October 26, 2010

Putting the HELL in Hellth Promotion

The theme of my post today is judgement. Not just any judgement but judgements coming from those professionals working to make you healthier (the health promoters, nutritionists, medical staff, personal trainers, and the like). I will be focusing my post on health promoters only because I was sitting around a table filled with them today hearing the comments, jokes, and other remarks related to those with weight issues. Now, before I begin, I do want to mention that most health promoters are caring, respectful, and professional people dedicated to sharing the message of health with others. Unfortunately, however, they are human and, as such, will judge. We all do. What was interesting today was the comments related to the lazy, fat butts choosing to sit on the couch instead of exercising. These statements were thick with judgement and, if examined carefully, would be easily deconstructed to show that there is much more to overweight/obesity than just being "lazy". More on THAT later...

What struck me as sad, was the fact that, although we try to hide our judgements, we tend to wear them on our sleeves through our tone of voice, words we choose, and body language. In the end, the person looking for support will receive these messages of judgements and opt out of visiting this health promoter again. In the end....we loose.

I believe it is important for us to become aware and challenge our judgements before serving, supporting, and assisting others with lifestyle change. If you truly believe that all fat people are just lazy and it's as easy as putting down the fork and going to the gym, you will not be able to serve this population to the best of your ability or, for that matter, show the necessary (sincere) support to ensure the best opportunity for success. If you hate smokers, your judgement will ooze out of your pores as you try to help / support a smoker through their decision to quit.

You get the idea.

I think, for many, a judgemental health promoter does put the HELL in health promotion. No one wants to be told they have to do something. They don't want to have a finger in their face or feel stupid or "less than" for living differently. So how does one promote health in a helpful and supportive way? I think the answer lies in understanding, respect, and a sincere and honest approach to helping others.

Judgements cannot be helped. I think this is part of being human.  However, to be aware of your judgements will be the first step to becoming an effective health promoter. The second step would be challenging (and deflating)  these judgements to the best of your ability as you choose your words and actions wisely. It may be a challenge, but it is worth it in the end if your client feels your interest, support, and kindness throughout their behaviour change process.

That's all I have for tonite.  I'm leaving Winnipeg tomorrow and can't wait to be among those things that make up the west coast...including my very handsome man-friend (you know who you are....).


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