Following recent warnings about increasing levels of obesity in the Cayman Islands, two health and fitness experts are emphasising that getting into shape doesn’t have to be ordeal.
Dr. Rachael Pandit M.D, head of the Savannah Medical Clinic, says the path to a healthy lifestyle and weight begins with small steps.
Mrs. Pandit specialises in wellness, nutrition and the prevention of chronic disease through lifestyle change and is in the process of writing a book on the topic.
For anyone aspiring to weight loss and a healthier lifestyle, it is important to set realistic goals, she says.
‘I think the key to making changes, and making them last, is to just do a few things at a time.
‘You didn’t develop the habits that you have in one-day, so going on a crash diet in one day or one week and expecting to have reversed the problems – it may work but you can’t maintain it. You have to make changes slowly over time.’
This may begin with substituting unnecessary fatty foods and drinks – like soda or juices that contain high fructose corn syrup – with water or natural juice,’ she says.
‘You see lots of kids pick up a Capri Sun. Mothers look at it and they think they are giving their kids something good because it’s like juice. But if you read the label, High Fructose Corn Syrup is the number one ingredient. That kind of consumption of calories really puts on weight on the kids.’
Parents also need to be role models to prevent their children becoming obese, Mrs. Pandit says.
This is a point that has been driven home by numerous scientific studies, which show parents who allow their children to become overweight are setting them up for a life of obesity – and its attendant medical complications.
‘I have parents that come to me saying, ‘he will only eat chips’, or ‘he will only drink soda’. Well, who is giving them the choices? Who is buying it?’
‘Parents need to be able to embrace the changes themselves and be good role models; that’s how you can influence your kids the best.’
While the thought of spending hours of toil in the gym may scare many, there are other ways people can begin incorporating activity into their lifestyle, Mrs. Pandit says.
‘You can do small things in your life like parking farther away from where it is you need to go. If you have the option to walk to some place, you should take the option. If you have the option of carrying your own bags, you should do that. The small things you do in your daily life; they can result in a big cut in calories.’
Jeanna Cullinane, owner of Mobile Fitness Solutions, agrees.
‘Incorporating exercise in the workplace and in family life is not as hard as it may appear,’ she says.
‘Taking the stairs whenever possible, or taking a walk on your lunch-hour is an option.
‘Some workplaces actually allow their employees to sit on stability balls that strengthen the core. You can hit some crunches on the ball during a break.’
‘Take a 10 minute power walk, park far away from the supermarket entrance. Cut back on portions, skip the mayo on your sandwich, and limit fast foods to once a month or once every two months,’ Ms Cullinane advises.
According to Mrs. Pandit, being active can also help bring families closer together.
‘If you want to have some quality time with your children you can do group activity things, like going for a walk on the beach; we have lovely beaches and plenty of sunlight here. It’s free and it’s also good for family relationships.’
In time, she hopes children will become well enough educated about obesity – and its attendant health risks – that they will be able to guide their parents on nutrition and lifestyle.
‘When I grew up, the big push was for people to learn to wear seatbelts. I used to sit up in the car when I was two years old without a seatbelt. Now, we wouldn’t dream of doing that. That’s really been a lot to do with public education and that’s been a lot about children teaching parents to put on their seatbelts.
‘If it is properly taught to children in schools, it could actually be that children are teaching their parents how to eat vegetables. When you get a taste for fresh vegetables, eating the other junk doesn’t have much appeal,’ Mrs. Pandit says.
‘I think that is really the key for change.’
Incorporating physical activity into your life doesn’t have to mean hours of toil in the gym. Simple things, like walking more or taking the stairs can dramatically increase the amount of calories you burn.
- Take the stairs;
- Park at the far end of the parking lot;
- Walk or bike when possible;
- Play with your children, don’t just watch;
- Walk during the lunch hour;
- Sit on an exercise ball;
- Make family time a time for activity or walking, not watching TV;
- Sit on an exercise ball at work and do crunches in your breaks;
- Use an exercise bike while watching TV or talking on the phone.