Health: Healthy living better than a 'diet'

By Debbie Howes Fleming Published:

According to Debbie Bell, registered and licensed dietician and certified diabetes educator with the Franklin County Health Department, the word diet can be intimidating. While keeping your weight at a healthy level is important, dieting alone is not the best way to achieve your desired goal.

“If the program you have selected restricts or eliminates one or more food groups entirely, you may lose weight, but it is too hard to follow and soon you may actually gain back the weight you lost or more,” Bell said.

Ideally, individuals will follow the new United States Government guide at choosemyplate.gov. This website shows you how to balance a healthy diet and has a link to a guide to help increase physical activity levels. 

An appropriate weight range should take into consideration factors such as a person’s build as well as their age and ability to exercise. Before you begin any exercise program, consult your healthcare professional. You will need to determine your recommended weight, the number of calories you need to either maintain your current weight or to lose weight and the amount and type of exercise you should be doing to achieve your goal. 

Exercise does not have to be physically demanding or strenuous for you to achieve a healthier lifestyle. It does however need to be done consistently and regularly. To achieve a healthier lifestyle, exercising moderately for 30 minutes most days of the week to begin with is a place to start. Plan to increase that amount to 60-90 minutes most days of the week and combine your program with a healthy diet high in vegetables, fruits and grains while low in fat to achieve the best results.

It is difficult to change any behavior, especially as it relates to lifestyle change, but with perseverance it can be achieved. Setting realistic goals and finding a physical activity that you enjoy are the keys to success. One of the first steps is to identify the barriers that keep you from a healthier lifestyle.

Barriers to adopting a healthier lifestyle are usually listed in this order: Not enough time, not enough energy, too costly and lack of facilities. One exercise that doesn’t require a great deal of time, money, gym membership or special equipment is the simple act of walking. All you need is a good pair of shoes and the desire to get started.

Having someone to walk with can help keep you motivated, but you can always walk alone. There are many opportunities to participate in walks and/or runs around the area that cater to the beginning walker as well as the seasoned runner.

Walking reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol while contributing to overall health. It can reduce pain while improving flexibility and mental ability. Exercising may also help to prevent the onset of some chronic diseases, help decrease the disability associated with these diseases and improve the quality of life for people with these diseases. Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis are a few of the chronic diseases that may be helped with walking and/or other exercise programs.

For more information on lifestyle changes visit the FCHD’s website at fchd.org.

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