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Small, intentional changes key to successful action plan for improved health


By Lydia Kaume

MU Nutrition and Health Education Specialist

Although we have reminders around us of the national obesity crisis, lifestyle changes are difficult for most individuals said Lydia Kaume, Ph.D., a nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“For individuals not yet experiencing health problems, the incentive of better health and reduced morbidity in the future is not motivating enough,” said Kaume. “For those in the thick of health problems, behavior change is seen as an unachievable daunting health-provider-requirement.”

Scientific observations show health providers and counselors have not been successful at achieving behavior changes in clients. To modify lifestyle, one needs personal resolve, small, intentional gradual changes and the necessary emotional and moral support.

There is also evidence that well written personalized “action plans” that are easy to adhere are effective instruments of behavior change.

To write a personal “action plan,” Kaume says to follow these guidelines.

1. State the “what” (the behavior that needs change).

2. State “how much” (how much will be done).

3. State “when” (which day of the week—to increase chances of success avoid stating all seven days; even two days may good for a start).

4. State “how many times” (in the day or week).

5. Finally, state “your confidence level” (on a scale of 1-10 how confident you are that you can succeed). A confidence level of 7 or over is recommended.

There are several simple but important health behaviors that a person may resolve to modify that can significantly improve their health, according to Kaume.

For example, try a few of these changes: increase your hours of sleep, plan a weekly meal schedule to reduce the number of times you eat out, add oily fish to your diet, increase the number of days in a week that you eat fruits and vegetables, buy whole grain products, exercise (10 to 15 minutes for beginners), eliminate a certain known stress factor, try a new healthy recipe, attend a health class, start a diary or meditate.

“The goal is to stick to new behavior until you are ready to make another action plan and resolve to modify another behavior,” said Kaume.

Most Americans are in our current health crisis because most of our lives are hectic. This means busy lifestyles, poor eating habits, poor quality sleep, and being physically inactive, which leaves majority of people fatigued, and yearning for more energy. Health conditions and/ medications can further complicate fatigue.

“Ideally, good habits need to be formed early in children so no interventions would be necessary as adults, and we have lots of opportunities to influence the next generation. But we must begin by modeling healthy behaviors today,” said Kaume. “Writing an action plan and making small improvements, one at a time, can be a big step toward nutrition and lifestyle change.”

For more information on nutrition, go online to http://extension.missouri.edu or contact Lydia Kaume at 417-682-3579.

Date: 5/6/2013



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