“Deanne is a remarkable woman,” says Nelson, who has kept in touch with Hobba ever since the Boston Marathon, e-mailing back and forth, exchanging news and encouragement. “I find her story incredibly inspiring, but the way she changed her life is an example anyone can follow.” Nelson’s new book, The Social Network Diet: Change Yourself, Change the World, was in part inspired by the monumental life shift made by Hobba and women like her and the positive effect they had on the people around them. The book is about making healthy change in your life by doing what Hobba and other women have done—transforming your eating, your activity level and your environment. “The choices we make about food and exercise reflect our social and physical environments,” says Nelson. “When those environments change, so do our habits. So to change your life, you must change your environment. What’s amazing is that your efforts to change your own life will have a halo effect, just as Deanne’s did, rippling out to those around you, making healthy living easier for all.”
The three keys to making a lasting transformation are rooted in the science-backed elements of successful behavior change, says Nelson. The first is “flipping a switch” for yourself, she says, “finding a moment in time when you say, ‘Enough is enough. I care about my health, my fitness, my quality of life. I have to change.’” For Deanne, that moment came at the amusement park. “But if you look hard,” says Nelson, “you can find your own trigger or catalyst, the thing that really spurs you on.”
Once you’ve made this commitment to positive change, then you need to change your social environment by surrounding yourself with a network of supportive people, as Deanne did. “It’s really difficult to create change completely on your own and it’s especially hard to maintain it,” says Nelson. “In seeking a supportive social network, look around you. The people you need may be right in front of you. Or you may need to branch out. Adopt new networks around running, biking, hiking—with individuals or in organizations. The goal is to surround yourself with helpful, like-minded people.” There are also online social-networking sites and self-monitoring resources devoted to healthy change that can support your efforts.