask yourself why you’re not confident. What problems do you foresee? Then, see if you can either solve the problems or change your plan to make yourself more confident of success.
After making an action plan that you’re happy with, write it down and post it where you will see it every day. Then, tell someone else (a family member, friend or co-worker) what your plan is and ask him/her to check with you on how you are doing. It’s great motivation to report your progress to someone else.
At the end of the week, check to see if you’ve fulfilled your action plan. If you did, are you willing to do it again the following week? If you had difficulty, don’t give up. Try something else or modify your plan. The main thing is to keep trying — you’ll be glad you did!
— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.