- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Busy schedules often make fast food too tempting to resist. And the cost of hiring a nutritionist or physical trainer can make folks delay getting the help they need to get fit.
But Dr. Meena Brewster, head of the St. Mary’s County Health Department, said she wants to help make eating right and exercising easier for residents.
The solution might be what one company calls “a lifestyle intervention by email.” Brewster is touting a partnership between the health department and NutritionQuest, a California-based group that offers dietary analysis services for health researchers and the populations they support.
Together they’re offering “Alive!” It’s a six-month, online program designed to help people make lifestyle changes. Participants fill out a questionnaire and each week the company sends a personalized set of recommended goals. The program costs $5. And participants can choose to work mainly on diet, or exercise, or both.
“By setting and achieving small goals, each week you move closer to the diet and activity guidelines recommended for you,” according to the NutritionQuest web page designed for St. Mary’s. The company says it also offer tips to help residents stay on track.
“It’s not a novel idea,” Brewster said. The concept of setting small, achievable goals and getting frequent feedback is similar to having a personal trainer or joining a weight-loss program. But, Brewster said, the idea of it being online at such a low cost reduces some of the barriers.
Brewster said the health department is looking to address issues caused by being overweight or obese, which in St. Mary’s includes about 70 percent of the population. By making healthier eating choices, Brewster said, residents can help reduce instances of chronic disease like diabetes or cancer.
“I’m just looking for something to kick-start me,” said Kim Robertson, who also works at the health department and was chatting with Brewster. “I think I’m like a lot of people. I’m guilty. I sit at my desk all day and by the time I get home, I’m lazy.”
She hopes to “get up and moving,” working her way up to 60 minutes a day. But, she said, “you can start off small” with just 10 minutes at a time.
Another tip: Stay hydrated, because people who think they’re hungry are sometimes just thirsty. “Keep a bottle of water with you,” Brewster said.
At restaurants, ask the server to divide your meal before it comes to the table, putting half in a container and the rest on the plate. And, she said, consider skipping the bread or fries.
Put a note on your bathroom mirror that says, “Don’t forget to exercise today!” Or lay a mat in the family room as a reminder to do a few sit-ups.
Signing up for “Alive!” is a good start, Brewster said. She calls the program “evidence-based,” and says it helps people understand why they have cravings, and how to manage them.
It all might seem overwhelming at first, Brewster said. “But over time, you slowly adapt and you start making healthier choices.”
To learn more
For information on “Alive!” visit http://nutritionquest.com/SMCH/Residents/, call the St. Mary’s County Health Department at 301-475-4330, or see www.smchd.org/.