Introduce self and topic. Thank you for joining me today to talk about the myths and realities of everyday health. I hope that you will go home today with a whole new attitude about health, nutrition, physical activity – and even how you do your job. My approach today is based on the best SCIENCE available – and packed with FUN at the same time. I also hope that today will reaffirm your commitment to growing healthy families through the WIC program – and inspire you to promote healthy weights in some new, different, and, perhaps, more positive ways. Our focus today is on FitKids – and how to promote healthy weights for a lifetime of health and fitness. For 30 years, the WIC program has promoted the health of preschool children and their families – and that goal is even more important today, as we focus on the importance of nutrition and physical activity in stabilizing the weight gain of American children.
Although your role in WIC is vitally important for the health of America’s future, today is NOT just about WIC families. Today is also about YOU and your family. I hope that today will help you begin the process of stretching your own fitness habits – and to reach for some healthier choices when it comes to your own personal health. “ Walking the talk” in terms of your own nutrition and physical activity will help your family – and it will also set an example for the WIC families and communities that you serve. Today, we are going to spend a few minutes busting some everyday myths – about eating, exercise and education.
Myth #1: You have to DIET in order to lose weight and get in shape.
Myth #1: You have to DIET in order to lose weight and get in shape. One of the most common, and most hated, activities in America – common today in every age group from elementary school children to seniors – is dieting. DIET really is a four-letter word – one that immediately implies deprivation and giving up the foods you love to eat. When most people, and many health professionals, hear about the increase in overweight American adults and children, they immediately think of DIETING as the solution. Unfortunately, DIETING, as we know it today, often involves fads and products that can endanger your health – and unsafe weight loss practices that can even turn deadly for some people.
REALITY: DELICIOUS NUTRITION means better health for your whole family. We all know that the typical approach to dieting doesn’t work – despite the billions spent on dieting every year, Americans are heavier than ever. As a nutrition educator, the goal is always to help people see how easy it is to get good health and good taste on the same plate – at every meal.
Nutrition, the art of eating well, is one of life’s greatest pleasures, according to the famous chef Julia Child. Eating well is NOT about giving up foods, it’s about adding great tasting foods to your life – so that you can harness the awesome power of good nutrition. It’s important to realize that there are lots of different ways to eat healthfully – lots of different eating styles based on our ethnic heritages, lifestyles, food preferences and where we live. Portion distortion and the SUPER-SIZING of American meals are the real nutrition problems that we face as a nation. The issue is not so much WHAT we eat, but HOW MUCH we eat. Eating well – and maintaining a healthy weight – is not about DIETING. It’s about enjoying all your favorite foods – but not overdoing it on any one thing. Helping young children internalize these concepts is what a HEALTHY FEEDING RELATIONSHIP is all about.
Myth #2: Nutrition is really COMPLICATED and EXPENSIVE.
Myth #2: Nutrition is really COMPLICATED and EXPENSIVE. Sadly, those of us in the nutrition profession have sometimes been our own worst enemies when it comes to influencing the eating patterns of the average American family. By talking in “nutrition-ese” rather than everyday English, we have often bored, and frequently confused, people with complicated terminology and more information than they want, or need, to know. People do not eat a large bowl of phyto-nutrients topped with monounsaturated fatty acids – they eat a veggie salad sprinkled with chopped nuts and olive oil dressing. Busy, often-overwhelmed, families do not have the time (or the desire) to learn the details of nutrition science – and, as we know, many lack access and/or dollars to enjoy the foods sometimes suggested by nutrition experts.
REALITY: EATING WELL can be as simple as choosing more brightly colored foods. As nutrition communicators, it is our responsibility to share POSITIVE, SIMPLE, PRACTICAL messages – powerful messages that can motivate people to make small, lasting changes.
For example, to enjoy the benefits of fruits and vegetables, you don’t need to know anything about lycopene, lutein, isoflavones or any other fancy phyto-nutrient names. All you need to know is the colors in the rainbow or in a box of crayons – red, orange, yellow, blue and green – and so you can “Eat 5 A Day THE COLOR WAY.” For families with limited food access and/or incomes, like WIC families, we need to reinforce that fact that fresh produce is just one way to enjoy good nutrition – frozen, canned and dried produce offer the same health benefits, usually at a lower cost. Nutrition is delicious, it’s easy – and it’s possible wherever you live. Now, that’s a health story that’s easy to swallow!
Myth #3: Good nutrition and weight loss can be found in a PILL.
Myth #3: Good nutrition and weight loss can be found in a PILL. America’s desperate search for magic bullets and quick fixes to our weight problems has created a BILLION dollar industry of dietary supplements, herbs and weight loss products. People with limited incomes are sometimes more susceptible to advertising for these products – and they may spend disproportionate amounts of their income on ineffective pills and powders. Many are a waste of money, using dollars that could better be spent on delicious, nutritious foods. Some, however, are truly dangerous and even deadly. The FDA is developing new policies and standards for dietary supplements (like the removal of Ephedra-containing products from the market), but it will take a while for these to be put in place and they will not eliminate all the problems.
REALITY: WHOLE FOODS have the nutrient power that our bodies need. When it comes to nutrition power, whole foods are where it’s at – and, as nutrition communicators, we have every reason to promote their consumption and enjoyment. Research continues to confirm that the natural nutrient bundles in whole foods often provide our bodies with the most effective nutrient combinations for good health. As just two examples: (1) the bone-building nutrient bundles in dairy foods (calcium + protein, phosphorus, magnesium, and other micro-nutrients) – and (2) the Z.I.P. in red meat (Zinc, Iron and Protein) for building and maintaining strong muscles. In addition to being great NUTRIENT values, whole foods often provide the best DOLLAR value as well. Highly processed convenience foods tend to be low on nutrition and high in cost – while whole foods are just the opposite. Whole foods – from whole grains to whole fruits and veggies – are just what the nutritionist ordered!
Myth #4: You have to EXERCISE to lose weight and get in shape.
Myth #4: You have to EXERCISE to lose weight and get in shape. Shifting gears to the other side of the energy equation, let’s take a quick look at EXERCISE. The word exercise has a long list of negative connotations associated with it – just think of your own for a minute … SWEATY, PAINFUL, BORING are just three words that usually come to mind. Many people have NO desire to start exercising because they don’t want to do things that are SWEATY, PAINFUL, and BORING. Many people have also had NEGATIVE exercise experiences – like injuries or feeling clumsy.
REALITY: FUN physical activity can help every body move toward a healthy weight. Just as I asked you to think about your associations with the word exercise, I’d like you to think for just a minute about your associations with the word PLAY – or DANCE. What did you think ?? … FUN, ENJOYABLE, or wish I had MORE TIME for that!!
For almost everyone, it’s much easier to make time for PLAY than it is to make time for exercise – and most of us would LOVE to have more time to DANCE. Fortunately, there is wonderful research is this area – and it shows that ANY physical activity counts toward improving your fitness levels – and that people are much more likely to do activities they enjoy. When it comes to physical activity, my advice always is to change the “E” word from EXERCISE to ENJOYMENT!
Myth #5: You need a GYM or FANCY EQUIPMENT to be fit.
Myth #5: You need a GYM or FANCY EQUIPMENT to be fit. Our technological society often seems to make simple things complicated – and that often seems to be the case with physical activity. Just think about all the ads you see for complicated (and EXPENSIVE) exercise equipment – and fitness centers with all the latest high-tech gizmos (and EXPENSIVE monthly memberships to match). There’s nothing wrong with equipment and gyms – IF you enjoy them and IF you can afford them. However, most exercise equipment ends up in garage sales or as a place to hang clothes – and MANY people never use their gym memberships after the first month or so. (Does any of that sound familiar in your life? )
REALITY: MOVING MORE is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. The facts are clear – you don’t need ANY equipment or a health club to enjoy all the benefits of physical activity. All you really need is a NEW ATTITUDE and the COMMITMENT to become more active.
It’s really as simple as putting one foot in front of the other – walking the dog, pushing a stroller, climbing the stairs, or, perhaps best of all, dancing with someone you love. Walking works wonders – whether you walk the kids to school, walk to the grocery store and post office, or walk during your lunch hour with a group of co-workers. Walking indoors is as good as outdoors – so the local mall or even a school gym can be a safe place to walk in bad weather or bad neighborhoods. What do you need to do any of these FITNESS ACTIVITIES? All you need is a new attitude about “exercise,” a commitment to moving more and sitting less, and a comfortable pair of shoes! Now, that’s a pretty simple fitness prescription!
Myth #6: Staying fit is REALLY HARD in our busy lives.
Myth #6: Staying fit is REALLY HARD in our busy lives. Let’s talk about the time issue just a little bit more. The most common obstacle that people say keeps them from “exercising” is that they don’t have the time. I certainly understand that frequently we are so busy, that, like this woman, we barely take time to eat – much less take a nice walk with some friends. Why do we feel that we don’t have time to be active? Often, it’s because we are operating under complicated exercise RULES – like you need to exercise for an hour at a time – and you need to build up a sweat (which then means that you have to take a shower!). No wonder we don’t have the time to exercise – when we believe that we need a couple of hours to workout, sweat, and shower (and what are we supposed to do with our kids during all this??!?!).
REALITY: You can fit FITNESS into every day – anytime, anywhere! Physical activity can become a natural part of every day – no matter how busy your life is – it’s a matter of CHOOSING to fit fitness into it. The “10-minute solution” makes fitness doable for anyone – the goal is to fit several 10-minute activities into your day.
Just TAKE TEN – 10 minutes of playing with the baby on the floor, 10 minutes of walking at the mall before you shop, 10 minutes to dance in the living room, 10 minutes of kicking a soccer ball around the lawn with a friend or with your kids. The good news is that fitness is NOT about having a certain body type or weighing a certain number of pounds. Fitness is about getting physically active – and having fun. The REALITY is that EVERY body can be active, fit and healthy.
Myth #7: Pregnant women have to make a decision to breastfeed OR to bottle-feed.
Myth #7: Pregnant women have to make a decision to breastfeed OR to bottle-feed. Many health MYTHS involve an either/or situation – for example, pregnant women must decide to EITHER breastfeed OR to bottle-feed.
REALITY: With the right support, new moms can do a COMBINATION of breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. In terms of promoting healthy weights, it turns out that breastfeeding may be beneficial for both mother and baby. For reasons that are not completely understood yet, breastfeeding may help babies maintain a healthy weight throughout childhood and into adulthood.
This means that encouraging – and supporting – breastfeeding may be one of the most important ways to promote healthy weights for LIFE. Black and white decisions are sometimes hard for people, especially new moms, to make – and you can play an important role in helping them understand the REALITIES of healthy infant feeding relationships. The reality is that moms – and dads – can make a combination of breastfeeding and bottle-feeding work (with support from WIC!!) – based on their needs and their lifestyle. The reality is that any amount of breastfeeding provides immediate and long-term benefits. In fact, many of the best ways to promote a healthy weight are to continue reinforcing the behaviors that WIC has supported since its inception.
Myth #8: It’s VERY HARD to keep kids from watching too much TV.
Myth #8: It’s VERY HARD to keep kids from watching too much TV. Some health researchers believe that today’s TV habits are one of the most important factors influencing the weight gain of American children and adolescents. There is no doubt that most American children exceed a reasonable amount of screen time (including TVs, video games and computers) these days. There is also no doubt that television viewing has multiple effects on children’s health.
REALITY: SETTING LIMITS, like on TV time, is a very important parental job. It is a myth that it’s hard to keep kids from watching too much TV. Like the feeding relationship, it’s all about PARENTING.
Supporting (and influencing) the parenting skills of WIC parents is important for establishing healthy feeding relationships AND for raising FitKids – kids that are both physically and emotionally healthy. Moving away from the TV and the computer screen frees up family time to all kinds of fun stuff – fun activities that can also help to establish healthy eating habits and regular physical activity patterns, like cooking together, eating together and playing together. Remember, all the fitness myths and realities that we have been discussing apply to WIC families – and to your family too!
MYTH #9: At WIC, we only have 15 MINUTES to do nutrition education.
MYTH #9: At WIC, we only have 15 MINUTES to do nutrition education. One of the biggest frustrations continues to be the lack of time we have to interact and communicate with WIC families. A common refrain in most WIC clinics is – “but we only have 15 minutes” (or less) with a client – ONCE EVERY SIX MONTHS!! It can be very frustrating when you have so much knowledge to share – and so little time to share it.
REALITY: Fifteen minutes of EFFECTIVE PERSUASION can make a BIG difference.
In several segments of the FitKids = HappyKids Training, you will learn about the differences between EDUCATION and PERSUASION. You can learn how to be incredibly persuasive (and influential) during the 15, or even 5, minutes you have with a WIC client. I know that this information will make a positive difference in how you do your job – starting tomorrow!
Myth #10: If we give people enough HEALTH FACTS, they will change.
Myth #10: If we give people enough HEALTH FACTS, they will change. It is important to learn the facts – about nutrition, physical activity, feeding relationships and the TV habits of American families. It’s also important to learn the facts about what helps kids (and adults) maintain healthy growth patterns and become “FitKids.” Once we know a lot of facts and have lots of information, it is natural for us to want to share it – ALL OF IT – with our clients. Unfortunately, loading people up with health facts – telling them all the wonderful stuff that we know – is NOT what leads to changes in behavior.
REALITY: Using effective tools of INFLUENCE, we can help WIC grow healthy families. The FitKids training is designed to provide you with a very special and UNIQUE set of tools – that you can start using tomorrow to be a health “change agent” at WIC, Head Start, Extension or any other program that you may work with.
In fact, promoting FitKids is going to take ALL OF US working together. If we really want to shape the eating habits and physical activity patterns of American families, … if we really want to promote healthy weights and reduce the risk of chronic disease, we are all going to have to work together. WIC, HEAD START, CHILD AND ADULT FOOD CARE PROGRAM, EXTENSION, and SCHOOL NUTRITION all need to work on the same page – to promote active, healthy families and active healthy communities. THANK YOU – and thank you for ALL the work you do to grow healthy WIC families. Let’s all keep our eyes on the prize – healthy, fit children and families for America’s future.
To support lifestyles that promote healthy bodies, healthy weights, and healthy growth patterns.