No Ka Oi Health

EDITOR’S NOTE: No Ka Oi Health, produced by the state Department of Health, will be appearing on the fourth Thursday of each month. The column had been published on the fifth Saturday of every month in Community.

Many of us decide to set a new health goal (to lose weight, eat better, etc.). However, we often fail before we get started because we set goals that we feel we “should” do instead of goals we are “ready” to do. We try to change too much at one time (e.g., we decide to eat healthy, exercise and meditate every day), or we aim for perfection in our new health goal rather than being realistic. Eventually, we make a mistake and might give up completely.

Here are a few tips in setting realistic health goals so you can succeed:

• Set goals for what you are ready to improve rather than what you feel you should improve. If your doctor has made recommendations for you to lose weight, eat healthier and exercise more, ask yourself which of these you are ready to start improving and why you want to improve. Do you want to feel better, have more energy, look better in your clothes or prevent illness? Write down and post your reasons for improving your health goals where you will see them. Succeeding at your goals starts with setting goals you are ready to achieve.

• Keep your goals simple and only set one at a time. Begin with one goal you are most ready to start. After you get one goal going successfully for a few months, you can then ask yourself if you are ready to start another. Keeping it simple helps remove stress, which will help you to succeed.

• Break larger goals into smaller steps. If you want to go from the first floor to the second floor, would you jump there in one step? No! You would take the stairs, one step at a time. You can do the same with your health goals. If your goal is to eat healthier, you can break it down into smaller steps. You can start by adding fruits and vegetables into your meals or reading labels at the grocery store to choose healthier options. As you succeed at each smaller step, you will continue to move forward toward your final goal.

• Keep it fun. Life is meant to be enjoyed, isn’t it? Regardless of which health goal you choose to improve, make sure you include activities/foods that you love. If you love what you are doing, you will keep on doing it. You can also include a friend or family member you can laugh with in your activities.

• Keep it balanced and let go of perfection. While you are improving your healthy activities, the key words are “to improve,” not perfection. If you like eating certain foods you know aren’t healthy, allow yourself to eat and enjoy them, just less often and in smaller amounts, without guilt. If you fall off the wagon and eat a lot of unhealthy stuff, don’t give up. Give yourself a pass from your goals and start off again where you left off the next day. Be kind to yourself. Guilt works negatively toward your health goals.

• Learn to manage stress. Stress can trigger unhealthy behaviors. As stress is always going to be there, we need to learn how to cope with it in healthy ways. Breathing deep into your belly is free and easy to use. When you feel stress coming on, breathe deep in and out of your belly until you feel your body and mind calm down and take one small step to reduce stress triggers.

• Be kind to yourself. Our health goals should focus on being a healthier version of ourselves rather than striving for perfection. Living healthier starts with how we talk to ourselves, since our self-talk creates our actual words and then our behaviors. Choose to build yourself up with kind words. One of my favorite quotes is from Winnie the Pooh: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

I hope these tips help you to set health goals for success. Just keep your goals simple, fun and balanced. You are worth it!

For more information, call Public Health Education at the Maui District Health Office cat 984-8216.

* Kristin Mills is public health educator with the state Department of Health’s Maui District Health Office.