Exercise and eating right leads to good health

In today’s society many people are concerned with weight and how it affects health and appearance. However, looking good may not always indicate good health. Also, a healthy weight does not necessarily mean that an individual will look good by society’s standards. Not everyone can achieve society’s idealized body shape, yet they can still maintain a healthy weight. According to psychologist John Foreyt, director of the nutrition research clinic at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, “It’s important to realize that we can’t all be skinny, but we can all try to be healthy.”

The proportion of fat and muscle is one factor that can confuse the issues of weight, health and appearance. Muscle is heavier than fat, so an individual may be at an appropriate weight but have low levels of muscle and higher levels of fat. Thus, this person could be considered less healthy than someone who weighed more but had more muscle compared to fat.

Another complication in the equation of weight and health concerns the detrimental effects of repeatedly losing and regaining weight. Many people struggle with this “yo-yo” effect in their concern over losing weight. However, such fluctuations can actually be more harmful to health than maintaining a stable weight even if that weight is higher than recommended. According to Foreyt, people with a chronic weight problem would do better to “focus on healthy habits and get on with life.”

Of course, in some cases, weight is directly related to health. For example, hypertension and diabetes are associated with overweight and can often significantly improve with weight loss. However, even in these cases it is not necessary to lose large amounts of weight. Often losing only 10 percent of the current weight will significantly improve such conditions.

The two components that directly influence weight are eating habits and activity level. Also, the eating and exercise habits that contribute to weight loss will improve health in other ways. To focus on healthy eating habits means for most Americans cutting back on fats and adding complex carbohydrates. In addition to cutting calories, cutting fats will contribute to a healthy heart. The fiber in complex carbohydrates is associated with decreased risk for colon cancer. Also, complex carbohydrates are rich in vitamins and minerals.

Carbohydrates have a bad reputation among the weight-conscious, but this is unwarranted. While simple carbohydrates (sugars found in items like cake or candy) may contribute to weight gain, complex carbohydrates actually assist in losing weight. This is because complex carbohydrates are found in foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grain breads so they tend to be more filling than foods high in simple carbohydrates.

Regular exercise is crucial for healthy weight loss. In fact, low levels of activity may contribute more to overweight than eating habits. On average, Americans eat 10 percent less than 20 years ago. However, the typical American also weighs a few pounds more than at that time. This is most likely due to increasing inactivity in the nation as a whole. Additionally, regular exercise can help ensure that any weight loss consists primarily of fat rather than muscle. To establish a program of regular exercise, it is important to first check with your physician. Then choose an activity that you enjoy and do it at regular times in the day to help it become a natural part of your life.

Generally speaking, focusing on improving overall health will help a person look their best. If weight is a concern, adding healthy eating and exercise habits will most likely naturally lead to a weight loss. For more information on overweight and the lifestyle habits that can promote a healthy weight, call the National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics at 1-800-366-1665 or Health Enhancement Services at 753-9755.