Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Posts tagged ‘motivation’

The Law of Unintended Consequences

I probably ought to give my articles more straightforward titles, but I like playing with writing a bit. Anyway, this entry is based on an article I just read, “Coming Soon to a Workplace Near You, “Wellness or Else””. It was very interesting, as it plays into some of my favorite thought patterns.

First, I love listening to and economist’s take on things. I read “Freakonomics”, and I listen to the “Planet Money” podcast. This article focuses on the economics of workplace wellness, and do the perceived savings really add up, or are the savings coming from other sources? The article states that much of the savings come from throwing more of the health care costs back on employees in the form of penalties or denial of coverage if they don’t participate in wellness programs. It states the actual cost benefit is programs costing 100$-300$ per person, with only a 25-40$ drop in medical costs per year. If direct health savings were the only incentive for companies, obviously they don’t have a lot of reason to institute these programs.

Second, I’m fascinated by incentives and whether they work, or, as my title implies, create unintended consequences. Are health incentives helping motivate us to get healthier, or are they coercive and unfairly punishing people? For example. Let’s say I offer to pay any employee to quit smoking. How do I prove it? Do I demand blood tests? If I’m a non smoker, it hardly seems fair. If I restart, can I get the quitting bonus again? Incentives seem like a great thing, till you see how they play out.

I want everyone to do everything in their power to get healthier. We know that people will engage in unhealthy behavior, in spite of repeated negative consequences. It is hard to know what will motivate people to change. It seems like this is a positive tool, but maybe not. What do you think? Do you have any personal experience?

Where is the Line Between Acceptance and Endorsement?

There was an article recently on the “Fit Mom” getting temporarily banned from Facebook for comments she made about plus sized models. She didn’t feel good about endorsing or normalizing obesity. This led me back to a struggle I’ve had for years.

First, I don’t like to see anyone beat themselves up about anything. I don’t think we have to be happy where we are at, that discontent is a strong driver for change, and as a fitness professional, I know that change doesn ‘t happen without a strong driving force. Having said that, there is a strong and distinct line between being discontented with your behavior and hating yourself. Self loathing isn’t even a very good motivator for change. I know people who routinely beat themselves up for whatever they feel they are doing wrong, and it does not lead to change. From what I see, change only occurs in the positive. “I’m going to exercise three times a week” works better than “I’m going to lose all this ugly fat by Christmas”. The second might work, but often, since there is no positive framework to tie it into, people slide back into old behaviors soon after achieving their goal. I think people have the mistaken notion that hating themselves is a good motivator or necessary for change. “If I don’t hate myself, I’ll stay this way forever!” That’s just wrong.

On the other hand, I don’t think we are benefitting ourselves by making excuses. “I’m just big-boned.” “I have a slow metabolism.” “Some people aren’t meant to be thin.” It is true that everyone  isn’t meant to be a size 4, or even 8. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be very fit. I don’t hear people at the gym making excuses, even if they are “fluffy”. It’s the people who are reluctant to change that I see making the excuses.

So where is that line? Should people stop challenging each other, in order to not hurt anyone’s feelings? When does it stop being a challenge and start being a put down? I’d like to see everyone challenging themselves, but that isn’t the case.  No one likes to be called names, and name calling is not beneficial to anyone. However, if you don’t want to be called fat, or in any way referred to as overweight, you do have the power to change it. I’m NOT saying it is easy, but it is doable. Any time you tell someone “You need to change ‘x'”, it will hurt their feelings to some extent, since it means you are not accepting them, as they are, 100%. None of us like that. I can say I need to be more organized, but if you tell me I’m disorganized, I won’t like it. Is saying on face book, “I did it, so you should have no excuses” the same as saying “you’re bad”?

Some behaviors are counter productive. Should we never mention to anyone that maybe they should stop/start doing something? Is it bad to say “I’m doing ‘x’ and I think you should too”? If you feel bad about yourself, you’ll take everything as a put down, but has anything you’ve read motivated you to change?

I do think we should put everything in the most positive light possible. You are far more likely to exercise if I invite to come work out with me, rather than if I say “you should go work out”. Motivation is the hardest part of any endeavour. People climb mountains and run triathlon if they are motivated enough. Without motivation, there is no getting off the couch.

So what are your thoughts? Do you have a list of do’s and don’t’s for motivating others? What’s worked for you, or on you?  If you are on the road from fat to fit, what got you started, and what things would you like people to never say again? Let me know

Wow, Inspiration of the Week.

Take a look at this kid.  Now, I know we always say ” Oh, stuff is easy when you are young.” But, no, it’s not. Kids don’t have the hormones to put muscle on like adults, and certainly, most don’t have the drive to do so. I’m not saying we need to push our kids into looking like this. This boy is an outlier- someone on the edge of a bell curve. However, he has drive and he is achieving amazing things because of it.

My question to you is “What are you going to do with your life?” There must be something that inspires you, that gives you drive. Are you using it? I coasted through a lot of years, just drifting and going with the flow. I don’t regret any of it. I have two beautiful kids that are successful adults. (Forgive my superstition, I’m almost afraid to say that, for fear of jinxing it!) I am glad that I have found passion, harnessed it and am making the most of it. I see too many people that appear to be sleep walking through their own lives. Some of that is caused by their lifestyle, being unhealthy will sap your physical and mental energy. While I do a lot of the physical things I do for their own sake, they also feed my body and psyche to do other things. I know you can’t change other people, but it is frustrating to see people throw their lives away, for any reason. While I can’t change people, I will keep cheerleading, encouraging, goading and prodding to get people to make the most of what they have. And if I flag in my enthusiasm, people like this boy will reinvigorate me.

little boy with grown up muscle


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