In 2010, Desiree, a successful business owner, came to me wanting to improve her health and lose weight. At the first session with a client, I start by having a conversation to collect a history. I began by asking Desiree about her work and daily schedule.

Desiree told me that she frequently traveled for work and, since she was dedicated to working out and performing optimally on her job, she took pains to find five­star hotels with fitness centers. Desiree never skimped on giving herself a comfortable, cozy, rejuvenating place to stay. Desiree stuck to her luxury-sleeping environment and steady workout schedule because she believed unequivocally that they enabled her to perform at her best, and that she and her business deserved nothing less.

Interestingly, when I turned the conversation to food, the discussion soured. To say that Desiree had subpar nutritional habits would be like saying deep-fried Twinkies are a little bad for your health. Desiree’s daily diet included sugary sodas, fast food meals, vending machine snacks and quick-mart chips and candy bars. The kicker was that she also smoked cigarettes. These actions clearly stated that Desiree didn’t deem her body worthy of healthy, nutritious and sustainable foods (or fresh air).

I saw immediately that Desiree’s deserve levels were all over the map. Desiree made sure to get in a workout no matter where she was traveling, but she sabotaged any healthy fitness gains with fattening empty foods and smoking. I could see that the first step in our training would be to enlighten and educate Desiree as to how her goals to lose weight and get healthy became snagged on the contradictions in other areas of her life. I introduced her to the 10 × 10 Deserve Level Concept and explained how to use the 1-to­10 rating system to identify her deserve levels.

I first asked her, “How important is it for you to have a comfortable place to relax and sleep at night?”

“10,” she said.

“And how important is it for you to exercise?”

“10. I never miss my workout,” she said.

Next, I asked, “How important is it for you to lose weight?”

Again, “10” was the response.

Then I asked, “How healthy did you eat yesterday?”

“2,” she mumbled.

We discussed what she’d been eating, and her deep­down reasons for why she was eating this way, and she agreed that her typical eating plan put her at a 1 or 2 in the nutrition category, which was an obstacle to losing weight and improving her health. When I pointed out the extreme imbalance in her habits, she was truly surprised. I asked her if she thought she deserved to eat healthy to reach her goals. “Absolutely!” she said.

Seeing the numbers helped Desiree clearly understand the discrepancies. She realized she wasn’t nurturing her insides by eating healthfully, which was much more important than 1,500-thread­count sheets. This awareness, along with other techniques to improve awareness, empowered Desiree to change her value system about nutritional habits, and she increased her nutritional deserve level to a 9.

She still stays at plush hotels, but today Desiree has ditched the sodas and smokes, and now prioritizes eating healthy foods just as much as exercising. Not surprisingly, Desiree is now at a healthy weight and full of energy and passion for her life!

Think about it: If I had told Desiree to focus on fitness before addressing her nutritional and health issues, she would have remained out of balance, and any weight loss wouldn’t have been sustainable. All the exercise in the world couldn’t counteract the effects of smoking and the junk-food­junkie lifestyle she was leading.

When you don’t address what is out of balance, you can’t make changes stick. Desiree might have seen short-term results in her fitness if I had focused on improving her exercise technique or given her eating tips, but by addressing the mind-set underlying why she ate the way she ate and why she smoked, her motivation became much stronger, and she was empowered to take control of her life and health.

Check out his website, or click here to buy Joel Harper’s book, Mind Your Body: 4 Weeks to a Leaner, Healthier Life.

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