When I think about health strictly from a Dayton, Ohio context, there are specific regional issues about which we should all be aware as we try to build better bodies, fuel those bodies with good food, and manage stress.
My advice for years now has been that we all should be cooking more, whether we live in New York, Los Angeles, or anywhere in between. Subjectively, I think that’s especially true here in Dayton. At the top end of our local restaurant spectrum, you can eat healthy and well at places like Lily’s, Coco’s, Olive, Wheat Penny, Salar, and the Corner Kitchen. It’s easy at these places to eat vegetables, not as an afterthought, but as a primary element of the culinary experience.
But at a great many of the chains around, a salad means a collection of iceberg lettuce, some croutons, and cheese. (Always cheese.) Not only that, but the preponderance of our fast food options remain mostly unhealthy. (Our existing healthier fast food options, like Fusian, stand as proof that there exists a pent up demand for something other than fries and burgers.) Cook more at home then, and when you do indulge in going out, patronize a scratch kitchen with a menu crafted with care.
When you do home cooking, you’ll need easy access to great ingredients—and Dayton offers some diverse options. From Dorothy Lane Market, to Trader Joe’s, to the relatively new Whole Foods Market, to the expanding selection of organic options at Kroger’s, it is possible to cook and eat well at home here in Dayton. I won’t belabor the point about easy access to fresh groceries for downtown residents, other than to say that I wish there were more options closer to the city core. But with careful planning and a shopping list Dayton is a great place to develop home cooking skills.
From a fitness perspective, one would strain to come up with a region better suited to living an active lifestyle. The wide open spaces, hikes, trails, top-notch strength and conditioning facilities, yoga teachers, and affordable YMCA options are diverse and distributed conveniently.
The culture in Dayton also seems conducive to lifelong fitness. The slower pace, the emphasis on family—strong and deep social ties can be instrumental to maintaining a healthy lifestyle—and the shorter work days for many people are all assets to be celebrated, as long as we remember always that not everyone can share equally in these attributes.
Given this portrait, how should you approach getting fit in Dayton? Some ideas:
Make a grocery list. Know what you’re going to eat during the week, and where you’re going to buy the ingredients. Have a plan, because well on-the-go isn’t always easy here.
Start thinking about menu options differently. Shift your thinking to plate composition, and look at whether the balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats makes sense. If the only vegetable option is an iceberg lettuce salad with cheese and croutons, you might want to spend your dollars elsewhere.
Get outside. We’re lucky to have such easy access to wide open spaces, rivers, and trails. My favorite cardiovascular prescription for people is to get outside and walk. This is a great place to do that!
Join a gym. Chances are in the Dayton region, you’re close to a YMCA or affordable gym chain. And if you’re looking to take your training to a new level of performance, we are lucky to live in an area with great strength and conditioning options.
Support the people closest to you. The more you choose healthy options for food and leisure, the more your friends and family will too. If your social circle insists on fried food and tubs of beer for happy hour, introduce them to one of the many great, local, fresh options around.