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What's Your "Why?"

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Many people have heard the tiny voice in the back of their minds nudging them toward making healthier choices.

“Maybe it’s time to stop smoking.”
“I wish I knew how to make better food choices.”
“If only I had the motivation to exercise more often.”

These tiny voices often grow into a desire for overall lifestyle change, which can be daunting to face head-on. However, you don’t have to be discouraged. Tyler Cooper, MD, MPH, President and CEO of Cooper Aerobics, explains why recognizing your individual motivation to be healthy can set you on a path to improving both the quantity and quality of your life.

First, Ask “Why?”

The first question that must be addressed when a person decides to adjust their health is “why?”

“Most people want to be healthy, but many of them don’t know exactly what it means to be healthy or how to accomplish their goals,” explains Dr. Tyler Cooper. “The biggest challenge most people face when starting any type of program to improve their health is answering ‘why’ they want to be healthier.”

When it comes to behavior change, a person must identify his or her motivation for living a healthier lifestyle. “For me, one of the biggest motivating factors is to be like my dad – he’s in his 90s and doing most of the things he wants to do,” says Dr. Tyler Cooper. “I love to ski and climb, and I want to be able to participate in those activities for as long as I can.”

Dr. Tyler Cooper notes that as a physician, part of his job is to figure out what motivates his patients. The relationship he builds with his patients becomes a form of accountability, and gives the opportunity to check in and monitor success or failure.

For the patient, it comes down to the “want” transforming into a “need.” For example, you might have a desire to start running or walking twice a week but never act on it. Then you visit the doctor and find out you’re at risk for heart disease and need to lose weight. Now, you need to exercise to improve your heart health and quality of life. Your want has become a need, and in effect, you are motivated to make a change.

Set Realistic Goals

Once an individual’s “why” is solidified, Dr. Tyler Cooper explains the importance of setting goals and developing a realistic and achievable plan to reach those goals.

“Don’t set the bar too high,” he says. “A high-level goal might be achievable for a short amount of time, but it won’t be sustainable.” Instead, start off with something you know you can accomplish. For example, try walking three times per week and cutting out one unhealthy item from your diet. Once you accomplish this goal and turn it into a habit, you can then build upon the original goal.

Additionally, setting a start date for your journey toward behavior change is pivotal. “Draw a line in the sand and plan to get started,” says Dr. Tyler Cooper. “Once you reach your start date, look ahead and focus on achieving what you set out to accomplish.”

Don’t Give Up and Lead By Example

Reaching your goals and accomplishing true behavior change can be a challenging journey, so it’s important to have partners to rely on for accountability purposes. Your physician, family and close friends can help provide the support you need. “Don’t be afraid to start over if you fall off the wagon for a little while,” says Dr. Tyler Cooper. “Give yourself grace and time, and be realistic about achieving your goals. Have a short memory when it comes to your failures.”

Incorporating behavior change into a group setting also goes back to establishing a “why.” Working within a group to hold each other accountable and help each other reach goals results in a better chance of overall success.

As a leader, it’s important to be outspoken about your “why.” Hold yourself accountable, speak to your challenges and share your successes with your accountability group. “You have to ask yourself why you want to be healthy,” says Dr. Tyler Cooper. “This isn’t about public health, it’s about your own individual health and what motivates you to make healthy choices.”

For more information about the services provided by Cooper Clinic that can act as the foundation for behavior change, call 972.560.2667 or visit

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.