New Year, New You: How to Achieve Your Health Goals
By Arnold Fontanilla, DO, Family Medicine Physician – Virtua Primary Care Pennsauken
Many new year’s resolutions revolve around losing weight or improving your appearance.
But there are more factors involved in achieving health and well-being than just losing a muffin top. Age, family health history, current weight and body mass index (BMI), and fitness level all affect your health goal and the length of time it will take to achieve it.
You need to know your starting point. Define it by asking yourself:
- What are my current height, weight, and BMI? How do these compare with recommended measurements?
- Do I exercise? How often and for how long?
- Do I get enough sleep? Do I feel tired a lot?
- What is my fitness level? Can I walk five miles without stopping? Can I jog five miles, and how long does it take? What weight can I lift? How many squats, push-ups, and chin-ups can I do? How is my flexibility?
- Do I have any bad eating habits? Am I addicted to certain foods? Am I an emotional eater? Do I eat too little?
- Do I have any ailments that affect my health and well-being?
- Do I always seem to be run-down or sick?
- Am I depressed or often feel stressed?
- What is my family’s health history?
- What are my health issues? Do I have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or a condition like diabetes?
A good starting point when setting health goals is a physical assessment of your general health.Make an appointment with your health care provider for an annual exam. He or she will set a course to treat any health conditions you may have (such as high blood pressure), help you set realistic goals, and make recommendations for a healthy diet and exercise.
Your provider also may refer you to specialists who can help you manage the specifics of your goal, such as a nutritionist/dietician, therapist, or counselor.
Do some research as well. You can’t expect to learn everything there is to know about the human body, but try to get a basic understanding of the biology behind your specific health goal, whether it be:
- The relationship between diet, exercise, and weight loss
- How the body’s metabolism works and how diet affects it (both good and bad)
- The fundamentals of clean and good eating habits
- Suitable forms of exercise for your particular goal (running, weights, yoga)
- Successful methods for beating smoking, alcoholism, or drugs
- Stress management or dealing with mental health issues
- The importance of sleep and what is good sleep hygiene
Once you know what you have to do to achieve your goal, set timeframes for milestones along the way. For example, if your goal is to lose 40 pounds, set milestones of losing one pound a week and four to five pounds each month.
Some general guidelines to give yourself:
- One week to lose one to two pounds
- Three to six months to get into peak physical fitness
- At least six weeks to break a habit like smoking, and maybe even longer for alcohol and drug dependency
Find a support system as well. Having friends, family, or coworkers behind you can provide motivation and accountability as you work to achieve your goal.
Don’t get discouraged if you have setbacks. It takes time and consistency to achieve anything. Think how good you’ll feel in the end, and how ready you’ll be to tackle next year’s challenge.
Virtua Health’s primary care practices offer in-person and telehealth appointments to help you fulfill your new year’s resolutions. Call 888-847-8823 to make an appointment.
Updated January 19, 2021