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Protect yourself from yourself — here's some help

A television commercial recently caught my attention. And since my wife and my mom might be reading, I should point out it doesn't involve beer or bikini-clad babes.

I'm talking about the public service announcement that features an attractive, thin and healthy-looking woman returning home from work. After locking her deadbolt, the announcer says something like, "Protect yourself."

It makes you think the ad is about burglary or assault prevention, but then you see the woman grab a slab of chocolate cake, sit on the couch and puff away on a cigarette while tuning into the tube.

The narrator then says, "From yourself."

After a little Google action, I learned this was championed by the Ad Council in partnership with health groups such as the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association.

Their goal: "Motivate women (target ages 30-50) to make healthy lifestyle choices for themselves and their families in order to prevent fatal diseases."

I hope they don't mind if a man took their message to heart.

With my first-born son on the way — and my dad's diabetes-caused death last year fresh on my mind — the thought of dying young scares me to, well, hopefully into action.

I normally try to joke about my weight and my weaknesses in this column, but my inability to find motivation to protect myself from myself is bumming me out. I'm also discouraged that only 5 percent of people who lose a significant amount of weight supposedly keep it off for more than a few years.

So, if I do lose the weight, will I be able to make it stay away?

How depressing.

Anyway, my intent this month isn't to write a woe-is-me piece or to increase readers' need for depression medication. Pardon the self-indulgence, but I'm just hoping to ignite the motivating fire in my belly. You know, so I'll protect myself from myself.

That's why I'm even more impressed about this joint preventative initiative, "Everyday Choices for a Healthier Life." This coalition hopes to empower Americans to help lower our risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke — diseases that claim the lives of 1 1/2 million of us each year (nearly two out of every three deaths in the United States) — by following some simple health recommendations:

Eat right. Some suggestions include making healthful choices, like eating five fruits and veggies a day, choosing whole grains over processed refined grains and sugars, watching portion sizes and replacing high-calorie favorites with low-calorie foods (milk, meat, etc.) and be a label-reader.

Get active. They encourage us to "take baby steps, but lots of them," use a pedometer, work up to at least 30 minutes a day of exercise five or more times a week, tone up to music and do any moderately paced activity.

Don't smoke. "No ifs, ands or butts — just quit," they say. It's great advice but easier said than done. (I say this as a nonsmoker who can relate with another enslaving oral addiction: overeating bad foods.)

See your doctor. Each year, they believe we should get checkups to evaluate blood pressure, cholesterol and a variety of other tests. (I visited my doctor this week, and he gently warned me that my future is bleak if I don't start changing now. But I'm glad I went. The visit was as eye-opening as the TV ad. Plus, it's always reassuring to know there are people out there who hope to help protect us from ourselves.)

Consider this my PSA for those of us in need of a helpful kick in the too-tight pants. And, visit or call 1-866-399-6789 for more information. Just disguise your voice if you're not a woman.

Jody Genessy's weight-loss column runs the first Friday of every month. E-mail: