Most of us have a general sense of whether or not we live a healthy lifestyle if we are being honest with ourselves. Although in most cases, my go to tactic would not be to use fear to motivate, in this argument I will favor using fear for three important reasons:
1.) In college I didn't go to the dentist. After graduating I got my first full time job ever at Equinox. I went to the dentist for the first time on my own as an adult. Bam! I had 10 tiny cavities. The dentist explained that if I didn't start flossing that I would continue to have more. Not only was it expensive, but it scared the hell out of me. Guess who now flosses every single night. I cannot go to bed without flossing and if I have to for some reason, I feel very uncomfortable.
2.) My grandmother smoked for many years as a young woman into her 40's. One day she had her chest x-rayed during a visit to the doctor. The doctor made it a point to show her what her lungs looked like next to the lungs of a non-smoker. She never touched another cigarette again and to this day tells everyone she knows about how much she regrets smoking.
3.) My dad had severe chest pains a couple of weeks before he died of heart disease (at age 38). It scared him so he went to the doctor. The doctor explained that he had high blood pressure and needed to eat healthier, lose weight, and stop smoking. Unfortunately, the extent of the damage was too great and he died.
All three of these stories have made a drastic impact on my life and I carry them with me. To be clear, I do not think fear works when we are just generally told or are warned, "this could happen if..."
I believe that if everyone, including those of us who believe we are "healthy", were to have a series of tests performed that showed us how much plaque has built up in our arteries, along with videos of how hard our heart is working while not exercising compared to a truly healthy heart, pictures of our fat resting above our abdominal muscles, bone density scans showing us how osteoporosis is deteriorating our skeleton slowly, along with a computer generated picture of what we would look like at age 70 if we continue to neglect our health compared with one of how we would look if we took our health and fitness seriously, that the impact of such tests would be an incredible motivator.
With that said, most of us do not have any idea of what is going on underneath our skin until something goes wrong. Sometimes the fear of something can keep us on the straight and narrow. I know it sounds crazy, but if I eat unhealthy food for too many days in a row I start to feel tightness in my chest. I do not doubt that I have fantom chest pains b/c I have had an EKG that showed me how incredibly low my chances are of dying from a heart attack, but heart disease runs wild on my dad's side of the family and because I lost him at such a young age, I know that fear is unconsciously keeping me on my toes.
I think it is a great idea for people looking for a little boost in motivation to have a comprehensive physical done where your cholesterol, body fat percentage, blood pressure, resting heart rate, weight, and any other standard tests are taken and then compare your numbers with a healthy person's numbers. If you did this every year and saw your numbers declining or inclining, what impact do you think this would have on you if any at all?