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Healthy Lifestyle Changes - Tips & Tricks

Another fantastic blog post from our nurse practitioner, Monika Jarzmik. She is highly skilled and experienced with helping patients with weight loss and dietary/lifestyle changes and we are fortunate to have her with our practice! Let's face it --- Americans are not as healthy as we should or could be - we are a nation with an obesity problem. In most cases we have the means and the tools to be healthy as well as the knowledge of how to do it, but we just don't seem to be able to put it all together and use it to our advantage. Fast food at every corner, pre-packaged, processed food full of preservatives and, sugar constant ads on TV promoting the newest deep fried hot and spicy delicacy are sabotaging us constantly.

It's time we realize that there is a better way to live and feel---it's called healthy lifestyle changes. Many of us are guilty of falling into the temptation of the "last diet you'll ever need" which promises fast and lasting results and best of all is so easy "the pounds will just fall off". For many of us this amazing diet even works as promised - for a while. And then we suddenly realize that our clothes are starting to get tighter and before we know it we are back where we started with a few extra pounds as a bonus. Many of us repeat this vicious cycle over and over again which is the worst thing we could be doing to ourselves - both physically and mentally. So what do we do and how do we do it to get back on track and make it stick?

For starters we have to change the way we perceive health and weight loss. We have to start thinking in terms of long lasting changes in the way we think and behave instead of a quick fix just so that we can return to status quo right after. Obviously what we are doing now is not working so why not try another, better way. Making changes in our life is no easy feat. On average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic -- 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. According to some studies it can actually take anywhere from 18 days to 254! So the sooner we get started the better: *Most importantly -- Decide to make a change and GET MOTIVATED. Ask yourself - why is it that you have decided to make a change? Is it because you are sick of clothes not fitting right? Maybe you want to look good for that high school reunion coming up? Maybe it is for health reasons -- diabetes, arthritis, sleep apnea, or back pain? Or maybe you just want to feel better and want to run a couple laps around the Green Belt in the summer? *Then start by setting a goal or two. This can be simple but specific:

  • eat fruit for dessert instead of cake
  • limit soda or even better switch to water or green/black tea or water with lemon and Stevia.
  • increase water intake to at least 64 oz per day
  • take a 30 min brisk walk every day after dinner
  • Start small and focus on making the changes and sticking to them.

*Monitor what you are doing:

  • Start tracking your food. You can use a tracker such as or simply write down every bite of food that passes your lips. This may sound like a lot of work but believe me it WILL be well worth it. Most of us don't realize how much food we eat absentmindedly, totally not realizing that we did consume it. Try to be dedicated to tracking EVERYTHING - chances are you might skip a cookie or two just so you don't have to include it in your log.
  • Track your exercise - it ALL adds up. Getting a pedometer or even a FitBit is also an option. Include exercise as your daily routine. Just like sitting down to eat dinner, or sitting down to watch the evening news is a routine, make getting on the treadmill a routine. Even better - watch the evening news while walking on the treadmill.

*Get feedback. It may be helpful to check in periodically with a health care provider/trainer or counselor who can provide advice and further encouragement. Sometimes just talking to someone who has had experience with what you are going through can be a motivation in itself and get you back on track if need be. *Believe in yourself - you CAN do this.

  • Start this new journey by believing that you will succeed. You might have failed in the past but this time you are going to do it right, take small steps and persevere.
  • You don't have to be perfect. Making a mistake once or twice has no measurable impact on your long-term goals and habits.
  • Give yourself permission to make mistakes, and develop strategies for getting back on track quickly. Tomorrow is ALWAYS a new day
  • Understanding this from the beginning makes it easier to manage your expectations and commit to making small, incremental improvements -- rather than pressuring yourself into thinking that you have to do it all at once and be perfect.
  • To quote John Heywood, an English playwright: "Rome wasn't built in a day but they were laying bricks every hour" so keep chipping away every day.

*And finally – JUST GET STARTED !

  • The only way to accomplish your goal is to start with the first step or the first pound. So forget about the total number and focus on doing the work.
  • A little tip: - 80 % of weight loss is changing the way you eat and only 20 % is exercise.

A good way to illustrate what this means is – according to, a Subway chocolate chip cookie has 220 calories. To burn those calories you have to:

  • walk for 58 minutes
  • jog for 25 minutes
  • swim for 18 minutes
  • or cycle for 30 minutes

It just makes you wonder – is that cookie worth all that work? Now let me just be clear -- this does not get you a free pass to sit around and not move! Exercise does burn calories, makes your bones and muscles strong, helps prevent injuries as well as improves mental function and mood. So in conclusion eat healthy, move more, don’t give up, and you will succeed. Keep moving! From all of us at Eastern Idaho Spine Center

About the author

Sarah Vlach