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Healthy Lifestyle: Changing Habits Can Improve Vitality and Energy By Wendie Trubow, MD, MBA

Okay, I'll admit that I'm a creature of habit -- it generally works for me. But looking back, I can identify a few notable times that highlight the need for change. For example, when I turned 30 and realized I was dating the same (unavailable and poorly-suited-to-me) man over and over for the past 10 years... a story for another time though.

Change is essential to your growth and health. At this point in my life, I know that I don't want to just get by; most of the time, my patients don't either. Exploring your habits is a great (sometimes tough) first step. To me, patterns and habits are things that we've been practicing and gotten good at. Because they're so ingrained in our lives, it's hard to see the negative results.

Rather than advocating a quick fix, I encourage patients to change lifestyle patterns that will improve their health, vitality, and energy. You name it and it's fair game for us to work on -- food, sleep, stress, work habits, alcohol, exercise. Rather than thinking you have to stop doing something, think of change as a new way of doing something. If a habit is not working, begin practicing a new pattern. We all know this can be frustrating. I've lost sight of a goal and lapsed back to my old behavior more than a few times. Don't get discouraged though! Think of a mistake as a reminder that you need more practice.

I recently saw a patient who was struggling with her weight. She loved cooking. Every night while making dinner, she drank a bottle of wine. This sounded like a lot to me, so I looked up the calorie count. The average bottle of wine has about 750 calories -- that's half to a third of the recommended daily amount for women. My patient was trying hard to lose weight but was unknowingly sabotaging her efforts.

We were at an impasse. My patient was deeply distressed that she hadn't realized the root of her problem but also upset about giving up her nightly ritual. In my experience, it doesn't work to just tell a patient to stop -- you need to collaborate. We explored the reason behind the pattern. Was it the feeling she had when drinking? Was it just a habit? Was she stressed and felt that wine relaxed her?

Bottom line: cooking and drinking was a habit with a negative effect. Eventually, she decided that the ritual wasn't worth the negative impact on her health. Over the first month, she weaned down to one glass a night. By the second month, she had lost 10 pounds and was sleeping better. Were there nights when she drank more than a glass? Sure. However, her overall her effective practice was improving.

I encourage you to explore your daily habits -- anything from what you're eating or who you're dating. Are you making conscious choices or just going along for the ride? Figuring this out and making one small change can set you on the right path. A positive, inquisitive mentality is the beginning of a domino effect on your life. Push over the first domino and see what happens to your health, energy and confidence. You'll be glad you did!