Passion. It is one of the key ingredients to being successful in the fitness business. I don't know anyone who is successful in this industry that doesn't really, passionately and fervently believe that leading a healthy lifestyle is key to a long, happy and healthy life.

That's why it shocks me (and probably most of you) when I meet someone that doesn't think along the same lines. These are the people that ask such questions as, “Smoking only a few cigarettes a day can't be that bad for me, can it?” Or, “I only grab lunch at the fast food place down the street a few times a week, how much damage can that do?”

Everyone knows how bad these actions are, don't they? Well, there I go asking my own dopey question. The answer is no, of course not. In fact, I meet people who can't distinguish between a carb and a protein food, not to mention a biceps curl and a triceps push down.

Unfortunately, many people feel that they don't need to understand what is truly healthy for them. They count on the government to help steer them in the right direction. And, while the government tries (see “Club Industry Exchange” on page 56 for an in-depth interview with Lisa E. Oliphant, executive director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sport), it is really up to us, as people passionate about fitness to do our best to educate the masses. I mean if we are only getting 20 percent of people to exercise, there are still masses to be converted about what they need to do to help themselves feel, look and live better.

According to a Newsweek article (Aug. 5, 2002) there are more than 100 lawyers meeting to see how they can attack fast- and junk-food companies with class action law suits stating that “deceptive marketing practices encourage obesity.” Well while lawsuits, government regulations and improving the choices of foods offered in schools (where some of the worst food choices are available) are good steps, maybe…I'm not sure anything good comes out of too many lawyers and politicians coming around an issue. What it really takes is people or an industry with passion to get the point across to those not as aware of the health risks they are taking when they overdo fast food and junk food, while often underdoing exercise.

Therein lies the key. We need to reach people and teach them that they don't have to sacrifice, but they need to think about and learn what impact everything they put in their body (and that goes for food, alcohol, drugs, supplements and prescriptions) has and allow them to make educated and informed decisions. We need to let them know that some McDonald's once in a while or Ben and Jerry's ice cream on occasion isn't terrible — in fact, both are quite delicious if you ask me — it just should not be the main source of nutrition.

Perhaps if more fitness professionals and organizations would work together to help educate without preaching (nothing gets someone to tune out faster than a condescending “I can't believe…” tone) to the masses we could not only boost our bottom lines but actually help the country as a whole share our passion and desire to lead healthy lives.