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Choices That Impact Health

When making recommendations to patients about things they can do to improve their health I often share two things.

First, my favorite tool to help people get more active is a YouTube video I found a few years ago.  It has nearly 5 million views and has helped a number of my patients get motivated to exercise regularly.

Just 20 minutes of exercise each day can have a big impact on your health. An additional 10 minutes can have an even greater impact.

Second, I recommend the book “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink.  It presents simple doable strategies to change lifestyle habits that gradually promote weight loss. I like books on weight loss and fitness that are not trying to sell something. I have seen too many patients waste money on fad diets and multi-level marketing scams which trick them into cycles of starvation and over-eating.  The best diets are those that are reasonable and sustainable… the best diets are lifestyle changes.

My current favorite lifestyle change is the “Mediterranean Diet”.  With the exception of its focus on alcohol, that diet is clearly associated with healthier living.  My family visited Italy in 2010 and we all noticed that while there certainly are some obese people there, there are many more overweight and out of shape people back in Utah. Interestingly, Utah is one of the healthier states in the US.  Eating better, eating slower, taking a walk after dinner… these are all simple lifestyle changes that can get my family and my patients moving in the right direction.

I like to joke with patients that in Utah we don’t follow the Mediterranean Diet but rather the “Chuck-a-Rama” diet.  Many of us with depression-era parents or grandparents subconsciously look for ways to get the most food for our dollar.  I catch myself calculating this when we eat out; if I am at a restaurant I am trying to figure out how much food I can get for my 10 bucks.  My eyes are drawn to the biggest entrée rather than being drawn to the BEST entree.  Focusing on how to get the most calories for the dollar just adds inches to my waistline and removes years from my life.  Instead of trying to figure out how to get the cheapest food, we should focus on how to cook, grow, and eat the BEST food.

May is the month to plant those tomatoes, to start planning trips to farmer’s markets.  Food is relatively cheap now compared to what it was in previous generations.  We can break free from that “Grape of Wrath” depression-era thinking, and change our food culture from a glorification of the all-you-can-eat buffet to a culture based on quality over quantity.

Utah is a state that has a healthy outdoor recreation culture. We need to build on that.  Europeans visit Utah not for our amazing all-you-can-eat buffets, but for the hiking, biking, and skiing that we sometimes take for granted.  I like to challenge my patients to focus date-night planning and weekend get-away planning not on what restaurant you will visit, but what mountain you will climb, what trail you will hike, what part of Utah you will discover.

If we get out, get moving, and focus on quality food and activities where we move instead of sit I am confident that we can turn around the epidemic of heart disease and diabetes that is overwhelming us.

Other resources

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