Setting Yourself Up for Success

December 12, 2017 in General, Health by Joyce Bunderson

As so often happens, two fairly unrelated pieces of information, meet in my mind and blend into thoughts that I want to share with you. This week, the first of the two is a lovely piece of public health information about the five top cancer prevention stories of 2017 published by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). Briefly they are:

  1. The gap between the various risks for cancer has shifted. Obesity is nearly the biggest risk now. Problem is, only half of Americans know that having obesity increases risk for eleven (yes 11) different kinds of cancer and is second only to smoking among lifestyle behaviors that increase cancer risk.
  2. The next article is about prevention instead of risk. Preventing colorectal cancer is related to five healthy behaviors: eating three servings of whole grains daily; being active; limiting processed meats, alcohol, overweight or obesity.
  3. The next article stresses the importance of plant-based diets. A succinct description of a plant-based diet is shared by the AICR. If you read Dr Grandma’s blog frequently, you are well aware of the principles of a plant-based diet. At our home we are flexitarians, which is one of the five examples that AICR presents. If you’re committed to reducing cancer risk, you may want to consider moving toward a plant-based diet.
  4. The fourth article focuses on breast cancer. The two most powerful behaviors in reducing risk for breast cancer are highlighted in the article. The fist 2017 finding is that just one glass of wine or other alcoholic drink a day increases breast cancer risk. So think twice about having drinks daily. The second is that vigorous exercise such as running or fast bicycling decreases the risk of both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancers. Even moderate exercise decreases the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer, the most common type of breast cancer.
  5. The last article that is highlighted by the AICR is finding new behaviors to become healthier and make cancer-protective choices by building a new habit into their lives. Building new habits is very possible if done properly, but it can also fall short and discourage many, so please read on to learn ways to do it right.

If you’re interested, you can read all five Institute for Cancer Research articles on the link above.

Now here’s the other article that got into the blended mix of thoughts in my mind. It is written my James Clear and called Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Year. The fifth Cancer Research article flows right into James Clear’s excellent contributions.

I must admit that the sugar-filled holiday season was already motivating my mind in thoughts of the New Year and behaviors that we may want to improve. Then I read the AICR piece and realized that their articles provided a number of ideas and potential for goals for the New Year, so maybe that would be something to write about. Eventually I read Clear’s piece and thought, that some of you out in cyber land may enjoy his work. Maybe like me you will see that if you choose a goal, like increasing exercise to improve your health that you may want to consider ‘beginning with your identity’. How you think of yourself – who you think you are – matters enormously. I believe that is a true principle.

Clear suggests, for example to become the type of person who moves more every day. Design small wins; he suggests first the pedometer; first day 50 steps; then 100 on day two; and 150 – and so on. His example illustrates, by doing this for 5 days per week, by the end of the year you’ll be walking over 10,000 steps per day.

If you’re already walking or doing well with exercise, then the point is that you can use the same technique in whatever behavior you desire. You may be discouraged because it takes a year, but have you ever decided …… gotten yourself all pumped up to become more exercised than before; then it all drops off after a couple of weeks or a month? Once you see yourself as a person that moves every day, you gradually adjust your time to fit it in. The gradual part is helpful. Many people are all motivated and committed at the beginning of the year, but jumping into huge changes is just too much to sustain for the majority; they haven’t developed skills and adjusted times to accommodate new habits.

The point is that you may want to begin thinking about decisions and behaviors in a manner that helps you begin to define yourself as a person who does ‘X.’ Who you are, and what you’re like in your mind is powerful. It’s powerful to think of yourself as a person who eats a certain way. Or a person who is strong. Or…….?

Clear says that “when you want to become better at something, proving your identity to yourself is far more important than getting amazing results.” It is “especially true at first.”

It doesn’t matter if your goal is about your diet, exercise, cardiovascular risk reduction, cancer risk reduction or another behavior; taking steps to proving your identity to yourself is worth the effort. Try it – set yourself up for success.