Today is a special day at the American Cancer Society as we launch our brand new “Choose You” movement, which is designed to inspire women to take action and put their health first in order to stay well and help prevent cancer.
As I reflect on this moment while here in New York with other volunteers, friends and Society staff, I can’t help but think of how difficult it is for any of us these days to try to take care of ourselves given the frequently hectic, overcommitted and overstressed lifestyles that many of us face every day.
At heart, that’s what Choose You is all about: finding time for women to take care of themselves, making the commitment to do just that, and creating a social network that supports their efforts and gathers their friends and family around them as they strive to develop and maintain a healthier lifestyle.
This is a personal issue for many of us, and especially for the women in our lives. And with Mother’s Day approaching this Sunday, there is probably no better time for us to be thinking about the women we rely on every day to guide us, support us, and even cajole us to do better—even while they can’t find time and space in their days to take care of themselves.
In my life, my “Choose You” role model is my wife.
A physician, a mother, a daughter a friend and a partner, I really don’t know how she gets it all done. Talk about stress of commitments—she is one committed woman. And then when she is done with all the things she has to do and deal with every day, she has to care for her family and her toughest “deal”, which is me (and let me assure you, I can be a fairly difficult deal at times as my family and friends will attest).
We have always worked together to maintain our commitments to improving our health and our lifestyles. Barriers are huge to say the least but somehow we seem to get it done from time to time. We aren’t perfect—not many folks are—but ultimately it is the commitment that counts.
And if she doesn’t already have enough on her plate, my dearly beloved has recently taken on a new challenge as she approaches one of those significant birthday milestones in her life: she is training to compete in a mini-triathlon. New bike, new clothes, new exercises (biking and swimming) and trying to squeeze in the time to train for this thing are no simple matters.
But ultimately what she is doing is making the commitment and following through. She won’t finish first in the race, but then finishing itself will be reward enough.
As my wife has shown me time and again, if you want something bad enough you will figure out how to get it done.
We all think our lives are too busy to do the things we need to do for our health.
Eating a healthy diet seems easy, until you try to do it and find yourself constantly confronted with challenges thrown at you by friends, family, co-workers, and the const
ant blare of media advertising. But you can reach for your goal, if you choose to make the better choices.
Finding time to exercise is difficult. But—as I have mentioned many times before—you can do it if you try. Even if it’s a matter of taking some small steps, like parking a little further from the front door of the shopping center, or walking through the airport instead of taking the tram between terminals. Or taking a walk in the afternoon instead of plopping yourself down in front of the computer or the television.
Look around you, and you can find ways to make yourself healthier.
And what about possibly taking some time during the workday to do something you would like to do? Yes, I know that not all workplaces are tolerant of that behavior, but maybe through programs like “Choose You”, your employer may see that there is value in occasionally giving you some time to be you.
Ultimately, Choose You is about you making better health decisions for yourself, like getting regular exercise, eating right, stopping smoking if you currently smoke, maintaining a healthy body weight, betting screened for cancer, and using sunscreen.
By making a personal and modest financial commitment, you can participate in a community of like-minded women—with support from family and friends—and get it done. Maybe not all at once, but taking the first step is probably the most important step to success.
If you are concerned that you don’t live a healthy lifestyle, you have plenty of company.
As part of planning for Choose You, we did a survey of women between the ages of 25 and 64 and asked them about their own health. Here is what they had to say:
- 95 percent of women felt the need to improve their health
- 60 percent of women put others’ health before their own
- 90 percent said they fall short of eating a healthy diet
- 85 percent don’t get the minimum daily exercise of 30 minutes a day, five days a week recommended by the U.S. government
- 76 percent don’t always protect their skin from the sun
I must admit that I feel a bit left out of all of the hoopla about Choose You since I am a man and don’t have the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for a family like my wife does. But I don’t think that I can’t “choose me” as part of “Choose You.” After all, as I mentioned at the start of this blog, I am very committed to someone who is very important to me and my family. And I suspect there are many men out there who know someone special in their lives, someone who means a great deal to them, and someone with whom they want to share good times together for many years to come and who could benefit from participating in Choose You.
I am not so certain it is such a bad thing for us gentlemen to show support for the women in our lives through “Choose You.” They need to know they are important to us every day—not just on Mother’s Day, their birthdays or on our anniversaries. They need to know that while they are doing so much for us, they need to do for themselves as well.
Committing to Choose You is one way they can start that journey of their commitment to do better, to take time for themselves, to do the things they need to do for their health.
When my wife asked what I thought about her decision to train for the triathlon and the time it would take from what few moments we have together, I told her that maybe it’s just the right time to “just go for it.” After all, “If Mama isn’t happy (and healthy), no one’s happy.” Or maybe it would be more appropriate to say “If Mama doesn’t take care of herself, who will take care of us?”
In reality, the bottom line is that “choosing you” is all about “choosing us.” It’s simply a matter of taking the first step in a lifelong journey.
Just go for it.