Penny Mclaren 2013-02-28 04:58:29
There’s only one person who can change your health status and prospects: You. Are you ready to take steps that will leave you happier, more energized and more likely to live a rich, full life? School Nutrition shares inspiring stories of SNA members who have made that commitment. School nutrition professionals are out on the front lines, serving our nation’s children while serving up nutritious meals and encouraging the development of healthy habits. In the name of moving beyond talking the talk to actually walking the walk, many of your colleagues are personally confronting America’s obesity epidemic by serving as bona fide wellness role models in their schools and communities. This month, School Nutrition puts four of those health ambassadors in the spotlight. Learn how they made the connection in understanding that, along with improving wellness for children through their work, they also could change their own health status. Thus began a journey to personal wellness that has transformed—and continues to recharge—their lives. You can do the same. Let their stories inform, inspire and motivate you to take the first steps in a journey of your own. DONNA ROY Creating a Ripple Effect Before Donna Roy, RD, SNS, headed for Orlando, Fla., to attend SNA’s Child Nutrition Industry Conference (CNIC) early in January 2012, she had to do some clothes shopping. But as she was trying on items, she realized she only fit into size 3X. “I remember thinking, ‘This is the largest size in the store—what happens next?’” recalls Roy. Roy, school nutrition director for Pembroke (N.H.) School District, cites that particular CNIC as a turning point for many reasons. But her journey actually started some months earlier, upon Roy’s appointment to SNA’s Member Services Committee. The group started brainstorming potential new programs and initiatives. “I thought we should develop something our members could use,” recalls Roy. “We always focus on the kids, but I saw that we really needed to start with ourselves. Then we could inspire the kids.” If members could reflect what they tried to teach, it also might make a difference in the way school nutrition was viewed by the community. Thus, the seeds for a wellness program were planted, which eventually grew into the STEPS Challenge initiative launched by SNA and Jennie-O Turkey Store in July 2012 (see the box on page 26). But first, back to Roy’s CNIC epiphany. While she waited to hear how the Member Services Committee’s goals might come together, she had the opportunity to meet CNIC featured speaker Ali Vincent, the first female winner of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” weight-loss reality competition. Vincent, who lost 122 pounds during the show’s fifth season in 2008, has maintained a healthy weight and uses the transformative experience as a platform to inspire others. She certainly inspired Roy, who bought Vincent’s book, asked her to sign it and “dedicate it to the first SNA ‘biggest loser,’” says Roy. “It was the beginning of my inspiration.” At press time, that inspiration had led to Roy’s 55-pound-and-counting weight loss and some major changes in eating, exercise and attitude. Roy joined Weight Watchers and began to manage her meals the same way she directed her student customers: using the MyPlate guidelines. She joined a gym, going three or four times a week, right after work, using the equipment while watching “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” “I love Ellen, so I watch it and the time just flies by,” Roy laughs. Although she had been active with biking and rollerblading prior to her renewed health commitment, initially she found that she could only complete about five minutes on the gym’s stepper and elliptical workout equipment. Today, she is up to 50 minutes on each. “I just feel so good,” she says.” It has been life-transforming.” Now, Roy says, “I can walk into any store and have a [wide] selection of clothes, and it is just awesome. I have gone down four sizes, at least, and also have toned.” Even better, she notes, is the way her success has inspired others. Her school nutrition team has embraced wellness changes. A number of them attend Zumba classes, and one colleague has lost 30 pounds. Another joined Weight Watchers—and persuaded her husband to do so, as well. Roy’s success also influenced an important person in her life: “Once I started on my healthy journey, I was able to convince my 82-year-old father to become healthier,” she reveals. He bought a stationary bike, rides it seven miles a day and has lost 33 pounds in the past year. Of her hard work, Roy reflects, “You just feel better about yourself. It is a personal accomplishment. The result is that you are more positive. You think more of yourself. Often, people don’t value themselves. If I can help anyone else, it is such a good feeling.” She emphasizes that it’s not too late to change one’s wellness habits. “Some people might say, ‘For me, it is too late; nothing will help.’ But that isn’t true. If I can leave a legacy of healthier SNA members, I will be happy. Then there will be a trickle-down effect through the whole organization,” Roy envisions. ROY’S ADVICE: Change habits. “You have to ma ke chan ges to ad d heal thier habits in your life. Bad habits have to be repla ced by good. You have to eat right year a fter year. It is the right thing to do; it is the right thing fo r us and th e ki ds.” BRENT CRAIG A Life-Saving Decision Like Donna Roy, Brent Craig, SNS, director of nutrition services for Douglas County School District, Castle Rock, Colo., also is quick to cite a particular shopping trip for clothes. But the memory he cherishes came after losing more than 100 pounds. “I still remember it,” he says. “When I got to 275 pounds, I could go to a regular store and buy clothes.” It was the end of shopping at “tent-and-awning” stores, he jokes. Craig had a simple goal: Lose weight. And now that he has, “I am so empathetic toward others who have weight to lose,” he says. “I see them struggling with it, and I know how that feels. People are stuck, like I was. They have tried exercise, but had physical limitations. They push themselves, and then gain the weight back and then some.” His struggle with his weight started during his youth. “I have been obese most of my life,” Craig confides. After being overweight as a teen, an active lifestyle helped him to maintain a healthy weight in college. “But then I got married and had kids, and things got worse and worse over 20 years.” As with most people who struggle with unhealthy weights, Craig spent 10 to 15 years trying to find a lasting solution. Diets didn’t stick. Exercise caused him too much pain; he’d try walking for 30 minutes but would be so sore afterward that he couldn’t do it again for a while. The prognosis of type 2 diabetes made at a regular health check-up shook him. The possibility of having to live with regular insulin injections scared him. During a heart test, his resting heart rate was 91 beats per minute. “That’s awful,” he says. On the treadmill, it only took him five minutes to reach his maximum heart rate. Craig also developed sleep apnea, which disrupted his rest and meant he was falling asleep during meetings at work. “My life was out of control.” Finally, his doctor issued a grim ultimatum: It wasn’t a matter of if he would have a heart attack, but when, especially given a family history of heart problems. The pronouncement prompted Craig to make a tough decision and pursue gastric bypass surgery. “I realized there was no way I could climb my way out of the problem,” he admits. “The surgery was my way out.” To those who think surgery is an “easy” solution, Craig is adamant that it is not an option for everyone. “It is not an easy way to go,” he emphasizes. “That was a tough surgery.” First, it took the better part of a year to go through the insurance hoops to get the surgery approved. Then, he was faced with making drastic eating and drinking changes. Initially, Craig couldn’t drink more than three ounces of water without feeling full. “You are reorganizing your whole digestive system,” he explains. But the pounds do come off quickly when you’re limited to water and small portions of yogurt. Over the course of a year, Craig went from 395 pounds down to 235. His resting heart rate decreased to a range of 58 to 65 beats per minute. He does not require medication for diabetes. Exercise is easier. He no longer suffers from sleep apnea. “The doctor did the math and said I put 15 years on my life,” he recalls. That was almost eight years ago—and he has managed to maintain his loss throughout, since he eats “way healthier” and stays active. Craig concedes that he continues to confront common psychological battles. And sharing his story with School Nutrition isn’t easy, either. “I’m pretty shy about this subject,” he notes, “but if it helps one person change their life, I would feel great about that.” CRAIG’S ADVICE: Weight loss surgery requires a new approach. “Don’t eat big meals. I eat four or five times a day, but not full meals. I might eat just a banana or oatmeal. Eat just enough to meet your basic needs. Stop eating when you feel full. That might be three or four bites. If I feel slightly full, I stop eating.” SHANNON SOLOMON Passion in Action Shannon Solomon reached an important goal in October 2012, as she crossed the starting line for the Susan G. Komen Run/Walk for the Cure 5K in downtown Denver. It was the first time she had ever participated in a 5K. She knew it was an opportunity to start small toward healthier behaviors, remind herself that she was worth it and build her confidence. As she reached the finish line, she looked around and discovered more inspiration. Other participants included both cancer survivors and patients currently receiving treatment. Just by being there, she realized, they were winning their battles—and winning back their lives. “My battle was with a weight challenge,” recalls Solomon. “But when I crossed the finish line, I thought to myself, ‘If they can battle breast cancer, I can battle my weight.’ For me, it marked a lifelong change. It is a battle for my health.” Solomon reflects on how her professional and personal passions intersect. Recently promoted to foodservice supervisor for Aurora (Colo.) Public Schools, Solomon notes, “I love to cook, love people, love to serve. Serving good, nutritious food correctly is my passion.” But passion, she realizes, can manifest itself in different ways. “I have an addictive personality,” she concedes. “I am an ‘all-in’ kind of person.” Although “I never really thought of food as an addiction,” she knows better now, recognizing that making the decision to select nutritious options and portions is something she has to do every day. “It is a choice at every meal ,” Solomon emphasizes. So, she’s trying to turn her passions and addictions in better directions, such as kicking a five-year smoking habit and losing 126 pounds through diet and hour-long workouts. “Now, when it comes to nutrition and fitness, I have an addiction or a passion for it, which is not a bad thing,” she notes. Solomon, like most who struggle to make significant life changes, has had her share of setbacks, including a few that may have been the consequence of her “all-in” approach, such as when she got too ambitious about exercising and developed an injury. “I pushed too hard, too fast,” she admits. Wanting to avoid knee surgery, Solomon let up on her exercise regimen. Then she started sliding with some poor diet decisions, ultimately regaining 40 pounds. Today, with October’s breast cancer 5K inspiration front of mind, Solomon has started swimming three times a week. Why swimming? Well, it’s good exercise that is less punishing on joints. But her pool time also has something to do with her next goal: to compete in a mini-triathlon. “I want to do it before I am 40,” asserts Solomon, who just turned 39. She has her eye on an event in Aurora in August that begins with a half-mile swim in a reservoir, followed by a 12-mile bike ride and ending in a 5K run/walk. She has given herself 10 months to get physically— and mentally—ready. Although she still can’t run or jog on her injured knee, she continues to work on an elliptical machine until she loses weight and gets back into competition shape. “I’m excited,” says Solomon about her goal. “It’s going to be a very big challenge.” And it’s actually her second shot at this particular goal. She signed up for the same event back in 2010, but on the morning of the triathlon, “I chickened out,” she admits. It was a blow to her confidence, but she won’t let it keep her down and is determined to try again. Solomon’s appreciation for healthy changes has extended to her job. A culinary “boot camp” program for scratch-cooking skills was “life-changing. It showed me that large-quantity, delicious recipe production is feasible, and I wanted to pursue it, for the kids,” she enthuses. “To ignore what I’ve learned and continue to learn would be foolish. I know that I am alive to care for people.” Among those she cares for are her four children, ranging in age from 13 to 21-year-old twins. “My kids are at a point where trying new recipes is kind of fun,” she remarks. “My daughter especially sees my struggle with weight. She is looking at my choices, my portion sizes and exercise… . I want to be an example for her to make the right choices for her health, now that I have learned your diet and health will affect you the rest of your life.” Along with a renewed passion for improving her health, Solomon also has been focused on achieving an important education goal. In May, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in communications. Once she graduates, she plans to enroll in culinary school to become a chef. And that inspiration came from her 2012 participation on “Chopped,” the culinary competition show airing on The Food Network. [Editors’ Note: Look for more on Solomon’s participation in “Chopped” in an upcoming issue. ] Setting goals—for health, education, professional achievement—help Solomon stay positive and focused. And she urges others to do the same. “Set personal, achievable goals, but make them a little bit of a stretch,” she counsels. “Start small, maybe one pound a week to feel good right away. Or, keep it basic: ‘I just want to make it through lunch.’” SOLOMON’S ADVICE: Set goals. “It is hard to do something if you don’t have a goal. I set daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals. Sometimes I set large goals, like the triathlon, or sometimes smaller, short-term goals, like planning my meals for the week. You also have to learn to forgive yourself and learn from the experience if you do fail to achieve the goal—and then try it again.” GARY VONCK Running on All Cylinders Gary Vonck’s first foodservice job was nearly his downfall. It was the Seventies, he was 22 and hired to work in the sales department of a food distributor. He was required to know all the specifications of the products—and the company had hundreds of them. “I had to taste them all,” he recounts. Plus his job entailed product demonstrations and continual samplings with customers all across his territory. It’s not a surprise that in a single year, he gained 40 pounds. When Vonck decided to start exercising as a way to slim down, running was the current fitness craze and, more important, something he could accommodate in his heavy travel schedule. In six weeks, he lost 35 pounds. Today, Vonck is vice president of the education division for KeyImpact Sales & Systems in Chicago—and he is still a runner. More specifically, he is a marathon runner. He began training for his first marathon in 1982, and in 2008, he ran his 30th . Now, his goal is to run in the famous Boston marathon in three years, when he will be 60 years old. Of course, that’s the end of the long “race” that began June 30, 1978, when he ran his first mile. “I thought to myself, ‘I am going to die.’ I couldn’t even comprehend the thought of a marathon,” Vonck recounts. “But I have always believed the philosophy that anything the mind can conceive, the body can achieve. The body does adjust to the demand, and I was able to transform myself into a running machine. That first marathon was far easier than that first mile I ran.” By the time Vonck ran that first marathon, he says he was “very sufficiently trained,” completing it with the impressive time of 3 hours, 3 minutes. He met others in a community of runners, who offered encouragement, which was critical to his success. “When you try something, you find out if you have the talents to do it,” he says. “I found out I was good at it. I didn’t start running to be a runner, though,” he says. “I just wanted to lose the excess weight.” He’s been able to take the encouragement he received and pass it along. In 2008, Vonck’s 22-year-old son wanted to attempt the Chicago Marathon, alongside his dad, as a fundraiser for autism research—“My other son, his brother, is on the autism spectrum,” Vonck explains. Although Vonck had been hobbled by some injuries and couldn’t post a great time, it was an unforgettable experience. “I kept telling my son to go on and not wait for me. ‘Dad,’ he said, ‘I came to run with you. We’ll do it together.’ Fortunately, although I was injured, I was able to finish, and that’s not something everyone gets to do,” he says with great emotion. His son “was able to raise $4,000 to bring light to a cause that’s very important to us.” Vonck is a strong advocate for the importance of role modeling healthy behaviors. For kids, “I think we have to start from the aspect of being a good example to them,” Vonck says. But that modeling has another audience, too, he notes. “When we go to Capitol Hill [to lobby for school nutrition] and we are overweight, we are not [providing] a good example.” He is quick to explain that he is not being judgmental, merely mindful of the wisdom behind the saying, “What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you say.” Walking the walk, he notes, simply helps to strengthen our messages about the value of healthy school meals. To Your Health! Maybe you want to lose weight. Or, maybe you want to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet. Perhaps you know that you’d feel happier and more energetic if you increased your activity level. Maybe this is the year you try something new, like yoga or kayaking. Whatever your personal health and wellness goals, let the examples in this article serve as inspiration—and proof!— that you, too, can overcome obstacles and see what kind of transformations you will enjoy—right away and for the rest of your life. VONCK’S ADVICE: “Start small, but start, and be consistent. No one should start by saying they will go out and run five miles on Saturday. The body needs to adjust. Start with 10 minutes every day. It will become second nature. It becomes a part of your world.” TRIED-AND-TRUE TENSION RELIEVERS Is stress a given in today’s busy world? Well, yes, to an extent, but life also offers you many simple ways to offset and relieve your stress load. The following tips can help to reduce your frantic pace just a bit, by saving time and focusing on yourself. Remember, every new positive step takes repetition to become a habit! Timely Treats ■ Laugh! Seek out quick respites that will put a smile on your face. Maybe it’s pulling out a photo of your children or grandchildren that you keep tucked in your wallet. Maybe it’s watching a funny YouTube video (search for “baby laughing” for a guaranteed happy fix!). Silly, witty and snarky cartoons and pictures are shared via e-mail and social media channels every day—take just a few minutes to find one that tickles your funny bone—and share it with others! You will experience a genuine lightness to your spirit after every laugh break and feel renewed in facing the day’s challenges. ■ Carry a talisman. Anxious about a big event, such as an interview or important presentation? Wear or carry an item from someone who cares about you. Maybe it’s an heirloom necklace from a beloved grandparent or a pretty seashell your daughter found at the beach or a goofy trinket from a special time with a great friend. Touch the item and remember how much that person believes in you as a way to calm your nerves. ■ Take a few moments for a good stretch. It’s surprising how much stress we carry in our bodies, our muscles tightening with tension. Make a point every few hours to stop whatever you’re doing and just s-t-r-e-t-c-h. Shrug your shoulders up and down, roll your neck, bend at your waist and just hang out, rotate your wrists, flutter your lips. It’s a good break for both the body and the mind. ■ Treat yourself to occasional rewards, especially after a particularly busy period or the completion of a big project. Maybe it’s a manicure, an expensive brand of beer or just allowing yourself a chore-free weekend. Not only will such treats allow you to “stop and smell the roses,” but the promise of a reward can serve as great incentive and motivation for getting through the challenge of the moment. ■ Write your own favorite go-to stress-reducing ideas on small strips of paper or index cards. Place these in a jar or small box. Next time you recognize that you could use some stress relief, turn to your collection of ideas, pull one out and start decompressing! STEPS SUCCESS STORIES Ready to take steps toward better health and wellness? Then, it might be time to take STEPS! Since its rollout in July 2012, the STEPS Challenge, a health and wellness program designed especially for school nutrition professionals and sponsored by SNA with support from Jennie-O Turkey Store, has attracted participants from all across the country. Some are flying along, setting personal goals and stepping up to each of the program’s monthly challenges. This doesn’t mean they’re not encountering a few stumbling blocks—after all, these are part of being human! “The snooze button is [my stumbling block],” admits Janelle Brunswick, RD, LD, child nutrition assistant supervisor for Mason City (Ohio) School District, who uses it to avoid getting up to exercise early before work. Brunswick took on the STEPS Challenge last October. “Overall, I was really excited about it,” she reports. She has particularly enjoyed September’s fruit focus, February’s emphasis on eating whole-grain rich foods and January’s focus on fitness. “I’m a dietitian, so I do watch what I eat,” says the 25-year-old Brunswick. She doesn’t believe in a diet mentality, seeing how difficult that can be to sustain. “When I try to diet, I find myself focusing more on not eating foods; in response I end up eating more,” she explains. Instead, she seeks to change behaviors, such as eating only when she’s hungry. “A change in lifestyle lasts a lifetime,” she notes. The month-to-month STEPS program helps to make SNA members aware of how to work toward those lifestyle changes. “It keeps you in line as you work toward points,” Brunswick explains. “It is comforting to look back and see what you have accomplished.” Another key to getting fit is finding an exercise you really enjoy. In high school, Brunswick played volleyball—and since she still enjoys it, she’s motivated to continue playing. “Find what you enjoy doing and stick with it,” she counsels. She also is an advocate for some high-tech help, citing a free iPhone app called Sworkit, which directs users through different activities every 30 seconds, from sit-ups to wall jumps and more. “It will get your heart rate up,” Brunswick promises. “I really like it. I use it at home, and it gives me a great workout.” (For more suggestions of tech support toward wellness goals, see “Healthy Living: We Have an App for That!” on page 28.) “Sometimes I make goals that are unrealistic,” Brunswick admits, but the small steps in the STEPS Challenge help her to find a more manageable approach. “Don’t overwhelm yourself. Sometimes, if you miss one day, you feel like a failure. But don’t do that. Give yourself some slack and try again.” Also, keep in mind the advantages of the “buddy system.” It’s easier to meet wellness challenges when you have one or more partners sharing the struggle, keeping one another accountable and enjoying the results! Indeed, that’s what the school nutrition team at Hickman-Mills C-1 School District, Kansas City, Mo., has discovered. Leah Schmidt, SNS, director of nutrition services and the current SNA president-elect, encourages her staff to join in. “At least 10 to 20% of the department is participating,” reports Schmidt. “They have been supporting each other, encouraging each other.” In particular, she applauds the camaraderie of the team at Burke Elementary School, who have taken the lessons to heart. Cindy Brown, Burke’s cafeteria manager, explains that the work environment has helped team members to be supportive of each other no matter what challenge is posed each month by STEPS. “We spend more of our time with each other than we do with some of our own family members,” she notes, “so we know each other well.” While some might be more athletic than others, and four are over age 50, they support one another fully in tracking and sharing. “You have more motivation when you can partner with somebody,” notes Brown. And that motivation is working! Brown reports that the program inspired one team member to buy a treadmill and another to purchase an elliptical machine. They are in it for the long haul, Brown says, noting the program “will help extend our lives.” To learn more about the STEPS Challenge or to sign up, visit www.schoolnutrition.org/ steps. BONUS WEB CONTENT Need more motivation? Go online to find additional inspirational tips from the personal experiences of Brent Craig, Donna Roy, Shannon Solomon and Gary Vonck. Check out this exclusive bonus feature at www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazine bonuscontent.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/One+Life+to+Live/1330118/148692/article.html.