With all the talk about resolutions in the last few weeks, ideally we should all be chugging along on the train to healthy. We’ve traded the burgers for salads, squeezed in a half hour run several times per week, and vowed to be back in our skinny jeans by the time the weather warms up. But what happens then, once we reach our goal? Do we revert back to our old ways of lounging on the couch after work and sucking back hundreds of liquid calories at happy hour? Well, we hope not! The key to making diet and exercise changes that will stick is to view them as a lifestyle, or something you will do forever, not just until the pounds come off. Instead of aiming for a number on the scale, we recommend shooting for some new healthy habits that will result in a healthier you. Okay, okay…they might help you look better, too!
Healthful choices can lead to weight loss, but more importantly, they can result in better health, increased energy, and improved fitness that lasts. Although body weight is an indicator of health, it is not the only one. Other measures such as improved cholesterol levels, improved blood glucose control, better blood pressure readings, and icreased fitness levels such as strength, balance, and flexibility are also the result of beneficial decisions that you make each day regarding diet and exercise. It’s true, you do need to reduce the calories that you consume and increase the calories that you expend in order to drop pounds, but making healthy choices can result in improvements in the other measures that we mentioned, even if the weight does not fall right off.
In a perfect world, the number on the scale just wouldn’t matter (wishful thinking). Really though, the number does not hold as much weight as we perceive, pun completely intended. Lifestlye changes such as choosing healthful whole foods and being more active can reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and increase insulin sensitivity. Finding nutritious foods that you like and coupling them with activities that you enjoy will result in a healthy, sustainable lifestyle that doesn’t require your constant attention. Part of the problem is our own fault. We, as a society, have convinced ourselves that weight is some supreme indicator of health, and it can be difficult to break through that. Even though we have convinced ourselves that you can’t be fat and fit, the research shows otherwise. In order to be successful in our pursuit of long term health, we have to start changing our own minds.
The HAES Manifesto
The HAES manifesto contains a list of suggested actions you can take to improve your well-being and educate others about what real, sustainable health means:
1. Accept your size. Love and appreciate the body you have. Self-acceptance empowers you to move on and make positive changes.
2. Trust yourself. We all have internal systems designed to keep us healthy – and at a healthy weight. Support your body in naturally finding its appropriate weight by honoring its signals of hunger, fullness, and appetite.
3. Adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Develop and nurture connections with others, and pursue your passions in life. Fulfilling your social, emotional, and spiritual needs restores food to its rightful place as a source of nourishment and pleasure. Find the joy in exercise by engaging in activities that you like. Seek out pleasurable and satisfying foods and tailor meals to your own tastes. Keep in mind that there is still plenty of room for less-nutritious items in a diet and lifestyle that is healthy overall.
4. Embrace size diversity. Humans come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Aim to live in a way that promotes health, wellness, and an appropriate size for your own body, and try not to compare yourself to others.
So what does healthful living without dieting include? One of the easiest places to start is with the USDA’s MyPlate at www.myplate.gov. Making half of your plate vegetables and fruit, one-quarter lean protein, and one-quarter whole grains will nourish your body with a complex variety of nutrients that whole foods can offer. Increasing your activity level can be as simple as parking your car farther away while shopping or choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator. When you are ready to kick it up a notch, consider activities that you used to enjoy or new ones that you would like to try, and start slowly. Remember, getting healthy once and for all can be a pleasant experience, and nurturing healthy habits in your family ultimately starts with you!
Looking for more resources to get you and your family on the road to long-term health? Head on over to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website at www.eatright.org. You’ll find everything you need to start making changes today!
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