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Sucess Story

Before & After: Making BIG Changes

Deb W. used Change Anything skills to lose sixty pounds and keep it off for more than ten years.

In 1996, I was asked to promote the fitness center at the nonprofit hospital where I worked. Fifty pounds overweight and anything but the picture of fitness, I wondered how I would convince clients to join the fitness center.

I wanted to promote the fitness center based on first-hand experience, so I worked with the director of physical therapy to develop a fitness program and started using the facility several times a week. With her advice and my research, I created and implemented the following change plan.

Personal Motivation: Love What You Hate — I needed to change the way I thought about weight loss and realize I was the only person who could change my life. I visited my default future to stay motivated and avoid giving in to easier behaviors such as sitting on the sofa and eating junk food. I knew if I continued on my current path, I could develop heart disease, high cholesterol, and other health problems many of my family members dealt with. Watching my relatives struggle helped me stay motivated in weak moments.

Personal Ability: Do What You Can’t — To learn the skills I needed to lose weight, I worked with the director of physical therapy and developed a fitness program. The first time I tried to use the cross-country training machine, I fell off. With the director’s help and through deliberate practice, I quickly learned how to use the machine and started working out three or four times a week during lunch.

I also realized I didn’t have the skills I needed to cook healthy meals, so I subscribed to a healthy cooking magazine. I now only buy recipe books that provide nutritional information and have learned to substitute healthy ingredients for high-fat and high-calorie ingredients.

Social Motivation and Ability: Turn Accomplices into Friends — I talked to my family about becoming my friends instead of my accomplices, and their support helped me stick to my plan. Instead of making a separate meal for myself, we agreed to eat the same healthy meals. When I started exercising at home, my children and husband exercised with me.

I also added a new friend when one of my best friends decided she also wanted to lose weight and told me I was her role model. This was a turning point in my life as I realized I could influence others—even those I admire—to change for good.

Structural Motivation: Invert the Economy — I saw pictures of myself in pants with an elastic waistband and didn’t like what I saw. I wanted my kids to be proud of me and my husband to be attracted to me. To stay on track, I created a star chart. Every time I lost a pound, I added a star and rewarded these small wins by buying new clothes when I earned ten stars. I was so pleased when I bought my first pair of size twelve jeans. I’m even happier now that I wear a size six.

Structural Ability: Control Your Space — I knew that to make a complete change, I needed to restructure my space in a way that supported my new habits. I knew if I didn’t work out in the morning I’d be too tired after work, so I prepared in advance. To get myself out of bed, I put my workout clothes in the bathroom, my shoes at the back door, and my radio on the counter. I also built fences to help me stick to my diet. If I knew unhealthy food would be on the menu, I ate in advance. I brought my breakfast and lunch to work every day. If I had a business lunch, I ate a salad with dressing on the side.

We managed distance by moving from our rural community where it was unsafe to walk on the road, to a community where walking became part of our daily routine. I also monitored my progress by weighing myself every morning. I didn’t want a 1-2 pound weight gain to become a 5-10 gain.

Through my change plan, I lost sixty pounds in one year and have kept it off for more than ten years. Quick fixes and fad diets don’t work. Hard work in several areas of your life, coupled with the desire to be something different, is what makes true change happen.

If you have a Before and After story you’d like to share, please send your story to beforeandafter@vitalsmarts.com.

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