Focus on improving health a bit at a time

2011-01-06T00:00:00Z 2011-02-03T09:33:46Z Focus on improving health a bit at a timeBy REBECCA MORLEY for the Missoulian
January 06, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Many of us boomers ring in the new year with resolutions to lose weight, but by the next day, week or month, most of us will have given up trying. Few will have lost weight and even fewer will maintain the loss.

Why do we fail?

Maybe it's because we sometimes focus on the wrong things. If we are only concerned about weight loss, we are discouraged every time the scale doesn't go down, or even worse, goes up. Chalk up another failure! By the time we reach these middle years, most of us know the glorious feeling of losing a few pounds and the disappointment of gaining it back. I don't know about you, but many of us have given up stepping on that darn scale.

Short-term goals, like looking good for our 25th reunion, are just that - shortsighted. To succeed, we need to change for ourselves, focusing on improved health a spoonful at a time.

Focusing on our health gives us benefits right away. Small changes make us feel better and give our bodies and minds a boost. If weight loss occurs as a result of our efforts, that's a bonus. With our pocketbooks at risk, many of us would like to avoid the cost of chronic disease - medications to control blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar, or having our knees or hips replaced because of the burden of carrying extra pounds.

A first step may be to improve eating habits. Keep track of your food intake for three days, recording the time and every bite and sip that crosses your lips. Who were you with - friends, family, alone? It's for your eyes only, so don't change a thing. After three days, take a look. Are there any patterns in your choices? Once you have an idea of what could be "better," set some goals for improvement.

Increase physical activity. Prioritize physical activity by planning for it. Otherwise, it gets pushed out by other matters. Physical activity doesn't necessarily mean a couple of hours at the gym. It could be as simple as brisk walking, playing with your kids or dog, shoveling snow or even vigorous house cleaning. Thirty minutes adds up quickly once you focus on movement!

Take time for yourself. An area we tend to neglect as busy boomers is planning daily quiet time to unwind. Research shows that if we take time to consciously relax, we cope better with stress. Our blood pressure goes down, and the "fight or flight" response - triggered when we face challenges - calms down. Being in a better state of mind improves our health.

Or try these small steps:

• Quantify: Instead of promising yourself, "I will eat less," set specific limits for yourself such as eating only four pieces of chocolate a week or switching from 2 percent to 1 percent milk.

• One change at a time: To succeed, focus on one issue at a time. Start with something easy, such as no TV at meal time. One success motivates us to tackle another.

• Be realistic. Try to clarify your goals. Instead of setting a goal of "daily exercise," squeeze in a walk on your break or use the stairs. Plan longer sessions for weekends.

The rewards? Feeling better, and having more energy and increased self-esteem. It's good to know that we are doing our bodies good. The future belongs to a healthier you, boomers!

The Missoulian Booming section features a monthly column by a member of the Missoula City-County Health Department in order to assist Missoula baby boomers to be healthy and resilient. Rebecca Morley provides nutrition services through the Eat Smart Program and can be reached at 258-3827 or at


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