One Small Step at a Time
"We need to focus our attention on health, well-being, and the improvement of the quality of life that small changes can achieve," says Foreyt. Don't think of a diet-and-exercise overhaul; think small steps to halt weight gain and then move on to weight loss.
"If we could simply stop gaining weight, it would be a substantial first step toward reducing globesity" says Hill, one of the founders of America on the Move, which popularized the pedometer.
His advice: make small changes that add up to at least 100-200 fewer calories daily. Eat one less cookie, leave a few bites of the fast-food burger, and walk 2,000 more steps each day to help weight maintenance.
Pedometers keep track of how far a person walks or runs. They also keep track of the number of steps a person takes. That -- plus advice to take 10,000 steps a day -- seems to help motivation for people who don't like to exercise.
Changing behavior is admittedly one of the most difficult tasks health care professionals face, panel members told the audience of registered dietitians. "Taking small steps seem to be the most reliant way for doctors and dietitians to help get people to change the way they eat and exercise," says Foreyt.
Everyone is looking for the magic bullet but it does not exist, he says. "It starts and ends with personal responsibility."
Changing the Landscape
Beyond small changes, we need to change the environment in which we live. "We have to create social change in our communities where eating healthy and physical activity are promoted and supported by everyone from health care, schools, local and state government, parks," says Hill.
People have to want social change; it cannot be forced upon them. "If they don't see the value of sidewalks to promote more walking, they won't support it with their tax dollars and it won't become a reality." Healthy foods are being manufactured, as evidenced in the exposition at the meeting, but if consumers don't support the healthier options with their dollars, these healthier options won't be around for long.