Bring on Fall. Bring on the New You.

By Beth Leermakers
Employee Health Coach
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center and Methodist Charlton Medical Center

We all remember the story of the little engine that could from our childhood. The tiny engine repeated the mantra, “I think I can. I think I can.” to climb up a steep mountain. Many of us are in the same situation as that little engine when it comes to maintaining and improving our health and well-being.

When it comes to our health, there really aren’t any mysteries. We know what we need to do — eat right, get eight hours of sleep, exercise regularly, and reduce stress. Knowing what to do is one thing, but doing it — that’s the tricky part. And with the kids back in school and fall right around the corner, now’s the perfect time to make some changes.

So, how do you move from “I can’t” to “I could”? Small steps and victories are important. First, you have to want to start the journey. Not only do you have to want the health benefits resulting from change, you have to be willing to do the work. A cost/benefit analysis might help you weigh the pros and cons.

  • What are the day-to-day benefits? Be specific and write them down. In terms of wellness and quality of life, examples might include:
    • I want to be able to sit on the floor and play with my grandchildren.
    • I want to be able to tie my shoes.
    • I want to carry in my groceries or walk upstairs without getting winded.
    • I want to go on a bike ride with my friends.
  • What are the barriers that are keeping you from making the needed changes? You must be honest with yourself. Perhaps you’re thinking, “I don’t have time.” If that’s the case, not having time really means it’s not a priority to you. Motivated people find a way to make changes to reach their goals.
  • Do the benefits outweigh the barriers? Can you remove the barriers? As long as you perceive that the changes are more costly to make than the benefits you will receive, you won’t change. It’s that simple.

OK, so how do I move from “I could” to “I can”? In psychology, we use the term shaping. Shaping refers to making small steps, getting small wins, and building on them toward the desired goal. Weight loss provides a perfect example. Losing weight is about 80 percent food and 20 percent exercise. One pound equals 3,500 calories. So, to lose a pound a week, you need to eliminate 500 calories per day. Broken into small steps, here are a few ways to reach that goal.

  • A can of soda contains about 240 calories. Cutting out two cans of soda per day for a week equals one less pound.
  • Rather than enjoying a fried chicken sandwich with supersized fries and a small soda, save about 580 calories by eating a grilled chicken sandwich, small fries, and a diet soda. Following this routine daily will cut one pound per week.

Finally, how do I move from “I can” to “I did”! In terms of diet, view a temporary slip as a one-day occurrence. Get back on track right away, that day if possible, and realize you haven’t done that much damage. The key to success is consistency. When you reach your goal, celebrate with tangible rewards and reinforce your new behavior. “I did it! Congratulations to me!” Then enjoy your healthy reward to yourself.

If you’re ready to make positive, healthy changes in your life, then it’s time to choose Methodist Health System. Learn more by visiting

© Methodist Health System