How spectacular was my day yesterday? I spent the morning/lunch with my parents and newly-90 grandmother, and then I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Rob Dyess from Weigh Down South. If you don’t know Rob’s story, you should. He was one of the eight Mississippian’s chosen by People magazine to participate in a weight loss challenge early last year. (See how that turned out!)
Rob is a super nice guy, one of the most genuine and sincere people I’ve ever met. He politely endured my hour-plus yakking (what a trooper!) over a couple of ginormous glasses of iced tea while we discussed the similarities and differences in our weight loss and blogging experiences. I had a blast and hope to meet up with Rob again soon!
One of the neat discoveries we made during
my monologue our visit was that Rob is just starting a book I’ve just finished reading, the anonymous book review I alluded to earlier this week! What a lovely coincidence! (Rob, if you’re reading this, consider this your spoiler alert. You might want to bail out now.)
I haven’t always embraced change quite so readily. Well, not some changes anyway. I’m still not sure I have all the answers to how I made the fitness habits change this time around, but I’m trying to figure it all out so that I can a) share it with others, and b) change some other parts of my life that need changing. When I saw a summary of Chip and Dan Heath’s Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, I knew I was going to check it out. Oh, boy, am I glad I did!
The Heaths borrow Jonathan Haidt‘s metaphor of human behavior as a rider on the back of an elephant. The rider represents the rational, reasoning self with the elephant making up the emotional self. If you’re visualizing that, you’ll realize that emotion comprises the greater part of the picture. If you’ve ever known you shouldn’t be eating an entire sleeve of Oreos but felt powerless to stop yourself, you’ll see the truth in the rider-elephant analogy. One note though: While I like the analogy, for someone with significant body image issues, the elephant was perhaps not the best choice of animal. Why not a nice sleek racehorse instead?
But that’s a subject for another day. According to the authors, the model for change is the same across organization, individual, and societal levels. They use a variety of examples from each of these arenas to support their guidelines for making change happen. The Heaths contend fundamental change occurs when we (individuals, managers, community activists) do three things:
- Direct the rider. (Clearly identify the goal, determine the specific behaviors to be changed, and find/copy how other people got there.)
- Motivate the elephant. (Find the feeling or emotion, break down the change into small pieces that won’t spook the elephant, and build a growth mindset.)
- Shape the path. (Change the environment, build good habits, spread the behaviors)
The authors cite multiple real-world examples in which individuals (usually those without power or resources) were able to initiate great changes. I was thoroughly entertained, inspired, and motivated.
As for how it relates to health and weight loss, there are a few references and examples in the book, but none dealing with specific individuals. Allow me to be the first in saying that, looking in my rearview mirror, I can see how my approach to losing weight and changing my lifestyle fits their model:
- I directed my rider by declaring specific goals (5-7 fruits/veggies a day, 30 minutes exercise, etc.) and finding other people’s behaviors/lifestyles I admired and copying what they were doing.
- I motivated my elephant by making incremental goals and rewards and thinking of myself as an athlete-in-training vs. a big gal trying not to be.
- I shaped my path by bringing whole, healthy foods (mostly) into my house, finding good (or less-awful) restaurants to enjoy meals out, hiring a personal trainer to teach me to exercise effectively, etc.
Those are just a few random supporting examples, reason enough for me to give this book two thumbs up and recommend it for your reading and changing pleasure. It’s one of those books that I checked out of the library for the first read, but will have to buy a copy for highlighting and referencing again. And again and again, probably. I still have many changes to make, and I’ll be using this book as a helpful guide.
-No one asked me to review this book or offered me any compensation for doing so. Not even a free book.
-Links are to my Amazon account.
-Rob and I went Dutch Treat on the iced teas.