Think Outside the Square

About five months ago I was chatting to someone (let’s say her name was “Lisa”), who told me that she was concerned about her housemate’s (let’s call her “Maggie”) weight and health but did not know how to approach her without hurting her feelings.

Lisa also told me that Maggie wanted to go on a holiday with her family, which will involve five days of trekking in Tasmania.

I suggested that rather than focussing on Maggie’s weight, Lisa could try approaching her concerns from another angle.  Since Maggie wanted to go trekking, Lisa could suggest to Maggie that they go walking together in the mornings to get Maggie ready for the trek.  The following was what I suggested to Lisa.


With Lisa as her support, Maggie set herself some major goals and then broke them down into smaller or minor goals.  As Maggie had been sedentary for a number of years and was fairly overweight, she needed to start slowly to minimise the risk of picking up repetitive injuries.  Her first major goal was be able to walk 60 minutes without stopping, three times a week, to be achieved within three months.  Breaking this major goal down, Maggie’s first minor goal was to walk for 12 minutes in week 1, three times.  At the start of week 2, she increased the duration by 3 minutes and continued this increase each week until week 4, when she walked for 21 minutes.  For weeks 5 to 8, the increments were 4 minutes each week.  And finally for weeks 9 to 12, the increments were 5 minutes.  At the end of week 12, Maggie and Lisa were walking for 60 minutes – her first major goal achieved.  And to add a bit of variety, Maggie and Lisa started two out the three walks each week from home, with the third walk (on the weekend) either starting at one of the many beaches in Sydney or in a national park.

I’m pleased to report that five months down the track, Maggie and Lisa are still walking in the morning twice a week for 60 minutes each.  However, the walk they do on weekends are now up to 2 hours.

In the meantime, Maggie has more energy, feels great, started cooking healthy meals at home instead of getting takeaways and walking is now part of her normal routine.  In fact, Maggie now also walks by herself for 20 minutes after dinner on most nights.  She now feels confident that she will be able to handle the five-day trek in Tasmaina next month and will be able to enjoy the holiday with her family.

Maggie and Lisa have become really close friends and as an added bonus, Maggie has come down two dress sizes.  Maggie has made amazing changes to her lifestyle thanks to her housemate.   Lisa was able to use Maggie’s family holiday and in particular, the five-day trek, as a motivating factor to get Maggie walking.  She did not mention anything about Maggie’s weight.

Think Outside The Square

The moral of the story: Some people may be a bit sensitive about their weight or size and so it can be a touchy subject to bring up.  Think outisde the square and see if there are other motivating factors to help get them be more active.  And finally…set achievable goals.



Andrew is the owner and principal trainer of Health Jigsaw. He is a highly sought-after trainer and has been a personal trainer since 1997. Andrew has previously worked in a five-star luxury resort, large fitness centres and an exclusive personal training studio.

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