With obesity and other chronic disease rates on the rise, the shift to a healthy lifestyle has become popular. In general, if you choose to live a healthy lifestyle, you will be less likely to develop conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease or certain types of cancer. What defines a healthy lifestyle?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “health” as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and the absence of disease or illness. A “healthy lifestyle” is the steps you take and the decisions you maketo achieve optimal health and improve your overall quality of life. However, there are many factors that make achieving a healthy lifestyle difficult.
Environmental factors affecting your healthy lifestyle
Diet is one of the major factors that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans develop recommendations to promote health, prevent chronic diseases and meet nutrient needs. In summary, they recommend following a healthy eating pattern that focuses on variety, nutrient density and quantity and to limit calories from added sugars, fat and sodium.
Environmental factors impact what, where, when, how and why we eat, which make following these guidelines more difficult.
Think about how you eat when you are with a group of people, as opposed to when you eat alone. In social settings, we tend to lose sight of our hunger and fullness cues. Also, we focus on how much others are eating.
Dining out at restaurants can create a similar problem. The smells, ambiance or sounds can decrease your awareness and lead to overeating on foods that are already larger in portion size and heavier in calories.
Food and diet advertisements are one of the biggest influential culprits when it comes to food choices. It is important to remember that you can’t always believe what you see or hear.
Advertisements can be deceiving and lead you to make uninformed decisions. Other factors like your work schedule or work environment may be interfering with your ability to live a healthy lifestyle. If you feel stressed, you may tend to over- or under-eat.
Recognize your environment and make changes
Try to recognize which environmental factors create barriers for your healthy lifestyle. You can come up with a plan on how to break down those barriers.
For example, if your goal is to achieve a healthier body weight before surgery, consider the following questions. What factors are preventing you from achieving this goal? Do you find yourself overeating or eating the wrong foods? Try pre-portioning your meals and snacks or start packing a balanced lunch a few times a week.
You will see more long-term success if you make gradual, small changes to your diet and lifestyle, rather than changing your entire routine at once.
There are many other factors that influence your ability to live a healthy lifestyle. How much physical activity you engage in, the amount of sleep you get, your relationships and how you manage stress, are just a few. Try and decide how to best navigate your individual obstacles so that you can successfully adopt a healthy lifestyle routine.
As a guide, try to focus on a total dietary pattern that is balanced and moderate. Aim for moderate-intense physical activity of at least 30 minutes per day, five days out of the week. Stay well-hydrated with at least 8 to 10 cups of water per day. Get adequate sleep, about 7 to 9 hours each night.
Find ways to reduce stress such as engaging in yoga, reading a book, talking with a friend or starting a new hobby. You only have one body. Be kind to it!
Learn more about making healthy choices with our Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Lifestyle.
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