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Renée Melton is vice president of Wellness and Health Promotion for Sensei, a health technology company delivering patented, HIPAA-secure platform solutions to organizations seeking to transform health, outcomes and engagement. She has extensive experience in program design, development and management, as well as the use of technology in health, wellness and education. A registered dietitian by training, Renée has written health content for both web and print.

While women’s health issues are always a popular media topic, they take center stage in October. With National Breast Cancer Awareness month and National Mammogram Day on October 21, October has become Women’s Health Month. The overarching goal of these campaigns is to encourage women to make their health a priority.  

Most people know the keys to good health are often found in weight management and exercise. Not surprisingly, the amount of research affirming the link between obesity and health issues, from diabetes to cancer, is monumental. However, as any clinician knows, successfully attaining and maintaining health requires motivation. We all have various reasons why we want to lose weight or improve our fitness levels. In my professional practice, I’ve noticed that what motivates women, and many men, tends to shift with age.

When you’re young, motivation is often about looks – looking good in a bathing suit or a particular outfit; leading many to ramp up their diet and fitness routines before summer or a special event. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a spring issue of popular women’s magazines that does not have a feature on getting “swimsuit ready”.

In the next phase of motivation, it’s often about feeling and looking good for loved ones and being able to keep up with growing kids. This is where the transition begins. Many women experience a shift in perspective during this phase. Looks are no longer the focus and health begins to play an important role.

In the third phase, health takes center stage. Earlier in my career, I worked on the Women’s Health Initiative, a National Institutes of Health grant studying the effects of a low-fat, high-fruit-and-vegetable diet and hormone supplements in post-menopausal women age 50 and older. These women were motivated to stay healthy so they could help take care of family and live to see grandchildren grow up. I learned a lot from these women. They came in all shapes and sizes, and their degree of health and fitness was not always apparent from the outside. These women had learned to accept themselves. Long ago they had given up trying to conform to what someone else thought they should look like. They were able to focus on what was truly important.

Before each of our group meetings, these women would gather and chat. I would often sit with them and listen as they discussed family, losing loved ones, health, and the follies of their youth. They were happy to have released the vanity of their earlier years and they found this new phase, of focusing on what really mattered, liberating. Ultimately, it was being healthy and working to preserve their health that was most important.

These women inspired me then and still do today. I try to keep in mind those lessons learned as I pass through my own phases in life. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Finding the inspiration, motivation and courage to be the best you that you can be.

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