FreshStart Check-In: Meet-Up? And Paving The Path To Optimal Wellness

Dear Fresh-Starters: How goes it? I see that WBUR is holding a festival June 5 from noon to 4 p.m. on the Charles River. Would anybody like to stage a FreshStart MeetUp, maybe at around noon? Coach Beth (Dr. Beth Frates of Harvard and Wellness Synergy)  thinks she can make it, and I'll ask the WBUR powers-that-be to let you be special guests who don't need to buy tickets. What do you say? I'd love to meet everybody, and talk about ways we could bring FreshStart to the next level...? To any potential newcomers out there, it's not too late! You can join by leaving a comment below laying out your health goals.

And now, Coach Beth has the floor:

Having started this wellness journey together 5 weeks ago, it is time to take a step back and review our progress. First of all, congratulations for taking the “plunge” into examining your own lifestyle habits and how they relate to your overall level of health and wellness.

Sticking with any program for over 4 weeks is also something we need to celebrate. Whatever you have been doing these past 4 weeks, even if it is simply reading the posts of others, wellness has been on your mind. Depending on what stage of change you are in for different behaviors, your actions were probably different.

As you may know, there are 5 stages of change:
1) Pre-contemplative (I won’t, I can’t)
2) Contemplative (I may)
3) Preparation (I want to, I will)
4) Action (I am) and
5) Maintenance (I still am-after 6months or more).

Sometimes just acknowledging the stage you are in for a specific behavior (such as adding exercise into your daily routine, eating fruits and vegetables, avoiding sugar, or meditating) is the first important step.

After 5 weeks, it is a good time to re-evaluate your stage of change around your targeted behaviors. Your stage of change might have changed. Did it? From our posts in this blog it sounded like many people were in preparation to start and some are in action now.

You might be wondering: What are some common behaviors of people enjoying their optimal level of wellness? What are we striving for? This is where the paver comes into play. Wellness is an ongoing journey and can involve many different factors depending on an individual’s current behaviors, attitudes, and patterns. That said, there are some common threads among people enjoying their optimal level of wellness and their journeys there. I call these tools for P.A.V.I.N.G. your path.

P = Physical Activity on a routine basis (type, frequency, duration, intensity will vary)
A = Attitudes of a “growth mindset,” positivity, appreciation, and so called “failures” are opportunities for growth and development
V = Variety in one’s exercise routine, diet, and goals. Try new activities, foods, and strategies.
I = Inquisitive mindset, looking for more information, investigating current health and wellness recommendations
N = Nutrition focus on what is healthy for your body (such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, lean meat, fish, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats ). Avoiding highly processed foods, sugar, trans fats, and saturated fats.
G = Goals (monthly, weekly, daily) for your health and wellness. SMART behavioral goals that are written down on a calendar, appointment book, dry erase board, or other method. Sharing these goals with others (friends, family, wellness coach, physician, or fellow bloggers) so that you feel some support as well as accountability for them is another important factor for many people.

These are only 6 tools, and you might be using different ones. We have touched on several of the six tools through the course of this blog. Today, I want to spend a minute on the A, “attitude.”

When tackling new projects and striving for goals, positivity often helps us get there. Finding the positive, what is working well, and building on that is a great place to start when creating new goals. Taking the time to appreciate the positive and celebrate it is critical for self-efficacy to grow (the belief that one is capable to complete a certain task and feels confident).

In the “growth mindset,” we accept where we are and we strive to learn from our efforts. Thus, if we do not attain a goal, we do not “beat ourselves up.” Rather we ask, “Ah…what happened here? How can I get around this obstacle in the future? What can I do to succeed at this next time? What did I learn about myself?” Taking this approach opens doors and encourages continued efforts.

In the past 5 weeks, what has been the highlight for you on your wellness journey with CommonHealth? What have you learned about yourself? Where will you go from here—what are your goals this week? In the past few weeks, have you identified certain guidelines that you want to follow so that you can attain your optimal level of wellness? Please share your thoughts with us. We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

And now, not to overload you, but I wanted to make sure everyone saw what Coach Beth wrote about set point. I must confess that, disgustingly chipper as I tend to be, I really did get discouraged last week when my weight was back up (the endless rain could also have something to do with it) and I decided not to weigh in this week. Wondering what you guys and Coach Beth think about that. On one hand, I lose the reality check; on the other hand, I skip the ill effects of the frustration and just go on trying to do the right things...

Coach Beth's supremely helpful words on set point (and I've actually read the book she mentions; it's excellent.):

In response to your inquiry about the "set point" theory with weight, there is a good book out there by a colleague at Harvard Medical School named Dr. George Blackburn titled, "Break Through Your Set Point: How to Finally Lose the Weight You Want and Keep It Off."

The bottom line with set point theory is that yes there is a specific body weight that you maintain through your genes as well as environmental factors. Since we can not change our genes, we focus on environmental factors when aiming to alter our current "set point." That is the goal of this blog, to help people reach a healthy weight and maintain it--in effect, alter your "set point." The environmental factors are those centered around physical activity routines and eating patterns--eating mindlessly, eating on the run, choosing "nutrient-poor" options for snacks and meals.

Notice that I said current set point because you can change your set point. Most of us can think of a few family or friends who have successfully lost weight and kept it off. How did they do it? There are so many different strategies. However, one of the most important mindsets to have is to realize that significant weight loss will take time, especially if you want to keep the weight off for a long time---a lifetime.

The "aha!" moment on the topic of "set point" might be this...."Yes you can break through your set point! But, it takes time." Many of you are probably wondering why I keep repeating the phrase, "This is a marathon, not a sprint." Well, experts (like Dr. George Blackburn) have informed us that a reasonable goal is to lose 10% of your current body weight and keep it off for 6 months.

Of course, this is frustrating and counterintuitive to most Americans who are used to hearing about weight loss plans or pills as well as exercise equipment and routines that are promising that you lose 20 pounds in two weeks or something of that nature.

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The plateau period (which can be 6 months) is the most frustrating period in the process and this is the time when many people "give up and go back."

[/module]If you look at the biology which Dr. Blackburn spells out in his book, the body wants to stay at its set point, but with time you can move this set point. The plateau period (which can be 6 months) is the most frustrating period in the process and this is the time when many people "give up and go back." That is why I believe the "aha!" moment here might be that losing 10% of your current weight and keeping it off for 6 months is a huge benefit for you, your body, and your set point. However, we need to set up the right expectations in order to stick with the plan.

Focussing on behaviors and health benefits of physical activity and good nutrition will help you to stick with the plan. Thus, in that "plateau" period, you can appreciate that your exercise and healthy eating are helping your body to function at a higher level--your fitness level improves, resting heart rate can lower, blood pressure can lower, glucose control can improve, cholesterol can improve, mood can improve, sleep can improve, focus and concentration can improve, creativity can improve, pain levels can decrease, and so much more....

When some people reach a plateau they want to push harder and do more---do more exercise and make more dietary changes. There is nothing wrong with that. Realizing that your old set point is fighting with your new habits might be all the motivation you need to stick with your plan or to push yourself harder. Expecting that this process takes time, is really important for you to understand so that you can stick with your program and continue to set SMART behavior goals for yourself.

I hope this is helpful. Others might have insights on "set point" and their own experience with their own "set points." Please do share them with us. For those more interested in the topic, I recommend, Dr. Blackburn's book.

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Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.



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