If you're eager to be a positive force, there’s no shortage of people that could use some help. In 1994, 10-20% of every U.S. state’s population was considered obese. By 2001, the numbers in 30 states grew to 20% or more. According to the American Medical Association, more than 1 of every 4 adults in Alabama is obese.
Being overweight is an international problem, and it just keeps getting worse. This is bad news, but could be great for you because it gives you the chance to make a real difference. You can use what you’ve learned to make a dent in those trends. All while making an even bigger dent in your waistline.
Here are some simple strategies to follow when you’re looking to build healthy surroundings:
1. Find reasons to get people together
This is a leadership practice that can easily boost your consistency and drive. A simple idea might be to form a group of people around common goals, like a running club. Instead of putting all of your energy into your own program, try to bring others along. By holding them accountable and motivating them, you’ll get better at doing it for yourself. What groups are you a member of? What personal interest can you combine with social time?
2. Create opportunities to trade knowledge
You have a lot to teach others. You also have a lot to learn. Can you set something up where people are learning from each other on a regular basis? Maybe a weekly cooking class. Or a Workout Exchange, where people trade ideas for “Fitting in Fitness.” Or lead a discussion about why chocolate is not a food group. What are you already good at? What do you get compliments on? What do you like to talk about?
3. Focus on pushing others and you’ll end up challenging yourself
A strong example of this opened the eyes of our founder, Chris, before he started SparkPeople. While at his last job, Chris started an exercise streak. Every day on his door, he posted the number of days in a row he had done some exercise, no matter how small. He eventually posted ‘100’ then ‘200’ on his door. One day, a woman across the hall followed his example and posted a '1' on her door, starting her own streak. After seeing great changes in her appearance, she was inspired to organize fitness programs and activities for others. She made a big difference because Chris had unwittingly helped motivate her. In return, Chris was inspired and challenged to start SparkPeople.
4. Use positive peer pressure
A simple way to do this is to just live as an example. This motivates others while keeping your own standards of conduct high. The other day, several of us went to the local pizza joint for lunch. After sitting down with our collection of personal pizzas, a curious thing happened. One woman in our group started dabbing the extra grease off the top of her pizza with a napkin. She did it without fanfair or announcement. It was just a habit of hers. But then the man to her left started doing it too. Then the guy across from him. And on down the line until the whole table was dabbing away. We saw her doing something smart and healthy, and instinctively knew that we should do the same. One by one, we imitated her without too much thought – and probably picked up a new habit in the process.