Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A short-term option with a long-term consequence

This guest post is from Sandy Krupp, a technical support teacher at my school. He writes a brief but inspired bit of advice on maintaining healthy habits as we age.

I don’t think that anyone would argue with the fact that as we get older it becomes more challenging to maintain our bodies as we did in the prime of our youth. Being a middle-aged male and a member of the PDS staff, the cliché "use it or lose it" has never been more true. I know that it is difficult to find the time and energy to do something beneficial for our bodies, but on the other hand I know that if I don’t work out regularly that I will pay the price in many other ways. Just giving up and letting yourself go is a short-term option with a long-term consequence. Most of the time, just getting started is the hardest part. This is one issue that we are all in the same boat on, so I wish everyone good luck with your own personal challenge to a healthy body.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday Feature: Podcasts on health and nutrition

This week's Friday Feature focuses on podcasts that you can listen to while driving, riding the train, or exercising. I also like to listen to them while I'm cooking dinner. I try to choose carefully which podcasts I spend time listening to. There are hundreds of podcasts out there, so I try to limit my listening to programs that inspire me to live a healthier life. Here are a few of my favorites that focus on health, nutrition, and food:

Earth Eats: This podcast is usually less than ten minutes, and gives a healthy recipe using seasonal ingredients. A chef cooks the food and gives information on the process as he goes along. My favorite part is the first two minutes of the podcast, when they provide news on food politics and legislature.

Nutrition Diva: Another short podcast (from the Quick & Dirty Tips podcast series) that features one nutrition-related question each time. They're almost always questions that I'm interested in, like "Are organic vegetables healthier?" or "How much protein should you eat?" You can search the archives for topics that interest you.

NPR: Your Health: I am an NPR devotee so of course I listen to a lot of their news shows. This one is usually about a half hour, and gives multiple stories on the latest health news, everything from popular diet fads to new medical research. It's less motivational and more informative. NPR also has another program called NPR: Food, which combines weekly stories related to cooking and food politics.

Nutrition Tidbits: This is a new one for me, so I haven't incorporated it into my listening routine yet. But the topics I've downloaded all seem interesting: Are GM foods here to stay, Why do we overeat, Olive Oil 101. Along with eating advice, it also seems to feature interviews with food professionals, which are always fascinating.

Earth Eats photo taken from website.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Feature: Blogs on the politics of food

So, in the tradition of many other bloggers, I've decided to choose one day a week to highlight other resources out there, including books, blogs, and organizations, that are dedicated to healthy living. I'm calling it the "Friday Feature." The amount of resources on the internet and in bookstores can be overwhelming, so I'm hoping this will help narrow it down to the particularly useful ones.

This week's Friday Feature is focused on food blogs. There is an endless number of food blogs out there, and even more cooking blogs. So, in the interest of time and space, I've chosen three essential blogs that report on food and, more specifically, on food politics. These websites are great to read if you are concerned about issues of food safety, federal funding for food programs, and nutrition research. They also feature quite a few stories of food "renegades" who are fighting to change the food system, including inspirational gardeners, lunch ladies, and politicians. Here are the blogs...

Civil Eats: If you had to choose just one website to read about food politics, I would choose this one. The blog is updated regularly, and features a whole host of writers from various organizations. The stated mission of the site is to "promote critical thought about sustainable agriculture and food systems as part of building economically and socially just communities," and I believe it does just that.

Food Politics: This website is written by Marion Nestle, a professor at NYU who has authored a whole host of books on food politics and how to choose healthy, safe foods. She's a well-known and outspoken critic of industrial agriculture, but she isn't over-the-top about it. She posts about all sorts of food news, from recent food recalls, to controversial food policies being enacted by our lawmakers.

Fed Up With Lunch: This blog is written by an anonymous Chicago public school teacher, who spent one year eating school food with her students. She photographed every meal, and blogged about the (sometimes disgusting) foods that were served. Now that the year has ended (and she has no desire to continue eating the school lunches), she writes about other issues of school food and federal funding for healthy food initiatives.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A unique prescription for healthy living

Now that spring is finally emerging from an unusually winter-y winter here in New York, my feet are itching to be outdoors. It seems that each year, my beginning-of-the-year resolution to get more outdoor exercise isn't fully achieved until March, when the cold weather has finally passed. But as we know, most Americans spend too little time outdoors all year long. The average adult spends most of his/her day in front of a screen, and kids spend a shocking seven hours a day with electronic media, according to reports from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the National Wildlife Foundation. It goes without saying (but I'll say it) that so much sedentary time in front of a screen is not good for our health, increasing the risk of all sorts of problems, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and asthma.

As a teacher, it's astonishing and more than a little depressing to realize that kids spend as much time in front of a screen as they do at school. But lately, I've been hearing about an innovative way to fight against the tide of sedentary lifestyles in children. Pediatricians in Las Vegas have begun giving prescriptions for nature to children. The National Environmental Education Foundation launched a program called the Children and Nature Initiative, which trains health care providers to recommend time in nature, rather than pills, as a prescription for health. (It's only when appropriate according to the child's needs, of course, but I think it's always appropriate to spend more time in nature). For kids suffering from obesity, diabetes, asthma, and certain mental health issues, the doctors are now recommending more time spent in national parks and local nature sites. Here is the story from a doctor participating in the movement.

I think this is fantastic. There is an endless list of benefits to spending more time in nature. It reduces levels of many afflictions affecting Americans, from ADHD and asthma to obesity and heart disease. Studies show that outdoor walking does more for mental health than indoor exercise, and that kids who move from urban environments to greener environments have increased levels of cognitive functioning. Plus, getting outdoors will help you get to know your environment, so that you can appreciate (and ultimately help conserve) the land around you. Another bonus.

So, even if your doctor doesn't write you a prescription for spending time outdoors, it's highly recommended. As the National Park Service chief of conservation Rick Potts puts it, "Science is validating what moms have known for generations: Being outside is good for your health." Spring is finally on its way, and the days are getting longer. Let's spend more of them outside.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Yoga as a teacher

Today's guest post is from Christine Agro, an inspirational teacher, metaphysical expert, and host of The Conscious Living Guide with Christine Agro which airs live on Sundays at 9pm ET.  You can find out more about Christine and listen to her show by visiting She writes an inspiring story about the power of looking at yoga (or whatever strategy you use to live a healthy life) as a teacher.

When we hear about yoga it is often from the perspective of its ability to connect our body and our mind via our breath; or we hear about its tremendous health benefits of creating flexibility, strength and stamina. Rarely if ever do we hear yoga referred to as a teacher.

But it is. It is a powerful teacher, if we are conscious of all that it tells us, shares with us and shows us.

In 2001 I had been practicing yoga faithfully for years and I was teaching 11 classes a week.  I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in and completely in love with yoga. One day, I was working with a woman who had been a yoga teacher and due to an injury stopped practicing and could not get herself back into her practice.  I remember thinking, “How could anyone who taught yoga not be able to get back into their practice?”  Judgmental, yes, I know.

I am a big fan of saying "never 'never' the universe." I had a friend who said to me one day, “I’ll never date a man who has a child.” A month later she was dating a man who had a two-year old and my friend eventually married him.  The universe has a funny sense of humor.  Never it and it will prove you wrong every time.

So a few months after my thought about the woman and her yoga practice, I had a cyst rupture on my ovary and it knocked me out of commission for at least a year.  I tried to get back into my yoga practice but it was hard to have to start from scratch and rebuild my strength.  I found myself forever comparing myself to where I used to be.

I was keenly aware of my ego, the fact that I was seeing myself as I used to be and even coming to my practice from a time that was long since gone. Yoga, practiced with truth, requires that we show up honestly and if we don’t show up honestly, it asks us to come again another time.

I believe one day I will create a new practice, but for now yoga itself is one of my greatest teachers.

What is yoga teaching you these days?
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