Last month, I started to talk about why people don't take the time to get healthy, even though they know it is good for them. I also talked about the Personal Investment Theory, or PIT theory. So I wanted to take a bit more time to explain the theory and why it works (or in some cases doesn't work). To recap, PIT theory basically says "If I get something valuable to me by doing an activity or making a personal change - I'll do it. If the item is not of value to me, I won't."
So why is it, if maintained physical activity and proper nutrition will add years of life to a person, why wouldn't they do it. Why wouldn't a person who is suffering from Type 2 diabetes or high-blood pressure want to live a healthier life through proper exercise and nutrition?
Well, PIT theory needs three basic components for it to work effectively. First it needs a valuable goal - one that is important to the individual being asked to change their behavior patterns. It has to be something which keys in on an important issue for that individual. So if I say to someone that exercise will increase their life span and they are not concerned about their life, it might have little value. But if they are someone with strong ties to their family - saying they may live long enough to see their children and grandchildren grow into adults, might be an incentive. So in order to find value for the individual, trainers must get to know the person and what is important to them.
The second thing which is required to help a person change their behavior patterns is the self-assurance of their ability to make the necessary change or mastery of the skills to make the changes. A person who feels they don't have the proper knowledge in an exercise program, or who feels uncomfortable doing particular exercise, aren't going to do them for long and will ultimately fail in reaching their goal. This ultimate failure perpetuates their belief in their inability - a vicious cycle. So it is necessary for trainer's to help them maintain consistent smaller successes and focus on the forward progress of the individual.
Now the third item is sometimes the largest roadblock to successful health behavior modification. This is the concept of perceived obstacles and options. Sometimes a perceived obstacle can induce concerns and fear of the ability (or mastery) a person might have over their situations. This can create a knee-jerk reaction to pull back from the behavior change and fall back into a previous 'comfortable' pattern. It is extremely important to recognize these negative perceptions and create viable options to displace the obstacle to positive behaviors. The key element in this displacement is the maintenance of the initial goals through the initial programs - displacing the initial behavioral program through a perceived option does not promote self-efficacy (or personal self-assurance). Let me give you an example of this type of issue.
A woman with Type 2 diabetes wants to get healthier to avoid any of the health complications that occur from having Type 2 diabetes. She starts an exercise and nutrition program at her local gym with a personal trainer and is seeing results in her condition. Her company has a reduction in work and cuts back her hours - making it difficult to maintain her gym membership and trainer. Before she can review other options, her friend suggest she go on medication, which will be paid for by her health insurance. She reluctantly goes on the diabetes medication and never goes back to the gym or to an exercise and nutrition program. This new program becomes a quick, easy fix to the issue - but is it the best solution?
NEXT MONTH - WHY BIG PHARMACEUTICAL AND INSURANCE COMPANIES DON'T WANT YOU HEALTHY?