Lifestyle choices key to better health

Lifestyle choices key to better health

By Cassie Huemann, Staff Writer

Health, everyone has a different idea of what it means to be “healthy.” Whether it’s mentally healthy, or physically healthy, everyone has a different definition of what being “healthy” is to them. In today’s world, and more specifically in the United States, we have lost the true meaning of what it is to be healthy. We are placing more importance on vaccines, harsh medications, and fad diets — as opposed to encouraging better lifestyle choices, foods, and vitamins.

Take a look around you when you drive down the street, there are fast food restaurants at every corner. The smell of greasy burgers and fries fills the air, and can be understandably tempting to our senses. At any given time, you can see the drive-thru lines backed up to the streets. The important question is, when did these quick and convenient options become more appealing than actual home-cooked meals?

According to Ohio Medical Group, Americans spend $200 billion annually on fast food. They also found that one meal at a fast food restaurant contains all the calories you need for an entire day. These facts are alarming, and help explain why the obesity rate in America has risen immensely since fast food chains became so popular. The CDC reports that as of 2018, 18.5 percent of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years suffer from obesity. While 42.4 percent of adults in America are obese today.

The percentage of both children and adults who are considered obese today, has risen significantly within the last 20 years. In the year 2000, only 30.5 percent of adults and 13.9 percent of children were obese, according to the CDC. The percentage of people who suffer from obesity, seem to increase each year. As fast food chains expand, technology advances, and delivery services become more popular, so do highly inactive and unhealthy lifestyles.

Lisa Huemann, 47, is a mother of three, and is a huge advocate for healthy eating and active lifestyles.

“When I was growing up, going to McDonald’s was a special treat,” Huemann said. “It was rare that we would go out to eat at a fast food restaurant. It just wasn’t something that people would eat on an everyday, or every week basis.” She recalls eating family dinners every night, with at least one heart-healthy vegetable on every plate. Huemann is just one of many people who can attest to the fact that highly unhealthy diets have become more and more prevalent over the years.

The question you may be asking yourself now is what can I do to ensure myself better long-term health? It all starts with lifestyle changes, and although it may be difficult it’s important to stay away from those “quick fixes.” When you watch TV, think about all the commercials you see for medications. They look like they’re performing wonders for the people shown using them, but what often follows are many terrible and scary side-effects. This is not to say that many people can’t benefit from taking medications, but it’s also very important to look into what you’re putting into your body.

Using mental health as an example, there are many pros and cons to taking medications. Specifically medications for treating depression, such as antidepressants. Sarah Slade, a trauma specialist and owner of Willow Tree Counseling in Clarksville, Tennessee states that: “You don’t want to numb yourself or rely too heavily on medication.”

Many argue that medication does more harm than good. The National Health Institute notes that only roughly 60 percent of people on antidepressants note a significant change in feeling. Antidepressants and anxiety medications are required by the FDA to carry a “black box warning.” This is the highest warning available for prescription medications, due to the increased risk of suicidal thoughts that some patients experience while taking them.

Jaiden Andersen, 18, is a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She spoke about an experience she had, when going into a standard doctor’s appointment for a check-up.

“I was going into my first doctor’s appointment as an adult, and without my mom,” Andersen said. “They asked me some questions regarding my mental health, and I told them I’d been feeling a bit sad and unmotivated lately. Without them asking me any further questions, they asked if I’d be interested in getting prescribed an antidepressant medication. I told them I didn’t think that would be necessary, but I was just shocked that they were that quick to recommend a medication before offering other possible solutions.”

She has since reported that she is much happier and doing better after talking to a therapist, switching up her diet, working out, and taking a break from social media.

These solutions worked best for Andersen, as they can for many other people. She was able to help herself by switching up her lifestyle choices, and speaking to a therapist. Medication can be extremely necessary for some mental illnesses, but it should not be the only suggestion given to people struggling with depression. It’s important to remember that eating well, working out, and getting outside more isn’t only beneficial for your physical health, but your mental health as well.

We can establish healthier choices to make in our everyday lives. Starting with some good vitamins and supplements, such as Vitamin D, magnesium, and many others that may improve your health and boost your immune system.

Vitamin D helps our bodies to absorb calcium, which is extremely important for bone health. It’s even more important to take vitamin D if you live in colder climates, and you’re not getting enough time in the sun each day. Supplements, such as magnesium, may calm our nervous system and reduce stress as well as balance blood sugar levels. According to, “A lot of people are magnesium deficient because they aren’t eating the right foods, not because they need supplements.” They encourage people who are magnesium deficient to try eating more pumpkin, spinach, artichoke, soybeans, beans, tofu, brown rice, or nuts before jumping to supplements as a quick fix and easy solution.

Vitamins and supplements may help aid you in living a healthier and happier life. However, it’s important to note that eating clean and remaining active are the key factors in maintaining good health.

If you’re interested in what you should be including in your diet, has some food suggestions and serving sizes to keep in mind. You want to eat a variety of foods, and you don’t want to be too restrictive of any one food group or eat too much of another. Balance is key to good health, and cheat days or cheat meals are perfectly normal and can even be healthy in the long run. If you’re too restrictive of foods you may enjoy, it can lead to bad binge eating habits which is not good for you.

Everyday Health recommends eating 6 to 8 servings of grain each day, 2 to 4 servings of fruit, and 4 to 6 servings of vegetables. They also recommend eating fats, oils, and sweets in moderation and to not overindulge in them. Dairy is another food group that is recommended to eat 2 to 3 servings per day. However, choosing reduced- fat milk or cheeses and substituting yogurt for sour cream in many recipes is a healthier option.

Keeping in mind these options for food, and the serving sizes to go along with them will aid you in your journey to a more healthy life. You can pair this with working out, or simply just go on a 30 minute walk each day or a few times a week. Whether you choose to do a full workout routine at the gym, or take your dog for a walk there are plenty of ways to keep yourself active. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme, but getting up whenever you have the chance and doing something to get yourself moving is always beneficial.

The road to a truly healthy lifestyle isn’t something that’s super easy to do, but everyone has to start somewhere. As long as you remember that there are no quick fixes, you’ll be motivated to start making better choices in your day to day life. It all starts with you, and the decisions you make to better yourself. Make your plan to give yourself the best mental and physical health possible, and go achieve your healthy lifestyle goals.