Your Health

Food for thought

Achieving good health is more than a numbers game

Achieving good health is more than a numbers game
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Tips for sticking to the plan

BY LYDIA LEE
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, January / February 2010

It's that time of year again - when we put away the heavy holiday foods and our busy social schedules, return to our regular routines and resolve to start afresh.

After a month of indulgence, it's not surprising that weight loss inevitably ends up on the top-10 list of most people's New Year's resolutions year after year.

How can we get rid of that resolution once and for all? By throwing out our weight-loss goal this year and re-focusing on healthy lifestyle changes for the longterm, rather than an annual resolution that ends in guilt and self-defeat.

When we make a goal to be healthier, it can be natural to focus on the numbers - our weight, body mass index or body fat percentage. They're easy to measure, so we know when we've reached our goal. But when numbers become the focus, we often become obsessed and let our happiness be determined by the number on the scale. We try to reach our goal weight at any cost, including the latest weight-loss products and fad diets promising quick fixes. But the success of the dieting industry is proof that diets don't work. After all, most dieters gain back the weight they lost and often end up heavier than before.

When it comes to health, numbers don't give us the whole picture. Have you ever started a new routine of eating healthy and being more active - maybe eating breakfast every morning, including colourful vegetables at dinner, taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes every day, going to the gym a couple of times a week or popping in an aerobics video and working up a sweat at home? After a little while, you start to feel more energized during the day. Your clothes might even feel a little looser. But when you step on that scale again, your weight hasn't budged at all. I think we'd all be a bit disappointed. So what's going on?

Our body weight doesn't always give the best indication of how healthy we are. Healthy people come in all shapes and sizes. Our body weight is determined by many different factors, including genetics and age - things we can't control. The best way to approach health is to measure it by the healthy behaviours we practise regularly. Behaviours like eating a vegetable or fruit at every meal and snack, choosing whole-grain bread more often, eating fish a couple times a week, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking a walk on your lunch break, or finding a new physical activity you enjoy. When we make longterm changes towards a healthier lifestyle, our bodies will thank us for it, regardless of the number on the scale. In fact, studies have shown that overweight people who are physically active are actually healthier than inactive people who are at a normal weight.

If you don't believe me, try it out for yourself. But give it time - this isn't a quick fix. It's a lifestyle.

Lydia Lee is a registered dietitian with the Winnipeg Health Region.

Wave: January / February 2010

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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