Category Archives: Educational Tips

A Healthy Diet is the Greatest Gift You Can Give Yourself

 Respecting your body is one of the concepts I often talk about in my classes. What does respecting your body mean to you?  To me it means giving it healthy food.  I recently had the pleasure of reading an article by Jillian McKee, a Complementary Medicine Advocate, about the importance of a healthy diet and how it not only relates to people with cancer but for those of us not carrying a cancer diagnosis (yet).  According to the American Cancer Society, men have a 45% risk and women a 38% risk of developing cancer. Eating a healthy diet does not make you bullet proof when it comes to cancer but it can help.   
Here’s what Jillian has to say:

Good nutrition is important to the body because it helps it to grow, protects and repairs tissue, and it helps to keep a person’s body healthy. When a person is diagnosed with cancer their previous healthy eating habits will make it easier for them to fight their cancer. This includes dealing with their cancer treatment without as many negative side effects, having more energy to fight the cancer, and giving them more energy to fight their cancer diagnosis. People with a healthy diet in their daily lifestyle are more likely to have a healthier immune system, which means their chance of surviving cancer is greater than the chances of those who do not eat well.

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What’s in a name?

I love to go to the farmer’s market for a number of reasons.  I obviously like buying healthy, tasty food but I also often run into friends and get a little Vitamin D.  Strolling down the aisle on Saturday, I noticed the different names and labels people use to advertise themselves and their products.  I admit being a little confused about whether someone was selling organic or not and a little skeptical (I may be prone to this by nature).  Just because someone is selling a product at the Farmer’s Market does not necessary mean it’s organic, for instance, although I think I fool myself into thinking that sometimes.  Not that I eat everything organic, but I try to be conscious and knowledgeable about the food I put into my body and how it affects me and my environment. And when I shop the Farmer’s Market I am making an effort to do the right thing for both.  

What I discovered is this–to really know what’s in your food, even at the farmer’s market, you have to ask a lot of questions.  Not all the produce is organic and local doesn’t always mean better for you.  To help consumers better navigate local markets, Melinda Hemmelgarn, has prepared a short list of common areas of confusion, a few personal examples, and strategies to help you purchase exactly what you think you want to buy.  Read here to find out more about what the names “local, sustainable, natural, and free range” mean  By the way, Melinda is a local Columbia, MO, food guru, registered dietitian, “investigative” nutritionist, and award-winning journalist, with 30 years’ experience in clinical, academic and public health nutrition.  I trust her!

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Engage your body! Be fit and feel good.

As a health psychologist working with people who are trying to change their relationship with food and their bodies, I don’t put a focus on weight.  That is problematic for a wide variety of reasons and it usually doesn’t help.  Instead, I ask people to pay attention to how their bodies feel as they do certain activities and eat various kinds of food.  Paying close attention to the effects of these things on the body then begins to shape our behavior naturally.  If it feels healthy, we do more of that.  If it feels unhealthy, we do less.  Makes sense.  Yes?

In particular, getting in touch with the body’s need to move and stretch and breath encourages us to engage it more often.  It feels good.   And we can be fit and feel good, even at a weight that you might think is too high for you.  And when we exercise we boost our metabolism and are more likely to maintain our weight.  Read more about research in this are conducted by Dr. Thomas at the University of Missouri–very enlightening and worth a read.

The down low is that, once again, we are hearing good evidence about why we need to get more physically active.  We were designed to be more active than we are today.  We, as a culture, have sat down and we forgot to get up.  Continue reading

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A Mindful Nation: a message from Washington I can believe in.

A few years ago Jon Kabat-Zinn and others within the mindfulness community were given time to spend with some members of Congress.  The message seemed to take with Representative Tim Ryan and he now has a book out, A Mindful Nation, describing his belief in the power of “meditative mindfulness” to effect change in people’s lives on all levels.   If it works, he says, “why wouldn’t we have it as part of our health care program?”  Good question.  There is a huge body of scientific research that demonstrates the positive effects of mindfulness in people experiencing a wide variety of mental and physical health problems.    If we really want health care reform and to lower health care costs, we need to start personally taking care of our health.   But wouldn’t it be nice to walk out of your doctor’s office with a prescription of “mindfulness  practice” and actually be supported financially to take a program that works without drugs.   Read more about Rep. Ryan in the recent Washington Post article.  

Please note:  This message is not intended to suggest that you should not follow your doctor’s orders if you need to be on prescription drugs.  It is suggesting that sometimes there is a better way.

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Sustainable Eating: Better for your Health, your Environment, and your World

I’ve mentioned the benefits of local eating in previous posts, such as by gardening and by frequenting the Farmer’s Market. Now I want to explain how seasonal eating relates to this idea, and why we should consider the sustainable alternative to the industrial food industry.

Eating sustainably includes eating locally because it’s a great way to support individual communities.  It connects communities to the source of their food, provides local farmers with financial support, and eliminates the need to truck in food from all over the country, or even from all over the world! This is where seasonal eating comes into play. Continue reading

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What kind of chocolate will be in your Easter basket?

I know it is really hard to be a conscious consumer all of the time, but I think it’s important not to put our heads in the sand.  My mother sells fair trade chocolate (and other goodies) at her store called the Global Market at the Community United Methodist Church.  She sent me this link to an article that explores the unfortunate circumstances that exist with regard to the conditions people (often young children) work under in the cocoa fields.  For more info, read the entire article here.

The take home message from me is to at least think about how the products you consume are produced and, when possible, support those that are produced locally or engage in fair trade practices.  These products will not be relying on the slave labor of people around the world.  Interviewed in the article Kristen Hard, the owner of Cacao Atlanta who deals directly with growers from Brazil and Venezuela, says it best.  ”Whatever you’re purchasing is funding something; it’s a choice that you’re making every day,” she says. “Buying fair trade can benefit the environment and the social status of the farmers. Or, you can do the opposite and promote child labor.” And, try applying this philosophy to other things that you buy as well.

With regard to chocolate, look for the label “Fair Trade” or “Rainforest Alliance.”  This will guarantee you aren’t buying chocolate produced by the unfair treatment of others.

When you savor your chocolate today, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you’re helping to make the world a better place?

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Food Sense Conference – March 16 – 18, Columbia, MO

 Mark your calendars for this coming weekend, March 16-18! The MU Life Sciences department is putting on its annual conference on health and eating. They have gathered experts in nutrition, psychology, taste science, cultural studies, marketing analysis, journalism and chefs to speak about how we can make healthy choices about what we eat for our life. This event is free and open to the public, so feel free to register here (link: and come hear from and discuss these issues with local chefs and nationally-renowned experts. 

Here are some of the highlights of the conference that you won’t want to miss! 

From Mindless Eating to Mindlessly Eating Better- Brian Wansink

Friday 7 p.m. – 8:15 p.m. Jesse Auditorium in Jesse Hall

Wansink is the Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and has authored best-selling books on mindless eating and nutrition. In his keynote talk Friday night, Wansink will synthesize his 20 years of research findings for us, arguing that the key to banishing mindlessly overeating is not mindful eating, but setting up food in your surroundings so that you mindlessly eat less.  Continue reading

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23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?

So, to add to my last post about needing to stop sitting, please watch the following 10 minute video.  My favorite line in the video is “Exercise is a medicine.”   In this well-produced segment, exercise is supported as the most important thing you can do for your health and it doesn’t require a lot of time each day.   Watch it and then go out for a short walk.  That’s where I’m headed now.

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Is your life worth one minute of your time? Stand up while you’re reading the rest of this message.

More and more research is demonstrating how devastating it is to sit for extended periods of time. recently reported on findings that sitting for long stretches of time without getting up increases your cancer risk—particularly for breast and colon cancer.   “The longer you sit, the higher your risk,” says Neville Owen, Ph.D., the author of a recent study presented at the annual American Institute for Cancer Research meeting.  While getting regular exercise has been known to reduce the risk of certain cancers, now experts are adding the recommendation of avoiding prolonged periods of sitting. 

The results are so convincing that the American Institute for Cancer Research now recommends that adult Americans who sit most of the day take one- or two-minute ”activity” breaks every hour.   This is what I’m telling everyone these days.  Not only will taking a break lead to physical health benefits, but it also helps you to be more productive and mentally alert. 

Leslie Bernstein, PhD, professor and director of the division of cancer etiology at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in California recommends the following for desk-bound office workers to avoid long periods of sitting.

  • Set the timer on your computer to alert you every 60 minutes to take a break. A short walk down the hall is enough.
  • Ask a colleague to walk with you to talk about a problem instead of sitting.
  • During a phone call in your office, stand up and walk around if possible.

It doesn’t take long, but you have to do it.  Isn’t your life worth it?  And, by the way, it is apparently not enough to wait and exercise at the end of the day.  You have to do both—exercise and take frequent breaks from sitting. 

For the whole story go to

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Addicted to food… hear the “flavorists” tell you why

If you want to hear the food industry admit they are trying to addict people to food, watch the CBS 60 minutes episode that aired on Sunday, November 27.  Here is the website (go to the second story at 16 minutes into the episode (you also have to listen to 3 ads, but it’s worth it).

The “flavorists” at a large Swiss company (employing 9,000 people over 45 countries) speak candidly to Morley Safer about what they do to make food taste the way it does.  What they admit to is how they try to perfect a flavor that “bursts” with a “finish that doesn’t linger so that you want more of it.”  In other words, “a quick fix” and then you need more.  Morley suggested this would be called “addiction” and the flavorists heartedly agreed.   Anything in a package, jar, or can is intensified with sugar, fat, and salt in order to get that burst.  However, a representative of the Swiss company denies that what they are doing is in any way connected with the obesity problem in America.  It is really fascinating to hear how they try to wiggle out of their part of this crises.  Sounds like the tobacco industry denying that nicotine is addicting.

To learn more about the inside of the food industry you can also read David Kessler’s book “The End of Overeating.”  Dr. Kessler is also interviewed in the 60 minutes episode.

Check it out!

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