The first challenge I’m facing on this DietBet Transformer game is setting my priorities. Here’s the challenge: Making time to exercise, making time to plan healthy meals, making time to shop for healthy food, making time to track fitness goals. And I’m betting that’s true for almost everyone in the game.

Generally speaking, the amount of available leisure time continually increased from the mid-19th century onward. But from the 1950s on, that trend has reversed.


For more than fifty years, children's free play time has been continually declining, and it's keeping them from turning into confident adults." An article in the American Journal of Play reports that since about 1955, kid’s free, self-directed, self-organized playtime has been continually declining, in part because adults have exerted ever-increasing control over their activities. If you find kids outside at all, they’re wearing uniforms, and/or following the direction of coaches or parents. Kids now spend 18 percent more time at school, 145 percent more time doing schoolwork, and 168 percent more time shopping with parents. Even including computer play, kids now spend only about 11 hours per week playing. Kids play outdoors less frequently, and for shorter periods of time than their parents did.

Yet, that missing independent playtime is an important precursor to their development as individuals. Developing a sense of their own interests, creating a connection to nature, learning how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control, handle anger and fear, get along with other kids and treat others as equals, and simply to be HAPPY … all of that suffers without play. Without a feeling of being in control of their own lives, kids come to feel they’re dependent on luck, and on the goodwill and whims of others.


Older generations used to grumble about how EASY we, their kids, had it. Not any longer.

A study by health retailer Holland & Barrett revealed that 68 per cent of those questioned believe today’s generation are forced to endure more hardship than young people 40 years ago. And they’re not wrong. Today’s young adults are more stressed. They have less job security, are competing with more qualified people for jobs, have worse working conditions and expectations of employers for more of their time. 41% say they have regular or constant stress; only 15% said the same 40 years ago, with half saying they never got stressed at all. 25% of older people have memories of visiting and being on good terms with neighbors, while only 7% of today’s young adults claim that.


Yet, all of that sounds awfully familiar … older adults, too, have been forced to become so goal-oriented and chore-driven, and spend so much time at work (often uncompensated), that we, too, have stopped playing enough. Especially outside. As we go, so go our kids.   My nephew recently reported to me that, “Dad’s forgotten how to play.” And my brother wryly confirmed it, explaining that he’s trying to re-learn how to simply have fun – to take the time to play, and to play for the simple enjoyment of it -- without having a “useful goal” he’s striving toward.

"Several polls have shown that Americans say they have nine or 10 fewer hours of free time a week than they did in 1973 - down to 17 hours from 26, according to a Harris poll. Juliet Schor, a Harvard economist, cites figures that support what the polls say - that working Americans are working about a month a year more and have less free time than in 1969. Over the last two decades, American workers have been clocking more and more hours on the job, and they now work more hours than workers in any other industrialized country. Annual work hours are 4% higher than they were in 1980, amounting to an extra 1 hour and 30 minutes at work per week, on average (ILO 1999). Almost one-third of the workforce regularly works more than the standard 40-hour week; one-fifth work more than 50 hours. Hourly manufacturing workers, the only group tracked by government statisticians, are putting in 25% more overtime than they were a decade ago.1 In virtually every industry within the bellweather manufacturing sector, overtime had reached a record by the end of the 1990s. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), which regulates overtime, currently imposes no limits on overtime hours, no limits on mandatory overtime demanded by employers, nor does it prohibit dismissal or any other sanction for declining overtime work." (

Yet we mis-spend even the free time we DO have – many people feel they’re still driven, even in their so-called “free time.” If they’re not giving themselves something to do – a chore that needs to be done, then they’re just as likely to start obsessing about work. And what free time they really DO allow themselves is diminished by spending a pile of it watching TV.

All of this takes a huge toll on us. On workers, on their families, on their kids. Less time spent with the family, and less time to take care of their health. Less time to exercise. Less time to plan healthy meals. Less time to get enough sleep. Crowding out non-work-time activities. Stress. Chronic fatigue. Burnout. Higher blood pressure. Heart disease. The Japanese have a word – karoshi – to describe death from overwork (Hayashi et al. 1996; and Sokejima and Kagamimori 1998).


#1: Stop telling yourself that you HAVE to work overtime.  Stop over-filling your day with make-work chores that aren't real necessities.  Stop volunteering to fulfill everyone else's needs at the complete expense of your own.

#2: Find fun, ACTIVE things to do. Not just ‘exercise,’ but PLAY.

#3: Put a higher priority on being a HEALTH role-model for your kids.  Teach them how live a well-balanced life by living one.

#4: Make choices that enhance your health. Choose to forego that optional, sedentary activity on your calendar, and instead spend that time on something that will serve your personal dieting and exercise goals.

#5: Carve out “sacrosanct” time on your schedule for the things that will matter more in the long run:   working out, simply playing outdoors, making plans that support you and your family’s health and meals and physical activity, and simply spending bonding time with family and friends. Then live by it.


Be inventive, and be firm.   LIFE IS HARD ... GET OUT THERE AND PLAY!!!