The key strategies to feeling your best and having a positive outlook in life are to eat well, keep active, and maintain a healthy self-image. Negative attitudes about food, weight and exercise can lead to a range of health issues.

Healthy eating habits include: a positive attitude about eating and food, knowing your body’s hunger and fullness cues, planning meals ahead of time, and making informed nutritional choices. Keeping fit can mean a trip to the gym, walking or biking to school or work, soccer practice or monkey bars. Benefits of good eating habits and regular exercise include stronger muscles and bones, less risk of type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, better sleep, less anxiety, and a better ability to handle life’s challenges.

It’s not always easy to consistently eat well or to keep fit, with a busy schedule and fast food so easily available. Fitness doesn’t have to mean a special trip to the gym or an aerobics class, either. It can be walking or bicycling to school or work, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator – making it all just a regular part of your routine. For kids, exercise can mean playing tag in the park, using the monkey bars, joining a neighbourhood sports game, or riding bikes with friends and family.

We get into trouble when we have negative and unrealistic thoughts about food and the way our bodies should look, when ‘going on a diet’ becomes a routine part of our lives, and when exercise is no longer for fun and is just a way to burn calories.

This kind of thinking can lead to serious consequences and a broad range of health issues. Everyone can benefit from regular, moderate exercise and life-long healthy eating habits. This includes having a positive attitude about eating and food, knowing how to read your body’s signals in order to eat when hungry, and stopping when you are full and content. Take care of what your body needs by planning your meals and snacks ahead of time and preparing food at home. Know enough about food, nutrition, and eating for energy to make healthy choices when dining out socially.

When consistent healthy eating habits are combined with regular physical activity, the health benefits go far beyond having a leaner body. You will sleep better, have less stress and anxiety, be able to concentrate more easily, and just feel generally better about handling all of life’s challenges.

What can I do?

    • Don’t deny your body valuable nutrients by dieting, skipping meals, or using weight-loss products.

    • Stop searching for the perfect diet. About 95% of diets fail because they just don’t work for us. The diet industry won’t decrease your size, just your self-esteem. And they make billions of dollars doing it.

    • Avoid categorizing foods as “forbidden” or “off-limits.” Eating should not be associated with guilt or shame.

    • Instead of seeing certain foods as “good” or bad, ”try thinking of them in terms of “a good thing to eat often,” or “a good thing to eat occasionally.”

    • Your body knows what it needs in order to keep running efficiently and be at its best. Learn to listen and respond to what it needs when you are hungry. When you don’t listen to hunger signs, your body will find ways to remind you, like a headache or a growling stomach.

    • Eat in moderation and know when your body begins to feel full and content. For some people, this might mean eating 5 or 6 smaller, well-balanced meals or snacks throughout the day instead of 3 large meals. You should feel satisfied after each meal, not overstuffed or still hungry.

    • Eat because you are actually hungry, not because you’re bored, stressed or feeling lonely.

    • Practice mindful eating. Try to sit down when eating snacks and meals. Chew your food slowly; enjoy the tastes, smells, and textures of the food.

    • Eat together as a family. Research has shown the many social, academic, and health benefits of eating together as a family.

    • Be active, have fun, and participate in physical activities that you can enjoy, whatever your body shape or size.