Create a healthy eating style and an active lifestyle

January 14, 2004|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Now that you've survived the holidays, it's dieting season again. Newspapers, magazines and the airwaves are filled with weight-loss ads - each one promising a miracle solution for the perfect body.

The key to a healthy weight is definitely not another diet. The real solution is to make healthful eating and physical activity a way of life. The key to a healthy weight is to ignore those misleading ads - and focus on taking permanent steps toward a healthy lifestyle.

  • Forget the fads: Diet and exercise fads come and go without offering a permanent solution. When you hear about the latest diet, always ask yourself: Can I eat this way for the rest of my life? When you think about a new workout, ask yourself if it's something you enjoy doing.

  • Be realistic: Any eating plan needs to work for your family and your situation. It needs to fit with your schedule, your food budget and your cooking skills. Any activity has to fit into your schedule and situation. If you don't have time to get to the gym or if you hate running, it's time to look for some new activities.

  • Make a commitment: Write down some important reasons for changing your eating habits and being more active. Share with your friends or family a written or verbal promise to make healthy food choices and to be more physically active.

  • Start slow: Making drastic changes can be a recipe for failure. Small changes can make a big difference, if they last. Pick one change, like eating breakfast and/or walking more, and make it a habit.

  • Be consistent: The human body responds well to consistency. If you decide to eat breakfast, make eating breakfast part of your daily routine. If you decide to walk more, make walking part of your daily routine - rather than an occasional activity.

  • Stick with it: Research suggests that it takes about 21 days for a behavior to become habit. If you want to start eating breakfast, make a plan with 21 breakfast menus you'd love to eat. If you want to start walking more, make a plan to walk 30 minutes a day - for 21 days.

  • Be flexible: Life is full of surprises, and plans often need to change. If an early meeting makes breakfast at home impossible, you need alternatives. If you can't get out in the morning, fit a 30-minute walk into a lunch break or before you have dinner.

  • Be creative: Make a list of all the possible breakfast options that you enjoy at home. Make a list of all the possible ways to fit a 30-minute walk into your life - like walking a dog, walking with a friend, walking to the store or walking around the mall.

  • Stock up on options: Once you have a list of possibilities, stock up. Fill your cupboard, car and desk drawers (anywhere you might eat breakfast) with healthy options.

  • Make a list of activity options: It's always good to have options, like indoor ideas when it's cold. Make a list of all the ways you like to move, so you'll always have a fun option.

  • Plan: When situations pose a problem, make a healthy plan. Have a meeting where giant cinnamon rolls are served? Plan to eat one-half a roll; bring cheese and fruit with you. There always is too much to do in our busy lives. Make room for fitness in yours by putting activity on your schedule.

  • Forgive yourself: Healthy eating does not have to be perfect eating. If you make a few poor choices or miss several days of healthy eating, no big deal. Just get back on track as soon as possible. If you miss a day of activity, it's no big deal. Just put on your shoes and get your walk in today. The goal is at least 30 minutes of activity, at least five days a week.

  • Congratulate yourself: Changing your eating habits and becoming more active can be tough. Just think how long you've had your current habits. Give yourself a big pat on the back for any healthy changes or increases in physical activity.

  • After a few months of making simple changes in your eating and physical activity habits you will be pleasantly surprised by the health improvements you have made.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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