Living a Healthy Lifestyle
It is feared that the current generation will be the first to be less, rather than more healthy than its parents’ generation, thanks to the growing crisis of obesity and inactivity. A number of government websites exist specifically designed to promote a healthier lifestyle, most notably the White House’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign. Let’s Move is specifically devoted to preventing childhood obesity and provides a variety of resources for readers, including statistics on childhood obesity (it notes that in African-American and Hispanic communities as many as 40% of all children are overweight or obese); suggestions on how to pursue a healthier diet via links to other government websites, and suggestions for incorporating exercise into children’s lives. There are also special offers like a contest for ‘kid chefs’ to submit healthy recipes.
What exactly constitutes a healthy diet is, of course, controversial. The USDA provides specific dietary guidelines for Americans to improve their diets, including keeping within one’s average calorie needs; the need to reduce sugary, sweetened beverages; and an emphasis on whole grains and high fiber foods. The USDA advice tends to be rather technical in nature, linking guidelines to various epidemiological factors influencing the rise in obesity. The report on dietary guidelines is composed of several chapters and includes comparisons of popular diets, including the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. More practical advice is given by websites such as ‘Choose my Plate’ which provides advice about eating healthfully on a budget. The suggestions on how to ‘plan,’ ‘purchase’ and ‘prepare’ foods while keeping costs contained are fairly straightforward and include suggestions such as not shopping while hungry; looking for sales; and preparing multiple meals for the week ahead of time.
To gain an appreciation for just how unhealthy the diets are of schoolchildren one only needs to look at the website Fed Up With Lunch. This blog is a photographic essay of a schoolteacher who ate the school lunches served at her urban school district for an entire year. (The lunches would have been eligible for the federally-subsidized school lunch program and are eaten by the majority of the students at the school). These lunches were often composed of highly processed foods such as square pizza, French fries, and chocolate milk. Suggestions for healthier lunches are offered as well.
Knowing ‘where you stand’ in terms of obesity is important and not always immediately obvious, given that as America grows heavier, a higher body weight has become more normalized. BMI (body mass index) calculates the relatively ‘normal’ weight for someone of your gender, age, height, and body composition, although the measure is somewhat controversial, given it is alleged that very muscular athletes may be measured as ‘overweight’ by its standards. A popular BMI calculator available online is offered by the NIH (National Institute of Health). Another useful tool is ‘Calories Per Hour’ which allows for a rough calculation of calories per hour of various activities, both fitness-related and lifestyle-related (like gardening). This calculator can be adjusted based upon factors such as age, weight, or gender which affect metabolism.
For objective statistics on the obesity epidemic, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) issues reports on this specific topic. The CDC’s most recent study notes that “more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese” (Adult obesity, 2013, CDC). Obesity statistics are broken down according to both race and state of residence. This helps to illustrate what lifestyle factors can contribute to one’s likelihood of becoming or not becoming obese. Other statistics of note include the finding that while “there is no significant relationship between obesity and education among men. Among women, however, there is a trend — those with college degrees are less likely to be obese compared with less educated women” (Adult obesity, 2013, CDC).
For people who wish to adopt a more fitness-focused lifestyle, there are a number of useful exercise-related resources on the web. The magazine Runner’s World offers a variety of training plans for running races as well as general running-related health tips relating to diet, exercise, and injury prevention. Its Couch 25K plan enables even a ‘couch potato’ to run a 5K race, offering a structured training plan for people new to running. There are website sections on strength training, stretching, and nutritious recipes (although the recipes are not specifically weight loss-focused, there are also tips for keeping one’s weight down in general on the website). Runner’s World also has user forums in which people can sign up to interact, share training tips, and find support for their love of running.
In the pursuit of fitness, a growing number of people are exploring gluten-free, low-sugar, and low-carbohydrate diets like the paleo and primal diet plans. It should be noted that these diets do not adhere to current federal guidelines about the ideal amounts of saturated fat, protein, and carbohydrates individuals should eat (although these guidelines are increasingly under dispute). Mark’s Daily Apple is a popular source for paleo/primal recipes, information about the diet, and user forums for support to follow this diet plan.
More standard tips on healthy eating can be found at Cooking Light, which offers slimmed-down recipes for a number of popular classic dishes. There is nutritional information for all of the recipes and most of the recipes involve substituting lower fat and lower calorie alternatives in place of traditional staples. There are also tips on healthy snacking. Overall, the focus is on weight reduction through calorie-counting.
Adult obesity. (2013). CDC. Retrieved from:
Calculate your BMI. (2014). NIH. Retrieved from:
Calories Per Hour. (2024). Calories Per Hour. Retrieved from:
Cooking Light. (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.cookinglight.com/
Dietary guidelines for Americans. (2013). USDA. Retrieved from:
Eating on a budget: The 3Ps. (2014). choosemyplate. Retrieved from:
Fed Up With Lunch. (2014). http://fedupwithlunch.com/
Let’s Move. (2014). Retrieved from:
Mark’s Daily Apple. (2014). Retrieved from:
Runner’s World. (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.runnersworld.com/
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