Personal Responsibility and Your Health

In times gone by, people were left to feel that their doctor was responsible for the condition of their health. That view of health care has been on the decline at about the same rate as the prevalence of the Internet. Today it is accepted that each person is responsible for their own health status; the health care community is there to augment personal efforts and step in when necessary.

A large part of being as healthy as possible is to maintain your weight within  an acceptable range for your height.  Overweight and obesity leads to many health problems that might well be avoided when weight is maintained in an acceptable range.

The scientific community has already determined that overweight and obesity contribute to high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and extra wear and tear on your lower extremities and joints. Research is ongoing to determine what other health conditions may be linked to obesity.

Choosing to eat nutritionally balanced, calorie adequate foods each day and participating in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week are lifestyle choices that go a long way toward optimal health. These lifestyle choices may be a radical change from your current way of living, but you can work toward them by taking personal responsibility for your health.

Whatever the reasons are that you've become overweight or obese, the solution to this health issue lies within you.  Whether you decide you need some counseling to deal with emotional issues that have lead to a lifetime or years of poor lifestyle choices or whether you feel you can handle the emotional aspects of your lifestyle choices yourself, you are in charge of the situation.

Overweight and Obesity Statistics for Americans Aged 18 and Over

Overweight and Obesity Statistics for Americans Aged 18 and Over
Credit: SOURCES: CDC/NCHS, Health, United States, 2008, Figure 7. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

How to Take Personal Responsibility for Weight Management

Health care providers vary in their approaches to encouraging patients to take personal responsibility in their own health, even when it comes to overweight and obesity.  There are a number of reasons this occurs, but if you broach the subject first, you can be fairly certain your health care provider will happily follow your lead.

Like most other problem behaviors, of which overeating is one, the first step in personal responsibility is to recognize you have a problem.

Truthfully, many of us do acknowledge intellectually that being overweight or obese is problematic. We also decide we're going to "do something about it."  Too often, that's as far as we get. That's because for a lot of people, food is more than energy and nutrition for the body.

Eating fills a void, or relieves boredom, or cushions a person from intimacy -- or any one of many reasons that people may have.

Unknowingly, we allow these other reasons to stand in the way of moving forward to better health. These other reasons cause us to sabotage our own best interests -- so we have to learn to recognize them for what they are. When we do, we can move forward. The move forward may include counseling to learn to deal with the reasons we overeat, but it should also include a specific plan to begin to address unhealthy habits.

Set a Date to Begin Your Weight Management

The date you choose should be soon after the time you make your decision to become healthier. Today, the day you make your decision is ideal.

Keep a Food, Mood and Activity Diary

Keeping track of what you and when you eat it might be helpful to determine what activities or behaviors/moods are related to your overeating habits. For this type of diary to be helpful, you need to record everything you eat throughout the day, including tasting food as you cook it.

Begin to Move More and Eat Less

You don't have to commit to go to the gym five days a week, nor do you need to reduce your food each day to celery and water.  What you want to develop are new lifestyle habits, not changes that are meant to be short term.

When people go on a "diet," the idea conjured up is a reduced-calorie intake for a short period.  That is not what weight management is about.  Lifestyle changes -- changes in behavior, attitude, and action -- that's what needs to be established.

Short term deprivation of food may lead to weight loss, but when you return to old behaviors and actions, the weight will come right back.  Short term deprivation is often times also unhealthy, so it is counter to the decision you've made to improve your health.

Thirty minutes of moderate physical activity a day isn't as difficult to meet as it sounds. The total time can be broken down into three 10 minute intervals or two 15 minute intervals.

You can stand in place and walk during television commercials. You can park further away from stores and offices, requiring more walking.  Some work places offer rooms for employees' use for exercise;  if so, make use of the facilities during your afternoon break and see how much more energy you have for the rest of your shift.

Be creative with physical activity. You're not limited to calisthenics or weight lifting. Do things you enjoy such as dancing, walking, or gardening.

Motivation Comes From Within

Weight Loss Motivation

Deciding to become healthier is an admirable goal, but you may need more motivation to get going or stay on track.

ObesityAid.org[1828] explains that "assertiveness is personal responsibility in action." Assertive behavior is that behavior in which you take responsibility for your own thoughts and actions and recognize your needs. 

Assertive thoughts and statements are "I" statements instead of "you" statements. Instead of, "You are always belittling me for my weight problem," you would say, "I am uncomfortable when you make statements like that."

Better yet, thinking assertively, you are going to try to distance yourself from people with negative energy, so you might say, "I am uncomfortable when you say those things.  I'm going to have to spend less time with you if you continue to talk to me that way."

Set reasonable goals for yourself.  Recommended weight loss parameters are one to two pounds of weight per week.  Expecting to lose 20 pounds in a month is unreasonable. If you set unreasonable goals, you may lose your motivation for better health and weight loss when your unattainable goals aren't met.

Be kind to yourself. An indulgent choice doesn't change your goal; don't beat yourself up if you eat something that isn't part of your new eating plan. Recognize it for what it is and make the rest of the day positive. You're going to have setbacks now and then; that's how life is. Just move forward.