If not now, when? In light of the alarmingly sharp rise of the number of obese and overweight adults and children — along with the ensuing chronic diseases — we can’t afford to wait any longer. So the time to start taking steps to improve our lifestyle choices, to make lasting behavior changes and adopt balance and moderation in our choices is now.

In my pharmacy practice, as I have been interacting and counseling people about their medications and lifestyle choices, I have realized that people view small obstacles as reasons to abandon any attempt to make better choices, endangering their lives in the process.

Making poor meal or snack choices solely because they taste good and without knowing the nutritional value or the lack of it is a dangerous practice that an overwhelming majority of people make every day.
People come up with all sorts of excuses as to why they won’t be able to overcome the small obstacles facing them. And when I give the some helpful tips, I get a common reply: “I didn’t think of that.” I often tell my patients that if your excuse is not bigger than life or death, then you can overcome it.

It all depends on the way you make the statement in your mind. If you tell yourself, “I can’t do [fill in the blank] because [fill in the blank],” then you will come up with all sorts of excuses why you can’t be more physically active. However, if you truly want to make better choices, ask yourself this: “How can I [fill in the blank]?” Then you will seek and discover how you can buy better quality and nutrient-rich snacks and fruits on a shoestring budget.

Every problem has multiple solutions. You can overcome any obstacle in multiple ways by just asking yourself the question “How can I [fill in the blank]?”

Over the course of my pharmacy career and during my interaction with people, I have identified five common obstacles people face and how to overcome them:

  1. “I have no time”: This is a universal and the most common obstacle. If you think about it you actually have plenty of time. Take for example a 42-year-old obese truck driver with a huge fat belly who sat waiting during the 45 minutes it takes us to fill his medications for blood pressure, cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes. During counseling, I discuss his medications and lifestyle choices to help him bring down his weight. What would be his reply? “I am a truck driver, so I don’t have time to walk.” I reminded him that in the 45 minutes he had been sitting waiting for his prescriptions, he could have walked around in the store. He can also do the same when we he makes break stops. I also gave him tips on favorable choices of snacks and meals while on the road. He just had to ask himself, “How can I increase physical activity during my day as truck driver?” to find the answers.
  2. “I have no money”: A supersized muffin packing 475 calories and a 36-ounce sugary beverage packing more than 350 calories with a total cost of about $4? A banana and half a bag of nuts costs 50 cents —the 1-ounce bag of nuts sold at the checkout area of most stores costs 50 cents. So eating half costs 25 cents, plus a banana’s cost is about 25 cents. The second choice is a very economical one, costing 400 percent less and is great for your health. It’s loaded with vitamins, fiber, complex carbs, protein, a good source of fat, balanced in calories — and most importantly it keeps you full for at least two hours. The first choice adds 800 calories to your belly fat, costs about $4 and is loaded with sugar and fat which will make you hungry in about 45 minutes or so.
  3. “I have no willpower”: Again another excuse people use to distance themselves from taking charge of their health. No willpower is needed here and actually willpower has nothing to do with making favorable lifestyle choices.
  4. “I have failed before, and I am tired of trying to lose weight”: You may have failed at “dieting” because almost everyone who diets fails. After several attempts, you may be closer to succeeding than you think. Adopt a balanced approach of making one positive step at a time and you can’t fail.
  5. “I’m not athletic. Exercise is for athletes and I don’t like to exercise”: When I was struggling with obesity myself, that’s exactly what I used to think. But anyone can increase physical activity. Walk around about three to four minutes per waking hour. Raise the number of steps you take every. That’s not exercise, is it? Get rid of all the excuses. You don’t have to diet or exercise to get health benefits, but start taking action today, improving one choice at a time. The next couple of articles will address those issues thoroughly.

“Lifestyle Makeover For All Couch Potatoes”

Here’s an excerpt from Lifestyle Makeover For All Couch Potatoes

by George F. Tohme, Pharmacist

Identifying Barriers and Finding Solutions With Favorable Lifestyle Choices

Ask yourself, “What makes me not want to take action now and start changing my life for the better?” Here are some common barriers that many people claim:

  • “I have no time.” Solution: If this is your answer because you work long hours and you have to juggle responsibilities between home, work and family then you and millions like you have legitimate time issues, you have my full respect and understanding, because believe me I can relate with my 80 hour work weeks. Not making changes to the better in your lifestyle is no excuse either and no you do not have to diet and you do not have to go out of your way to “exercise.” Remember your good health is so precious and that is what is enabling you juggle all these responsibilities.
  • Without your good health you will not be able to juggle anything. So here is the solution. Regarding food intake, all you need is to preplan and make more favorable food selections, starting from your weekly supermarket trips and take these high fiber snacks with you to work and learn how to make healthier food choices when you eat out without affecting the quality or taste of food. This will be discussed in detail in the next upcoming food section and you will have lots of tips at your disposal and you will generate your own ideas as well. Regarding activity, you do not need to be going to the gym for two hours a session in order to benefit; but rather, the gym is everywhere you are. Increase the amount of walking you do at work, home and while shopping. For more tips on this, check out “Tips on How to Increase Daily Activity” in the activity section.
  • “I have no willpower necessary to lose weight.” Solution: You don’t need any. You are not starting a diet and you are not expected to muster all your effort to remain without a certain food for any period of time, and you are not required to run in the next marathon. The answer is to make small actions daily to the better and gradually improve those choices of actions. All that is required from you is to make better food, snack, beverage and activity choices, and when you “mess up,” make a better choice the next time. You will notice that the more you exercise your ability to make good choices, that your choices will regularly keep improving.
  • “I have failed before, and I am tired of trying to lose weight.” Solution: Name one person in our Universe (The Earth and surrounding planets) who has not failed in one way or another. Success comes after failure and the bigger the failure, the bigger the success. The glass is always half full. Though losing weight and keeping it off is no simple matter, those who have succeeded kept trying until they won. Those who have control over their weight have dropped the “diet” concept. See the section “The Habits of People Who Lost Weight and Kept It Off” which you will find later in this section. This applies to smokers as well. Most of those who quit permanently did so after several failed attempts.
  • “I have no money. I am on a fixed budget.” Solution: You do not need any additional money. There is no need for gym membership, no need to invest in equipment, no need to blow your budget on expensive “Quick Weight Loss” products, “diet pills”, or “diet club” memberships. All you need to do is to increase the number of daily steps, make better food selections at the supermarket, at home, while eating out and at work, as will be discussed in the food section. In the Activity section in Action Step 4 of this guide activity tips are covered in detail.
  • “I’m not athletic. I don’t like to exercise.” Solution: No one is asking you to be athletic or to love “exercising”. If you notice, I have not used the word “exercise” in this guide for fear of discouraging those who “don’t like to exercise.” There are misconceptions about how much activity is needed for good health and weight loss. Actually, not much is needed. Just increase your total activity and walking intermittently throughout the entire day to about 30 or 45 minutes. You can accomplish anything you want especially if it is that simple.

© Copyright Tohme 2012

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