Mom Power at the Good Food Force Meeting of MomsRising.org

Momsrising.org Good Food ForceI was privileged to attend the recent MomsRising.org 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

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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 freedigitalimages.net

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

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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

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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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Kids, Sports, and Healthy Living: This is Your Moment

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Sports have always been used as a catalyst to teach kids important life lessons like teamwork, sportsmanship, coping with adversity, and the importance of hard work. We are missing opportunities to leverage sports as a way to teach kids about healthy lifestyles.

Sports-related junk food marketing to kids is helping to undermine the naturally symbiotic relationship between physical activity and healthy eating. All of us – parents, coaches, and administrators – need to push back against this with our words and our actions.

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Sweet Peas and Gratitude

sweet pea label

I posted a couple of weeks ago about some difficulties I’ve encountered getting exercise where I live. I wrote about the challenge of running or walking on the dangerous rural road I live on. This week I was reminded of the importance of embracing and making the most out of what I do have.

Thanks to a snowstorm, I fell in love with our house in the middle of the woods all over again this week. It snowed a lot, for North Carolina, and it was truly beautiful. Dan and I went on several long walks uphill through the woods and along the river. I appreciate snow more now that I live in the South and don’t see it as much. I had forgotten about that shimmery glow that happens when there’s fresh snow and the sun is shining. The crunch that your boots make in the insulated quiet of the snowy woods.IMG_1098

Then there was the sledding. The problematic hilly driveway that I cursed when we were building our house became the scene of some silly rambunctious sledding that had me laughing so hard I cried as I crashed and flew off the sled into a snow bank. Marching up the hill again and again to take sled runs down – now that’s an immense and fun workout.

Afterwards, we sat by the crackling fire and ate the homemade chicken soup I spent a full snow day happily making in the crock pot.

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My Walk on the Wild Side

Image courtesy of Forward Americans

I got a great walking workout this past Saturday in downtown Raleigh and I had a lot of company.  I walked among tens of thousands of other people in the Moral March to protest the North Carolina legislature’s attack on its own citizens.

 I walked with an incredibly impressive group of women from Momsrising.org who care deeply about the lives of children and familes and just – well, people.

I walked with an incredibly impressive group of women from Momsrising.org who care deeply about the lives of children and familes and just – well, people.

Though there have been many demonstrations large and small against our current legislature, I did not join the crowd until yesterday. I am not by nature a marcher or a demonstrator.  I am a writer, an analyzer, a thinker, a strategizer, even a donator. I am something of an introvert and I generally prefer to make my voice heard in ways that do not involve being among large and loud crowds of people.

But sometimes things get so bad that even the quiet among us have to raise our voices. There are times when we have to take a walk on what may be for us at least – the “wild side.” (Don’t take me literally: the march was anything but wild. It was peaceful, positive, and inspiring.)

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