How do WE as bloggers motivate and inspire those around us to choose a healthy lifestyle? This breakout group discussed the ways in which we can reach out to those around us by using techniques and theories regarding change and motivation both on social media and IN PERSON.
Andrea Wenzel is a third year medical student at Indiana University School of Medicine. She has a Bachelors Degree in English Literature and Chemistry from Butler University (go bulldogs!). She will graduate from medical school with her M.D. in 2014. During college, Andrea discovered a passion for nutrition and fitness. She began exercising on a regular basis and cooking healthy meals for herself. Throughout medical school, Andrea continued to advocate a healthy lifestyle by preparing meals on the weekends and continuing to exercise (even if she was studying on the treadmill!)
As this was one of the very first sessions of the weekend everyone was very eager and willing to jump in. Andrea began the session by giving a very warm welcome and outlining the key points she really wanted to touch on during the session which included:
- What is YOUR community? And what have YOU experienced in your community?
- Strategies/Theories of Motivation: e.g. How do you help someone stop smoking? Or start a new fitness program? Fight Childhood Obesity?
-Resources/programs to help motivate your community when we leave FitBloggin
What is YOUR community? And what have YOU experienced in your community?
Andrea (@adoctorinthehouse): I want to hear about things that you’ve experienced in your community. How have you motivated people to change obstacles that you feel your community has to healthy living? In Indianapolis, where I’m from, there is a huge socioeconomic barrier for people to live healthier lifestyles. It’s hard for them to have good nutrition because its expensive. I know people say its technically less expensive to eat healthy, but for these people in extreme poverty, its not. And the low income low educated people are the ones who choose the calorie dense foods. At least thats something that I’ve experienced. So I want to hear about what you’ve experienced.
Below are the communities we discussed and the contributors/participants in the conversations take on what they’ve experienced.
Leah Segedie (@bookieboo): I’ve lost over 100lbs. I lost it slowly, gradually. No surgeries, no anything. It was a difficult thing, a challenging thing, not an impossible feat. One of the things that’s different about me from what I hear in the media is when I lost weight it was after I had children. I’d been overweight my whole life and I couldn’t lose the weight because I just couldn’t do it for myself. But the second I had children you go from thinking about yourself all day long to thinking about them all day long. So I did it for my kids. Because as a mom you only give yourself 5 minutes of thought a day. So why base your goal on something/someone you only think about 5 minutes a day? And I didn’t want my kids to end up overweight. I knew that the statistics were that if I were overweight and living a certain lifestyle it would be more likely for them to be overweight.
I think it’s great for you to do things for yourself, but my motto is do it for your family and/or for you kids. Don’t do it for you. You can do it for you, but for the group of people I reach out to, my community (e.g. moms), I emphasize doing it for your kids. Be a role model. If you’re a mom you’ve got a kids around you and they’re looking up to you, and everything you do is for them. If you’re role modeling for them you’re helping them choose a way of life later in life. If you’re eating healthier food, living a healthier lifestyle, when they get older they’re more likely to choose the right food. If you eat the bad food and live an inactive lifestyle, but giving them the good foods, when your kids are older they’re more likely to live that poor lifestyle because they’ve seen YOU eating the bad foods.
Role modeling is so much more powerful to help our community of mothers. Not only influencing our other kids but other mothers.
Almost everyone in the room has a day job that is outside of blogging. Below were the discussions surrounding how individuals motivated their fellow coworkers to eat healthier and get active.
Emily (Humana Vitality): I work with Humana Vitality which is wellness program that is associated with your health insurance. We focus on how we build community at work around health. People work for at least 8 hours a day, its a huge part of their lives and so to get people talking and active in a community at work for healthy living is huge. We will do races at work, or challenge walls where people put up their names and what they’ve signed up for. It helps hold them accountable to living healthier and we recruit each other to participate in a group. We don’t have meetings with donuts, we only have healthy foods available which helps us keep conscious of mindless eating.
Shannon (@badassfitceo ): When I started at a PR agency, I got my leadership to approve a wellness program in the office.This program included challenges such as creating a healthy recipe to share with the coworkers, as well as bringing in the healthy dish for a potluck. Other challenges in the wellness program included a strength competition in which they did measurements over 6 weeks to and the winner was rewarded with a prize (giftcard, wellness points etc.). Through this it encouraged others to start talking about what they were bringing for lunch, or what they were doing at home for workouts. So you could see the changes in peoples choices and how they were improving their lives.
Stephanie (@aahsteph): At my work place we were fortunate enough to have our executive leadership group to agree to provide standing work stations, as well as balance ball chairs, and even two treadmill walking work stations (they only go up to 2.5mph). If you start pressuring and putting presentations in front of management it helps motivate them to help your coworkers. The more they hear it the more receptive they’ll be to it.
Participant: You can still make small changes even without management. Putting together a walking group at lunch to help people get active and off their desks.
Participant: As a teacher who works with kids, challenging them in their PE classes helps to promote health and fit choices at a young age. You can also encourage those kids to bring home challenges to their homes/parents which then continues to spread those changes. The parents of these young kids may not be active, but by encouraging their kids to be active they will likely inadvertently spread those thoughts to the parents and help push it back up. This is not just fitness related but challenges related to eating healthy food. So going grocery shopping with parents and challenging them to get a healthier snack food.
As a PE teacher I’ll keep my fitness equipment out in the backyard at home and then my kids will come home to play with it. They’ll bring their friends over and then they all play with it together. Now those kids are involved in gymnastics and soccer. It is a ripple effect that spreads outside of the school to kids neighborhoods, then goes with the parent to their work, and so on and so on.
Gwyn: Cooking and swapping recipes at the kitchen at our church. This way we can do healthy meals by design at our church.
- ONLINE (Bloggers)
Participant: As fitness bloggers we have to remember that, whether we believe it or not, we are an authority to our readers. They take what we say and use it. So we have a responsibility to that. There are bloggers that are on weight loss journeys and then those that are personal trainers, so the level of responsibility is different, but it is still there. We must try to not preach at people, or provide them with false or inflated information. There is some kind of crazy percentage like 80% of all health/fitness articles on stories and magazines are based on marketing. They’re based on PR companies that are trying to sell something (e.g. Lose 10 lbs in 5 days). We are a source to help sift through some of these products/articles.
Strategies/Theories Of Motivation
- Find a Group to Work With:
Leah (@bookieboo): It is important to find a group that has similar backgrounds. Because people can relate easier that way. I live in L.A. where people go around eating organic this and that, but it’s not like that everywhere. There are tons of my readers that live in the South and don’t have access to that type of eating lifestyle. They face different challenges and so helping them to identify places in their local community, as well as online, is important.
Shannon (@badassfitceo ): It’s also important to make a group or be in a group but not make it a clique. You want everyone, on ALL levels, to feel like they’re included. Because when someone joins a group (workout, weightloss, etc) and they feel like they’re being left behind they won’t be successful. If people feel included they’re more likely to follow the programs/challenges (e.g. Whole 30, Paleo, Gluten Free) that are taken on by individuals in the community.
- Encouraging People to Make Small Steps and Celebrate EVERY Victory:
Tammy (@gingermantra): I grew up in Tallahassee. So being from the South my mom cooked in bacon fat, everything was grease/fried, and my mom sometimes refuses to eat outside her comfort zone. But she has to because her family comes from a long line of diabetes and heart disease. So to see her make changes is encouraging because it proves you CAN do it. And living in the South there is a huge stigma around black women that they can’t lose weight. But they CAN. So telling those people that if you get out there and walk a mile you did something. You CAN make a change. So encouraging that is huge. I have another friend who is hispanic and would say she couldn’t run that much, so telling her that it doesn’t matter. Walking is still getting out there. My mascot in my blog is a turtle, because a turtle is still going out and doing it. No matter how slow the turtle is making progress.
Shannon (@badassfitceo ): Celebrating small victories is huge. Making sure to encourage those within your community to share things that they make think are small steps/victories, but the continuous encouragement helps keep them going. Progress is progress no matter how small the step!
Me (@dancngurl02): My first steps in my weight loss journey was just walking. I didn’t even THINK about running, or weight lifting, or doing anything crazy. I just got out and walked every day and made changes to my diet. Because you have to start somewhere and I couldn’t even process the idea of running when I first started. The small steps help you down your path to getting healthy and fit. So just take it one step at a time and remind people of that. To just keep going.
- Emphasizing No Judgment/Comparison:
Leah (@bookieboo): We have no judgment in my community. When you come into my community there is no judgment on how long it takes or where you’re at. It’s a gradual process. Because I think those that try to change their lives overnight, and DO that are in the minority. Those that take the weight off and change into a healthier lifestyle over time and do it gradually are more successful in keeping it off and continuing on their healthy path. To be successful at losing weight and changing your life it needs to be something you can chew on.
Andrea (@adoctorinthehouse): I think this is super important because it is hard to make those healthy choices. And if you haven’t been brought up in a healthy environment you’re most likely not going to make those choices on your own. Being someone who was brought up being healthy I forget how much knowledge we all just have. We know what’s healthy and what clean eating it. Tons of people just don’t. They think eating a caesar salad with 5000 calories of dressing is healthy because it’s a salad. They really do and they think they’re making the right choice. So being able to empathize with them and say ‘This is really hard’ and I did it and you can do it and we can do this tiny steps at a time, I think that’s a better way to approach someone.
Me (@dancngurl02): Every person is on their own path and at a different point in their journey. If you compare where you’re at, which may be step 1 or 2, to someone who is on step 20 of their journey it is more likely for you to feel defeated and stop. To think you’re not good enough. But the truth is you’re just on a different page. So you should emphasize to your community to only compare themselves to who they were yesterday. Not to someone else.
- Be HONEST with your readers about your own struggles
Participant: People are more likely to respond and be inspired by you if they see you have struggles too. Readers or fellow moms/coworkers/etc don’t understand someone who seems perfect. They’re less likely to relate. And it also helps inspire someone to keep pushing through their own struggles when they see someone else who has worked through the hard times as well.
Shannon (@badassfitceo ): Absolutely. Be honest. I went stand up paddle boarding for the first time with some friends last weekend, and they’re people who come to my classes. And they told me ‘Wow. We’ve never seen you with that look on your face of doubting. It was kinda awesome to see you in that light.’ So it was a nice reminder of the fact that there is always times when we try something for the first time and by sharing those experiences and the struggles to do things you’re inspiring others.
Gina Butcher: Do what you do, talk about what you know. The rest will follow.
- Approach Your Readers/Community from a Beginner’s level
Participant: Make sure to not scare away readers/community members by using fitness/nutrition language that is too advanced. While they’re getting involved in the group they may have NO knowledge of what a circuit, rep, or tabata workout is. They may not know the different between gluten free, or what GMO stands for. While you don’t want to talk down to people and make them feel stupid make sure you include descriptions of exercises/nutritional information. This way people don’t get defeated or feel stupid when participating with others that may be more advanced or knowledgeable in a certain area.
- Have an Open Discussion with Your Community on Habits
Andrea (@adoctorinthehouse): Making changes doesn’t have to be huge or drastic. They can be small baby steps, but if you want to motivate someone to stop a bad habit and make a change, albeit eating fast food, or drinking soda, you have to think about what drives these habits. Cooking with bacon fat could be something that their grandmother did and so they are never gonna give it up. You have to think of whether or not they are even receptive to an idea. Talk to a person and find out what what they like or don’t like about their habits.
For example, if they eat fast food why do they like it? And their answer could be because its fast and its cheap and its easy. Then ask what they don’t like. And their response could be that they know its not that healthy. Those answers help you to identify a behavior that could potentially be changed. Evaluate these discussion and identify one thing (e.g.. drinking soda) and come up with suggestions, compromises, or other options for them. If they drink soda every day 3 times a day, suggest that maybe they cut down to one soda a day or once a week, or that they buy crystal light instead and put it in their water.
Shannon (@badassfitceo ): It is so true. People see someone who is fit and think they have to overhaul their ENTIRE life to get that way and get completely overwhelmed before they even start. When in reality you take it slow. Go from whole milk, to 2% milk, to skim milk. Go from 3 sodas a day to just one. Because that alone saves you 300 calories, and that over 7 days is 1 lb that you’d lose in a week. So break it down in a way that makes it easy for them.
- Continue to Share Your Story
Leah (@bookieboo): Remember that there is sometimes a time lapse between when someone hears a story, or sees someone living a healthy lifestyle and when THEY themselves may be ready to make that change. For me, I grew up with my mom cooking macaroni and cheese and all kinds of things that weren’t necessarily the healthiest. And my father one year had a heart attack. After that he changed his diet and began walking every day. He’d tried to influence me to eat better and get active. I wasn’t ready for the message at the time. But I was still watching and observing him the whole time. When I was finally read, I recalled everything he did. It was years later, but I recalled everything. So we need to share. Because by continuing to share our story people will remember it, and one day they’ll be ready for the message.
Tammy (@gingermantra): You’ll have people read your blog who never comment or message, and then one day out of the blue you’ll get a private message from them and they’ll tell you how they started walking, or they did their first 5k. And they’ll totally surprise you because you never knew they were even there.
- Help Provide Programs in your community for Children to get Healthy/Active
Andrea (@adoctorinthehouse): Childhood obesity is a HUGE problem Almost 1/3 of children are overweight, not including BMI. Technically, when youre talking about BMI if you’re overweight you can have excess weight from muscle, which is why BMI can be deceiving. BMI Obese category means you have too much adipose tissue.
Gina Butcher: If we want to change our community we need to change our children. Our families are used to eating fast food. As a teacher/principal we started to emphasize healthy eating and exercise programs through Physical Education. We worked with Food Co-Op to come and deliver food on Saturdays. They’d bring fresh food and vegetables. Every other week is delivered to the front door of the school and families get to come and pick them up and bring them home. They include recipes for healthy meals/salads.
We also had students build 12 box gardens at school and then pick the vegetables and had a salad day. They learned to build their own salads and see for themselves what was healthy.
Shannon (@badassfitceo ): And kids are so receptive to that. They remember what they see and do (e.g. eating healthy and exercising). So the younger they’re exposed to it the better. All of my clients at bootcamp know that their children are welcome to come and participate. It is important to include them in your life decisions. The kids come and they do frog jumps and jumping jacks. They’re ALWAYS watching. One of my parents came back and told me how her son had packed his mini dumbells (1-2lbs) she’d bought him to play with for their vacation and he repeated the entire workout they’d done in class earlier during the week.
Programs/Organizations that Provide Great Inspiration to Communities:
Andrea, as well as other participants, also provided the group with organizations that help support healthy living in our local communities. Below are the organizations we discussed and a short synopsis from each of the organizations websites as to their mission statements.
Girls on the Run - We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.We believe that every girl can embrace who she is, can define who she wants to be, can rise to any challenge, can change the world.
SPARK - SPARK is a research-based, public health organization dedicated to creating, implementing, and evaluating programs that promote lifelong wellness. SPARK strives to improve the health of children, adolescents, and adults by disseminating evidence-based Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health programs to teachers and recreation leaders serving Pre-K through 12th grade students.
Generation Healthy Kids – Generation Healthy Kids is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization focused on preventing childhood obesity through educating kids, families and the community at large on nutrition, health and physical activity.
This session was captured by Amy of It’s All About the Journey.