When I would meet up with clients and friends during the latter half of 2011, people whom I hadn’t seen for months would do a double-take when they saw me. “What have you done?” they have asked. In this first post of 2012, I will share with Health Populi readers my story of 2011 — a year of living health-fully for me.

One of the blessings of my work-life is that I have access to some of the great minds in health and health care. But not until I began to personally harness their wisdom, intentionally incorporating what they’ve learned into my own life-flow and personal health ecosystem, did I impact my health.

You can see from the then-and-now photo what the physical transformation has been. This journey, though, went way beyond weight loss: my changed behaviors have to do with, yes, food intake, but also exercise, relaxation and balance, attitude, social connections, creativity, and intentional living.

2011 marked a major milestone in my life: my 25th wedding anniversary. This was a key health activation point: my husband and I discussed what we could give each other for the occasion. The idea of getting on another plane for a ‘special trip,’ when we both regularly travel for work and want to stay off planes in our spare time, did not appeal. Instead, we threw each other a wonderful party with special friends…and we gave each other the gift of health.

I disrupted my routine in many ways:

  • How I eat (lean protein at every meal, including and especially breakfast, low fat, low-to-no white carb and sugar, lots of water and decaffeinated beverages – my choice, Tazo Calm Tea); listening to Michael Pollan’s Food Rules; and, continuing my allegiance to Slow Food.
  • How I move (5 am walks for at least two miles to music that moves me, working with beats-per-minute and learning from Prevention’s Walk Off Weight); and, through the day when sitting at the computer, interrupting my workflow to walk downstairs and heat a new pot of water for tea, or do a couple hundred more steps up-and-down the stairs.
  • How I track my daily activities and habits, wearing a FitBit and using a Withings scale. These devices, whose apps I carry and use daily on my iPhone, help me bolster good microchoices every single day.
  • How I connect with my doctors and caregivers, regularly checking in, sharing data and getting advice and support.
  • How I recharge (meditating 20 minutes every afternoon), going to sleep earlier than most, and getting quality rest.
  • How I balance my day, by adopting the tagline of Paper Source to “do something creative every day.”
  • How I spend spare time, with friends who delight me, nurture me, support me, hug me.

While the vast proportion of time and activities are conducted at home and on-the-move, an important disruption was changing my primary care physician to one with an electronic health record who would partner with me in my new health regime and workflow. I am not alone in voting-with-my-feet when it comes to moving to a physician who is accessible online: 1 in 2 people told Intuit last January 2011 that they would consider switching doctors if they didn’t offer online access to information and services. I was one who did, to more closely partner with my doctor. It’s made a huge difference in my life and health, which is also gratifying to him and his practice.

Social connections also play a huge role in sustaining behaviors over time. My husband, of course, earns best supporting role marital Oscar as partner in my journey, and I in his. Our teenage daughter is a great support and cheerleader. And our friends, who tend to be health-focused too, encourage, nurture, and support us, as well. The Edelman Health Barometer for 2011 found that one in 3 people spend less time with friends who have unhealthy behaviors, shown in the chart. See more about this in Nicholas Christakis’s Connected.

By multi-tasking and working on the 360 degrees of health, 24×7, I’ve been able to make a profound difference in my health and my quality of life. The key lessons I take from this journey are:

  1. The power of connecting with my health providers – partnership and personal health records combined with a Hawthorne Effect
  2. My family and friends – connections can make or break your health
  3. Self-tracking – reinforces good choices, success, and behavior change
  4. Activation – my anniversary and poor sleep were key initial motivations
  5. Food is health – being mindful of what you eat and how it makes you feel makes you choose foods and eat more intentionally and healthfully.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  The tea leaves for my personal 2012 see me continuing my health journey, tweaking along the way. I began to use the BodyMedia tracking device in late 2011 and will do more with it in 2012. The Family Kahn is also in house-purge mode, moving into another aspect of “lightening up” – that is to clean out the nooks and crannies to bring greater feng shui to the living environment. We already began the process before the holidays, and will continue to hone our home to simplify and bolster more intentional living.

I wish you all healthy, happy and peace-filled new years.