October 2006 - Dr. Mary Harris

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I recently received an e-mail about a study conducted by AC Nielsen of the impact that constant eating out has on obesity. Surprisingly, 82% of those surveyed acknowledged that individua–and not fast-food restaurants–are the most responsible for weight gain in the U.S. population. However, despite this focus on personal responsibility, consumers tend not to follow their own advice. Not surprisingly, only about one-third of those surveyed have actually taken up a sport, hobby or exercise regimen as a weight control strategy.

The disconnect between what we know is good for us and what we actually do has long been an active area of research for scientists who study health behaviors. The fact is that practicing good health behaviors, all the time, or even some of the time, is hard. Believe me, I know. I'm constantly trying to keep myself motivated to exercise and eat right–especially during the fall and winter. Often the things that bring us the most pleasure are the very things we need to avoid. On the other hand, the things we dread (exercise, proper diet, adherence to medications) often bring positive benefits.

I'd like to offer a word of advice for those of us challenged by doing what we know is good and right for our bodies. Realize that obtaining good health is a journey. Along the journey, you'll have some setbacks, but you'll also have some successes. However, the important thing is to stay on the journey. Every new day is another chance to continue on your journey to good health. Each new day provides another opportunity for you to exercise, eat right, take your medications, and face the world with a positive mental attitude. If you can't envision yourself taking giant steps, try small steps. For instance, if you need to start a walking regimen, for your first day, walk until you're tired. But make a vow that tomorrow you'll walk farther than you did today. It doesn't have to be a lot farther–just farther. Before you know it, you'll be putting in some distance! The same goes for eating. Make small changes to your meals–even if you change just one meal a day. You're not in a contest with anyone except yourself to be the best you can be. The idea is to get started to whatever you can commit to doing and gradually make small positive changes. Remember, lots of small steps can make one big difference.

With you on your journey to wellness....
Dr. Mary S. Harris

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