On this past Tuesday I attended the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matter Conference.  I’ve learned a lot about health over the years from some of the best trainers, nutritionists and doctors in the business while training for volleyball, but hearing all the different ways experts are thinking about health care these days was absolutely enlightening.

It’s no secret that obesity is a problem in the USA. But one has to realize obesity causes other problems, that lead to even more problems, that cost the country and tax payers BILLIONS of dollars.  Therefore, this is not just a problem, it’s a CATASTROPHE which is projected to affect the next generation so profoundly that their life expectancy will be lower than ours for the first time EVER.

I am inspired by this.  I would say motivated, but as Dr. Deepak Chopra so convincingly stated at at the conference, “It’s not enough to be motivated.  Nobody does anything after being motivated.  The key to action is inspiration, after you’re inspired you never go back.”  I am so sold on the issue of obesity being one of the most important of our time that I am truly inspired to make a difference.  Even if I can only help one person improve their lifestyle, habits, and overall quality of life, then I think it’s worth it and I am determined to do it.

We don’t exactly know how health care is going to evolve in the near future, so for now we need to stop blaming the health care system.  WE are our health care system.  The “health care system” isn’t as broken as we as individuals and a society are broken.

We need to stop thinking that getting pills from the doctor’s office is the most effective way to reverse illness.  Pills are the EASIEST way to deal with how you’re feeling, but it’s not really FIXING how you’re feeling.  To modify Albert Einstein’s famous quote, “What’s easiest is not always right and what’s right is not always (or hardly ever) easiest.”  Going to the doctor’s office and buying prescription drugs costs money.  With the economy struggling the way it is, people should be paying much much more attention to getting in exercise, eating healthier, and using meditation. (I’m NOT telling you to stop taking your medications, just that adopting a healthier lifestyle CAN reduce the need for prescribed medication). Plus, health care and access to health care accounts for ONLY 10% of our health.  There is at least 40% of our health WE can control, the government doesn’t control it, our genes don’t dictate it, and not having access to health care does not affect that 40% of our health.

It can be daunting if you think the only way to become healthier is to eat perfectly and exercise everyday, that would be impossible.  Not even us professional athletes, whose job is in large part to take care of our bodies, can do that.  There are so many ways to improve your quality of life that won’t take a miracle to accomplish, BUT you have to do them CONSISTENTLY!!! Discipline is like a muscle, you have to exercise it or it atrophies and disappears.  Make your changes small and it will be more feasible to accomplish them on a regular basis.

Some ideas for easy ways to CUT calories:

  • Stop putting sugar in your coffee (I did this half a year ago and I don’t even notice it missing!) AND THAT INCLUDES ALL THAT FAKE SUGAR STUFF!!
  • After you drink your soda, keep the cup/bottle and refill it the rest of the day with water. (you save money doing this too!)
  • Get your sandwich, etc. without cheese (I promise you will hardly notice!)
  • Subway (No, I’m not sponsored by them) is always a great fast food option! It’s inexpensive and if you get a footlong you can split it between lunch and dinner.  That Subway diet is not a joke! And if you have to get something tasty on it, choose avocado instead of cheese, and get rid of the mayo!! Mustard is so much tastier!!
  • If you need dessert after dinner, try some fruit, I know it doesn’t sound as appetizing, but after your taste buds get the sugary taste they were craving and the fiber fills you up you won’t even miss the unhealthier versions of dessert.
  • If you’re not there yet I think hot cocoa is a good alternative, look for Swiss Miss Sensible Sweets Collection and make it with hot water or non-fat milk.

Some ideas for easy ways to BURN calories:

  • WALK to the coffee shop on weekend mornings (even if it’s miles away!), walk the dog, take a walk after dinner, or park far away from wherever you’re going and walk.  I think you get what I’m saying, find ways to take more steps everyday!! (And carry mace if you’re worried about walking by yourself!  If you ever feel threatened make sure you let it be known you have mace and will use it, a proven technique for fending off unwanted attention)
  • Sit on a swiss ball at your desk.
  • Do squats, crunches, and pushups during commercial breaks, you can’t say you’re busy then.
  • Simply go for a run, it really costs nothing.  All you need are shoes and there are brands that sell for $30, or if you’re really in need you can hit up your local thrift shop.  You will get a return on your investment!! (Fewer doctor’s visits)
  • If you have time, there is no reason not to exercise! You can devise a workout (or look up one on the internet) that you can do entirely outside and for free!
  • Basically, just move, even if you’re sitting down. Move.

If you’re tired before work or after work and don’t feel like it- know that, as Dr. Chopra said at the conference, “When you’re tired is the BEST time to exercise because it will GIVE you energy, and you will sleep better at night, which will give you even more energy.”  Being tired is NOT a good excuse to skip a workout.

Our country became obese at an excess of 200 calories a day.  With what I mentioned above you can easily eliminate those extra 200 calories a day and with a little hard work reverse the damage even more.  It will go slowly, you won’t notice results right away or even over a few months, but it will be working, even if it’s not obvious on the outside you can be assured it IS working on the inside and upstairs in your brain.

As Jillian Michaels mentioned during one of the panel discussions, if you can find something that makes it worth it to you, the consistency can become even less of a struggle.  Your incentive needs to be something you can draw on when you’re tired and unmotivated to make healthy choices.  It can be as vain as wanting to look good in your bikini (my reason ;)), to improve your relationship with your spouse, to be around longer for your children, or to help your children have a higher quality of life as they grow up OR ALL OF THE ABOVE!

And lastly, you can’t wait for help.  You have to be the help. If we as a community, as a society, and as a country are going to change it has to start with YOU.  Be the catalyst in your group of friends, in your family.  Be the inspiration that THEY need.  Order a salad at dinner or a side of veggies instead of fries.  Others will follow your lead.  The impact YOU can have on your small community of friends and family, simply by making healthy decisions, can cause a chain reaction that will reach so many more people than you can even imagine.

And if you’ve gotten this far and still don’t buy into what I’m saying just take an hour here and there when you’d otherwise be on Facebook or watching meaningless TV shows and educate yourself — your future self will thank you!

Take the first step today. Literally!!

Comments (4)

Adam Schlesinger

January 19, 2013

April, I think you are 100% right. Fixing the obesity crisis in the US has to start on the individual level. We can change the system as much as we want but the most important changes have to start with us. Thank you for such a thoughtful article!



February 6, 2013

I found your blog through a link from the Volleyball BC facebook page, and can't wait to read more of it! It's just when I need a little kickstart to get healthier too. I also wanted to mention that Freshii is another great fast food option - there's only a few around Vancouver but it's completely my go-to for lunch now.



February 6, 2013

Great article April! I am learning that exercise is good not just for my body, but for my mind too. Thank you for being a part of the movement to make our society more healthy and being an inspiration!



March 7, 2013

Some interesting thoughts on exercising. I try to get out and at least walk, I'm just not a runner unless I'm playing something or running from something ;). I like the saying that exercise gives you energy. I've found this is true, it's just hard to get the motivation to do it sometimes unfortunatly. Sometimes the brain wants to and the body doesn't. I did find that with a regular routine, if I have time, the motivation becomes easier and the energy grows the longer I stay in that exercise routine.