12 Monthly Health Goals

Monthly health goals

Here we are at the beginning of a new month and week. How did you do with your goals last month? I have attached the link to our Health Goal planner from our website that allows you to reflect and pencil in what small steps you can work on this month.

In January, we talked about the daunting process of making healthy choices more manageable by breaking them down into small steps. By focusing your target on one thing at a time and by building on what you did over the last months, you will have built in 12 extra healthy habits by the end of the year.

What if you haven’t started? Who cares! You can start this journey at any time so no more excuses. One of our team members is working on how to eat healthier by making better eating and drinking choices. She is approaching this from the ‘Food is Fuel’ perspective. It is definitely about changing her past experience of ’emotional eating’ to eating because ‘food is fuel’. Here is her plan of what this does over the course of a year.

12 Monthly Health Goals

  • January–no artificial sweeteners
  • February–no added sugars
  • March–drink only water, unsweetened teas
  • April–no desserts except one cupcake for special occasions
  • May–try one new fruit and vegetable each week
  • June–no processed snacks
  • July–no snacks in-between meals
  • August–eat all of her meals during an 8 hour window (basic intermittent fasting)
  • September–include meat in her meal planning only once a day
  • October–include meat in her meal planning 4 days a week
  • November–limit alcohol to Friday and Saturdays
  • December–look at recipes to see how to make her traditional holiday menu a healthier one.

By breaking down her healthier eating goals into small parts, she can manage this and doesn’t feel overwhelmed. She is actually ahead of schedule as she found that she could eliminate artificial sweeteners and added sugars at the same time.

You may be able to move through your list more quickly but for someone who was trying to change 50 years of ‘bad habits’ and still cooking for several family members, she felt she needed to move at this pace. She now has several family members who have joined her so this makes it easier.

Write it down, map it out and accept that you may have a few hiccups. NO ONE is perfect.

6 Tips to Combat Mindless Eating

Mindless Monday….

I had to take a picture of the situation I found myself in last night. I was all excited about getting Dr. Fung’s book The Obesity Code and was settling in to begin reading it. I wanted a sweet snack and was about 3 bites in when I realized that I was my own worst enemy!

Ughhhhh! I looked into what was left in the container, freezer burn and all and thought, you cannot eat bad ice cream while reading about why you are struggling with your weight! Especially when it is a flavor that you are not crazy about.

OK, you shouldn’t eat good ice cream either while reading this book but this was such a perfect example of mindless eating.  I have worked to eliminate added sugars in my diet and this just creeped in.  I told myself not to do it and then talked myself into 5 spoonfuls.  It is such a mind game.

I put the ice cream container away and reminded myself about how I eliminated added sugars to begin with.  Food is the fuel my body needs and I work to ensure that I am eating healthy and nutritious foods the majority of the time.  

Here are 6 tips to combat mindless eating:

  • Don’t buy it to begin with.
  • Buy ice cream flavors that I don’t like so that my husband and kids don’t get mad at me.
  • Hide it.
  • Throw it out when it gets freezer burn.
  • Read nutritional labels to look for hidden sugars.
  • Be intentional and serve an exact serving or portion of a serving so that I don’t eat the whole thing in one sitting.

Being intentional with our foods and remembering that they are a fuel should help keep us on course.  

Fall in Love With Yourself and Improve Your Heart Health

I LOVE ME!

 

What a great week to fall in love with yourself and improve your heart health.  Despite the commercial hype of the holiday, use the buzz from the messaging to help you move along your course to improving your heart health.

You cannot change some of the risk factors that put you at risk for heart disease such as age, race and gender but you can work on the ‘modifiable’ risk factors.  Use this week to set a daily goal to take action on some of them.

Do any of the following apply to you?

  • I am a smoker.
  • I don’t exercise on a regular basis.
  • I don’t know what my cholesterol levels are.
  • I haven’t checked my blood pressure recently.
  • I need to be at a healthier weight
  • I have not been screened for diabetes.
  • I need to lower my stress levels
  • I do not follow a heart healthy diet

Not all of these risk factors will apply to you but you can work on some of these things. We discussed checking your cholesterol and blood pressure levels last week.  Focus on one thing and make a plan to ‘fix’ it. The plan may begin by simply scheduling an appointment to check in with your clinician.

Once you have an action plan on your specific risk factor, move on to the next one. Over the course of the year, you will be in a better place. Take it one step at a time so that you don’t overwhelm yourself.  This is definitely the week to fall in love with yourself and improve your heart health.  

YOU ARE WORTH IT!

Tips For Staying on Task With Your Heart Health Goals

What are Your Heart Health Goals?

We are starting a new month and January is behind us.  How did you do with your health goals last month?  Did you map out your needed appointments to cover all of your preventative screening tests for the year?

Doing this now gives you direction and also allows you to save any money needed to cover any deductibles or co-insurance.  If you don’t have insurance you have time to find available resources in your community through your local community health centers or health departments.

You may be asking what screenings do you need?  The United States Preventative Services Task Force has a list of screenings that you should discuss with your clinician every year to see what actions you need to take to improve your health.

February is the month where we celebrate Heart Health.  There are basic things that you need to know in order to focus your attention on this aspect of your health. You cannot change some of the risk factors that put you at risk for heart disease such as age, race and gender but you can work on the ‘modifiable’ risk factors.

Modifiable risk factors

Do any of the following apply to you?
  • I am a smoker.
  • I don’t exercise on a regular basis.
  • I don’t know what my cholesterol levels are or my levels are too high
  • I haven’t checked my blood pressure recently.
  • I need to be at a healthier weight
  • I have not been screened for diabetes or my diabetes is not well controlled
  • I need to lower my stress levels
  • I do not follow a heart healthy diet

take action on defining your goals

If any of the risk factors apply to you, you need to promise yourself that you will make a plan to address it.  The key is to start somewhere. Here are some tips for staying on task with your heart health goals.

Figuring out where to start can be overwhelming.  Take a deep breathe and focus on one thing at a time.  Let’s look at cholesterol screenings:

  • Pull out your medical records or log into your patient portal.  Gather whatever information you can collect and make note of what your baseline status was or is.
  • Do you know what your levels are?
  • Do you understand what they mean?
  • Has it been more than one year since you had your levels checked?  
  • If you have a prescription for cholesterol meds, are you filling it and taking them as instructed?
  • Are you following a heart healthy diet?

When you get to the point to where you ‘know your numbers’ and have an action plan, you can move on to the next topic.  Try focusing on one risk factor a month.  If you take it one step at a time and commit to making an action plan for each risk factor, you will have an action plan for improving your heart health by the end of 2021.

That’s not too hard is it?  Remember that self care is not selfish.

Which risk factor will you focus on this month?

 

 

Set Health Goals That Match Your Why

Monday Motivation

I worked with someone who sent me this list of goals:

  • Smoke less
  • Drink less
  • Have less fun

I love this!  In theory, these are great goals.  I wasn’t sure about the ‘have less fun’ goal but she explained that when she goes out to bars and ‘has fun’, she drinks too much which then gives her the urge to smoke.  She feels that she can go to other locations if she wants to be social without feeling like she has to drink.  

Why do you feel the need to set health goals? You must ask yourself why something is important to you. Set health goals that match your why so that they remain a priority to you.

So the first thing we did was to change the order of her goals.  She feels that she is a social drinker and smoker.  She knows that these are not good for her health and she was ready to make a plan for herself.  The first thing we did was to change the order of her goals since they are all related.

Have less fun > Drink less > Smoke less

When we are looking at health goals, you are more likely to succeed when you can answer ‘what is your why?’  Make them personal!  The 7 Levels Deep approach comes from Dean Graziosi’s Millionaire Success Habits and is used to keep fine tuning why you are setting out to make a goal and why it is important to you.  Here is an example of this using her goals:

    • What do you want to do?  I want to go out to bars less.
    • Why is that important to you?  So I can drink less.
    • Why is that important to you?  So I can smoke less.
    • Why is that important to you?  It isn’t healthy.
    • Why is that important to you?  I have asthma.
    • Why is that important to you?  It makes me cough too much.
    • Why is that important to you?  Coughing makes me pee on myself.

All kidding aside, this is just another approach to help you make goals that you can reach.  There are many tools available to help you write out your thoughts and to give you guidance on how to make them happen.  The most important thing is that you are thinking about what is important to you.  

Think about it, write it down and then make an action plan.   

 

Don’t Let the Holidays Derail Your Work on Your Health Goals

Here we are on the first day of December. As we close out the year, you have one month left to focus on your health goals for this year. Letting your guard down just because it’s the holidays does not give you a pass.  Don’t let the holidays derail your work on your health goals.

Who is taking care of you?  You and only you are responsible for your health.  There are many things that impact your health status so I chose to focus on these three topics; ‘me time’, self care and self-reliance. Each of you are in a different personal situation and you need to develop the skills that are most pertinent to you.

I use the word ‘self’ in many ways. This does not imply that you need to be living alone or supporting only yourself. I am asking you to develop the skills you need so that if you find yourself alone, you can continue to support yourself. I also ask that you make your own health a priority. You cannot take care of others if you are not in the best health possible. I include ‘me time’ as a separate focus so that you can learn to carve out key times during the day to do something for yourself.

If you have already identified ways to improve your health and you are working on some goals, you need to make an extra commitment to them as you may be facing daily events or foods that will test you over the next four weeks.  Colder weather may also impact your exercise  goals.

What can you do this month?    December is a tough time to begin but this doesn’t mean you can’t start analyzing your current habits.  What will you do today?  Are you struggling to find 30 minutes each day to focus on yourself? If you are new to this site there is an Activity Journal under the Resources tab to help you work through this process if you need help finding the time to do this. The Resource page also has different activity lists in case you need other ideas. 

Don’t let the holidays derail your work on your health goals but be intentional on the items you will splurge on.  Plan ahead and work in movement every day.  Sample food and drink in moderation.  You can enjoy the season while maintaining your health goals.

Cheers!

 

 

Who Is The Event Planner In Your Family?

This next week is the kick-off to the holiday season and I am expecting that it will be different for each of you in comparison to previous years. Between my parents and the families of my five siblings, we usually split up the menu, the cleaning, the decorating and errands. Cooking occurs in 4-5 different kitchens before it is all brought together in my parent’s home. This process makes feeding 20-30 adults appear easy.

My family will not be traveling to Texas this year so I started to take stock of what all needs to happen this week. There will only be five of us this year in my home. I could feel anxiety building up as I pulled out my Thanksgiving planner and realized that there was a lot to do. Eeeek!

 

What do gatherings look like for you and your friends and family?  This year the festivities will probably be different.  What all has to happen and who usually does it?  What can you afford to do?  

Let’s look at this week’s activities.

  • What is your family going to do this year?
  • Who are you going to spend the day with?
  • What needs to be done?
  • Who’s the event planner in your family?
  • What will be on your menu?
  • Who is paying for what?
  • Who’s the shopper?
  • Who’s the cook?
  • Who cleans up?
  • What else?

If the answer is ‘me’ to most of these questions, what can you do to reduce your stress and anxiety this week? If you do not own any of the duties listed above, what can you step up and do?

 Look at the invite list.  Is there anyone who can share the workload and errands? How much meal prep can occur ahead of time and who will do it? How are you going to build in a way to make sure that you get to enjoy the day as well?

Holidays should be enjoyed by all.  By planning out the day and the participants, you can come up with a plan to ensure that everything gets done and that everyone gets to enjoy the day.  

As you look forward to all of the different celebrations coming up in the next 6 weeks, apply this same approach to all of them.  After everyone has enjoyed their feast, make a preliminary plan for any upcoming gatherings so that everyone knows what their future tasks will be.  By laying the framework out, it will make for a more pleasant and less stressful experience for all.

 

Will Pap Smears Become a Thing of the Past?

Will Pap smears become a thing of the past?  I hope so!   One of the most dreaded exams for a female is having a pelvic exam done so their clinician can collect a Pap smear specimen.  The test used to be done each year but the great news is that technology has continued to improve and this is no longer true.      

The Well Woman’s Chart states that cervical cancer screenings are recommended for all women between the ages of 21-65. This does not mean that you need the screening done every year; your age and past results determines your management plan.  These recommendations may not apply to you if you have had a hysterectomy, have HIV, are immunocompromised, were exposed to DES in utero or were treated for high grade dysplasia in the last twenty years.  Your clinician will be able to give you guidance on the timing.  Did you notice that I used the term ‘cervical cancer screening’ instead of just saying a Pap smear?  I used the word Pap smears above but I want you to learn the new wording.  

 

Your personal risk score

Have you seen the results of your previous test results?  If not, keep looking for it.  If you have access to your patient portal you may be able to look at the actual report.  Do you understand the results?  If you have always have had normal results and do not have the risk factors described above, then the cervical cancer screening intervals are below.

Less than 21 years of age: No screenings

Ages 21-29: Cytology only (Pap smear test) every 3 years

Ages 30-65: You have three options:

    • Cytology only (Pap smear test) every 3 years
    • High-risk Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) test only every 5 years
    • Cytology plus Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) test (co-testing) every 5 years

What if the results were abnormal at some point?  This is where the biggest changes will occur because now it is based on your personal risk score.  There are new algorithms that take your personal results over time to determine what to do next.  There are too many variations for us to discuss here but your clinician should be able to walk you through the decision making process. If they can’t do that, ask for a referral to a gynecologist who can review your specific case.

 

key points

  • New guidelines were issued in 2020.
  • No screenings done under the age of 21.
  • Yearly Pap smears are no longer the standard of care if your results are negative.
  • The HPV vaccine protects against the virus that causes cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers.

 

Who Is Taking Care of You? Celebrates A Milestone

Happy anniversary to us!!!

I started this blog in a private Facebook group one year ago today in anticipation that I was moving to a new city and wanted to maintain the friendships and support group that I was leaving behind. I love the fact that we have social media to help us keep and renew friendships.

The Who Is Taking Care of You? FB group celebrates a milestone today in that we hit our one year mark and it has grown to over 400 members from the US and 14 different countries. I have shared 277 blog posts focusing on the intersection of women’s and public health and created a website for housing our Resource information.  I love the unique perspectives we all bring to this group and I hope to see you engage even more. 

For those new to this blog, WELCOME! I am an ob/gyn that has advocated for women for the last thirty years. I have worked in public health for the last 16 years and am passionate about the intersection of women’s and public health. I can speak and write on this topic for hours.

As I work with women, the common theme I see is that you all do a great job taking care of others but you are not as good when it comes to caring for yourself. I am a firm believer that you need to be knowledgable about these three core factors; mental, physical and financial health. In order to focus on these items, I try to limit our posts to the following topics:

  • ‘Me Time’
  • Self Care
  • Self Reliancy

‘Me time’ is important for your mental health. I want for you to find at least 30 minutes a day to focus internally so that you can quiet your mind. This will enable you to develop tools so that you can handle your daily mini-crisis without increasing your anxiety levels.

Self Care is necessary to ensure that you are in charge of your physical health. You, and only you, are responsible for your health. We use the Well Woman Chart as a foundation so that you are armed with the tools and knowledge that you need to take charge of your health journey.

Self Reliancy is the topic that most of you are surprised by. Why do I think this is important? I believe that all of you need to acquire a skill to support yourselves and then you need to educate yourselves about your personal finances. I do not want you to work or live in a hostile environment because you cannot afford to leave. I do not want you to be lost if you lose your loved one because they always took care of your family’s finances.

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you. I am grateful for each and every one of you!

Velma Taormina, MD profile picture

Mental illness awareness text with Lime Green ribbon color on helping hand on old aged wood background

Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week so how appropriate that we spotlight this topic today. The National Association of Mental Illness, NAMI, is running a series of videos and blogs this week to hear the lived experiences of individuals who face the stigma of mental illness every day.  Reducing the stigma of mental illness is so important in order for us to move forward with everyone getting the care that they deserve.

There are some statistics on the site that cover many aspects of the demographics of who is impacted by this. If you look at them carefully, you will see that you are in contact with someone in all of these groups every day. You never know who is struggling with mental illness so be KIND to everyone who crosses your path.

Some of the statistics show that:

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
  • 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year

Take the time to educate yourself.  Maybe someone in your household is struggling with this at this time.  If you are the one in need of these services, reach out and schedule an appointment. There is NO shame in admitting this. In this time of COVID you have many options available on how to receive care. In-person or Telehealth visits are now available all across the country. This is one of the great things that has come out of these trying times.

If you have lost your job and no longer have insurance coverage, there are many sources available where you can receive services for free or for reduced costs.  Please know that you are not alone.

Read up. Reach out to your primary care physician. Reach out to someone. Reach out to me if you don’t know where to start.  The hardest step is the first one.  Visit nami.org to see the great resources that are available to you.

REDUCE THE STIGMA…