What thrills me most about my work is seeing people transform their lives in remarkable ways.

Not sudden, giant swoops that might land them on the cover of a magazine, but in steady, powerful steps that take them further into health.

They wrestle with discouragement and internal voices urging them to quit…

But they don’t.

No matter how badly things go, they get up the next day and start again, with a desire for health tugging at their souls.

This is what makes them heroes in my eyes.

No fame or glory comes from the work they do to lose weight and improve their health. The steps are tedious, and changing patterns is hard, but they follow the protocol anyway. And by doing so, they become the heroes of their own stories.

The Determination

By the time patients arrive in my office, they have made numerous attempts at weight loss.

They have approached their doctor or therapist and have read every magazine article and webpage hoping to find the solution. They have tried many of the suggestions only to find that they can’t sustain them or that they don’t work.

Some recognize that the advice they have been given is ineffective, but most do not. They wind up blaming themselves because the one-size-fits-all advice they’ve been given simply doesn’t fit.

It doesn’t fit because effective weight loss strategies need to be tailored to the unique health and lifestyle of each person. Yet despite the struggle and judgment they have endured, they are full of hope, with a fierce determination to feel better.

One of the biggest challenges they face is consistently focusing on health while navigating a matrix of responsibilities and commitments.

The Reality

Bernadette was eager to move up the ladder in her highly competitive tech company. She was equally eager to lose weight, prevent health problems, and keep up with her young kids.

Recent labs showed that Bernadette was inching closer to diabetes with little room to spare.

After making some positive dietary changes, she was ready to take the next step.

With awareness that physical activity would help her reach her goals, she sifted through her options. Like many, she thought she had to commit an hour a day to a painful boot-camp style workout, or start jogging. But given her schedule, this was impossible…and frankly unappealing.

She contemplated other options, but each required more time and energy than she could spare.

Knowing she was often scheduled for meetings during her lunch hour and late into the evening, I asked her to commit to a five-minute walk once during her workday. Five minutes was just long enough to get a latte or go to the bank or get outside for a breath of fresh air. If it was raining, she could do it inside her building.

The key was she had to start today.

After rolling her eyes skeptically, she agreed to try.

The Courage

This may not seem like a brave act to you. I assure you that it is.

Making a commitment to a better future brings us face to face with the fears and barriers that have stopped us in the past. These are the moments I live for!

Bernadette would have to overcome the haunting belief that five minutes wouldn’t make a difference—and face the possibility that she might fail.

She also had to cope with the fear that stepping away from her desk would decrease her productivity and impede her career trajectory. She would need to stay committed to her health, even when she didn’t feel like it.

As you can see, much was riding on Bernadette’s small, but important, commitment.

When she returned to her office, she set down her bags and walked out the door—for a five-minute walk.

Although she was tempted to walk longer, she knew how important it was to start small and be successful. If she didn’t, it would be more difficult to honor her commitment when she wasn’t as fired up. With each walk, her motivation to walk the next day grew.

When she returned two weeks later, she had walked eight of ten workdays. Her two misses were due to a headache one day, and forgetting on another. As she reported those misses, she fumbled with thoughts of failure. With a little coaching, she was able to drop them in favor of celebrating her success.

Bernadette continued to walk for five minutes most days. If she missed a day, she doubled her commitment to walk the next. There was no sense in terrorizing herself with impossible ideals of perfection.

Within a month she was walking ten minutes a day, then fifteen. She began to notice benefits she hadn’t expected. She returned to her desk with energy and fresh ideas. Puzzle pieces snapped into place and her creativity surged. Her self-confidence grew.

A year later, Bernadette was taking two fifteen minute walks per day…most of the time. There were occasional spells when she got off course due to illness, or unexpected meetings, or crappy weather. Sometimes she forgot. But for the most part, she walked. Her firm commitment sustained her when it would have been tempting to skip.

With each walk, Bernadette’s fear of failure faded, but didn’t fully disappear. Wisely, she channeled the remaining fear into focusing on why she was doing it in the first place—to prevent diabetes, capture health, and keep up with her kids.

So what makes Bernadette a hero?

For starters, she did something many are not willing to do—she made a commitment and stuck to it. Although it was rarely convenient, she stretched to make it happen…not perfectly, but good enough and often enough.

She didn’t let small failures define her.

She let them inform her without dwelling on them. That is no small feat!

She prevented diabetes.

Six months after she started walking, her labs showed she was moving further away from diabetes. At a year, she’d made a giant leap into health.

She lost weight.

Visits to the park with her kids were now her idea and keeping up with them became easier.

Bernadette’s one small, courageous change added up to many important changes that happened one step at a time.

Your Courageous Step

Witnessing Bernadette’s accomplishment reminds me of the power we all have to transform fear into action, especially action that is sustained.

What courageous step are you willing to take?

  • A daily five-minute walk
  • Three minutes on an exercise bike
  • Getting to bed 15 minutes earlier
  • Packing a healthy lunch
  • Getting up 10 minutes earlier to make a healthy breakfast
  • Reducing your Facebook time by ten minutes a day
  • Replacing a morning pastry with unsweetened yogurt and fruit

I promise that any step that you take towards health will reward you in both imagined and unimagined ways.

It takes courage and determination to take that first step and become the hero of your own story…but it is so worth it!