We all know we should eat more vegetables and fruits and less fat. We’re also aware that more exercise and less time in front of a television would also benefit our health. Public health experts often wring their hands in despair when it comes to changing these behaviors, but a new study shows that it is possible for people to make changes. In fact, the individuals in the Chicago-based study made more than one healthy lifestyle change during the three-week study. The participants were issued a personal digital assistant to record diet and exercise activity throughout the day, and coaches communicated with them by phone or email based on the data they uploaded. There was a reward: those who met the behavioral goals earned $175 at the close of the study.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of this research is not that intensive coaching can help people change, but that the volunteers maintained many of their new healthier behaviors, at least in part, for the five months following the study. Another encouraging note: people who cut their screen time also reduced their saturated fat intake without a specific focus on fat. The researchers conclude that mobile technologies may offer a powerful way to support healthy behavior change and improve public health.
[Archives of Internal Medicine, May 28,2012]

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  1. HJL

    The correct answer is that it all depends. The enigma of diet is that changing
    one thing affects other things and so on. By taking out the fat you increase the carbs. Increasing carbs, particularly the sugar which is lactose (milk)
    may have bad effects. As a lo carber with good weight and high HDLs and low triglycerides and low sugar readings, I try to eat only full fat dairy products. But that might not be applicable to you and your personal situation.
    I can tell you that many dietitians tell you to eat “balanced at every meal”
    and that can be recipe for weight gain. A consensus is developing that you have to increase protein for weight loss. To many more protein and more fat lead to satiation so we eat many less calories because we are satisfied by the real food we eat. To us bread, pastry, potatoes and their ilk just make us hungrier. Remember, carbs are not an essential nutrient, fat is. And those who say you need carbs for brain function are flat out wrong. Science should rule!

  2. DS

    Selling only “approved” foods? Who is to approve of these? I eat a lot of saturated fat and few carbs and thrive. I would probably starve in the present-day government-approved “my plate” cafeteria. As for ads on TV–don’t get ME started! The one about “I was fooling myself until I took a statin” is one of the worst. You are fooling yourself if you think you need a statin since most people DO NOT and they are terrible for you. They make patients out of a lot of healthy people!
    You speak of profit motive. THAT is what explains the proliferation of prescriptions for statins and PPIs and several other drugs.
    Why should there be government guidelines as to what we eat? People did better before the government got involved, which of course is a generally true.

  3. DS

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. The vilification of saturated fat was based on bad science and continues today. See Dr. Mary Vernon, Dr. Mercola, Dr. Atkins, Sally Fallon Merril and Dr. Mary Enig, and Try It Yourself and see how you will amaze your doctor.

  4. Curt

    For men over 50 -should we drink skim milk or not?
    What about estrogen and antibiotics, weight gain, etc. What are better alternatives?

  5. Helen M.

    In a perfect health system more attention would be paid on an individual basis to the patient/person suffering from obesity. Certain ads would be pulled from TV, others moved to adult viewing times, much as was done with cigarettes and alcohol. Huge taxes on unhealthy foods, such as potato chips, might remove the profit motive and hence production of these foods.
    People need to be pushed into ways that are not as comfortable, but certainly more healthy than present lifestyles. Employers could do a lot, by providing a cafeteria that sold only approved foods, or a place to exercise at any time of the day, and a ticket to do so. Maybe getting away from the desk will improve both health and productivity. If it sounds like outside intrusion into one’s life, it is. But it won’t be necessary for those who are willing to make the changes on their own, thus assuming personal responsibility and keeping others off their backs.
    And don’t get me started on the schools!

  6. SMW

    Cutting back on TV time is easier than ever b/c there are not many good shows left.
    I lost 18 pounds over 12 months simply by eating smaller portions.
    Did not watch calories or fat intake.

  7. Ruth R.

    Good article, but have to say that the picture of the baby with the cell phone is a huge
    red flag…from reading about cell phone dangers, I learned that one should not allow children to use them and especially never allow it to be used as a toy. Please comment on the studies showing cell phone dangers that most people either ignore or never read about.
    We have a whole generation of young people at risk now for brain tumors, etc.
    Thanks for considering this.
    Ruth R.

  8. HJL

    No!, we all don’t know we should eat less fat. There are many of us who find that a very high fat diet with a little higher protein content and very minimal carbohydrate consumption (no sugar but lots of salad type vegetables) is not only consistent with losing weight and keeping it off, but consistent with excellent blood test results: High HDLs, ultra low triglycerides, and of course superb glucose scores, etc. So please don’t assume less fat is better. Remember, fat is an essential nutrient and carbohydrates are not. In the 20’s it was proven that you could survive quite well with no carbohydrates, which I am not advocating.

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