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What Works for Weight Loss: Negative or Positive Feedback?


A few weeks ago, TV broadcaster Jennifer Livingston in LaCrosse, Wis. defended herself against Mike Thompson, a viewer who criticized her for not being a responsible role model as an overweight, public personality. He asked her to reconsider her responsibility to promote a healthy lifestyle. Livingston made a public response where she said she’s more than a number on a scale, and that Mr. Thompson was out of line with his email. While the dust has settled on that exchange, the story brings to the surface a great weight loss question for discussion: What’s more motivating, positive or negative feedback?

Painful, but motivating? I’ve heard many people say that sometimes hearing the truth—even from strangers—can be painful, but motivating. Oftentimes people get so caught up with work, kids, stress and life that their personal health becomes the last thing they think about. Exercise, unfortunately, is the first thing that falls off of a daily routine when people are in a time crunch. When that happens it can take a jolt from an outsider to shine a light on their daily decisions and the toll they take on our health.

Is there a fine line? On the other hand, there’s a big difference between a friend encouraging you to exercise or keep food journals together versus a random email or online post from a stranger. It’s inappropriate to go around making judgments about people without knowing their story—or more importantly—them. It’s great to encourage family and friends to make healthy choices, as long as it is done in a respectful and encouraging way. It's never productive to only criticize.

Positive, but tough. I am wired toward the positive and have been since I was a kid.  Glass half full has been my motto forever and maybe I’m overly optimistic at times.  But, I believe you can attract more bees with honey. Having a positive mindset doesn’t mean I let people off the hook. I am positive and tough. People should be tough on themselves and get honest about the choices they are making and how those choices are impacting their health. I think people should take responsibility for their health. I am not into excuses. As a fitness trainer, there’s a balance to strike between encouragement and being tough. I do believe that those four words, “I don’t have time” are worthless and I tell my clients to switch those four words to this: “I choose to do something else I feel is more important.” Ouch! It’s a bit of a reality check. Are your health and happiness not important? I have always believed that in order for people to keep a habit, they have to enjoy it.

What motivates you to live a healthier life? Are you the kind of person who would rather have a trainer screaming in your face or someone smiling and encouraging you?

Comment and let us know! 

personal training
Chris Freytag
weight loss


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