Chew on this: 07/28

Rediscover your drive

By Jayne Powers

On a hot, muggy July afternoon, I bolted out of my apartment to take a hard and fast ride down the Crescent Trail to Thompson Boat Center near the Potomac River in Washington, DC.

I felt revved up to hit the trail after a stressful day, knowing that I would have a peaceful respite by the waterfront before making the round-trip back home.

Once I arrived at the boathouse, I cooled down with water before turning around to go home.

I hopped back on my bike and made a slower-than-usual descent down a sidewalk to turn right.

As I gathered my thoughts, I became confused when a beige motor scooter rocketed down the street I was going to turn on. He was now headed straight toward me. And he wasn’t going to stop.

In the background, I heard police sirens blaring louder and closer. Then, I saw a police cruiser in hot pursuit.

I stopped and realized that this was for real—a police chase, the kind you see in the movies.

Before I knew it, I hurled my bike forward a couple of times to get out of his way.

The cruiser cut over the grass as the scooter made a sharp left to presumably get on major traffic artery and get away. The cruiser cut the same corner, and both were out of sight.

I share this story to drive home the point that an unexpected event can derail life, especially when everything seems to be on a positive trajectory, and you’re feeling good. I was feeling good because riding my bike lifts my spirits and helps keep me in shape.

I’m also mindful of eating well to ensure that I will live long and be strong.

I felt that the fright I had encountered was out of my control. It hit me like a bolt from the blue.

I believe that health frights are a bit different, particularly the ones that are predominantly in most people’s control, such as living a healthful lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a diet that aligns with the science of good nutrition.

From observing the behavior of others, I find that people generally accumulate years, if not decades, of behavior—consuming too much sugar and sitting, for example—that sets them on a path to become overweight and unhealthy.

Extra pounds will put you at risk for more than 50 different medical conditions that affect all the major systems in the body, according to Healthy Solutions to Lose Weight and Keep It Off, a Harvard Health Publication.

The medical condition that most people are most familiar with is type 2 diabetes. This condition leads to serious complications in the heart, kidneys, nerves and eyes.

Type 2 diabetes emanates from the pancreas, which is one of 10 major systems in the body affected by excess weight, according to the publication.

Excess weight also affects these systems: neurological, respiratory, urological, circulatory, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal and reproductive.

It also impacts an individual’s psyche, causing depression, anxiety and eating disorders, and takes a nutritional toll, creating potential deficiencies in Vitamin D, for example.

Some of the circulatory issues relate to high blood pressure and cholesterol, leg and ankle swelling, blood clots, poor circulation and heart failure, heart attack or both.

Neurologically, overweight individuals put themselves at risk for headaches, a stroke, dementia (including Alzheimer’s), false brain tumors and vision loss from diabetes complications.

There are also numerous cancers that can arise from obesity: colon, liver, gallbladder, kidney, ovarian, endometrial, cervical, breast and prostate cancer.

In men, excess weight increases the risk for infertility and erectile dysfunction. In women, aside from the previously mentioned cancers, the risk for irregular menses and infertility goes up.

When I meet with potential clients and ask them their goals, none of them ever says they want to lose weight because of these and other medical conditions.

They always talk about fitting into their clothes because of an upcoming event. While that’s a time-sensitive goal, and fitting into clothes provides a psychological lift, it doesn’t compare to the improvement in an individual’s overall internal health.

If I’ve provided a few eye openers to your health, now is the time to do something about it. Remember that dieting and proper nutrition is less about willpower and more about drive.

Sure, you’ll succeed in the short term if you exert willpower to stop eating certain foods or to control your portions. But in the long term, I believe that you are setting yourself up for failure.

Motivation is key to succeeding. It is the driving force that will enable you to redirect the course of your health and make a lifestyle change that is permanent.

Unfortunately, only five percent of the population is able to keep their weight off for five years or more. You could be one of them, but it involves a paradigm shift in thinking about how to eat for optimal health.

Jayne Powers, MA, is a certified nutritionist and personal fitness trainer based in Washington, DC. Her column, Chew on This, speaks from the science of the current state of knowledge about all facets of nutrition. Find her online at, or email your fitness questions to

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Jayne Powers, MA, is a certified nutritionist and personal fitness trainer based in Washington, DC. Her column, Chew on This, speaks from the science of the current state of knowledge about all facets of nutrition. Find her online at

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