I know…you have heard it all before…you need to eat more healthy foods…you need to exercise…stop watching so much TV…stay off the internet…blah blah blah. We humans are an interesting species, we like the path of least resistance. It is hard for us to create new habits, especially ones that require effort. Shoot, we can’t even check or uncheck a box when it comes to organ donation. To see what I mean check out this TED talk by Dan Ariely.
Basically, he discusses one study of European countries that have higher and lower number of opt-ins for organ donation. Even when they compared countries that were considered culturally similar. What it came down to was not religion, culture, beliefs or kindness but the DMV FORM! Yes, a little form at the DMV office determined whether or not you became an organ donor or not.
If the box for organ donation said “check here to become an organ donor” there were less opt-INs but if the box said “check here to NOT be an organ donor” there were more opt-INs by default because people did not check EITHER box. Do you find this as interesting as I do?
Now, one of my passions is getting people to change unhealthy behaviors. I encourage people to remove bad habits and build good habits by incorporating lifestyle choices that can improve or reverse chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc. How does a doctor effectively do this? How can I convince someone to care more about their health than I do? Well that is a tricky question and one that I have spent the last 5 years trying to figure out.
When I have asked several doctors why they don’t encourage patients to eat a healthier diet and exercise, they responded, “patients do not want to change so why waste the time.” Yep, that is what they tell me. I don’t believe it for an instant. It has been my experience people WANT to feel better, lose weight, stop medications, etc but they need help on finding motivation, how to do it, how to overcome obstacles.
I think I know why I have been successful in helping people change behaviors and it took me awhile to figure this out. I thought all doctors should have the same success but as the years ticked by I definitely saw a difference in my approach than that of my colleagues.
First, I gave a story of why how I came to be so passionate about the whole foods plant based diet, how patients like themselves were the catalyst to my own personal change. This story telling lured them in because who doesn’t love a good story and this allowed my potential converts to relate to me. Plus, I shared how the diet had changed my own health and that of my family.
Second, I became OBSESSED with finding ways to obliterate obstacles for my patients. It went way beyond my 29 page handout I gave to every single patient (environmentalists I am sorry for all the trees that were sacrificed but I know I saved lives with this information). I would ask a patient to give me the biggest obstacle to not changing their diet and then we would brainstorm TOGETHER for a solution.
Third, I would break it down to mini or tiny steps for them to reach the bigger overwhelming goal of overhauling their diet. For example, start with a healthy breakfast for a week and then the next week add lunch and then the third week add dinner. It was much more manageable this way.
Finally, I did two other things I made them shake hands on it (I have even made pinky promises, no I’m serious…I have no problem in doing whatever it takes including whipping out the pinky finger for a promise to walk 5 minutes a day) and make a deal with me and FOLLOW UP with me in a few weeks. If they didn’t show…I called them! Yep…you don’t want me to call then ya better show up!
So those are a few of the crazy things that this crazy doctor did to help patients incorporate healthy habits into their lives (imagine my poor kids and husband…God bless them).
Now, back to you…can you do one tiny thing every day for the next seven days to improve your health? Let’s say can you eat a piece of fruit every day or a vegetable? Could you meditate for 60 seconds every day? Could you walk 5 minutes (that’s literally 300 seconds people) every day? Do something every day to help you create a healthy habit and this cool ripple effect starts happening. We will discuss that on the next blog.
Leave a comment and share this blog if you think it was helpful. Tell me what you can commit to today to change your life for the better.
TO your health!