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Take the Perspective of Your Clothes: Part One in a Series to Bring About Lasting Change

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I was a rather large boy when I was young. Not large in the height sense of the word, but more so in the girth sense. In fact, my mother used to buy me "husky" pants from JC Penney. Perhaps we can address in another blog what that does to a person's self-esteem when he has to wear huskies to school. But suffice it to say, this was the beginning of a poor relationship with clothing. Although my health and weight are constant concerns for me, I'm happy to say that I am no longer overweight. But I continue to be vigilant and, in fact, I often use the fit of my clothes as a gauge of where I'm headed on my mission to stay trim.

The other day I was thinking about my weight and the number of times I thought, "My pants don't fit me like they used to." Then I wondered, "Why am I always blaming my pants?" It's not my pants' fault that I'm uncomfortable. I've even gone as far as to try to convince myself that it was the multiple washings that made my pants smaller and not, in fact, my bad habits -- or lack of good habits -- that were prompting my concerns. Well, all of that has changed. Now, I am taking the perspective of my clothes. My clothes are not to blame, I am. If I want to be more comfortable, then it's up to me to create the kind of change that will lead to better personal health and will positively impact my life.

All of this is easy to say, but creating sustainable lifestyle change is difficult for most of us. There is scientific evidence that simply knowing you need to create change and taking the responsibility to do it is not sufficient for creating sustainable change. It is the first step, but most of us need more than blame to enact change in our lives. Blame can lead to self-loathing, which certainly does not bring about change.

Over the following months, I will create a series of blog entries that will pull from the scientific literature the pearls about how to create lasting, healthy change in your life. From getting healthy to staying healthy, the challenges are real but surmountable. I will cover the pitfalls to falling back into old habits and offer tips on how to approach change as a positive, personal endeavor. We'll explore how and when to involve others in the process and go through some self-evaluations that will help you better understand your motivation for change.

This series is intended to be a journey through the practice of change. Change is always available to us. But more often than not, we practice avoidance, rather than change. Sound familiar?

If you are on board for this journey to bring about lasting, meaningful change, start by asking yourself these three questions:

1. What specific behavior do you want to change?

Don't set a goal just yet. Don't say, "I want to lose 20 pounds." Simply say, "I want to lose weight." Other options include:
"I want to exercise more."
"I want to eat more healthily."
"I want to take my medications more regularly."
"I want to drink less alcohol."
"I want to smoke less."
And so on...

The goal here is simply to set an intention. Then ask yourself this:

2. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, how important is it for me to do this?

Simply rate it, but try not to give yourself a 1 or a 10. A 1 indicates that this is not a change that is worthy of the effort. A 10 indicates that it is so important that you would have done it already.

The final question is:

3. Again, on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, how confident are you that you can create this lasting change in your life?

The guidance around scores applies here as well.

This simple exercise will set the stage for the next blog where we will discuss what to do about these ratings and how to use them. We will explore your motivations for change, and identify the barriers preventing you from creating sustainable change in your life. Until then, take the first step: take ownership and set an intention. Change will follow.

Disclosure: Dr. Aloia is an employee of Philips Healthcare