What does it take to stick with the sort of New Year's resolution that calls for losing weight or quitting smoking?
Health coaches with Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania's Blue Health Solutions program say there's no real magic bullet, but the need for a mind-set to go with a plan and the ability to avoid the setbacks and frustrations that inevitably will come one's way.
"The biggest thing is they have to really want to do it," said B.J. Ahearn, a registered nurse who works in smoking cessation.
Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s health coaches are registered nurses or dietitians who work one-on-one with members over the phone to answer health questions and offer information and tips. Health coaches also can help members develop a personal plan to achieve their wellness goals. Health coaches employed by Blue Cross are accessible only to people who have health insurance through Blue Cross. However, other health care insurance providers may have similar programs available. Contact your insurance provider to find out.
Making the decision to quit smoking, she said, means researching the topic, forming a plan and finding support through family, friends and a health care professional.
It helps, she said, to have others by one's side for support after a setback.
After all, very few people kick an addiction such as smoking the first time they try.
"The average is seven tries," she said.
To lose pounds or to better manage weight takes a similar approach.
But don't set unrealistic goals.
Registered nurse Mary Ann Wanko, who specializes in exercise and weight management, said many people want to embrace a health and fitness plan, but don't know how to get started.
And that can be the biggest stumbling block.
"Who doesn't want to get healthy?" she asked.
A partner can be a help. It can mean going to the gym with someone or just finding support with another person.
Blue Health Solutions works with interested Blue Cross customers to address various aspects of their health.
Through a program, they can be educated and receive personalized support to manage their conditions and learn ways to live healthier.
The health coaches, who are registered nurses or dietitians, can work one-on-one or over the phone to answer health questions, offer information and tips and even help develop a personalized wellness plan.
"We can set goals. Some people are gung-ho and want to jump right in there," registered nurse Marie Narrow said. "We set up follow-up calls."
The personalized support is important.
After all, as Wanko put it: "Everyone is different."
But it's really up to the individual to be successful.
With weight management, the person has to stick with a meal plan and stay on track with an exercise regimen.
"Exercise isn't something you do for one week," Wanko said.
Again, finding a partner to exercise with is a good plan.
And the exercising doesn't have to be done all at once.
"Exercise can be in intervals," Narrow said. "Take a 10-minute walk at lunch, another after dinner. That's 20 minutes. It can mean using the steps at work, doing household chores, raking leaves."
It comes back to not setting unrealistic goals.
"You can't let setbacks get you down," Wanko said.
A person who has a hard time giving up those four cans of soda a day may need to reduce that intake to two cans for a time, rather than eliminating those drinks altogether - at least at first.
Health coaches agree finding success with an anti-smoking or weight management plan leads to improved health, the best reason of all for embracing such a program.