We hear so many colloquialisms to explain how things are better when you work together. Things like
"it takes a village."
This cliched statement is true. Most people have a better chance of succeeding if they have people supporting their actions.
US Americans NEED to improve our health and one way to get there is through collaboration. And a lot of this collaboration can happen online. Doctors and providers finally have electronic health records; if we combine their access, our love for social media and our obsession with the quantified self we might be able to make a real difference.
When we describe ourselves, we do one of two things.
If someone asks you how much you exercise, you're more likely to reflect on your best-case scenario. For three months I tried to take an hour long walk every single day. My goal was 5 times a week, I knew weather, obligations and fatigue would dictate performance. It was a great time. I walked A LOT, I was thinner, it helped with stress, I felt healthier and I really got to know my surrounding area (I was wintering in Miami at the time). When I look back at my RunKeeper logs from the time, I was actually only exercising about 3 times a week. I would have been discouraged by this information, if I hadn't been able to see my trends and understand what a big impact I was making on my life. The scale didn't change too much, but I was thinner and my clothes fit differently.
I've never been a big fan of broadcasting my RunKeeper results. I broadcast a lot of things and, believe it or not, I do have a few things I keep to myself so I don't overwhelm my friends and colleagues (I can have a bit of an overwhelming personality). But, if I was broadcasting my results, I have friends and family I KNOW would encourage me. They would notice my activity has slowed significantly lately and they would call me out on it (Megan, Marie, Karen, Shannon and Joe, I'll get better again, I promise). These friends love me and are healthy. They want me to be healthy so they encourage me. But at the same time, there is only going to be so much they will say. They love me how I am and ultimately it's not up to them to make me healthy - it's up to me.
I am a lot like the writer of the RunKeeper article that shows her response to motivational quotes. I hate exercising. I hate the smug things people do when they are fit. I hate it when people encourage you too much or about all the wrong things. I hate it because I am out of shape. I hate it because not doing it is easy and doing it is hard and not doing it just shows everyone I have a gigantic weakness. When I get in shape, I love it (or I get close to loving it). I get addicted just like everyone else. There is just so much that has to happen for me to get there.
If I add pressure from my primary care physician and some of my alternative medicine folks to the pressure my friends give me, perhaps things would change?
If I was able to release my information to people so I got consistent feedback, I bet I would change my ways.
I thrive off praise and encouragement and get discouraged quickly if I don't get it (yes, I was the spoiled youngest kid in our family).
Having consistent, on message feedback from people who are invested in my health would be like having my own personal advertising campaign. DAMN. I need that. And I need to say to myself:
"Get off your lazy ass, Virginia. Stop watching Friday Night Lights and go take a walk around the block."
I can probably do this.
So, I guess I am going to do this. I am going to take my quest to get healthier public. Not because I want feedback from strangers, but so that we can have interesting conversations about how things are progressing. So here's how it will go:
- I will not auto-post my RunKeeper results. Y'all don't want to see each post out of context. Instead I will post a round-up of my progress. Probably monthly, or when there is a significant milestone.
- I will not whine about it or ask you guys for encouragement - though make no mistake - I do want encouragement. But not blanket "you can do this" shit. I'd like to have a real conversation about health-related topics.
- I will not post about it as much as I have posted about NC in the past few weeks.
- It will be integrative. I will get a personal trainer for monthly check-ins. I will seek alternative approaches that might help (massage? acupuncture? TBD). I will discuss what is covered by insurance and what is not.
- I will look at genetics and go beyond family oral histories.
- I will manage this while living in several different locations - meaning a lot of this will have to happen outside of a regular gym. This will help me stay creative.
- I'll keep it electronic. To help make it quantifiable and easy to compare results.
- I will keep track of eating and drinking (both alcohol and water) trends - but I won't go on a diet. Writing this article made me eat two candy bars today --- and I don't even really like candy all that much.
I want to have conversations about it, because I want to be accountable. Will y'all help me stay accountable? In turn, I promise to hold you accountable if you are doing the same thing.
Yes, I did go on a walk today. And those candy bars were worth every bite.