WEIGHT: Is Your Body From Montana or Mississippi?*

*Montana is rated the least obese state in the USA

At its core, Montana is about the land.  Just look outside a window.  Whether you see Big Sky prairies or snowy peaks, it’s no surprise that a recent Gallup Poll revealed Montana as the least obese state in the nation.

What makes Montanans so fit?  Anna Rose-McComb, personal trainer and holistic nutrition educator, cites Montana jobs.  “We have an abundance of outdoor recreation, from rock climbing and rafting to fly fishing and hiking.  The industries that support these activities and others, like hunting and packing, offer vast job opportunities in physically arduous fields.  If you combine that with ranchers, farmers, construction and those working in the oil and natural gas industry, you come up with a lot of physically demanding jobs that don’t involve a desk.”

Still, Montana’s economy is changing.  Natural resource extraction now requires just as much brain as brawn.  Retired ranch land grows new houses instead of wheat.  We’re transitioning away from a heritage of sweaty days fueled by a second helping of get-er-done.  It may become harder to keep fit.  We’ll need weight loss methods that work with our lifestyle and individual personalities.  Read on for various state-wide options which may match your fitness personality.

If you enjoy the Zen of working out by yourself, or if you prefer the focused attention of a one-on-one, then you could have a Private Fitness Personality.  Try these sources for losing weight and keeping fit:

• In her private practice, Dr. Rachel Day, ND, of Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic in Billings works with individuals who prefer natural, traditional solutions for weight loss.  “We can get back to home grown or locally grown or raised food,” she says.  “We have a lot of access to lean meat through hunting or raising cattle.”

• Oddly enough, the 24-hour gym has become popular in rural communities.  Small towns mean everyone knows everybody, so a gym with a hide-a-key makes sense.  A smaller space stocked with basic equipment offers convenience and privacy.

If camaraderie keeps you accountable, then you probably have a Group Fitness Personality.  Montanans have a long tradition of community spirit, so you’ll find no shortage of support.

• With meetings from Malta to Missoula, Weight Watchers (WW) can be that weekly nudge that keeps you on track.  WW celebrates success and offers a flexible, point-based diet protocol.  “It teaches balance. You can eat anything you want, but it is up to you if what you want is ‘worth it,’” explains Jeannie Vernarsky, of Gallatin Valley Weight Watchers.  Find a meeting in your town at www.weightwatchers.com

Niche fitness centers, like The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center in Missoula (TWC), offer personalized fitness communities.  Aaron Cordeiro, Certified Personal Trainer at TWC, understands that fitness has to fit you first.  “When a person has confidence in their self and feels good they want to continue that “good feeling.’”

Jacque Lanier trains with Aaron, and she’s experienced that comfort level first-hand.  For her, getting fit was a matter of fitting in.  “I’m not a member because The Women’s Club excludes men,” she states.  “I’m a member because it’s so inclusive of all women. Young, old, hipsters, retired teachers, tiny little marathon runners and overweight women with restricted activities — everyone is welcome.”  That comfort level has translated into big gains for Jacque.  At age 57, she ran a half marathon.  Plus, she had grown strong enough to continue training while undergoing Chemotherapy this year.  “And it’s because of Aaron that I was able to catch it at Stage I,” Jacque adds.

If facing a challenge invigorates you, then you may have a Competitive Fitness Personality.  Achieve personal bests via friendly competition with these options:

• Montanans from Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, and Kalispell have all taken part in the Healthy Loser Challenge.  www.HealthyLoser.com is an online weight loss challenge which promotes weight loss through worldwide through community partnerships, fundraising initiatives, co-branding, and cash prizes of over $12,000.  “The cash reward seems to click with people, and participants find the strategies that work for them,” explains founder David Chatwin.

• Montana is fast becoming a favorite among foot racers.  Runners’ World Magazine voted the Missoula Marathon the best in the country in 2010.  Since then, it’s grown to 5,000 participants.  In addition to big races, Montana hosts numerous running clubs.  Go to www.runmt.com to find one near you.

If you’ve tried all these options and don’t think you have a no-fitness personality, you may be a prime candidate for medical treatment.  Surgical intervention has come a long ways since the days of stomachs and staples.  Benefis Health Systems, a provider of medical obesity interventions, believes, “Bariatric surgery is the most effective treatment of morbid obesity and its co-morbidities, including a 90 percent improvement or resolution of Diabetes.” (Dr. David Roher)  Benefis uses a comprehensive approach encompassing pre-surgery counseling and post-op support groups, focusing on lifestyle changes to make sure the results of the surgery stick.

Most practitioners agree:  lifestyle is the key to maintaining weight loss.  That’s where Montana has the edge.  “Definitely, it’s a more active person who’s drawn to our outdoor recreation,” says Jackie Corcoran, Holistic Health Coach at Ridge Athletic Club in Bozeman.  “When I moved out here 20 years ago, I couldn’t believe we had mountains like this in our country and that people weren’t speaking Swedish or something.  Montanans take a different approach to exercise.  When you go on a hike here, you’re going to be out for four hours.  When I go back east, there’re things to do, but the mindset is different.”

That mindset stems from the land.  Having a variety of recreational opportunities, it’s easier to stay active in Montana.  When an afternoon hike takes you from summer at the trailhead to autumn at a high bench to winter along the top ridge, then you’re going to move longer and have more fun doing it.  Also, spending time outdoors tends to let the land in.  When
we feel closer to the land, we want to get closer to our food. Roberta Cady, Public Health Nurse in Red Lodge, quips, “Our kids are learning what our grandmothers were trying to tell us. I have two grandchildren, and their school makes a trip to a farm over by Bridger on the Clark Fork River to learn where their food comes from.”

Given all the sun and support in Montana, becoming the least obese state in the nation almost seems like a side-effect of the Big Sky lifestyle.  One curiosity remains, though. Is it Montana which promotes health, or do healthy people gravitate towards Montana?  “I think it’s a little bit of both,” says Cady.  “We’ve got several generations who still live here, and we have a lot of people from all over the place.  They all like the rural quality and the overall attitude of clean air, good food, and healthy living.”

Want more inspiration?

Check out www.100poundsin1year.net.  When Shelby set out to lose 100 pounds in one year, she posted her victories and pitfalls as a way to keep accountable.  Now she inspires others with ideas, tips, and continued stories of what it’s like to lose a lot of weight and feel good in your skin again.


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