Editor’s Update

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Anyone who follows this Journal may notice (another) very long gap between posts. This  year has turned into a steady sequence of issues involving computer problems and Internet service, household maintenance problems, caring for an elderly parent, and going to many doctor appointments for both of us. The stress of it all resulted in a fibromyalgia flare-up which has slowed me down considerably.

Last month, I started going to a Pain Management Program (herein, PMP) to work on the fibro flare. I go twice a week to a clinic 60 miles away. With travel time, I’m gone about 9.5 hours a day and when I get home, I just need to rest. So with all this going on, my writing has fallen by the wayside.

One of the emotional-psychological-spiritual health goals I’ve set in this PMP is to turn this Journal into a regular “day job”. That’s actually been my plan for several years but now I have a support staff to help see that I do it.

Over the past few weeks, it’s been a pleasant surprise to discover that I’m already familiar with many of the topics, readings, and therapies covered in the PMP from my past studies. My mission now is to apply the things I’ve learned, with the additional support of clinical professionals and medical documentation.

I’m inviting everyone who’s been following or is just discovering this Journal to join me on this expedition into natural whole-person healing.

I hope you’ll also share stories, comments, questions and suggestions about your experiences with chronic illness or pain conditions, whether it’s yourself, family members, or friends. What have you tried or would like to? What’s worked and what hasn’t? What would you like to know more about?

Let’s get together and compare notes!

Media Niche

From time to time, I’ll be offering vintage and older (1700’s to early 2000’s) wellness media as I find them. Most of the information is timeless–it’s just as relevant today as it was when it was published. Some of the very old ones are just fun for learning the history of various wellness techniques.

These are one-of-a-kind books from my own personal library and that come into the Thrifter’s Niche online thrift shoppe from friends and family.

The books are posted at various selling sites so clicking the link here will take you there. If the site requires you to have an account to use it and you don’t want to sign up, send me an email at niche@healthylifestylesmedia.com and I can find another way to get the item to you. Please copy and paste the link to the item or page you’re on so I know what you’re looking for, in the event of changes on this page.

Here’s the first title being offered:

BonniePrudden-AfterFiftyFitnessGuide

Bonnie Prudden’s After Fifty Fitness Guide – $5.70 + shipping

This is one of the original wellness books that discusses  ‘myotherapy’ or what we now know as trigger point therapy. There lots of photos to show you how to use myotherapy and also how to do a variety exercise and workout routines. There are also sections on pain management. Even though it was published in 1986, it’s the type of book that has information that never gets old.

Click here to view and purchase at eBay.com


Are You Looking for Something Special?

If you’ve been looking for certain books, DVD or VHS videos, or relaxation/meditation or workout music CDs  and just can’t find it, let me know–I might have it or know where to find it for you.  I have access to a lot of media on lifestyle change, psychology, fitness, wellness, spirituality, relationships  or environmental topics.

If you’re not sure of titles, you can indicate what the book is about and the name of the author if you know it (or as close as you know it).  If you’re just interested in a topic with no particular author or title in mind, let me know that too and I can get you a list of things to choose from.

Fill out the form below to let me know


 

Week 2: Morning Stretch

exercise-machinesEvery morning is Stretch and Conditioning. The Stretches still kind of hurt and not so easy but Conditioning feels good, at least until the next day when my muscles turn back into knots. They say this should go away later on. I really hope so.

I’m rather liking the neck conditioning contraption they have me doing (the head-banging machine). It stretches muscles I’ve not stretched in 20+ years. My neck is my major problem so when that feels good, the rest of me generally does too. I usually walk out of that room feeling stretched out and even a little taller.

There’s a machine called a pull-down and its almost like lifting weights. I feel like I’m really working out on this one. I hoping this is going to firm up that upper arm flab (my ‘wings’). I have very little upper-body and arm strength so this is good for me.

Then they have me lifting a weighted milk crate up onto two heights of shelving. That makes me flash back to some unpleasant days of working on the sales floor at Target when we had to stock shelves, before they created a stock team to do it. There’s also a pulley machine that reminds me of pushing and pulling the loaded wheeled flats to the floor at 6 a.m. which was not an easy thing for me either.

I believe that job is what may have triggered fibromyalgia for me. When I got home from work, I literally could not climb the stairs to my bedroom. I would crawl up the stairs, peel off only my pants and just crash for the rest of the night in my remaining clothes. So this workout is triggering memories of a not-very-good time in my life. I know that’s not good for healing so I need to work on getting those images out of my head when I’m doing these workouts.

There are machines facing the window in this center that look out over beautiful Lake Superior, and I like these the best. Gazing at the view takes my mind off the fact that my muscles are screaming at me as I push, bend, walk, or ski. Since it’s summer time, there are sail boats drifting along in the bay and there’s just something calming about watching them. I try to do these workouts just before or just after the crate-lifting to allow those nasty Target thoughts drift away with the waves.

I mentioned in my Day 1 post that all these machines looked quite intimidating but I’m beginning to like them a little better now.


 

Week 2: Walking Goals

bullbrdnotesbalanceEach week I visit with a Nurse  to evaluate what’s working in the Program or what might need to be modified or changed.

Today I was asked to set a walking fitness goal. It is said that a person should walk 10,000 steps a day but according to my FitBit fitness tracker and my calculations, that is close to 3 miles! There’s no way I can walk that every day right now.

However, on Saturday I went to an arts festival with my sister and walked 12,000 steps but it was definitely not without pain afterwards. I was laid up until Sunday evening. So, my goal is to walk 8,000 steps without pain during the walk and into the evening and the next day. That may take a bit of work.

After checking my FitBit app for the last few weeks, I find that I do between 1500 and 3000 steps on a normal day, ranging from short breaks away from the computer to refill my coffee cup or water bottle to doing household or gardening chores.

My grocery/supply shopping days and going to festivals are about 7000 – 10000 steps but I have much pain for a day or two afterwards. So my goal is to be able to walk through a fair or festival and not totally collapse when I get home.

But as I mentioned, most common fitness guidelines say you’re to do 10,000 steps a day. I certainly don’t go to fairs and festivals or shopping every day, so that means doing the equivalent of 7 – 8000 steps a day as a goal toward 10,000. My plan is to start small with 2000 – 3000 steps walking around my neighborhood.

steppergirlI also have one of those mini-stepper machines for when it’s not so nice outside. I thought of a neat trick for making that more interesting rather than staring at my bedroom walls while I’m stepping.

I went to YouTube on my laptop and searched for National Geographic Traveler videos. I found one on the Great Wall of China, which is one of my dream places to visit.

It was cool because the film crew was filming the tour guide as they were walking behind him so it was just like I was walking the Great Wall with the tour group!

walking-great-wall-china

My local library has a collection of National Geographic videos so I’m going to take out some more and set up my portable DVD player in front of my stepper and become a virtual world traveler.

Watching a video or even just looking out a window at your yard (provided you have a nice view!) takes your mind off the fact that you’re exercising. You can become engrossed in a travel video or watching the birds at your bird feeder and not even feel like you’re working out. You might just do 5,000 steps before you know it! Add in the steps you do around the house or at work and you just might make 10,000 a day!


 

Week 1: The Mind-Body Connection

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In our Wellness Education classes, we’re learning about the Mind-Body Connection and how what we think about and focus on affects how we feel physically. Today we talked about ‘Pain and the Brain’. We received an overview of the nervous system–the brain, spinal cord and nerve pathways.

 

Believe it or not, our nervous system is made up of just THREE parts: the brain, the spinal cord, and the nerve or neural (NEW-rall) pathways that extend from our spinal column to every part of our body.

 

We learned about neuroplasticity (NEW-row-plass-TISS-i-tee) which is the ability to change the way neurons (NEW-rons) or ‘nerve messengers’ act in the brain.  These activate endorphins (en-DOR-fins), which are body-chemical messengers in the brain that promote pain relief, fight depression, and make you feel happy. We’ll go into all this in more detail in future articles, but rest assured, I’ll try to simplify it so you can get a general idea of how your brain causes or relieves pain and affects your emotions.

 

We also discussed how habits are formed and how to break bad ones by replacing them with good ones. This is important stuff because we do so much that isn’t good for us habitually and mindlessly.

 

It’s not only things like grabbing a donut at break time just because they’re on the counter in the break room or scooping up a handful of M & M’s when stopping to talk to a co-worker who keeps them on her desk.

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Habit and mindlessness also affects how we sit, move, walk, and carry things. We don’t stop to think about body mechanics, which is the realm of occupational therapy. OT also involves thinking about and paying attention to how we move which is another way our mind and body interact.

 

brainmapiconpngWe’ll be talking a lot about the Mind-Body connection in future lessons. Even though it sounds like a complicated topic, rest assured that you don’t need a degree in biology or psychology to learn about how your brain works.

 

After all, the goal here is to help make lifestyle change easier and that means simplifying complex ideas so you can apply them for your own needs.

 


(PS-BTW: Sorry about the M & M’s photo–it triggered my brain too! Now I can’t stop thinking about them and I cannot get to a store right now.)


 

Week 1: Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy helps you with what are called “Activities of Daily Living” or ADL’s as they’re commonly known. These are things you do every day like walking, sitting, dressing, bathing, cleaning house, driving, lifting, or things you might do on your job or around the house.

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We began by working on plans for things we like to and need to do but have some trouble with. My list includes:

  • “Shopping walking” – that slow stroll with occasional stopping, reaching up or down, squatting and getting back up again.
  • Minor household repairs requiring looking and reaching up over my head or kneeling on the floor. Same as the Shopping but without the walking.
  • Sitting at my desk – I slouch when I’m working because I don’t have ergonomically-correct furniture–it’s way too expensive. I’m now trying to sit in my office chair in a semi-lotus position  so my spine is straight and that helps until my legs start cramping.

I’ve gotten so I when I go shopping, I don’t even look at anything on upper or lower shelves anymore. If I do, I’ve learned not to squat down to take a closer look. It’s embarrassing when my friends have to help me back up again.

We also learned about Pacing, which means doing whatever you do sitting or standing for about a half hour then switching to another task that requires the opposite movement for another half hour. You should also take time to gaze out the window to refocus your eyes for 10 – 20 minutes, especially if you’re doing computer work.

The occupational therapist told us about the “20-20-20 Rule” where you work for 20 minutes, break or switch to an opposite task for 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away.

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I tried this but stopping work every 20 minutes broke my concentration too much. I decided to try 40 minutes working with a 10-minute stretch/breathe or do an opposite task like putting in a load of laundry and putting away what came out of the dryer. Then I look out the window for 10 minutes.

My OT said my 40-10-10 Rule was good. So, for my short 10 minute break projects I’ll prep a salad for dinner or walk around the yard and water flowers, or put a load of clothes in the washer or fold what’s in the dryer.

It seems that the switching up of tasks this way–alternating sitting and standing–allows me to get more done during the day. I’m incorporating short bouts of housekeeping, prep cooking, gardening, and laundry into break-from-sitting-time. I feel more productive now.

break-time

Try the 20-20-20 Rule (or 30-15-15 or 40-10-10 or whatever works for you).  Use a kitchen timer or a timer on your computer and set it for the number of minutes for your break time.

This ‘rule’ is especially good for those who work in cubicle or desk jobs where you’re mostly sitting. Try to stand up and stretch and move around as much as you can. Look at something distant from you–a window or the far wall of the call center or office to get refocus your eyes to prevent strain.

If you do this, share how you did it and if it helped you. If it helps, how? If it doesn’t help, why?

 

Week 1 – Fitness Class: Physical Therapy and Movement (“Phy-Ed”)

Physical Therapy and Conditioning

In my weekly routines, Morning Stretch is followed by one hour of fitness-and-conditioning machine workouts. State-of-the-art fitness and conditioning machines are new for me because I’ve never worked out on anything more than a treadmill or stationary bike while doing physical therapy at my home clinic.

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When I first entered the pain program’s workout center, I was intimidated. It looked like the set for a movie about the Spanish Inquisition, or maybe a football team documentary.

 

OK–maybe not that bad. The machine  that strengthens my neck muscles actually made me feel pretty good. They say that stronger neck muscles should help alleviate the pain caused by the degenerative discs.

 

girl head-banging to rock musicThe repeated back-and-forth motion of my neck while using this machine brings back memories of my old heavy-metal head-banging days, except in slow motion.

 

I told my 20-something-year-old therapist that I’d be ready to start head-banging again after this treatment. That made her giggle. Imagine old people like me head-banging. We still do, you know.  

 

Come to think of it, could head-banging be the reason why I now have degenerative disc disease? Do Baby Boomers have more neck problems than Gen Y’ers and Millennials?

 

The Gen X’ers of the Disco Era probably also have neck issues. There was all that pointing up and down and following their pointing with their their eyes with a steady up-down neck twist. It’s a variation of the head-bang only with a slower beat.

 

disco-dancers

Dance Mishaps

Now that we’re pondering whether dancing might be harmful to your health, let’s also consider tripping, falling and getting (accidently) decked:

Have you ever:

  • Taken a hard fall on your butt on a dance floor?
  • Been socked in the jaw by a wild elbow?
  • Tripped over a kicking foot and gone flying?

There are a lot of videos of this phenomena out there and most of them seem to be at marriage celebrations–so therefore, wedding accidents.

 

Injuries from falls very often show up later as chronic arthritis and myofascial pain: inflammation of the muscles and facia (FACE-she-ah) which are the tissues covering and connecting the muscles to the bone.

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Dancing mishaps can also occur at clubs, celebrations and community events too. Anywhere where there’s wild music.

 

Polkas are especially dangerous. All that spinning and getting dizzy and hopping on one foot then the other. All at the same time.

 

If you live in the Upper Midwest US or South Canada, you know what I mean. Oh, and watch out for that Butterfly Dance, eh?

 

If you’re wondering what that is, watch a clip here. It seems safe enough for the first couple minutes but then…all heck breaks loose. 

NOTE: to my knowledge, no dancers were harmed in the making of this video.  

 

They were having fun doing something healthy: burning up the calories consumed from the wedding feast, the cake, and the beer. OK–the beer isn’t exactly healthy for everyone but it can get people up to dance who otherwise would not do it anywhere else. And they laugh and have fun. Social connection is also recommended for healthier living. That’s for a future discussion.  

 

Dancing is a great cardio workout, no matter how you do it. It doesn’t have to be vigorous–you can do a slow waltz or just sit in a chair and move your arms and legs to music (as your mobility allows). Any amount of movement for even 10 minutes is better than not moving at all. Start out simple and easy. The more you do it, it starts feeling so good you want to do it more. 

 

“Housecleaning Aerobics”

woman dancing with mop

 

This is one of my favorite workouts:

  1. Put on your favorite dance music
  2. Crank it up (if it doesn’t bother your neighbors or housemates)
  3. Grab a broom or mop or dust rag
  4. Boogie down 
  5. Sing along (again, thinking about who may hear you and if you mind) 
  6. Sweep! Mop! Dust! Turn–and step–and wipe–123. 

 

Singing is an excellent workout for the lungs, diaphragm and stomach muscles. And it boosts endorphins too. Those are the brain chemicals that make you feel good and happy when you’re feeling that way. But when you’re not, singing and dancing can activate those little endorphins which help lighten you up, lessen the pain, and make you feel better. (Granted you don’t trip and fall while dancing with the broom!) 

 

So, to wrap this up, my recommendation is that if you don’t have access to a fitness center or conditioning machines, try singing and dancing. Doesn’t matter whether you’re any good at it or not–just do what works and makes you feel better. 

 


PS: for you aging head-bangers out there, watch for the upcoming  “Heavy Metal Aerobics” video at DIY Healthy Lifestyles’ YouTube page.

 


Comments, Questions, and Suggestions


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 1 – Starting the Day

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Wow. I feel like I’m back in high school again. I’ve got a locker and I’m running from one class to the next. I’ve got “gym” (physical therapy and conditioning) and “swimming” (warm pool therapy), occupational therapy, health psychology, Yoga, mindfulness and spirituality, mind-brain science, and lifestyle management.

 

It’s spread out between two days a week but it’s still a full day of activity each day.


MORNING STRETCH

The day begins with one-hour of neck-to-toe stretching using a combination of simple Yoga positions and muscle-stretching exercises. Years ago, I used to do Yoga in the evenings before bedtime because I found it relaxing.

 

Aside from the fact that it was many years ago and I can no longer do Yoga like that anymore, I’m realizing it makes much more sense to move and stretch when you first get up because it does five important things that you need more so in the morning than in the evening:

  1. Gets your airways and blood circulating
  2. Wakes up your brain and jump-starts that for the day
  3. Warms up your muscles and loosens stiff joints and tendons
  4. Gets your energy flowing
  5. Prepares you for whatever you do during your day: sitting, standing, walking, or lifting, work, activities, chores or projects.

 

But morning exercise/movement doesn’t necessarily mean jumping right out of bed and hitting the exercise mat first thing. I’ve heard of people who can do that but I’m not one of them. What works for me is to pour a cup of coffee, take a look at my planner, and plot my day. Then Morning Stretch and a light, healthy breakfast and I’m ready to face the day.

 

I recommend stretching be your first task of the day, regardless of when you wake up. If you’re not a “morning person”, just do them when you get up (after the bathroom visit and a cup of coffee).

 

It doesn’t need to be every day. Just start with twice a week and work your way into it. You’d be surprised at how this can wake you up and help you feel more motivated for the rest of the day.

 


 

Editor’s Page: March Forth!

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Today is March 4th–a perfect day to take time to renew the New Year’s plans and goals you set that maybe are starting to fall behind.

The middle to end of February seems to be the time when the shiny newness of your plans begins to tarnish a little.

You may start falling back into your same old routines and ‘forget’ that you gave up sweets or working out.

If you’re dealing with a chronic pain and fatigue condition (as I am), then you know how cold temperatures and dark days can bring on symptoms that can sabotage your wellness goals.

And if you live in a cold, snowy climate–say anywhere in the upper Northern hemisphere–then you know that it’s still Winter out there, maybe til the end of April. Even though the Spring equinox is just two weeks away, we here in the tundra have a hard time envisioning that.

Let’s March Forth!

So, what I am proposing is to make today–March 4th–a day to renew our commitment to our Wellness Plan and–March Forth with it. Make this the day you say, “I am going to do this!”

This is something I need to do myself. The fibromyalgia I deal with threatens to flare up with each weekly major snow storm. I know I have to work to keep it from knocking me down, like the strong winds that are blowing today want to do.

My other challenge is being the sole proprietor of a business with no one else to staff it. Even though it’s an online business and all I have to do is write, I still have days where I just need to “call in sick”. That is why there are so many long gaps between articles.

I have no doubt that anyone following this page in the past three years since it was put up, has given up on me by now.  I’ve been told that I need to add new content daily and it’s been closer to quarterly for me.

That’s another reason for my March Forth” Campaign. Along with being a re-dedication to my wellness plan, it’s also a re-dedication to this virtual wellness center:

“I pledge that my readers find new things every week”

(Rather than every three months!)

Now, I ask you all to hold me to this. If you don’t see something new in two weeks running, then check in at the Center’s Community Hub at Facebook and give me a “poke”. Say something like “Hey, Kat–where are you? I haven’t seen anything new in two weeks!”

Another thing you could do is post a comment to an article in the Journal, even if it’s just “good article!” or even “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Knowing people are seeing what I post is a great motivational tool.

So, what do you think? Are you with me on the ‘March Forth’ toward a fabulous rest of the year?

Great! I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Post a comment about your plan to March Forth

Introduction to Lifestyle and Behavior Change

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Talk of lifestyle and behavior change is scary for a lot of people.

There may come a time when the realization hits that the only way to feel better is to become aware of your health behavior and move toward changing your lifestyle.

That’s what happened to me when I developed fibromyalgia. I’d been caught on a merry-go-round of prescription medications and physical therapy that would work for a while and then have no effect at all.

After about four years of this, I said “ENOUGH!” and decided to undertake some research and create my own treatment plan.

Fortunately at that time, a new physician’s assistant arrived at my clinic and I was just able to get in as the last of his quota of patients. He was the first practitioner I’d met who believed in natural healing and he supported my do-it-yourself wellness plan.

The more I learned and practiced, the better I began to feel. After awhile, it was wonderful to start feeling “normal” again that I wanted to keep it going.

Starting a lifestyle and behavior change plan can be hard but it does get easier with every success you achieve.

In this section, I’ll explain what I’ve learned about lifestyle and behavior change. It’s not as scary as it seems and surprisingly easier than you might think.

Making Lifestyle Change Easier

Discussions of lifestyle and behavior change can sound complicated, but these topics are so important to the entire DIY Healthy Lifestyles program that this is the first of the “5 Essentials for Healthy Lifestyles.”

Nothing else can happen until you understand lifestyle and behavior change.

My goal for this section is to try to explain behavioral psychology in a way that everyone can understand.

By the way, if there’s ever anything you have a question about in this section or any of the others, click this link to Raise Your Hand and ask. Don’t be afraid because “the only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask.” That quote was posted by a Facebook friend who said a high school teacher of hers used to say it. I thought it was cool so I stole it to use here.

Health Behavior Explained

Health Behavior is defined as “the actions we take to keep ourselves healthy” like eating right and exercising. It can also refer to negative actions that harm our health, such as smoking cigarettes or eating too many high-calorie foods on a regular basis.

Our health behavior is formed by beliefs, values, motives, personality traits, behavior patterns, and habits as they relate to health. Here’s a very simplified explanation of how health behavior is formed:

It begins as children when we’re told that fruit and vegetables are good for us and that candy is bad for us. But, as children will, we decided that most vegetables didn’t taste so good and that candy did.

As we grew older, that belief may have stayed with us and it turned into the idea that anything that we were told was good for us tasted awful and whatever was bad tasted great.

That’s why as adults, we often balk at trying out health foods. We’ve prepared our minds from childhood to believe that healthy food tastes bad and junk food is great.  

Do you see how that works? As children, we form the beliefs that drive our health behavior for years to come. The behavior we formed from the belief that junk food tastes better is what lies behind our troubles today with overweight, fatigue, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other ailments. Many people are reluctant to change their diets because of the popular belief that “all health food tastes like cardboard”. This is a very common complaint that I hear whenever I talk about lifestyle change.  

I agree–there is a lot of cardboard out there, and styrofoam too (think rice cakes).

When I started venturing into a whole foods diet, I tasted a lot of very bad stuff. My belief is that food manufacturers tried to jump on the “health food” bandwagon without really knowing much about whole food nutrition.

They figured they could just make the same stuff the way they’d always made it but remove the fat, salt and sugar. And not replace it with a healthy alternative that would still make it taste good. Fortunately, health food manufacturing has advanced and now there are some great products out there.

In future lessons, you’ll learn the secrets of great-tasting health food. We’ll look at reviews of really good-tasting, pre-packaged foods you can find in almost any grocery store, plus recipes for making your own healthy foods at home.

You won’t believe you’re actually eating stuff that’s good for you! You’ll even learn not to miss sugar or salt–two of the biggest contributors to obesity, chronic pain and cardiovascular disease.

Behavior Change Models

Health behavior theories have been laid out in concise models, or simplified illustrations that show us how the theory works.

The DIY Health Lifestyles program taps into five behavior change models. (There’s that ‘five’ number again!) We’ll look into those models in detail in future sections. The discussion today is to make the term “behavior change” sound less scary and complicated.

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you’re interested in making lifestyle changes. I’m also going to assume that you’ve read books and articles, watched videos or tried different programs but they were too hard to understand, too complicated to follow, or they just didn’t seem to work. That’s what most of the people who join the Center say when asked what they’ve done before.

The reason why so many wellness plans and programs don’t seem to work is that many don’t address health behavior or health beliefs.

They don’t ask about your personal reasons for wanting to change or the beliefs you have about your ability to make changes. They just tell you that you have to do this and eat that without helping you find out why you balk at doing what they want.

Learning a little about health behavior helps you discover why something doesn’t work for you or what you can do to make it work.

It can help you see where your beliefs and feelings about what is or isn’t good for you come from. It can help you learn how you can change beliefs that have been working against your health.

An understanding of health behavior and behavior change models goes a very, very long way toward helping you overcome past “failures” and succeed in finally making lasting changes.