Michelle Segar

“I decided that I was going to learn how to develop programming that would help women overcome these issues, learn how to make their own self-care a priority, and stay physically active for the rest of their lives.”
Michelle Segar
Michelle Segar

Michelle Segar has been forging her own path ever since she was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan’s Residential College. As a student, she designed her own major, entitled the Socialization of Women, which drew upon the insights of women’s studies, psychology and other disciplines. After graduating, Michelle moved on to work as a women’s health researcher, where she participated in a study of breast cancer survivors and their exercise habits. What she found in that study would profoundly influence the direction of her career.

Michelle’s study participants reported feeling better, emotionally and physically, while exercising regularly. However, when Michelle followed up with these women after the study concluded, she found that nearly all of them had stopped exercising. “Why would you stop exercising if it made you feel so good?” Michelle asked them. The answers came as a surprise: “They talked about cooking and cleaning and chauffeuring their children,” says Michelle. Having “internalized women’s role and responsibilities,” she concluded, these women were unable to find the time for exercise. “I decided,” Michelle recounts, “that I was going to learn how to develop programming that would help women overcome these issues, learn how to make their own self-care a priority, and stay physically active for the rest of their lives.”

Michelle’s new direction led her to get a second master’s degree in health behavior and health education, then a PhD in psychology. She also founded her own consulting company and began conducting research with the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG) at the University of Michigan. Along the way, she received a scholarship from the Center for the Education of Women that helped lessen the costs of her studies and boost her confidence in the path she was taking.

Michelle’s research has since shown that women who exercise as part of a self-care routine are more likely to sustain their commitment to physical activity than women who exercise for weight loss or even health reasons. Her approach is therefore one of integrated self-care that makes personal enjoyment and physical movement central components of one’s lifestyle.

Michelle is currently working on a book, S.M.A.R.T. Women Don’t Diet: Moving Toward Peace with Our Bodies and Our Selves. You can read her website and blog at http://michellesegar.com.