The Role of Accountability in Your Health

The role of accountability in your health is severely undermined. If we want to be successful in most areas of our life, it’s helpful to have someone along the journey with us – our health is no different. 

 

Understanding the role of accountability in your health

To be accountable means to be responsible for something, such as completing a task, cooking dinner, or brushing teeth.  In this article, we will discuss accountability as it relates to healthcare, which proves to be a much more nuanced and complicated topic than first meets the eye.  Being responsible for health is challenging simply because “health” is a subject which requires a great deal of attention and dedication—an internal “drive” or motivation, if you will. Think of a time when it was difficult to harness enough motivation to do something “healthy”, such as exercising.  What if developing that inherent motivation to improve health doesn’t come naturally?  What if it’s easier to surrender to entropy, or if it’s unclear that your situation is capable of improvement?  This is where education and joint decision-making enter the scene. 

 

The physician’s role in helping patients develop accountability

There has been much discussion surrounding the idea of physicians helping to educate patients and give them more resources, which in turn should help patients develop accountability for themselves.  Having more resources of course is essential, because it not only allows for greater learning and expansion of ideas towards achieving optimal health, but it also provides modern tools which tend to simplify and organize our lives toward achieving our goals. 

For example, using your phone’s calendar to schedule workouts, meal-prep times, and bedtimes can help to maintain accountability because you have built healthy habits into your daily routine.  Eventually, these built-in reminders will lead to habits that feel like they’re second-nature; all of a sudden, it feels natural to exercise and prepare healthy meals.  Another tool worth using is an app like MyFitnessPal or CronoMeter to help elucidate how much nutrient-dense food each meal contains, compared to sugary foods which would be counterproductive to a healthful lifestyle. 


 

Intrinsic versus extrinsic ways to develop accountability

Intrinsic methods involve using the unique internal motivation in each of us to set procedures in place which help to achieve a goal.  Extrinsic methods involve “outsourcing” to external sources like friends, colleagues, and professionals to help in achieve that goal.  Note that some of the following methods do overlap between intrinsic and extrinsic, but nevertheless serve as ideas for creating a unique set of accountability-inspiring techniques.

 

Intrinsic 

  • Read books, listen to podcasts, and learn from people who specialize in what you’re trying to accomplish.  Interested in learning about natural diabetes treatments?  Find books by naturopathic doctors who specialize in diabetes, and take notes!  If improving muscular strength and burning body fat is part of your goal, listen to podcasts led by strength and conditioning coaches, and implement these changes during your next workout.
  • Schedule healthy habits into your daily routine.  This could look like simply penciling in workouts, meal-prep times, and grocery shopping trips so that your phone can remind you when you need to stay on track.
  • Meditate. This one may sound silly, but more and more people are realizing the importance of slowing down to speed up.  Sitting down for 5-10 minutes in the morning, taking a series of deep breaths, and meditating on all of the wonderful things you’d like to accomplish for your health is not only a great way to stay accountable, but is also an important refresh for the nervous system.

 

Extrinsic

  • Not sure where to look for help, or overwhelmed by all the options? Ask a naturopathic doctor for resources, or for a referral to their favorite leader in a certain field.  Doctors are always happy to educate their patients on matters of health!
  • Hire a coach, whether they are a nutrition coach, a fitness coach, or a mental performance coach.  Health professionals are tremendous resources when it comes to staying accountable, because when we spend money on something (or to someone) we are more likely to continue using that service since we have assigned a monetary value to it. 
  • Find an accountability buddy. This can be someone who actually accomplishes the task at hand with you (ie: gym buddies who work out together) or a friend/colleague whom you regularly communicate with to discuss whether you’ve both stayed on track. If you truly understand the role of accountability in your health, you’d seek out an accountability partner. For example, it’s easy to send a friend a photo during lunch time to show that you’ve brought a home-cooked meal from home, and they can do the same. This can be someone who actually accomplishes the task at hand with you (ie: gym buddies who work out together) or a friend/colleague whom you regularly communicate with to discuss whether you’ve both stayed on track.  For example, it’s easy to send a friend a photo during lunch time to show that you’ve brought a home-cooked meal from home, and they can do the same.

 

 

A habit-formation tip to make it all stick

Trying something new, and better yet, hoping that it sticks, is certainly a challenge because we often must break old habits in order to develop new ones.  One way to ensure that a new habit ultimately becomes part of your lifestyle is to attach the new habit to an existing part of your daily routine.  For example, if your goal is to be more active during the day, perhaps you can pour your morning coffee/tea into a travel mug and go for a walk around the block, instead of sitting at the kitchen table to drink it.  Creating habits in this way is an effective tool to maintain accountability because if something becomes an integral part of your routine, you are not likely to dismiss it on a whim. I hope you understand the significance of the role of accountability in your health!

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Dr. Houtaneh Houtan, NMD

Dr. Houtaneh Houtan, NMD

Dr. Houtan is a naturopathic physician who practices in Merchantville, NJ. She graduated from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (Tempe, Arizona) in June 2019. Dr. Houtan is extremely passionate about prevention of disease, and for that reason has a soft spot for teaching teenagers how to best navigate their health. Her primary areas of interest are endocrinology/fertility, gastroenterology, and metabolic diseases.

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