Personal Responsibility

January 11, 2008 at 4:43 am Leave a comment

As the obesity crisis grows, more and more Americans want to get to the bottom of why our collective waistlines continue to expand. We are well educated about the principles of weight management and fitness, and yet we keep getting fatter. Many fault external forces for the problem.

An article in the December 2007 issue of Scientific American Body, titled The Skinny on the Environment, discusses how our current urban environments are not conducive to getting people out of their cars and moving their bodies. There’s a lack of parks and bicycle paths. Residential areas are separated from commercial areas, so people drive, rather than walking or biking. Advocates for healthy built environments want to see governmental support to communities, in both legislation and dollars, for new bike lanes, pathways, sidewalks, and education and promotion campaigns.

In August, an article called How Friends Make You Fat advised us that, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, “obesity is a contagion you catch from your friends”. The premise was that “good friends enable all manner of bad habits…”.

And today the Mayor of Oklahoma City, the 15th fattest city according to a survey by Men’s Fitness magazine, has issued a directive to his citizens to lose 1 million pounds as their New Year’s resolution. Echoing the sentiment in the Scientific American Body article, Mayor Cornett “wants to make exercise more attractive to residents by increasing the number of bike trails and sidewalks in the sprawling city, where public transportation is minimal, most people are wedded to their cars and outdoor activities for some might be limited to watching a football game.”

I personally love the ideas in The Skinny on the Environment, and anything leaders like Mayor Cornett can do to make it easier to exercise is much appreciated. I’m someone who takes advantage of resources like that. For example, at my work, there is a small park right outside the front door that includes a fitness course with pull-up bars, stretching stations, and other fitness stations. I have used the course a couple of times this winter and plan to use it more as the weather warms up.  For me it’s a perk of my job. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen anyone else out there, walking through the park or using the stations.

To me these proposals and theories have become excuses for us to avoid taking personal responsibility for ourselves.

As wonderful as they would be, we don’t need healthy built environments to help us exercise. We can do DVDs at home; we can park further away; we can take the stairs at work; we can do push-ups or sit-ups during TV commercial breaks.

While it’s true that “oftentimes people do choose friends with kindred vices”, I heartily disagree with the notion that your friends make you fat. In my circle of friends, many are overweight, and most of them don’t work out. Yet I’ve continued to lose weight and get healthier over the five years I’ve associated with these people.

In fact, I started my Weight Watchers program with three co-workers. Of the four of us, two of us continued to lose and kept off the weight. The other two gained back what they lost initially and more. Two of us decided that we would continue no matter what our friends were doing.

And that’s still what I do today. I follow the plan that’s right for me, regardless of what my friends are doing. They respect that. They do their thing; I do mine, and it’s all good. Sure, it’s hard sometimes, but I do it. It can be done. You just have to decide that you – and you alone – determine how you act.

By all means, take advantage of the resources that are available to you. But don’t let a lack of resources keep you from reaching your goals.

Your assignment…

  • Think of all the ways you allow outside influences to derail you, not just in eating and exercise but in spending, hobbies, leisure activities, etc. Think about the external forces you “blame” for not achieving your diet and fitness goals.
  • Think about specific peer- or environment-challenging situations and consider how you can handle them differently the next time they arise.
  • Make one change every time you’re presented with one of these situations. For example, skip the fries and get fruit the next time you’re out with a friend. Or, take the stairs when they take the elevator, telling them you’ll catch up around the water cooler later. Or, park further away from the store the next time you have to pick something up.
  • If you’re with someone, note how they respond. More importantly, every time you make a change, note how you feel when you do what’s right for you.
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Entry filed under: tips & techniques, Weight Loss Philosophy. Tags: , .

You Gain What You Feel Thinking Small, Part 3

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