How to Take Back Control of Your Health and Wellness
This is the second in a series of articles on how busy PR professionals can maintain a healthy lifestyle.
In 2012, I found a jacket that I desperately wanted to buy. I was planning to lose a few more pounds in the coming weeks, so I bought a medium instead of a large. Only now, seven years later, can I finally wear the jacket. It’s one in a stack of clothes I’ve bought which until recently were too small for me to wear.
When it came to the weight loss I planned, I had thought too specifically and too quickly. I’ve since learned that if you want to make permanent improvements to your health and wellness, you need to get tactical first.
This advice may surprise my fellow PR professionals, who are used to setting goals first, and then determining tactics. But as someone who has lost and kept off 150 pounds over the last 10 years, here is my thinking behind it.
Set achievable goals.
The best PR objectives follow the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) approach. We develop objectives in this manner so we have a true North Star for what we want to achieve. This proven method also ensures that we demonstrate our profession’s impact in meeting business objectives.
So it’s not surprising that when it comes to improving our health, many of us follow the same approach of emphasizing objectives. For example, you might tell yourself: “I am going to lose 20 pounds in four months,” or “I am going to fit into these size-34 jeans in three weeks, in time for my high school reunion.”
My goals involved scenarios that I never wanted to deal with again. I didn’t want to breathe heavily after walking up a flight of stairs or break chairs when sitting in restaurants ever again. On airplanes, I wanted to be at least somewhat comfortable in coach seats.
Throughout my journey to improve my health, I often told myself that I would lose a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time, or that I would buy a new suit on sale and then fit into it within three months. On the surface, this goals-based approach might have made sense. But unfortunately, thinking in terms of goals never worked for me. Missing were tactics that would help me achieve those goals.
As with the PR objectives that we develop, we often can’t control whether we will reach our personal goals. Goals we set for weight loss and other changes to our bodies can be thwarted by factors such as ingesting sodium, retaining water, changing our sleep patterns, gaining muscle and hitting plateaus. I often hit weight loss plateaus and was frustrated when I did not see further results. I felt disappointed and unaccomplished, and many times wound up back at square one.
In our stressful PR profession, we constantly deal with last-minute shifts in priorities that are always challenging and often overwhelming.
Like many of you, I have experienced these situations firsthand. What you thought would be a normal Friday suddenly turns upside-down, and the fun weekend you’d planned becomes an exercise in which you’re tethered to your work email. Or maybe an urgent email at 4:45 p.m. prevents you from reaching the gym for that 5:30 p.m. workout. Or you’ve had no time to eat lunch because a conference call ran late, so by the time your office happy hour starts, you’re clamoring to eat and drink everything in front of you.
As strategic and big picture as we want to get, what we don’t do first is get tactical when it comes to making permanent changes. As with the PR plans that you’ve developed and executed, however, tactics are the only things you can control.
Focus on what you can control.
Throughout my weight-loss journey, I took mental and written notes to help track my progress. In doing so, I saw patterns emerge. I began to recognize that eating late at night impacted me significantly. I also realized that exercising early in the morning helped keep me on track toward my goals.
When I was in my 20s, I spent many Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights ordering large pizzas and playing video games at 11 p.m. Ten years ago I made a tough but necessary change, to eat my last food of the day three-to-four hours before bedtime.
I also began exercising at least 60 minutes a day — walking, running, lifting weights or some other kind of physical activity. I knew that if I ate better and exercised more, the combination would finally allow me to lose weight and keep it off.
To improve your lifestyle and health, put tactics before goals. Doing so will help you incorporate wellness measures into your workday. I guarantee you will feel more in control of your ability to incorporate health and wellness into your workday. You will also feel more in control and more accomplished, and set a path toward your objectives.
And finally, don’t make the mistake that I made seven years ago. Buy clothing that fits you today. Be proud of who you are now.
To improve your health for the long term, focus less on objectives that are out of your control, such as telling yourself, “I will fit into these size-34 jeans in two months,” or “I am going to lose 50 pounds in three months.” Instead, start by identifying actions that you can control, such as:
- I will not eat after 8 p.m.
- I will host three, 30-minute walk-and-talk meetings every week.
- I will drink 10 glasses of water every day.
Mark Mohammadpour, APR, is a senior communications executive and certified health coach who believes everyone has a great story. Download his health and wellness podcast, Chasing the Sun, at anchor.fm/markmoh. Contact him at email@example.com, or follow @markmoh on Instagram and Twitter.