Archive for March, 2012

Lessons learned from a healthy and beautiful town.

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

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When I first moved to Park City, I thought I discovered the second “Hollywood”.  Everyone was slim, fit and beautiful. This was a stark contrast to the South I moved from, where being slim and fit was hardly the norm. I remember running on the picturesque Park City trails one day and seeing a group of large people walking towards me.  “Finally, I thought, not everyone that lives here could be featured in a health magazine.”  However, as the group got closer, I realized they were not locals but part of a “fat camp” and were being led by a model of a trainer.  I’m not going to lie; I was intimidated.    How could I be a trainer in this town when most of the people appeared to be trainers themselves?  I actually had such a hard time coming to terms with all the “beautiful healthy people”; I decided to take some time off work.

As I settled into the city, I realized all these gorgeous families were really just ordinary people, not health nuts.   Although the people of Park City are slim by American standards, they are hardly all athletes who count calories.  When I did finally decide to start working again (alleluia, I missed it desperately), it became apparent people weren’t actually any more fit than my clients in North Carolina. Rather, I noticed some striking lifestyle differences.  I hope sharing these differences will be an eye-opener and inspiration to others.  I think it is important to note, most of these realizations have to do with food choices, which is no surprise since it plays a much larger part in weight loss than exercise!

1. People don’t seem to eat out as often.  Many people make meals at home.  Casseroles and fried food are not their staples.  Rather, they chose local meats, cheeses and vegetables.

2. There aren’t as many chain restaurants.  Besides 2 popular fast food eateries and one family chain restaurant, most places are local.  In general, these places seem to offer healthier menus.

3. There are no buffet restaurants.

4. There are no donut shops.

5. The center aisles of the grocery store do not get a ton of activity.  Most people shop in the fresh produce section.  Whole Foods is always packed.

6. There are several different Farmer’s Markets offered at various times during the week.  CSA’s (community supported agriculture) are very common.

7. I’ve never seen anyone buy “Little Debbie’s” or packaged cookies/cakes/donuts.  Don’t get me wrong; people here eat sweets!  The ice-cream aisle seems to get lots of activity as does the novelty chocolates.  I cannot tell you how many times the chocolate almond dispenser is empty at Whole Foods!  Also, people love to bake their own deserts!

8. People live an “active lifestyle”.  Contrary to my original assumptions, not everyone is training for their next big race, ski event, or spending hours in the gym!  A simple stroll up a mountain trails is a fabulous workout here. People ride bikes to work, festivals, dinner, and concerts.  They take walks in the evenings.  They stroll trails while their kids are in activities.  They may not get in a killer workout every day but they do something small EVERYDAY!  When your living at 7,000 feet, that something “small” counts for a lot!

9. No one is ever on an exercise “kick” or a “diet”.   Exercise, whether it be an intentional gym workout or walking to the grocery store, is part of everyday life.  Similarly, people don’t need to “diet” when they’ve adopted a consistent healthy lifestyle.

10. People love their wine and beer but they seem to stop after 1-2 drinks. Brewery or novelty beer is much more popular than mass marketed beers.  I would say overall drinking is much lower.   It is Utah after all……

In conclusion, this is nothing we don’t already know.  European cities have lived this way for centuries.  However, I think it is important to realize the positive impact on the overall health of a population when a community has adopted these standards of living.   Hopefully more and more communities will move towards a more sustainable, active and healthy way of life.