For Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Putting Thought Into Action

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the October Fit Talk blog posts were dedicated to providing insight into ways we can take control of our life and reduce our risk of cancer and other diseases.

Now… it’s time to turn knowledge into action!

Don’t wait for January’s “new years resolutions” to implement your get-healthy plan.  Commit to these 5 steps and make TODAY the first day to get your life back.

1. Set a SMART goal.  SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.  Saying “I want to lose weight” or “I’m going to eat healthier” is too vague.  Choose something specific, that you can be held accountable for.  An example like this is perfect:  “I will lose 5 pounds within the next 5 weeks by eliminating fatty foods from my diet and increasing exercise to 3x/week.”

2. Set yourself up to achieve your goal.  Before you commit to exercising 3x per week, figure out how you will make that happen.  Will you get up early before work?  Will you join a gym with a friend?  Will you take your workout clothes to work and jog on the treadmill during your lunch hour?  Will you hire a personal trainer?  Make a plan that sets you up for success.  Failure to plan is a plan to fail.

3. Identify the obstacles as well as the coping strategies.  Take time to list out all the excuses you can come up with about why you can’t achieve your goal.  Things like this are typical:  you’re tired, you had to work late, the kids wanted McDonald’s, your spouse didn’t make it home in time, you forgot your gym clothes, they were having free pizza for lunch at work, etc.  In the column next to the excuses list a coping strategy for each one, something you can do to prevent the excuse from ever becoming a reality.  For example, you could avoid forgetting your gym clothes if you kept a spare set in the car.  If you feel tired at night, you can schedule your workouts in the morning.  If your department is having a free pizza lunch, pack your lunch and eat it beforehand so you’re not tempted to binge.

4. Build your support network.  Having support from family and friends in meeting your healthy-lifestyle goals is essential for success.  Talk to your family and friends about your goals for diet and exercise.  Chances are they may be looking for a little encouragement and motivation to better themselves as well, and maybe your initiative is just what they needed to take that first step.  In addition, surrounding yourself with like-minded people at the gym, at work or in the neighborhood will make you feel accountable.  Sometimes family and friends may express concern about how your lifestyle changes could negatively impact them.  They may think that if you start exercising you’ll have less time for them or if you go on a “health kick” you’ll take away the foods they enjoy.  These issues are real and must be dealt with.  That’s why identifying obstacles and coping strategies is so critical.  Without the support of family and friends, the chance of meeting your goals diminishes significantly.  Listen to their concerns and find ways to create a win-win situation.  For example, involve family and friends in your exercise (walks, bike rides, basketball) or find time to do your own thing when they’re at work, school or sleeping.

5. Practice positive thinking.  Many people have a negative recording playing in their head about why they can’t meet their goal.  Catch yourself when thinking a negative thought like “I can’t do it, exercise is too hard” or “This won’t work, I like junk food too much” and stop immediately.  Negative self-talk is a bad habit that can be changed with practice.  When you find yourself putting yourself down and minimizing your ability to be successful, replace that negative thought with a positive one.  Train yourself to believe in yourself and you will see others following your lead.  Therein lies the magic… you believe in yourself, others believe in you and then they start to believe in themselves.

Bottom Line:  In the spirit of cancer awareness and disease prevention, it is definitely time to take a hard look in the mirror and get honest.  Are you helping or hurting yourself and your risk of disease?  Not all disease is preventable.  But with 2/3 of cancer illness and deaths related to smoking, diet and physical activity – there is no doubt you owe it to yourself to stop thinking and start doing.  Be thoughtful in your goal setting and planning.  If you’re serious and SMART about it, success is guaranteed.  Your success will inspire your family and friends… it’s a gift that keeps on giving.  And it starts with you.  Today!

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