Several years ago, a woman came to me for acupuncture treatments to help her lose weight*. She told me she had tried all kinds of things to lose weight from crazy diets to hypnosis, but nothing had worked. At her first appointment, I did a careful intake exam and health history, and then treated her with acupuncture. A week later, when she came back for her second treatment, the woman informed me that over the course of the week, nothing had happened. She had not lost any weight, the acupuncture had not done anything, and she would not be coming back to see me!
This woman also reminds me of many of my patients seek out acupuncture because their lives are stressful and overwhelming. Most understand that their stressful lifestyle is at the heart of their physical symptoms, but many are either unwilling or unable to make the necessary changes to alleviate their stress. They want me to treat their symptoms, but continue their insane lifestyle.
People, here’s an “a ha” moment. If your habits or your lifestyle is making you sick, you need to make some changes. If you don’t, the source of your symptoms remains in place and will continue to make you sick. Simple.
That said, I’m the first person to acknowledge that making a change is not easy. In fact, it’s anything but easy. But it can be done. If you are one of those people who needs to change, here are a few tips to smooth the way:
- Do your homework first. Research the change you’re about to make. If it’s a healthier diet, an exercise plan, or quitting smoking, find out what you need to know before C-Day, the day you begin your change. In addition, it really helps to motivate you if you get a little information on the consequences of not making your change.
- Plan ahead. Make a plan for specifically how you’ll change it up. For example, if you’ve decided to eat healthier and cut out the Burger Doodle for lunch, decide what you’ll eat instead, and go to the grocery store. Chances are if it’s noon and you don’t have a plan, you’ll end up at the Doodle again.
- Get a little help from your friends. Find a pal who wants to exercise, too. Or a family member who’ll tell you which foods count as vegetables. It’s a little easier to change when you have someone on your team.
- Take baby steps. The deck is stacked against you if you decide to quit smoking, lose weight, start exercising, floss every day, and swear off ice cream all at once. Make only one change at a time, and only make changes that you feel you can stick with forever.
- Cut yourself some slack. Realize that making a change is hard. Be gentle with yourself if you lapse. Also, rewards are a good way to celebrate your successes.
- Give it time. It takes three to six months for a change to morph into a habit. Hang in there for at least that long.
- Commit to being consistent. Doing a new activity only some of the time will just become less and less frequent, and will ultimately just go away. Agree to a consistent schedule. The same goes for quitting something like smoking, only in reverse. If you allow yourself a cigarette or two, you’ll ultimately just end up smoking more and more.
- Fill the hole. If you’re quitting smoking, adult beverages, coffee, or whatever, make sure you fill the void of losing that pleasurable habit. For example, if you’re trying to become an ex coffee drinker, go shopping for some flavorable herbal teas to drink instead.
- Remove the temptations. If you’re trying to lose weight, know that the cheesecake in your refrigerator is not your friend.
- Do it for yourself. Only make the changes that you truly want to make. If you try to make changes based on others’ expectations or to please someone else, it will be hard to stay motivated to the end. You can do this, but it has to be because you want it.
*Identifying details have been changed.