Group urges Moffat County residents to take steps toward healthier lifestyles

Motivation to get off of the couch and out to exercise should be more than simply wanting to look better. Eating health foods and participating in physical activity are tickets to emotional well-being as well as obesity prevention.

"When we think of obesity, we think of someone who weighs 500 pounds," Becky Menge, registered nurse and certified diabetes instructor at TMH, said. "The reality is that someone who is very unhealthy can very well be obese without looking like it."

In Moffat County alone, statistics show that the females are reaching obesity at an alarmingly young age.

"Females are becoming obese between the ages of 20 and 29," Amy Knights, Healthy Initiative 2010 Project director, said. "This is a time when they should be the most healthy."

Healthy Initiative 2010, a collaborative effort among seven local agencies, is funded through an obesity grant from The Colorado Trust.

"The main focus is to prevent obesity and to increase physical activity in Moffat County," Menge said.

The Trust, which provides millions of dollars in grants each year to organizations whose mission is to improve the quality of life for Coloradoans, is the same group that provided Colorado West Mental Health with a $150,000 suicide prevention grant.

"Our goal is to get people to realize how much activity they are doing and strive to do a little bit more," Elisa Shackelton, Food and Consumer Sciences agent with the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, said. "And to raise the awareness of eating healthy diets that are conducive to health weight,"

Shackelton developed a healthy lunch program at the extension office in collaboration with the efforts of the 10 Healthy Habits course offered at TMH.

"My goal is to create an environment where people who would like to eat healthier, feel safe and feel like they are with others who have that same goal," Shackelton said. "It's hard to surround yourself with people who are trying to be healthy."

The lunch program also is a way for individuals to expose themselves to new foods that are healthy substitutes for something else that may be in cupboards at home.

"Sometimes it's hard to throw $3 away at the grocery store to try something you might not like," Shackelton said. "People in this class can try new things and leave with a handful of recipes that they have tried, know they like, and know that they will make again."

Changing diet habits and learning to eat healthy foods is a lifestyle change that requires behavior changes and isn't an overnight process.

"In the 10 Healthy Habits course, we look at eating habits, increasing physical activity and emotional well-being," Knights said.

"We are helping people to make lifestyle changes to improve their overall health."

The course schedule includes three weeks about eating habits, three weeks about physical activity and emotional well-being training. Local physical therapists as well as a team member from Yampa Valley Psychotherapists participate in phases of the training to ensure that all participants receive the best information possible.

"The process of changing your diet is the same as quitting smoking, drinking alcohol or anything else that is a lifelong change," Knights said. "Your body endures different stresses and behavioral changes that you have to deal with."

Shackelton also realizes the need to offer people ideas that they can adapt to their lifestyles and changes that are fun.

"I want to put into people's hands new recipes that can replace older recipes that are outdated or unhealthy," she said. "And the recipes that will be learned in this class are quickly prepared, have a high nutritional value and are both healthy and delicious."

Perhaps the most enticing part of the lunch seminar is that participants don't have to buy an expensive cookbook to try new recipes.

"You will end up with 8 recipes that you've tried and you know whether you will eat them again," Shackelton said. "For $2, it's a cheap way to go home with a recipe you've made and you like."

All lunch seminars will be interactive and participants will cook their own food.

"It's hands on. I want people to do it so that they know they can do it again when they get home," Shackelton said. "Cooking is fun and easy. It's a great self-satisfaction when you make something that other people like, too."

TMH also offers step counters for $5, which are a way for people to gauge how much activity they are doing each day.

Samantha Johnston can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 206 or by e-mail at sjohnston@craigdailypress.com.

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