CRESTVIEW — An increasing number of Okaloosa County residents are overweight or obese, according to the county health department.
"A significant percentage of residents of Okaloosa County are overweight or obese, with the percentage of obese residents on the rise,” states Okaloosa County Health Department’s 2011 status report.
Nearly two-thirds of Okaloosa adults are overweight or obese, 35.2 percent and 28.8 percent, respectively, according to the report.
Overweight means having a body mass index, or BMI, of 25 or more, according to the World Health Organization. Obesity means having BMI of 30 or more. Obesity is linked to diabetes, coronary heart disease, breathing problems, sleeping disorders and some cancers.
Holiday feasts make it difficult to stay fit, but local health experts have advice for those seeking healthier options.
Eat small, eat healthy
"The main thing it comes down to is portion control,” says Blake Miley, a Crestview personal trainer.
People should eat the food they love during the holidays, but don’t overdo it, he said.
"I'm a firm believer of eating healthy, but I’m also a believer in enjoying life,” he said.
For many people, that means participating in a spate of seasonal potluck dinners and Christmas and New Year’s parties.
However, indulging is a different story, nutrition experts say.
"When you go to a party, look over the spread before grabbing a plate and digging in," said Lemoine Loll, a registered dietician at North Okaloosa Medical Center. "Stick to lean meats, which include turkey, ham and roast beef.
"Avoid eating fried foods like chicken nuggets” and eat fruits and vegetables as healthy side items, she said.
"The basic thing to do is resist temptation," Loll said.
Drinking water instead of sugar-based refreshments particularly is beneficial.
"Water really helps cleanse the toxins out of your body,” Miley said.
"People should always try to exercise three to five times a week throughout the year," Miley said.
However, take it easy. Beginners shouldn’t dive into rigorous workout routines seen on TV; doing too much too soon gets old — fast.
"They start (an advanced routine) and then, all of the sudden, they quit after being burned out from it," Miley said.
Instead, start slow; walk with a significant other or pet dog, for instance.
"It’s important to just get out and start moving, which a lot of people don't do," Miley said. "It is important to make exercise a part of their lifestyle and not a burden."
"People tend to forget that there are plenty of activities for them to enjoy," she said. "Just because it is the holidays doesn't mean you have to stay inside the kitchen and bake cookies."
Walk around shopping malls or attend holiday events for a change of pace and scenery, she said.
"They could also dance if there is dancing at a (New Year’s) party — that can be considered exercise.”
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.