Change one habit a week

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

July 2011

Staying healthy has become so complicated that it's no wonder that some people just stop trying. Although some persons can change several lifestyle habits in one fell swoop, most of us cannot. However, anyone with even modest resolve can change one habit a week, such as the ones described below.

Get moving. Begin with a 5 or 10-minute walk at least five days a week and add another five minutes every week until you're up to at least 30 minutes. Carve out the time during your lunch hour or park your car five minutes' walk from your office and extend the distance a little more every week. After dinner is not a good time to walk; there are too many competing factors in most persons' lives late in the day.

Walking is great for the heart and lungs but it doesn't do much to protect your upper skeleton from fractures. In the second week, start toning your muscles with light weights and/or elastic bands, both of which cost only a few dollars. Don't join a fitness center right away if you don't already have a membership. You'll probably want to when the light stuff gets boring and you notice how much better you've been feeling.

Next, skip the fast food places and start packing your own lunch at least 3 times a week or even every day, and try an occasional lettuce wrap.

Mom's balanced dinner usually included meat, a vegetable and a "starch." Replace the pasta, potato or rice 3 or 4 days a week with another vegetable. You'll get healthier carbohydrates, more vitamins and fewer calories.

It's week 5. Hide the salt shaker at the back of the pantry shelf. By the end of the month you won't miss it and your blood pressure will thank you.

Here's a toughie: for the rest of this second month, don't bring dessert from the supermarket. That means no cakes, pies, cookies or ice cream. Instead, finish lunch or dinner with a piece of fresh fruit. You'll notice that you have no more sugar highs or lows.

Thirsty? Drink only water in the seventh week and save a few bucks.

Week eight. Get a medical check-up. By now you have bragging rights.

If you can eventually adopt all of these habits you'll feel better, look better, become stronger, sleep more soundly and have more energy. That's a promise.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.