Q: I get frustrated with my husband when he says, “Why should I worry about eating healthy and getting more physical activity? I feel fine.” Any ideas on how to help him see the big picture?
A: This is a great question. As Steven Aldana, former professor of lifestyle medicine at Brigham Young University, shares in his book, “The Culprit & The Cure,” this is the leading cause of I-don’t-care-itis. Does this sound a little bit like the senioritis that many young adults are facing right now? The “I don’t care” attitude at least may be somewhat similar.
According to Aldana, I-don’t-care-itis is a common condition in which an individual has no interest in adopting a healthy lifestyle. Since the really big, lifesaving benefits associated with a healthy lifestyle won’t be felt for many, many years, it’s easy not to be concerned about our health right now. Even though we can experience some great immediate benefits of a healthy lifestyle, like weight loss, improved fitness, increased energy, improved sleep quality, better attitude and better able to manage stress, we may choose to put it on the back burner and not worry about it.
There are many common symptoms of I-don’t-care-itis. Ask yourself (or your loved one) the following questions:
• Do you believe that food and lifestyle traditions of your family and culture are OK because that’s the way it’s always been?
• Do you feel threatened when someone suggests that you could be healthier if you changed the way you eat?
• Do you feel discouraged because you tried to make changes before but you failed?
• Do you think that you already have a healthy lifestyle and don’t need to change anything?
• Do you feel it is worth it to maintain your current food and physical activity habits even though they may shorten your life by more than 10 years?
• Do you believe that there is nothing wrong with your current lifestyle, so “why fix it if it ain’t broke?”
If you (or your loved one) answered yes to any of these questions, you (or they) may have a chronic case of I-don’t-care-itis.
Even though we may know that small investments in good nutrition and physical activity now will have big payoffs in the future, it’s sometimes difficult to convince those we love to believe as we do. We have to remember that we can’t change someone else — all we can do is model a healthy lifestyle, share information and offer support. They are the manager. As a self-manager, they have to “decide” for themselves if they want to lead a healthy lifestyle or not. The word “decide” is very important — it is their decision to be active in choosing healthy behaviors or to do nothing.
If we know of someone who is wanting to take the first step toward improving their health but they don’t know how to get started, encourage them to be realistic and very specific about what they want to accomplish. This may be when an action plan would be helpful. Action plans are probably the most important self-management tool. An action plan is a specific action that an individual can realistically expect to accomplish within, say, the next week. It should be about something they want to do or accomplish. This is a tool to help them do what they wish. They do not make action plans to please their friends, family, co-workers or doctors.
The basics of a successful action plan are:
Something YOU want to do.
Reasonable (something you can expect to be able to accomplish that week).
Behavior-specific (losing weight is not a behavior; not eating after dinner is).
Answer the questions:
How much? (Think about your day/week — which days, times, etc.)
- Once you’ve made your action plan, ask yourself the following question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being totally unsure and 10 being totally certain, how certain am I that I can complete this plan?” If your answer is 7 or above, this is probably a realistic action plan. If your answer is below 7, then you should look again at your action plan. 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.
Once you have made a plan that you are happy with, write it down and post it where you will see it every day. And, ask a family member or friend to check with you on how you are doing. Having to report your progress is good motivation.
Here’s an example of an action plan — it’s this simple:
“This week I will walk around the block (what) 3 times (how much) before lunch (when) 3 days this week (how many)”. How confident are you? (0 = not at all confident; 10 = totally confident) 9 .
At the end of the week, see if you completed your action plan. Are you ready to try it another week? Remember: Small steps equal big rewards!
Want to learn more about why lifestyle is the culprit behind America’s poor health and how transforming that lifestyle can be the cure? If so, be one of the first 50 individuals to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 843-7058 to ask for your free copy of Steven Aldana’s book, “The Culprit & The Cure.” Yes, it’s free with no obligations except that we will ask the “winners” to stop by the K-State Research & Extension — Douglas County Office, located on the Douglas County Fairgrounds, to pick up their book.
— 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.