Final FreshStart Check-In: My 11 Lessons, Please Add Yours

Payback time. This is our final FreshStart post. (What's FreshStart? Click here and read oldest to newest.) Thank you all for participating, and I hope you've found it worthwhile. Now for the payback: First of all, if you've been a regular, and would like a groovy midnight blue WBUR jacket as a reward, drop me an email. I've got a box full of M's and L's from our generous membership folks at my desk, and I'm just about to put one in the mail to Coach Beth — I figure it's fair recompense for about 1/1000th of the time and expertise she gave us, right?

Actually, that leads me to the other element of payback: We can give Beth valuable feedback on what worked for us and what didn't — and that may be a final bit of help to each other, as well. Please post your analysis below, and don't hold back: this was an experiment, and your reactions are a fascinating part of the outcome. Then there are the concrete outcomes: Are you fitter? Lighter? Happier? Not? What will you take forward with you and what will you happily leave behind? Also, what do you plan to do now, health-wise?

Here are my own stabs at lessons learned and future plans:

1. The importance of having a leader: I found it wonderfully reassuring to be able pose a question to an expert and get a quick and data-driven answer. But also:

2. The importance of having a group: I also found it hugely valuable to have a group of peers sharing their experiences, and being "in it" with me, albeit to varying degrees. A couple of my biggest revelations came from other participants, like Sara's habit of working out for a full hour. Here's my new fantasy: An entire group trained in wellness coaching techniques, all helping each other along. I wonder if maybe my book club would be willing to become a book-and-health club?

3. The challenges vary astonishingly from person to person: I had no idea how broad the gamut is. It makes me wonder how any one-size-fits-all program can possibly work.

4. This forum probably wasn't intense enough: A weekly check-in from an on-line distance seems helpful but perhaps not motivating enough. That said, I must also note that our metrics indicate that each post was read by a couple of hundred people — so who knows? Maybe we had effects that the comments could never document!

5. Limits of official guidelines: Sometimes it can be detrimental to report on health, and get too familiar with the guidelines for a broad population. I've concluded that personally, I need to work out more than most guidelines suggest, but I'd been letting myself off too easy.

6. But it's striking how even a little bit helps: I've only been doing light weights twice weekly, but my best friend recently accused me of looking "buff." (Of course, she's my best friend...)

7. We are so much more resilient than we think: The foot-injury pain that plagued me for more than a year is now all but gone, and cranking up my workouts seemed to help get rid of it. As it dragged on, it was hard to imagine that it would ever end.

8. Exercise does not equal weight loss: Against my better judgment, I stepped back on the scale today. Even though my stomach is flatter and I can see that I'm looking far healthier, I haven't lost any weight. Coach Beth warned us about this, but it still surprises me, and leaves me thinking that I need to tweak my eating still more.

9. I now believe in the magic of SMART goals: If I don't have goals, I don't make changes. But I've absorbed the wisdom of SMART — Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Time-Sensitive — goals, and am now working on a few new ones. Several commenters emphasized the "one day at a time" approach, to which I say "Hear, hear." But for me, having a bigger goal adds impetus to making the right decision every day. My goals now: Keep up my heavier workout schedule; figure out a plan for losing weight without suffering; aim to meditate or perform some other stress-fighting practice every day.

10. The journey never ends: It left an indelible impression that even someone like Coach Beth, who could not possibly look fitter, says that her journey toward better health never ends, and she's constantly experimenting and tweaking and adjusting. That's helped me finally leave behind my childish belief that health should be effortless, and accept that life will be one FreshStart after another — and maybe that's not such a bad thing...

This program aired on July 6, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.



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