Fattest to Fittest: A Mayoral Tale from TEDMED 2013

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • TEDMED 2013 is a conference unlike any other, featuring 50+ speakers/performers and nearly 2,000 participants known as delegates, as well as 50 innovative start-ups housed in a place known as The Hive. It's a conference for health and wellness devotees to explore new ways of thinking about and approaching old and new health challenges alike.


    But what's really interesting to me is that a lot of what we dive into is stuff that anyone and everyone can and should do - things like taking a fresh look at what we are eating, how we are moving, and how we are working to foster communities that help us do a better job at both.

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    I've often said that we wouldn't need so much novel technology or high-tech, expensive health tools if we all did a better job of living each day making better choices in our everyday routine. And at TEDMED, one stage presentation gave me hope that we can work, and are working, towards embracing this way of moving into the future. Mick Cornett, the mayor of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, discussed how his city was once on the list of most obese cities as selected for a magazine publication. Five years later, they appeared on the list of the fittest cities. Cornett was candid about his own battle with weight - how fueled both by this personal battle against overweight/obesity as well as a mayoral competitive urge to get his city off the list of most obese cities, he set about creating a community that was "made for people rather than communities built for cars."


    He targeted businesses in his city, sometimes known as the "fast-food capital of the world" to create opportunities for healthier choices. As one example, he worked with Taco Bell to create an "al fresco" line with fewer high-fat, high-calories toppings. He put it beautifully, stating, "Even once you've chosen Taco Bell, there are still better choices that can be made."


    In my own journey and work, I like to take this approach in how I (and how I teach others to) transition themselves from "unhealthy" to "less unhealthy" and, ultimately, to "healthy" choices. I call this "tweaking it up." That means taking something you do as a matter of your usual routine that may not be the healthiest choice, and moving in on the spectrum towards healthier.


    One example would be substituting a glass of water flavored with an enhancer (like Crystal Light or Mio) as a replacement for one soda a day. To make it even healthier, go for plain water or water simply flavored with real lemon or lime. But the point is: Don't feel like you have to go from soda to nothing, if you know that's not going to stick for you. If you feel you need the flavor or kick of something beyond water, start by transitioning out of soda into something a bit better: the Crystal Light beverage. And then go from there.


    You can "tweak it up" at every turn. But, importantly, you need to start.


    For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms.

Published On: May 10, 2013