johnnIt is that time of year. The holidays are over, and we are ready to hit reset on our personal health initiatives. Whether you declare a New Year’s Resolution, commit to a dry January, or go out and renew that gym membership once again, let’s agree to one thing: Let’s do it together.

It is widely believed that we will be more successful in these health measures if we share our goals with friends, family and anyone who will help us achieve better health.

Goal-directed therapy with motivational interviewing is a new trend in healthcare to seek out what motivates each of us to actually change behavior. Changing behavior can be hard, and what motivates you to train for a marathon might not even get me off the couch.

For example, I had a patient who for years was struggling with losing weight until he decided the most important thing on his bucket list was to go sky diving. It turns out that there is a weight limit to what a parachute can support. One hundred pounds lost, and a year later, he was sky diving.

What is going to motivate you this year? It would be well worth your time to truly figure this out, and then put it to use.

The other critical element for success is goal setting and accountability. We all perform better with accountability partners. Our spouses, coaches, doctors and nurses help us set goals and then hold us accountable to achieve them, celebrating every inch we get closer to that goal.

At the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic we have goals to improve the health of our patients and our community. We are specifically focusing on food as medicine to help blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other disease conditions. No one would argue that some of the food we eat can hurt us, but we are focused more on learning and teaching how good food can improve health and wellness.

Here is a fun medical fact. The human body can make fat in one specific way. We use a powerful hormone named insulin to grab the excess sugar in our blood and turn it into fat.

We don’t make fat by eating fat, we make fat by eating sugar. When that process happens, our bodies stay so focused on sugar, we are incapable of actually burning fat for up to three days — even if you are eating salads and going to the gym.

An initiative that has begun with our community partners is to change the ask for food donations from pasta, rice, and cereal to a diabetic friendly food donation of beans, canned meat, eggs, and healthy protein sources. These thoughtful donations will be very helpful for those struggling with diabetes and obesity as they are learning new ways to shop and prepare food for themselves and their families.

Might we partner as a community in achieving our health goals this year? Let’s spend that time and identify what it truly is that will motivate each of us.

Let’s share our goals with those who will help us succeed and keep our distance from the saboteurs.

When we commit to a pledge, we tend to follow through. Maybe it is time we pledge something more important than dollars.

Why don’t we pledge our personal health goals (Pledge the Pounds) and show how a community committed to each other can improve health and wellness?

We are all in. 

John Newman is Executive Director of Volunteers in Medicine Clinic.