Health Column: Big isn't always better for debt, waistlines

Everything has to be bigger in America, including our debt and our waistlines. The average American household has $8,000 of credit card debt, and 43 percent of American families spend more than they earn each year. Thirty-one percent of Americans are obese, classified as having a BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than 30. We now even have a category for the super obese (BMI greater than 40). These things may seem unrelated, but I think it speaks to our society today.

We want what we want and we want it now, regardless of the consequences. We want that 2,000 calorie deep-dish pizza, just not the belly and artery-clogging fat that comes with it. If someone had to walk 10 miles to earn that pizza, would they? It’s the same line of thinking when someone buys a $40,000 BMW and finances it for seven years. How many BMWs would be on the road if you had to save for five years to earn it? We live in an age of instant gratification. Get the prize first, worry about the work later. Living this way eventually leads to being so overweight or in debt that the situation seems hopeless. Through making a commitment to change, building a plan of action and making small consistent changes, a person can climb out of any hole.

There are a couple of things that have to happen to take control of your weight or debt. First, you have to make a commitment to change and make it a priority. That means treating your workout like an appointment you can’t miss or cutting out needless spending on things you don’t need. Write your workouts in a calendar. Hire a personal trainer that will hold you accountable.

Second, you must have a plan of action. Have a workout plan on paper that outlines exactly what you need to do on each designated day. This provides structure and makes you less likely to waste time in the gym. The No. 2 reason people cite for quitting gym membership is they didn’t know what to do. They failed because they didn’t have a plan. Planning also is essential to being able to get out of debt. You should have a budget, know your exact income and what you owe, and have money allocated for everything.

The word kaizen in Japanese means “constant and never ending improvement.” Kaizen is used in all areas of Japanese life, and the philosophy can be adapted to help you lose weight or climb out of debt. Slow and steady change is much easier to adapt to than drastic change. If you haven’t been active for a year to five years, start off slow when working out. Shoot for three days a week and 30 minutes each exercise session. Then you build off of that until it becomes a part of your lifestyle.

The kaizen approach also is an excellent way to continue to improve in all facets of fitness. With each strength-training workout, add a small amount of weight or complete an extra repetition. If you’re a runner, try to run 20 yards longer in the same amount time, or add 30 seconds each week to your run. With this approach, you are always improving.

Follow these simple rules, and you will be well on your way to losing weight or climbing out of debt. It won’t happen overnight, but slow and steady truly does win the race.

Chad Hodson is the fitness director for the Blount Memorial Wellness Centers.

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