I read Dr. Bredesen's The End of Alzheimer's in early December (two months ago). Because I was reading it not with myself in mind (no Alzheimer's in my family) but for friends and families, I was not thinking I was reading about myself, my need for it, or, for what I might need to do. I really did not pay attention like I might have. It didn't hit me until after finishing the book that I fit the profile and needed the solution. Then I was trying to remember what it said I could do.
It was not funny at the time because my symptoms were at their peak. Thinking and remembering were suddenly not working well at all. News that I had the precursors and symptoms and needed life-changing intervention was a total shock and took time to sink in. Now that it has somewhat, I'm starting to come to terms with what this means to me.
I state all the above because the how I was deciding what to do kept changing while I was coming to terms with having significant cognitive decline symptoms and what that might mean to the future, still is changing.
STAGE 1: GRASP AT STRAWS
At first, I was sort of "knocked for a loop." My feet were definitely not on the ground and I was grasping at straws. Immediately I started walking, which for me at that time meant push myself to do 15 minutes a day when I wanted to quit at ten.
I also continued reducing sugar and simple carbs which had been out of control during previous stressful months with multiple trips. I slowly started backing off starchy carbs and working to eat more vegetables, especially more colors. I was already eating 2-3 most meals and I upped it. These were gradual unscripted changes in December.
STAGE 2: COME UP WITH AREAS NEEDING CHANGE
Then I started organizing my approach and aimed for the new year.
Before January 1 (less than a month after reading the book) I decided what I most needed was a series of goals -- 3 a month -- mainly for the purpose of lifestyle change by successfully forming many new habits. I think this is key. I saw successfully forming effective habits as my make-or-break issue.
STAGE 3: FIND DOABLE BEGINNING STEPS IN EACH AREA
I had a list of significant areas to work on from the Bredesen book (now not sure where they are found) and percolated them until I had 1-3 potential starting steps listed for each. This clarified further as I found Stavia's Primer and started reading and re-reading. I used her List of Basic Strategies (about halfway down page 1 of the Primer) from then on to do my planning.
Part of what I started with was finding things I could do rather than things I could buy. In my case, money is not my strength. I quickly learned most of the things that will make a difference take more effort than dollars.
Here is my original post on goals Working on simplifying a beginning protocol with specifics and biggest bang for bucks.
Lots of good ideas, but, members very kindly warned in one voice that I was trying to do too much too fast and should limit myself to the 3 goals per month. They were right.
Eventually, during January, I had to stop trying to do the others so I could make sure I did do the 3 goals consistently. And, I did. I finished the month a success and knowing I had to stick with no more than 3 goals per month.
STAGE 4: FIND A SYSTEM TO KEEP THE GOALS ACTIVE AFTER THEIR MONTH
Early that month at dinner with my son I was explaining my plan to have three new goals each month but to keep up with the previous goals from earlier months to make sure they became solid habits. I was concerned about dropping previous months as I focused on the new goals.
My son came up with the spreadsheet list I use today. It shows the 3 goals for the month with a square to check off each day if I do the goal. I know, grammar school.
- MEDITATION Word, Worship, Wait, Pray
- EXERCISE Minimum 30mins/day, 13x/week
EXERCISE 5 minute stretches, 2x/day
SLEEP Electronics off 9:30PM
- FOOD <100 gms carbs/day
FOOD Aim for macros 15-20-65
FOOD Journal weekdays on Cronometer
- SLEEP BLFglasses, mask, mouth tape
EXERCISE Minimum, 30mins/6days
FOOD 3-5 eggs, good fats, 3 color veg
First of all, I have one goal that doesn't change at the top of the list. This is my morning devotions time which serves me for meditation. I have real life experience with the benefits from this over the years so call it my "non-negotiable."
Lines 2-4 are the three goals for the current month. This is my daily focus.
The previous months have rolled down but are still on the list. Some of the early goals have been replaced with more ambitious goals, but I still diligently check off each goal (from all months) when completed. I literally peruse and make check marks twice a day. This keeps me honest that I am doing my current month goals as well as keeping up my previous month's goals.
STAGE 5: HOW I PICK THE GOALS
Remember, my goals are stepping stones to making lifestyle change habits. And, I choose goals on a "small enough to pursue even on a bad day" but "biggest bang for my time/effort/money basis." In other words, I want goals I can do (not too big) and goals that produce real benefit.
For example, I knew I had to change my insulin resistance so major food change was imperative and had to begin "right now." I also knew I was iconically bad on sleep all my life and figured if that didn't get fixed I was working against myself. And, of course, we all know we need exercise but my increasingly sedentary lifestyle, combined with 100+ pounds overweight and age (67), had gotten me to a place where I would have to work up to being able to work out safely.
I set my goals low because that's where I was. They were a stretch for me, but doable. I have learned it is the step in front of us we need to take rather than go for the big flashy steps near the end when we are in reach of the goal. I have some climbing to do before I can even see the goals!
I also focus my goals on doing the behaviors rather than reaching the desired outcome. For example, eating my veggies rather than losing 100 pounds. I find if I do the desired behaviors faithfully I will almost inevitably reach my desired outcome.
I used the same standard on choosing which areas to work on first. I figured I would get the biggest bang for my proverbial buck in the areas of FOOD, SLEEP, EXERCISE. Now, I think SLEEP has been the most important.
Yes, it is working. I'm finding my little system manageable and still, 66 days later, find myself able to at least make myself do the 9 goals to check off each day, with a few small lapses. Thinking of the alternative to consistency daily re-motivates me.
STAGE 6: RE-DO!
I give myself permission to let everything else go (if I am struggling) so long as I do my 3 main goals for the month that day. I can pick the others up again on a better day.
For example, after a good start in February on logging things on Cronometer, I got overwhelmed by it and finally just let logging the food go because keeping up fixing the food was taking all my time and energy.
But, logging the food stayed on the list and rolled down with the new March goals. My March goals were chosen as "non-food" goals because I felt like I had not succeeded with the February admittedly heavy-duty all food goals, mainly Cronometer logging, and that I still needed to focus on the February goals until I could do them all each day. I did feel like I was successful with the food because I ate according to plan and reversed the diabetes to blood glucose under 130 in less than three weeks. Still working on that.
So, my March goals were chosen to strengthen (so I won't get complacent) my other two main areas, sleep and exercise. Now I have to double-down on the February goals in March because, although I did a lot of good progress on food in February, I have not mastered them yet.
Yesterday was the first day I logged in Cronometer in many days, and did a rough job of it because my recipes (salad, beef stew) were not in Cronometer. My much more complete LCHF set of macros didn't show up using generic recipes. But, I did log my meals, badly. And today I am doing it again.
So, poco a poco, slowly sticking with it. Actually, I had my favorite saying in mind as I finally got a day logged. "A thing worth doing well is worth doing badly at first."
Logging is certainly worth doing and I seem to have had to be willing to do it badly at first just to get started. I trust if I stay at it that it will get better over time with practice and what a useful tool that will be to me.
STAGE 7: ALL THE REST
I have also begun doing a lot of things that are not yet in my goals. These are not written down.
- I knew I need to increase my social exposure locally so I joined the Senior Center and found not only some very nice people but many programs that are a blessing to me. I made my mind to never, if it could be helped, miss a family gathering with my son or extended family. I immediately started taking better care of my teeth and mouth. I am, bit by bit, changing a lot of things, but the ones I make sure I do every day, even if nothing else gets done, are the goals on my list.
And there are many things (like find a practitioner) that I am working on slowly. Some days, I can't even get to the forum because just doing my basics is a full time job.
I hope this can be sorted out to answer the question I was originally asked, and, my real hope is that some of you will share your process. How do you decide what to work on and how to keep yourself going on it?
Good on ya if you read all this! LOL It would take me 3 more days to shorten it so I am posting as is: a small book!
Truly, my apologies for the extreme length and my deep gratitude for all of you for being along for the journey.
Updates: minor typo corrections for ease of reading.