Opinion: Cultivate healthy habits

Guest Column by Tiffany Hays

The world around us is full of choices.  Some of these choices are more convenient than others as the modern world offers many conveniences including having meals delivered to your doorstep, utilizing home cleaning services, or outsourcing pet care.  We even have the ability to choose binge watching an entire 18 season show or dominating the newest video game without ever leaving our living room—except for the occasional trip to the bathroom.  This plethora of choice gives us tremendous freedoms to spend our time doing that which we truly wish to do.  Unlike money, which can be used to buy convenience, time is the rarest of resources.  Once spent, this precious commodity cannot be restored or replenished.

It is increasingly apparent that many Americans are choosing to spend their time engaging in comfortable lifestyle activities that create complicated health outcomes. An American study done by the Centers for Disease Control in 2015 and 2016 found that over 70 percent of adults in the United States were classified as overweight.  This same study determined 39.8 percent of our adult population met body mass index (BMI) criteria for obesity.  Alarmingly, nearly 20 percent of youth also met the criteria for obesity in 2015-2016!  This astonishing value is up from 30.5 percent of adults and 13.9 percent of youth who met the criteria for obesity at the turn of the century.  Data suggests that a BMI score above 25 may result in a variety of complications including decreased mobility, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even some cancers!  Despite the fact that this is a preventable and modifiable condition, this epidemic is a major contributor to chronic health complications experienced by many Americans today.

 We are all aware of the unhealthy nature of many fast food options.  Yet due to the fast-paced nature of modern life, convenience weighs heavier on our decisions than nutritional value.  We all know that regular exercise is beneficial to our health, yet for many of us this merely consists of walking to and from our vehicle at our selected destinations.  And I know I am not the only one that enjoys sweet treats on occasion!  In moderation, these choices will be of little to no consequence for most individuals. However, as a consistent lifestyle choice, these choices may lead to a significant decline in health.  When these choices become habit, they contribute significantly to joining the 70 percent of adults that are overweight and nearly 40 percent that are obese.  When you look at familial patterns, it is easy to see a correlation between obese adults and the propensity for obesity in their children.  However, this is not a hereditary trait, it is a learned (and modifiable) behavior.

I am not saying we all need to make extreme changes.  However, I am trying to convey the value in making good diet and lifestyle choices on a regular basis.  It is proven that prevention is key for most chronic illnesses.  If you have ever seen an obese patient suffering from congestive heart failure and struggling to breathe as they reposition themselves in bed, you understand the consequences of choosing convenience over health.  While it is never too late to start making healthy lifestyle choices, the sooner the better because once you get to that point it is often too late.  So get out there and explore the world!  Walk, run, rollerblade, bike or hike on a regular basis but feel free to take a break and rest when needed.  Go ahead, indulge and enjoy your favorite ice cream on occasion while remaining cognizant of the fuel you use for your body; make sure it has quality ingredients that come from nature.  Yes, it takes time and effort to cultivate the habits necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  These day to day decisions can improve your life from this moment forward, and the time spent in these endeavors will be worth the time saved from the consequences of choosing the alternative!

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