|be yourself | May/June 2016
Equations for health
by Sara Volk
When I sat down to think about this year's Be Healthy issue, two ways to go about starting a healthy lifestyle came to mind for me. The first is what I call the "overhaul", when everything is changed. You get a gym membership and use it religiously, swap out desserts for fruits and generally just take a leap in the direction of taking better care of yourself. Sometimes it's brought on by health issues and doctor's orders and sometimes it's pure determination and will power. Whichever way it is, quitting bad habits cold turkey can be tough.
And then there's the other way that I find a lot of the people I know opting for. I've heard friends describe them as "baby steps" or "stepping stones". Unlike the overhaul, those choosing to do things in baby steps substitute out one thing at a time. The first week, the goal is to go to the gym twice, rather than immediately starting at five; the second, maybe you eliminate the cookies from the cupboard (except on Fridays, because everyone needs to celebrate the weekend, right?). This approach is more like slowly piecing together parts of an equation that add up to the same changes made in an overhaul. For some people, overhauls work best. If they're going to stop their bad habits, they can't give them room to squeak by. Or perhaps a health problem makes it necessary that their changes occur immediately. For others, the changes can seem overwhelming, or they find it discouraging when they didn't receive results right after making the changes. For them, introducing the changes slowly but consistently, with a game plan and a set of goals, might work better.
Some may be in-between, changing their diet immediately but slowly introducing an exercise regimen, or vice-versa. Some may decide to only introduce small changes. But even those add up to an enormous difference. Taking one can of soda out of your diet per week can take almost 9500 calories a year (or about amount of calories in 2.5 pounds of body fat). Deciding to take the stairs and parking towards the back of the parking lot help add small doses of activity outside the gym, and any physical activity is good physical activity.
Whichever method works best for you, the most important thing is to remember to stay positive in your approach. Set goals that are both realistic and healthy; don't be disappointed if you have an "off" week; revisit and revise your goals regularly; and remember that your choice to Be Healthy is its own reward.
Sara Volk is a Bismarck native and the current Special Sections editor at The Bismarck Tribune. When she isn't working to give her cat a better life, she dabbles in baking, sewing, and anything nerdy.