Marie-Josée (MJ) Salvas Shaar, MAPP '07, CPT, has studied, tested, coached, and taught smart health habits for over 13 years. Combining positive psychology with fitness and nutrition, she created a coaching method that builds better sleep, food, mood, and exercise habits, as described in her book, Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person's Guide to Optimal Health and Performance, which includes 50 practical health-building activities. Today MJ gives keynotes for corporate wellness programs and offers continuing education for wellness professionals, who can license her Smarts and Stamina Online program. Full bio. MJ's articles are here.
And how much do you figure the average Holiday shopper has spent per year for the past 10 years? $500? $600? Try $961!
This year may be different: according to a recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being measure, the majority of Americans report they are struggling financially at the moment and almost 90% of people think their situation will continue to deteriorate. Our national savings rate has been steadily negative since 2005, a first since the Great Depression years.
Three Epidemics: Obesity, Inactivity, Indebtedness
If the financial news worries you, there is more to be thinking about. In America, over two thirds of adults and 17% of children and adolescents are overweight or obese, which costs over $117 billion annually to the country. In addition, fewer than 20% of the population exercises sufficiently to experience the health benefits associated with physical activity.
Yes, we are observing what are now referred to as epidemics in obesity, inactivity, and indebtnesess. These concerning trends are all on the rise, and there is no sign that they are slowing down. While any single individual may not solve the economic crisis, there is a lot each one of us can do to reverse the obesity, exercise, and spending trends.
What if we first take accountability? We hear about credit card debt and obesity as if they were viruses we could inadvertently catch through no fault of our own. Few people have costly medical conditions that drive them deep into debt, or that make them much more prone to put on pounds.
Similarly, what if we take accountability for the weight we put on? We have to eat 3,500 calories over our caloric expenditure to put on one pound of fat. To gain those unwelcome ten pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that would be 35,000 calories inside 35 days – or, yes, you got that right, 1000 calories per day! That’s a lot of food.
If your arm is easily twisted by family members wanting you to “pound down” – literally – one more piece of pie, keep reading. This article is for you.
Often dismissed as a no-glam strength, self-regulation may be the key to the ills here described. Problem is, it requires work and we tend to prefer the easy road.
But here’s the good news: Dr. Roy Baumeister suggests that self-regulation is a core capacity with spill-over benefits. In other words, if you can self-regulate in one domain of your life, you can do so more easily in other domains. Are you surprised that self-regulating in food may lead to better money management?
I have been working with a client for quite some time – we’ll call her Sarah. Sarah was obese, sometimes moody, and admitted she spent too much. We decided to get her started with a regular exercise program. Here’s what happened.
While Sarah trains, she’s away from the temptation of spending. Physical activity also boosts self-esteem, so these sexy new Versace jeans and that overpriced Coach handbag no longer appear necessary anymore. Her new posture – shoulders back, tummy in, chest out – is working wonders for her.
Physical activity is not only calorie expenditure, but it also keeps Sarah away from food for some time. What’s more, since she trains regularly, her body needs higher quality energy, and so she is naturally drawn to healthier food choices. Better food, better mood (for more details on this topic, please see my previous article Food Influences Mood).
Today, Sarah is still overweight, but no longer obese. Her spending patterns are much healthier and her credit cards are paid off. The best part? While exercising used to be an act of self-regulation, she now enjoys it and is convinced she will continue to be physically active all her life. (Need to get started? Try reading my Top 10 Stimuli to Exercise Your Body.)
Sarah got herself out of the national statistics thanks to self regulation and exercise. This strategy may not solve all the world’s problems, but it certainly can address the bad news about obesity, inactivity, and indebtedness – and help us avoid making things worse over the Holidays. It does require work, but the pay-off may be well worth it.
So how will you approach the Holidays this year? Will you mentally equate the Holiday enjoyment with a food coma or with cozy conversation? Will you need to undo the button of your jeans after your Thanksgiving dinner, or will you support the idea that self-regulation is sexier?
Baumeister, R. F., Gailliot, M., DeWall, C. N., & Oaten, M. (2006). Self-regulation and personality: How interventions increase regulatory success, and how depletion moderates the effects of traits on behavior. Journal of personality, 74(6), 1773-1801.
Boyle, M.A. & Long, S. (2007). Personal Nutrition, Sixth Edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Brooks, D.S. (2004). The Complete Book of Personal Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetix.
Fleming, J., Rath, T. and Conchie, B. (2008). Your Organization’s Survival Plan: When the going gets tough, high-performing companies make sure they double down their investments in people. Gallup Management Journal, Web Edition, November 13, 2008.
American Research Group (Nov 14, 2008). Shoppers Cut 2008 Christmas Spending Plans in Half from 2007.
Ratey, J. (2008). Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. New York: Little, Brown and Company.
Seligman, M. (2008). Address at the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology Summit, October 2008.
Shaar, M.-J. & Britton, K. (2011). Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance. Philadelphia, PA: Positive Psychology Press. (Added later)
Thaler, R. H. & Sunstein, C.R. (2008). Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.