Follow my journey to be Fit By 40
Over the years, I’ve analyzed medical claims data in over 3,000 projects and consulted with hundreds of brokers, consultants and employers, recommending wellness, weight loss coaching and a number of our own materials to raise awareness. In short, over the past 15 years I have been intimately aware of the risks and costs of obesity.
Want to know a secret? I, myself, was obese the entire time. If I’m being honest, I still am considered obese by standard BMI measurements, but I’m getting closer and closer to being simply overweight, having lost 92 pounds over the past 66 weeks. If you follow me on Twitter (@MJ_analytics) you are familiar with the fact that I am working towards my goal to be fit by 40 the old-fashioned way, through eating well and cardio exercise.
So obviously I was aware of the problem for a long time – as I think many of us are – but what was my impetus action? I think this trigger will differ for each individual, but I would guess most people can relate with at least one of the following blockers. Brokers, take note—this is how you and your clients can get wellness results.
Blocker #1: I’ve tried dieting before and lost some weight, but gained even more back when I couldn’t stick with it.
We’ve all experienced a grapefruit diet, juice cleanse or other crash diet to get “in shape” for a bigevent. As soon as we begin to eat normally, all the weight (and a few friends) come right back. There are two issues here: we are not thinking of making a life change and our goals are superficial or short term.
What’s working for me
My trigger to change my mindset was thinking of my food choices and lack of exercise in terms of addiction. This will not work for everyone, but consistent communication is likely to uncover the trigger that will. As a broker or employer trying to incite plan participants to change their behavior, vary your message. Celebrate success stories, distribute materials to increase awareness or focus on the risks of specific diseases. Different things will resonate with different people—there is no cookie-cutter solution.
Blocker #2: My goal is insurmountable.
Those who have struggled with weight throughout their lives will understand this one. If that’s not you, take it from me: thinking of losing 100+ pounds through diet and exercise, and thinking of the time it will take to reach such a goal at a rate of 1-2 pounds weekly, is a real de-motivator.
What’s working for me
About a month after my 38th birthday I read that women over age 40 had to do 3-5 hours of cardio per week just to maintain their weight. Holy crud! I had let myself gain something like 80 or 90 pounds in the previous 12 years due largely to inactivity. What would my situation be after age 40? At that point my thoughts regarding time shifted—I decided to change my behavior and take control of my future.
For someone else, hearing that even conservative weight loss can reduce the risk of diabetes could prompt that same eye-opening moment. Keep delivering varied messages and options.
Blocker #3: I’m scared to change and/or I don’t know where to start.
I suspect that there are some others out there who have never given much thought to the nutritional content of food, but rather focused on what tastes good—that was me. In fact, I’m regarded as a pretty great home cook, and take a lot of pride in that. Losing that sense of gratification was scary. I’ve also never been any good sports—physical sport typically conjured feelings of embarrassment. It was daunting to consider eating differently and exercising regularly because I was contemplating something larger: losing the compliments on my cooking and facing embarrassment at the gym. UGH!
What’s working for me
The first thing I did was research online food tracking tools. A co-worker had once mentioned that he was finding success using an app that provided him daily caloric allowances and the ability to track the food he ate. When he mentioned this a couple years ago, I was not in a mindset to take action, but clearly I had filed this away for use when I was ready (another argument for constant communication). I did some research and found one that works well for me, SparkPeople.
I’ve learned a lot from this tool, in terms of how many calories, fat grams, carbs and protein I should eat daily to reach my goal—plus how to splurge a little without “busting my budget.” I’ve begun to cook in a different way, and my husband says I cook better now than ever. While this tool has been the perfect fit for me, it may not be the answer for everybody—so be sure and offer options! There is no one-size-fits-all wellness program.
After a few months of focusing on healthy eating, I added cardio exercise at my local YMCA. It was tough to get into the habit, but after a year I now love the feeling of being sweaty and exhausted after a hard workout. This is coming from someone who avoided perspiration for 38 years!
The bottom line: Don’t give up on managing obesity costs
Different messages resonate with different people. The lesson to brokers and employers: don’t give up. Keep messaging, provide healthy food options, host wellness fairs, maintain a supportive environment and measure results. I highly recommend using analytics to measure your group’s preventive care utilization and disease states to discover opportunities and measure success. Let’s not get daunted by the enormity of the obesity epidemic.
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