Improving Eating Habits and Physical Activity During National Nutrition Month
March is National Nutrition Month! To commemorate, we’re going to be focusing on some easy ways to eat healthier and become more physically active.
Obesity has long affected the American population. Home healthcare recipients especially face the challenge of combating unhealthy weight gain if they experience limited mobility and cannot exercise or obtain healthy meals for themselves.
Health Effects of Obesity
Compared to those with healthy body weight, those experiencing obesity face an elevated risk of developing a variety of medical complications. According to the CDC, these can include:
- All-causes of death
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (dyslipidemia)
- Type-2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Increased likelihood of stroke
- Gallbladder disease
- Osteoarthritis – a weakening of the cartilage and bone within joints
- Sleep apnea and other breathing problems
- A wide range of various cancers
- General low quality of life
- Mental illnesses and disorders
- Body pain and limited physical functionality
Each of these health complications raises great concern for a patient with obesity’s wellbeing. For most individuals, treatment will consist of changing lifestyle habits such as adopting a healthier diet and engaging in more physical exercise. In some instances where the person may require a more immediate intervention, surgical options do also exist to help fast-track weight loss.
Get Started with Healthier Living During National Nutrition Month
The best way to improve your body’s nutritional intake and either treat or prevent obesity is to adopt healthier eating habits. The CDC recommends the Reflect, Replace, Reinforce model to help develop eating habits that stick.
REFLECT On Your Current Eating Habits
Take inventory of everything that you eat on a regular basis. Record what you eat each day in a food journal and look for patterns that you can identify. For example, you may find that you are eating sugary snacks more frequently throughout the week than you previously thought or are reaching for foods when you are not hungry.
Along with recording what you are eating at the times you are consuming it, you should also record the “cues,” or reasons, behind why you are eating. Are you snacking because you are bored? Stopping for fast food because it’s more convenient?
When you identify your unhealthy eating patterns and their cues, ask yourself the following two questions:
- Can I avoid this unhealthy eating cue in the future?
- If not, can I make a healthier choice in its place?
The more aware you are of how you eat throughout the week, the more you can start to implement healthier changes in your habits. This leads to a more conscious relationship with food and opens more opportunities for a person to make better choices.
REPLACE Unhealthy Eating Habits with Better Ones
The CDC recommends the following ways to adopt healthier dietary habits:
- Put down your fork between bites
- Minimize distractions while eating
- Eat more slowly
- Avoid eating all the food on your plate just for the sake of doing so
- Eat only when truly hungry, not when bored or experiencing an emotional cue
- Plan meals ahead of time
If you find that you are frequently “clearing your plate” rather than eating until you are truly full, you should also consider eating smaller portions. Additionally, when you are in the mood for a snack, opt for a healthy option like a piece of fruit, a serving of nuts, or other similar foods.
REINFORCE Your New Habits
Give yourself time to adjust and develop healthier habits. As much as possible, stop and reflect on why you are eating a portion of unhealthy food when you are about to reach for it. If you do have days where you eat more unhealthy meals, do not beat yourself up over it. Learn from that experience and take it with you into the next day.
Exercising During National Nutrition Month
Another major way to treat or prevent obesity is by engaging in regular exercise. There are many ways to help your body stay fit, even if you are experiencing limitations in physical mobility.
Many people choose to join a gym to provide a structured environment to exercise. However, with regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic, visiting your local fitness center may not be something you can or want to do.
To ensure you can engage in some socially distanced physical activity, the CDC offers these ideas:
- Plan and participate in family playtime. Do activities that get everyone moving!
- Catch up on household chores, such as cleaning. This prevents you from sitting all day and creates a sense of accomplishment and productivity.
- Go outside! Mow the grass, go for a walk, take a bike ride, or partake in any other outdoor activity that you enjoy.
- Make television more active by engaging in exercise during commercial breaks.
For those that spend more time indoors and may experience difficulties with physical mobility, we recommend that you ask your medical provider for exercise recommendations that you can implement.
Keep it Going All Year Long
National Nutrition Month serves as a great reminder to us all that we should incorporate more healthy eating and physical activity in our daily lives. Use this month as a launchpad for developing habits that stick! If you are a home healthcare recipient and have any questions about ways that you can improve your own physical mobility or dietary habits, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us anytime.