Thursday, April 1, 2010

Transformational Wellness

Transformation is a big word. Daunting perhaps. It represents sweeping change, a complete turnaround, a reversal. When applied to health and wellness it can become dispiriting. Health transformation conjures images of The Biggest Loser, running a marathon (that's 26.2 miles to be exact), or giving up all of the foods that you enjoy (like smoked hot sausages and french fries from a summer festival or hand-dipped ice cream with hot fudge). But, transformation doesn't happen in broad strokes. It happens in small, seemingly insignificant ways.

According to, transformation means, "a change in form or appearance." Simply, it's doing something differently. Not everything. Just something. It's a slight change in process or a minor variation from the routine. By definition, transformation bubbles up from small changes.

Many of us have made resolutions this year to be healthier. In turn, some have signed up for a gym membership, joined a weight management program, promised to quit smoking cold turkey, or vowed to forever stop eating after 7 p.m. All in hopes of reaching the peak of transformation. Unfortunately, the peak looks far away, transformation seems too distant, and we never begin the climb.

Instead, we need to refocus our vision from the peak to the next step. To bring about transformation, we need to focus on those small, seemingly insignificant changes. Forget about the resolution to be healthier. Instead, find 30 minutes to be active today. Have the hot sausage, but forgo the fries. Have the ice cream, but lose the hot fudge. Have your evening snack, but reduce the portion. Find two resources to help you stop smoking and consider which one might work for you. Park further away from the store. Get up from your desk and stretch. Take a walk instead of turning the channel.

In the book Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath, they talk about a small town that failed to respond to other initiatives focused on 'being healthier." Consequently, efforts were refocused to a single message - "change to 1% milk." That's it. That was the message. And with that one, small, seemingly insignificant change, the town responded and their health and wellness improved in a variety of ways based on specific metrics. They became a healthier community.

"Be healthier." That's a slogan. "Purchase a lower fat milk." That's transformation.