LeAnna and I have advocated taking small steps when it comes to changing your eating habits and fitness lifestyle, but is this really the way to succeed?
Over the last few months we have done some research to evaluate which of our clients have had the best success, and why. The results we realized were a little surprising, but after reading some recent information on similar studies, we are starting to change our tune.
In the publication Change or Die, Alan Deutschman writes about whether fear of death is actually a motivator when it comes to compelling people to make better decisions about their health. He wanted to find the reasons why heart patients who had undergone life-saving bypass and angioplasty surgery would return to the very same lifestyle that got them there in the first place.
Dr. Edward Miller, dean of Johns Hopkins University Medical School, estimates that 90% of coronary bypass surgery patients end up with the same problems after two years. What most people do not understand is that the procedures temporarily relieve chest pains, but rarely prevent heart attacks or prolong lives. It is switching to healthier lifestyles that reverses the disease and would prevent the patient from needing further surgery to give them comfort.
Enter Dr. Dean Ornish, a pioneer in the treatment of heart disease through lifestyle changes led by vegetarian diets and exercise. Dr. Ornish persuaded insurance company Mutual of Omaha to pay for a study of his program. Researchers took 333 patients with clogged arteries and helped them quit smoking and go on Ornish’s diet. They also introduced new lifestyle changes such as meditation, yoga, and exercise with these patients. Although this program only lasted one year, the study showed that after three years, 77% of the patients had stuck with the lifestyle changes and safely avoided further surgeries! These were remarkable results and well worth investigating.
Dr. Ornish found that radical, sweeping, comprehensive changes are often easier for people than small, incremental ones. He found that when making small changes in diets, people feel deprived and hungry because they are not eating everything they want, but are not making big enough changes to see results. When his heart patients in the study stuck to his radical program from the start, 91% of them noticed a decrease in frequency of chest pain in the first month. This was enough to give these patients a taste of what was to come if they stayed true to the program.
Another doctor who has been highly successful with helping people succeed through lifestyle changes and vegetarian diets is Joel Fuhrman. He is the author of Eat to Live and has coined the word nutritarian which is a person who strives for the highest concentration of micronutrients in their foods.
Dr. Fuhrman believes that when people eat healthy most of the time, but save a day or two to return to the standard American diet that causes poor health or weight gain, they never allow their taste buds to change and get to the point of naturally desiring nutrient rich foods. He also sees that people who do this never get through the withdrawal stage of overcoming the addiction of toxic foods.
Our own studies have produced the exact same results. The clients who have made the most long-term gains are also the ones that committed to the nutrition and exercise plan from the start, radically changing the way they conducted their lifestyle. This is not to say that there were no slip ups in regard to eating, but when they did they refused to let it derail their whole plan. The key is to let it go and get right back on track! As Dr. Fuhrman says, 100% commitment does not mean 100% perfection.
The rewarding part to taking this approach is the fast and life-changing results that it produces. Losing a considerable amount of weight and feeling a new level of energy after one month are great motivation to stay 100% committed. We liken it to a springboard into the rest of our life where the tastes for nutrient rich foods and exercise become a lifestyle that is so much more satisfying than the alternative!