How to make healthy changes you CAN live with.

By Carol Penfield, M.S., Nurse Practitioner

How you live your life day to day directly affects your health and quality of life.   Most people realize this and recognize the need for changes in their behaviors. The challenge is how to obtain “sustainable” changes.  The most common initial motivating factor is fear.  Some individuals may stop drinking after an embarrassing event, others may stop eating high fat foods after a heart attack. Too often after a few weeks or months denial returns and former habits start to trickle back into the daily routine.

Re-programing the mind to change from the “fear of dying” to the “joy of living” is helpful but can be challenging.  Dr. Dean Ornish demonstrated in his research that in order to maintain healthy changes the process must be fun, enjoyable and target the interest of the individual. Each person is unique and developing successful strategies for change involves many factors.

Are there changes that you would like to make such as; exercising more often, eating more vegetables or avoiding stress-eating?  Then ask yourself the following two questions:

1)    “How important is it to me to change?” 

            Using a scale from 1(not interested) to 10 (very eager),

            My number = _________.

2)    “How confident am I that I can change?”

            Using the same scale, 1(not at all) to 10 (I am very motivated),

            My number = _________. 

If you find that changing your behavior is important but you are not motivated, then your goal setting should be modest.  If changing is important and your confidence is high, then now is the time to take action. However, if both answers are below 4 then ask yourself, “What would it take to get my score up above 5 in both categories?”  These questions are examples of tools that can help you start the process of creating healthy changes in your life.  

It is important to remind yourself that even small changes can have a large impact on disease management and prevention.  For example, these are two impressive and motivating studies;

1)    The “EPIC” study followed 23,000 people and those that adhered to 4 simple behaviors (not smoking, exercising 3.5 hours per week, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight) showed 93% of diabetes, 81% of heart attacks, 50% of strokes and 36% of all cancers were prevented.

2)    The “Nurses’ Health Study” of 238,000 nurse-participants showed that 80% of all heart disease and 91% of diabetes could be eliminated if women adopted lifestyle practices including exercise, normal body weight,  simple nutritional changes and smoking cessation.

According to Dr. Dean Ornish, “When you make healthy choices you feel better quickly. When you feel better you enjoy making healthy choices.”


Get the support and guidance you need to help YOU lead a healthier lifestyle.

Carol Penfield will be hosting a FREE Lifestyle Medicine workshop addressing; proper nutrition, fitness, managing stress, and improving sleep on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 from 9 – 10 am. at Chatham Health and Swim Club. It is open to the public, but space is limited.  Call Chatham Health & Swim Club to reserve: 508-945-3555.


Carol Penfield, M.S., Nurse Practitioner has opened a medical practice specializing in Lifestyle Medicine.  Her private office is located below the Chatham Health & Swim Club, and she accepts most medical insurances. 508-945-7761

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