Would you like to know what it is?

It would seem that I have slowed down to live more.  These days I am planning less and it is nice not to run around like a nut all the time.  The challenging part is that I do not yet know how to do both.  To be quick throughout my day, and then relax at night.  I have a need to maintain a single speed throughout most of my day, or I land myself in a world of turmoil.  In the past I have gone through my day with the mistaken sense was in need of something- be it coffee, food, exercise, rest – when I slow down I realize these things are not at all what I was yearning for.  I am older now and have found that a handful of simple yoga moves make my day all that much better.   Already I feel as though I am more nimble, lighter on my feet.   Do not mistake me, this was not the answer.

Words have often intrigued me.  When I deployed to Afghanistan the two books I took with me were my dictionary and thesaurus.  When I felt the need to only carry one I chose the dictionary, although the thesaurus would have likely been a better pick.  This morning the weather channel wants to know whats going on in my neck of the woods.  Well I beg of you please do explain, what is this “neck of the woods”?  What makes you think I am in the woods and if I were, why are you so certain I am in the “neck”?  Is it the narrowest stretch of the woods?  Is it near the end right before you exit the woods?

According to Websters Dictionary a “neck” is a narrow stretch of land.  I suppose by saying this they imply “what is going on in your little world?”  Well I can tell you the answer is not much…and it is grand.


Putting the Oh! in Obesity

My aunt and I were discussing a relative’s health problems.  When I pointed out the relative’s obesity as a contributing factor, I was met with a resounding “She is not obese!”  I was dumbfounded.  I had worked as a personal trainer for the past 3 years.  Part of my job was to determine a client’s baseline health when they wanted to begin a fitness routine.  I knew that she most certainly did fit into the obese category.  In that moment I realized that perhaps people do not actually know what an obese person looks like.  It turns out that despite all we know about obesity and America’s weight-related health issues, there are a number of related facts which are not common knowledge. It is the unknown facts that make it difficult for us to change our perception and understanding of obesity.

Many Americans understand the basic elements that contribute to the US weight/obesity problems (I use the term “weight” loosely- but I’ll expand on that later).  They realize that weight-related health problems plague America and are aware that eating too much, lack of exercise, stress, and unhealthy food or empty calories are contributing factors to obesity.  They also realize that the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle can be diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, sleep apnea, psychological issues, and more (“Obesity Symptoms, Causes”).  Americans believe that there is a simple solution to the problem:  people who are overweight should lose weight and change their unhealthy habits to prevent development of these health issues.  But as I have already eluded to, the problem is that these same people do not even realize they themselves are also at risk!

As I mentioned, some of the contributing factors to obesity and America’s weight problems are common knowledge.  Americans are no longer as active as they were in previous generations.  They are sedentary for most of the day between their desk jobs and sitting around at home watching TV.  The average American spends a little over 8 hours a day sitting and looking at a screen (Petronzio).  The jobs which involve physical labor somehow seem less appealing to the higher paying abundantly available office jobs.  A typical routine in the daily life of an American goes something like this:

  1.    Get up (possibly rush kids out the door first).
  2.    Make or grab coffee on the way (likely with cream and/or sugar).
  3.    Possibly grab a donut, croissant sandwich, or bagel.
  4.    Work hard all day- probably right through lunch.
  5.    Rush home, possibly running errands during the 25 minute ride home.
  6.    Grab some take out for dinner because of the stressful, busy day.
  7.    Get home ready to relax and watch TV shows.
  8.    Hit the sack late and do it again the next day.

At the end of the week we have slept an average of 6.8 hours, which is barely under the recommended amount of 7 hours a night, but research has shown it is enough to cause cognitive and health problems (Jones).  Lack of sleep can cause food cravings (Radcliffe).  When our body is tired it wants sugar to wake up via that ‘quick fix’ of energy.   We are tired and stressed from our day and lack of sleep so the last thing we want to do at the end of the day is go home and make supper.  Even the event of determining what to make is a daunting task after a day of stressful decision making.  And once again, after this busy day we are ready to relax and we deserve a reward!  The thought of cooking a healthy meal does not stand a chance to the alternative of grabbing a cheeseburger or pizza.  Cooking is likely out of the question, as is the idea of preparing something to take to work the next day.  By taking a planned lunch and/or breakfast with us we can prevent ourselves from making a rash, rushed, and hungry junk food decision.

In my four years as a personal trainer, I have become accustomed to the standard beliefs people hold about their diet.  Many people feel they eat a somewhat healthy diet, and many people feel their diet could be better than it is.  However, most of these people have never tracked what they eat.  They do not realize exactly what is contained within the food that they consume and they have NO idea how many calories are in any of the foods that they eat.  As a trainer I would highly recommend that people try tracking their diet for a week, especially over the weekend.  I think it important for everyone to have an idea of what nutrition their diet is made of.  Even if you are of a healthy weight, you can still have elevated health risks by eating an unhealthy diet.

When I was in school to become a trainer, one of our assignments was to track our nutritional intake for a month.  It was very effective.  We were all exercise-loving people who had a tendency to eat healthier than the average person in our lives.  Yet, we were still very surprised to find out what we were actually eating contained high amounts of carbs, sugar, or fat.  This is generally the same experience of anyone who makes the commitment to track their food for a week or a month.  Although I find this practice to be a good experiment for anyone, for a person who is looking to lose weight I feel this is can solidify your chance of success.  Either you ONLY consume a diet which has been recommended to you by a nutritionist, or you start tracking your food.  The most important part is the weekends.  For many people almost every weekend includes a reason to celebrate or let go.  Many people find the progress they have made all week is negated by rewarding their hard work on the weekends with a lax diet.

Even as a health loving individual I have found it beneficial to utilize the free mobile apps which track what your caloric intake is as well as the macronutrients that you are absorbing (i.e. carbohydrates, fats, proteins).  Eating a healthy balance of macronutrients is an important way to keep the body feeling satisfied so we do not overeat.  Tracking your food will make you more mindful of what you are eating.  An apple might suddenly seem like a more appropriate sugar fix than a donut.  Using a nutrition tracking app can further assist you in your weight loss endeavors by providing community support.  You can choose to post your results to social media.  By making your friends, family, and co-workers aware of your goal you can evoke their support and they can help keep you accountable.  Additionally, by making or having friends through the apps you can develop a group and all keep each other accountable.  It is helpful to have the support of others who can emphasize with you and the obstacles you may be facing as you try to reach your weight-loss goal.

A study based on BMI revealed that out of the 66% of Americans who ARE overweight, only 36% KNOW that they are (“There’s a 1 in 3 Chance”). How is this possible?  In our society the average family household has a scale.  Many people know what they weigh or can guess within 5-10 pounds.  Many people may realize that they weigh more than they should, so how is it they do not realize their weight is high enough to cause adverse effects on their health.  Part of it is denial (Parker-Pope).  It is because we like our lifestyle and do not want to change it, nor do we want to put the effort into trying to change it.  Part of it is complacency . With more Americans becoming obese and morbidly obese (yes, that is an actual category of having a BMI >40), we are now surrounded by a physically larger society (“What Is BMI?”).  Part of it is being unaware and unable to identify if another person is of a healthy weight, overweight, or obese (Raloff).  Part of it is self-deceiving yourself to believe you are not obese when you are; this has brought about a new word known as “Fatorexia” (Howard).  Part of it is the sensitivity surrounding the issue of weight.  In a world where we have come to value a supermodel thin ideal, a person’s weight is now directly connected to the self-esteem and the worth of a person.  To attack a person’s body size is to attack their self-esteem.

Before we go too far, let’s identify what “overweight” means according to BMI.  The most common ways to measure a person’s health and their risk for developing health-related issues is to use weight or the BMI (body-mass-index) scale.  According to the World Health Organization a person is overweight if their BMI is greater than 25 (“What Is BMI?”).  While BMI is more accurate than only using a person’s weight, experts dislike using BMI as the sole test for measuring a person’s health (Melnick).  It is not the most accurate measurement because it only uses your height versus your weight and does not take into account how much muscle or how much fat is on your body.  Just using weight or body fat percentage is not a valid way to test a person’s health.  An individual can be a healthy weight but have too much body fat because they are sedentary.  Or a person could be of a healthy weight and have a healthy amount of body fat but still have health-related diseases due to a poor diet.

There are a number of reasons why people do not realize that their health is poor.  People think that because they feel healthy that they are healthy.  They do not realize that it might take years for the symptoms to emerge.  Blood pressure, blood work, and height and weight measurements should begin to be checked at the age of 20, but that is not common knowledge (“Heart-Health Screenings”).  A good health care provider should tell you what the numbers mean and help you to watch them.  By keeping track of these numbers one can be aware when changes begin to occur and can stop them before they happen.  When the numbers from test results are poor it becomes personal and can convince a person that it is time to make health changes.  If the poor test results are presented by a doctor they become more legitimate which helps the person to realize the severity of the situation (Melnick).  But a study found that 44% of doctors feel incapable of helping their patients lose weight (Dalessio).  This problem caused the American Medical Association to vote to have obesity recognized as a disease to help doctors feel obligated to treat it.

This where programs such as 8 Weeks to Wellness excel.  They utilize more comprehensive tests to yield results beyond your common weight and body fat percentage.  More factors are used to yield a score (both a number and letter “grade”) which determines how healthy you are.  In addition to BMI, waist-to-hip ratio and, body fat percentage, it utilizes resting heart rate, blood pressure, and can even include blood work, and posture and flexibility (which are risk factors for injury) (“How to Measure Health”).  If you do not eat a healthy diet your grade will not be good.

Although many of us have an idea of what healthy eating entails, we do not actually know how our diet compares to it.  We know that due to processed and packaged goods we have to be careful not to eat too much sugar, fat, or salt.  The fear of excessive fat and salt consumption has become common knowledge to the point that some Americans have begun to consume less fat than they need.  We know that fat and salt contribute to high blood pressure, but the dangers of eating too much sugar is not as commonplace.  Every day the average American consumes 88 grams of sugar which is 3 times the amount of sugar they need in their diet (“How Many Grams”).  In addition to having addictive effects on the brain which are similar to cocaine, sugar can overload the liver and lead to fatty liver disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, nutrient deficiencies, insulin resistance, or cancer.  It also adds to obesity and leaves you feeling hungrier rather than satiated (“The Harmful Effects”).  Additionally, recent studies have found that sugar actually contributes to high cholesterol and heart disease more than saturated fat does!

Knowing what to eat does not fight the battle.  Healthy food is much more expensive than unhealthy food.  It costs an average of $550 more per year to eat healthy foods, which is not an expense many people feel they can afford (Rehel).  However, is it really that they cannot afford it or are they simply not willing to make the necessary sacrifices?   The average person pays $123 a month for cable television (Rosato).  They are paying for something that encourages them to continue the habits which are contributing to their health problems.  People lived without cable TV for years and the increase in sedentary practices appears to say that people are less interested in their health and physical activity than in previous generations.  One could wait to view the shows when they come out on tape or one of the numerous online streaming sites.  By doing this you could save the money that cable costs and use that money to fuel a healthier diet.  Yes that means you would still need to have internet and a stream-provider but you would be able to save about $720 a year which is enough for one person to eat a healthier diet.

For some people it is not always a question of making the necessary sacrifices to purchase this food.  Depending on where you live you might have limited or no access to healthy food.  These areas are known as food deserts (“Food Desert”).  Residents of food deserts experience excessively hard challenges to obtain healthy food.  The price of the food may be too high for the residents or may be located in an area which requires an excessively long commute to get to.  These areas are typically in urban settings, such as Philadelphia, and in areas with poorer populations.  For these people the solution is not as simple and the ability to change their diet is limited and would likely require external mediation to remedy.  The best solution for them is to keep track of what and how much they eat and purchase canned/frozen vegetables and fruit when possible.  For the rest of Americans it means changing their diet.

It is all too familiar to hear that diets don’t work and people just end up gaining back the weight (Freedhoff).  And this is true, but the reason is due to the methods which are used to lose weight.  Essentially the formula for losing weight is to use more calories than you eat.  However, that tends to be easier said than done.  There are a plethora of “fad” diets out there which initially will work.  But often times these diets do not incorporate everything a person needs in a healthy balanced diet and as your body begins to suffer so will you.  The ultimate truth of the matter is that there is no catch-all solution and you have to find a weight-loss method that works for you (Freedhoff).  But one must remember that this needs to be a lifestyle change and not a temporary change.  If you are suffering due to an unbalanced diet you won’t be able to stick to it.  By only making a temporary change to your diet you will be likely to put the weight back on when you go back to eating your regular diet which is likely how you gained weight in the first place.

If you have a loved one who is overweight it is probably a good idea for you to try to help them but do it with love (Luciani).  While it does work for some people to bluntly tell them they look heavy or need to lose weight, for others it may cause them to comfort eat. Be patient and understanding because it is HARD to lose weight (“The Harmful Effects”).  The habits which have made you unhealthy have been there for years and it may take years to fix them.  For a person who is obese it can be presumed to take years to safely lose the weight and body fat to reach a healthy weight.  It takes a lot of effort and dedication and with today’s way of living it can be so easy to fail a healthy lifestyle goal.

More importantly than telling a person they need to be healthier is to actively support them (Sperl).  This means exercising with them, and not eating things in front of them that they cannot eat, especially in the beginning.  Do not watch them like a hawk or scrutinize every little thing they have.  There will likely be setbacks for the person.  Food is often used as a reward and virtually every social gathering we participate in is centered on food and usually unhealthy food at that!  Also, fast food is available everywhere and it is much easier to find unhealthy choices than it is to seek out the healthy ones.  Driving can be a challenge as one passes the fast food restaurants they use to dine at.  Walking into the same gas station they always frequent can challenge them to attempt to make a healthier decision than the routine choices they have been making.

In order to make a true and lasting change to their diet, individuals have to combat their own family, their friends, their co-workers, and of course their own minds and habits in order to be successful.  We, as their trusted friends, need to also change our mindsets in order to help them make the necessary improvements to their lifestyles.  This is not something that happens overnight and is something that needs to continually be adjusted as the changes occur.  It is important though that everyone take responsibility of their own lifestyle choices and also encourage those around them to do the same.  In order for obesity in this country to become a non-issue, we need to work to resolve our own misunderstanding of what it is and how to treat it.

Works Cited

Dalessio, Jaimie, and Everyday Health Staff Writer. “Doctors Lack Confidence in Treating Obesity.” EverydayHealth.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

“Food Desert.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 11 Dec. 2014. Wikipedia. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

Freedhoff, Yoni. “Weighty Matters: Is It Really ‘Scientifically Impossible’ to Keep Your Weight Off?.” N.p., 5 June 2014. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

“Heart-Health Screenings.” American Heart Association. N.p., 21 Oct. 2014. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

Howard, Mike. “Fatorexia: Overweight People Who Deny They Are Fat.” diet blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

“How Many Grams of Sugar in a Teaspoon? | New Health Guide.” New Health Guide. N.p., 12 Dec. 2014. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

“How to Measure Health and What Is a Wellness Score?” N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

Jones, Jeffrey M. “In U.S., 40% Get Less Than Recommended Amount of Sleep.” Gallup. N.p., 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

Luciani, Jené. “Can You Tell Someone You Love They Need to Lose Weight?” Shape Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

Melnick, Meredith. “Did Your Doctor Call You Fat? You Should Thank Her For It.” Time. healthland.time.com. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

“Obesity Symptoms, Causes, Treatment – What Is Obesity?” MedicineNet. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

Parker-Pope, Tara. “Are Most People in Denial About Their Weight?” Well. N.p., 18 Apr. 2012. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

Petronzio, Matt. “U.S. Adults Spend 11 Hours Per Day With Digital Media [CHART].” Mashable. N.p., 6 Mar. 2014. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

Radcliffe, Shawn. “Lack of Sleep Increases Junk Food Cravings.” Men’s Fitness. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

Raloff, Janet. “Do People Know When They’re Overweight? | Science News.” Science News. N.p., 21 Apr. 2006. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

Rosato, Donna. “How to Break Up with Your Cable Company.” Time 15 July 2014. time.com. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

Sperl, Melissa. “How Do You Tell Someone They Need to Lose Weight?” N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

The Harmful Effects of Sugar & Why You Shouldn’t Eat It. N.p. Film.

“There’s a 1 in 3 Chance You’re Overweight — and Don’t Know It.” EverydayHealth.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

“What Is BMI? (Body Mass Index).” Medical News Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.


Ta-Nehisi Coates was smart to recognize the potential resistance against the topic of slavery and he addresses it immediately. He begins with a couple of quotes and goes directly into a story about a single man.  By doing this he makes the essay more personable.  This essay has a number of personal stories which paint a picture; these stories help to stir the empathy of others.  Coates does an excellent job of getting me to care about something that I did not think existed or mattered anymore.  I would most certainly classify myself as a skeptical part of his audience.  It never occurred to me how many people are still alive who were detrimentally affected by slavery.  It never occurred to me before that there are people out there that are somehow owed a reparation for what has happened in their lives.  But after reading his story I completely emphasize and support that these people deserve atonement.

Coates included a number of mini stories within his essay which had a life-changing, attention-grabbing quality about them.  For instance, I can only imagine the feeling of watching your wife being taken away and you have no knowledge of where she is going and can easily presume that the two of you will never be reunited.  That kind of story contains a heart-shattering detriment which one can be certain happened many times with slavery.  And the portion of his essay on redlining was an incredibly powerful showcase of how the effects of slavery did not end with the prohibition of slavery in 1808 and how  its effects have carried over till today!

An essay such as this has the power to provoke reverberating in-depth thought.  It can change a person’s way of thinking and inspire action for those who have been wronged.  This is the kind of writing I would like to produce.  Writing which inspires new ways of looking at things and possibly a call to action for some.

Email exchange

On Wed, Nov 12, 2014 at 6:52 AM, Stewart, Kristin <kstewart_01@arcadia.edu> wrote:

The article I read is about a public intellectuals chat.  If I understand correctly it is generally a show which is not as controversial as some of the others.  They do not deliberately attack people in the attempt to discredit.  In fact, Chris Hayes tends to attempt to discredit his own beliefs.

In this particular episode they are discussing memorial day.  He does a good job of painting a heroic picture of soldiers but then questions the idea of calling them heroes.  While doing this he points out that he does not mean to discredit anyone who has made that sacrifice, nor is he claiming that he is right which he proves by inviting other scholarly experts to also critique but instead they seem to agree with him.  Then he offers his own possible counterargument as to why soldiers are considered to be heroes.
By the way, part of his problem with the word is that it seems to make a justification for more war.  So naturally, he stirred up some listeners.  Many of these listeners became outraged about his implications and blew them out of proportion.  But doesn’t he have a right to speak his mind and merely pose the question, which is what he did, as opposed to proclaiming himself as right.  The article also makes the argument that we’re shouldn’t necessarily expect to agree with all opinion broadcasters on every issue.

On Wed, Nov 12, 2014 at 9:23 AM, Hagan, Catherine <chagan@arcadia.edu> wrote:

So, my article started off with this movement that was started to stop complaining because our thoughts create our actions and so, if we complain we are creating a negative world. In history complaints have been pushed aside even in desperate times of economy: oh this won’t last forever stop complaining. Deny a problem is the only way to solve a problem basically in these people’s eyes. But in actuality complaining is the first step to change. Long term complaining means that there isn’t a reason to change something, but that something must be done to stop this on going issue, whatever it may be. Complaining is a call to action. It is what brings people together, when one person complains announcing their struggle, another one will rise knowing he is not the only one who feels that way.

The real issue about complaints is that people refuse to listen. Imperfection and reality of issues make people uncomfortable, so to actually have to acknowledge a problem.. People would rather you just shut up instead..
Complaints are not the issue, compassion is.
A similarity I see is that Chris Hayes stirred up his listeners, and that is exactly what com-plaints do; complaints stir people up and make them uncomfortable.

On Wednesday, November 12, 2014, Stewart, Kristin <kstewart_01@arcadia.edu> wrote:

I see another similarity.  Further than just stirring people up, by voicing his opinion and the things he notices he is giving people the opportunity to think about things that they may previously have overlooked because they DONT want to be just another complainer or cause issues.  Some people may notice something and dismiss it or deny it because it makes them uncomfortable to attempt to voice it.  They do not want to cause ripples by upsetting other people.  By having a person like Chris Hayes who poses these ideas and then looks at both sides it gives people an opportunity to consider things from someone else’s perspective and even if you do not agree with it you might be less resilient to a change, you may understand why a call for change is needed.
On Wed, Nov 12, 2014, Hagan, Catherine <chagan@arcadia.edu> wrote:

Oh I like that! I didn’t notice that.- difference I saw was yours with Chris Hayes they focused on the fact there’s two sides and it’s good to just question both to understand no matter who’s actually right.

My article jumped the gun in completely taking the side of complainers and insulting people who are against complaining. Rather than understanding that some people beliefs about complaints do make sense

The Surprises in Life

In class the other day we discussed the ideas of what makes a good essay.  We discussed going against the grain of the usual essay- the expected essay.  After all, that’s how we produce something that is good.  That is how we entice and keep people interested and involved- by surprising them; by producing the unexpected.

Life is full of these surprises; these ideas that go against the traditional, the usual, and the expectations we may have for the outcome.  Somehow, Wallace took a normal day, an ordinary experience for most people, and surprised people by making it extraordinary.  Our mission in this blog is to discuss what it was that we found so extraordinary about the essay we read by Wallace.

I found that the combination of our class along with the reading of this plunged my mind into deep metaphors and tangents.  I was wrapped in thought as I drove myself home.  These tangents, along with an element of surprise such as the ones in Wallace’s story, are exactly what can make a story so enticing.  Don’t mistake me, I still found myself having to stop and restart in order to get through the essay which I felt was long winded.  Perhaps I am merely a product of my generation and tend to stick to reading things which don’t take much longer than a Facebook post.  Even on Facebook I find myself skipping over the long posts and reading the one liners.  Or, if I do get sucked into one of the long Facebook posts there is a good chance that I may only read the first paragraph or two before I get side tracked and move on.

More often than not, I read a Facebook post or article, and though it may temporarily lift my spirits for a couple minutes, I generally go on about my day feeling virtually unaffected.  I realize this is not entirely true, as I often find myself able to relate something I find on Facebook to everyday life.  This is the final factor that struck me when I made it to the end of Wallace’s article.  You are more likely to gain and keep an audience’s attention by writing something that strikes them; something they can relate to.  This is why I felt so connected in the last couple paragraphs and footnotes of his article.

Like Wallace, I also do not care much for the tourist type attractions which many people feel the need to seek out, observe, and participate in.  Also like Wallace, I probably have not given much thought to my meat-eating habits because I enjoy eating meat.  But I certainly recall myself turning my face as my mother would utilize a set of tongs to push the resisting crabs out of the bucket and into the boiling water.  There was a part of it that seemed inhumane to me.

Yet I also find myself wondering, isn’t this natural selection?  Survival of the fittest with humans being at the top of that chain?  As creatures who are at the “top of the chain” we no longer have to duke it out for food.  Most Americans are not lacking and fighting for their lives everyday.  So does the chain no longer exist?  Do we have a responsibility as the head of the food chain, with the intelligence and awareness that we have, to develop alternatives to killing others species’?  Just because we can does not mean that we should.  We have the ability to consciously decide what we should or should not do and hence we have the ability to develop alternative solutions to killing a species.  So should we?

Now we are talking about a whole new ballgame.  No longer are we talking about natural selection but artificial selection.  We are messing with the natural balance of the world.  The population of humans continues to grow.  The other discovery Darwin is famous for is that “a population can produce more offspring than can survive…with more individuals than the environment is able to support, competition is inevitable.”  Having conquered the challenge of “predators” such as wild animals it seems the only thing left to kill us off is bacteria/disease pathogens and the human species itself.

Not your usual presentation

When I watched the TED talk “How to make stress your friend” by Kelly McGonigal I felt she was an excellent speaker and presenter.  She began by connecting with the audience right away.  She asked them a question which pertained to everyone and invited them to participate by sharing a piece of themselves via raising their hand.  She speaks with passion.  She smiles, makes eye contact with the audience, uses tone inflection, and overall gives the impression of a fun, personable personality.  Then she told the audience what she was going to talk about.  Her presentation does not use numerous slides, but only a few to illustrate key points.  She has also incorporated some humor into her presentation which helps to keep people interested.  She also presents her topic with statistics that people can understand by connecting them with numbers that people can understand.

All of this is so much more effective than the standard Powerpoint presentation where the presenter is not focused on as much as the slides are and every point is on the slide.  Also, her presentation used moving graphics when necessary to make a visual understanding of points.  She also allows for big pauses in her presentation so that people have time to process the information which is likely new to them.

I think some of the most important parts of this presentation for me to take away are the importance of taking something you are passionate about and presenting it in a way that others can connect with.  Don’t tell them too much of what they already know, be certain to teach them something new and present it in a way that will entice them.  Also, the presentation itself is about stress and how to use it to one’s advantage.  By “looking forward” to my stress and using it as energy for my presentation it can actually become a better presentation.


How to Give a Good Presentation

In Bill Murray’s interview with Howard Stern he makes some interesting comments about how he became so good at being relaxed in front of crowds of people.  Basically, Bill said that practice makes perfect.  The more you try it, the better you can get at it. The specific key is to start where you have the confidence to succeed.  He said that one should start on a small scale where you are comfortable and move on to a larger one.  It’s about changing your mindset and putting yourself into a different “state”.  Decide how you want to be in front of the audience, it’s an acting of sorts.  Accomplish it one step at a time, gradually putting yourself into a “harder” situation.  The more relaxed and loose you are the better you will do.

This is actually something which I have been working on- the ability to feel comfortable around groups of people.  By nature, I am extremely shy and have always had trouble talking to people.  When I began my job as a personal trainer my shyness was a huge obstacle to attempt to overcome.  I was, and am still, at a point where I really struggle to convince myself to be an active part of group conversation.  Specifically, I struggle the most if the group does not consist of people that I know well or there are 3 or more people in the group.

I was fortunate to have had two things happen to me, almost simultaneously. which facilitated an increase in my ability to be outgoing.  I enrolled in an Effective Communication (speech performing) class and I began to instruct a small exercise group.  Within the group was a mother and her two daughters.  They were a smiling, excited, happy bunch who were a delight to be around.  I was able to feel a bit relaxed around them and have more fun.  One of the daughters was extremely enthusiastic and over the next couple of months would often tell me how much she and her mom and sister had enjoyed my class.  They felt so motivated from working out under my leadership.  It was a huge boost in my confidence both as a trainer and my ability to be enthusiastic and motivational without everyone realizing how nervous I was.

While leading workouts for those women I was also doing taking a class on effective speaking which involved the practice of constructing and delivering speech presentations.  My fellow students would often commend me on how comfortable and natural I looked while presenting even though I could feel myself sweating, slightly shaking, and speaking much faster than I usually do in addition to barely making eye contact with my audience.

I think that in addition to striving for my better communication skills and confidence there a number of things that will assist me in being a better presenter.  I think that for my next presentation if I practice first in front of somebody else and really focus on being relaxed that it will help me to deliver a better presentation.  Practicing in front of small groups (particularly people who will give me a lot of encouragement and support), taking more deep breaths, and doing some encouraging self talk (or asking others for it) before I begin should all help me to become a better presenter over time just as Bill Murray did.

Writing and Communications