You’re Never Too Old To Start Diet and Exercise Program

Think you’re too old to start an exercise program or eat right? Take a clue from sixty-something-year-old James P. Sargen, the CEO of TriActive America at

“Over the years, I exercised occasionally. I rode my exercise bike, did sit-ups, and sometimes even took the stairs instead of using the elevator,” says Sargen. “But I never exercised seriously or with intensity until my doctor informed me that I was a type 2 diabetic. My symptoms: a dry mouth, lack of energy and stomach aches.”

When he received the news, Sargen describes himself as “shocked, even though my mother had been a type 1 diabetic, and my uncle suffered from adult onset diabetes. I didn’t think that I could tolerate daily insulin shots or daily blood samples.”

But the key prescription from his doctor surprised him: “My doctor told me to use common sense. That involved increasing the intensity and pace of exercise so that it became a part of my lifestyle. He also instructed me to modify my diet. The diet and exercise prescription was reinforced with one pill.”

Today, Sargen’s blood sugar is controlled, not due to a “magic pill” but the result of a combination of a better diet and a significant increase in exercise. “My weight used to be 230. I now weigh 190 pounds and, at more than 6 feet tall, I look much sleeker and trim in my 34-inch pants. Most important, I feel younger, and I have the energy to match that youthful feeling.”

Sargen recalls being young and limiting himself by negative thinking. When his mother noted that practice, she told him to change his attitude. “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” she would remind me. I would wince, that instinctive response of all children to their parents’ reprimands and chidings, but once I overcame that response, I recognized the truth of her comment.”

Many years later, Sargen still practices the philosophy that his mother taught him. In starting what he calls his “seventh career,” TriActive America – an outdoor fitness equipment company – symbolizes his personal belief in the importance of exercising the body, mind, and spirit. “What’s key in attaining any goal, whether it’s starting your own company or losing weight, is precisely what I did with my exercise and diet: set reasonable and attainable goals, and adjust them as progress is made,” says Sargen.

“The key is in seeing genuine progress and feeling good about it. Now in my 60’s I am not concerned about wearing walking or gym shorts. Friends and people who know me constantly mention the weight I’ve lost and how good I look, and these compliments reinforce my commitment.”

As the CEO of an international company, Sargen leads “a very visible and public life. I encounter a lot of people who know me and I’m asked how I accomplished the change, and I tell them. Sometimes I get responses such as “I can’t give up my bread or desserts!”

When he hears such statements, this weight loss expert reassures his friends that “it’s not about giving things up or making big sacrifices. If you love bread, eat some, just not a lot and not at all three meals. If you like dessert, have dessert. Fruit makes a great dessert. You can dress up fruit by adding healthy toppings such as yogurt and nuts. It’s not about eliminating food from your life; it’s about balancing it.”

Sargen suggests that weight loss, exercise, and diet be regarded as a “bank account. You start with a zero balance. You get up and do some stretches, ab crunches, and push-ups. Then you ride an exercise bike or take a walk, and you add points to your account. You have a good breakfast, fruit, cereal, a piece of multi-grained toast, with sugar-free jam. You withdraw some points, but not a lot, because you’ve eaten a balanced, reduced fat and low-sugar meal. Don’t skip breakfast. Of all the meals you eat, breakfast provides the most nutritional value and is used by the body as fuel to keep you going.”

As you go to work or run errands, seek ways to keep active, urges Sargen. “You have a choice between elevator or stairs and decide to use the stairs. You’ve added points to your account. Need a snack? Enjoy a piece of fruit or a low-carb energy bar. If you want a sugary treat, go ahead but balance it out by not eating a starch like pasta, rice or potatoes for dinner.”

Using the bank account metaphor, exercise adds points to your account, and food deducts points. “At the end of the day, you hope to balance your account, so that you’re either at zero or below. Drop below zero and you lose weight. It’s about understanding your body and listening to what it tells you. Remember: Just because you’ve got food on your plate doesn’t mean you need to finish it. Mom’s not setting the rules anymore. You are,” says Sargen.

Another way to imagine the balance between exercise, diet, and your weight: “think of it as achieving a rhythm,” the CEO suggests. “Add some flair and imagination and it becomes a choreographed dance. You exercise and then balance what you eat to maintain the rhythm. Friends have told me they can’t make those kinds of decisions, but after some practice it becomes second nature.”

If you’ve attempted to follow a rigid diet and exercise plan without achieving the appearance that you sought, Sargen recommends changing your goals so that they are more realistic, “ones that relate to what you can accomplish given your physical gifts. Take what you’ve been given and make it work for you. It’s a fact of human nature that we are never satisfied with our looks or our body shape.”

When children play on fitness or playground equipment such as Sargen’s company makes, he says that he has noted that they do not see obstacles in using it. Instead, they see challenges and opportunities for fun and learning. “Change your attitude or mindset, so that you, like your children or grandchildren, see opportunities instead of challenges. When you set goals and achieve these goals and better still maintain them, you empower yourself and see life in a fresh way,” says the TriActive America CEO.

“My new attitude allowed me, a person very fearful of heights, to accompany a friend on a jungle canopy ride in Mexico. I approached the ride, fearful, but didn’t let it stop me, and had a fantastic time. Now reinforced by this success, I will move onto the next one.
Think of it as a total makeover. However, you don’t need a plastic surgeon. You’ve used the tools available to help yourself, in other words, changed your exercise and diet, and in the process have open to new possibilities. That’s the makeover that lasts and pays huge dividends over the years.”

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