Driving toward downtown Richmond last Saturday to attend the Healthy Lifestyle Expo, I couldn’t help but wonder, "Who goes to these things anyway?" I mean I’m going, but I write about health and wellness topics, so duh, of course I’d attend. But who else will be there? Is the convention center going to be filled with health professionals, fitness buffs, yoga masters and dieticians? If it is I thought, it’s going to be like preaching to the choir. These folks are already on the healthy lifestyle bandwagon, not exactly the type of people that need an intervention. To get to real Americans and talk about healthy habits this event should be at Wal-Mart or Target.
But to my surprise, the convention center was filled with normal people. Over 7,500 folks showed up to learn how to change their lives and start down the path to a healthier way of living. Plus, they got to see Dr. Oz.
As I meandered the aisles looking at the companies showcasing their products and services, I was struck by the common theme among them—long-term, permanent changes. There were no diet pill suppliers or other quick-fix companies, the vendors embraced the “lifestyle” component of the expo and were there to educate the public about nutrition, fitness and specific diseases like Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
For example, the VCU nutrition staff taught folks how to read a food label, American Family Fitness directed several fun fitness programs and Herb Mesa, a chef who competed in The Next Food Network Star, whipped up some fast, healthy food.
Even Dr. Oz echoed the theme of the day saying, “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” and encouraged people to make three small changes toward a healthier life.
1) Eat breakfast with either protein or fiber (e.g., oatmeal or eggs are good choices)
2) Eat nutrient-rich foods to avoid hunger (e.g., no junk food or sugary, empty calorie snacks)
3) Exercise a little each day
The message is definitely getting out there—we need to make permanent changes to fight the obesity epidemic.
While expositions like these are a great first step, we still have a long way to go. As I left the Expo I couldn’t help but notice the kiosk with the biggest crowd—McDonald’s.