SOURCE: Wiley Publishing

June 20, 2011 04:00 ET

The Basics for Better Health From Wiley

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - Jun 20, 2011) - (Family Features) If you've ever struggled with trying to figure out what you need to do to take to maintain a healthier lifestyle, you're not alone.

The 2011 Food and Health Survey, commissioned by the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFICF), found that among the 69 percent of Americans currently trying to lose or maintain their weight:

  • 70 percent believe that both physical activity and monitoring food and beverage consumption are equally important in weight management.

  • However, only 54 percent report actually implementing both strategies in an effort to manage their weight.

While the survey showed that approximately half of Americans perceive their overall diet as at least "somewhat healthful," the World Health Organization ranks the United States as 18th (out of 153 countries) in the world for obesity and 28th in the world for cases of diabetes.

Why Is It So Hard?
There's a lot of information available about nutrition and fitness, and it can be tricky to sort through it all and put it into practice. Confusion over nutrition, conflicting reports over what's healthy and what's not, busy lifestyles that leave no time for exercise -- all of these can be roadblocks to better health.

Nutrition Made Easier
You are what you eat. And how you eat. And when you eat. In the latest edition of her book, "Nutrition For Dummies," (Wiley, May 2011), Carol Ann Rinzler says that nutrition is simply the science of how the body uses food -- and in order to take care of yourself, you need to know a little bit about how that science works. "Nutrition is about why you eat what you eat and how the food you get affects your body and health," she said.

Hunger vs. Appetite. Rinzler says that hunger and appetite are two very different things:

  • Hunger is the need for food. It's a physical reaction that includes chemical changes in your body. It's an instinctive, protective mechanism to make sure your body gets what it needs to function.

  • Appetite is the desire for food. It's a sensory or psychological reaction (This looks good! That smells good!) which creates an involuntary response like salivation or stomach contractions. It's also a conditioned response to food -- think Pavlov's dogs.

Understanding the difference is the first step toward more healthful eating.

Making Wise Food Choices. In her book, Rinzler walks readers through things like the facts on fat and cholesterol, carbohydrates and proteins, building a healthful diet, food labeling, and what happens when food is cooked at home or processed in a plant -- all to help make sense of nutrition so that making good choices that please your palate as well as your body, is easy.

The Facts on Fitness
Fitness can actually mean a number of things. You can be fit to run 5 miles or do yoga. You can look fit -- that is, lean -- and not have much stamina, strength, flexibility or balance. Suzanne Schlosberg and Liz Neporent, authors of "Fitness For Dummies, 4th Edition" (Wiley, December 2010), want to help people understand what's involved in becoming fit, how to get started and how to stay motivated. "We want to help make fitness a permanent and enjoyable part of your lifestyle."

The 5 Key Areas. Schlosberg and Neporent say that it doesn't take much effort to get a basic level of physical fitness in the five key areas: cardio, strength, flexibility, balance and nutrition. Why are these so important?

  • Cardio fitness. Workouts that get your heart pumping and continuously work a lot of large muscles improve your heart, lungs, blood vessels and stamina. They also burn a lot of calories, helping you lose weight. Think walking, cycling and using an elliptical machine.

  • Strength training. People who don't exercise lose 30 to 40 percent of their strength by age 65, say the authors. By age 74, more than one quarter of men and two-thirds of women can't lift an object heavier than 10 pounds. Lifting weights means strengthening your muscles for the long term. It also means strengthening your bones and speeding up metabolism.

  • Flexibility. Maintaining flexibility helps keep your joints mobile, minimizing risk of injury and allowing you to move with agility and good posture even as you age.

  • Balance. Balance is important when you're young, and essential when you're not. A good sense of balance helps you move more fluidly and prevents unnecessary falls.

  • Nutrition. When you make wise food choices, you have more energy to exercise and you recover more quickly from your workouts.

The "Fitness" authors say it's important to keep things interesting. Boredom can be the enemy of any workout. Listen to music, mix up your workouts -- running on Monday, yoga on Tuesday, hiking on Wednesday, etc. Vary your pace or terrain, or try different exercise equipment.

And remember to stay realistic. "Trying to do too much or setting expectations too high can lead to frustration. Pace yourself and cut yourself some slack. Everyone improves at a different pace. Fitness is something personal and unique to you."

For more about these books, visit www.dummies.com.

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, For Dummies is hosting special book promotions, sweepstakes, exclusive giveaways on their Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as other special events. To find out more and to download a free minibook, visit www.dummies.com.

Smart Ways to Eat Out
If you go out to restaurants at all, you know that most menus don't have a long list of healthy foods. In the book "Restaurant Calorie Counter For Dummies, 2nd Edition" (Wiley, May 2011), you can find helpful information for making smart choices. Here are a few tips from the book:

  • Drink your whole glass of water (or more), but limit other beverages to just one glass.
  • Physically split a meal in half when it arrives at your table and ask for the to go box right away.
  • Choose fresh toppings, such as onion, tomato and lettuce, rather than pickled items such as jarred pepper strips or pickles.
  • Aim to get some lean protein with your meal. At salad bars, choose beans or cottage cheese. For the entrée, choose grilled chicken or fish.

The guide also provides calorie counts for menu items at 150 popular restaurants.

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