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Making Healthy Choices Easier For Your Patients

To an out-of-shape patient, the prospect of getting healthy can seem like an impossibly daunting task. It isn’t easy to imagine yourself running a marathon when you’re sitting on the couch, and it certainly isn’t easy to imagine preparing a salad when the closest you get to a vegetable is the sauce on a slice of pizza.

Part of encouraging patients to take control of their health is presenting the goal as attainable. When you talk to your patients about lifestyle changes, make sure not to place too much emphasis on the end goal. Instead, highlight the manageable, daily habit changes a patient can pursue in order to get in shape, one small step at a time. Here are some tips for making healthy choices easier for your patients:

1. Get off the sofa.

Adding exercise to your daily routine isn’t about overhauling your whole life — it’s just about adding a manageable new step into your daily routine. As the saying goes, “Even the slowest runner is lapping everyone on the couch.”

Instead of pushing a rigorous, daunting, and unsustainable exercise regimen, encourage your patient to just get out of the house and do something that involves their body every day. Something attainable, like walking or jogging leisurely for 20 minutes, is a good place to start. Once the habit is formed, there will be plenty of time to focus on more rigorous goals.

2. Change your diet one bite at a time.

A complete dietary overhaul is an overwhelming prospect to most people who are just beginning to take control of their health. Instead of chastising your patient for a poor diet overall, help him or her set manageable weekly or monthly food goals.

For a vegetable-averse patient, this goal might look as simple as trying one new vegetable each week. For a patient who needs to cut down on caloric intake, a good place to start is by swapping out one unhealthy meal per day with a healthier choice.

Be sure to pay attention to the constraints of your patient’s lifestyle and tailor your guidance towards goals that can actually be accomplished. For instance, if your patient does not enjoy cooking or does not have much leisure time, it will be much more useful to offer dietary changes that involve already-prepared healthy foods like yogurt or beans. If your patient loves technology or is motivated by tracking their progress, encourage them to try a health-related mobile app.

3. Attitude matters.

Often, it isn’t the taste of vegetables or the stress of exercise that dissuades people from making lifestyle changes. It’s the mental attitude. When we embark on life-changing projects, it’s easy to get lost or feel dissuaded by the magnitude of what we aim to accomplish.

Instead of focusing on distant goals like a numerical weight or something grandiose like completing an Iron Man triathlon, make sure to celebrate the daily milestones and non-scale victories. Maintaining health is a lifelong process, in which progress is made through making health choices every day.

Show your support for your patients’ health goals by offering them a useful tool like a calendar for tracking progress or free samples of healthy snack options.

Remember, you can’t force people to change their lives, but you can work hard to make those life changes easier and more rewarding.