Tips For The African American Community To Maintain Good Health
You do not have to stop eating chocolate cake or start running marathons to improve your health. Making small but steady changes in your eating and physical activity habits, over time, may help you lose weight if you need to, feel better, and improve your health.
The information below can help you start to change your physical activity and eating habits. When you make changes to improve your health, you may also move your friends and family to do the same.
Am I overweight?
Overweight and obesity in adults can be defined using the body mass index (BMI), a tool that measures weight in relation to height. The table
on the next page shows how BMI calculation works. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 refers to a healthy weight, a BMI of 25 to 29.9 refers to overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher refers to obesity.
What if I think I look fine?
Even if you are considered overweight according to charts and measures, you may like the size and shape of your body and not want to lose weight. Your friends and family may think you look great too. But the health benefits of getting fit and eating well are clear. Once you decide to lose weight, your loved ones may want to join you on your journey to better health.
Am I risking my health by being
Being overweight can be dangerous to your health. If you are considered overweight or obese, you are more likely to develop:
• type 2 diabetes
• high blood pressure
• heart disease
• certain forms of cancer
You can help lower your risk for many health problems by losing weight. Losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help improve your health. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, losing 10 to 20 pounds may help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level. Slow and steady weight loss of 1/2 to 2 pounds per week is the safest way to lose weight.
How do I start to lose weight and
improve my health?
You may find it helpful to participate in a weight-loss program. If so, talk with a health care professional about controlling your weight before you decide on a program. Doctors do not always address issues such as healthy eating, physical activity, and weight management during general office visits.
It is important for you to start the discussion in order to get
the information you need. Even if you feel uncomfortable talking about your weight with your doctor, remember that he or she is there
to help you improve your health.When you are ready to start toward a healthy weight and improve your health, try to:
• Be more physically active.
• Eat healthier.
Be More Physically Active
Regular, moderate-intensity physical activity can be fun and help you feel great. When you share physical activity with your friends and family,
it can also be a social event. Perhaps members of your church or place of worship would be interested in starting an exercise program at the
place where you gather.Make it your goal to try to do at least 30 minutes
of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. You may need to be physically active for more than 30 minutes a day to help you lose and keep off extra weight.
Note: If you are a man over age 40 or a woman over age 50, or if you have chronic health problems such as heart disease, high blood
pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, or obesity, talk to your doctor before starting a vigorous physical activity program.
What is moderate-intensity physical
Examples of moderate-intensity physical activity
• Walking 2 miles in 30 minutes.
• Bicycling 5 miles in 30 minutes.
• Dancing fast for 30 minutes.
Sometimes starting and sticking with a physical activity program can be a challenge. Figuring out how to beat your physical activity roadblocks may make it easier for you to get and stay active.
Beat your physical activity roadblocks!
If you… Then try…
- Do not have child care. Sharing physical activities such as walking, biking, or playing tag with your child each day.
- Do not have time or are too busy to be physically active.
- Doing 10 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity three times a day, or putting more energy than normal into activities like housework, yard work, and playing with the kids.
- Do not like or do not want to exercise.
- Doing something you enjoy, like dancing to the radio or planning active outings with a friend, family member, or group.
- Do not feel safe being physically active in your neighborhood.
- Forming a group of people to walk, jog, or bike together, working out with videos in your home, or walking in a shopping mall.
Tips for Active Women
You can be active and still keep your hairstyle. Talk to your hair stylist about a hair care routine and style that fit your active life. You might try
• a natural hairstyle
• a style that can be wrapped or pulled back
• a short haircut
• braids, twists, or locs
Tips for Active Men
Sometimes even the most active guys can be sidelined by lack of time, loss of motivation, and even injury. Here are some ways to keep men
• All types of activity count. In addition to “working out,” activities like chores, walking the dog, and playing outside with the kids
add to your daily total.
• When you do work out, think of it as three parts: the warm-up, the workout, and the cool-down. Warm up by moving your
muscles for 5 to 10 minutes. For example,
try jumping jacks or push-ups. Now you are
ready to work out. Finally, cool down by walking slowly for 5 to 10 minutes. Do light stretching after your warm-up and cool-down
routines. This may help keep you injury-free.
• Try going to the gym with a friend. Or get some friends together for a pick-up basketball or soccer game. Working out with friends
may help keep you motivated to stay active. Signing up for a charitable 5K walk or run may also keep you motivated and on track.
When you begin to change your eating habits to
improve your health, try to:
• Make healthier food choices.
• Eat just enough food for you.
Make Healthier Food Choices
A healthy eating plan includes a variety of foods
from every food group.
Every 5 years, the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services and the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) jointly release a publication
on dietary guidelines. The guidelines encourage Americans over 2
years of age to eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods to promote health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Recommended items include
fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, and whole grains such as brown rice
and whole-wheat bread. The guidelines also recommend a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars. Making healthy food choices may seem difficult when you do not have time to cook or your family wants fast food. However, you and your
family and friends can make healthier food
Try these tips:
• Keeping a bowl of fruit on the table, bags of
mini carrots in the refrigerator, and boxes of
raisins in the cupboard are simple ways to eat
more fruits and vegetables.
• Try not to keep a lot of sweets like cookies, candy, or soda in the house, car, or workplace. Too many sweets can crowd out healthier foods.
• If you do go to a fast food restaurant, try a salad or a grilled
chicken sandwich (not fried) instead of a burger.
Social gatherings can be tricky when you are trying to make
healthy choices. Try these ideas:
• Encourage members of your place of worship to bring healthier
food options to events.
• Watch the amount of alcohol you drink. Alcohol contains no
nutrients but plenty of calories. If you want to drink alcohol,
try a light beer or a low-calorie spritzer (small amount of wine
added to club soda).
*For more information about healthy eating plans, see the
“ChooseMyPlate” listing under the Additional Resources section at
the end of this fact sheet.
Do I need to drink milk?
A healthy eating plan includes a variety of foods that provide all of
the nutrients the body needs. Milk is a good source of calcium. If
you cannot digest lactose (the sugar found in milk), there are ways
you can get calcium without drinking milk.
• Drink low-fat or fat-free “lactose-reduced” milk, or calcium fortified soy-based beverages.
• Choose low-fat yogurt or reduced-fat hard cheeses like low-fat
• Eat dark leafy vegetables like collard greens or kale.
• Eat canned fish with soft bones like salmon.
Eat Just Enough for You
A healthy eating plan calls for making healthy food choices and
eating just enough for you. Larger amounts of food have more
calories. Eating more calories than your body needs may lead to
weight gain. Learning about the serving sizes of foods can help you eat just enough for you. Try to measure your food for a few days. This can
help you learn to recognize what one serving of a food, such as 1/2
cup of rice, looks like on your plate.To lose weight, learn to eat fewer
calories. Do this by selecting foods that are lower in fat and calories
from each food group.
For example, choose low-fat cheese and extra lean meat. Also, choose plenty of vegetables. They are lower in calories and fat than other foods and can help you feel full.
Keeping Your New Habits
The path to improving your eating and physical activity habits is not easy. But do not give up. Remember, sensible eating and regular physical activity, followed over time, are key to a healthy body, mind, and spirit!
Remember, sensible eating and regular physical activity,
followed over time, are key to a healthy body, mind, and spirit!