Study: Drastic Lifestyle Changes Work for Some
We all know the importance of living a healthy lifestyle if we want to get everything we can out of life. As a medical professional, I find myself routinely talking with patients about ways they can transition to a healthier lifestyle than they are living now. Discussions usually center around making gradual changes in diet, exercise, and other areas in which patients could use improvement, with the understanding that incremental changes add up to complete transformation when followed through. But is there another way?
There seem to be some people who do not function well with gradual lifestyle changes. They need to go all in, all at once, or they will not succeed. It turns out that this sort of personality is neither unusual nor incapable of successfully adopting wholesale lifestyle changes. According to a recent study out of the University of California Santa Barbara, drastic lifestyle changes work well for some people.
Researchers looked at two groups of college students looking to make lifestyle changes to improve health. One group went about their daily routines, taking only small steps to improve physical health and mindfulness while ostensibly waiting for a more regimented routine to be implemented. The second group was thrown into a program of complete immersion. Every day they experienced:
- One hour of exercise in the morning
- One hour of mindfulness training
- 90 minutes of additional supervised exercise
- Classes covering diet, nutrition, sleep, etc.
After six weeks, both groups were surveyed. The first group did not note any remarkable changes in either lifestyle or attitude while the second group reported feeling healthier, more confident, and less stressed – despite having a lot more on their plates in striving to be healthier.
People Are Wired Differently
Researchers were not able to conclusively say why their study reached the results it did. However, they noted in the report an underlying belief that plasticity – the ability of the brain to change based on certain influences – might be affected in more ways than we realize. It could be that plasticity is not affected only by biology and physiology; perhaps it is also affected by decisions people make and their willingness to act upon them.
If my understanding of the premise is correct, the research seems to indicate that plasticity might be achieved in some people by way of the psychological shock of making drastic lifestyle changes. The brain has to work so hard to adapt to such drastic changes that plasticity occurs as a result, thus making sure those lifestyle changes become permanent.
It is an interesting proposition that deserves more research. Those of us who practice naturopathy will be interested to know if future studies reveal the same kinds of things.
Whatever Works for You
There isn’t enough in the study to say that most people should go all in if they want to make significant and permanent lifestyle changes. Nonetheless, this approach does seem to work for some individuals. For them, it is better to make drastic changes, and stick with those changes until these become habit, than to attempt to adopt healthier lifestyles through a more gradual process.
At the end of the day, whatever works for you is fine. Just promise you will do one thing: whether you adopt a gradual or all in the approach to a healthy lifestyle, don’t do anything without first consulting your doctor. There is no need to be unsafe in the process of trying to become healthier.