Obesity is a now a huge health epidemic – I don’t need to tell you this. It’s on television and the news. There are several reality shows such as ‘the biggest loser’ and ‘heavy’. You may even be able to look down at your own scale or at family members to see just how big the problem is (pun intended!).

We know it is a problem. People talk about how we need to do more to correct the problem and little things are starting to change such as new menus at the popular fast food restaurants and even in school cafeterias.

But even with these little changes, we have a long way to go toward health. Today, the statistics are staggering with over two-thirds of the United States adult population being either obese or overweight.

How did we get so far away from health and the fitness craze of the 1980’s? There are many reasons for the obesity problem. These are just a few:

• Extra calories are added to everything from soups to pasta sauce to condiments.

• We are drinking more calories than ever before with the average person drinking 450 calories a day.

• We eat fast giving us indigestion and causing stomach upset. Eating fast can cause us eat more than we need to and with less enjoyment. We also choose poorly when we grab something on the run. Eating healthy often requires a little planning.

• Less activity and more television, video games and sedentary lifestyles. The elimination of recess at schools.

• Packaged foods and less home cooking. Our grandparents and great-grandparents cooked everything at home. Today, we buy packaged, processed foods and ingest unnatural preservatives, chemicals and sugars unnecessarily added to ‘enhance flavor’ but which have the effect of increasing desire for more. They also cause us to store more fat.

• We eat too much. We eat more than our bodies need. We mistake thirst for hunger and eat instead of drink water. We eat when we are emotional. We eat when we are full. We eat when we see food. We have lost control and fallen prey to advertising, ‘super-sizing’ and our own appetites.

We are busy, less active and eat more. We eat unhealthy food substitutes and eat on the run. When did eating become such a chore?

The Consequences

The consequences of moving so far away from health and fitness are also staggering. Everything has a cost to it.

• Health costs: more sick days, more trips to the doctor, more prescriptions, more co-pays, more pain, more surgeries, etc. Obesity increases your risk for heart disease, strokes, Type II diabetes, high cholesterol, several cancers, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, varicose veins, osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint) and gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility). Let’s face it, the more you weigh, the harder it is on your body, joints, back, organs, heart…

• Life costs: Obesity increases your risk of premature death.

• Financial costs: medical expenses and higher insurance premiums, gasoline, wear and tear on our cars, costs of food, even clothing. And these are just the personal expenditures.

• Business costs: sick time, down time at work, decreased productivity, restricted activity, absenteeism and bed days.

• Relationship costs: with the strain your weight causes on your body and your mental health, it also puts a strain on your relationships. If you’re not happy and healthy, that impacts people around you. Even colleagues feel the pinch when you are out sick or cannot perform to your ability.

• Being overweight impacts your energy levels, self-esteem and mood. It is tiring to carry extra weight around.

• All of this impacts your mental health causing depression and anxiety as well as other mental health issues.

How Do We Change?

Change begins by taking the first step. We must begin with ourselves and then, show others the path. There is nothing more hypocritical than listening to a doctor or nurse give nutrition or exercise advice when he/she is obese. We have to be role models and “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” You cannot just tell others what to do. You cannot teach your kids if you are not doing it for yourself. No, change begins with you – with each of us taking a stand for ourselves and taking charge or our health and happiness.
There is a simple formula to change but it has eight steps. These are outlined in the book Does Change have to be so H.A.R.D.?

1. Commitment. When you are committed, you will go to any and all lengths to accomplish your goal. Commit to your health. Commit to being healthy enough to enjoy your grand-kids and your spouse. Do it because you are worth it.

2. Envision a better future. Dream of your life when you are a thinner and healthier version of yourself. How will you be different? How will you feel? What will you be doing?

3. Develop the characteristics you need to succeed. This means, you have to tell yourself a new story about being healthy and thin, update your self-image and change your inner dialogue. Who will you become in this new vision of yourself? Identify the qualities, the values and the behaviors and start living them today.

4. Create an environment to support the change. This includes the external environment such as visiting new places and cleaning out your pantry. It also means developing a support system or community to assist you in becoming this new version of yourself. You need an external support system to champion the internal work you are doing.

5. Take action. Without action, nothing changes. Each small step contributes to your success.

6. Celebrate your success along the way. I cannot tell you how important this step is! As you celebrate and acknowledge how wonderful you are doing, you gain momentum and motivation. Your confidence builds. And you reinforce your commitment to stay the course.

7. Laugh and enjoy the journey. If you are not having fun, you won’t do it. You will turn back. If you cannot see the value, if you are not committed to the journey but only to the destination, it will be too hard to stick to the path and you will likely fail.

8. Adopt empowering beliefs. If you don’t believe you can, you won’t. If you limit yourself, you will remain limited. This is probably the most important of these strategies because if you do not believe in the possibility for success, no matter what you think, do or say, you will find ways to sabotage your success to prove you are right. What you believe becomes your reality.

Change begins with you. Let’s envision something new, and together, let’s make the world – our world – a healthier and happier place.

Author's Bio: 

Julie Donley knows firsthand what it means to conquer adversity. Having overcome addiction, a grave illness, divorce, single parenthood, obesity, indebtedness and three layoffs, Julie brings a wealth of personal experience to her work. She is a psychiatric nurse, motivator and author of several empowering books including Does Change have to be so H.A.R.D.? & The Journey Called YOU. Contact Julie@JulieDonley.com to learn how you can become a thinner, healthier version of yourself. For self-help resources, to purchase her books and subscribe to the blog, visit www.JulieDonley.com and be your best today!