Healthy Focus

No More Denial: How to Take Action for Your Health

It’s human nature to avoid unpleasant things as long as possible. But when denial keeps you from making changes that could improve your health and even prolong your life, it’s time to face reality.

Whether it’s that smoking habit you’ve been “quitting” for years, or the medical screening tests you’re going to schedule as soon as you have some time, you owe it to yourself to take action now. “People may know what the right thing to do is, but they sometimes have difficulty getting around to doing it,” says Allison Castleman, RN MSN, Project Director/Community Health Coordinator for Grow Well West TN. HCMC offers Chronic Disease Management, Pharmacy Assistance, and Care Management for patients through this program.

“In a sense, denial is a defense mechanism,” says Castleman. “When it begins to impact your health, it becomes unhealthy.”

Going smoke-free
Smoking is both a strong addiction and a strong habit, so it’s a common cause of denial behavior, says Castleman. “People that are really trying to quit are willing to set a quit date. That gets you out of denial and into an active phase of trying to stop your smoking habit.”

Castleman says research suggests that smokers are more likely to quit when the issue is raised persistently and in a friendly way, with emphasis on the smoker’s ability to control the process. Talking to others who have successfully quit can help too, she says.

Losing weight
Denial about those extra pounds can range from refusing to acknowledge their existence to downplaying the negative health effects, according to research reports. And most people won’t refer to themselves as obese even when it’s accurate, says Castleman. “Obesity has a negative stigma and makes them feel like they have a medical problem,” she says. Some say, ‘Everybody in my family is big, so it’s just a genetic problem.’”

Women in particular tend to deny the changes that aging can cause in their metabolism, making it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, adds Castleman.

Approaching weight loss as a health issue rather than a cosmetic issue can help. “I tell them about their risk of diabetes and high cholesterol and explain that losing weight will lessen their risk or is a controllable risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.  Plus, they will feel good about themselves after weight loss,” Castleman says. “Maintaining that motivation to lose weight is the hard part, along with diet and exercise.”

Checking in with the doctor
For some people, just making an appointment for a checkup can unleash all sorts of unwanted emotions about possible health problems. “Change is not always comfortable,” says Castleman. “There are people who haven’t been to the doctor in five, 10 years who say, ‘I feel fine. Why should I worry about my health?’ But it’s worth your time and effort now so you can have a better quality of life as you age.”

Concern and encouragement from a family member can help some people overcome their denial, says Castleman, while others may be motivated by a friend’s or relative’s experience with a major health event such as a heart attack or cancer.

4 Strategies to Overcome Denial

  1. Make a plan and tell others about it.
  2. Set a deadline for action.
  3. Consider all the negative things that will happen if you don’t take action.
  4. Join a support group.

To learn more about the Grow Well West TN Program, call 731-644-8215 or email

The Diabetes Epidemic: Protecting Your Family

Diabetes is a national health crisis that affects over 30 million people in the United States—and one of them could be you or a member of your family, says Kim Dempsey, MS, RD, LDN and Lead Clinical Dietitian at Henry County Medical Center. That’s why knowing how to prevent and manage this chronic disease is so important.

Diabetes basics
Diabetes can be either type 1 or type 2, according to the American Diabetes Association. Type 1, which affects about 10 percent of those with diabetes, prevents the body from producing insulin and can be treated with insulin injections, diet and exercise.

Type 2 is the most common form: Either the body does not produce enough insulin, or the cells ignore the insulin. Obesity, poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are the primary triggers for type 2 diabetes, in addition to a cluster of risk factors called cardio metabolic syndrome: high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, low levels of HDL, abdominal obesity, inflammation, insulin resistance, and elevated blood glucose.

If you experienced gestational diabetes while pregnant or suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you’re also at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

“One of the best things women can do after they deliver a baby is lose the weight,” says Dempsey.

Risky business
Diabetes can affect every aspect of your life, explains Dempsey. People with diabetes often struggle with sleep apnea, hypertension, hyper cholesterol and depression, and their risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney, eye and nerve damage is dramatically increased.

The added cardiac risk is especially pertinent for women, says Dempsey, because they already have a higher rate of undetected heart disease from “silent” symptoms. 

Prevention strategies
How can you help prevent diabetes in your own family? Dempsey recommends regular exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, and scheduling annual physicals.

And it’s vital that you ask your healthcare provider about being tested regularly for diabetes: The disease can cause damage to your body for years before you have symptoms, and early treatment can help prevent more damage. Diabetes screening blood tests include the fasting plasma glucose test and the oral glucose tolerance test, which can also determine if you are pre-diabetic, with blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be considered diabetic.

Diabetes increases your risk of:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Stroke
  3. Kidney damage
  4. Eye problems
  5. Nerve damage 


Hot and Sweet Chicken and Pepper Stir-Fry

3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat (2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves can be substituted)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, thinly sliced
1 medium jalapeno chile, cored, seeded and minced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh gingerroot
½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Cut chicken into 1-inch chunks. Combine cornstarch, rice wine and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Add chicken. Stir to coat and set aside.

Brush oil on bottom and up sides of seasoned wok or deep skillet. Heat over high heat 30 seconds.

Add onion. Stir-fry 2 to 4 minutes, until translucent and turning golden. Add bell pepper and jalapeno chile. Stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes. Remove chicken from marinade, reserving marinade. Add chicken to wok. Stir-fry 3 to 5 minutes or until chicken chunks turn white. Add garlic and gingerroot and stir-fry 30 seconds.

Stir together broth, soy sauce and hoisin sauce. Add to wok. Stir in reserved marinade. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes or until sauce thickens and chicken is completely cooked.

Makes 4 (1-cup) servings (without cauliflower rice)

Per serving (using chicken thighs): 210 calories / 9 grams total fat / 23 grams protein / 8 grams carbohydrates / 100 milligrams cholesterol / 410 milligrams sodium / 2 grams dietary fiber