Radford Words: Take Leaps toward a Healthier Life

Radford Words
Take Leaps toward a Healthier Life
by Dave Rogacki

With spring around the corner, it is time to start getting those bodies in shape for the summer. Believe it or not, fitting into that new bikini should not be the only motivation to living a healthy life. The top three causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancers and stroke; all can be linked to diet and healthy lifestyle. Luckily, there is no need for immediate panic. There are plenty of changes one can make to prevent disease and live a healthier and more fulfilling life.
Staying healthy, avoiding disease and fitting into a bathing suit sounds like motivation enough, right? The truth is that in order to become a healthier person, lifestyle changes have to occur. According to Anne Alexander, a food and nutrition professor at Radford University, "It is always a great time to make a commitment to better health. People need to realize that changing their behavior to a healthier life style will take time and effort on their part."
Modern American culture may be working against us. It seems that slowly we, as Americans, are eliminating the need to do much exercise. Instead of walking, we drive. When we arrive at a destination, we expect to park in the front spot to eliminate any unnecessary walking. Sidewalks in neighborhoods have become the exception rather than the rule, which eliminates opportunities for children to walk to the park or school safely. America's "working society" has most adults working from dusk to dawn, leaving very little time and energy for workouts.
Despite the framework of modern American society, little changes can go a long way. RU Foods and Nutrition instructor Amy Vaughan says, "Choose to cut back on sugary soda, choose to increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid mindless munch on snacks while watching TV. All of these are small changes that can make a huge change in your waistline."
Of course, becoming more healthy is a double-edge sword. Exercise and good nutrition are essential. What constitutes a good diet? Fad diets are everywhere. So, carbs or no carbs? Alexander believes in the power of vegetables, "Eat vegetables, lots of them," she continues, "I am not talking about eating just 2 or 3 vegetables, say green beans, white potatoes, ice berg lettuce or corn. I am advocating that people eat a wide variety of dark leafy green vegetables, broccoli, brussell sprouts, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, summer squash, winter squash, sweet peppers, peas, cabbages. Or try other vegetables that you may have not eaten before like parsnips, rutabagas and egg plant."
Lifestyle changes don't just happen overnight. Take one behavior change before tackling another. Keep in mind that any change will be difficult initially. Make an assessment and talk to your doctor about what kind of changes are right for you. Talking with a Registered Dietician and checking with a physical trainer is a good start.
Here are some quick tips for a healthy makeover from RU nutrition professors Anne Alexander and Amy Vaughan and nursing professor Kimberly Carter.
* Don't try to do everything at once. Make small, permanent lifestyle changes, one at a time.
* Don't view your health changes as 'going on a diet.' View them as making a permanent lifestyle change. And be realistic, there are no forbidden foods. Moderation, balance and variety are key.
* If we are going to maintain a behavior change such as exercise, it has to be pleasurable. Find something active that you enjoy. It might be walking, skiing, water-skiing, biking, hiking or working out in the gym.
* Work out with a partner in order to keep up the motivation. However, don't get too dependent on that person so that if they quit, you quit.
* Make working out as convenient as possible. The easier it is for you to exercise, the less likely you are to make up excuses and skip out on workouts.
* Be a critical consumer. There is a lot of quackery out there, making a great deal of money on unsuspecting people. If it seems too easy or too good to be true, it most likely is. If it seems like a magic bullet in a tablet, it is probably over inflated. If it seems grounded in good science, but looks like it might take some work and commitment to do, then it is probably the most legitimate choice for positive health change.
* Don't "go on a diet." Rather, choose and want to eat healthy foods.

Article courtesy of Radford University (www.radford.edu).