Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Note to Americans: Celebrate National Nutrition Month All Year Long

Define yourself as a healthy eater 
March is National Nutrition Month. This is a big deal to dietitians and those who work in the field of nutrition and aspire to help Americans to adopt healthier eating and lifestyle habits. I wonder, has the rest of America received the memo?

Nutrition impacts so many aspects of health. What we eat deserves the greatest of care and attention the whole year, not just on one designated month of the year. What is it going to take to finally get Americans moving in the right direction to make healthy food decisions most of the time?

Eating healthy is not an all or nothing proposition and perhaps dispelling this myth is the first place to start. Let's embrace food for its nourishing properties and celebrate its flavors, textures and aromas for what they are, delicious! Eating healthfully does not mean that you can never eat pepperoni pizza (or cake or whatever your favorite food might be). In fact, including your less healthy favorite foods in your diet from time to time may be helpful in actually adopting a healthier diet overall.

This brings me to my next point; our skewed taste perception. Many of the foods that are sold in grocery stores and restaurants in America are loaded with fat, sugar and salt. Our tastes veer naturally toward these compounds in foods, but what we taste most often are not the naturally occurring elements in foods, rather the concocted flavors created by food engineers. The politics behind this is enmeshed in our agricultural system (farm subsidies), and food industry (food lobbies) and presents a huge hurdle for Americans to jump over in order to make healthy eating easier. I don't have a clear solution for this problem, other than to encourage Americans to go back to what is natural (unfortunately, the definition of natural is meaningless on food packages) and naked, food in its natural state prepared with ingredients that were not created in a lab. There is hope that we can regain our taste for real food. Taste perception is not static, it changes over time. I can attest to this myself as I have worked to wean my taste away from sweet and salty foods. I can now barely tolerate these flavors in most manufactured foods. I would much rather add my own sweetness to oatmeal with raisins than eat sweetened packaged oatmeal and I notice how salty most foods taste in restaurants.

Nutrition should be on our mind every day as we choose what we eat. The nutritious foods that we eat are also delicious, from the whole wheat cinnamon toast with butter and a full bowl of berries that I ate for breakfast this morning; the homemade pea soup I'm having for lunch with an over-sized red delicious apple; to the red beans and brown rice, pecan cornbread (from a package with ingredients that are foods, not chemicals) and roasted asparagus that I am making for dinner tonight.

Upon learning that I was a dietitian, a gentleman once commented that he felt sorry for my husband. I replied back, "My husband is the luckiest man in the world. He gets to eat the most delicious and nutritious food!" Our perception of healthy foods should stress how wonderfully delicious they truly are so that we celebrate National Nutrition Month all year long!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Facebook Moratorium

The social network connection

I often wonder why I spend so much time creating my online presence using social media tools such as Facebook. There are a few reasons that I use Facebook professionally. It is a great tool for staying connected with my colleagues and keeping on top of cutting edge news in my field. It also serves as a valuable resource for getting my message out to my clients, although I question if I'm really reaching my ideal client. It's difficult to tell the impact that I'm having without getting feedback in the form of comments. I carefully look for information to post to help others make positive diet and fitness changes and have only once been made aware of the value of this work to my audience. It is important to me to stay connected with my audience but difficult to to so when I wonder if I even have an audience.

Social media is a time sink. Facebook and Twitter eat up time that I should spend doing other things to grow my business. There already is enough to keep us tethered to our computers without the addition of Facebook and Twitter. In the back of my mind I think that I should spend more time in endeavors that will make money rather than posting free information for an invisible audience.

To make matters worse, I have been gaining weight lately despite exercising regularly. I can't help but think that all this sitting behind a computer is a bad thing for humans in general. My recent weight gain has spurred me into action. I have decided to impose a moratorium on Facebook and Twitter for the next week. Every time that I think about checking my social media accounts I will do ten jumping jacks and ten push-ups instead. One of the purposes of my social media existence is to inspire others to improve their lifestyle. I can think of no better place to start doing this than with myself. The calories we burn when we exercise are a small fraction of what we burn in a whole day. Our goal should be to pursue activity all day long. So whenever I have the urge to post an article, picture of food, recipe or any other tidbit that I find interesting, I will be active instead. I wonder how many jumping jacks and push-ups I will complete in a week. I'm sure that I will be doing quite a few of them. Social media has become a big part of my professional life in the past couple of years.

I will return to sharing information on Facebook and Twitter after a week, but I will incorporate my new habit of activity before every interaction. I encourage everyone else to attach some form of physical activity to your more sedentary pursuits.

To Health!

What are some of your impressions about social media?