How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness
Author: Michelle Segar
Pub Date: June 2015
Print Edition: $16.95
Print ISBN: 9780814434857
Page Count: 272
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814434864
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It's Not About the Sweat
When Marcia called me, she was at her wit's end. Now in her mid-fifties, she'd been carrying around excess weight for thirty years, ever since she'd given birth to her first child. "I've tried everything," she told me, "eating special foods, fasting, diet plans from my doctor, jogging, the treadmill at the gym . . . Nothing works. I can't seem to lose weight for more than a few months at a time, and then it comes back again. I'm calling you because I know your specialty is motivation. And I need to be motivated!"
"Actually," I said, "you sound incredibly motivated. Maybe too motivated." I knew this would get her attention.
"How can you say I'm motivated when I'm five dress sizes bigger than I should be?" she asked. I could hear the annoyance in her voice, but I also heard the anxious pressure of should driving her frustration. She should eat less, be thinner, work out more, take care of her health . . . Like so many of us, Marcia had come to think of food and physical movement not as the life essentials they are but as "diet" and "exercise"--a type of medicine prescribed in doses of portion sizes and reps we have to "take" or "do" to lose weight and prevent disease. But when eating and moving become something we should do or have to do rather than something we want to do, this undermines motivation and participation big time. After all, who looks forward to "taking her medicine"?
"Marcia," I said, "I'm going to ask you to do something, and I think it will be incredibly hard for you. But I want you to at least consider it." I didn't have to wait for her response.
"I'll do anything!" she replied, sounding ready to jump off a cliff if that's what I suggested. "Just give me a plan, a program--anything. I swear I'll follow it to a T."
"Good," I said. "I know you don't have any pressing health problems, so here's what I want you to do: I want you to stop dieting and get off that treadmill."
"And do what?" she asked.
"How about just living your life?" I responded. "How about deciding that it's okay to forget about dieting? Instead of watching calories and driving yourself to sweat, you'll begin enjoying your life by being as physically engaged in it as possible. How does that sound?"
"That sounds great, I guess," Marcia admitted. "But I'm not really sure what you mean by being physically engaged. And don't I have to sweat to get the benefit? Or else why do it? Honestly, I've tried just as many exercise plans as diets, and I couldn't stick with any of them. I fail with exercise too."
"That's not a problem. I'm not going to ask you to exercise either."
"What?!" Marcia sputtered. I think she thought I was crazy. I knew that this statement must have sounded downright insane coming from a motivation coach who specializes in getting people to become physically active.
"The idea of exercise has become too much of a synonym for punishment," I continued. "You hear the word exercise and immediately think that if you're not drenched in sweat and gutting it out on some kind of complicated gym equipment for at least an hour a day every day, you're failing at it."
This hit home with Marcia. "Yes! Exactly! I can't stand going to the gym. First, it's boring. I hate those machines and dragging myself through classes with perky instructors. Plus I'm surrounded by skinny young women who run on those treadmills as though they're outracing the bulls at Pamplona. It's so depressing!"
"So why not move your body in ways that feel good to you instead?"
The complete silence on the other end of the phone told me that Marcia had never stopped to consider this idea before. Maybe you haven't either, so let's talk about it right now.
I'm guessing that you picked up this book because, for the first or fiftieth time, you've gotten up your resolve to start exercising, watch what you eat, get in better shape, and improve your overall health. I really hope you weren't looking for another standard diet or exercise plan. Because just as I explained to Marcia, I'm asking you to begin by doing just the opposite: Take a break. Give yourself some breathing room to consider where your usual approach to fitness and health has taken you.
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