The latest star spouting a lean lifestyle isn't a Hollywood
celebrity with a wacky diet ,
routine, or big-bucks trainer. It's a state -- Colorado.
Ever since 1990, Colorado has had the nation's lowest percentage of obese adults. And on the CDC's latest map of adult
obesity prevalence, Colorado is the only state shaded in dark blue, because of
its low percentage -- 18.7% -- of obese adults.
What's up with that? What does Colorado know that the rest of the country
doesn't? And short of packing up the wagon and heading west, what can heftier
states learn from Colorado?
Here are seven nuggets of Colorado's weight wisdom, from James O. Hill, PhD, director of the
Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Denver and co-founder
of America on the Move, a nonprofit group focused on healthy lifestyles.
(And for more weight loss ideas, take a look at these two WebMD
Best Diet Tips Ever and
7 Most Effective Exercises .)
1. For now, just hold the line.
"That's the first goal," Hill says. "If we could first keep from
getting worse, and then gradually start going down, that would be very, very
Even in Mississippi, the state with the highest adult obesity rate, "if
we can just get 'em started making some small changes in the right direction,
so that next year obesity rates don't go up, then over time, you may begin to
create more of a culture of health, which exists more in Colorado right
now," he says.
2. Cultivate a culture of health.
"I think Colorado has more of a culture of health than other
places," Hill says.
"People value lifestyle, they value physical activity, they value healthy eating . We have an
environment that's conducive to that. It's a wonderful place for physical
activity. Even in the city, there are lots of parks and so forth."
3. Start small.
Small changes, that is. "The advice to the rest of the country is ...
you aren't going to turn this around overnight and so start thinking about a
lot of small changes."
Those changes start with behavior -- being more active and eating
"Little things are important," Hill says. For instance, he
recommends getting a pedometer and walking an extra 1,000 steps -- about half a mile --
per day. On the diet side, an example might be watching your portion size.
"Most people can't just turn their life upside down, but they can walk
half a mile more," Hill says, adding that you can log those extra steps any
time during the day.
"The thing is that you do it. It doesn't matter that you do it all at
once," he says. "You never even have to go to the gym, if you don't
want to. You can do it just by walking through daily living."
Over time, those small changes make a difference.
4. Check your environment.
Do your surroundings promote a healthy, active lifestyle, or are they
kindest to couch potatoes?
True, Colorado has some natural perk like seasons that don't send people
fleeing inside. "We have a weather pattern where you can be outside pretty
comfortably summer and winter," Hill says. But there's more to it than
"If you're encouraging people to walk more, do they have places to walk?
Are there parks? Are employers encouraging walking? On the food side, we
encourage people to make better choices. Are better choices available?"
5. Think teamwork.
There's no magic bullet against the obesity trend, and if states get too
caught up in debating which approach is best, their efforts could get bogged
"There are so many ideas around that in a lot of places, they're working
more in opposition than working together," Hill says. "My solution to
obesity -- someone else is going to say that's not the right solution at all;
you need to do x, y, and z. I tink it's been tough for people in a lot of
states to come together to try to have a common strategy, and I think we're
going to be able to do that in Colorado."
For instance, Hill says that Colorado is trying to work with restaurants to
make meals healthier and portions more reasonable. "The thing that makes
Colorado different is that the public, private, [and] academic sectors tend to
be pretty agreeable to working together to try to find a common goal," he
6. Put out the welcome mat.
Colorado's obesity rate might be getting some help from fit people moving to
the state. At least, Hill hopes so. "That ability to live a healthy
lifestyle is something that people value," he says. "My hope is that we
are beginning to attract people who want to come to Colorado because it's
easier to be healthy in Colorado."
7. Have some humble pie.
Colorado doesn't have a whole lot of bragging room. Obesity is on the rise
nationwide, and Colorado's adult obesity rate of 18.7% is knocking on the door
of the upper limit for the "dark blue" color on the CDC map.
"We don't want to get in that next color," Hill says. "I believe
with all the efforts going on right now in Colorado, we will stay out of that
next color and I wouldn't be surprised if next year, we actually show that
rates go down -- probably a little bit, but hopefully in the right
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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© 2008 WebMD, LLC.. All Rights Reserved.