By Jeff Hyman, Founder and CEO, RETROFIT
As the Founder of Chicago-based online weight-loss company Retrofitme.com, I have been asked many times recently for my perspective on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s master plan to ban large sodas and sugary drinks. I wish ending the U.S. obesity epidemic was that easy.
Retrofit was founded on the premise that people need support and guidance on their journey to health. We take a holistic approach to weight loss. It’s not an overnight fix. It’s going to be slow and steady, but at the end of the road, it will work because we believe that teaching people how to change their behavior and make smarter choices is the first breakthrough step.
While there is no doubt we live in an obesigenic society, we cannot blame statistics or food trends. Each of us must accept individual responsibility for our behavior – and seek help when we can’t do it alone. In the face of countless messages from savvy food marketers, fast food restaurants, soda companies, super-sized portion sizes, and other temptations, it isn’t easy.
The mayor’s heart is in the right place. But unfortunately, his pure intentions won’t help. Lasting health change can’t be imposed from the outside. Even the best weight loss program is useless if the individual is not ready to make a lasting change. The “nanny state” might make a single drink choice a little more inconvenient, but unless the government can magically switch on the motivation in each citizen, it is destined to have little impact. It sounds basic, but the hard reality is that to turn the tide on the obesity epidemic, we need people who are willing to commit to living differentially. Each day, each meal, each food decision.
These committed individuals then need access to understanding what they are truly consuming today and how that needs to change. We have a whiz-bang solution so I’m a little biased, but understanding is not limited to technology or even guidance, it is limited by an individual’s willingness to really mine their own experience and change it. A simple handwritten notebook of their food consumption, their daily activity, and what struggles they may be dealing with can provide the honest assessment of where they are today. Being open to change and then noting the impact of the changes undertaken can drive the process of self-knowledge and understanding.
Mayor Bloomberg has started an important conversation, which I applaud. Science Daily recently published an article that highlights a study by experts at University of Alabama at Birmingham. The results show that by focusing on a specific product, we could be missing the big picture in the obesity battle. Pointing a finger at an inanimate object in the external environment is laughable, compared with owning even one personal habit that needs to change.
To make real progress, we each must be open to change. We need to collectively look at the one controllable cause – our own daily choices – instead of focusing on sugary sodas. The soda doesn’t sell itself. It certainly doesn’t sip its way down the straw; we choose it. There are simply too many temptations that would need to be regulated to rid New York or any state of food “vices.”
The real costs of obesity and its host of related diseases is a very real threat that we have to face effectively. We can’t afford such a narrow and short-sighted approach that takes the focus off where it belongs – on us.
Jeff Hyman, Founder and CEO of Retrofit is a serial entrepreneur with a relentless passion for creating innovative companies and brands. He is driven by the belief that every individual is capable of doing incredible things once given the opportunity and knowledge. Prior to Retrofit, he was Founder and CEO of three internet-based services companies in the talent management field. Jeff served as SVP Sales & Marketing for Ameritox, a private equity-owned healthcare services company. He was the first VP Marketing of Dyson, now a market-leading consumer products company. Jeff gives back by advising a number of startup companies. He holds a BS from The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from The Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.