Consumer credit card debt soared in the last quarter of 2011, climbing to nearly $16,000 per family. In running up this tab, consumers seem to have resumed the habit of borrowing from tomorrow's wealth to meet today's wants and desires.
According to economists who note the anemic economic recovery, consumer spending is outpacing reality. Good-paying jobs with benefits are still scarce, real estate has yet to recover its former value and savings are showing modest returns.
At the same time, two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. In addition, about 1 out of every 3 children is overweight or at risk for obesity. In accumulating surplus pounds, these individuals and families are borrowing from tomorrow's health to meet today's wants and desires.
As long as no medical problems surface, these individuals can reasonably expect to enjoy their good fortune indefinitely. But as American author Bret Harte wryly observed, "The only sure thing about luck is that it will change."
Medical care has become increasingly expensive. An initial visit to a doctor for treatment of a minor problem along with a follow up visit and a single prescription can cost several hundred dollars. Compounding the problem is the number of uninsured individuals who, when they lose their job, also lose their medical insurance. One major illness can bankrupt the uninsured and underinsured family.
The timing for the rise in the cost of medical care couldn't be worse. Medical problems resulting from lifestyle choices, such as pooreating habits and inadequate exercise, are starting to show up in dramatic numbers. Forexample, Type 2 diabetes has reached epidemic levels for both adults and children. Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, characterizes the spread of diabetes as a "slow-motion catastrophe."
But unlike consumers who can file for bankruptcy, remove their debt and start over, there is no equivalent process when it comes to our health. There is no court that can remove a disease or medical condition and give us back the freedom that comes with good health.
Here are three tips to help you assume fiscal and physical responsibility for your wealth and health (FIT):
F: Find a way to make achieving your fitness goals fun. Find food you love to eat that won't pack on pounds and ways to exercise that make you feel young and playful. If you create and impersonate a positive image of your new self today, you'll shift your attitude from "I have to" to "I want to." Flipping this switch will make you more willing to adopt and maintain your new habits.
I: Invent the future you want. Implement the changes you want to make today. Don't wait for the perfect time because there isn't one. Your dream today can bereality tomorrow-your imagination is your only limit. And consider making all your changes at once. Recent research confirms that people who tackle all their changes together fare better than those who take a piecemeal approach.
T: Tell everyone you can about the changes you are making. Be specific about your actions and about how you will measure your progress. As social creatures, we are profoundly influenced by the behavior of everyone around us. Use this insight to create a support team and to be a positiverole model for others.
We change the oil in our cars and rotate tires to keep our automobiles functioning and prevent engine failure. That same principle holds for our bodies as well. Prevention of medical problems is farless expensive than treatment once chronic conditions have developed. Automobiles, however, can be replaced while our bodies must last a lifetime.
Invest your time and energy in maintaining yourbody. The investment will pay big dividends today through greater energy, vitality and a zest forliving. And the return on the investment long term will be even greater. Start today before the window of opportunity closes. Your future is riding on your decision.
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