making the leap from knowledge to motivation

happy monday morning, everyone! i’m excited for today because the new dietary guidelines for americans are being released. i’m interested to see them. i’m planning to do a post about the changes for tomorrow or wednesday. stay tuned! 🙂

i had a fabulous weekend in st. louis! i got a couple adjustments, made delicious enchiladas, and spent time with my love. i did have one less-than-perfect experience this weekend that i wanted to write about, though.

i stopped at a supermarket near brad’s clinic when i got to st. louis on friday to pick up a quick snack to hold me over until dinner time. i threw together a small salad from the salad bar and grabbed a kombucha and made my way to the check-out line.

i made conversation with the lady in front of me and i couldn’t help but notice what she was purchasing:

this photo was taken very discreetly on my phone

two quarts of ice cream, a 12-pack of soda, a liter of coke, chocolate syrup, a bag of smoothie mix, some grapefruit, steamfresh broccoli, little debbie valentines sweets, and unphotographed were 2 large packages of ground beef. her total was $71.

i just want to say that i did not take this photo to be judgmental or mean. seeing this reminded me of a seminar that i attended last thursday and that i wanted to write about it.

the seminar was presented by dr. dorothy edwards. she does research with stroke victims on the effects of behavioral therapy and changing stroke risk factors. one of her baseline assessments of her subjects is to measure their KNOWLEDGE of some stroke risk factors: smoking, exercise, diet, being at a healthy body weight.

what she found shocked her: these people KNEW what they should be doing to decrease their chance of stroke. it is not a problem of a lack of knowledge in this population (which is largely minority and low social economic status). instead, dr. edwards talked about the fact that her subjects were not making the leap to apply their knowledge into action, even after having a stroke. she said it all came down to motivation. these individuals were not motivated to take their knowledge to the next level.

this reminds me of the study population that i work with. i do interventions to prevent weight gain in the summer in overweight and obese middle school children. when we ask these kids why they are participating in the programs, they say “to get fit”, “to eat healthier”, and even “to lose weight this summer.” when we do education with them, they KNOW that they should eat fruits and vegetables and why, and they KNOW that fried foods, chocolates, donuts, ice cream, etc. aren’t healthy options and should just be treats. but they don’t make any changes to their diets and are extremely unwilling to be active during the intervention.

i even spoke on the phone with the mother of a subject who is 5’1″ tall and weighs 200 pounds at age 11. the mother started crying when telling me about this subjects’ health history. she emphasized how difficult it is to be the mother of an obese child. but then later in the summer, this subject asked to bring home green tomatoes because the mother wanted to FRY THEM for dinner. this is a clear example of the knowledge of what is healthy being beaten out by a lack of motivation to change.

after bringing up this disconnect between knowledge and motivation in her subject population, dr. edwards talked about herself. she is highly educated on diet, and while she does eat well, she does indulge (and over-indulge) more often then she should. her last point was exercise. she passes FOUR gyms every day, and has not set food in one for months, even though she knows she should (and she is the chair of a KINESIOLOGY department).

this made me think of myself. i am NOT at a healthy weight, and i study the impact of overweight and obesity on health EVERY DAY. i know what foods to eat and in what portion sizes – and i certainly don’t stick to that 100%. and finally, i know how important exercise is for overall health and fitness. and lately, if i exercise 4 times a week, i’m impressed.

so, if she doesn’t even motivate herself to eat better and exercise and i don’t motivate myself to eat well and excercise, how can we motivate individuals with less opportunities to eat well and exercise to do so?

i’m sure the woman that i met in the grocery store knows that ice cream, soda, little debbie snacks, and chocolate syrup aren’t the healthiest options. for $71, she could have a supply of healthy, whole foods for a week! but seemingly, she isn’t motivated to buy fruits, vegetables, lean meats, etc., or at least she wasn’t motivated to do it when i saw her on friday.

so, now i want to ask you what you think about this.

how can we motivate people who face income and access barriers to make changes in their diet and exercise?

what motivates you?

how do you make the leap from KNOWING what is good for you, and APPLYING it?

i know this is a really hard question, and there are a lot of people trying to answer this question. i would just love to hear your thoughts.

About sarah

hi, i'm sarah. i'm a graduate student, dog lover, newlywed, blogger, aspiring baker/cook, and a veggie lover. :)
This entry was posted in healthy living, nutrition, ramblings. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to making the leap from knowledge to motivation

  1. I use my nutrition degree every time I stuff food in my face. but oh my gawwwwd do I skip exercise! I know i’m being awful and getting flabby and “fluffy” as my boss once told me (fluffy means soft apparently? whatev. it sucks!)

    I need motivation pronto! I wish I had a magic answer to respond with. But i’m totally lacking. Your post is sooooo true… there are tons of us out there that know what we should be doing and how to do it — but just don’t for one reason or another. Habit… routine… difficulty… laziness… whatever the case may be – something has got to give, america!

    ok enough blabbering! love ya girl!

    • Sarah says:

      i totally agree when you say you use your nutrition degree every time you eat. i definitely make better decisions now than i did before studying nutrition!

      i’m also getting my winter fluff – not cool. i know how to change it, now i just have to do it!!

  2. oatsandspice says:

    I love St. Louis – such a fun city!!!

    Your blog it so cute! I can’t wait to read more… I just started blogging about two month ago – it is SO addicting 🙂 Check out my page if you get a chance:

  3. I have been fortunate in that healthy living was just second-nature to me. My parents set good examples, so that was just the way of life around our house.

    Still, it isn’t always easy to get motivated. I have to just do some internal reflection to realize why healthy eating and exercise are important: So that I’m healthy, happy and able to do the things I want.

    • Sarah says:

      those are great motivators! i grew up in a really healthy family too. setting that strong foundation for healthy eating and activity is huge. i credit my mom and dad for me not being picky and liking pretty much every single vegetable i meet!

  4. omgggg have fun with your registry! =) I wound up buying most of the stuff on mine! lol! ❤

    Ohmygosh and you are officially on my blogroll now! It's about freaking time right? I'm so slow.


  5. those are definitely some tough questions. i motivate myself by reminding myself that now that I am making dietetics my career, people are going to look to me as an example whether I like it or not. Even though i’m not perfect, and i don’t eat the right stuff 100% of the time, i make the effort to do it most of the time, and i make the effort to share my knowledge in conjunction with what i’m doing in real life. if people can see that it’s working for me, they’re more likely to believe it will work for them too- as opposed to trying to learn about nutrition from someone who is overweight and sitting behind a desk downing a bag of potato chips? you know what i mean?
    as for the underprivileged? i agree that it’s a huge problem. I think recent changes to programs like WIC (restricting certain foods and beverages from being bought with coupons) are helping, but they can’t do at all, especially since WIC is a supplemental food program. i think focusing on educating people on ways they can exercise inexpensively (walking outside is free! or using things they already as weights (milk jugs or soup cans) are the best tools we can give them. teaching them about things like how frozen vegetables can be just as healthy as fresh but can often be found at lower prices is also a good start. but, sadly, sometimes what it comes down to is- we can’t do it for them. they have to want it for themselves.

    • Sarah says:

      you make such a good point about being a good role model for anyone who knows your career. it’s natural for dietitians to be seen as examples to follow. i have a good friend who is extremely unhealthy. she is going back to school for her rd, but what you mentioned is the first thought i had when she told me her plans. it’s the same thing as going to a gym and meeting an unfit trainer. how can you take their advice?

      did you watch the press conference about the new guidelines today? they talked about changing how the SNAP program reimburses stores for produce bought with SNAP. i think that’s another good example of improvements that are being done to make the healthy choices easier for underprivileged to make. but you’re right, we can do it for them – they need to want it.

  6. such a great post.. and very good job on the photo 😉
    i am motivated by the fact that healthy food and exercise makes me FEEL so FREAKINg amazing and good.. i think a lot of ppl do know, but since they havent experienced the effects of healthy changes.. they are too scared to tak the plunge

    • Sarah says:

      it is scary for people to take the plunge. there is an element of fear in trying to make major lifestyle changes. what if they fail? people just need to take the plunge and try making changes. i can’t imagine any situations where they would end up worse than they began.

      i do the same thing when i need extra motivation to exercise – i remind myself about how great it feels to exercise!

  7. I’m constantly in that battle of knowing whats good and applying it-in all staples of life. Now, it’s with losing weight. I know how, and I know what works for me (in a healthy way) it’s applying it and making it happen!

    • Sarah says:

      yep, it’s so hard to to apply what you know will be good for you! what is good for us is usually not the most fun option or the easiest one. grr.

  8. Cait says:

    I’ve never been an overweight person, but I def know that I should maintain how to eat healthy and to exercise. I’m trying to apply to it by eating healthy with the help of my sister who just turned vegetarian and really turning me on to new and yummy dishes! Plus- I joined a gym to get motivated and start a new well balance life 🙂

  9. Wow that’s nothin but sugar in her grocery basket! I didn’t for a moment think it was judgemental or mean of you to snap the photo. Maybe if you took a photo of HER, but, you’re just documenting real life stuff.
    it’s almost an impossible task to motivate people to eat well. At my job, I work with 6 others. I’m the healthy eater, I always turn down the treats, and they just don’t *get* it.
    I really think it’s a matter of the light going on in their head, and it has to be self motivating. No one wants to hear what they can or can’t eat. I got that from my mom as a kid & rebelled by eatting cookies!

    • Sarah says:

      thanks for making me feel better about taking the photo. i know it wasn’t mean, but sometimes people interpret things so incorrectly on blogs! i didn’t want to get attacked for being judgmental or something.

      that’s true. you can’t just tell people what to do or not do. i’m that same as you – that would make me want to do the things i’m not supposed to do even more! i wish there was a way to get people to get their light bulb moment though. sometimes i get so frustrated with people in such poor health who still will not make changes.

  10. Bethany says:

    This is so true! My mom used to say, “there’s still 12 inches between the head and the heart” — I think we all struggle to move our “head” knowledge to our “heart,” to motivate us into action!

  11. This is such an interesting topic. I believe that people who are financially well-off and have a discretionary income are more likely to eat healthier because they have the money to do so. However, I also think education plays a huge role in this (and obviously, higher education usually translates to higher pay) but I think that low-income people just might not understand what is healthy, what healthy options are and what they could buy with the money they have. Not sure if I even make sense right now – but this is something that my husband and I love talking about (money, education & healthy lifestyles!).

    • Sarah says:

      you do make sense, but that’s why this seminar was so interesting. when they asked the subjects (low income, majority minority, and lower education levels) they knew what things they should be changing to be healthier and lower their risk. but even though they know what to do, they’re not putting it into practice. maybe what they don’t know is how to make their lower income stretch to buy the food/equipment to be healthier.

  12. Really interesting thoughts! I’m pretty good at eating well, because I enjoy eating healthy foods, but exercise is my big problem for motivation, too.

    • Sarah says:

      i feel lucky that i like to eat healthy foods too. it must be frustrating for people who DON’T like a lot of the healthier foods. or don’t know how to prepare them in ways that they like them (like you and your broccoli!).

  13. My mom pointed out then when she started weight watchers I became much more aware of calories and slowly making progress to being ‘healthy’ It’s been a long journey and man do I still have a long way to go but I try to keep myself in check!

    • Sarah says:

      i think having a role model like your mom is so important for teaching us healthy habits. it’s hard to motivate yourself to be healthy when you don’t really have anyone to follow!

      keep up your healthy changes! 🙂

  14. New guidline for americans sounds so interesting thanks for this post! I learned a lot and I enjoyed the question you proposed at the end it is hard to apply what we know but we must try!

    • Sarah says:

      thanks for stopping by angie! i’m glad you liked today’s topic. i just posted my thoughts on the new dietary guidelines if you’re interested in seeing more about them.

  15. Pingback: making the leap from knowledge to motivation | sarah learns | Online Health Motivation

  16. Great post and discussion. It’s a topic I struggle with, especially now that I’m a mom and I have to bite my tongue so often as I watch my friends feeds their kids bad food. It’s one thing to screw up your own health, but to start your kids on a path they will have to find the strength to deviate from someday is another story.

    Very few people can eat and exercise 100% correctly (whatever that is). Real life gets in the way with commitments, jobs, illness and the like. But that doesn’t mean we should throw in the towel and do nothing. I feel so much better when I eat clean and stay active. I think each person has to get to a point where they WANT to eat healthy and stay fit, where they FEEL the benefits and don’t do it out of obligation.

    • Sarah says:

      i agree, michelle! thanks so much for stopping by and adding to the conversation here. i feel strongly about giving children a good foundation for nutrition beginning as early as possible. i’ve mentioned it before in the comments, but my research is with overweight middle school children. i have experienced that they don’t have a great nutrition environment at home, and it shows in the food preferences.

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