Thursday, August 26

It’s Personal

Sitting in my sister Tammi’s house in Augusta, Georgia, I stared out the window at her beautiful Rose of Sharon bush. Its branches, heavy with their load of white blossoms, rose six feet above the deck before arching gracefully over the railing. Shifting my gaze to the right, I glanced at their forested backyard and two-acre pond. Sipping my coffee I absorbed the beautiful scenery before me. Giggling silently to myself, I remembered that, initially, staying with Tammi on her 13-acre property scared me. “But, but, if someone breaks in, no one can hear you scream,” I told her.
“Yeah, that kind of doesn’t bother me,” she replied in her lilting Southern drawl. “Besides, we’ve got about a dozen guns in the gun cabinet. If they get in, they’re definitely not getting out.”
My fear of the isolation slowly diminished and is now replaced with a sense of calm. She and her husband Robbie have a beautiful country retreat, only ten minutes outside town. It’s the perfect getaway. So while Michael partied in Vegas for his annual boys’ trip, the children and I enjoyed a final summer fling visiting my family.
The whole Georgia clan! My mom, two sisters and their families, and my family.
Whether dining with my mom, walking along the Augusta Canal with my brother-in-law Robbie, or sipping wine on Tammi’s back porch, the conversation always shifted to nutrition and fitness. It seems that everyone in my family is on some sort of health kick.
After five days of discussion on what it takes to maintain a healthy diet and exercise program, only one thing is clear—it’s different for everyone.
For example, my mom recently joined Weight Watchers. She finds that the personal accountability of a weekly weigh-in keeps her motivated and focused on making better choices.
Tammi, burned out from the gym, has decided to focus her efforts on nutrition. A busy working mom, she wants to get her diet under control and on autopilot before she reintroduces a vigorous fitness regime.  
For my brother-in-law Robbie, a multi-faceted approach seems to work. He runs or walks daily, watches what he eats, and tries to limit the number of times he dines out, since restaurant temptations are difficult for him to resist.
So what works for me, I thought? What motivates me to stay on track?
Back in graduate school, I remember Michael and I making a bet with Tammi and her first husband. I’ll call him John.
The rules were simple. Whichever couple lost the most weight combined, won the bet. The losers not only had to buy the other couple dinner, but when they ordered their meal they had to introduce themselves to the waiter as follows: “Hi, my name is [  ] and I have a weight problem.”
This strategy tapped into two elements of my personality: competitiveness and my fear of public humiliation. It worked beautifully. No way was I going to tell a perfect stranger that I had a weight problem. And Michael, who doesn’t normally give a hoo-ha about weight loss, can’t stand to lose, so his natural competitiveness kicked in too. Not surprisingly, we won.
Seated at dinner for the celebratory meal. The waiter stood before us and said, “Hi, my name’s Jason and I’ll be taking care of you this evening.”
Michael and I stared at Tammi and John, waiting for their reply.
Tammi dutifully jumped right in. “Hi, my name’s Tammi and, as you can see, I have a weight problem.”
Amid bursts of laughter, Michael and I urged John to introduce himself too. He refused. Embarrassing himself in public was not something he was comfortable with. Welching on a bet, apparently was. Tammi and John are no longer married. Honor, it seems, was a problem for him in multiple categories of his life.
The fear of public humiliation is a powerful tool. One of the happy side effects of writing about health and wellness is tapping into this aspect of my personality. By putting information out there, I feel accountable to you. I feel obligated to “walk the talk.” So as much as I hope I pass along good information and tips to you, I wanted you to know that simply by reading this, you’re helping me. Thanks!
If you think about a time when you were successful, not just in weight loss, but with anything, what helped you get there? Was it a supportive team around you? Was it a clear purpose or goal? A tangible reward? Public acknowledgement?
Whatever it is, apply those same motivators to your health goals.
If you need support, join a weight loss program, encourage a friend to do it with you.
Do you have a wedding or reunion next year? That could be your goal.
Eyeing a fabulous pair of shoes or handbag? Treat yourself once you’ve lost a certain amount of weight or lowered your cholesterol.
Are you like me and need public accountability? Start a blog! Or, simply tell your friends and family your plans. Trust me, they’ll bug you endlessly about your progress.
Good luck!

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