keep your eye on the prize

I love exercise [most of the time], but it wasn’t always that way.

Social psychologist, Emily Balcetis, wondered why some people found it harder to exercise than others. Her research looked at how things like perception, motivation, goal-setting and decision-making might impact the way we experience exercise and weight loss. Since I’m quite familiar with the effect perception can have on our outcomes, I was eager to learn more about her findings.

In this informative TED Talk, Belcetis explains why some people struggle more than others with weight loss. One of the key factors, she posits, is vision. Her research shows how when it comes to fitness, some people quite literally see the world differently from others.

Here’s some interesting food for thought:

A person’s waist-to-hip ratio is highly predictive of how difficult they perceive exercise to be.

What’s this? A heavier, more out-of-shape person perceives exercise to be more difficult than a fitter person? Well, thanks for that flash of breaking news..

Okay, okay – so THAT part is not surprising, but here’s what is…

Motivation is the game-changer! i.e. For an out-of-shape person who was highly motivated to workout, their perception about difficulty of the exercise shifted. Specfically, those who were motivated saw the finish line as 30% closer than those who were not motivated.

Um…HELL YEAH! How cool is that?

The body achieves what the mind believes. Don’t believe me? Watch this 14 minute video to hear the full findings of the research.

My favourite line in this video was at the very end:

And when we find a way to make the world look nicer and easier, it might actually become so.

Apropos of everything, a quick status update on Project: Breaking a Trail to Prom: My niece sent me a text yesterday. She lost 5 lbs since starting this thing on January 1!

hede23c4fKeep moving,

xoxo nancy

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64 thoughts on “keep your eye on the prize

  1. I’ll bookmark this link so I can listen to it on bluetooth in my car. (I have another road trip to New Hampshire next week.) Thanks for the link. Sounds fascinating. I believe perception weighs into everything. As Dr. Phil says, “Perception is everything.” Even if the person’s perception does not reflect reality. It’s THEIR reality and that’s all that matters. (Loves me some Dr. Phil. 🙂 )

  2. Way to go niece!! Yay!! That’s exciting news! How wonderful!! I loved your post, too- the body achieves what the mind believes…yep, I’ve always found that to be true!! Such an excellent point! You’re fabulous! Thanks for the great motivation!! I loved this post very much! XOXO

    • It’s a must-dos kinda thing for me right now, Laurel. Partly because I’ve got those extra 10 lbs to ride myself of, partly because I’m trying to set an example for my niece, and partly because the mental break that exercise provides me from this mountain of work is so therapeutic.

  3. the perception of exercise is an amazing thing!

    If you switch your immediate answer from “I can’t do that” to “I’ll try that” or even better ” I can do that” then you already have much more chance of actually achieving it!!

    awesome awesome news for your niece too 😀

  4. I can’t imagine not exercising, it makes me feel ‘off’, physically and mentally, when I don’t do it. I made a commitment four years ago, and I’m still sticking to it. I had tried lots of times before, and it never stuck. Something shifted back then…

    • Same for me 2 years ago. When I don’t exercise for more than two days in a row, I feel like crap. Soft. Lazy.

      This Janathon + training my niece has done a nice job of keeping me on track for daily exercise.

  5. Great post Nancy, and great Ted video too! I can’t believe I had never even heard of them till a few months ago. I totally agree that our perception rules everything, but don’t always put that idea to work. I am still working on the glass is half full philosophy. 😀

    Huge congrats to your niece and double kudos to her motivational Auntie!

    • I found the video pretty fascinating,, Lynne. Aren’t these TED Talks awesome? So much gold there, but so many to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start.

      I’ll pass your congrats onto my niece! Thanks!

  6. Hello 🙂
    I have managed to surreptitiously watch the TED talk at work, it is interesting how the deciding factor is motivation. I would like to see their actual study because some of the trends looked vague but it is still interesting and borne out by empirical evidence.
    By which I mean, when I am running, or walking with a purposes, I can walk / run quicker and more comfortably if I focus on one spot ahead of me. it allows me to at least feel like what I am doing is easier!

    The bit about everyone’s perception being influenced by their own minds eye was interesting. When I studied systems, it was done from the assumption that there is no such thing as impartiality, and that everyone’s opinion / outlook / decision making process etc is influenced by their own world view whether they know it or not!

    It also reminded me of being a child when I spent ages relentlessly questioning my parents about how I could possibly know whether what I saw was the same as what other people saw! I was obsessed with the fact that we could both identify a colour as red but how did we know that we were seeing the same colour, if we both identified it as red it didn’t matter but what if one of us was seeing something different in absolute terms. It worried me a lot that I had no way of knowing!! This made my head hurt a lot as a child…I probably spent far too long worrying about it to be honest…

    only now I discover that I may have been right!!

    • Oh my God, Sam…what a fascinating child you were! I just laughed out loud reading this!

      The brain is so remarkable. It holds so much power and so many secrets. Oh to understand how it works better…

      • Haha! I dont know what made me think that when i was a child, it did used to worry me a lot though 🙂

        If we really understood how the brain worked, i think we could do just about anything! There is so much of it we don’t use, or use for things we dont yet know about!

        Unless as douglass adams wrote, the unused percentage of the brain is mainly taken up with penguins…

  7. Woot! Woot! You are an inspiration, Nancy! And I relate to the findings…working on building up my motivation right now. I think I’ve become hooked on walking/running and longer hikes, but the gym is still scary 🙂

  8. Thanks for this one, Nancy. Got those tread thingies for my running shoes. Now just to get out the door. Peace, John

  9. That is very cool and it is so important to keep the motivation fresh. I am now on week 8 of running and eating really well in addition to yoga, which I am in the middle of a teacher training weekend that is kicking my butt, physically. At first the motivation for running and ab strengthening was weight loss but its been slow. Then I noticed that the ab strength is helping my yoga practice and also when I am doing nothing, like driving in the car, my whole body just feels more contained. Does that make any sense? So, I am seeing the motivations shift and I like it because it keeps me at it.
    Congrats to your niece!

    • That makes total sense, Kerry. I often talk about feeling “soft” if I don’t exercise for a couple of days. Obviously my body hasn’t changed in composition in that time, but it does FEEL more mushy to me. When I’m in a consistent, challenging, workout routine, like I’ve been since Jan 1st, I walk around feeling tighter, stronger. Maybe it’s mental. Or maybe a combination of physical and mental. Whatever it is, it totally motivates me to keep going.

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