erasing impossibleOne of the most common – if not THE most common – new year’s resolutions is to “lose weight.” While there are plenty of sketchy diets that many, unfortunately, will try, the healthy way to do it necessarily involves a couple things that are also the stuff of resolutions: eating better and exercising more.

But weight loss is only the start of it.

Earlier this year, a task force reviewed the scientific literature and found good evidence that addressing these two things can prevent or control type 2 diabetes.

The Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) reached its conclusion after reviewing 53 studies that evaluated a total of 66 programs that promote diet changes and increased physical activity. Among those studies, 30 compared diet and physical activity programs against usual care, while 12 compared intensive and less intensive programs, and 13 reviewed single programs. The team found that nearly all the diet and physical activity programs reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes as well as decreasing body weight and fasting blood glucose, with more intensive programs found to be more effective.

Based on its review—which the authors say offers “strong evidence of effectiveness” of such programs—the task force suggests combined diet and physical activity programs for individuals at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, defined by the CPSTF as those having abnormally high levels of blood glucose, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetic. [emphasis added]

Of course, the emphasis here is on programs, which may involve things like counseling, coaching, work with a trainer, and “extended support.” But what about for people who may not have access to such resources or structured programs due to location, say, or financial need? What about those who balk – for whatever reasons – at working within a structure imposed from the outside, who would rather just do it themselves?

Here are a few of the elements we think are essential for successfully making most any health-related self-improvement:

  1. Have a clear, well-defined goal in mind. You have no way of knowing you’re successful unless you know what you’re aiming for. If weight loss is the thing, how much weight? If preventing or controlling diabetes is the thing, what specific changes do you or your physician expect to see in your lab values?

    Having a goal also allows you to build a strategy, draw a roadmap to success. You have to know where you’re going before you can come up with a plan to get there. Otherwise, you’re just wandering blind. How will you improve your diet? What kind of exercise will you do and how much?

    Defining your goal is where all real change starts.


  2. Identify or create your support system. Your support doesn’t necessarily mean people who are doing the same as you’re doing (as in a support group), but you do need people who will encourage you and, perhaps most importantly, not put roadblocks in your way. If you’re trying to eat more healthfully, you don’t need people “treating” you to sugary indulgences. If you’re trying to exercise more, you don’t need people trying to persuade you to do something else. Nor do you want people criticizing or belittling your attempts. While you may not be able to exclude such people from your life, you can make an attempt to surround yourself with people who do support what you’re doing and think it’s awesome when you succeed.

  3. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall short. To err, as they say, is human. No one is perfect, and all of us sometimes screw up, despite every good intention. If you stray from your diet, okay, you’ve strayed from your diet. Now move on. Get back to what matters. Likewise, if you slack on exercise. Okay, you’ve slacked. Move on. Start over. It’s okay. The main thing is that you keep going forward, not giving up because of a temporary snag.

What are your health goals for the coming year? What are you prepared to do to help yourself reach them? What advice would YOU give to others striving to improve their health? Share your insights in the comments.

Image by Arya Ziai, via Flickr


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