What does it take to change a nation?

I read something quite sad today.  According to this link at the CDC, obesity rates in the US have not changed in the last few years, despite what appears to be a lot of effort to make change.

This really gets me thinking, especially because my new job (which I love!) has me working on grants to design programs aimed at changing food and physical activity environments for groups of people.  It makes me wonder why, despite so much effort toward education, awareness, and encouragement to make good choices, we as a nation are not ‘gettin’ it done’.

Why is that?  I don’t think there is a silver bullet answer, but here’s my 2-cents on it, for what its worth:

1. People are not personally engaged with their own wellness policies to govern their own life.  We talk a lot about wellness policies for schools, companies and private organizations, and even for the nation, but what about your guidelines that rule your own life?  

Have you ever sat down with just yourself or your family and discussed what your health/nutrition/fitness values are?  No?  You’re not alone.  I hear from my clients ALL THE TIME that until they seek support from coaches like myself, it doesn’t cross their mind to have a conversation about it.

What is that saying…”if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”.  Spend some time mapping out what is ‘in’ an what is ‘out’ in your home in terms of food choices, fitness, stress management, etc.

An example:  One client has a rule that if her kids are hungry before dinner, they are offered fruit first.  No matter what.  Even if they pull out a Cliff bar or Goldfish crackers and start eating them.

Another example:  One client had a conversation with her family about her and her hubby’s fitness needs. The older kids agreed to watch the younger kids on Sat and Sun so the couple do do a 1-hour walk together each day of the weekend.  It was just policy in that house!

And the reason you need to determine your own wellness policies is because…

#2 reason I think obesity hasn’t changed: the default environment is obesegenic.  That means it is aligned to encourage weight gain if you just follow the status quo.

Here’s an example:  You drive to work in the AM (no activity there) because the bus system is sketchy or non-existent.  You get to work where, in the break room, are an array of treats at any given moment that you constantly have to resist (how many times can you say ‘no’ in your mind to the banana bread that your colleague made before you break down and have some).  Then you sit some more, and maybe work through lunch.  Maybe you packed your lunch, maybe you are at the Mercy of a restaurant, cafeteria, or (sigh) a vending machine…and let’s not even mention the office Starbuck’s run.

If you just do this every day and top that off with a few dinners out, eating your meals on the gargantuan dinner plates most stores sell, and fall prey to constant food advertising, you are going to eat too much.  And then you are going to gain weight.

So, what can you do:  BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE!!  BE A CHANGE-AGENT IN YOUR OWN LIFE, OR EVEN IN THE LIVES OF THOSE AROUND YOU.  Ask the people who have lost weight, kept it off, or maintained a healthy weight what they do, and I promise they will tell you that THEY DON’T LEAVE THEIR HEALTH IN SOMEBODY ELSE’S HANDS.  They prioritize themselves, their wellness, and their food and fitness values.


Your are worth it!  Change is possible, and it’s okay to need help!  Just ask – your friends, family, co-workers, or me!


2 thoughts on “What does it take to change a nation?

  1. CJ March 20, 2012 / 2:09 am

    i can contest to this – i’ve maintained my weight, +-5 pounds because i am conscious of my food ‘intake’ and it really works. if one is feeling awkward of others who may comment on their ‘change’ is often reasons beyond your control. the individual maybe jealous of your strength of taking good care of yourself and they will try to talk you out of it. take the lead, show them, talk about it and you will see how your social group will adopt some of your new healthy lifestyle changes. i know i’m not the only one that can speak of this story. it’s just how we humans are.

  2. Alice March 20, 2012 / 6:31 am

    Amen Rebecca!!!!! Well said, as usual 🙂

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