Meet People Where They Are
Melinda M. Manore, PhD, RD, CSSD, FACSM, shares thoughts on improving our diets and on reducing the risks of chronic diseases through the power of nutrition and movement.
Melinda Manore is a professor in the department of nutrition and exercise sciences at Oregon State University. Her areas of expertise include integration of nutrition and physical activity for weight management, and prevention of chronic disease. Aside from authoring more than 100 scientific publications, book chapters and review articles, Manore has written four nutrition textbooks and two books for the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Military Nutrition Research. Throughout her career, she has served on a number of nutrition and exercise editorial boards. She is a founding board member of Professionals in Nutrition for Exercise & Sport and the American College of Sports Medicine Nutrition Interest Group.
ACE: In your role as an author and a professor, what would you say is the biggest challenge we as a society face in overcoming the obesity epidemic?
Melinda Manore: Our food environment presents a major challenge. People don’t cook; they eat foods from fast- or quick-food restaurants daily, and they eat large portions of energy-dense foods (i.e., foods that are high in kilocalories per gram consumed). It’s difficult to make good food choices when so many meals are eaten out each week. We need to figure out how to make healthy foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins) the preferred and easy choices.
If I had to pick one challenge on the physical activity side, I would say it’s our high amount of sedentary time in front of some type of screen or all of the sitting we do in trains, buses, planes and cars. We have forgotten how to move, and we’ve forgotten the pleasure of being outside and enjoying nature with our family and friends.
ACE: In your day-to-day life, how do you see the impact of the obesity epidemic in the material you teach, the lives of your friends and family, or the people you pass on the street?
Melinda Manore: I see the impact in the choices people make every day that increase their risk of obesity and chronic disease. I work on a college campus and see students take the elevator every day when they are healthy enough to take the stairs. I see them eating most of their meals from fast-food restaurants and eating on the run, with no time to sit and enjoy healthy food—that they have prepared—over good conversation. I see them eating their “fourth” meal late at night after drinking too much, a meal that is almost always extremely high in calories, fat and sugar. All of those behaviors can become habits that ultimately increase the risk of obesity, chronic disease and a lifetime of poor diet and physical activity behaviors. Unfortunately, the people who set those behaviors in their own lives will likely teach the same behaviors to their children, putting them at risk for a lifetime of obesity.
ACE: What individual roles do you feel colleges and universities, members of the fitness industry and families themselves play in reversing this epidemic?
Melinda Manore: I think as fitness professionals, we have to be role models for what we preach and we have to help people understand that small changes can yield big rewards. We need to communicate that focusing on eating a healthier diet and being more active should be the goal. The bathroom scale or fitting into “skinny jeans” can’t be used as measures of success. We need to help students, clients, family and friends see that being healthy is enjoyable and can be accomplished with small steps. We need to help people see that setting healthy behaviors will help them take care of their families and provide their children a lifetime of health.
ACE: What role do you feel nutrition and physical activity play in preventing disease?
Melinda Manore: Many chronic diseases can be reduced 60%–80% by selecting a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight. Those two factors—nutrition and physical activity—can be the best health insurance for preventing or managing health issues that people have the ability to control. As a health professional, I find it frustrating that other people don’t think these two things are important, but I am learning to live with this. My goals are to try and meet people where they are and to motivate and encourage them to make small steps toward a healthier life for themselves and their families.
ACE: What advice would you give to people who may not know where to start when it comes to losing weight and changing the way they live?
Melinda Manore: If they can afford it, I would highly recommend they see a dietitian who knows something about both physical activity and nutrition. A qualified professional can do a quick assessment of their diet and physical activity and help identify small changes that could make a big difference in achieving a healthy weight. I would also recommend they see a physical activity specialist who could help them set small fitness goals based on their current health and ability to move.
If counseling is not an option, I would recommend they start to move more every day—to walk 10–30 minutes each day until they can achieve 150 minutes a week. I would suggest they begin to focus on selecting foods that are low in energy density—foods high in water content and low in calories—including whole fruits, whole vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, dairy and legumes. I would also recommend they read The Volumetrics Eating Plan (HarperCollins 2007) by Barbara Rolls, PhD, which guides people through changing their diets to include more foods with low energy density, and which can help them lose weight, feel satisfied and be healthier.
Editor’s Note: Bridging the Gap is a series of interviews conducted by the American Council on Exercise with professionals throughout the fitness and allied health industries, as well as our partners in the corporate world. ACE hopes this column will start a conversation among those entities about the impact of the obesity epidemic and how we can all work together to eliminate it by 2035.