In the first three installments of this series, Mike Clark and I defined obesity and the risk factors associated with reaching its unfavorable benchmarks. We have also identified the path that leads to obesity and, thank goodness, the path that returns or diverts away from the classification. In this New Year, as many individuals will contemplate, initiate, and, unfortunately, abandon resolutions to be healthier, it is important to understand that knowledge is not enough. While Mike and I may have shared a little more than you already knew about obesity, the fact is we do, for the most part, know the facts. The problem? Action.

Many wise souls have been credited for the quote, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” No matter who actually said it first, there is a lot of truth in the statement. Knowing now how obesity is either reached or avoided, the “secret” to accomplishing a healthy weight is taking action and applying this knowledge to your lifestyle. If too little exercise, too much food, and too little sleep lead to being overweight, then conversely enough exercise, food and sleep will lead to a healthy weight. So to change your course of action, so that you can truly expect different results, means you must in fact take “sane” action, that is, something different than what added the pounds in the first place.

A healthy weight is not a gimmick, seasonal sale, special event, sales pitch, or figment of your imagination. It does require work, effort and sacrifice, but don’t all worthwhile pursuits? Once you have made up your mind to take appropriate action toward a healthier weight, there are a few things to keep in mind that will help in your effort and sacrifice so you, too, can experience the blessings of health.

  1. Life happens. Kids and dogs make messes, cars break down, illness and injury happen, and sometimes it rains. Your best intentions may be sabotaged by life on occasion, but having some back-up plans in place can help you stay focused and successful when you cannot make it to the gym or your stomach growls while conveniently passing a fast food stop.
  2. It’s called a holiDAY. I love New Year’s, the Super Bowl, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, my birthday and Christmas just like many other totally normal, good-food-lovin’ American. But consider for a minute the word “holiday”. Eat your Grandma’s cake, Aunt Jane’s macaroni and cheese, Mom’s sweet potato casserole, and Dad’s ribs with the secret sauce. And enjoy it… on that day. It’s not a holiweek, holimonth, or a holiseason, and it most certainly is not a holiyear. Love the day of celebration, and the people you celebrate it with, for what it is and flip the calendar to the next day.
  3. Partake in (some) trends. The dance craze has hit the fitness scene and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Detox diets are running rampant and books are sold by the millions. You can pump iron, maximize reps, run a race every weekend of the year, and you can dance to any beat from any culture that has ever existed. There’s a fitness craze for that! You can purchase food to be delivered to your door, you can count calories, points and sheep, and you can avoid anything or eat anything if you set your mind to it. There’s a diet for that! Find what you enjoy in exercise and food and you will be successful, period. The point of exercise is to move, so move how you choose. Food is fuel so you should eat actual food, not a bunch of processed, manmade ingredients, and if you enjoy it you will keep making it. The concern with trends in both areas is that you have to consider what is safe, realistic, and enjoyable for you. Do not restrict yourself too much, but do not be naïve to the positive and negative consequences.
  4. You deserve health. Your family and friends deserve a healthy you. When all else fails, because we’ve already established that life happens, remind yourself that you deserve to be happy and healthy. If you need more than willpower, find some “why power”. Keep a picture of your loved ones near your gym bag. Write yourself a list of all the events you hope to attend in the future. Find a pair of your old jeans from college and hang them front and center in your closet. Whatever you choose to do, remind yourself regularly that being comfortable in your own skin, and having health to enjoy all that life has to offer, is something you absolutely deserve.

We wish you only the best in your future endeavors and pursuit of a healthy weight. Now go be active!

Ellen Thornburg is an Exercise Physiologist and Personal Trainer at Duke Center For Living’s Health and Fitness Center. She received her BA in Exercise and Sports Science and Psychology from UNC.

image by Filimonas via flickr