I spend a lot of time talking to my patients about lifestyle change. I truly believe that a patient is not treated by pills alone. If a person commits to a healthful lifestyle, he or she will live longer. And I believe that people can change.
But change does not come easy. It comes a few small steps at a time.
I don't expect a patient with out of control blood pressure and lipids, who does not exercise, and who eats no fruits or vegetables, to come back to me a month later having become a vegan who exercises five days a week and with normal blood pressure and cholesterol. If he or she returns to me a month later with an improved blood pressure, perhaps a pound or two lighter, and is now eating a salad every now and then and walking two days a week, I consider that success, and we can improve even further from there.
Diet change is especially tough. Someone who consumes a lot of meat and not many fruits and vegetables cannot overnight adopt a plant-based diet. A great way to start is to give up beef and aim for two vegetarian meals a week. Then give up dairy, and try new things like soy milk and rice milk and hemp milk. And then another change towards eating healthfully, and another....
I can recall a time back in college when a grilled cheese sandwich, a large order of fries, a 24-ounce Coke, and a large ice cream sundae was a normal dinner. At that time, I thought that by putting on my Rollerblades a couple of days a week for a few minutes to get to my classes that I was exercising enough. I was overweight and had so little energy. It took years and many small steps along the way to become a healthier person.
Small steps can be the key to long-term success. Celebrate small successes, and keep moving forward.
Image from www.35unger.com