I have a few very special mentors in my life. My parents have given me great advice over the last 27 years. I am certain that I didn't believe (or care) what they were telling me when I was a teenager but after I graduated college, my weekly phone calls turned into daily phone calls (sometimes 2-3 times a day) and you better believe that I needed them more than ever while I was in graduate school, in addition to after graduate school when I only had $10 in my checking account. Now as I embark on another chapter of my life with my dietetic internship, I am so fortunate that my parents don't charge interest because my education tab is getting rather large due to this expensive internship (on top of the past 2 years of my distance dietetic courses - thankfully, I have most of it paid off). Last night, as I was going through my distance dietetic internship handbook I had a little breakdown once I started calculating the costs and fees for everything. Let's just say, another year is going to go by and another downpayment for a house (in addition to the generosity of my parents) is going to go to my education. However, I could not thank my parents enough for giving me great strength and a solid direction as I continue my passion of helping others live a healthier and more active lifestyle. Judy Molnar (Iron Girl VP) has been very influential in my career path and she has given me countless opportunities to get myself out there in the public and do what I love to do - write and speak. Out of every opportunity and experience she has given me, I don't think I have ever said No. I am a go-getter so any opportunity is a good opportunity. I wish more people had a Judy in their life because there would be much more positivity and optimism in this world. Although the entire Tampa Ironman corporation is my family (I just love them all), Judy has taken me under her wings and has given me such great advice over the past 4 years. I honestly don't think I could be where I am now without her. Lastly, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a Nursing Home (and Long-term care facility) with a wonderful woman who owns a Medical Nutrition Therapy company in Jacksonville. Although the volunteer hours were for my clinical nutrition dietetic course, Donna taught me so much in the few short weeks that we were together (8 weeks). I loved every minute of working with her and I learned so much in a hands-on environment. She allowed me to take charge (which I love to do) and feel confident about my nutritional choices for the patients in her facilities (of course, she over-looked everything I did and she had the final approval since I am not an RD). I will be doing the majority of my rotations/hours with Donna (Food service/production and Clinical, still looking for my community rotation) and I am so excited to start. When I was nearing the end of my volunteer hours, Donna told me about a grant she was applying for and if I wanted to be the exercise expert for the grant. Without even asking any questions I said "YES!". A few months later, Donna and APEL Health services were awarded a DCHD/BCBS Childhood Obesity grant. Lauren (a Registered Dietitian) and myself (the exercise expert) are currently in week 3 of teaching 6 teens (16-18 yrs old) about the importance of physical activity and nutrition. We have 4 more weeks go before the teens then teach 120 middle and high school children, the information that they learned from us. Lauren and I meet with the teens once a week for 7 weeks. We have 2 hours with them (not enough time!) and we spend 90 min. on nutrition (broken down into sections in their binders that Lauren created) and then I exercise with them for 30 min. On weeks 1, 4 and 7 I have them do a fitness assessment to track their progress. We also weigh the teens twice to see if they have made any improvements. The teens keep food and exercise logs and we review them. Here's the description of the program or project to be funded YouthLink Healthy Kids Outreach Program is an expansion of APEL Health Services Center, Inc.’s youth program. Teen Peer Educators (TPEs), trained in nutrition and physical fitness, will educate 120 low-income, mainly African American youth living in three (3) low to moderate income apartment communities, with poor nutritional habits and with little opportunity for physical fitness or recreation activities. TPEs will also provide healthy lifestyles in nutrition and fitness messages on-line. Six (6) teen peer educators will be trained by Medical Nutrition Therapy of Florida, Inc., nutrition services consulting company with lead instructors, Registered Dietitian Lauren and fitness professional Marni. Outcomes include better health education and nutrition practices and more physical activity. 1. Increase by 25% of participant youths’ vegetable and fruit servings to 5 per day over nine (9) months. 2. Increase youths’ knowledge of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Food Pyramid for good nutrition by 50%, as measured on pre- and post-session tests for youth ages 12-18. 3. Increase youths’ intent to perform physical exercise by 50% among 75% of participants. 4. Improve teen peer educators’ knowledge of nutrition and physical fitness by an average of 50%.
Week 1 was great because we got to know the Teens and their knowledge of nutrition and exercise. The assessment was fun because they got to see how "fit" they were and learn about Heart Rates. Week 2 was a bit different because Lauren brought in homemade hummus, carrots, apples and water for our pre-training snack. On Week 1, the kids brought subs, cokes and chips. Let's just say this was the first time that the teens tried hummus. Week 3 was a bit more stressful. The teens seemed to be unmotivated to exercise. In my opinion, my 30 min. session (which we do outside) is not boring and is fun. I have them doing circuits, following a 5-10 min. warm-up. Considering that many of the teens find my warm-up of walking in place, imaginary jump rope, football run, jumping jacks and punching bag difficult, they don't give up. We don't do any exercise more than 1 minute and still they need several rest breaks. As for the nutrition part of Week 3, Lauren talked about the food label and how to read it, as well as discussing sugar in the diet. We both brought in several food labels of foods that we had in and out of our house and Lauren also had test tubes (filled with sugar) to demonstrate the sugar content of various products. I think the biggest eye-opener was Gatorade (which is filled with sugar) because it is an easy-to-afford drink, it tastes good and often it replaces water and milk. I discussed fat in the diet and how to incorporate more healthy fats (Unsaturated) into their daily diet and reduce the saturated fats. As you can imagine, fast food is a daily occurrence in low income neighborhoods because it is cheap. I used a model of 4 different arteries, each "clogged" with different amounts, thus demonstrating the effects of eating too much saturated fat. As much fun as this is for Lauren and I to teach others about the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle, we find ourselves stuck right now because we don't think the kids are getting it. I think they had a wake up call with the models of sugar and fat but I am not yet convinced that they are going to be able to take home our information and expect their parents and school friends to change. There is so much outside pressure to eat unhealthy especially when you are lacking in healthy resources. Obviously we can't expect these teens to eat at home every night so we are simply teaching them better choices (grilled chicken instead of fried, plain baked potato instead of french fries or skim milk instead of coke). After reviewing their foods logs, not one teen had a fruit or glass of milk all week last week! I hope the next 4 weeks get better. I really care about these teens and they are really smart and nice. Considering that they signed up for this grant and to spend much of their summer educating 120 kids, I know they are great people. I just want to make a difference in their lives. I know these teens have a lot of negative influences persuading them to live an unhealthy lifestyle but hopefully this educational opportunity will stay with them and they will learn to appreciate a more healthy and active lifestyle. I think this is a real eye-opener that there are lots of definitions of what it means to be healthy and to stay active. The fact that the media and so many "nutrition/exercise" non-credentialed guru's are telling you that you have to eat like this or exercise like that, to look like this, is totally out of proportion from your own reality. How can someone tell you what to do or eat if they don't know your lifestyle, diet requirements or activity routine. Sure, you can get some tips and tools from a professional who is passionate about exercise and nutrition but it is only when you take the time to find what works for you, that you will see and feel results. If you consider yourself a person who feels "guilty" when you don't get in your 90 min run (or only run for 45 min) or eat a piece of chocolate in the evening after you eat a homemade meal, take some time and recognize that eating healthy and staying active is all about balance. If you put too much pressure on yourself to change everything in one day or expect to eat/exercise unrealistically for the rest of your life, you are going to fail at your own unreasonable expectations. Find what works for you and learn to enjoy your healthy and active lifestyle which you can maintain.
Here's some pics from our last session. I was happy to see that they enjoyed making their own parfaits w/ my homemade granola. (I also brought in plain nonfat yogurt, strawberries mixed with crushed pineapple and cheerios).