Making Colorado a healthier place for ourselves and our families

Column by Maren Stewart

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By Maren Stewart, LiveWell Colorado in Denver
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While Colorado is often touted as America's "leanest" state, we are certainly not immune to the growing health crisis of obesity. Nearly 55 percent of Colorado adults and a quarter of our children are overweight or obese. With a dismal ranking of 23rd in the nation, Colorado's childhood obesity rate is rising at the second-fastest rate of increase. If trends continue, only 35 percent of Coloradans will be a healthy weight by 2017.

While these figures are alarming, the good news is that we can all play a role in helping to fight obesity in Colorado, thereby making the state a healthier place for everyone.

LiveWell Colorado is a nonprofit organization committed to preventing and reducing obesity in Colorado by promoting healthy eating and active living. In addition to educating and inspiring people to make healthy choices, LiveWell Colorado focuses on policy, environmental and lifestyle changes that remove barriers and increase access to healthy behaviors.

As President and CEO of LiveWell Colorado, I've come to understand a long-term solution to obesity must combine personal behavior change with environmental and policy changes.

We must create an environment that is conducive to living a healthy lifestyle. This includes initiatives such as having safe, walkable routes to schools; changes in school policy, such as scratch cooking in cafeterias and physical activity minimums; and changes in local and state policy that provide more opportunities for all Coloradans to eat healthy and be active.

We also must create public will so that people want to take advantage of and demand these environmental changes. Ultimately, we need to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

I am thrilled that LiveWell Colorado is helping to shape a better future for our state, and I encourage you to learn more about how you can become involved in the movement to fight obesity.

Here are a few simple steps to get you started:

• Visit our Web site: From sharing tips on how to take charge of your health to providing the latest obesity-related news, our Web site www.livewellcolorado.org offers a wealth of information to help you and your family live a healthier lifestyle.

• Take our 360 Degree Gut Check: This fast and easy tool will give you a full-spectrum analysis of how your weight and lifestyle stack up. After all, the first step to losing pounds and inches is gaining knowledge. Not only will you start making strides in your personal health, you also will set a positive example for your children and friends.

• Become a LiveWell Mom: Join our growing ranks of LiveWell Moms who are committed to making Colorado families healthier at home, at school and in their communities. As a LiveWell Mom, you will receive important news and family-friendly health tips and be encouraged to use social media to share your own challenges, stories and ideas about healthy living with your family and friends.

• Eat more family meals together: Studies show that eating together as a family at home increases the consumption of healthier foods for everyone involved and can reduce chances for childhood obesity. So visit LiveWell Colorado's Sunday Table Web site section for delicious (yet nutritious!) recipes that you and your family will love.

• Get involved in creating a healthier school environment: LiveWell Colorado's Freshen-Up School Food Initiative includes numerous resources that help bring fresh, healthy foods into schools across Colorado. If you're a parent, find out what your kids are eating at school - in the lunchroom, in the classroom during snack time, and during school parties. On our Web site, learn how you can help ensure Colorado's kids have the nutrition they need and deserve to support their growing minds.

LiveWell Colorado understands that we're not going to be able to change the obesity epidemic overnight; however, we do believe that every individual can play a role in implementing small, sustainable changes that can eventually reverse the trends.

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