By: Aaron Wolowiec | Jul, 21 2017

Healthy by Association: A personal journey powered by intention

It’s no secret that event coordinator consistently ranks among the top 10 most stressful jobs in the U.S. This according to an annual report on job stress compiled by career and jobs information company CareerCast.com. Add to my chosen profession a depression-inducing breakup with my then fiancé, and you’ve got a perfect storm on your hands.

But it doesn’t stop there. I’ve also struggled with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and keeping the extra weight off my entire life. I love food – and I’m a stress eater. So in early 2017 as my life was turned upside down – and I was about to embark on my sixth and busiest year as an association learning strategist and meetings coach – I knew it was time to make my health a priority.

Stress is no joke, my friends. Helpguide.org describes stress as your body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic and alert. But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships and your quality of life.

And consider these statistics from The State of Obesity:

  1. Adult obesity rates now exceed 35 percent in four states, 30 percent in 25 states and are above 20 percent in all states. 
  2. Obesity rates are alarmingly higher than they were a generation ago.
  3. The CDC projects that one-in-three adults could have diabetes by 2050.
  4. One in three adults currently have high blood pressure, a leading cause of stroke.
  5. Eighty percent of American adults do not meet the government’s national physical activity recommendations for aerobic and muscle strengthening. 

So as I took to the gym, I began posting miles logged and workouts completed. Originally intended to keep me motivated, the outpouring of support from my family, friends and the greater association community was incredible. And as I considered how I might better leverage this momentum to support others, Healthy by Association (HBA) was created.

Ultimately, the HBA Facebook group was established as a space for association and hospitality professionals to set goals, share their workout accomplishments, exchange healthy recipes and, above all, stay motivated. I serve as the group administrator and early HBA supporters Vince CoraciAngela Keller Pelc and Ken Wood help moderate.

The tenets of Healthy by Association are simple:

  1. Everyone’s definition of healthy is different. One size does not fit all. Whether focused on food and caloric intake, workouts and pounds lifted or something different altogether, we just can’t compare ourselves with others. We each have unique aspirations and limitations.
  2. A support network is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. On the days you’d rather stay in bed than hit the pavement or make the trek to the gym, it’s incredibly motivating to have the support and encouragement of others who can empathize with you.
  3. You can’t show up for others if you don’t first show up for yourself. It’s the reason your flight attendant urges you to put your Oxygen mask on before assisting others. Put another way, you can’t successfully help your members or learners if you’re not well rested, well fed and hydrated, and in good health.
  4. It’s both okay and encouraged to brag about your accomplishments. First, you should take credit for setting and achieving your goals – that’s an accomplishment unto itself. But, more importantly, others will find your achievements incredibly energizing for their own journeys.  
  5. This journey may not be easy but it's worth it. It’s true that nothing worth having comes easy. And that’s okay because we’re stronger than we give ourselves credit for. It takes determination, commitment and intention to become and remain healthy. Hence our HBA tagline: Powered by intention.

But don’t take my word for it. HBA group members have weighed in with their insights about what it means to be “healthy.” They've also shared their recommendations for jumpstarting your personal journey.

Health is multi-faceted. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle goes beyond working out and eating “right.” It goes beyond hitting that goal weight or fitting into your dream size. In your journey you cannot lose sight of the other items that continue to affect your health (e.g., stress, lack of sleep, smoking, mental health and addiction). – Darlene

Weight is just a number. Don’t be too focused on one number – your health is a combination of a lot of numbers. The number on the scale isn’t the whole story. Measurements, the way your clothes fit and your energy levels are good indicators of health, too! – Vince and Angela

It’s a personal journey. To me, being healthy may mean long runs some days. It may also mean taking the day off after a busy conference and shopping or relaxing. It’s staying in shape physically, but also knowing when to take the day off from working out or eating healthy. – Emily

Just start already! Don’t get consumed about when, how and doing it all that you don't do anything. Just pick something and start. – Elyse

Set a specific goal. For example, I am going to lose X amount of pounds or inches by X date. And be sure to add: I am going to do this by working out X days per week, exercising for at least X minutes per day, practicing yoga X times per week, only eating out X times per week, eating a small salad with every meal and the like. – Stephanie

Celebrate the non-scale victories. Sometimes the number on the scale gets too much of the focus. I love the non-scale victories worth celebrating, too. For example, being able to cross my legs or sit in a lawn chair, auditorium seat or restaurant booth. – Audrey

There is power in numbers. Most in this group are strangers, yet we congratulate each other and thrive off of the positive energy each of us brings. I have had times where I didn’t want to lace up my shoes, but daily I have read such inspiring posts that gave me inspiration to dig deep, lace up and move it! – Carrie

Don’t underestimate restful sleep. I would add that sleep is one of the most underrated and challenging of the get-healthy pledges. Yes, losing weight is a super toughie, but I find getting restful sleep – without the worried to-do mind churn and with some type of regular go-to-bed time – to be at least equal. – Kristin

So, now what? Here are a few things you might consider as next steps:

  1. Join our HBA Facebook group (if you haven’t already). Set goals, share your achievements and support others. Also, consider sharing this post with colleagues in the association or hospitality industries you think may be interested.
  2. Start putting yourself first. Self-care might include a monthly massage or facial, some quiet time a couple of nights each week to read or craft, or one minute each day for intentional self-reflection. Don't overthink it. Simply determine what might bring more balance to your life and get it on the calendar.
  3. Introduce changes around the office. The opportunities are endless. Consider replacing donuts on Friday mornings with yogurt, granola and fresh fruit. Take the stairs whenever available. Walk at lunch with a buddy. Or even set your chair aside and convert your workstation to a stand-up desk.   
  4. Introduce changes for your attendees. Plan healthier snack and meal options. Provide water infusion stations to promote better hydration. Incorporate more white space for self-care, stretching and reflection. And offer group workout options such as yoga, swimming and running.
  5. Let’s partner on a presentation. If this HBA message would resonate with your team or your members, I’d love the opportunity to present at either a staff meeting or during an upcoming conference. Contact us for details and pricing.

In the meantime, please share in the comments what actions you plan to take as a result of this post.

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