Health Hack #1Kaizen- Small Steps For Big Changes

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Confucius

During a recent vacation, I found a little book on Kaizen, which is a Japanese word that means ‘continuous improvement’ or ‘change for better’. The book discussed taking small, incremental steps towards big changes. The Japanese originally started this practice in the business world in order to eliminate waste in alignment with lean manufacturing and Dr. Robert Maurer wrote a whole book called “One Small Step Can Change Your Life” on how you can use this method in all aspects of your life. I’ve began to implement this into my own life, on my journey towards becoming a writer.

In my clinical practice, I’ve been known as the root-cause girl and the one who recommends ‘baby steps’ towards change. Before I had even heard of Kaizen, I encouraged patients to get up 2-3 minutes an hour at work if they’re mostly sitting or cut one soda a day and replace with water. Baby steps to big success, is what I believe and this is what Kaizen delivers. The book talks about taking itty bitty steps, like marching in front of the tv for one minute a night.

The reason Kaizen works is because human beings are often naturally resistant to change and thrive in habit. There is a comfort in routine and when you decide to make major life transformations, they often end in failure. We’re also in constant go mode, especially in developed countries, so if you can take a few minutes a day to try something new and succeed, your likelihood of success is higher. With Kaizen you learn to replace bad habits with good ones and celebrate the small successes which motivate you to move onto the next change.

Using Kaizen is not a quick fix, its a process and a lifestyle change. That’s how anything effective that sticks works. Most of the time, it has taken years if not decades to get to where you are, so it makes sense that it may take that long to get you back on track to wellness. Fortunately, reversing unhealthy behavior and seeing results takes less time. For example, a study done in 2012 on a group of Type 2 Diabetics was able to reverse their disease in one week by reducing calories. One week!! Anecdotally, patients who have cut sodas from their diet see 10-15 pound decreases within two weeks.

Big choices and big changes, usually do not work. There is a small portion of the population who can decide to change big and succeed, like Tim Ferris, but he’s superhuman. For example, if you decide today to only eat healthy foods or wake up two hours earlier every day, you’re inevitably going to fail. This failure leads to guilt, guilt leads to negative behavior like overeating or self-judgement, then giving up and returning to the way you were before. When you use Kaizen and change your goals to “this week I will eat two vegetables a day” or “I will wake up 15 minutes earlier for five days” and at the end of seven or five days, you succeed, this causes an endorphin rush which motivates you to push on. This is what we want.

Like I stated in my free guide-book, DREAM FOCUS ACT LIVE REALITY, “if it feels forced, it is forced.” If you have created a measurable goal that seems too big and you feel resistance, then break it down even further. I’m going to give you some suggestions below that will help you create your own baby goals, but the very first step you need to make is the decision and commitment to change. No PA or doctor or nutritionist can make the choice for you, you must make it for yourself. If you’re not ready, totally cool, this is your path, no one else’s.

Here are some suggestions to help you kickstart your transformation:

– Park car away from office to take a short pre-work walk for two weeks

– Drink 16 ounces of water before each meal

– Count the number of chews when you eat lunch or dinner

– Take a 10 minute walk during lunch, preferably outside (get crazy and walk barefoot if there is grass)

– Make a big healthy Sunday dinner and take to lunch on Monday and Tuesday

– Try one new vegetables a week

– Use coconut oil or grass-fed butter for cooking (good fats are good for you!!)

– If eating fish isn’t your thing, add an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, fish oil to help your brain, heart, cholesterol

– Do 10 squats every other morning for one week

– Substitute one soda for a glass of water

– Eat soup for dinner for one week (this one could help with insomnia, anxiety and make you feel energized the next day, especially if you have 12 hours between dinner and breakfast)

– Take one to two minutes a day to sit and meditate, listen to your breath or just sit and do nothing

– Write stuff down, journaling leads to success, especially food journaling

– Try a juice or smoothie, with mostly vegetables

– Have a bowl of nuts or seeds at your desk in case you get hungry for a snack

I can think of a kazillion more suggestions, but since everyone is different, I recommend making small changes that suit you and your needs. If you’re ready to make a Kaizen change, let me know, comment or email me and we can figure it out together. Community and group support is another agent of successful change and having someone to hold you accountable helps the transformation. Good luck with the baby steps, y’all. You can do it!!