Is one of your goals this year to be healthier? Or exercise more? Or lose weight?
While these certainly may be great ideas, you might want to re-think how you word it, says Dr. Jeremy Rezmovitz, family doctor on Sunnybrook’s Academic Family Health Team.
“It’s not enough to say ‘exercise’,” he says. “We need to reframe this and ask ‘what are my health goals and how can I achieve them?’”
Dr. Rezmovitz says in his practice, he works with his patients to set ‘training goals’.
Training means approaching lifestyle changes in a structured, measurable and goal-oriented way. It makes Dr. Rezmovitz, as he puts it, “a health coach”.
For example, if a patient is found to have high blood pressure, Dr. Rezmovitz doesn’t simply pull out his prescription pad and call it a day.
“We talk about it,” he says. “What are the benefits to lowering your blood pressure? Do you want lower blood pressure? Do you want to do that with or without medication? Would you change your diet in order to achieve that goal?”
Sustained high blood pressure can put patients at risk of heart attack and stroke. Stress, genetics, diet and low physical activity levels can increase your chance of having high blood pressure.
“So, in the case of high blood pressure, I can’t change your genetics, but we can outline some goals that could help you lower it, if that is your goal,” he said. “If you want to make healthy eating choices, don’t buy potato chips the next time you do your grocery shopping. If you want to eat healthier lunches, plan ahead, pack your lunch and skip the drive-through. Align your actions with your goal. ”
Dr. Rezmovitz recommends talking to your primary care doctor or nurse about your goals, be they around your blood pressure, physical activity level or reducing your risk of illness.
“It’s a real shift in the relationship with your care team,” he says. “Rather than just taking about what ails you today, let’s talk about your overall health and your overall values. Is the way you are living your life matching those values?”
So maybe today you are a few pounds heavier than you’d like to be, he says. But instead of making your goal “lose weight” and then losing heart when you step on a scale, reflect on why you want to lose that weight.
“Maybe you want to lose weight so you can live longer, or you can avoid diabetes or you can reduce your risk of stroke,” Dr. Rezmovitz says. “So then instead of making the goal a negative action — like “lose weight” or “stop eating badly” — reframe it into a positive one: what will you do to make a change?”
And that’s where the training approach comes in, he says.
“Let’s reframe it together: I want to live a long life, free of illness. How can I do that?”
(A version of this post appears as a monthly health column in The Leaside Streeter)