Health resolutions 2017: A ‘no pain no gain’ affair

Wednesday January 4 2017

On days when you slip on a resolution, don’t

On days when you slip on a resolution, don’t waste time mentally scolding yourself. The more guilt and shame grow, the harder it will be to overcome them each time. So instead, have coping strategies lined up to deal with setbacks. 

By Syriacus Buguzi @buguzi

The New Year is here. And, you are probably telling yourself that this will be the perfect time to quit cigarette smoking, go jogging every morning or eat more veggies and deal with alcoholism.

But, in just three weeks’ time, you might also find yourself right back where you started—backtracking on your new resolutions to adopt a healthy lifestyle and attaining better outcomes in 2017.

Mr Adonise Byemelwa, 38, a resident of Tabata in Dar es Salaam, has been so determined that before this New Year started rolling, he stocked five litres of honey in his home. He wants to stop consuming refined sugar.

“I was inspired by a friend living in Australia; who has abstained from taking refined sugar and fizzy drinks for many years now. That’s also part of my New Year health resolutions,’’ he tells Your Health.

Byemelwa has realised that he could gradually become overweight if he doesn’t adopt a lifestyle that won’t expose him to excess sugar consumption and a sedentary lifestyle.

“I have recently stopped taking tea with refined sugar. I am not compelled by a doctor. I fear living on the doctors’ instructions in future,” he says.  The teacher, who takes a 15 minute-walk to work and back home every day, currently weighs 87kg, with a height of 5.15 ft, and a normal Body Mass Index (BMI) of 24.5. 

He is close to being overweight. BMI between 18.5 and 25 is normal, doctors say.

Byemelwa is adopting simple and affordable techniques this year for fear of failing to accomplish his goal. He recalls in the year 2008, while still a student at Makumira University College in Arusha Region, when he failed to cope with plans to exercise regularly.

“Back in the days, my close friends and I decided on a plan to keep ourselves fit by jogging on the hills. We it was our New Year plan by then,’’ he narrates, but he admits, “We later failed because we could not afford to pay for adequate food.”

“Imagine life at university, where you can afford only a small plate of rice and a few pieces of meat, and feeding on that after a strenuous exercise. That life did not match well with our plans,’’ he notes and then suggests, “To succeed in doing exercise regularly, one needs a good and consistent diet too,’’ says Byemelwa.

No pain, no gain

Byemelwa and other people like him might feel inspired and energised by setting the blowout health goals for 2017; however, the luster of these resolutions may fade quickly when reality sets in.

To accomplish their goals, Dr Masura Gulamhussein, a medical officer in Arusha Region advises people to always bear in mind that “there is no gain without pain”.

“The pain encountered during physical exercise may be taken negatively, at times, one thinks it’s torture,’’ he points out.

“Unless you are an athlete, any exercise can be fun if done in a group.

This makes it more refreshing and reduces the chances of missing out the daily routine,’’ advises Dr Gulamhussein.

According to a Clinical Pharmacologist from SANITAS Hospital, Dr Sajjad Fazel, people should try and set realistic goals this year if they want to achieve them.

“..together with keeping long-term goals, such as losing 4kg in a month, people should keep realistic short-term goals  such as losing Ikg per week,’’ says Dr Fazel who is also a committee member in the current government’s campaign to fight Non-Communicable Diseases(NCDs).

 Is losing weight the best way to a healthy life?

“…the problem with focusing solely on the scale is that it isn’t necessarily beneficial or indicative of our well-being,’’ says an article published in the Huffington Post titled: “50 Healthy Resolutions That Aren’t Losing Weight”

Lindsay Holmes, Deputy Healthy Living Editor, The Huffington Post, argues, “...concentrating on a pants size may make us ignore all the other aspects of wellness, such as self-esteem or empathy.” “Of course, if losing weight is imperative to your physical health, it’s necessary to complete those goals and follow a plan outlined by a doctor. But if you’re searching for a way to prioritise wellness, there are additional options,’’ she says.

Studies on how to achieve health goals

According to a review in the American Journal of Health Promotion, the more specific you make your resolution; the more likely you are to accomplish it.

So instead of creating an abstract goal such as “eating healthier”, take the time out to define exactly what eating healthier will look like for you in the New Year, says an article published last year in the Journal.

 Another study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology and titled, “Social support at work, heart rate, and cortisol: a self-monitoring study,’’ a lack of social support is associated with an elevated heart rate and with anxiety.

“We’re social creatures and we thrive within a community. That’s why it’s important to connect with others and ask loved ones to hold you accountable to your goals,’’ recommends the study.

It adds, “It’s not enough to keep your resolutions to yourself – share them with others and the additional accountability will give you the added fuel you’ll need to continue forward.”

In most cases, people have to believe in the saying that patience pays if they really want to achieve health goals, according to Dr Edward Komu, a health economist and physician at Nuru Foundation in Dar es Salaam.

“Usually, people make resolutions but are somewhat impatient about the time taken to accomplish them.

For instance, cutting down a kilogram of body weight needs hard work, tolerance and focus,’’ points out Dr Komu.

Dr Komu warns that it’s economically not sensible for people to wait until they are asked by the doctor to start exercising.

Those who are already sick, he says, the only thing they strive for is to get better [but not actually attaining full health. Although, he says that such people are pushed by their health condition to achieve the resolutions.

Last week, a man believed to be the world’s fattest, Juan Pedro, 32, set plans to reduce his 590 Kg body weight by half this New Year.

The Mexican man, according to global newswire, AFP, plans to undergo gastric-bypass surgery in the efforts to cut his weight dramatically and reduce health risks, said his doctor, Jose Castaneda Cruz from Guadalajara hospital, in Mexico.

But Pedro is already sick. His medical team told the media that he has been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic lung obstruction, and his resolve to cut down weight this year comes after the doctors’ advice.

Lifestyle changes should be long term

Inactive lifestyles, tobacco smoking, harmful use of alcohol are still the major contributing factors to the rising trend of NCDs in Tanzania and the rest of the world.

The prevalence of NCDs has been on the rise worldwide for the past two decades, and data suggests a gloomy trend going forward unless strong national responses are implemented.

 The NCDs kill 38 million people globally each year according to World Health Organization(WHO).

The Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu recently announced plans by the government to commit 10 percent of the coming health-sector budget to dealing with NCDs.

Recently, the government launched a national campaign to encourage people to create the habit of doing regular physical exercise and eating healthy food in a bid to curb the NCDs. “We[the government] will ensure that people across the country are made to understand the importance of engaging in physical exercise as a way of preventing NCDs,’’ said Minister Mwalimu in a comment to Your Health.