Set Emotional Well-being Goals First

Chances are, your efforts to help patients improve their diets or increase their physical activity levels are sometimes met with resistance. Patients often feel that they can't change; they've tried to lose weight in the past, and ended up frustrated and disappointed.

Some family medicine practices that participated in the AIM-HI research study found that their patients improved their fitness when they worked toward emotional well-being goals prior to setting nutrition and physical activity goals. For example, one patient set a goal to yell at her kids less often. When she began achieving success with this, she gained the confidence and motivation she needed to start eating healthier. As her relationships with her children improved, they began playing Wii fitness games as a family. By the end of the study, she¹d improved her overall fitness and lost 40 pounds, which she has kept off for more than a year.

Permanent weight loss requires permanent lifestyle changes. Patients who have emotional issues -- such as anxiety, depression or stress -- that present barriers to lifestyle changes may need to resolve some of those problems before trying to lose weight. Progress toward achieving emotional well-being goals can motivate behavior change in other areas.

AIM-HI defines fitness as a combination of physical activity, healthy eating and emotional well-being. You can use the AIM-HI Fitness Inventory to gauge patients' readiness to change in all three of these areas. Use the answers on the inventory to guide discussions during patient visits. Then record realistic, actionable and sustainable changes on AIM-HI Fitness Prescriptions. Let patients make decisions on what behaviors to change. You and your patients can sign the prescriptions at the end of the visit to formalize your commitment to working together.

In addition to appropriate counseling and/or pharmacotherapy, offer these AIM-HI reproducible patient education materials to your patients who need help caring for their emotional health: