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It’s all about choice

Losing weight is the most common New Year’s resolution among Americans. Quitting smoking is No. 2. Yet, obesity is a pandemic in America. And the tobacco companies continue to inhale large revenues from die-hard smokers.According to a Rand health report, obese people spend about 36 percent more than the general population on health care. Smokers spend 21 percent more. Obese individuals spend 77 percent more on medications, and obesity equals $70 billion a year in total health care costs.The Center for Disease Control says that smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease among middle-age men and women.I don’t get it, and yet I do get it.In college, I was about 25 pounds overweight. I am tiny and small-boned, and have always been a fair to good athlete. The extra weight interfered. I lost the pounds by simply counting calories and eating the right foods. I kept it off.In college, I started smoking (it was popular back then). The first time I smoked a cigarette, I couldn’t stop – I smoked a whole pack in less than two hours. It became MY addiction. Throughout the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, I battled my love-hate relationship with cigarettes. I used to be a competitive runner. I am an avid swimmer. At the end of a 10-mile run or 50 laps, I’d have a cigarette. A cigarette was my best friend – and my greatest foe.I finally quit with the turn of the century, and I know I can never smoke again.To replace the nicotine, I turned to chocolate, to sugar – cookies. I quit all refined sugar AND caffeine about two years ago.I made those choices because I believe it is my duty to the universe and to my fellow creatures – man and beast – to be the best I can. I also believe in taking responsibility for my own issues.Your issues and mine – whether they’re about physical or mental health, career or family – have been woven through time, fostered by nurture and nature. I strongly believe we are products of our inherited qualities and our environment. There is no perfect scenario – but some people are born into lives that are more than challenging from Day 1.But, unlike infants and children, as adults we have choices. We can make choices related to our dreaded jobs, our attitudes, our fat bodies, our deadly smoking habits or our daily 12-packs. If we choose to give in to what we know as unhealthy choices, then we negate our own purpose and infringe on others. We purposefully decide to be “less than.” We purposefully decide to be a drain on society.Don’t get me wrong. I do not assume that everyone is in a “situation” because he or she made the wrong choice. I strongly believe that people who suffer from chemical imbalances or brain dysfunctions that cause illnesses like severe depression or schizophrenia face even bigger challenges because of a system that does not, by any means, sufficiently address mental health issues.A few months ago, I heard the inspiring executive fitness director of World Gym, Jeremy Strom, speak at an alternative health care conference. I asked Jeremy to weigh in on my column, and this is what he said about making choices.

  • “You are either choosing towards health or away from health.”
  • “You can choose to get educated about nutrition.”
  • “You can choose to buy into the greatest you: a confident, healthy, calm, peaceful, empowering, inspiring, authentic, wise, intuitive, honest and kind self.”
  • “You can choose your surroundings, both environmental and social.”
  • “You can choose to get educated about consumption and recycling.”
  • “You can choose to surround yourself with inspiring motivational, caring and honest people.”
  • “You can choose your attitude.”
  • “You can choose not to act on negative emotions. You can’t control emotions; you can control whether or not you act upon them. Emotions are just energy in motion; don’t stop the energy – choose to let it flow through you or throughout you, if you don’t like the feeling.”
  • “You can choose to enjoy your job, or choose to get a job that you do enjoy.”
  • “You can choose your family.”
  • “You can choose to take care of yourself. You can choose to get assistance if needed, with a doctor or a therapist, etc.”
  • “You can choose to be well.”
  • “You can choose to work out. You can choose to get educated about your body both physiologically and anatomically.”
Jeremy also believes there are many choices we can make in life, if we just look at all of our options. If you feel like you don’t have a choice … it is probably because of one or two things, he said. Perhaps you are not confident about a situation or not as educated as you should be about the situation. He advises stepping back, looking at the facts and letting your emotions go.Here’s an example: Are you going to choose that bag of potato chips because it satisfies your emotional needs, or are you going to choose that apple in favor of your healthy body?”The key to choice is that it is only a choice,” Jeremy said. “Regardless of the outcome, a choice becomes an awesome learning tool.”Good luck with your choices in 2006. Maybe you’ll think about the bigger picture with every choice you do

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