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When It Comes to Health and Fitness, We Continually Fail to Motivate


The world has never had so much information at its fingertips. In this technology-driven age, we receive five times more information every day than we did in 1986. Some 90 percent of all the data that exist in the world have been generated over the past two years. And they constitute a number that is roughly 315 times the number of grains of sand on Earth. Yet we still don't either know or much care that 50 percent of deaths from cardiovascular disease in this country among adults ages 45 to 79 are fully preventable.

Among those bits of data floating around our planet is this little fact from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: People who eat just five servings of fruits and vegetables a day lower their risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other conditions. Another study found that people who ate seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables were 42 percent less likely to die from any cause over the next eight years compared with those who ate less than one serving a day.

Nutrition experts have been doling out a ton of advice for many years on the how and why of eating well. Nutritional programs have been launched, and a lot of money has been spent.

What has been the result? Less than 15 percent of U.S. adults eat enough fruits daily to meet federal recommendations, with some states dipping as low as 7.5 percent, according to a newly released study by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Even fewer adults eat enough vegetables to meet federal recommendations.

The proportion of Americans meeting vegetable recommendations ranges from 5.5 percent in Mississippi to 13 percent in California. Recommendations shake out to between a half-cup and 2 cups of fruit every day and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables. This seems doable. So what's the problem?

Maybe it's the fact that this information arrives in a world that continues to equate "healthy" with "tasteless." The urgency seems to be further lost when experts talk about food as "fuel" or fruits and vegetables in terms of being a means to lose weight. Thinking only in terms of a number on the scale takes away a huge part of what eating should also be about, and that is pleasure, says Elisa Zied, a registered nurse and nutritionist who has waged her own battle with being overweight.

"If you think of eating as something enjoyable and something you do without guilt or without judging yourself and you stay active, you're less likely to overeat" and likelier to "have a better diet and maintain any weight loss for the long haul," Zied told Health magazine. Try eating the foods you enjoy but eating them in smaller quantities, she says.

A 2014 study in the journal Appetite seems to verify this point.

It found that feeling guilty about your food choices often undermines weight loss. It can contribute to weight gain, whereas a celebratory mindset gives you more control over your diet and can even prevent you from putting on the pounds.

Still, simply eating a food, any food, won't make you fitter. Diet and exercise continue to go hand in glove. In today's marketing environment, it's easy to be lulled into inactivity — not merely by junk food but by fitness-branded products, according to a recent study conducted by Penn State University and published in the Journal of Marketing Research. The study revealed that when foods are fitness-branded, some of us may unknowingly eat more and exercise less. In this study, subjects who had demonstrated they were constantly concerned about their weight were given identical snacks. One snack was labeled "Trail Mix," and the other was labeled "Fitness." These participants had the opportunity to work out as vigorously as they wanted on a stationary bike. Scientists found that unless the food was specifically forbidden by their diet, people who were trying to watch their weight ate more of the fitness snack than they did the trail mix. These eaters also didn't work out so vigorously as those who ate the trail mix, apparently seeing the food as a substitute for exercise.

Disconnects between eating and exercise are perhaps no more alarming than when we look at our children. Today 1 in 6 American children are obese, and millions more are overweight. With the warm weather and the extra free time away from the classroom that summer brings, you'd think that kids are spending a lot more time running around outdoors. You'd be wrong.

According to a study from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, when school's out, kids are actually likelier to engage in obesity-related behaviors, such as watching more television, consuming more sugar and eating lower amounts of vegetables. Their exercise levels barely budge the needle. The study found that income level had little impact on obesity behaviors among children on summer break.

Not dissimilar to their adult counterparts, students of all grade and income levels did not meet government-recommended guidelines for vegetable intake, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and exercise. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says children and teens should get at least 60 minutes a day of physical activity. You have to wonder: Whatever happened to healthy eating and exercise as a family activity?

Write to Chuck Norris ( with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at




1 Comments | Post Comment
Thank you, Chuck. Here is a good motivator for health and fitness. "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Alan O'Reilly
Fri Jul 24, 2015 8:37 AM
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