Dr. Beckerman helps set the pace for progress

Part 1 in our 12-month series on resolutions for real health improvement

By Dr. James Beckerman, M.D., Providence St. Vincent Heart Clinic – Cardiology, part of Providence Heart and Vascular Institute

And they’re off! It’s January, and millions of Americans have already started transforming their diets, joining gyms, signing up for triathlons and sprinting toward ambitious health resolutions. Their intentions are good, and you have to admire their motivation. The problem is that most of them took off running before they even found the starting line. To make matters worse, they set a pace they couldn’t possibly sustain. With this approach, it’s not looking good at the finish line.

If you’re serious about making real, lasting improvements in your health this year, I suggest taking a different – and much easier – approach.


First, find out where your starting line is.

Start the year by taking stock of where your health is now. Your current health status provides important context for any health resolutions you choose to adopt, and serves as a starting line for measuring your progress throughout the year. If you learn in January, for example, that your cholesterol and blood pressure have been climbing higher than you thought, you can set specific goals targeted at bringing down your numbers, and can track your progress accurately as you go. The more your numbers go down, the more your motivation will go up.

Find your own starting line by making an appointment with your primary care provider. If you haven’t yet established a relationship with a physician you can trust, ask friends and family members for recommendations, or visit Providence’s website to find a doctor near you.

Ask your physician for a follow-up call or appointment to review your numbers, and to help you set reasonable health goals based on your current health status.

Ready to start? Set a pace that sets you up for success.

Don’t set yourself up for failure by taking on too many resolutions this month. Instead, set yourself up for success by adopting just one new resolution each month. That gives you about 30 days to practice each resolution and to make it a habit before you start working on the next one.

This month, your resolution is simple: Just make that doctor’s appointment. For bonus points, jot down your numbers in a notebook, and use this notebook to track your progress throughout the year.

Next month, you can take on one more resolution – and this time, you’ll know where your starting line is. Based on your successes in January, February and each month to follow, you’ll build confidence as you take on each new resolution.

In the next 11 issues of Health Balance® News, I’ll guide you through a year’s worth of resolutions for real health improvement, one month at a time. Follow along, try the recipes, practice the advice and find out how good it feels to feel good. Here’s to a happy and healthy new year.

James Beckerman, a cardiologist with the Providence Heart and Vascular Institute in Portland, Ore., is the author of “The Flex Diet.” You can learn more about him and his weight-loss philosophies at www.theflexdiet.com.