Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dancing with Self-Deception

Remember the classic story of self-deception, The Emperor’s New Clothes?  Remember that one lone voice of reason? That voice is yours. And what does this have to do with wellness and positive lifestyle behavior changes? Read on . . .

Self-deception is rampant when it comes to human affairs, and this absolutely includes making lifestyle behavior changes. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. One should never underestimate the power of a positive illusion. It might be just what we need to get us through the day.  Enhanced motivation (a polite term for self-deception) can actually enable us to do better as we face challenges than the outcomes realized by people with a more realistic view of their abilities. The popular shorthand for this is, “fake it till you make it.”

Now, let’s confuse the issue a little more. Self-deception is actually somewhat contradictory.  We all probably know how to go about deceiving someone else (of course, we would never do such a thing). But, in the case of self-deception, the deceiver and the deceived are the same person. So, do you believe what you know is false? And, if you know it’s false, how do you believe it?

Consider that our perception of the world around us is certainly biased and that for better or worse, we can convince ourselves of things that are not true. We look at the world through filters that make our decisions more palatable. We also impose our beliefs on what we see and what we hope to accomplish. We don’t just experience situations as they are, but also according to our beliefs about how we want them to be. And, it is our beliefs that in turn influence what we experience.

This is true of many of the events we experience on a daily basis—they’re ambiguous and open to interpretation. Our own individual interpretation. It’s that interpretation that will move us down that road to wellness—because that’s what we want it to do, and because it’s what we believe it will do.

And, this is where the dancing comes in. We can dance around the “I can do this, I can’t do this, I think I can, I know I can’t” all day long. But at the end of the day, it’s up to us to decide who we want to be and what we want to accomplish—and then do it.

So, the big question here is do you want to change certain lifestyle behaviors? Do you believe you can? And, even if you’re afraid you can’t, what we’re saying is, go for it anyway. Tell yourself yes you can, and then tell yourself over and over until you believe it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Going to the Dogs

About 62 percent of all American households have a pet. Dogs come in first at 40 percent, followed by cats at 34 percent. We love our pets, we take care of our pets, we look after their needs.

Last year Americans spent $55 billion on pet foods, including “human grade” pet food. Walk into a PetSmart or Petco store and look at the number of natural and organic products, some that sell for up to almost $7 a pound.

You can find vitamin-infused, mountain spring water for dogs (more than $3.00 a bottle). You can buy pureed vegetables, canned organic pumpkin and canned organic sweet potato (purportedly safe enough to make a pumpkin pie for your family). Keep looking and you’ll find labels that tout organic, free-range, grass-fed and wild-caught. You can also find pre-packaged serving sizes for pets with weight problems. (I have to ask what would happen if pets were fed less and maybe we took them for a longer walk?) Wait, that means we would have to walk further too.

Here’s a thought . . . do you pay more attention to what you feed your pets than what you feed yourself or your family? Do you check the label to see if you are buying grain-free food to avoid fillers and unreliable ingredients? Do you choose a pet food that contains complete and balanced nutrients (necessary nutrients in proper proportions)? Do you buy the cheapest food on the shelf, or do you look for age appropriate foods, or foods designed to meet special nutritional requirements? Do you feed your pet the recommended portion size?

Now the kicker—how does this stack up with the thought you put into your own food choices?

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Wellness Platform

We’re moving toward an election year and speculation as to the candidates, their issues and the platforms on which they will run is rampant. At the same time, our society is approaching critical mass—literally. Wouldn’t it be great if someone actually ran on the “Wellness Platform?” Here’s what might happen . . . here’s why it’s important . . .


  • 27 percent of all Americans age 17 to 24 are too overweight to join the military (that’s around 9 million young adults).
  • Each year 1,200 first-time enlistees are released before their contracts are up because of weight problems—the replacement costs—$50,000 per person, or about $60 million per year.
  • The Department of Defense spends more than $1.1 billion annually for medical care associated with excess weight and obesity in the military. The tab for military work-related absenteeism and presenteeism is more than $105 million. (American Journal of Health Promotion)

Health Care

  • 27 percent of all Americans age 17 to 24 are too overweight to join the military (that’s around 9 million young adults).
  • Obesity will add nearly $344 billion to our annual health care costs by 2018 (just seven years from now) and account for more than 21 percent of total health care spending. (American Public Health Association)
  • Today, obesity costs the health care system about $147 billion a year. To put that figure in perspective, the American Cancer Society estimates that all cancers combined cost our health care system $93 billion a year. So ending obesity would save the health care system fifty percent more dollars than curing cancer. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • An unhealthy lifestyle is the primary factor in the six leading causes of death in the United States – heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory diseases, accidents, and diabetes – which collectively account for over 70 percent of all deaths.
  • Almost one-half of all Americans report having a chronic illness—and those illnesses account for 75 percent of our national spending on health care. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) Furthermore, almost 80 percent of all chronic disease is caused by three preventable health behaviors—physical inactivity, poor nutrition and overeating, and smoking.
  • For Medicare, 96 cents of every dollar is spent on chronic disease care and treatment, and for Medicaid, the cost is 83 cents on the dollar. (Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease)
  • Medicare spends between $1,400 to $6,000 more per year on obese seniors than non-obese seniors, for obesity-related ailments such as diabetes and knee problems. (Trust for America’s Health)

Our Communities

  • According to its 2009 studies of 187 U.S. metro areas, Gallup – Healthways Well-Being Index data estimates that the direct costs associated with obesity and related chronic conditions are about $50 million per 100,000 residents annually. Pick a place . . . In Washington, DC alone these costs equate to $300 million. (Gallup Management Journal)


  • Obesity among full-time workers costs $73.1 billion per year. That's the equivalent of hiring 1.8 million new workers at annual salaries of $42,000.
  • The average cost of employee absence is the equivalent of 35 percent of base payroll. (Survey on the Total Financial Impact of Employee Absences, Mercer, 2010)
  • A 2010 report by the American Lung Association estimates that the costs of healthcare, premature death and loss of productivity due to smoking comes to about $301 billion per year. 23 percent of American adults smoke.
  • Obesity-related sick days cost employers $4.3 billion a year in 2004 dollars. That’s about 9 percent of the total cost to employers of all sick days. (Cornell University, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine)
  • More than 50 percent of corporate profits now go toward health care costs, versus only 7 percent 30 years ago. (American Institute for Preventive Medicine)
  • Reducing just one health risk in the workplace increases productivity by 9 percent. Reducing one health risk decreases absenteeism by 2 percent. (American Heart Association)

These aren’t all the health and wellness-related statistics, concerns or problems we face—but look at what just the few points presented here cost us all in terms of unemployment, health care, defense and the viability of our communities and cities.

So, how about that wellness platform?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Where Does It All Go?

Where is a good question, but the even bigger question is why?

The food industry spends around $2 billion a year advertising food to children. Maybe this is why cookies, cakes, pizza and soft drinks are the top sources of calories in the diets of children ages 2 through 18. Maybe this is why french fries and chips make up half of all the vegetables American children eat. Maybe this is why we have a childhood obesity problem—that turns into an adult obesity epidemic.

And now, consider what we spend to combat this spending as we spend even more to “get thin.” American consumers spent $61 billion last year to try new ways to lose weight. According to a recent report, The U.S. Weight Loss & Diet Control Market, that’s $200 for each man, woman and child in the U.S. Now, if you factor in that only 75 million of us are trying to lose weight, that makes it $800 per person.

We’re spending a lot—but that $61 billion diet industry pales in comparison to the $300 billion fast food industry. And while we’re spending all this money, our collective weight keeps going up. These are huge numbers, and think about what we could accomplish if we weren’t supporting a $61 billion diet industry and a $300 billion fast food industry. Imagine the impact this would have on our preventable chronic illnesses and the $1.9 trillion we’ll spend to treat them this year.

So, here are the takeaway questions . . . are we spending wisely? Why aren’t we changing our behaviors?