Below is a letter to the editor of the IDEA Fitness Journal. It got published this month, June 2013. a little background may help.
Several years ago, as I first started associating with psychologists who got the Eating Disorders Coalition of TN started, I was invited to speak to a group of nashville psychotherapists at their monthly luncheon. I had several months to put the talk together and was reading the basic literature on motivation, weight management, health behaviors etc….and found it all boring and out of my league, too. but one nite, around 3 or 4 in the morning, I had an ‘ah ha’ moment and went to the computer to write a 20 page, double spaced essay based on a few articles I had read and had an idea: M & M – movement = motivation. Based on the simple experience of personal training, many of my clients who would otherwise not do exercise, upon completing it, declared how much better they felt as a result of it. For those of us who’ve always been active, whether as exercisers or competitors, this was nothing new. For the bulk of our clients, tho, it was almost a revelation, one that kept them returning time and again.
When I read the article referred in the text of the letter from a couple months ago in the same journal it struck me that this is a concept we have yet to confront: the possibility, against all our constitutional rights, that we may need, eventually, to be forced to exercise for the wellbeing of our selves, our families, our workforce, and our nation. In grade and hi school, it’s called PE. in real life, in the real world, it’s called Fitness/Wellness behaviors. I can’t say as to how to do it but I think it’s the only true answer to our health care model and dollars. So here it is:
Dear Editor:What with all Ms Brehm-Curtis had to say about our obesogenic environment, I want to thank and applaud her for bringing in the conflicting reality faced by parents and young people. Navigating the twin tides of an environment that drives us to eat more of less quality ‘foods’ and a media-driven, as well as science-driven, emphasis on leanness, the challenges we parents, especially of daughters, and our kids face is tenuous. Even if we teach our kids to eat right, and to moderate their caloric intake to meet their physical needs, we still have to address the roles the media and their peers play in such a way as to avoid driving them into disordered eating behaviors. She rightfully brought this up in her response to the second question.
However, I would like to add to her message of ‘coaching’ folks so they can start to feel success, and maybe even enjoyment, in activity with the corollary goal of changing eating behaviors, the unspoken message. Several years ago I made a presentation to a local group of psychologists and psychiatrists on changing exercise behaviors. After reviewing the utter failures of various protocols, programs and behavior modification/motivation models I came to a conclusion few like to hear. It was, however, very well received, and corroborated by some in the audience: perhaps we need to simply move in order to get motivated. Draconian in its public policy implications, ‘forced’ movement may be the only way people will change their relationship to movement. This is what I’ve seen in my capacity as a personal trainer: people who make, and show up, for appointments, even if they don’t like them, will actually exercise. For whatever reasons, it’s often the relationship with the trainer that keeps them returning. But if some policies – school PE? – forced kids to get up and move – and to eat ‘better’ – via food services that provided healthy foods and portions – who knows, perhaps the next generation will be more inclined to take better care of themselves.
When it comes to healthful living, sometimes the freedom to choose one’s lifestyle is tantamount to the freedom to no longer have a choice. That is what happens when disease rules your life.