Rethinking Slides, Swings, and Jungle Gyms

Rethinking jungle gyms

Despite the growing popularity of Crossfit for Preschoolers (yes, this is real), most little ones are still getting their exercise via the good old fashioned playground. But not all playgrounds are not created equal, especially when it comes to promoting physical activity.

I bet you think this playground would really get the kids up and moving:

Plastic playground

And you’d be right. Sort of. The problem is, playgrounds like this get boring, fast, especially if they’re at a school, where kids are on them every day. Here’s a University of Tennessee study that found that “Children who play on playgrounds that incorporate natural elements like logs and flowers tend to be more active than those who play on traditional playgrounds with metal and brightly colored equipment:” Here’s a quick synopsis of that study.

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Ask Not What Your Lunch Lady Can Do For You….

School cafeteria

I had an illuminating chat recently with four ladies in our central administration office who have the responsibility – along with the cafeteria staff in each school – for feeding the over 8200 students in the Chatham County, North Carolina school district.

Breakfast and lunch for this hungry horde is orchestrated by just three full-time employees and one contract dietician who were kind enough to sit down with me in the midst of their busy summer planning sessions.

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Back to the Mat

imgresI went back to yoga last night after months and months off the mat. I’ve gone through periods where I’ve done yoga daily, in the evenings, before bed. Periods where I go regularly to classes. And months of doing none at all. Habits are funny like that. They can slip away when you’re not looking. The good ones anyway. Bad habits seem to stick like crazy glue.

My aching body told me I had to return to yoga. I’ve been working it hard these past months, playing tennis, going to the gym, and gardening like a fiend. I’m as fit as I’ve ever been but I’ve also got an aching lower back and a sore arm to show for it. Read more »

Mom Power at the Good Food Force Meeting of Good Food ForceI was privileged to attend the recent meeting of the Good Food Force, a group of dynamic volunteers dedicated to getting the word out about healthy school foods, junk food marketing to kids, and strategies that are working to reduce childhood obesity. Through workshops, discussions and sharing our experiences, MomsRising armed us with motivation, inspiration, tools and resources (see below for some of the best) to advocate for change in our communities.

We were a diverse group, every one of us with a unique story to tell about why we were there and what we were working on in our own communities – but we were united in our desire to use our mom power to advocate for healthy food for kids.

What we were not united about? What exactly “healthy food” means.

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When Pears are as Exotic as Rainbows and Unicorns


I have mixed feelings about the annual “Eat a Rainbow Week” our local health department organizes in our community. It’s a week of events designed to promote fruit and vegetable eating – in schools, restaurants, farmer’s markets, etc. This is the second year I’ve served on the planning committee, and this year I also organized some special events in the preschools and child care centers I work with.

Even as I participate enthusiastically I fret about the message we are sending – that fruit and vegetables are something special to be eaten during “Eat a Rainbow Week” when really they should be nothing special at all. They should not be celebrated, just eaten, every day, a regular part of our daily lives, a part of our food culture. How has it come to this – that we have to organize incentives and special events for people to eat fresh foods. Are we promoting a culture of health or highlighting just outside the norm that healthy eating has become?

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Do Your Clothes Move You?

Is she getting ready for her "exercise snack?" Image courtesy of

I was intrigued by a recent headline in the New York Times “Well” section reporting on a study about exercise and blood sugar, Exercise ‘Snacks’ to Control Blood Sugar. It described a study showing that short bits of exercise during the day – a couple of minutes or so, were very effective at controlling blood sugar, more so than one hour or so long session. What kind of exercise? “Any activity that rapidly raises your heart rate and leaves you panting and sweaty for 60 seconds,” apparently. Interesting, but a little impractical, for many of us who get dressed in the morning in office attire and makeup hoping for a day free of panting and sweaty moments.

This study joins many others touting the benefits of being active throughout the day. The research and the message seems clear: being sedentary all day is really bad for your health. Our fabulous human brains have made it possible to do a lot of work using those brains and only those brains, but we neglect and abuse the other parts of our body to our peril.

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North Carolina DHHS Secretary’s Obesity Fix: Let’s Move the Vending Machines Somewhere Out Of Sight


I recently attended the North Carolina Institute of Medicine Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Summit in Raleigh and had the pleasure of hearing our state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services explain to the audience of childhood obesity prevention experts that childhood obesity was a problem.

It’s a rookie mistake I’ve made myself and seen many, many others make: quoting public health statistics (in this case, many of them, and at length) to an audience that lives and breathes those statistics every day.

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Teens and Screens: The Social, the Scary, and the Sedentary

teens-screen time

This winter my teen and tween have spent more time than I’d like slouched over their screens, and less time than I’d like moving around outdoors.

After a week of surly, slovenly and sedentary behavior last week, I finally buckled down and “mastered” the parental controls on several of their favorite screens, setting curfews and time limits. I have no patience for technology and reading instructions, but it was time to suck it up and learn how to be Big Brother. Or in this case, Big Momma.

It took several hours over two days and in the end my fourteen year old had to help me set the controls on his PC. It was kind of like asking the criminal to help open the jail cell, but I was desperate. He was remarkably good natured about it, maybe because he thinks he’s smart enough to override it. Its scary how technically proficient our kids are.

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Does Where You Live Affect How Well You Live?

morguefile neighborhood

How does the community you live in impact your wellness?

Where I live, a lot of people, myself included, live in a kind of semi-rural setting: large wooded lots, houses on a couple of acres or much more, spread far apart with woods and fields, and country roads in between them. It’s beautiful and peaceful – this setting definitely contributes to my sense of wellness on a daily basis.

There’s a huge new mixed-use subdivision coming to the outskirts of my town. It’ll be much more densely populated and busier than many of us here are used to now, like a mini-city, with homes and apartments as well as taller commercial buildings, stores and restaurants, schools, and parks, all within walking and biking distance.

Which way of living is “healthier?”

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How I Tamed the TV Time Snack Attack

vampire woman (1)I’ve been snacking in front of the TV at night since – well – since that TV had three channels, a big knob to turn those three channels, and a set of rabbit ear antennas. Yeah, I’m that old.

Growing up, my brother and I religiously watched the tube from 8-9 every night, usually with a bag of something crunchy at our side. Chomping along with the Dukes of Hazzard, Magnum, P.I. and Happy Days. Fun times!

I’d like to think my choice of shows has evolved. But the chomping hasn’t. Over the years as my understanding of wellness has grown I’ve slowly dropped a lot of unhealthy habits and added healthy ones. But the TV time snacking has been an incredibly hard habit to break for me. I eat real, wholesome, nutritious food by day. But at night, the snack vampire appears, wanting not blood but potato chips. Or popcorn. Or anything salty and processed. And somewhere, along the way I added a glass or two of red wine to the ritual.

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