Nutrition is a constant changing field in which researchers provide ever changing information into what we know. This can lead to many contradictions to what should and should not be part of a healthy diet. I believe the best that research can do is provide an estimate and should not always be the final say. As with any important decision in one’s life, it requires collecting information then coming to one’s own critical conclusion on what is best for them. With that said, I still consider myself a student of nutrition and will be for a long time. I will provide insights, from my experiences, to answer the questions raised. Nothing in the research is conclusive, only approximations. Thus, national guidelines for nutrition and physical activity are only suggestions based on the ever growing and changing body of knowledge.
My friends and family have brought up the issue of when is the critical point to start and how one can simplify the process to pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Well, as with any investment into one’s life (e.g., taking up a new hobby, choosing a career, investing, etc), a baseline assessment must be conducted so you can understand where you stand in hopes of focusing your energy efficiently to achieve your goals. Thus, I strongly recommend a family health assessment (Free HERE). From my research, the students I have worked with have found this experience beneficial as they were able to focus their efforts and make realistic/achievable goals. For example, students who have family members prone to high blood pressure have focused their dietary goals to consuming less salt and/or fatty foods by replacing them with leaner alternatives, healthier oils, consuming more water, etc. Such goals are specific enough to measure versus just a generic recommendation of consume more fruits and vegetables. By committing to reduce salt intake and consume leaner meats, some of our students have seen improved blood markers – e.g., higher HDL (the good cholesterol).
Any other assessment is really up to the individual…but being able to know what you are prone to based on your family history is an essential step. And it’s free! So Miguel, yes this is a problem of awareness – knowing what you are prone to – as well as an issue to understanding where to focus your efforts. A family health assessment may provide the critical guidance towards a healthier lifestyle.
The population that I am interested in are emerging adults (age 18-25). These are a group of individuals who are still developing their identity and habits. I’m sure we have all gone through phases during these ages to establish our identity. So it’s an ideal age to develop solid health habits, as emerging adults appear to be accepting of new habits. Also, through focus groups that I’ve conducted, college students have responded well to partaking in a course to learn how to establish healthier habits.