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Addressing Obesity and Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices

While one out of every three Tennesseans is obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s important to realize that the core problem isn’t obesity—it’s the combination of multiple unhealthy lifestyle choices.

UT Extension Agent Donna Calhoun, second from left, poses with Pathweighs to Health participants from Polk County.
UT Extension Agent Donna Calhoun, second from left, poses with Pathweighs to Health participants from Polk County.

To help Tennesseans understand how to overcome health-related challenges, UT Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences division has put together a research-based program, “Pathweighs to Health.” The six-week program provides information and a support network to help jumpstart lifestyle change.

Below are four tips to help you get started. They were developed by Donna Calhoun, a Family and Consumer Sciences agent who administered the program in Polk County in February 2014.

TIP ONE: IT’S HARD FOR A REASON

With fast-food restaurants beating out local grocery stores in convenience and sometimes price, it can be hard to make the choice to eat at home or plan a week’s worth of affordable meals. Also, food manufacturers spend lots of money ensuring their products help you reach the “bliss point,” which is when the right combination of sugar, salt and fat in a food chemically produce the greatest amount of pleasure. Starting a healthy lifestyle is about realizing that it can be hard to make healthy choices, and there are natural reasons why it’s easy to make unhealthy ones.

TIP TWO: START BY BREAKING IT DOWN

Before you throw out everything with a carb in it, take a step back for a few weeks and look at your eating and exercise habits. Making small, sustainable changes can be more beneficial than radical ones, like cutting out all carbs. Use apps like MyFitnessPal or a food diary to track the types of food and exercise you have on a weekly basis. Then, commit to modifying your habits in small ways—maybe popcorn instead of chips for a snack, or parking on the far end of the lot. Remember, it’s your life, and being healthy should become something you take pride in because you’re investing in a better future.

TIP THREE: CREATE A SUPPORT NETWORK

Changing your lifestyle is hard, especially when your family may be used to eating out. Partnering with your spouse, a friend or group of co-workers to encourage each other to make healthy choices will increase your chances of success.

TIP FOUR: YOUR ACTIONS MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Your lifestyle choices have a direct impact on your loved ones, especially your spouse and children. While children whose parents are obese are more likely to struggle with weight from an early age, children who learn healthy food choices and are exposed to a variety of fruits and vegetables are more likely to carry those habits into adulthood. Choosing a healthy lifestyle at any age will increase your longevity and positively influence those around you.

Contact your local UT Extension office to find out when Pathweighs to Health will be offered near you and learn more about healthy lifestyle choices by visiting extension.tennessee.edu.

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