With the new year come the New Year’s resolutions, and better health is often at the top of the list.
According to the Missouri Foundation for Health, Missouri is one of the heaviest states in the United States of America, with 35% of adults obese and 31% of children ages 10-17 overweight or obese. Health data collected over the years has shown St. Francois County garners rates of diabetes, obesity and smoking that surpass state averages, and state averages often surpass nationwide averages in those areas.
But with all manner of choices when it comes to gyms, weight-loss programs and eating plans, perhaps the biggest choice one makes is how to approach weight loss with their mind and attitude, said Rhonda Hubbard, who teaches group classes at TR Fitness in Leadington, holds certification through the American College of Sports Medicine and Athletics and Fitness Association of America, and is a practicing vegan.
She said she believes one of the key components to better health is helping other people bridge the nutritional gap — “We all have one, it’s a challenge to get the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables we need every day.”
She is on a mission to inspire healthy living.
“A lot of people are probably thinking, well I set those goals last year, I probably won’t even bother this year because I never stay true to them,” Hubbard said. “The most important thing is that if you really want those positive changes to your health then just start small. It’s especially important when it comes to fitness not to set a goal of going to the gym six days a week. If they’re mostly inactive, it’s not realistic because if they did that, they probably wouldn’t be able to move at all the next week because they’re so sore.”
One small change she encourages is throwing out what she calls “liquid calories.”
“Get rid of the sweet drinks and just transition over to water, you could put fruit in the water if you need to, infuse it with sliced lemons or some blackberries so you’re eliminating liquid calories. It’s huge, and give people an immediate small win where they can see good changes happening,” she said.
Improving one’s nutrition involves eating food for what’s in it, Hubbard believes, not for what’s not in it.
“Fat free, sugar free labels are easy to pass up. Eat food for what it does for the body. If it was made in a plant, it’s best to stay away from it. If it comes from a plant, it’s going to do good things for you,” she said. “People say, ‘I’m just so tired, I’m fatigued all the time.’ And I’m like, if you want to feel alive, you’ve got to eat live food.
“Of course, as a vegan, I’m going to tell you that,” she chuckled, “but you can’t eat CRAP — which stands for Carbonated drinks, Refined sugars, Artificial sweeteners, and Processed foods — and expect to feel great, and unfortunately, most people are eating just that.”
Hubbard said the “core four” she preaches are hydration, sleep, nutrition and exercise.
“That’s not rocket science, right? We all know what those are. It’s simple, it’s just not always easy,” she said. “Because we actually have to do it. We have to pay attention to it. If we can just focus on the core four, we can move ourselves into a healthier lifestyle.”
Hubbard added that the “core four” are also synergistic. More hydration and better nutrition tend to improve exercise and sleep, and improved exercise and sleep often help people make better choices in hydration and nutrition, from moment to moment.
Time is money – and many people think either one is in short supply, but Hubbard said with the small, attainable goals, change for the better can still be seen.
“Another good goal could be, I’m going to get outside the house and I’m going to go walk three times a week for the month of January, you know, it doesn’t have to be a gym membership, right?
“Especially around here, we have this wonderful church gym (at First Baptist Church’s Family Ministry Center in Desloge) where they allow people to come in and just walk and use the weights. There’s no membership fee, you know, because then people start to use that as an excuse. ‘Well, I don’t really have money to go get a gym membership.’
“We have beautiful parks. We have all kinds of trails. And right now, I mean, my goodness, the weather’s been so great. You can always get up and go outside and walk, even just for 10 minutes.”
Hubbard explained 10 minutes is about the amount of time it takes for physical activity to rev up one’s endorphins, the hormones that can bring about a general feeling of well-being.
“I always tell my classes, stick with me for 10 minutes, and if you’re not feeling the workout, feel free to walk out, no judgment,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone walk out, they get over that initial hurdle and stay until the end. And that just gives them another ‘win,’ it’s why I congratulate everybody at the end of my class. They stuck with it and did it for themselves.”
Making that investment in oneself is sometimes the biggest hurdle, Hubbard said, but it’s part of being nice to oneself and setting realistic, attainable, overall goals of, say, “moving to a healthier lifestyle” rather than “losing weight.”
“We’re living in a time, more than ever, in our world where our immune health is so important. Maintaining a healthy weight is important,” she said. “I don’t want to say physically fit, because people think you have to look a certain way and get all these muscles. It’s important for one to think about what they want to achieve physically and realistically. Maybe it’s being able to go on vacation and be more active or go on a hike. Maybe it’s easier, every day movement like climbing the stairs without getting winded.”
Hubbard said being active in the health industry for 30 years, it’s important to avoid ruts, too. Once a workout becomes rote or boring, it’s important to keep “freshening it up, so it’s still interesting and also so your body doesn’t get used to doing the same thing.”
“A workout makes you better today than you were yesterday. You have to understand it, know it, agree with it and claim it, because it’ll strengthen your mind,” she said. “Exercise does relax your body, and it toughens up your spirit. A workout is a personal triumph over laziness and procrastination. Everyone can use more wins in their lives.”
One misunderstanding common among those getting more familiar with a healthy lifestyle, she said, is thinking that ongoing, unhealthy food choices can be erased at the gym. “It’s more important what you’re doing in the kitchen, than how long you stay at the gym,” she said. “Regularly working out for an hour and then going through the drive thru is still setting someone back.”
She said it’s imperative for goal-setters finding themselves discouraged — for instance those who join a gym but who might feel self-conscious or intimidated — to make sure they’re not falling into unhealthy comparisons.
“Because when comparison begins, contentment ends,” she said. “People come into the gym and they’re all excited, they feel good about what they’re doing, and then they compare themselves with somebody that’s been there, you know, three, five years.
“You can’t compare your journey to somebody else’s. You can’t compare their Chapter 10 to your Chapter 1. It’s just important to start and complete Chapter 1, celebrate, and then move on to Chapter 2…”
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at [email protected].
“…Eat food for what it does for the body. If it was made in a plant, it’s best to stay away from it. If it comes from a plant, it’s going to do good things for you. People say, ‘I’m just so tired, I’m fatigued all the time.’ And I’m like, if you want to feel alive, you’ve got to eat live food. Of course, as a vegan, I’m going to tell you that, but you can’t eat CRAP — which stands for Carbonated drinks, Refined sugars, Artificial sweeteners, and Processed foods — and expect to feel great, and unfortunately, most people are eating just that.”
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.