Rather than Resolutions, Establish Healthy Habits

Rather than Resolutions, Establish Healthy Habits

By Tarynne Mingione, RD
Registered Dietitian

I’m all for a new year to spark good intentions, but the group of 100+ gym members that magically appear in January and hijack my stair climber only to stand at the top and text have proven again that the majority of these resolutions only last through February. That’s good news for my quads, but rather than brainstorm overly ambitious feats, why not establish healthy, realistic habits that everyone can carry out through next Christmas?

Healthy Weight

Let’s resolve to the BMI instead of the cover of People magazine to determine what a healthy weight is.

BMI (body mass index) calculation uses weight and height to determine one’s relative risk of disease. This number correlates with body fatness, but it’s important to remember that it is not a direction measure as it reflects both muscle and fat. (Click here to use our BMI calculator.)

BMI is an inexpensive, quick and easy to-perform method of screening for weight categories that may lead to health problems. However, it doesn’t take into account frame size, bone density, muscle mass (highly trained athletes have high BMIs due to increase muscle mass), or body fat (women have more body fat than men, also older people have more body fat than younger).

Ideal Body Weight

So the BMI is one method for determining what your risk is at your present weight. What about if you want to know what your ideal weight range is? I recommend using this method (known as the Hamwi method):

  • Men: 106lbs for first 60” (5 ft) and 6lbs per inch thereafter ±10%
    • Example: 5’ 10” = 149-183 pounds
  • Women: 100lbs for first 60” (5 ft) and 5lbs per inch thereafter ±10%
    • Example: 5’ 3” = 104-127 pounds

Like using the BMI, you have to consider the interpretive standards for this calculation also. If you consider yourself to have a small frame, then use the lower end of this range; whereas if you have a large frame then you would use the upper end of this range.

How do you achieve an ideal weight?

If we want to reach or maintain a healthy weight, consuming a healthy diet and engaging in physical activity is essential.

What is a Healthy Diet?

It took me 4+ years and an expensive degree to develop a confident answer to this question…but to save you time and money, let’s look at the straightforward responses of two of my favorite authors:

Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, in What to Eat, would respond “It’s so simple I can summarize in just 10 words: Eat less, move more, eat lots of fruits and vegetables.”

Michael Pollan (my favorite journalist with a strong interest in nutrition) who wrote Food Rules (2009), sums up the question of this “supposedly incredibly complicated question of what we should eat: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I highly recommend the enjoyable read, but if you are short on time or need some convincing before investing in some couch time with the quick read, here I will share a few of my favorite points Mr. Pollan writes:

Eat Food:

  • Could you grow it/imagine it growing, explain where it came from?
  • Avoid products your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food, items that contain ingredients any ordinary human wouldn’t keep in the pantry (cellulose, calcium propionate, etc.), foods with lengthy ingredient lists (5), ingredients you can’t pronounce.
  • If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
  • It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.
  • It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language. (Think Big Mac, Cheetos, Pringles).

Mostly Plants:

  • Eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better than eating what stands on two legs [fowl], which is better than eating what stands on four legs [cows, pigs, and other mammals].”
  • Eat colors (colors of vegetables reflect different antioxidant phytochemicals they contain-anthocyanins, polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids.”

Not too much:

  • Pay more, eat less. Americans spend less than 10% of their income on food (60 years ago we spent 22%), less than the citizens of any other nation. We also have the highest prevalence of obesity among developed nations.
  • Calorie-restriction has repeatedly been shown to slow aging in animals. Some researchers believe it offers the single strongest link between diet and cancer prevention.
  • Choose quality over quantity.
  • Better to pay the grocer than the doctor.
  • The bigger the portion, the more we eat. Switching from 12” to 10” plate caused people to reduce their consumption by 22 percent.

Resolution Recap

Let’s resolve to make 2012 a healthy year by working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight, supported by a wholesome diet and engaging in physical activity. Even if you quit the gym by Valentine’s Day, you will still have over 80,000 opportunities to make healthy food-related decisions you are proud of that support your healthy goals. Cheers - to 2012 a happy and healthy year!

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