The Quality of Motivation Is Not the Same

by Sara C. Folta, PhD

Have you ever sensed that within your StrongWomen classes, there are differences in the reasons your participants are there and that these differences are related to how hard they work, how often they show up, and whether they stick around?  In this post, I’ll discuss the different qualities of motivation, and provide strategies for using this understanding to guide your participants toward greater success within your classes.

Self-Determination Theory (SDT), founded by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, uniquely distinguishes between different types of motivation, on a scale from extrinsic (coming from outside of oneself) to intrinsic.  As you might guess, the more intrinsically motivated someone is to do a particular behavior, the more long-term success someone will have with that behavior.


At the extrinsic end of the scale, peoples behaviors are regulated by the hope for external rewards or to avoid punishments.  This would mean that some of your participants are basically showing up to get a pat on the back from their doctors, husbands, or other people, but in a major way, their hearts aren’t really in it.  Specialists who study motivation and exercise have suggested that since many people feel pressured socially and sometimes medically to lose weight, this type of motivation may be pervasive.  Next on the spectrum is interjected€ regulation of behavior. In this case, your participants are showing up and exercising because they’ll feel guilty if they don’t.  While this is a little more intrinsic, participants haven’t really embraced the behavior €“ they’re just trying to keep from feeling bad about themselves.  For both external and interjected behavioral regulation, dropping out is a likely outcome.

The identified€ type of behavioral regulation takes a leap toward a more intrinsic form of motivation.  In this case, women consciously value an outcome of exercise. For example, My goal is to stay independent for as long as possible€, and they are engaging in exercise to achieve that goal.  Closely related but even more intrinsic is integrated€ regulation of behavior. In this case the reasons for exercising are in full alignment with that woman’s overall values; it’s very much a free choice that is driven by her overall life goals.  Not unexpectedly, there’s evidence that this type of motivation predicts participation in regular exercise better than the more extrinsically motivated types. More surprising perhaps is that it might predict regular exercise better than doing exercise for the pure intrinsic love of the activity.  This makes some sense, though, when considering activities like weight training, which can be tough, repetitive, and kind of low on the fun factor€ scale.  Women who come to class because the benefits are fully integrated with their own goals and values are likely to push through all that and find great satisfaction in doing it anyway.

How do you help foster the more intrinsic types of motivation that will best help your participants stay and thrive in the StrongWomen programs?  According to SDT, the more you focus on helping people meet key psychological needs, the more you will help promote more intrinsic forms of motivation.  You can do this in the following ways:

Incorporate a sense of choice and ownership.

  • Provide clear explanations for exercises. (The reason we do this is that it will improve your ability to catch yourself if you start to fall.)
  • Find out what their values are, and link exercise with those values.
  • Provide as much choice within the structure of the class as is appropriate.  Use language that supports choice. (You could try this€  It’s up to you.)

Promote their confidence:

  • Start slowly and build up. One reason we designed the programs as we have is so that women can gain a sense of mastery before moving on, building their confidence.  So just keep following the program!
  • Address fears. Older women especially may have fears related to exercise. It’s important to address fears of injury, although the StrongWomen programs are designed to be very safe, they must FEEL safe.  (Would it be helpful for me to review proper form for this exercise?€)
  • Offer genuine praise of all successes, big and small, using language so they credit themselves. (Congratulations, you’re ready to add some weight!  You’ve worked really hard to get here.)

Promote a sense of belonging:

  • Foster group bonding. Many of you already know that a secret ingredient to the StrongWomen programs is the wonderful bonds that form within the groups.  You can continue to support this by making sure there is time and space for this to happen it’s not all down to business€.
  • Create common goals. You can create a poster or other visuals to chart overall group progress, such as minutes exercised or exercises added.  This helps the group work toward common goals.
  • Maintain a positive atmosphere using all the wonderful group skills that you’ve likely developed, such as setting a friendly tone and nipping conflicts in the bud.


Further information about Self-Determination Theory if you are interested:

Self-Determination Theory website:


TED Talk by Daniel H. Pink, who talks about motivation more generally in a way that’s very much based on Self-Determination Theory:


Why We Do What We Do by EL Deci and R Flaste. A book meant for laypersons about the theory.


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What’s Up with Wheat? Firsthand reflections on a grain gone awry

This past fall, I drove with my colleague, Eleanor Heidkamp-Young, 6,800 miles over nine weeks touring the heartland of America.  Starting in Kenai, Alaska and ending in Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania, our objective was to work within small rural communities to accelerate the pace of change regarding local food environments (see As a nutrition and public health researcher, I have become increasingly impatient with the lack of improvement in local food environments and the failure to reduce the obesity epidemic.  This tour was an attempt to engage rural America in the effort.

There are so many noteworthy experiences to relay from the 6,800-mile journey. Yet one of the experiences that I found most compelling was driving through millions of acres of wheat in the northern plains.  As a professional in the field of nutrition, I am aware that refined grain is the largest source of calories for Americans and plays a significant role in our current obesity epidemic. Driving through these wheat fields, talking with local farmers only increased my fascination with wheat.

We depend on wheat. It is a cornerstone of many countries’ food culture. We commit more of the world’s farmland to it than to any other crop and have set it as a focal point of our commercial agricultural industry. Wheat as most of us would recognize is bleached, refined, and tucked into breads, pastas, sauces, bars, cakes, cookies, and other snacks. Americans currently consume an average of 146 pounds of wheat a year, sourced from across the globe. However, the wheat that is grown today is fundamentally not the wheat our distant ancestors grew.

Wheat was originally a much different plant, native to only a small region in western Asia and the Ethiopian highlands. After the tour this fall and reading a term paper that my daughter, Alexandra, wrote on the health impacts of modern wheat, I thought it was time to share my views on this popular little grain.

During the tour, we had the pleasure of visiting Bluebird Grains Farm in the northeast Cascades, Washington in late September, where Sam and Brooke Lucy farm an ancient type of wheat called emmer ( We spent time on the farm touring the fields, production, and storage areas and learned about the process of bringing this ancient organic grain from farm to table. The more I learned about the importance of seasonality, demand based production and the low gluten, high nutrient content of emmer wheat, the more I began to question the conventional grain industry.

Wheat domestication and hybridization has changed a small grain with a long, narrow shape into a more uniform, larger grain that is a genetic puzzle. Wheat as we know it originates from the hybridization of three ancient grasses. A typical wheat variety is hexaploid – it has six copies of each gene, where most plants have two. Einkorn, spelt, and emmer, which is widely known as faro in European countries, are all genetically closer to their common ancestral grain.

What I find fascinating is that commercial wheat has 42 chromosomes and a significantly higher gluten content that gives bread products the elastic texture that consumers have grown to prefer.  The wheat genome is known as the Mt. Everest of genomes; it is five times the size of the human genome and contains a massive 16 billion base pairs of DNA.

Ancestral emmer, on the other hand, contains a total of 24 chromosomes. The gluten proteins found in conventional wheat (triticum aestivum) are noticeably dissimilar from those in einkorn, emmer, and spelt. The comparison of emmer’s genetics to those of conventional wheat clearly illustrates how much wheat has changed during the domestication process.

Modern wheat not only differs from older strains genetically, it is also processed and eaten in dramatically different ways.  Due to the emphasis of the commercial grain industry on surplus production, much of cereal grain is stored for up to a year onsite before it is milled and likely stored again for lengthy periods in flour form.  Furthermore, grain silos are prone to pest infestation and mold.  For this reason they are routinely treated with antifungal agents and industrial pesticides.

In an unprecedented 4-fold increase over the last 40 years, some 20 million Americans experience gluten sensitivity and 3 million have celiac disease. This staggering increase in the incidence of gluten intolerance and celiac disease may very well be caused by our increased consumption of modern wheat. I believe that our digestive system was not meant to eat this genetically manipulated grain.

Visiting Bluebird Grains Farm as one of our first stops truly captured the essence of one of our primary goals of the tour: highlighting America’s very best in agriculture, whole foods, and the people who grow them with passion and dedication to maintaining balance between high-quality food production that nourishes our bodies as well as the planet.  For more details on the impact of refined grain on obesity and health, please read my latest book, The Social Network Diet: Change Yourself, Change the World€ ( In the book I also provide a 1-Day No Refined Grain Challenge that readers may find interesting.

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Make Your Own Whole-Grain Bread

While traveling this fall, Mim and I were fortunate to share many meals with our Change Clubs. Bread was often a staple. We had various types of wheat bread, bread made with rice and oatmeal, and of course the hearty loaf that we made with my family in Wisconsin. Bread recipes, the type of yeast, methods for kneading, and whether or not to use a bread machine were all engaging topics of conversation. There were also heartfelt stories about learning how to make bread from grandmothers, experimenting with family recipes, and bread baking for stress relief after a long day.

One message emerged over and over again – bread is a labor of love.

Over the holidays, I replicated the bread that we made in Wisconsin at home in Boston. I used the 5-Grain Bread Recipe from the StrongWomen website.  When I made it, I did not use emmer wheat.  Instead, I used 1/2 cup of steel cut oats, 1/2 cup of spelt, and 1/2 cup of barley.  I followed the recipe and in my opinion was successful!  I don’t think that I could have made it, however, without the in-person lesson we received in Wisconsin.

We have wanted to share this recipe with readers for a while now, and we hope that you use it as inspiration for your own baking.  If you are baking bread for the first time, keep in mind the recipe is no substitute for a good illustrated bread book, or better yet, a baking session with family or friends.

In Health,



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StrongWomen Across America Final Video

Happy New Year!

As I reflect over the past year, I am thankful for so much. It has been a watershed year for me personally and professionally. The nine week StrongWomen Across America tour was such an adventure and was truly life changing. Just before the holiday break I was able to check in with most of our Change Club leaders in each of the eight communities. The news from the local Change Clubs was beyond my expectations. Despite some barriers, the groups have been able to stay right on target with their work. As we document their progress more systematically, we will be sure to share their stories of success and lessons learned with our readers.

There are two people who played an important behind the scenes role during the tour. Allison Knott and Jessica McGovern, both graduate students at the Friedman School, were charged with managing the videos and blog postings throughout our travels. Eleanor and I would electronically send hours of video and still photographs each week to Allison and Jessica. From the raw material, they would produce a short video diary of each of our stops. The video below highlights the whole tour€”from start to finish!  The other link is a podcast that Allison and Jessica produced for the tour.  Thank you Allison and Jessica!

For now, I want to wish all of you a very happy New Year!  May 2012 bring peace, happiness, and good health to all.

StrongWomen Across America podcast

StrongWomen Across America Final Video

Stay Strong,

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Green Rebuilding in Tornado Alley

Two of our Change Club communities, Pratt, Kansas and Lamar, Missouri, reside in what is considered Tornado Alley,€ the central plains of the United States between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. They both happened to be right next door to Greensburg, Kansas and Joplin, Missouri, respectively, two communities devastated by tornadoes.

Given the closeness and importance of both of these communities to Pratt and Lamar, Eleanor and I decided to visit the towns on our way through. We didn’t know it at the time, but one of our Change Club ladies from Pratt had lived through the Greensburg tornado, given the visits even more meaning. Witnessing the results of the devastating tornadoes was profound and very emotional.

On May 4, 2007 at 9:45 pm a category 5 tornado leveled Greensburg. The tornado was 1.7 miles wide and traveled 22 miles with a wind speed of 205 mph. Ninety-five percent of the town was completely destroyed and eleven people died. In the four years since the tornado hit, there has been a lot of re-building.  Shortly after the tornado, the city council passed a resolution stating that all new town buildings would be built with green technology following the LEED Platinum Standard.  They have done just that.  Furthermore, the primary energy source for the town now is wind power – ironic, isn’t it?

Colleague Mark Fenton was one of the consultants asked to assist with the planning of the new town. To that end, they have made a concerted effort to rebuild so that the town is completely walk- and bikeable. We arrived into Greensburg after a long drive from Boulder, CO. Eleanor and I strolled through the town and witnessed the rebuilding everywhere: great sidewalks, mixed use, flowers, bike racks, etc.  While the population isn’t back to pre-tornado census (1,574), it is getting close.  And we heard that new residents are attracted to Greensburg because of all the green technology being used.

The Joplin tornado was much more recent. On May 22 this past spring at 5:34 pm, the tornado touched down just southwest of the city. Similar to Greensburg, this tornado was a mile-wide, category 5, with winds over 225 mph.  It also traveled 20+ miles through the heart of Joplin and out the other side.  The devastation was enormous with 162 deaths and over $3 billion in damages. They estimate that 25% of the city (much larger than Greensburg) was totaled.

We stopped at a convenience store, opened three days before our visit, and talked to the manager.  His store was right on the edge of the tornado.  What you saw looking out his door were fields, stumped trees, and foundations everywhere. He said it used to be filled with a thriving neighborhood, small businesses, and schools. We drove and walked around following the track of the tornado. There was a lot of clean-up, some re-building, but also a lot of for sale signs. Throughout the town there were small wooden stars on stakes, each with a note, such as Live, Hope, and Bless Joplin.€

The blue sky and gentle breezes that we experienced during our two town visits were in stark contrast to the horrors that the residents of these town towns experienced. One can only imagine what it must be like to witness a category 5 tornado in person.  We wish both communities well as they rebuild.

Stay Strong,

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West End Change Club

After driving a total of 6,500 miles, visiting 16 states, and 58 days on the road, we arrived at our home away from home in Tannersville, Pennsylvania on a snowy Sunday morning. Our work in Pennsylvania was in “the West End” – a group of 4 communities in the western part of Monroe County in northeastern Pennsylvania. Our Change Club often referred to it as a “bedroom community,” since many area residents commute hours by bus and car to the to the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.

On Wednesday morning, we met with the West End’s two Change Club Leaders, Dawn Olsen, Monroe County Extension Director and Carmela Heard, a retired teacher and stellar StrongWomen program leader and fitness instructor. We were also joined by Carol Kern, Western Pocono Community Library Director.

The West End differs from many of the other Change Club communities in how close it is to two large metropolitan areas and how rapidly it has grown over the past few decades. The lack of sidewalks, time spent in the car, and the dominance of driving makes it difficult for residents to walk.

Carmela’€s enthusiastic StrongWomen participants and several other community members, including two daycare providers and the School Food Service Director, greeted us on Thursday at the Western Pocono Community Library. Together these women formed the West End Change Club. The library was a fitting location for the Change Club’s work. In many ways the library acts at the community center – complete with an indoor walking track in the basement! The community has walked more miles on the track since it was built a few years ago than we had driven during the whole tour.

Also joining us from Penn State Extension were Marilyn Corbin, Nancy Wiker, and Lynda Lueck-Stoner. We reached out to additional stakeholders Town Supervisor, Town Manager, and School Superintendant. These stakeholders are currently working to improve some of the built environment challenges that resulted from the town’s rapid growth. From these stakeholders, the group learned how the town is looking to build and increase the connectivity of trails. Impressed by the positive energy and excitement for change in the room, as he left on Thursday, one of the stakeholders said that the Change Club was the “best thing that’s come down the pipeline in a long time.”

In planning meetings, the Change Club was committed to both improving physical activity and nutrition, but in the end, they decided to work primarily on nutrition. The group’s Noble Purpose is to improve the health of the residents by making the healthy food choice the easy choice throughout the west end. They plan to partner with the local grocery store to increase healthy options for consumers eating on-the-go or families buying snacks. They also plan to work with local restaurants to increase the healthy options offered. The group was engaged throughout the planning workshops, there was universal participation, and people volunteered for the tasks as the group developed them.

The walkabout in the West End was particularly large and highlighted some of the built environment challenges that the West End faces. There isn’t a single side walk and high school sandwiched between two state highways. While the morning was beautiful, a little cold and crisp, the whizzing traffic made it understandable why no other pedestrians were out and about.

Another highlight was our Thursday night dinner at the local high school. Over a meal of haddock, brown rice, and steamed vegetables our group heard from School Food Service Director, Bonnie Grammes about changes that she’s been able to make. The schools now serve brown rice, skim milk, and pizza on whole wheat crust.

Instead of a home visit, we visited a local grocery store. The visit highlighted the abundance of refined grains, sodium, and added sugar in most readily available foods. We also highlighted healthy choices throughout the store such as cereals with less added sugar, real whole grains, and produce.

On Friday morning and afternoon, we worked with the Change Club in an intense planning session to develop their road map and vision for the changes they’d like to see. We concluded the Change Club with a walk in the newly acquired West End open space. We were led through a section of the beautiful 250 acres by naturalist Don Miller, who pointed out the diversity of old growth and new growth and the importance of perambulating around your natural area.

The West End Change Club was a great and inspiring group to work with as the last Change Club of the trip. Not only were they dedicated to making change, but they respectful, supportive, and caring toward one another. We can’t wait to see how their group progresses.

Please watch the following short video about the West End Change Club.  I hope you enjoy!

Stay Strong,

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Our Nation’s Bounty

While traveling, we saw miles of wheat and cornfields and silos for storage that soar into the air at the edge of small, quiet towns. In Washington State we passed through an area with huge warehouse sized controlled atmosphere storage facilities for apples that lined both sides of the street. In Arkansas, we saw industrial chicken production houses and we were welcomed to Illinois with a sign for a Tyson farm.

We have seen a spectrum of food production while traveling across the US. It was a breath of fresh air to visit Barthel’s Fruit Farm in Mequon, Wisconsin a few weeks ago. The farm is located just outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and has been in the family since 1839. On their 90 acres, owners Bob Barthel and Nino Ridgeway produce apples, pears, plums, strawberries, sugar snap peas, pumpkins, herbs, and perennials. Most of their produce is sold directly to customers, either at farmers markets or to people that come directly to the farm to buy from their barn store or to pick their own.

Being on the farm that sunny, fall afternoon and taking a bite of a crisp, just picked, golden delicious apple, reminded me of the value of good, wholesome, nurtured, nourishing food. Below is a short clip of Nino talking about the farm.

Stay Strong,
Mim & Eleanor

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Clinton Change Club: The Power to Empower

There is an electrical contracting company in the center of Clinton, Wisconsin that has recently painted a stunning, huge red and white mural on the side of its building: a hand with a bolt of lighting. The Change Club ladies of Clinton were inspired by the mural and have decided to use as their mantra, which is the Power to Empower.€ This Change Club may have the fewest members, but they are powerful.

The Change Club of Clinton is an engaged, knowledgeable group of women. They represent three generations – moms, grandmothers, and great grandmothers – who are all passionate about improving the lives of the next generation. Their noble purpose is to improve the health and wellness of Clinton school children by: 1) increasing active transport (e.g. walking and cycling) to and from school and 2) implementing healthy food environment guidelines and policy. Together, we worked through their road map for change. First on the list is for them to do an audit of how many children currently walk to school (they estimate very few) and assessing the existing school food environment.

There are some concerns about the current food environment. One is that the school has instituted a PBIS initiative. The Positive Behavior Incentive Schools is an evidence-based framework for teaching that contains an element of positive rewards to incentivize good behavior and academic achievement among the children. The problem with the system (as implemented in Clinton) is that the school is using candy as one of the rewards – resulting in teachers giving out a lot of candy. This is certainly an area worthy of the Change Club’s focus.

Clinton is a beautiful, small town in rural southern Wisconsin, surrounded by corn and soybean fields. The population is just around 2,000. Walking through the town on the first day of our work provided evidence that Wisconsin’s town planners have done a fantastic job of instituting walkable street policies over the years. Clinton gets our award for the best sidewalks on the tour – both sides of the street, great crosswalks, and green buffers – that we have seen on this tour. We couldn’t find one in-town sidewalk that wasn’t in good repair or not on both sides of the street.

Also of note was the very positive and supportive food environment. There is a butcher who sells local meat, a nearby CSA, small farmer’s market, and medium-size town grocery store. In addition, there are several good local restaurants in town. Connie, one of the Change Club ladies, owns and runs the Clinton Café. The café has been in her family for a long time. She strives to serve in-season produce and all local meat. Her specialty is baking pies. I enjoyed talking to Connie about how she cooks the food, following recipes from her mother that are both healthy and delicious. Her café was definitely the hub of activity in the center of town during lunchtime.  The walkable community and wholesome food environment in Clinton will make fulfilling the Change Club’s noble purpose much easier.

We finished our work together on Friday with two events. The first was our physical activity challenge. Nine of us drove a few miles away to a ropes course facility. Guided by ‘Big Dog’€ (aka Gary), we were put through our paces, stretching our comfort zone high up on the ropes course.

Many of us broke through barriers, found our strengths, and learned to trust one another as we balanced on taut high wires, logs, and boards, and finished with a plunging zip-line back down to earth. It was definitely a metaphor for the work ahead.

Finally, I gave a public presentation at the Clinton High School Friday evening to an audience of about seventy people: StrongWomen participants, leaders, and friends. Hearing the stories from women firsthand on what the program has meant to them was inspirational. So many of the women have faced major challenges, and the program has given them the fitness, mindset, and strength to persevere.

Thank you Change Club ladies of Clinton! We wish you well!

Please enjoy this short video of the Change Club in Clinton:

Stay Strong,

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Change Club of Lamar Thinks Big

You can always amend a big plan, but you can never expand a little one. I don’t believe in little plans. I believe in plans big enough to meet a situation, which we can’t possibly foresee now. -Harry S. Truman

President Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri and this quote served as the guiding light for the Change Club. Over the late summer and early fall, as the Change Club was beginning to form and zero in on their priority area, we heard from Tammy Roberts, their leader, that they were thinking big!  The fourteen ladies of the Change Club decided to focus their efforts on building a community wellness center and connecting the center to the other resources in town, especially the beautiful parks just outside of the downtown.

Like many other small towns, Lamar has seen its share of economic downturn with a major employer shutting down several years ago. This, combined with the addition of some box stores just outside of town, has drained the beautiful downtown of its vibrancy. There is a keen interest among residents of Lamar and Barton County to revitalize the downtown area. At one time there was a baker, shoe store, clothing store, coffee shop, restaurants, and hardware store; now, many of the storefronts are looking for new occupants. In addition to improving the health among residents, the wellness center has the potential to boost the health of the downtown as well.

In the fall of 2008, Lamar was designated as a DREAM community; planning toward financial assistance, building revitalization, streetscape enhancements, and filling vacant buildings in the downtown began in 2009. The Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri (DREAM) Initiative provided select communities with access to the technical and financial assistance they needed to accomplish their downtown revitalization plans. The Lamar Change Club is closely aligned with this initiative and several others in town, which will greatly support their efforts.

During our walkabout with the Change Club and community leaders (the mayor and chamber of commerce and health department personnel), we were able to see and hear about the plans for the downtown. One key opportunity for the area is to connect it with the two parks just outside of town and the Truman birthplace, just four blocks away. Right now, there are wide streets, but no bike lanes. There are intermittent sidewalks to Truman birthplace and the two parks. For this reason, people mostly drive. An additional goal of the Change Club is to get a Complete Streets policy adopted by the City Council so that all decisions concerning streets will take pedestrian and bike use into consideration.

Months ago Tammy proposed that the Physical Activity Challenge in Lamar be a community walk/run. The event was a big success! There was a 1-mile walk/run around the park, in which forty or so children participated. There was also a 5K walk/run from one town park to the other, going right through the center of town and past the Truman birthplace. The route highlighted how easy it would be to connect these resources with road paint, signage and a few sidewalks! The downtown of Lamar is one of the biggest town squares in Missouri and it is stunning. Certainly worthy of a coordinated effort to get people walking and coming into the downtown.

The challenge showed many of the ladies that they can break through tough personal barriers with the right attitude and support!

As with our other communities, the potluck was a highlight of the visit. Lendi’s family runs a large farm eight miles west of Lamar in Iantha. It is wheat sowing time, so while her husband and adult sons were harvesting, she hosted us all for dinner. Since she is used to having many farm hands for dinner, it was easy for us all to fit in around her twenty-person dining room table. Soup, chili, salads, homemade bread, and bulger were enjoyed by all. We had a lot of great conversation and many hearty laughs together.

Eleanor and I left Lamar filled with re-newed energy and excitement. The Change Club of Lamar is a dynamic group of ladies. They come from Extension, the hospital, local churches, farming, real estate, schools, the health department, and business. They are sparkplugs in the community and they are compassionate about Lamar – the people and the community. I have such confidence that this Change Club will have a measurable impact on Lamar in the very near future. I look forward to coming back for the ribbon cutting ceremony!

Here is the video of the Change Club in Lamar.  Enjoy!

Stay Strong,

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StrongWomen Rally in Arkansas

Our work in Arkansas was all about StrongWomen! Our first three days focused on our work with the StrongWomen Change Club of Camden. The last day we led a StrongWomen Rally in Hot Springs. Arknasas likely has the largest active statewide StrongWomen Program. According to LaVona Trawick, PhD, assistant professor with the University Arkansas Extension, last year there were over 40,000 contacts in regards to the program. To document the impact of the program in Arkansas, LaVona completed research a couple of years ago that calculated that the program saved the state of Arkansas over $5,000,000 in reduced medical expenses due to estimated reductions in falls and fractures. Guided by our five extraordinary state Ambassadors, 326 trained volunteers largely lead participants in the program. We have Lisa Washburn to thank for being the initial catalyst for the program in Arkansas.
Camden is a small rural community on the Ouachita River in southwest Arkansas. At one point, it was the second largest city in Arkansas playing a major role in cotton trade and then the lumber industry. In the early part of the last century, riverboats used to come up the river all the way to Camden. It has struggled recently with a loss of several larger businesses and many of the younger population leaving. Despite these challenges, the citizens in Camden are optimistic that some new defense contracts can re-invigorate the town’s economy.

The Camden Change Club is made up primarily of StrongWomen participants with Rebecca Wright from the Ouachita County Health Unit of the Arkansas Department of Health as the one exception. We were thrilled to have StrongWomen Ambassador, Candace Carrie, leading the group. All of the StrongWomen participants love Candace!

We met at the First Methodist Church in downtown Camden.

Together the fifteen Change Club ladies developed their noble purpose: to support the optimal health of children in Ouachita County by providing increased structured, physical activity and wholesome snacks in the after school environment.

We then developed a roadmap for their work moving forward. This work is going to stretch the ladies of the Camden Change Club. They are so conscientious and don’t want come across as brash and impolite with anyone in their community. Furthermore, the work is going to be difficult as Arkansas has among the country’s highest obesity rates. Notwithstanding these challenges, they are committed to helping the next generation be as healthy as possible. Guided by Candace and Rebecca, I am confident that they will be successful in their efforts.

We had two important local leaders visit us during our stay.Mike Hesterly, the Judge of Ouachita County paid us a visit on Thursday. And the Mayor of Camden, Chris Claybaker, gave Eleanor and me the keys€ to the city on Friday. Under Mayor Claybaker’s leadership, the town was recently able to re-develop a riverside walking trail and park within town. Our destination for the physical activity challenge was the riverwalk!

A definite highlight of our stay in Arkansas was the StrongWomen (and Men) Rally in Hot Springs on Saturday! Held at the historic Arlington Hotel in downtown Hot Springs, 150 women and few strong men gathered to celebrate the program in Arkansas. As people were registering, I went around and introduced myself to as many people as possible. They each told me what StrongWomen has meant to them. Some of the ladies have been in the program for six or seven years! For many, this program has provided a strong network of friends that supports their effort to be strong, both in body and mind. Our program featured an exercise medley from StrongWomen Healthy Hearts and our strength-training program. Eleanor expertly guided the women through the aerobic dance portion and I led the strength training exercises. All 150 of us had a lot of fun together working out.

The exercise session was followed by a keynote address, a healthy lunch salad, and finally a book signing. The rally provided a real boost to the trainers and participants and a real boost to Eleanor and myself. It was amazing to see how powerful the StrongWomen Program is in the state of Arkansas – truly life changing for many of these women. One woman even attributed the program to her recent hole-in-one on the golf course!

We want to thank Lisa Washburn and LaVonaTrawick for organizing the event! Go StrongWomen of Arkansas!

I hope you enjoy this video of the Change Club in Camden.

Stay Strong,


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