Imagine a world where college students can step out of their school and walk into a McDonalds. Imagine a world where soda machines continue to make millions of dollars per year by placing soda machines in schools and universities. Imagine a world where in our society, approximately twenty percent of today’s youth are considered obese. Imagine a world where obesity is killing more people than smoking each day. Imagine this world as our reality. Worldwide, obesity is a growing concern due to a wide range of contributing factors, and is an epidemic that can be controlled if a healthy lifestyle of regular exercise and a well-balanced diet are maintained and incorporated into our everyday life. Because obesity is so prevalent in the United States especially the southeastern portion such as North Carolina, I decided to do my behavior change project on increasing my physical activity for six weeks by exercising at least three days a week, balancing my diet, and also substituting sodas and juices for more water. With obesity on the rise, I believe that it is very important to stay fit and maintain a healthy diet.
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Increasing my physical activity was definitely challenging, but I learned so much about myself throughout, and I am so grateful that I accomplished such a challenging task. In the past I have tried to accomplish this goal, but I noticed while doing this project, that I started to approach the same barriers that I did when trying to accomplish this goal once before. One of the main challenges was time management. I could never find the time to squeeze in thirty minutes to an hour’s worth of exercise when I had exams to prepare for, project deadlines, and working twenty hours every week. Who has time to exercise? When will I be able to exercise? Even though these barriers were hard to overcome, increasing my physical activity felt ten times better and helped reduce a lot of those constant stressors that I constantly kept experiencing. Obesity has become a serious public health concern affecting a significant portion of the population in countries such as the United States and many other developed countries throughout the world.
According to the American Heart Association, among Americans aged 20 and older, over 154.7 million are overweight or obese. 79.9 million were men, and 74.8 million were women. Not only are American adults obese, but also our future children of America! According to the American Heart Association, 23.9 million children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years are overweight or obese with 33% being boys and 15% being girls. With these rising numbers, childhood obesity can potentially become the number one global killer around the world. The numbers of adult and childhood obesity are even higher among the African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40% of the children and adults are overweight or obese. If we don’t solve this problem, one third of all children born in 2000 or later, will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity related health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma (“Let’s Move”). One of the many ways to reduce some of the obesity trends we see as health educators is to increase physical activity by exercising and encouraging at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
Another way to encourage change in our clients is to push and influence the many health benefits of increasing physical activity such as: weight loss, stronger heart and lungs, increased bone density, reduced risk of heart disease and some types of cancer, temporary relief from daily stressors, more confidence about how we see ourselves, and more energy. Who wants to huff and puff just going up one flight or stairs, or jumping to get into our jeans? Increasing physical activity has many benefits that are not only physical, but mental as well. As a health educator, I would encourage my client to take physical activity one day at a time. Don’t bombard yourself with too much activity in one day that you become too sore to want to exercise the next day. Also, set goals! No goals are impossible and make the goals fit you! If you desire to lose weight, think to yourself what are you willing to sacrifice to accomplish this goal. How much do you want to lose? In what time frame do you desire?
Another big advice that I would encourage is to organize your schedule! One barrier that I continuously experienced throughout this project was time management and finding the time to actually get out and get moving. One big accomplishment to overcome this barrier that I discovered was looking into my planner and planning out the times and days that I had enough time to exercise. Not only organize, but also find an activity that you love and own it! One physical activity that I found fun during this project was yoga! Yoga really put me in a peaceful state of mind and it made me forget how much homework I had to complete at home or whether I paid my phone bill on time. I really connected with my body and loved it! Encourage positive self-talk! During this project, I found that I would negatively talk myself out of exercising because I would be too lazy or if the weather wasn’t on my side I would tell myself, “Oh no, can’t work out today because it’s too cold!”
Always think positively! Start slow and tell yourself that you CAN do it and the want and inspiration to exercise will become natural. Throughout this project, I knew that I needed a PLAN. I needed something that would inspire me three days a week to either hit the gym or go outside and engage in physical activity. One way that helped me accomplish my goal was placing sticky notes on the refrigerator to go work out or a question of whether I exercised today or not. These sticky notes also inspired my roommate to engage in physical activity as well! Hey, I mean you have no choice when you are about to grab that ice cream to look at the door and say, “Oh man, should I really be eating this ice cream today?” “Did I work out today like I promised myself?” Knowing that I had a daily reminder to exercise really pushed me to go outside and get active or if the weather was a little sticky, I would encourage myself to work out inside by doing squats during commercials of my favorite TV shows or playing tennis on my Wii for at least 30 minutes.
I knew that whatever I chose to do, I wanted it to be fun and inspiring to get me up and moving and change my lazy behavior especially when it comes to exercising. Also, completing my weekly checklist really hit home for me and could help me see trends in my behavior or common obstacles that I endured for that week. Not only did the weekly checklist help, but also writing a journal illustrating my journey helped me really become motivated and show how much I have changed from the beginning of not even thinking of exercising to loving exercising and how much fun it can be once you find the right activity that suits you and makes you want to move! This project really inspired me. I can’t believe that it is the end and I am a little sad. I had so much fun identifying why I wasn’t exercising and what I could do to change my behavior. I found some common trends in my obstacles from my weekly checklist such as: homework, time management, and self-motivation. I knew that based off these common trends, I needed to find some strategies that would influence me to work out.
I found that organizing my schedule, placing workout gear in my car, and managing my time really helped me accomplish my goals. Also, my new puppy Lola helped inspire me to go outside more and encourage physical activity by walking Lola everyday and not only encouraging physical activity for myself, but also Lola as well. I want her to have a healthy heart and lungs! This project was very challenging, but I knew that with the right steps of motivation, I would complete it with no worries and also continue my journey! As a future health educator, I have learned that change is hard. This behavior change project really opened my eyes to how amazing changing a behavior can be and what a long journey it can be as well. This project helped me be able to identify a behavior and target what main reasons and goals can be set behind this behavior. I really enjoyed this project and it really helped me see that I can do anything that I put my mind to. I want to continue working out and you never know, I could be your next Baywatch babe! I would encourage my clients to set goals, stick with them, and if they see themselves slipping, to bounce back and get back to it like I did.
Exercising can be fun when you choose things you love! I would tie my journey to the Transtheoretical Model of behavior change. the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) focuses on the decision-making of the individual and is a model of intentional change. The TTM operates on the assumption that people do not change behaviors quickly and decisively. Rather, change in behavior, especially habitual behavior, occurs continuously through a cyclical process. The TTM is not a theory but a model; different behavioral theories and constructs can be applied to various stages of the model where they may be most effective. The TTM posits that individuals move through six stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. For each stage of change, different intervention strategies are most effective at moving the person to the next stage of change and subsequently through the model to maintenance, the ideal stage of behavior. In the beginning, I can definitely say that I was in the precontemplation stage where I had no intention of exercising or changing my lazy behavior.
I knew in my mind that I was not going to change and that this would be a waste of time, but then I entered the contemplation stage where I said to myself, “Hmm maybe I could stop being a couch potato and see what exercising is all about.” As the project progressed, I entered the preparation or determination phase and got excited to get moving and start my journey of working out or doing some type of exercising three days per week. I set out a game plan and organized a schedule to motivate me to move and also get my roommate and puppy up and moving too! That’s when I took action! I got up and stayed focused on actually working out and staying healthy! I relapsed a few times, but I never let it get me down! I knew that increasing my physical activity would help me and I need to MAINTAIN it! Now, I am in the maintenance phase where although this project is over, I want to continue doing yoga and maybe look into some Zumba! A little shake shake shake can always get you up and moving and ready to start your day!
This behavior change project has shown me that I can do anything that I put my mind to. I really enjoyed learning about myself throughout this entire process and so thankful that I have successfully decided to incorporate a little exercise in some way throughout my day. I have changed for the better in a way that I thought I never could. My parents are proud of me, my friends are proud of me, and most of all, I am proud of me. I overcame my laziness and actually found something I can possibly love in my own way and decided that I am a great person through it all. I have flaws and I also make mistakes that I am not proud of, but this is I. This is whom I am and changing has shown me that I can do anything and has given me a better insight as to who I am as an individual. This class has shown me with hard work and self-motivation, I can accomplish anything that is placed in front of me. This experience will always share a place in my heart and I will never forget the memories and life lessons that I have collected along my journey of becoming a better me.