How to Be Healthy Without Really Trying

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Live Events Transcript
Event Date: Sept. 7, 2005

Can we really improve our health without a total lifestyle overhaul? David L. Katz MD, MPH, author of Stealth Health: How to Sneak Age-Defying, Disease-Fighting Habits Into Your Life Without Really Trying, chatted with Kathleen Zelman, director of nutrition for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic, explaining how to eat smart, improve blood pressure, get better sleep, and reduce cholesterol by making simple changes in your day-to-day routine. They talked Sept. 7, 2005.

If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MODERATOR: Welcome to WebMD Live. Joining us is David L. Katz MD, MPH, author of Stealth Health: How to Sneak Age-Defying, Disease-Fighting Habits Into Your Life Without Really Trying. He chats with Kathleen Zelman, director of nutrition for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic.

Welcome, Dr. Katz and Kathleen. Thank you for joining us.

ZELMAN: The book is Stealth Health: How to Sneak Age-Defying, Disease-Fighting Habits Into Your Life Without Really Trying. Hot off the press by Reader's Digest. It is a great compilation of small things to work into habits for better health.

KATZ: Kathleen, I really have to give credit to my colleagues at Reader's Digest and in particular, Neal Wertheimer, editor in chief there, for representing the interests of the general public in the power of prevention.

We have long said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. However, we recognized that for many, the ounces added up and became quite heavy, and the pounds of benefit were often rather elusive.

Putting our heads together, along with my co-author Deb Borden, we came up with this plan to put those ounces on a diet and make the pounds of benefit more readily accessible. I must say, as a specialist in preventive medicine, I was completely won over by the idea and very pleased with the outcome of the collaborative effort.

ZELMAN: Readers Digest has published many reliable and credible stories on good health.

KATZ: I agree. I have a relationship with Reader's Digest now, as this is my second book with them. The prior book, called Cut Your Cholesterol, addressed comprehensive strategies for lowering heart disease risk. I felt they approached that book very responsibly as well, striking a balance between the presentation of good science and an engaging, reader-friendly tone.

ZELMAN: The book claims to be the simplest plan -- how so?

KATZ: In Stealth Health, every tweak of one's daily routine that is recommended is truly just that: a small tweak. We recognize that for many people eating well, being physically active, making major changes in their daily routine to pursue health, can seem quite daunting. So we reduced it to small daily tweaks that anyone can do.

We then suggest that you adopt three very small and easy adjustments to your daily routine and simply maintain them until they become habits. Once those three are habits, we advise adding three more. The intent here is for significant health-promoting change to almost effortlessly build up over time.

ZELMAN: Getting into routines and developing habits appears to be one of the more effective tools to improve your health. But as you know, old habits die hard and it is not that easy to create new habits. How can this book make routines easier to adopt?

KATZ: I think the easiest way to change behavior is to have lots of options. In Stealth Health I think we provide over 2,500 potential tweaks to one's daily routine. When I am providing lifestyle counseling to my patients, one of the things I invariably remind them is that they are the boss. My job is to empower them with enough options so that some of them sound appealing.

Stealth Health puts that same philosophy into print. Somewhere within the more than 2,500 options you will find something you won't mind doing. Even if you are ambivalent about making changes in your routine because they do come hard, you can find a small change that comes relatively easy.

Our advice is to start with that change and let the positive effects encourage you to make another small change, and another, and another. Eventually, the changes that intimidated you at first will stop looking scary and unappealing and you may well find you're ready for them, too.

ZELMAN: Dietitians have promoted small changes for years. Yet if you look at the percentage of obesity and overweight, our message has not resonated with consumers. How do you think Stealth Health will inspire consumers to change behaviors?

KATZ: I'm enough of a realist to recognize that no one book can hope to fix everything that's wrong with health-related behavior for a large and complex population, but what's novel here is the effort to make health promotion and disease prevention about fun. It's one thing to advocate small changes; it's another to provide enough of them spelled out in explicit terms that the invitation becomes almost irresistible.



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