Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Holidays
Resolve to Replace Diets with Good Health Habits
Linda Rellergert, Regional Nutrition Specialist, St. Charles County University of Missouri Extension
This is the time of year when many people start diets. But after a few weeks of not getting enough to eat or eating food that does not taste good, most dieters give up, having "failed" once again. The truth is, though, it is the diets that are the failures, not the people who try them.
Instead of improving health, dieting is often harmful and
counterproductive. Health statistics show that only 5 to 10
percent of those who diet and are able to lose weight are
able to maintain the weight loss for more than a short time.
Most dieters quickly regain the lost pounds - plus a few
extra - and end up heavier than they started.
Diets promote unhealthy eating habits, often by eliminating nutritious
foods. Dieters are encouraged to ignore internal body
signals of hunger and fullness. Eventually, the ability to
respond appropriately to these normal physiological
processes is lost. Chronically hungry people become obsessed
with food and are likely to overeat when an opportunity to
do so presents itself.
This year, instead of trying yet another diet, resolve to make a
positive change for good health. Focus on taking one step at
a time, as changing behavior and attitudes is difficult and
takes time. Any of these suggestions is a good place to
Accept that there is no ideal body size, shape or weight. People
come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and all can benefit
from a healthy lifestyle. Research conducted by Steven
Blair, director of research at the Cooper Institute for
Aerobics Research in Dallas, has shown that people can be
both fit and fat. He notes "There will always be tall,
skinny people and short, stocky people. That's out of our
control. What we can do is exercise regularly, follow good
health practices, and live life to the fullest." Each person
is responsible for taking care of his or her body.
Acceptance and self-respect lead to confidence, wellness and
Adopt normal eating patterns. Normal eating means regular meals
and one or two snacks a day to satisfy physical hunger.
Healthful food choices provide variety, moderation and
balanced nutrition. All foods can be part of healthy eating.
Respect the body's signals of hunger and fullness by eating
when hungry and stopping when satisfied. Normal eating also
means eating more some days and less others, and trusting
that it will balance out over time. Finally, find non-food
ways to cope with stress.
Make physical activity a part of every day. Benefits include
reduction in blood cholesterol and lipids, lower blood
pressure, and relief from stress. Find activities that are
fun and enjoyable, and that fit into daily routines.
Walking, sledding, skating, dancing, bowling, gardening, or
playing with the kids are excellent ways to get physical.
Then you can go on to add other activities like weight
training, yoga or Tai Chi that build muscles or improve
balance and flexibility.
Get more sleep. Most of us get seven or fewer hours of sleep
rather than the eight hours a night recommended by the
National Sleep Foundation. This may seem like just a small
deficit, but the effects are cumulative. Chronic sleep
deprivation contributes to stress and tension, accidents in
the home, work place and on the road, and can cause
difficulty in coping with the little everyday annoyances of
Interested in learning more? Consider reading Intuitive
Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch and Women
Afraid to Eat by Frances M. Berg. Information is also
available on the Web at WIN Wyoming,
http://www.uwyo.edu/winwyoming/, and the Healthy Weight
Or, in Missouri, contact your University Extension Nutrition Specialist to find out about a workshop series called Health for Every Body.
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009