The Prairie Doc: Lifestyle changes involve no zero days

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Is there something about your health you’d like to change?

For most Americans, this question usually triggers a wide range of responses. In my practice, most responses usually center on wanting to lose weight, being more consistent with their exercise routine, or finally stopping smoking, drinking or vaping. What do these three lifestyle changes have in common? They are really, really hard to do.

Behavioral modification of daily habits and routines is a very difficult process: humans tend to get stuck in our daily ruts and stay in that groove day after day. The mental and physical energy required to change our diet or exercise on a daily basis often feels overwhelming.

So, I’d like to introduce you to a new mindset for you to try if you are one of the millions of Americans looking to change something about their health and lifestyle: No Zero Days.

Now this is not my invention, but rather has made the rounds on the internet for quite some time, originating from a motivational response by a user from the website, Reddit.

The premise is simple:

1. No Zero Days. No matter what, each day you do something towards getting closer to your goals or dreams. If your goal is to lose 30 lbs by the end of the year, then every single day you must do something to get closer to that goal, no matter how small. Over-ate at every meal? Had too many snacks throughout the day? Skip that late night snack before bed, do a couple of sit ups or pushups before bed, or spend the evening doing some healthy meal or snack prepping for the rest of the week. Even the smallest steps add up on your journey to your goal in the long run.

2. Your new best friends. Think of your past self as your new best friend, because they’ve been doing all these “No Zero Day” things to help you get to your goal each day before today. Your future self is also your best friend, which is why you want to do these small “No Zero Day” steps today: to be kind to your future best friend.

3. Self-forgiveness. Guilt, disappointment, failure and regret can put us in a cycle of negative thoughts which hinder our progress toward our goal. Forgiving ourselves each day allows us to keep working toward our goal without guilt and remorse weighing us down.

4. Exercise and reading every single day help fuel our body and mind, regardless of our end goals. Even one pushup, even one page: No Zero Days.

Remember, every marathon starts with a few small steps forward. Let each small day cascade into large lifestyle changes that get us to the healthy life of your dreams.

No Zero Days.

Mark D. List, MD, is a family medicine doctor and currently practices at Avera Medical Group 69th and Cliff in Sioux Falls. Follow The Prairie Doc at www.prairiedoc.org and on Facebook, featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc, a medical Q&A show providing health information based on science, built on trust, streaming live on Facebook and SDPB most Thursdays at 7 p.m.