Forming Healthy Habits with Alberta My Way to Health
There are a number of factors which lead Albertans to the My Way to Health program - high blood pressure, diabetes, excess weight, or a desire to reduce medications, to name a few, but what unites them is a desire to make long-lasting change and feel supported.
Many participants will register for Alberta My Way to Health having experimented with dieting, fasting, and prescription medications but struggled to make long-term positive changes for their health. This research-based workshop has been methodically designed to produce results that will last long past the end date of the 4- or 8-week program by expanding participants’ understanding of health and enabling healthy choices to become routine.
The Alberta My Way to Health workshop, formerly Alberta Health Basics, was first developed by the Red Deer Primary Care Network in 2009. Evolving over time to reflect best practices, embrace the digital landscape and encompass a more holistic view of health, the workshop as it exists today is the result of invaluable feedback over the years.
As mentioned, the lessons in My Way to Health work to broaden and reframe participants’ understanding of health. While weight loss is a primary driver for registering for the workshop, a key takeaway of the workshop is that improving one’s health is multifaceted. Weight loss is not the only indicator of improving health, but rather one of many, and this workshop serves to spotlight the rest of the successes that come with improving health, such as increased energy and reduced levels of chronic pain:
“My blood pressure has come down and stayed down. I am to the point where my medications can be lowered… I have strengthened my core and [I] have very few back pains… I do a half an hour exercise class online every day. I have started an exercise group once a week with 6 friends, so we keep each other motivated,” says Eleanor.
From a nutrition standpoint, the lessons in My Way to Health teach conscious eating and a reframing of food as fuel through an understanding of portion sizes, simple yet crucial nutrition, and a framework for an eating schedule. The workshop aims to allow participants to feel less burdened by food, and free of guilt. The backbone to this methodology is the 80/20 rule - by consciously making healthy choices 80% of the time, flexibility may be allowed for the remaining 20%. This process helps participants focus on making further healthy choices rather than on punishing themselves for making an unhealthy choice. Participants recount feeling kinder to themselves, as well as experiencing less anxiety around food, after embracing the 80/20 rule.
Furthermore, the My Way to Health aims to help make daily exercise a routine by presenting straightforward exercises that are able to be done at home. These quick routines are geared toward gradually increasing participants’ confidence and abilities, meaning that any experience level will be at home. Through My Way to Health, daily exercise becomes routine, which for many participants has meant an increase in energy and ability, improved circulation and greater confidence in their abilities.
Participants receive a journal to complete over the course of the workshop, providing a framework of accountability and the opportunity to visualize their progress reflexively. Referring to the journal each week allows for a realistic sense of perspective and progress. Within the journal, participants can keep track of their food intake and exercise, record what they have learned in the workshop, and set goals to achieve in the coming week:
“It was good to go every week, to have to be accountable, to have others to discuss my choices with as well as to pick up on things from class that I had let slide,” recalls Joanne.
As the bond between workshop participants grows, members will remember each other’s respective goals and work to hold them accountable. The social aspect of the program is emphasized weekly in order to form lasting connections and habits. Through weekly connection and cooperation, the group setting of the workshop empowers participants to make sustainable, realistic change.
Trained facilitators create a supportive, positive and non-judgemental learning environment. For participants, speaking with others in similar situations works to normalize their struggles and provide learning opportunities. Some of the most effective advice for participants will stem from their peers, and a weekly discussion helps participants recognize and celebrate their health successes.
In registering for and attending Alberta My Way to Health, participants learn valuable insights into exercise and nutrition, but also new perspectives on challenging personal barriers and the flexibility to work through setbacks. This free workshop runs for 2 hours per week, for 4 or 8 weeks, and is available in-person or blended online at select PCNs, and available virtually over Zoom to all Albertans across the province. To learn more and register, visit www.albertafindadoctor.ca. If you are interested in becoming a facilitator, reach out to [email protected] to learn more.