Living in a quiet, lazy town it’s always exciting to be visited by network television. What could be bringing them to little ole Jasper? The answer is not one you’d hope. When CBS news visited on that sticky July day it was not to report our Historic Suwannee River was dropping lower than most of the old timers at the H&F round table had seen in their lifetimes. Nor was it to honor the bravery of the two fire fighters who perished in the Hamilton County blaze June 20th. The story did not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling at all.
In 737 counties, that’s one quarter of the country, life expectancy is dropping with greatest declines seen in Mississippi, Oklahoma, and several small counties in Florida, including our very own Hamilton County. Based on a study conducted by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, researchers determined the cause of low life expectancies cannot be contributed to racial diversity, size of the nation, or economics. The leading causes of the gap in early death with US and other nations were actually found to be 100% preventable: obesity, tobacco use, and lack of healthy lifestyle choices.
In fact we may be facing for the first time a generation that will not outlive, or even live as long as their parents. Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart conditions, and joint deterioration, are being diagnosed in children all too frequently, and all due to obesity related causes. Obese children on average cut their life expectancy by 2-5 years.
Due to little government funding no public health or wellness programs are available in Hamilton County. With a lack of access to health or fitness facilities and educational programs to assist our community in establishing a strong foundation for wellness and lasting lifestyle choices, it is clear changes must start on an individual level. The effects of incorporating healthy food choices and exercise are immediate and extremely potent. Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.
-Focus on getting healthy, not dieting.
-Make a weekly meal plan, establish set meal times and calories per meal, look up calorie counts, make a grocery list, read product labels, choose fresh rather than packaged foods.
-Add fruits and vegetables. Replace applesauce for oil when you bake, add carrots, broccoli, and kale to soups and omelets, or cut up fresh fruits as a side dish.
-Cut liquid calories. Soda, flavored, and full fat milk, fruit punches and fruit-flavored drinks are loaded in sugar and empty calories. Substitute 1% or skim for whole milk, try adding water or seltzer to juices to cut calories, and try to wean yourself off the sodas(they’re so bad for you!).
-Prioritize breakfast and keep meals consistent. Eating within the first hour of waking up powers the brain and kick starts the metabolism for the rest of the day. High protein and fiber for breakfast boosts endurance.
Finally, have healthy expectations. Know you’re making better and better choices everyday, and remember one good decision leads to another.
Beth Harris, CSCS
Beth Harris Training & Wellness
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