To New Beginnings

It happens annually and this year is no exception.This year it was Raymond. Raymond is a fifty five year old Hispanic male that came to see me for knee pains. He tells me that it’s been going on for months and it’s worse at the end of the day. He doesn’t remember an incident that directly attributed to the pain. He mentions that he wants to start the year off right by getting on a diet and exercise program, but the knee pain is stopping him from getting serious about exercise. I agree with him that certainly, the knee pain isn’t helping. Did I mention that Raymond is 5’8” and weighs 280 pounds?

The new year always brings about new resolutions, but the majority of resolutions end up failing by February. I hear them all, from “I want to be thinner” to “I want to be happier.” The problem with new year resolutions are that typically, people approach them the way they would a math equation. It’s not as simple as A plus B equals C. It’s never as simple as “I’m fat so I will eat less to be thinner.”

Most New Year’s Resolutions are about changing bad habits. It’s not just the smoking and the drinking. It’s also the stress eating and exhaustion from overworking. It’s also the overspending when going out or the lack of time for doing anything else but work. At the root of bad habits is usually stress. It’s the stress from work or family. Or it’s the self inflicted stress of unfulfilled expectations or the inability to accept one’s shortcomings. These stressors ultimately lead to the smoking or the overeating or the overspending. We are all creatures of habit and if we create enough bad ones, they will ultimately take a toll on our health, whether it’s in the form of arthritic knee pain from being overweight, to lung cancer from smoking. Managing stress is the biggest key to keeping a resolution.

When self destructive habits finally make an impact on a patient’s health is usually when they come to see me. Unfortunately, there is usually isn’t a quick fix to most problems as they are typically a result of long standing habits. In order to create change, one needs to be self aware of their habits and ultimately address the reason for them and how to go about replacing them with better habits. If I drink to numb myself of the day’s anxieties, I need to be aware of the reasons why I drink and instead go for a walk on the beach or perhaps read a book.

Some things to consider when changing some bad habits:1) Small steps are part of a big journey. Instead of trying to hit the home run by starving or going cold turkey on cigarettes, make the smaller decision by skipping the fries and soda, or cutting back on the amount of smoking.  2) There are triggers everywhere. From the chips your husband buys to the friends that drink it up every weekend. Find them and try to avoid or manage them. If your friends don’t understand and can’t change, it’s time for some new friends. As tough as that sounds, understand that change is never easy and sometimes making the hard choice is the right choice. 3) Failure is part of growth. For anyone that has tried to change something and failed, congratulations, you’re human. Beating yourself up about failure is useless and besides that, there are enough people out there trying to tear you down, even family and friends. When trying to break the habit, you have to be your greatest advocate and try to find the positive things in your failure. Whether it was the fact that you at least went to the gym or you only bought a $5 coffee four times this week, dwelling on the positive will hopefully keep you motivated.

A lot of words that end with -er are thrown around this time of year. Thinner. Fitter. Happier. Richer. Smarter. Sexier. The only word that matters is better. Changing for the better is difficult, but with the right approach, you can succeed and it can be well worth it, especially when it comes to your health. When the ball drops again this year, and we clink our glasses in celebration, hopefully, this year’s goal will be standing resolute.

Post by: Dr. Juan Borja
Original post here

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