Accountability Can Lead to Success

Learn to Count On YOURSELF – How a System of Accountability Can Lead to Success!

When you are feeling motivated and excited to make healthy lifestyle changes, it’s easy to stay on track. But, what about when we’re NOT feeling so excited?  What about those days when you can’t seem to get out of bed to the gym or outside for a walk?  Or the times when you don’t feel like packing a healthy lunch? How do you keep those lifestyle changes in place for the long-term?  The answer is simple yet complicated – it’s accountability.   In order to get those healthy habits to stay, each person needs a system of accountability in place.  Everyone needs a way to increase the chances that they’ll follow their own plan they have set for themselves – at the times when we DO feel like it and most importantly when we DON’T feel like it.  An accountability system is how we get ourselves to do the things we DON’T want to do in order to obtain the things we DO want to have!

“What exactly is accountability?”

Personal accountability means that we are holding ourselves responsible for an outcome.  We not only have the personal responsibility to do the work, but we also need to own how it turns out.  We have systems of accountability in place in our lives every day.   For instance, when we drive to work each day, we are held accountable by multiple influences.  We have to abide by the highway safety laws – we need to drive within the lines on the highway and stop at the red octagons, so we don’t get a ticket! We also have financial accountability to obey the laws.  If we don’t want to have to pay a ticket, or worse, for the expenses of an accident, we will stay accountable to the rules and laws on the road.  The larger sense of responsibility is to the other drivers on the road and for our own safety.  We follow the rules so we don’t die in an accident and so we don’t kill anyone else.  Accountability is basically a sense of responsibility of an action and ownership for the outcome of that action.  

“Why is accountability so important?”

Have you ever laid in bed on a Monday morning and wished you could just stay there? What gets you up to go to work? What got you up to go on the interview for that job in the first place? There are multiple accountabilities that are effective in getting you up for work on a Monday morning: Financial – if you don’t go to work, you won’t get a paycheck and you won’t be able to pay your bills. Professional – you chose this career for a reason, and if you don’t go to work, will you be able to meet your career goals?   Personal – if you don’t go to work and you lose your job, your family will be disappointed and will suffer without you providing for them.  The accountability to go to work when you’re scheduled is pretty strong because several fail safes are naturally built in.

The reason this system of accountability is effective is that it does not rely on your own fluctuating motivation to remain constant. You have a set of well-established, essential values that you adhere to along with established systems to keep you engaged, day in and day out.

When you are starting a healthy lifestyle journey, accountability is arguably the most important element of your strategy.  We can read all the books in the world, consult the best experts, and spend lots of money on research, but if we don’t have accountability, our plans are just that – plans.  Putting the plans into action and keeping them there is a result of a system of accountability that keeps you putting one foot in front of another, even on the hardest days.  

At the beginning of a weight loss journey, we focus a lot on what we need to get started.  We might need a doctor, a nutritional plan, a new pair of tennis shoes, etc.  But what we often fail to plan for is the middle and end of our journey.  We need to be thinking about how we can make our healthy habits permanent, and not just something we practice for a while and then forget about it once our initial motivation wears off. If we are committed to the end goal, then we must commit ourselves to the habits that will get us there, and we need accountability in place for that commitment to take hold

“How do I create a system of self-accountability?”

The first step is to decide that you want something different and that you’re committed to taking action to make changes to your habits and your life. Once you decide that you need to change and that you want to change, then the next step is to have a plan of action (and not just a plan on paper!).

There are 6 basic elements to consider when creating a system of accountability:

  1. Decide Your Goal – Think about what you’re working towards, and this must be something you have some control over. For instance, we can’t hold ourselves accountable for the weather or other people and things that are beyond our control. Be realistic about what change you want to make – is it something you CAN change and is it something you SHOULD change? Focus on the “why” of your goal so that you can repeatedly remind yourself of why you started the journey so that you can continue your commitment to meeting your obligations to yourself.
  2. Round Up Your Resources – When you are getting accountability in place, it’s encouraged that you ask for help! Friends, family, co-workers, medical staff, fitness trainers, etc. can all hold an important place in your system of accountability. But, at the end of the day, you are the one ultimately in charge.  If you are asking for assistance, make sure that you’re not unloading the work onto someone else. You’re simply having someone check in on you and encourage you to do the work you’ve committed to do or to join you for part of your journey.  For example, a student’s resources would include books, materials, teachers, tutors, computers, study guides, etc, all things that will help keep a student accountable to their goals, which would be to meet the requirements so that they can advance to the next grade level. 
  3. Measurement Method – How will you determine if your plan has been helpful and fruitful? Who will track this measurement, and how will it be tracked? For the example of the student above, this would be tracked with scores for participation, attendance and grade performance. If you have nutrition goals, you might use an app like My Fitness Pal or Baritastic to enter and track your nutrition habits. For physical activity, there are apps like Map My Fitness or Map My Walk that can track your steps and exercise activity. You may have a fitness watch that tracks movement, steps and even sleep each day. You can share your activity with others like a dietician or other medical provider. You can even share with friends so that you can create a network of accountability within your community!
  4. Effective Consequences – Whatever outcome you achieve, you are the one who gets to feel the consequences, whether they are positive or negative. How will you get a pay off if you complete this change? What will happen to you if you don’t stick with it?  There should be consequences for both positive and negative outcomes.  For instance, if a student does very well in school, they could be recognized with a special award or may even earn a scholarship.  Negative consequences need to be in place as well so that if you fail to meet your obligation, you will be driven to do better in the future to avoid this negative consequence. If a student fails to do their work or underperforms, there may be privileges that are lost or punishments to complete.  Think hard about what you want to achieve and document the steps it will take to get there. You can use a journal or notebook to check off the healthy habits you complete each day.  I don’t know about everyone else, but the satisfaction of checking off a to-do list is motivation enough to keep working on your goals!

Think about what you already know motivates you and look for a way to use that currency to create appropriate consequences. For instance, maybe you decide that you will only be able to watch your favorite TV show or streaming episode while you’re walking on the treadmill.  That creates a positive motivation to do the activity, but if you don’t do the activity, you don’t enjoy the reward.  The overall negative consequences are sometimes too vague or not acute enough to motivate us.  “Getting healthy” is a great motivation to stay on track with our healthy lifestyle, but in today’s world, we are more accustomed to immediate gratification. If you are one of those people, create an immediate pain point OR reward to keep yourself propelled forward.  

  • Monitoring and Feedback – Check in with yourself and others regularly about your progress. Don’t wait until the end to decide your accountability isn’t falling into place like it should. Make sure you’re regularly monitoring your pace and progress. Should you be going faster? Should you slow down? Check in to make sure things are working how you planned them to. If not, make adjustments that are appropriate to your process, and get more resources if you need them.  For instance, if you have arranged for a lunchtime walking partner who keeps cancelling on you, then make a shift to a new accountability plan or partner.  Again, you are ultimately responsible for your own progress, so it’s up to you to ensure the plan remains viable.
  • System Evaluation – If something doesn’t pan out like you wanted, try not to get discouraged. Take any bumps in the road as an opportunity to learn new processes, new lessons, and new wisdom!

“How can the team at New You help with accountability?”

The staff at New You is dedicated to helping to create a system of accountability that keeps our patients on track during their weight loss journey. Our Scheduling Department will create a schedule of patient appointments and make sure those appointments are kept or rescheduled.  If an appointment slips your mind, we will reach out to get you back on schedule!

Our Insurance Specialist will keep the patients up-to-date on the requirements of each patient’s insurance plan so that the costs can be covered. Keeping this financial requirement in place will ensure continuity of your care plan.

When working with New You’s Registered Dietician, not only will our patients get the nutritional education and support they require, but they will also set goals early in the process.  At each visit, your Registered Dietician will review the progress and make appropriate adjustments. They may also decide to check labs to ensure that the patient is adherent to recommendations. For instance, labs can check for nicotine usage or vitamin levels necessary to keep our patients healthy and safe.

At the beginning of each patient’s journey, the providers will provide checklists to complete and assignments to do that will meet the medical goals established by the medical and nursing staff.

At every turn, the team at New You has a safety net in place for our patients’ success, happiness, health, and safety.  With you at the center, the team will support your journey for as long as you need it.

“How can accountability impact my result?”

I am not only a contributor to this blog, but I am also a provider AND a person living with obesity.  I have shared my own weight loss journey with our patients, because this perspective is important to them. They want to know that someone caring for them understands firsthand what they are experiencing.  Sharing what has and what hasn’t worked for me has been helpful, so I will share what accountability has done for me.

A great deal of my accountability comes from my co-workers. We are fortunate to work every day in a compassionate, professional, non-judgmental environment that encourages healthy yet realistic behaviors.  I realize that not everyone is fortunate enough to work at a place that is built on healthy lifestyles! Many workplaces are highly stressful, it may be isolating if you work from home, or they may have unhealthy foods or even cigarette smoke around all the time. Our patients are encouraged to lead by example. If you have a co-worker who brings donuts to work everyday, why not bring a bag of fruit as well?  Creating a healthy influence on your environment may be the only way to respond since we can’t control anything but ourselves! Chances are that you’re not the only one who feels the pain of the unhealthy surroundings, so you may inspire others to follow your lead!

I have been working on weight loss since 2017, and over the years I’ve been able to lose approximately 240 pounds from my highest weight.  However, since the very beginning, the one habit that I consistently struggle with is exercise, and this is also true for many patients.  For the most part, I really do like going to the gym.  But, at the end of a workday, it’s very tempting to drive right past the gym to get home and relax in my pajamas. The gym I belong to does have all the services and features that I need, but it isn’t cheap. So, I definitely have a financial accountability in place right off the bat.  I don’t like paying for something that I’m not using, so, when I do feel like skipping out on going to the gym, I remind myself of the expense that’s on the line.  Each week, I have standing appointments with a fitness trainer at the gym.  This gets me there for these appointments, and he helps set exercise goals for the other days of the week. So, if I miss this appointment, not only have I missed the exercise, but I’ve also missed visiting with someone who helps with accountability.  If I miss my trainer appointment, I am really cheating myself in costly ways.  Other times, I might arrange to meet a friend for a walk or sign up for a scheduled class.  This can keep my schedule accountable, so I don’t overbook myself.  Another way I help to look forward to my exercise is to have a podcast that’s reserved especially for listening during exercise. So, if I want to keep up with my podcast, I can only do that while I’m exercising.  Sometimes I even exercise longer because I’m enjoying the episode so much! These added layers of accountability are necessary when I might not feel the immediate pinch of missing it.   

When I had bariatric surgery in 2017, my insurance plan did not cover the cost at all.  With a BMI of over 67, I didn’t feel I had any other realistic options that were going to provide the results I needed for my health.  I was committed to going through with the surgery, so I had to find a way to pay for it out of my own pocket. With some budgeting, I was able to come up with the money to pay, but it was over $11,000 that I was taking from my family’s resources to address my own health. So, while I did have financial accountability to myself, the obligation to my family to succeed has been the greatest motivator.  If I were to get way off track, my family would be worried about my health, about my ability to keep my job, and about their own futures.

I have had multiple systems and levels and partners in my accountability system.  I am grateful for each person who has participated in making the pieces of my life’s puzzle fit! And I am grateful for and proud of myself for putting it in place and following through.   We hope you will use these steps to create your own accountability system for whatever goals you hope to accomplish.  Some accountabilities may be built in, such as regular doctor visits that are scheduled or membership fees you pay, but other accountabilities will need to be proactively created.  

If you’re still struggling with creating or maintaining accountability, take the first step by making your next appointment with your team at New You! You can ALWAYS COUNT ON US!