Thursday, October 2, 2014

Notes from MOTIVATE: A health and behavior change summit (a saga in two parts)

This is going to be hard to write, as I'm still processing much of what it was said and trying to fit it into the relationships I have with current clients and the classes I teach. So bear with me if something doesn't make sense. And I won't feel bad if you get two sentences in and go somewhere else...

So what was the Motivate Summit? What the hell is an "un-conference"?

From the website:

"Personal trainers, strength coaches, physical therapists, doctors, RDs, nutritionists, yoga instructors, and coaches of all types are good at our jobs. But being the best in the world for an hour a week still leaves 167 hours that our clients can take our advice, or not. Continue to make progress, or not. Take 1 step forward and 167 steps back. So the question arises:

What about the other 167 hours?"

And the un-conference part of it? Rather than a regular conference, where speakers have already been given time slots and topics to present upon, the attendees come with questions or discussion ideas they want to bounce back and forth with other professionals. 

Here are some of the discussions I took part of:

Massive Action vs. Slow Change

People are inundated with promises of "6 min abs" and "90 day fat blasts" and this discussion was about, even though we know slow change through small but significant lifestyle changes is the way to long term success, if there a place for a promise of a 6 week, big results, bootcamp style promise to get people hooked? 

The thing with a lot of 6 week, and even 3 month, challenges ask their participants to put in so much effort to get the changes they want to see that, for a vast majority, those changes aren't sustainable after the end of the challenge. In the best scenarios I've seen, people will just go back to their previous habits. In the normal situations, people give themselves a "complete treat" or a "completion celebration" and go off the deep end. They only slowly swim their way out of the deep end, leaving them right where they were before they began. 

So sometimes it seems that either way clients can get discouraged. Either they aren't seeing the results they want to fast enough, or they see them but are so worn down after several weeks of EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT they give up and give in. 

Some of the ideas we bounced off:
1) Get the client to focus on function rather than weight. Many people will see increases in skill, mobility, and strength before they composition becomes noticeable. 
2) "If I got my medical degree in 90 days, would you trust me?" Reminding the client that anything worth working for takes time. And it's no different with changing your life. 
3) Try to change what "massive" means. Going from 0 to 1 is a huge deal. It's creating something from nothing. And that should be celebrated and put in the right context. 

Dealing with "Habit Hangovers": What to do when a client falls off the wagon. 

We've all been there. Where you're really gung-ho about getting on a new program, whether it's getting up early for training, a new diet regiment, adding a new dimension to your current training Your start out strong for about 4 weeks and, hey! this is going great! Then week 5 comes around and it hits you that you have nothing left to give and it all goes away. 

You've spent all your motivation and it gave you a case of the fuck-its. 

We see it happen a lot with ourselves and with our clients. Clients come to us because they finally have the motivation to start making changes. And even when given something really small to do, with out some failsafes in place, clients will go whole hog into it and exhaust themselves. 

Some ideas we bounced around:

1) Get client to rope in a buddy. Can they hook up with a spouse, coworker, or friend to exercise the habit with and hold each other accountable?
2) Make the habit scalable. So they are supposed to drink 16 ounces of water upon waking. If they forget but get to it at lunch, it's a sort of time-scale. If they wake up late and only chug 8 oz, it's not a failure. There are no failures, just ups and downs. 
3) Build in the "fuck-its. As Stevo quoted "The enemy always shoots back." As in, you plan for a counter attack because OF COURSE it's going to happen and in this case, it's your old habits fighting for dominance. For instance, every ~6 weeks of "clear eating" (eating with a purpose, I don't like the term "clean eating") I sit down with a bag of Milano cookies, the remote control, and go to town being a slob. 

Getting Clients to Be Self Aware

This could mean anything from proprioception so they can move correctly, to understanding how their habits and automatic decisions have guided us to where we need this intervention we're seeking. 

Precision Nutrition likes to use an exercise called "Notice and Name." Rather than just seeing "oh dear, I ate that muffin and suddenly the whole box of them were gone" you start stepping backwards to what made you eat the first muffin. Were you hungry because you pushed lunch back too far? Was your breakfast too small? Maybe even further, why did you or someone buy the muffins in the first place. 

You see where I'm going. 

Once you've you've Noticed an underlying trend and Named the cue that starts the ball rolling, the client can be more aware when it's about to all go down. And hopefully put failsafes in place to change what was once a reactionary habit to a more consciences one. 

Another suggestion was to keep a habit spreadsheet. When a client falls off a habit you two are working on, you can analyze what happened and formalize it in the spreadsheet or outline. 

These three discussions concluded the first half of the day. I took all my exercise and nutrition thoughts, and went to eat the BIGGEST BURRITO I HAVE EVER SEEN! 

Stay tuned for PART 2 next week. 


  1. Kristin this is really insightful. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I am supposed to comment on a blog as part of an office mission. whatever. just know that i think you - and that burrito - are awesome!