Staying In Motion
Visualization And Encouragement Can Help Patients Follow Their Doctor’s Recommendations
History has not told us if legendary physicist Sir Isaac Newton had a regular exercise schedule. But for Brian Anderson, MD, of St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Primary Care located in Hilton Head, Newton’s First Law of Physics perfectly illustrates the challenges faced by his patients who need to make a lifestyle change.
“A body at rest tends to stay at rest, a body in motion tends to stay in motion,” Dr. Anderson says. “That’s the number one challenge.”
So how does Dr. Anderson help patients get their bodies in motion? First, he encourages patients to avoid the emotional part of their brain when making decisions about health. Instead, he favors logic.
“If you plan to exercise every day for 30 to 60 minutes and then miss a day, it’s not a big deal,” Dr. Anderson says. “If you only plan to exercise 3 times a week and miss a day, now you’ve lost a third of your exercise program for the week.”
Dr. Anderson also employs visualization for patients who not only need to exercise but also to eat right in order to lose weight. The examples he gives change depending on how much weight the patient needs to lose.
“Eight pounds doesn’t sound like much, but that’s like carrying a gallon of milk wherever you go,” Dr. Anderson says. “Sixteen pounds is the largest bowling ball you can find in the bowling alley. Carry that around for ten minutes and see how you feel. Then think of how much better you’ll feel after you lose those 16 pounds.”
Dr. Anderson is board-certified in Sports Medicine as well as Family Medicine, so he has employed these same techniques of encouragement and visualization with more athletic people.
Visualization can help patients learn to eat right as well as exercise.
“It’s my job to motivate them,” Dr. Anderson says, “and to keep active people active.”
For some patients, a motivational appeal to both their logic and their emotions works best. Dr. Anderson treated a middle-aged woman who had quit smoking the day she learned she was pregnant. Once her child was around 2 years old, the woman was smoking again and feeling miserable.
“I pointed out to her that we won’t know how to get her feeling good about herself until she started treating herself as well as she treated her baby,” Dr Anderson says. “She needed to realize that ‘Hey, I’m not going to put these toxins in my system anymore. I know it’s not good for my baby, how could it be good for me?’”
Dr. Anderson believes that everyone needs to treat themselves with that same care and respect.
“We all have to treat ourselves that way,” he says. “We have to eat right, we have to exercise, and we have to get our 8 hours of sleep at night. If we don’t do those things, we’ll never feel up to par enough to accomplish the goals we want to accomplish in life.”
A lifetime of health is Dr. Anderson’s true goal for his patients, and he has found that different methods work for different people. For some, one powerful visualization is enough. Others need several reaffirmations of how much better they’re doing.
“Success isn’t measured in day or a week or a month,” Dr. Anderson says. “If we do well for a while and then fall off a little bit, that’s okay as long as we keep trying to do well again. Success is really measured in a lifetime of good health and independent living.”