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Lifestyle Changes

Often in the clinic, we may recommend lifestyle modifications for diet, exercise, smoking, sleeping, stress reduction, meditation, or emotional regulation. Related to making lifestyle changes is the need to evaluate habits, behaviors, and specific health goals. When a client sees us for weight loss they likely have an end goal like losing 30 pounds. Similarly, a client may have a goal such as wanting to stop smoking, decrease anxiety, or get rid of stress-related tension headaches. While end goals are a part of making lifestyle changes, it is essential to develop a plan of action that recognizes the need for changes in habits and behaviors. For a client to lose 30 pounds, new behaviors and habits will need to be adopted that support that end goal. While the end goal often gets a lot of attention, it is the actions, habits, and behaviors that are the stepping stones for reaching that goal.


While end goals are a part of making lifestyle changes, it is essential to develop a plan of action that recognizes the need for changes in habits and behaviors.

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As acupuncturists/therapists we may give solid advice to our clients about how to reach the end goal, but without assisting them in developing a sustainable plan to reach that goal, they will often fall short and give up before their aim is achieved. Advising patients often does not have the impact we would hope for, and it is recognized in health coaching models that giving advice often fails to motivate the patient to change. Rather than advising patients to make lifestyle changes, it is helpful to utilize methods such as motivational interviewing (MI) and creating SMART goals.


The SMART framework for goal setting uses the acronym:


  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Action-based

  • Realistic

  • Time-bound



Setting SMART goals with patients is necessary for many conditions and can greatly assist them in developing a plan that will help them in achieving their goals. For example, for the client that wants to lose 30 pounds, the specific measurement is losing 30 pounds; however, they often do not have specific Action plans to achieve that goal. Helping them discover and implement the specific actions and behaviors they can make to achieve the goal is necessary and distinct from simply giving advice. You might advise them to eat less and exercise more, but your advice may not be realistic for them. For instance, you may advise them to eat less sugary foods and consume more protein. This may or may not be a change they are willing to make, and it is necessary to understand what changes in habits and behaviors they are ready to make. They may not be ready to give up the afternoon donuts, but they may be able to walk more and go to the gym a few times a week. Similarly, some weight loss clients are ready to make changes in their diet, but they are not ready, willing, or even able to exercise.


Without specific actions, it is not realistic to achieve any goal.


Identifying with the patient what changes they are most willing and able to make, helps ensure that they take Action-based steps that are Realistic for their current needs. Without developing and communicating with patients the Specific Measurable Actions they will take that are Realistic for them, they will likely not achieve their end goal of losing 30 pounds. Without specific actions, it is not realistic to achieve any goal.


As we help our clients discover the necessary and realistic actions they are ready to take to reach their goals, it is also essential to create a timeframe for them to achieve the goal. Time-bound goals can help to increase motivation, decrease procrastination, and assist in focusing and planning. For the client who wants to lose 30 pounds, timeframes are essential to measure progress and make the goal realistic. While they may want to lose 30 pounds in two months, it may be more realistic to set a timeframe of 4 - 6 months. If the goal is not realistic, then failure is certain. A goal that is not realistic demotivates people and prevents them from taking the necessary actions. A realistic goal becomes motivating when a good plan is outlined that includes specific, measurable actions.


This article is the beginning of a series of posts I will release on assisting our clients in making necessary lifestyle changes for achieving their health goals. The models that I share are not only applicable to weight loss but to many of the conditions we see in the clinic. If you enjoyed this post and find value in it, please give it a like or comment and I will continue to share some of the most essential things I have used to assist patients in making lifestyle changes.


In health,


James


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