Heart and Soul: The Wildcat Way to Wellness Touches Both
By Randy Weckman
The wisdom of the Wildcat Way to Wellness
program is scientific, profound, and satisfying, and thousands of Kentuckians are using it to acquire a
You won't find any “do this, don't do that”
philosophy— or, as this type of advice sometimes is, sophistry— within the confines of the Wildcat Way to Wellness. Instead you'll find out that being bone thin isn't all it's cracked up to be healthwise. Science shows that.
And you'll find that you can be healthy without tofu, for example, and enjoy hearty meals without pangs of guilt in your heart that mimic a heart attack. You'll also find that exercise and relaxation can help you refocus your thoughts for a happier, healthier life.
Perhaps it is the program's sensibility that makes it such a huge success, said Janet Tietyen, Extension food and nutrition specialist and godmother of the Wildcat Way to Wellness.
Tietyen, who herself isn't runway model thin but who nonetheless radiates health, believes that if people understand the science of staying well, they'll be more likely to follow at least a bit of the science and improve their health.
Now, what about “a bit of extra weight” not being so bad for you?
Tietyen cites research that shows that people who gain or lose 15 percent or more of their body weight don't live as long as those who maintain a fairly steady weight throughout their lives.
“It's a fact that healthy people come in many shapes and sizes. Just like the shape of your nose or the color of your eyes, your body shape is largely determined by your genes. Diet and exercise can and do affect body weight, but they work within the limits set by heredity,” she wrote in the preamble to the set of educational materials that teach that good nutrition and health go hand in hand.
||Exercise and relaxation can help you refocus your thoughts for a happier, healthier life.
That's the kind of scientific-based reasoning that has made WWW so appealing to so many— and effective.
You don't have to kill yourself
to stay healthy.
“In the past, the health field was fixated on one prescription for wellness, which was applied to everyone. The result was that some people— especially those who considered themselves overweight— avoided going to their physician, even when their better judgment told them that they needed to, because they felt they could not live up to the ‘prescription' they would be given.
“This program gives them a choice. Enjoy eating? Fine. Just add a bit of exercise and you're okay. Love chocolate creme pie? Great. Just eat less of something else you don't care so much about, or exercise a little more,” Tietyen said.
WWW is already changing lives
Since its introduction in the summer of 1999, thousands have been reached through county Extension programs that teach the Wildcat
Way to Wellness, and even more have accessed
the information from its popular Web site:
Tietyen collected data from people who sampled the WWW as part of a pilot project, and the results were remarkable.
“Data collected indicate that three-fourths of the participants in the WWW made positive changes in wellness behaviors as a result of the program. We hope to see the impact of these behavioral changes in a few years as people who've adopted them remain healthy,” she said.
The WWW program addresses the total person. The CATSKILLS component, which is the heart of the program, provides information on how to cook healthy foods, how to live an uncluttered life for a healthier lifestyle, and how to keep active. There's also information on looking and feeling great.
“We've included more than diet and exercise in the program because we know that how you feel and look are also important factors in how well you choose to eat and whether you feel like being active. If you don't feel enthusiastic about life, you're not likely to eat as nutritiously as you should and you probably won't exercise as much either,” she said.
The WWW program also helps promote healthy communities, Tietyen said, because it educates consumers about the importance of local, sustainable agriculture that produces healthful Kentucky foods.
“Kentucky has an abundance of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables at its doorstep. This program promotes buying local as a means to improve your health and your communities,” Tietyen said.
Clients like WWW
The WWW approach is more than user friendly. It is making a difference in people's lives.
“The Wildcat Way to Wellness program is exciting because it provides people with a personal approach to better health through a variety of multi-disciplinary programs that take a look at the entire range of wellness issues,” said Maryellen Garrison, Henry County Extension agent in family and consumer sciences.
"If we can convince people to make even small, subtle changes in their lifestyles because of the Wildcat Way to Wellness, we should see a healthier population in the years to come."
- JANET TIETYEN, Extension food and nutrition specialist and godmother of the Wildcat Way to Wellness Program.
Garrison conducted the program in her county this summer and focused on the activity aspect of the WWW. Each of the 13 participants in the Henry County program walked 30 minutes each day during the 10-week period.
Jim Prewitt, 80, was one of those participants. The Newcastle resident walked about a mile and a half each day during the program— around the outer perimeter of the small town— and he hopes to increase the distance he walks each day over time.
“I liked the Wildcat Way to Wellness program because it encouraged me to keep active. I also liked the food survey I completed. I found out that I was doing a pretty good job of eating the right things,” Prewitt said.
“If we can convince people to make even small, subtle changes in their lifestyles because of the Wildcat Way to Wellness, we should see a healthier population in the years to come,” Tietyen said.