Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Healthy Living: Change is possible

Mary Braun, Danielle Dingman and Jason Bauer will join moderator Teresa Coyan and spinning instructor Marie Pearl for panel discussions on taking charge of your wellness

Here are a few secrets about the wellness experts you see sweating at the gym, eating right in the cafeteria, running 5Ks and doing triathlons: They all started somewhere. Many of them weren’t always healthy. They don’t have more time than we do. They don’t have it all figured out. The fittest among us are working on wellness every day, just like the rest of us.

As individuals and as a community, we all have the opportunity to make improvements, building on wherever we are in our current wellness. That’s the message four of our CoxHealth experts will deliver at Missouri State University’s Public Affairs conference in April. The conference theme is “Building Healthy Communities: Body, Mind and Spirit” and our team will lead a discussion about how we can all make moves to be healthier and improve the health of our community in the process.

The panel includes Danielle Dingman, community wellness coordinator; Jason Bauer, system director of Food Services; Mary Braun, Ferrell-Duncan Clinic director of nursing; and Marie Pearl, spinning instructor at CoxHealth Fitness Centers and a contestant on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”

Between them, the four have decades of experience in improving health. Their passion for wellness has transformed each of their lives – both professionally and personally. 

Here’s what our experts had to say about what we can all do to make a difference:

Take charge

There’s no one fix that works for everyone. Finding what we can control and making small improvements can give us a sense of power that can drive greater accomplishments.

Jason: Start by looking at your strengths – what are you good at and what are you likely to fail at? Some people are morning people, some are evening people; you have to fit your wellness plan into what works best for you. We all have to make time – set time aside for yourself and communicate that to your family.

Mary: Take control – you can’t make progress if you feel defeated. Wellness is individualized. No one plan or strategy works for all people. You have to own your choices. Eating, for example, is something you have control over. I don’t always do it perfectly, but I have control over it. Try planning out your grocery shopping and what you’ll eat. Remember that there are decision points every day where you can make choices – simple things like, ‘Will I drive to the next building or walk?’

Danielle: Don’t let your circumstances determine your health. We’re all busy and it’s easy to rely on convenient options, like the drive-through. You can take control by planning – pack a lunch, pack healthy snacks. Set aside 30 minutes in your day for exercise. And forgive yourself – there will be times you don’t get done what you wanted, but you have the present and you can move forward from there.

Marie: Write a list of your ultimate goals, whether that’s a number on a scale, a fitness goal or a better cholesterol level. Then, research methods to accomplish that. Equip yourself with knowledge and invest in learning about wellness, nutrition and exercise. Find things you love and will enjoy for a long time – both exercise activities and foods you can tweak to be healthy.

Environment matters

There’s power in community – we should surround ourselves with people who have similar goals and who can support us.

Danielle: Wellness is on a continuum: social, mental, emotional – you have to address all of those components to be fully well. Pay attention to your social network. Surround yourself with people who have similar goals. You really need to think about what you want and then put yourself in an environment that will help you achieve your personal goals.

Jason: You have to figure out how much time you are willing to commit to wellness. What will you sacrifice for it? I wouldn’t say sacrifice time with your family, but I do have to ask, ‘Do I need to watch what’s on TV or can I record it for later?’ It’s a question of what you are willing to adapt to.
Danielle is right about influences – negative people bring everybody down. I don’t have time for that, so we all seek out positive influences.

Mary: I’m inspired by the people around me. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of family and close friends. If you have a supportive family, that’s a real gift.

Marie: Wellness is an area where the group mentality of “everybody else is doing it” can be a real positive! Have a support system, your co-workers, friends, family – people who will enjoy the ride with you. Having people I’m committed to keeps me accountable. If I don’t have someone to be there for, sometimes I won’t be there for myself.

Find your ‘why’

Ultimately, wellness requires a series of daily, personal decisions. Those are easier to make if we are clear on what’s driving us. For our experts, wellness has become a part of their identity.

Danielle: Faith and a sense of purpose are huge motivators for me. I’m very passionate about helping other people be healthy. I see how important it is in my life. Everyone has a purpose and to achieve that purpose, they need to be the healthiest version of themselves that they can be. I want to be able to help people achieve their purpose through health and wellness.

Mary: I try to focus on things that feed my soul. My goal is simple: Be healthy, retire healthy and enjoy my grandchildren. I love to play with my grandkids and that keeps me healthy. Your health changes over time – what may have worked for me 10 years ago is not the same as what works today. I’m working to adjust what I do to how my body has changed.

Jason: I’m driven to be healthy by my family first, then work. I love my job. We’re in a spot where people look to us – I’ve had people come up to me in the cafeteria to ask what I’m eating! I put myself in a career that’s driven my wellness. It keeps me on track, and it motivates the motivator!

Marie: I’m motivated by not going back to the way I used to feel. I was winded from a walk from the car to the office. Every day, I’m motivated by making sure I can live the happy, healthy life I’ve set out for.

Celebrate successes

Every step forward counts, even small ones. Don’t forget to acknowledge your progress. Do whatever it takes to provide your own motivation.

Danielle: Sometimes, life-changing, motivating ‘lightbulb moments’ happen, but most of the time they don’t. Sometimes you just have to say, ‘Everything isn’t positive right now, but I have to do something.’ Create a plan and take it a day at a time, or a half-day at a time, and commit yourself to making small changes. Eventually a shift in mindset will come. Just start where you are and take those first steps.

Mary: You have to acknowledge those small steps. Even if that means creating a daily ‘gratitude list’ to acknowledge the steps you’re making.

Jason: Everyone has stress and we all have to manage that. Ask yourself, ‘Is it a bad day or just one bad thing that I’ve made into a bad day? It’s all how you react to things. Stress management is huge. Everybody does it differently – cycle, run, hit the weights, take a walk or just spend some time organizing. Every time you accomplish a goal, celebrate those successes. That success will start to build on itself until you’re accomplishing the big goals.

Marie: I used to reward myself with food, now I focus on experiences and making memories – small getaways and trying new things like horseback riding and ziplining.
You have to know it’s possible. The ability to change – to build the life you want – is within your control. When you’ve never been fit, thin or active, in your head it seems impossible, but I know it can be done. You have to work for it, but it is possible to change your life.