Now is the perfect time to start healthier lifestyle

We don't know why millions of Americans continue to ignore sound advice on how to be healthier and live better.

But the nation's obesity epidemic is ample evidence that many of us continue to disregard our self-interests when it comes to eating.

Most recently, we point to a study that shows half of Americans drink a soda or sugary drink each day.

Sucking down a soda is the equivalent of eating 22 packs of sugar. We don't think many folks would be willing to swallow that in its raw form, so why is it more appealing when it's liquefied?

It seems the only way to get Americans healthy is if we are each assigned a watcher to keep us on the healthful path.

Obesity and its associated medical problems are a modern-day plague in the United States.

Why should we care if our fellow citizens are fat? It's part of your personal freedom to eat yourself into obesity, right?

Even if you don't have empathy for your fellow man, maybe the fact that obesity is taxing our health care system -- and therefore costing you money and draining resources -- is reason enough to care.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of all adults are obese. The CDC estimates that medical costs associated with obesity reached $147 billion in 2008.

Obesity-related conditions include some of the leading causes of death -- heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

And yet it's clear that many people just aren't going to take the initiative to look out for their own health and well-being, for whatever reason. Maybe they're lackadaisical or just plain lazy or apathetic, without much concern for how long they live or the quality of that life.

Maybe they want to be healthy but lack the tools needed to overcome a lifetime of bad habits.

So we're back to the theory that we each need a health coach to help us make the right choices in life. We need to hear a lot more from the angel on our shoulder than listening to the devil on the other with his offerings of deep-fried butter, burgers with Krispy Kreme doughnut buns and sugar-filled energy drinks.

The recent statistic about sugary drink consumption spurred a coalition of 100 organizations to action. The group plans to encourage companies to stop offering sugary drinks for sale at office lunchrooms or providing them at catered business meetings.

And while that may help some grownups, it won't likely help those who love sugary drinks the most: teenage boys and the poor.

Teenage boys drink the equivalent of nearly two cans of soda each day and low-income adults consume about 5 percent more of their daily calories from sugary drinks than more affluent folks.

Progress has been made on limiting children's access to sugary drinks in schools, but the real problem seems to be at home, where research shows more than half of sweetened drinks are consumed.

The coalition hopes to lump sugared drinks and cigarettes in the same category of poor choices.

Sure, we all have the option to decide what we put into our bodies. But it still confounds us that so many folks are willing to ignore proven medical research. Living in poor health cannot be a pleasant existence. And in many cases, obesity-related issues are conditions that can be greatly improved, if not resolved altogether, with the right help.

Research has shown that our bodies can be incredibly forgiving if given the right fuel and a decent amount of exercise.

It's never too late to start making smarter decisions. Step away from the soda and keep on walking.