As the adage goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. It’s easier said than done. For most, the on-the-go lifestyle is influenced by convenience and can often result in unhealthy habits. For many Billings residents, attainability to healthy foods and fitness centers is the largest obstacle.
With the growing popularity of raw diets and ever-increasing food restrictions, downtown is expanding with businesses geared towards healthy living. Education is the largest factor to proper nutrition: what to eat and where to find it.
Kassia Lyman, health and wellness director of the Billings Family YMCA recommends everyone takes the time to understand what they put into their body and how it affects them.
“Read the nutritional value in things. Marketing can make something look seemingly healthy – but in many cases, it is not,” said Lyman.
Although Lyman is an exemplary leader for wellness, she says that wasn’t always the case.
“I was living an unhealthy lifestyle but working out just didn’t seem appealing,” Lyman said.
Soon, Lyman was engaged and planning her wedding day. Like many women, she wanted to slim down for the big day. Overweight, afraid and intimidated to go to the gym, excuses began to take over before she even began.
“I didn’t want to sweat. I didn’t have trendy workout clothes or the right shoes,” said Lyman.
A large obstacle for many who want to make healthy changes is anxiety. The fear of being judged is something the staff at the YMCA deal with on a daily basis. They are prepared to help and offer support to anyone who walks through the doors.
“The phobia that everyone is looking at me; I’m not as fit; I’m not as good – those negative thoughts can stop people from making healthy life changes,” said Lyman.
Lyman says to let all of that go.
“We can’t play catch up. Everyone has a different story. Some members may look like they are at the finish line – but you don’t know who they were when they began. Some look fit and healthy but maybe they are in cancer remission and the shift to healthy living was part of their treatment,” Lyman says.
Fitness is also a preventative measure to fight disease and illness. What you do to your body now is what you want to have in the long run. While the immediate gratification of eating a cheeseburger feels great at the time, it is the bigger picture that needs consideration.
“You can be very healthy and still get cancer or have a heart attack. But if you are physically strong, if your body is healthy, then you have a greater chance of fighting illness. Your body is better prepared to fight the stress of disease,” said Lyman.
Make it happen, make it habit
The YMCA offers classes for all fitness abilities, including Fitness 101. Free to members and non-members, anyone interesting in making changes is provided with a trainer for seven weeks, planning your workouts and helping steer you in the right direction.
“We meet people where their capabilities are. We want people to be active – they need to find the thing they love,” said Lyman.
The YMCA also offers off-site classes in the Heights and Lockwood for members who cannot get to the gym early in the morning or right after work.
“Convenience is all about perception. Everyone is so busy. People know they need to be more active but it’s hard to find time,” Lyman said. “Do at least 30 minutes – if you have a busy schedule, keep it tangible. Thirty minutes is not that intimidating.”
Lyman says it’s about overcoming that mental barrier and just finding time to make health a priority.
At the YMCA, you can bring the whole family and exercise together. With over 120 classes onsite weekly, there is something for everyone. There is also free childcare for children 6 weeks to 12 years old.
“Do something every day – make it happen, make it habit. It is so easy to revert back to your comfort zone,” said Lyman.
You need to eat. You need to have healthy foods that provide your body with the vitamins it needs. If you are choosing not to eat, and you begin to become deficient in a vitamin and your body will find a way to get that vitamin.
“If you aren’t getting enough calcium, your body will begin to absorb the calcium from your bones. Your body needs nutrition,” said Lyman.
Start small and take baby steps. Be realistic. Don’t rush and swear off everything in one fell swoop. Lyman says, if you drink three Mt. Dews every day – cut back to two. Then one. You will set yourself up for failure if you do not take slow and progressive steps towards healthy living.
“Weight is not a measurement of health. Have the bravery to make the change,” said Lyman.
“We have resources for everyone,” said Lyman.
The YMCA offers scholarships. Client’s incomes range – you may think you make too much but the YMCA takes your life into consideration, not what you look like on paper. There is no shame – health should be a priority and it shouldn’t be compromised.
“We care – it is not about the money. It would break our hearts to know a child did not take swimming lessons or participate in basketball because their parents couldn’t afford it. We all need help,” said Lyman
Dr. Rebecca Slingwine, senior resident physician at RiverStone Health, understands how life can get in the way of healthy eating and exercise. Whether she is delivering a baby at 3 a.m.; tending to patients at the urgent care clinic; or doing rounds at the hospital, Slingwine admits she doesn’t always get to the gym or get enough sleep.
“People do everything for a reason. So, I use motivational interviewing with my patients and myself,” said Slingwine. “Ask yourself what is stopping you from making healthy choices.”
Dr. Slingwine suggests avoiding diets that are immediately rewarding but are not realistically maintainable. She recommends looking at lifestyle changes that can be followed for a lifetime.
“Avoid yo-yo diets. You can go on a cabbage-soup diet and lose a lot of weight. But, that is not viable for the rest of your life. So, you will gain the weight back once you start eating regular foods,” said Slingwine.
Accessibility is the most challenging aspect to healthy living. There is a silent division in the community – those with accessibility and those without.
“A lot of my patients cannot buy all of the healthy foods,” said Slingwine
Income and resources play a large role for many Billings residents. The desire to eat fruits and vegetables is often overshadowed by insignificant salary. Even fulltime employees at minimum wage struggle to make ends meet, let alone splurge on fresh produce.
“Everyone is just doing the best they can, given their resources – that is what I want people to understand,” said Slingwine. “There are programs out there for people who need assistance.”
RiverStone Health assists people applying for WIC, Medicaid and SNAP.
“We need to see changes in how our community is run. There are a lot of barriers,” said Slingwine.
Community is the lifeline to many of the choices that are allowing obtainability to healthy living. One step at a time, no matter where the journey is beginning, the resources are there to help Billings’ residents find a way to live their best lives.
“Montanan’s are great neighbors. Reach out and help,” said Slingwine.
For more information, visit riverstonehealth.or