Login / Register

The Key to Making Health Changes That Last

Dr. Dean Ornish, an expert in helping people change at-risk health behavior, found that patients who successfully restore their health have two things in common.

  1. They focus on obtaining positive, immediate results.
  2. They are willing to adopt immediate, radical changes.

Ornish discovered these principles after conducting a groundbreaking study involving more than 300 patients who were being treated for heart disease. All of the patients had severely clogged arteries and agreed to participate in a rigorous diet and exercise program.

The results were outstanding: 77 percent of the patients avoided heart surgery, regained their health and maintained their new lifestyle after the program ended. That's nearly three times the average success rate of other diet and exercise programs.

Dr. Ornish says the radical changes yielded immediate results, which encouraged study participants to stick with the program.

"'These rapid improvements are a powerful motivator," says Dr. Ornish. "These are people who can't work or even walk across the street without intense suffering. When they find that they are able to do all of those things without pain in only a few weeks, they often say, "These are choices worth making.'"

Dr. Ornish's study also revealed another pattern: Small, incremental changes in diet or exercise are unsustainable for most people. He surmises that this is because they don't see measurable results fast enough, leading to feelings of unnecessary deprivation.

As you consider making healthy changes in your life, take a cue from Dr. Ornish and make radical changes and focus on the immediate, positive consequences.

For instance, medical professionals suggest that getting 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day would help the average adult lose weight and maintain better health. If you would like to reach this goal, focus on the positive results you’ll see at the end of one month: You'll be able to play with your kids without getting tired, your clothes will fit better or maybe some of your aches and pains will vanish.

After consulting with your doctor, create a plan to make it happen and jump in with both feet. Maybe you’ll get your exercise by pledging to walk 10,000 steps a day or get up an hour earlier to work out. Commit to these radical changes, engage a positive attitude and keep a record of your results.

Your success is likely to spur you on to tackle even more challenges!

Dr. Dean Ornish is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California.

GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention welcomes the opportunity to share this general information. However, this article is not intended to be relied upon as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.