Meet Michelle Segar: Exercise and Behavior Guru

December 07, 2011

Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? Weight loss and a healthier lifestyle remain particularly common goals each year, yet very few people who set New Year’s resolutions to lose weight are successful. Are we setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment?

2005–06 American Fellow Michelle Segar believes that what society has taught us about exercise has set us up to fail. Many women list exercise as a priority for health and longevity, but according to Segar, these reasons are not compelling enough for us to stick to our plans when faced with competing priorities. She asserts that to be successful in the long term, women must change their outlooks on exercise to focus on immediate rewards instead of numbers or logical health goals. “Logic doesn’t drive our daily life, emotion does,” she says. Her own research suggests that creating an emotional connection with exercise is imperative to lasting success. These ideas reflect the principal findings from her newly published study Rebranding Exercise: Closing the Gap between Values and Behavior.

Segar’s findings are grounded in her academic interests. She earned her bachelor’s degree in the socialization of women and master’s degrees in both kinesiology and health behavior and education at the University of Michigan. A doctoral degree in motivational psychology rounds out her academic focus on helping women develop sustainable practices of exercise and self-care. Segar is currently the associate director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy (SHARP) Center for Women and Girls, a collaborative effort between the University of Michigan and the Women’s Sports Foundation. The center seeks to change the dialogue about sports, movement, and exercise for women and to promote better ways society can brand exercise to achieve more sustainable participation.

A talented academic, Segar is also a consultant, blogger, and behavior-change expert for notable sources like the New York Times, Prevention, and Women’s Health. She bridges academia and real-world experience with her work as a coach and consultant to fitness, health, and wellness organizations. She also speaks to women’s organizations around the country about her research-based SMART principles, which say that being self-caring, mindful, autonomous, respectful, and tolerant (SMART) leads to lasting behavior change. She’s also working on a book based on these principles called Smart Women Don’t Diet: Moving Toward Peace with Our Bodies and Ourselves. She has shared her research with AAUW branches in Michigan, giving back to the AAUW community that supported the completion of her dissertation research on women and exercise.

Segar continues to pursue her professional passion while remaining humble enough to always ask for support along the way. Today, she balances her hectic life by walking to work rather than driving as well as getting a good night’s sleep. She says that having a supportive spouse and setting boundaries between her personal and private lives have been essential to her success.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.

By:   |   December 07, 2011

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