Sometimes it’s fun to fly by the seat of your pants. But when it comes to your health, it’s best to create a plan in consultation with an expert. For most, the best place to start is with your primary- care physician. “It’s important to meet with your doctor to discuss your health and fitness goals. What can you realistically accomplish and how can you get there in a practical way?” says Dr. David Katzman, a specialist in internal medicine with Katzman & DeLaney Personal Physicians. Katzman’s practice is limited to only about 600 patients who pay an annual fee to be part of his personalized medical practice.

“I talk to my patients about improving specific medical conditions, as well as making positive lifestyle changes,” Katzman says. “Do you need to lower your cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar? Would you like to lose weight, improve your strength, bone mass or endurance? What can you realistically accomplish and sustain for a healthier life?”

Katzman notes that many physicians in traditional practice situations find it difficult to schedule lengthy appointments with patients due to the demands of a large patient pool. “As a concierge physician, I offer the time to create an individual strategy that addresses a patient’s medical needs, prescriptions, lifestyle, abilities and willingness to become healthier. I believe that my personal connection and encouragement for each patient enhances their motivation and accountability.”

Another route to expert advice and individualized attention may be working with a health and wellness coach. “We all desire health, and each of us has a vision of what our healthiest, ‘best self’ could be. I work with clients to uncover their unique motivations, strengths and challenges in meeting their health goals,” explains Alison Allman, a certified health, wellness and fitness coach with Pyramid Health Coaching. “We define a ‘best self’ long-term vision, and then set three-month goals that will support this vision. Then we set weekly goals designed to take us down the road.”

Allman says her approach differs from a physician-patient relationship in that she provides ongoing support and strategies to achieve the kinds of health goals a physician might ‘prescribe.’ “Coaches help clients develop strategies that will work for them, based upon their unique personalities and lifestyle,” she says. “We believe that lasting change can only come with a commitment based upon personal vision, personal strengths and the development of a personal ‘blueprint’ that will provide a strategic framework for change.”

Whether you seek advice from a physician or a health coach, everyone can take a few simple steps toward programming a healthier you:

  • Identify your wellness goals and make sure your health adviser agrees they are appropriate and realistic.
  • Chart your behavior to get an honest assessment of what you eat, how much you exercise and whether you engage in other behaviors that affect your health, such as smoking and consuming alcohol.
  • Find an app that will help you track your progress. Katzman suggests Fit Bit, Weight Watcher’s PointsPlus Tracker and Lose It to maintain a food diary. He also likes Cycle Meter for walking, running or biking.
  • Ask friends and family to support you. It’s easier to achieve success when your loved ones are on board.
  • Let your results motivate you to continue and make your healthy habits a permanent part of your life.