Indeed, there are plenty of roadblocks to making healthful lifestyle changes, and, oddly, too much information is one of them. The studies above suggest that people can benefit by being helped through the thicket of possibilities out there and ny being given goals.
Health insurance giant Aetna has put considerable effort into wellness programs, both for its own employees and in the advice it offers to companies whose workers it insures, says Susan Kosman, Aetna’s chief nursing officer. “In our own study of 80 employers that use our programs, we saw a 150 percent return” on the money spent for the program, she says. “That includes decreased medical and pharmacy costs, decreased absenteeism and increased productivity.”
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been proved effective in managing high blood pressure in clinical studies, yet many doctors don’t recommend it, says Marla Heller, a Los Angeles-based dietitian and author of “The DASH Diet Action Plan.”
“Physicians still think the DASH diet is too hard to follow, that it’s just a research tool,” Heller says. “It can sound off-putting to hear you need four to five servings of vegetables and four to five servings of fruit. But one cup of cooked vegetables is two servings. Eat a salad, too, and you’ve got three servings at one meal.”
Heller says she offers meal plans and advice to help people visualize how they can accomplish their wellness goals instead of getting bogged down in details about nutrients and numbers. “We don’t need to turn people into dietitians,” she says.
If there’s a common theme in these disparate approaches, it’s that having a coach, or a support group, can make a big difference in helping maintain a new diet or exercise routine.
“I continue to be amazed at how creative people are and how supportive they are,” says Heller, who has set up a Facebook group where people can offer encouragement to others trying to control their weight. “They come up with tips and tricks for each other.”