Twelve Weeks to a Healthy Lifestyle: Tips from the UA College of Medicine and the Mayor's Challenge

<p>Twelve Weeks to a Healthy Lifestyle: Tips from the UA College of Medicine and the Mayor's Challenge</p>

Twelve Weeks to a Healthy Lifestyle: Tips from the UA College of Medicine and the Mayor's Challenge

Who wants to be a "loser"? Anyone who wants to lose weight and keep it off!
Unlike game show contestants, successful "losers" in the weight loss game don't wait till they have a problem before asking family and friends for help, according to the University of Arizona College of Medicine and the Mayor's Fitness and Weight Loss Challenge. They begin by developing a social network of support. That advice is one of 12 weekly healthy lifestyle tips being given to Mayor's Challenge participants, as well as to anyone who wants to "win at losing."

The Mayor's Challenge is the first citywide fitness and weight loss challenge in the United States to emphasize weight loss as well as weight loss maintenance by making long-term lifestyle changes. Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup challenged city residents to be "losers" in the event, which began January 24 with a kick-off weigh-in and health fair. Challenge participant workshops will be held through April 14, followed by weigh-out and celebration. Special follow-up support programs will continue through 2003, and a one-year follow-up weigh-in will take place in January 2004. Tucson is the first city in the country to promote maintenance of weight loss with this unique one-year follow-up.

Developed and coordinated by the UA College of Medicine in Tucson, the Challenge is implemented through the City of Tucson and supported by the Wellness Councils of Arizona; the Arizona Governor's Council on Health, Physical Fitness and Sports; PacifiCare; the Mel and Enid Zuckerman Arizona College of Public Health; as well as other cooperating groups, sponsoring agencies and funding partners.

"The potential health benefits from reduction in overweight and obesity and increasing the fitness levels of adults are critically important for the people of Arizona, not only from a disease prevention standpoint, but most importantly, from a quality of life standpoint," says Timothy G. Lohman, PhD, professor of physiology, UA College of Medicine, and professor of public health, Mel and Enid Zuckerman Arizona College of Public Health "Studies show that active people manage stress better, sleep better and feel better. They also are likely to be healthier, miss work less often, and when they are absent they return to work faster than those who are less active."

"More than 900 participants have signed up for the Challenge so far, and we expect to have nearly 1,000 participants soon," says Lauve Metcalfe, coordinator, Mayor's Challenge, and coordinator of intervention programs, Department of Physiology, UA College of Medicine. "But this is not just about Tucson. While we want to sustain year-round weight loss and maintenance in Tucson, we also want to be a model for other communities."

The Challenge's 12-week team fitness and weight loss program is designed to increase physical activity levels and provide skill development and social support for healthy lifestyle habits. The Challenge employs weight loss strategies found to be successful by the UA Colleges of Medicine and Agriculture as a part of the "Healthy Weight 4 Life" research study.

Implemented over 12 weeks, these weight loss strategies can help anyone who wants to be a successful "loser:"

  • Week 1: Develop a social network that supports you. Positive remarks and encouragement from family, friends and co-workers help keep you focused and on track with your progress. (Joining the Mayor's Challenge as a team creates an on-going support system.)
  • Week 2: Make physical activity the foundation of your program. Exercise and lifestyle activity have been shown to be key elements of weight loss maintenance. Get up off that couch and move, move, move!
  • Week 3: Monitor portion sizes and drink more water. Our "super-size" mentality has created portions that are out of control. Take back control of your portion size by sharing entrees, asking for a take-home bag, ordering a-la-carte and serving up smaller portions. Water has no calories, helps fill you up, and keeps you hydrated.
  • Week 4: Practice mindful eating. Overeating is a result of eating more than our body needs, for a variety of reasons: stress, unconscious eating, and dealing with emotions. To curb overeating, we need to deal with emotions and our life directly and constructively.
  • Week 5: Accept, admire and appreciate the body you have. Create a healthy body image by focusing on what you like about your body.
  • Week 6: Include strength training as a part of your exercise program, and find ways to include more lifestyle activity in your day. Strength training builds muscle, strengthens bone and increases lean body tissue, which provides contour and definition to the body. By moving your body more throughout the day, you can increase your overall caloric expenditure. For example, taking stairs versus the elevator, parking your car further away from the entrance, hand washing your car, and carrying your groceries.
  • Week 7: Identify emotional eating patterns. Stressful situations can spell disaster to mindful eating. Become aware of situations that trigger emotional eating and develop healthful alternatives.
  • Week 8: Create more fun and pleasure in your daily life. Enjoying each day brings a positive energy to any situation. Developing daily healthy pleasures makes life worth living!
  • Week 9: Seek out joyful ways to move your body. Tedious exercise will not become a life-long activity. Dance, hike, walk your pet, garden, skip, bike, and play, play, play!
  • Week 10: Challenge yourself to accomplish new goals and welcome new experiences. Committing to challenging yet reachable goals helps keep you motivated and focused on maintaining your healthy lifestyle on a daily basis.
  • Week 11: Practice, practice, practice. Developing permanent healthy habits takes time, and practice is the key. Remember, small changes over time create lasting results!
  • Week 12: Mastery living. Mastery living involves creating a lifestyle that allows us to balance life's daily responsibilities while taking care of our physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual needs.

(Copyright- University of Arizona, College of Medicine, Mayor's Challenge 2003)
Overweight and obesity are reaching epidemic proportions in the United States. More than 60 percent of U.S. adults were overweight or obese in 1999, according to the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General. Overweight and obesity affect all ages, racial and ethnic groups, and both genders; they have been linked to increased risk of heart disease; certain types of cancer; type 2 diabetes; stroke; arthritis; breathing problems; psychological disorders, such as depression; and other illnesses. Obesity is associated with approximately 300,000 deaths annually in the U.S. The economic cost of obesity in the United States was about $117 billion in 2000.

For more information about the Mayor's Challenge, contact Lauve Metcalfe, coordinator, Mayor's Challenge, Department of Physiology, UA College of Medicine, (520) 621-6988, email: