Are you overwhelmed by daily decisions about what to eat, how much to eat, how much you should be exercising and what you can do to stay healthy? With smartphones, electronics, and the internet, it’s easy to become confused about what to focus on. It seems like one day a particular food is good and the next day you need to avoid it at all cost.
Being a dietitian for more than 20 years, I have learned that it is never just one thing that leads to health issues, and sometimes you can do everything right and still have something come up. One of the first things to strive for is achieving or maintaining a healthy weight. For every person, this is a different number. However, with our culture being so focused on a perception of beauty, many people strive to reach a weight that can be both unhealthy and unrealistic; thus setting you up for failure.
You have most likely heard the term Body Mass Index (BMI). This is a calculation based on your height and weight and puts you into a classification of underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese. While I believe it is good to have an understanding of your BMI, there are limitations to this measurement as well. For most people, a BMI of 18.5-25 is considered healthy. But, a healthy weight is not the only thing to consider.
If it’s not only weight, what makes a person healthy? Here are a few things you should know:
- < 100: that is what your blood sugar should be first thing in the morning.
- < 100: that is generally recommended as the number your LDL (or lousy) cholesterol should be.
- 120/80: that is a healthy blood pressure.
Sounds so easy right? Not always! Everyone is different – make sure you talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
Just remember, you can’t change your genetics – but there are several things you can continue doing or change so that you have control over your own health. There is no magic diet or pill to take. Rather, it’s a culmination of small, routine daily choices. To achieve the “numbers”, here are a few pearls (or Petty’s pointers) from my own journey of maintaining health.
- Aim to eat at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits per day, choose whole grains, choose healthy lean proteins, and limit added fats. Do not eliminate a food group (despite all the fads out there – carbohydrates are not the enemy, but be sensible about them).
- If you are not currently exercising, start – just start somewhere; take a walk, get on a bicycle, or join a gym.
- Drink a lot of water; and no sugary drinks (soda, juice, punch, etc).
- Pay attention to hunger cues – food is often more about the “why” you are eating versus the “what”.
And my last pearl: Grace always wins! If you struggle with a meal or a day – let it go and start over. It is never too late to work toward a healthier you.