It has always been my philosophy and experience that people will live up or down to your expectations of them. An encouraging word can go very far in helping someone perform well, be it a child taking an exam, a teen competing in a sporting event or an adult faced with a professional project. Simple phrases like "You got this" or "I have faith in you" can make all the difference in the world. Knowing that someone believes in you before you leave the house tips the scales hugely in your favor.

This goes back to the old "self-fulfilling prophesy." Let's look at the other side of the coin. If you discourage a child, or anyone for that matter, telling them they are worthless or dumb, or if you just plain ignore them, their self-esteem plummets. With no self-worth, the chance that they will actually do well in school, sports or life decreases.

It seems like such a simple thing. A kind word. A pat on the back. A simple smile. This doesn't have to be limited to people who are close to you. Why not be encouraging of co-workers, acquaintances, even strangers. And it's infectious. It pays forward. Imagine how much better the world would be if only everyone could be a little kinder and more forthcoming with praise.

The self-fulfilling prophecy can also work in other areas. I have recently discovered it to be an excellent tool in a weight loss program. By definition, this phenomenon is pretty straightforward. According to, a self-fulfilling prophecy is defined as "any expectation, positive or negative, about a situation or event that affects an individual behavior in such a manner that it causes that expectation to be fulfilled."

Armed with this information, I combined it with my food journaling to create a near foolproof tool as part of my Weigh 2 Go program. Rather than eat a meal or snack and then write it down or record it, I now reverse that order. I fill in my journal before sitting down to eat. I include portion sizes and quantities. In this way, I fulfill that prophecy and eat only what is in my plan.

This system works especially well when you are planning to eat out. Most restaurants post their menus and nutrition information on their websites. If you plan what you'll be eating ahead of time, it will avoid unexpected temptations like appetizers or rich entrees or desserts. Forewarned is forearmed.

Though you may think it is a matter of willpower, it is actually a question of won't-power. You make up your mind ahead of time - you won't give in to cravings, you won't succumb to emotional eating, you won't waiver in your determination to succeed. Yes, it's most definitely won't-power.

So, whatever obstacles or problems you may be facing, I think it is within each and every one of you to meet these challenges and conquer them. Some may have to dig deeper than others, but let me just say, "You got this! I believe in you!"

I come by this philosophy honestly. I am blessed to have been raised in a house where encouragement and praise flowed in abundance. Having had parents and family who believed in me made such a huge impact that I always try to encourage my children, and now my grandchildren, in the same way. And so we pay it forward. We live what we learn. Pass it on.

Terry Alburger is the fitness instructor at Brittany Pointe Estates, an ACTS Retirement-Life Community in Lansdale. Send thoughts to