Whether your goal is to have more energy, prevent the onset of health problems like heart disease and diabetes, or simply feel better about yourself, losing weight is usually considered a good starting point.
But this January, as millions of Canadians try to stick to their resolution to drop a few pounds and get fit, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is encouraging the public to rethink their definition of “healthy.”
“Being healthy is not just about reducing your daily caloric intake, it’s about paying attention to all aspects of your lifestyle,” said Health Minister Terry Lake in a news release. “That is why our government is working to support British Columbians in making healthier choices through the Healthy Families BC Strategy, which includes programs that aim to reduce tobacco use, increase opportunities for physical activity and support healthy eating.”
“A lot of people tend to think ‘skinny’ means ‘healthy,’ but you can’t gauge a person’s health just by looking at them,” added Helen Yeung, a nutritionist at VCH. “Being healthy is about more than weight — how well you eat, your physical activity and your mental health are all important.”
Yeung advises that instead of restricting food and counting calories — typical behaviour as the clock rolls over to a New Year — people should focus on making healthier choices.
“A lot of our body shape and size is determined by our genes, so healthy bodies can come in all shapes and sizes,” Yeung said. “People often stress about losing weight because they’re making drastic changes to their daily routines and setting high expectations for themselves. This can lead to a vicious cycle where failure to achieve weight loss leads to reduced self-esteem and increased body dissatisfaction.”
Instead, Yeung suggests making small behaviourial changes every day to improve your overall health. For instance, taking a brisk walk around the block after dinner can help you sleep better, improve aerobic fitness, insulin sensitivity and blood pressure, and can also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease regardless of your weight. Eating a healthy diet that includes a variety of foods — most of which are healthy — but still leaving some room for treats will also lead to a healthier you. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products can substantially lower blood pressure and also help you get the nutrients and energy you need.
Other suggestions include:
• Enjoy and share food with family and friends.
• Learn how to prepare a new snack or meal with local, fresh ingredients.
• Try a new activity to find something fun to add to your routine.
• Train for and participate in a run for charity.
• Follow your internal hunger and fullness cues, so you eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied.
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.