“No matter what the resolution is, you aren’t going to break habits you’ve had for years in a number of days,” said Dr. Jack Kennedy, the district health director for Cobb and Douglas Public Health. “So starting small with those resolutions, maybe having a brief plan and realistic goals, is the best way to go.”
Kennedy, who also serves as the vice chair on the Cobb2020 steering committee, said about two-thirds of Cobb residents are considered overweight, which means their Body Mass Index is over 25.
“A BMI over 25 means by definition that you are overweight,” he said. “Thirty or over is the definition of an obese person.”
Of the county’s two-thirds who are considered overweight, 24 percent of those adults are obese, and 12 percent of the youth are considered obese.
“For adults, being significantly overweight is a huge contributor to heart disease, cancer and stroke, and there’s a very, very strong correlation between weight and people’s risk of developing or dying from one of these diseases,” he said.
Diabetes can also be the result of obesity for both adults and children.
“Type 2 diabetes, which is becoming increasingly common as our population gains weight, is predicted over the next decade or two to become an epidemic among school-aged children,” he said. “It’s difficult to control and also significantly decreases life expectancy.”
Kennedy encourages residents to commit to a resolution or two that would fit them when trying to live a healthier lifestyle.
“It’s important to start small, set achievable steps … speed is not as important,” he said.
He recommends replacing about one-third of the starchy foods on a plate with fruits, vegetables or a salad and eating those first.
“If I eat those first and get myself a little full before I head for the steak, potatoes or dessert, I’m able to leave off some of the unhealthier things,” he said. “Another thing that is useful is also drinking more water … there are beneficial health affects and no calories.”
Kennedy suggests reducing the number of days eating out during a week and eating in the office or at home.
As for exercising, he said to start slowly, maybe by walking.
“It’s easy, healthy and it is free, which is really, really great,” he said. “If you get a lunch break, in addition to the salad that day, eat the apple while you walk to get a little exercise.”
He said to try parking farther away from the office and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Kennedy recommends getting others to join with the goals, creating incentives to reward for the hard work and “allow for mistakes.”
“Even though you might backtrack one day, it does not mean you need to simply give up. Nobody is perfect, and giving in every now and then should not mean giving up,” he said. “The plan needs to be simple and something you can reasonably achieve.”
He also recommends allowing at least six weeks to see initial results.
“Focus on one step at a time and small steps,” he said. “Commit to a plan. It’s more important to be successful and make the change.”
Phillip Edwards, general manager at Just Fitness 4U off Roswell Road in east Cobb, echoed Kennedy’s suggestions.
“I would say that 65 percent of people walking in the gym don’t exercise much, so the way we have it set up, new members get two complimentary training sessions with a trainer,” he said.
Working with the training director, who has a certification in corrective exercise, is important because it allows members to take part in an assessment so they can determine what exercises best suit their goals.
“We can start the goal-setting process and figure out how we change the body and what is the best fit for them,” Edwards said.
Just Fitness has numbered each machine so that clients know which exercises to use daily in the recommended exercise routine and how to achieve their fitness goals.
“It’s a combination of being able to do the workout part, the nutrition part and the cardio,” Edwards said. “You can’t leave out any phase, and if you take any of those away, you could fail.”
When trying to quit smoking, Kennedy said the habit has been studied at length for many years and that people quit for various reasons.
“Some people quit simply because of a health scare, others may require actually going to the physician and getting involved in a support group or counseling and even perhaps using medication,” he said. “It has to be individualized, but there are plenty of resources for that. Talk to the physician or the health department and we can give them advice on that.
“The bottom line is, there are few things that people do that have a more negative impact on their lives than smoking. It would be great to add that the New Year’s Resolution list!”
Kennedy also said Cobb also Douglas Public Health has applied for a Community Transformation Grant through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help create a healthier county with the Cobb2020 Partnership.
“It will help identify the leading health problems in Cobb, create a Health Improvement Plan and implement initiatives to make “significant changes in building a healthier community.”
“This isn’t about telling you how to live your life, and it’s not about banning fast food or super-sized sodas. It’s about giving you the information you need to make healthy choices, to help those around you make healthy choices and improve the health services for those who need it the most.”