Small Steps….to BIG Shifts and Better Health-Part 1

by Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB & Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, CDE

“To exist is TO CHANGE, to CHANGE is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”    —Henri Bergson—

In our 2 part July-August Blog, we will explore the nature of CHANGE–as it relates to our health, well-being, and our full expression on our life’s journey.

In Part 1 (July), we address the areas that may need changing in our health habits and lifestyles, and what the basic steps towards change entail.  In Part 2 (August), we present the nature of motivation and intention, and specific “HOW TO CHANGE STEPS”, with actual examples of change-in-action.

To live a full, “juicy” life (in the spirit of Henri Bergson’s quote), we need to be WILLING to take the necessary steps towards change.  We often long for, and dream of better health and an expanded life—but don’t make changes.

Almost every client we meet KNOWS that we need to relax, eat right, floss, exercise, get enough sleep, stay cognitively stimulated, stand with better posture, have fulfilling relationships and social connections, avoid hazards,  and have a safe environment.

However, this knowledge doesn’t easily translate into healthy habits  A large percentage of us do not practice healthy routine behaviors and activities and do not eat primarily healthy foods.

There is a great need to change our habits and lifestyles, as evidenced by the following statistics:

  • According to a recent Gallup-Healthways poll (Feb 2011), only 51% of Americans reported exercising 30 minutes or more 3x or more per week.
  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 4 people will experience some sort of mental health problem in the course of a year.
  • According to the American Medical Association, 50% or more working Americans feel overstressed and 47% of ALL Americans feel overstressed.
  • According to the American Psychological Association, 31% of women turn to “comfort food” to manage stress, compared to 19% of men.
  • According to , 1.9 million more Americans were diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 (in addition to the existing 18.8 million who already know they have it.)
  • According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: each year about 1.2 million people in the United States have heart attacks and many of them die as a result.
  • According to the Get America Fit Foundation, Obesity is the #2 cause of preventable death in the U.S.**   60 million Americans, 20 years and older are obese, 9 million children and teens,  6-19,  are overweight.  Being overweight or obese increases the risk of several health conditions, including: breast cancer, coronary heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, sleep apnea, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, colon cancer, hypertension and stroke.
  • According to Larry Simmons PhD, economist and Director of the White House’s economic council, most of the chronic diseases that affect 160 million Americans and account for 78% of our healthcare costs are caused by lifestyle and environmental factors: namely our diet, sedentary lifestyle,  smoking, chronic stress, and environmental toxins.
  • According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), the #1 preventable cause of death is smoking.**  1 out of  ~5 deaths is related to smoking.  There are ~443,000 deaths each year related to smoking  (~49,400 of this total is due to the effects of second-hand smoke.)
  • According to a study published July 2011 in Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, teens who live in a household of smokers had an 83% greater likelihood of developing hearing loss in both lower and upper registers–compared to teens who live in homes with no smokers.
  • According to the American Medical Association, lifestyle factors are important contributors to the long-term risk of nursing home admission. Modifying one’s lifestyle, especially in middle age, may reduce the risk of admission.

**Currently there is controversy as to whether smoking or obesity is the #1 cause of preventable death in the USA.**

In addition to these statistics–how many people overconsume drugs, alcohol, and other mind-altering substances, or frequently engage in other addictive or unsafe habits?

In the safety department: how many people always wear helmets, elbow or knee pads when enjoying extreme sports?  How many always take a buddy with them when they go for a swim for a walk or jog in an isolated area? 

How many people pay attention to their posture?  Posture affects not only whether we suffer from back and neck pain, but also affects our circulatory system, our blood pressure, our lungs, our digestive system, our endocrine (hormone) system, our energy level, our thoughts, our confidence, and how others perceive us.


  • Simple CHANGES in lifestyle can contribute to major improvements in our health!!!

How do we REALLY change?

There are many aspects to THE PROCESS of CHANGE that are not well understood. First of all, we need to embrace the idea of change and its rewards. Secondly, we need to KNOW what we want to change.  As discussed earlier, we need to be WILLING to take the necessary steps towards change. And a 4th very important point: we need to be willing to go through the discomfort of the change process.

We need to be aware that there are always“subconscious programs” going on in our brains/minds the would “rather not” make ANY changes!  Change can be very uncomfortable.  We prefer to be “comfortable,” staying stuck, even if it isn’t good for us.  Some ways we stay comfortable and stuck are through simple resistance (not taking steps), various forms of procrastination, eating too much(or not enough), drinking too much alcohol, sleeping too much or too little, smoking, becoming moody, and many other unhelpful coping strategies.

(For more on the topic of resistance, read the chapter:  “GET YOUR THREE BRAINS ON YOUR SIDE” in MJ Ryan’s book:  This Year I Will.  Obstacles and resistance to change will be addressed in more detail in Part 2 on this topic, August BLOG.)

There are a series of normal stages that most people go through when they make changes.  The following model on the Stages of Change was developed by James Prochaska.  The stages are as follows:

  1. Precontemplation (thought of change is not even on the radar screen).
  2. Contemplation (change is being considered, but there is ambivalence.)
  3. Preparation (ambivalence is being resolved.  People are convinced to change.  Change is not yet happening but plans are being made.)
  4. ACTION:  People are taking steps towards change.
  5. Maintenance (change steps continue to be taken–to keep new habits and new ways of being in place.)

NOTE:  There can be a recycling back to previous stages of ambivalence when obstacles, subconscious blocks, and resistance arise.

QUESTION:  Aren’t YOU worth the effort, time, patience, and discomfort that it takes to live a more functional, healthier and perhaps longer life–with decreased disease and disability?

We will end Part 1 on Change by suggesting you:

CHOOSE an area to FOCUS on in your life that you KNOW would benefit from making one small lifestyle change.  Write it down, take notes on whatever comes to mind on this topic.

In reading next month’s BLOG, you will be able to apply CHANGE principles to an area you wish to modify.  We will discuss: HOW to get motivated, HOW to identify your Intentions more specifically and HOW to take the small steps that will lead to the BIG SHIFTs and CHANGES you seek.

Until then!

The Wellness Shifter Ladies!

Deb and Wendy

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One Response to Small Steps….to BIG Shifts and Better Health-Part 1

  1. Susan B. says:

    Looking forward to reading part 2!!

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