Shifting Our Thinking About Shaping Up

It happened quite gradually so I’m not exactly sure when things changed. What I do know is that over the last few months I’ve actually found myself looking forward to exercise.  Never thought I’d see the day, but most weeks I find myself planning, anticipating, and enjoying my workouts.  It is somewhat surprising for me because while I have always known fitness fanatics, I have never been one of them. For me, exercise has always been a necessary evil for keeping the creeping pounds and the effects of gravity at bay.

Six months ago I made a decision to stop beating myself up about the need to lose weight and exercise more, and instead made a conscious decision to treat myself with kindness. Taking time out of my day to work out three times a week is a manifestation of that kindness.  To get there I had to identify the barriers that were preventing me from working out on regular basis – a demanding workload, not knowing where to start, and my self-consciousness about not being in shape. Working through those barriers landed me at Curves.  While it may not work for everyone, it worked for me because I could slot workouts into my schedule whenever there was an opening,  there was one very close to my home, and the environment was very supportive - no mirrors, no makeup, no men. 

While the weight is slow to drop, I’ve lost significant inches, I deal with stress better, sleep soundly, and have far more energy – mostly because I’m not using as much of it to berate myself each day.  In short, I’m simply feeling much happier about myself.

While I feel quite fortunate and am grateful to have had both the knowledge and resources to determine my fitness needs and interests and then to be able to identify and work through the barriers that kept me from moving forward, it is far more complicated for others. As I did for a number of years, many of us are just as likely to throw up our hands and slide into ill health and away from well-being.  Our physical inactivity, unhealthy food choices, and related weight gains have contributed to frightening levels of growth in diabetes, heart disease, mental health issues, and escalating health care costs.

The reality is that there is no quick fix. The solutions are complicated and will require buy-in from everyone in our communities to resolve.  It is much more than simply a matter of individuals trying to change their own behaviours. 

One community in Somerville, Massachusetts is reflecting this essential, community-wide, systemic change in a five year plan that is promoting healthy eating and active living called “Shape Up Somerville”.

As with our work in our ACE Communities initiative, their learnings have underlined the need for (1) strong, collaborative community leadership, (2)  a community driven vision and plan embraced by the entire community, and (3) the short term quick success projects that engage a wide range of citizens, organizations, and businesses working together.

In their case, they focused on such strategies as “the walking school bus” (parents walk the route each day collecting kids at designated stops along the way), serving healthy food in school cafeterias and other public spaces such as arenas and recreation centres, introducing kids to new activities and teaching them the entry level skills they need i.e. bike riding, getting restaurants on board to provide more healthy food options, focusing on the built community by providing more bike paths, safe crosswalks, trails, and playgrounds that provide opportunities for physical activity that includes both fine and gross and motor skill development.

It is long term and sometimes messy, hard work to focus on the big picture and the collaboration required, but there are no shortcuts.  It’s not unlike running around trying to catch the drips from a leaky faucet.  Ultimately you have to focus more efforts on keeping that tap from leaking in the first place. The reality is that we can‘t afford to invest more and more of our resources to address the impact of inactive living and poor nutrition. Even if we aren’t interested in doing it for ourselves, we have an obligation to do it for our children and our grandchildren. It will be one of the most important investments we could ever make in our future.

Posted on 10-03-10


So true, Brenda!  Exercise is good for the soul and if this mean’s its also good for the soul of a community then…. let’s get active!

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  10/05/10  at  09:56 AM


Exceptional article particular in shifting our thinking! I read the whole post and assume that the solutions are complicated and will need buy in from everybody in our population to resolution. Thanks a lot 😊

•Posted by Nathan Hares  on  04/20/11  at  10:22 AM


So true, Brenda!  Exercise is good for the soul and if this mean’s its also good for the soul of a community then…. let’s get active!

•Posted by Steben Poul  on  04/24/11  at  03:51 AM


It is long term and sometimes messy, hard work to focus on the big picture and the collaboration required, but there are no shortcuts.

•Posted by Andy Flower  on  07/09/11  at  04:10 AM


I’ve truly enjoyed reading your blog post Brenda. You obviously know your stuff. I also really like it that your website is very simple to navigate.

•Posted by Joint Juice  on  04/09/12  at  07:54 AM

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