Healthy Living Without Really Trying (cont.)

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.

Today we should perhaps talk about Stealth Health approaches to improving diet and nutritional health, though in the book you'll also find sections devoted to:

  • Quality sleep
  • Controlling stress
  • Improving mental health
  • Improving relationships
  • Health and beauty tips

The idea here, again, is to empower the reader with enough options so that some are downright appealing. Our hope is that with one foot on a slippery slope leading toward better health, our readers will slide on down. It's our philosophy that health can be habit forming; you just have to acquire the habit. We're trying to help, and I sure hope it works.

ZELMAN: Fun speaks volumes to everyone and if we can make losing weight fun it will be effective. At the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic our members tell us once you get into a groove it can be easy and fun.

How do you keep you and your family in good health and great shape?

KATZ: I take pride in practicing what I preach. I would find it awkward to recommend healthful eating and regular physical activity if I couldn't make it work for myself.

When I say myself, it's a bit misleading, because I come along with a whole brood. My wife Catherine and I have five children: Corinda, Rebecca, Valerie, Natalia, and Gabriel, ranging in age from 17 down to 6. We make healthful practices work for all of us.

I think this is vitally important in two ways. First, parents have a responsibility to model health-promoting behavior to their children. But second -- and here's the selfish part -- in unity there is strength. Many of the tips in Stealth Health relate to such things as stocking your pantry or refrigerator; these are changes that affect your whole household, your whole family. That is by design.

If you "go on a diet" but your family does not, you have added the difficulty of juggling multiple diets to your already hectic routine. If you take a stealth-health approach to improving nutrition for your whole household, you find you're in it together, supporting one another's efforts towards lasting good health.

That's what I do. I live in a home where all the nutritional choices are good ones. I live in a home where a fair amount of physical activity each day is simply part of the routine. I think supporting one another in health-promoting behaviors is a great way to show love.

What we do is emphasize the best possible choice in every food category, and this is addressed in Stealth Health with food recommendations and tips on label reading and addressed extensively in one of my prior books, called The Way to Eat.

For example, my kids, like everybody's kids, like to eat chips, crackers and cookies. Using stealthy healthy techniques to make such choices, we choose the best crackers, such as Kashi TLC, which are very tasty and rich in whole-grain goodness and fiber, and the best chips, such as Guiltless Gourmet, which are low in added fat and salt, and the best cookies, such as Barbara's and Cathy's brands. So we have all of the variety in the house required to keep everyone satisfied, but without compromising health.

It is my contention that in every food category from bread to breakfast cereal, dairy products to pasta sauce, there are good and not-so-good choices in every supermarket. Making the better choices can add up to a huge difference in the quality of your overall diet without the need for any major sacrifices.

ZELMAN: That's great and you make it simple and easy for the whole family to enjoy the taste of eating right because as you know, good food can taste delicious. Let's talk about some of the targeted recommendations for weight loss because it is clearly the focus of many Americans' interest in health.

KATZ: There are small adjustments you can make to the calories you take in and the calories you burn up each day to influence your weight.

Let's start first with calories you burn up. Everyone has heard of a pedometer, and we recommend using one. At first, simply learn what your average daily step count is without committing to increasing it. Once you have established your baseline, try to add 500 steps a day. Then 1,000, and then 1,500, gradually building. Where do you put those steps? That's up to you. Stealth Health always respects the fact that only you are the master of your daily routine.

You can add steps by:

  • Exercising
  • Going for a walk
  • Playing
  • Walking your dog
  • House or yard work

By knowing where you're starting and tracking your progress, you can easily find the best way to increase your daily step count and as a result, the calories you're burning.

A stealth-healthy tip on calories would be to start every dinner with a large tossed green salad. This should not be too great a hardship for anyone. What are the benefits? A salad of mixed greens with a light dressing, such as vinaigrette, is very low in calories, very rich in nutrients, and rather filling because vegetables are bulk.

By filling up with such nutrient-rich, low-calorie food at the start of a meal, you are likely to wind up eating fewer calories over the course of that meal. Small reductions in "calories in" and small increases in "calories out" each day can add up to the difference between steady weight gain or lasting weight control.

ZELMAN: We have all heard the advice to just walk, walk, walk as a great form of exercise. Some new guidelines recommend an hour a day of rigorous exercise for weight loss. Do you think it is enough to strap on the pedometer and get out there for 30 minutes each day?

"Make time each day to have some physically active recreation with your family."

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