Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.
WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM! The purpose of this program is to empower you with all of the information and tools you need to live a healthy, happy life. As I said in the introduction, 50 percent of the health problems seen in the United States are due to an unhealthy lifestyle, so learning these tools is important.
You don't need to go to medical school to understand how the human body works, nor do you need a Ph.D. in neuroscience to take advantage of all of the information known today about the brain. You do, however, need to know how to put this information to use, and that is what this book is all about. While The Program delivers all of the latest research, it is designed to deliver the information in a practical way so that you can easily apply it to your everyday life. The Program has worked for thousands of people over the last few years, and with a little effort and commitment on your part, I know it can work for you too.
There are a couple of reasons I'm so confident that The Program will help you. First, all of the information I'm going to give you is based on recent, cutting-edge studies, not only in neuroscience but in the fields of medicine, nutrition, and fitness as well. Although this book is packed with information, if you just remember the major points over the next twelve weeks, you'll learn everything you need to know. Second, because I've incorporated new knowledge about the brain from the latest research in neuroscience, The Program really works. Why? Because, as I've mentioned, when it comes to making permanent, positive lifestyle changes, your brain can be uncooperative at first. It will resist you, at least in the beginning. It feels comfortable and safe as long to keep doing everything the way you always have. Tell your brain you want to make a change say, give up smoking and it gets nervous, starts to stress, and says, "Not so fast, pal." There are, however, effective ways of coaxing your brain into becoming a better partner, and I've built these methods, or brain tips, right into The Program. Whether your health goal is to lose weight or get fit, reduce stress or boost your mood and energy level, you can use this method to achieve it.
It's not always going to be easy. In fact, I think it can be quite challenging to stay healthy in today's world. It's hard to fit exercise into a life already packed with work, family, and so many other obligations. It's challenging to stay at your ideal weight when there is so much tempting, often unhealthy food everywhere you turn. It's also hard to get enough sleep and manage stress in this overcommitted, fast-paced world. There is so much conflicting information around today, it can even be hard to know what to believe when it comes to healthful living.
As if this weren't enough, our genes and instincts that helped us back when we were tramping around on the savanna sometimes work against us now. Our behavioral instincts have evolved over millions of years and under many conditions that are no longer present today. The world has changed dramatically in a very short period of time, but our brains have not. Did you know that it is estimated that early people had to walk from five to twenty miles every day just to find food? Yet most of us feel annoyed if we have to park more than a few blocks away from our destination. Your body needs to move to stay healthy, but your brain has evolved to make you want to conserve energy whenever you can. This made sense millions of years ago, so that you wouldn't foolishly burn calories if you didn't have to; back then, you didn't know when you'd find your next meal. So your brain has evolved to say, "Why walk more than I have to?" Think about this the next time you find yourself desperately searching for the parking spot closest to the grocery store entrance. You are listening to old, outdated brain instincts.
Your brain also wants you to eat food whenever it sees it. That, too, made sense long ago when food was scarce, but most of us aren't in danger of starving anymore. In fact, this instinct has become a big problem in places where the food supply exceeds the actual needs of the population. In the United States, for example, we produce twice as much food each year than we actually need. It is clear that living in a healthful way won't always come naturally since we are wired for a different evolutionary period, but it really is necessary if we want to have a long and healthy life.
One of my major goals in The Program is to show you how all the areas of your health are interconnected. That is, you won't be really successful in addressing one health goal without understanding how all the pieces fit together in the big picture of your overall health. Once you understand what is happening with your body and why it matters, you'll be much more successful in meeting your health goals. Also, feel free to talk about The Program with your doctor, especially if you learn about a health issue that you feel pertains particularly to you.
Just as important as learning this information is figuring out how to put it into action in a way that is sustainable. I want you to be able to be healthy for the rest of your life, not just for the twelve weeks you are on The Program. To do this, you need to learn how to adapt the basic principles of health to your own unique lifestyle. You will be given suggestions about what to work on each week, but remember that how you end up working these principles into your life is up to you. Be creative. Make them fit. They have to work only for you. I'm also going to show you how to tailor The Program to your personal goals by teaching you how to be your own best coach. Understanding how to coach yourself is essential if you want to sustain your new, healthful lifestyle. You'll learn exactly how to do this.
Here's how The Program is structured. Each week you'll be given three topics: health, nutrition, and fitness. At the end of every week, I will list the key points from that week's material, and I'll feature one brain tip. I will also give you a few specific action tasks that pertain to that week's material. It will look like this:
Learn It! This will be a brief summary of the key points in health, nutrition, and fitness from that week.
Personalize It! You will be given one brain tip to focus on, plus a few examples of how past participants in The Program have personalized this brain tip and put it to work in their lives.
Live It! This section will be your "to do" list for the week a few practical, concrete steps you can take to move forward toward a more healthful life. Feel free to modify these tasks so that they work for you.
You can read this book all in one sitting, or you can read one chapter a week and allow the method to unfold as you go. Either way, you should wait to do the Live It! exercises until they are introduced each week; otherwise, you will be trying to do too much too soon. You can do The Program with a friend or family member or even with a group of friends; doing it together can provide invaluable support and accountability. I encourage you to go online to www.theprogrambook.com to create your own private online "book club." Here, you can participate in The Program with friends and family, track your exercise, keep a food log, create weekly goals, etc.
Copyright © 2009 by Kelly Traver, M.D., and Elizabeth Kelly Sargent