6 Key Factors That Make Healthy Living Easy

See what makes the Colorado Diet so special.

April 26, 2016
man kayaking colorado river

There's no doubt that obesity is a huge health problem in our country. Americans have been gaining weight year after year since the early 1980s. In fact, we published a study in Science in 2003 showing that the average weight gain in adults is about two pounds per year. This may not seem like a lot, but it adds up to 20 extra pounds in a decade!

What has caused this increase in weight gain? The American lifestyle has changed so much in the past 30 years—nearly everything about the places we live, work, and play is different—that it's impossible to assign blame to any one, two, or even three things. More important, though, we don't believe that "Why is America getting so fat?" is the right question. There are people who are lean and healthy. Some of them have always been this way; others have managed to lose weight and keep it off for a very long time. We've been asking, "How do these people do it?" With the Colorado Diet, our focus is on what people have done right.


More: 4 Expert Diet Tips for Weight-Loss Maintenance

While the rest of the nation has been packing on the pounds, Coloradans have avoided the high rates of obesity seen elsewhere. The state has the lowest obesity prevalence in the nation, about 26 percent below the national average.

In studying the Colorado lifestyle, we discovered six key factors that make healthy living easy and are necessary for developing a Mile-High Metabolism:

1. Be active every day
Turns out that the national average was about 5,500 steps (about two to two-and-a-half miles), but Coloradans took 1,000 additional steps. We weren't surprised to find that obesity rates were correlated to the number of steps taken. In Arkansas and Tennessee, where obesity rates are among the highest in the country, residents took only 4,500 steps per day.

More: 4 Ways to Stay Active as You Age

There's no getting around it—to stay lean, you must be consistently active, and there are certainly strategies that can increase your step count. Without regular movement, your metabolism becomes slow, sluggish, and inflexible. And an inflexible metabolism makes weight gain inevitable and lasting weight loss next to impossible. Whether it's a walk with the dog, a hike with a friend, a bike ride, or a workout at the gym, movement is a priority in Colorado, not another dreaded task on the to-do list. Some of us get up early, others fit it in between obligations, but the key is we always find a way.

2. Fuel up on real food
At restaurants and at home, the emphasis is on quality, not quantity. A healthy-size portion of a great-tasting dish is better than a huge serving of fare that's filled with refined carbohydrates, fat, and sodium—even if that big portion costs less money.


3. Create your own healthy environment
Colorado is famous for its beautiful scenery and ample opportunities for outdoor recreation. But the typical Coloradan doesn't hike a tall peak before breakfast every day—or even once a month—but they create an environment for weight loss and health. It's our communities and immediate surroundings—the plethora of parks, the bike paths in our neighborhoods, and our friendly walking groups—that provide an important nudge for healthy living.

4. Stay true to your purpose
We all have an inner purpose (what we want to accomplish with our lives), but you may not have ever connected your purpose with weight-loss success. Consider this: Is the way you are living your life consistent with what you want to achieve? Ask yourself these 10 questions to help clarify your purpose to get started. 

5. Believe you can succeed
During your weight-loss journey, you will face many challenges and small setbacks. Dealing with them in a way that doesn't derail your plan requires keeping a positive mind-set. Your mental outlook can determine how effective you are in making permanent changes in your life. Instead of saying, "I'll believe it when I see it," Coloradans tend to have the mind-set that if you believe it, you will see it. 

6. Make healthy living fun
If you're looking for the Colorado secret, this is it. Coloradans don't eat well and live an active lifestyle to stay lean or even to boost their health; they do it because it's pleasurable. We've seen other diet experts urge people to become vigilant about their diet and physical activity program, but Coloradans (and people in the NWCR) have taught us that this is a backward approach. Yes, people who succeed at weight loss and healthy living do spend a lot of time thinking about healthy eating and physical activity. Yet it's not from a place of anxiety or a desire to be "good." Rather, they relish and look forward to these things. The key to success is savoring this lifestyle and doing it in a way that brings you happiness rather than a feeling of hardship. We know this is possible, because we've seen it in our friends, neighbors, and colleagues and in people across the country who have succeeded in losing weight and keeping it off.


Adapted from The State of Slim