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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 17, 2003 - Issue 87


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Health and Wellness

Lifestyle Modification - Turning the Tide Against the Faceless Enemy

by Geoff Hampton

photo by Jamie Lockard


Young Shawl DancerAs we all must know by now, we are in the midst of an ugly national health crisis. This crisis is especially hard hitting in the Native American community. The crisis in the Native American community encompasses physical, emotional and mental health. It includes many types of afflictions and resulting consequences. Watching the adults that have been stricken and are suffering grotesque consequences is alarming enough, but unfortunately, now the rate of affliction in our children is growing fast and without immediate intervention will only get worse. It makes one wonder how long will people who can make a difference will sit around and feel sorry for these brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandfathers and grandmothers without taking action to help them?

So many people who are at risk for or involved with catastrophic illness, domestic violence, emotional trauma and even premature death due to their lifestyle and environment are in a psychological rut. Many times their lives seem hopeless and the possibilities of their successfully breaking out of that rut alone are truly remote. Spontaneous lifestyle change is rare indeed. Meanwhile, diabetes, heart disease, many types of cancer, alcoholism, physical violence, increased gang related activity and other deadly and crippling afflictions continue to devastate most Native American communities all across North America.

While we are a society that has become so used to having an instant solution like, "take this pill and everything will be better", the simple fact is that there is no instant solution. The solution may sound simple, but it is not! It is hard, but the Native American community has been blessed with so many incredible leaders and elders throughout it's prolific history that at some point more and more brave individuals will stand up and take charge of what can only be described as terrible war against a ruthless, faceless enemy with many tactics that all destroy lives and wreak havoc among good people. I have been blessed to have seen many speak and talked personally to many others. I have mentioned a few before, but as I think about leadership in this time of crisis I remember the impact that hearing Rick Thomas speaking about his Red Road to Recovery campaign had on me and how impressed I was with his heart. I remember the passion and sense of urgency that Theda New Breast had when I heard her speak and how both of these individuals moved their audiences.

This column will deal with the health issues related to sedentary living and poor nutrition. The simple sounding answer to this aspect of the war on preventable conditions is lifestyle modification. While it's not easy, it is essential if an individual is truly going to preemptively change the course of their health before catastrophic illness or premature death strike due to complications related to a sedentary or inactive lifestyle. This condition is most often further complicated through an unhealthy dietary regimen. Additionally, individuals who have already been afflicted by the devastating effects of catastrophic illness that obesity or a sedentary lifestyle bring can dramatically reduce their personal health consequences by entering or creating a healthy lifestyle modification program.

There are two models that lead the way to either a positive outcome, or if ineffectively applied, a negative outcome. The two cycles are:

  1. The success model
  2. The failure model

Creating a Success Model

Creating a success model for positive lifestyle change involves several important components:

  1. Identifying the primary reason driving you to make the change and passionately committing to make the changes you desire.
  2. Finding a support group or individual who will commit with you and support you…and you support them in this important initiative.
  3. Setting realistic moderate goals for daily exercise and dietary reform and tracking your progress daily through the use of a chart.
  4. Making timely assessments of your progress.
  5. Identifying the obstacles that will cause you to lose focus.
  6. Refusing to make excuses or accept excuses from your support person (s).

Falling Prey to the Failure Model:

The understanding of the success model and the failure model is very important in trying to gain control of your personal life. In order to create a healthier lifestyle that should include moderate exercise and moderate nutritional reform, it is also important to clearly identify factors in your personal life that may contribute to a failure model. Success models are the goal, but identifying and overcoming the negative obstacles that almost certainly will occur as you seek to change your life are tremendously important. The failure causes can include people, avoidable circumstances and guilt. It is important to identify these causes in your life and work hard to ensure that they do not get you off track.

Success models are based in commitment, goal setting and effective execution of the plan. There is an old saying that notes, "Positive thinking without positive action is worthless." Many individuals get themselves mentally motivated to make changes but do not take effective action and the efforts are lost in failure. Individuals in every Native American community who make a plan and stick to it either knowingly or unknowingly make a tremendous positive impact on others around them and can cause more to get involved. Success breeds success. Make a plan. Execute it and be a beacon of success in your community!

Important Note: This is a regular feature here at Canku Ota. If you have important information about health and wellness topics, let me know. If there is an upcoming event, let me know so that I can help get the word out. If you know of a great program, let me know that as well. This is a war and the enemy is ruthless. The enemy does not have a face and it does not have a conscience. How we got here has already happened and doesn't matter. How we save the people is all that matters now. Contact me via e-mail at

Geoff Hampton columns online: - Columns Section - Current Issue Section - Library of Articles - Management Advice Online Column

Geoff Hampton's National Anti-Obesity/Diabetes Campaign Info

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