February 28, 2013

Superman’s Magic (Sugar-Sprayed) Carrots

My friend, Jayne, rightly called me out, sending an email demanding that I write a blog post (which I believe she called “nice little blurbs”) for every single class meeting that I have. While this is not something (clearly!–finding time to make my bed is proving challenging this semester!) that I am able to do, I took her email as saying, “Sarah, you don’t have to make your bed today — write a little bit,”  which is much more fun. So let’s see what pours out of my fingers…!

So here we are. Starting a blog post without a topic in mind but encouraged to write something about school. Hmm. My classes this semester are stats, econ, nutrition in the lifecycle, and communication strategies for health promotion. While I could craft some regression equations, draw some supply/demand curves, or write quite a well-sized blurb about the benefits of breastfeeding (and post some pictures of new breastfeeding contraptions), I think what you would all find most interesting is a quick explanation of a project that we’re doing this semester for the communication strategies class.

My biggest project this semester is to develop a communications campaign encouraging kids, ages 5-12, to pick healthier foods when they’re eating out at fast food or casual dining (think applebees) restaurants. My group has been reading through some research that explains how kids want superpowers, and that convincing them that vegetables will give them superpowers (think “X-Ray Vision Carrots”) will encourage vegetable consumption. We’re also thinking of copying some other research that was done by encouraging kids to order their food as if they were a superhero. There was a study done showing that kids associate healthier foods with their heroes — they believe that superman would eat salad over ice cream. It makes sense, right? Grownups eat healthy food because they know it is better for them. If we highlight why (without outright lying to the kids) the kids should eat the healthier foods, they’re likely to. Kids want superpowers. Or badassery. Remember that “extreme  baby carrots” marketing campaign?

The organization we’re working for has ties to the restaurant industry and many confirmations that if kids demand a different kind of food, restaurants will work harder to meet those new demands. And it really is happening — McDonalds, etc, is transitioning to “healthy defaults,” or including milk and apple slices in happy meals unless soda and french fries are requested.

Later on this semester we’ll be conducting a focus group with some kids (anyone have ties to any groups of 5-12 year olds in boston we can use?!) and incorporate their ideas on restaurant eating and their understanding of healthy foods into our proposal.

We read about another study that shows that kids are more likely to eat more vegetables if they are sprayed with sugar water. No shit. I find it irritating that adding sugar to vegetables is a real solution that people are considering to increase vegetable consumption. Yes, the kids are getting the nutrients, but still. C’mon — there’s gotta be a better solution than sugar water.

All right, hopefully this little blurb pleases Jayne. I have to get my day underway! Be good, everyone.

January 26, 2013

The Paleo Diet: Some Thoughts & Information

There is no question that the Paleo way of eating has spread, and I want to take a moment to discuss my views on it, and perhaps answer some questions that might be out there.

The idea behind the Paleo way of eating is to eat the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, before there was agriculture to provide grains, etc. It’s a meat (grass-fed, of course, since there was no agriculture), vegetable, fruit, nut, and seafood based diet, and processed foods, grains, refined sugars, and dairy products are avoided. While I had previously heard of this eating plan, I wasn’t really exposed to it until I got a paleo roommate (he’s also in my school), and saw the food he eats, and heard about the journal articles he reads, explaining why sugar and grain products are the reason that everyone except Paleo-ers is going to die a slow and painful early death in a fiery pit full of sharks and monsters and zombies, etc.  I have worked hard not to let my wonderful roommate brainwash me Paleo, as he hopes to do to everyone (every time he hears of someone else on Paleo, he squeals, “it’s spreading!”), but I have to admit that I am starting to believe in its benefits. That said, I don’t think it’s something that we should all take on, for a number of reasons. Continue reading

January 17, 2013

Brain Window on Stress & Eating

plannerAs I was starting to write my assignments in my planner (all color coded) and was thinking, “oh, this might be another challenging semester–hope I can keep my food consumption under control,” I had a bit of a brain awakening: I might not be able to control my assignments or how much time I have to spend on school, but if I control my food and eat the quality things all of the time, I will feel way better, physically and mentally, and be able to better tackle the semester.

This seems very straight forward, I know. As I wrote in an earlier post, this is the first time I have been a student and also been a healthy person. I had 22 years of conditioning myself this way: lots of school work, lots of stress, eat ice cream and cereal and you’ll be able to escape from the stressful world for just a few moments. Whenever I’ve been in school, school has come first, so now prioritizing my health above my school work doesn’t come as naturally as I wish it did.

Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t eating total crap all of last semester, but I also wasn’t eating totally perfectly. Not that total perfection is the goal, but I know I can do much better than I did last semester. On weeks when I hardly had time to sleep or get to the gym, I didn’t eat as well as I would have liked. Then, since I had already “messed up” my eating plan, I just continued down that path until there was a clear re-start (i.e. new day or new week). If I had eaten well, I would have been more energized and probably been able to get to the gym and sleep, too. When I eat stupid foods, I am sluggish, grumpy, self-doubting, and constantly thinking “how and when will I knock this stupid binge eating thing?” and am therefore not able to perform at my best level. I’ve gotta eat smart so I can get the most out of every day and enjoy every day.  Continue reading

January 12, 2013

Using Workout Time Well: A Personal Trainer’s Tips


One of the many benefits of nutrition school is the wonderful friends that come with it and the wonderful knowledge, backgrounds, and passions that they have to share.  Katie Occhipinti has been a personal trainer since she was 18, once competed in a figure body-building competition, comes from a family of personal trainers, and has an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science. I’m always chatting with her about workouts and her training (and trying to squeeze out some new ideas), so I figured I’d ask her to write a guest post and share some tips and pointers from her vast pile of fitness knowledge & experience. If you like what you’re reading here, check out Katie’s blog at noskinnygirls.com


Time, or lack there of, is one of the biggest obstacles we face when trying to stick to our exercise regiment. Whether it is getting in a run before work or pumping some iron in between classes, making the most of our gym time is crucial. Try incorporating some of the tips below to get the biggest bang for your buck. You will see that kicking your own ass at the gym does not take long.

1.  Circuit train. Circuit training is a popular style of lifting weights. It consists of going through a series of exercises (usually 3 different exercises) and upon completing the last exercise in the series, beginning back again at the first exercise. Circuits are usually done 3, 4 or even 5 times through. If you are FIRST starting out, it is perfectly fine to go through your exercises one or two times through and then increase the number of rounds as the weeks go on. The benefit? Constantly moving from one exercise to another will help you maximize calorie burn and will allow you to strengthen many different body parts in one workout.  Continue reading

January 7, 2013

Multivitamins: Are They Necessary?

People often ask, “should I take a multivitamin?” and after a semester of Nutrition Science, I can finally answer this question a bit more thoroughly than before, but my response remains somewhat vague: Sorta. Why not? Can’t hurt.

Our bodies require a whole pile vitamins and minerals to be present in our diets. If any of these are missing in an extreme way, something negative will happen, and that negative thing can usually be reversed if the nutrient is added to the diet. Yes, our bodies can operate with low levels of some of these vitamins and minerals, but in order for it to really thrive, it needs all this stuff.

Let’s see if I can still list them all off:


  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin C
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • Vitamin B-6
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Biotin
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Copper
  • Chloride
  • Sulfur
  • Sodium
  • Selenium
  • Iodine
  • Fluoride
  • Chromium
  • Molybdenum
  • Manganese

I admit that I had to go back to old notes to get all of those. Continue reading

January 2, 2013

Spend Money On Fitness

With the new year come many new fitness resolutions, and this post is about what I think the #1 best way to ensure that fitness resolutions are met: spend a bunch of money on them. more than you really should.

As a graduate student living off loans with plenty of debt from undergrad, I am lacking in the money category. Nevertheless, last week I spent $10 to download Grand Theft Auto 3 (I am terrible at this game and stopped playing because I always killed the prostitutes who I was just trying to drive to the policeman’s ball so they could make some money, perhaps to afford a gym membership). We all throw money around stupidly sometimes.

My gym, with the student discount, is $90 a month. I just switched to it about a month ago. Since I pay $90 a month, the following things are true:

  • I go. Frequently.
  • There are about 15 classes each day, with everything from boxing and spinning to trampoline jumping and yoga.
  • The trainers are nice and helpful (and tell me when I look particularly badass, which I obviously love)
  • They have all the pieces of equipment & gagets I want (including punching bags)
  • They play classical music in the beautiful locker room.
  • There’s a whirlpool AND a sauna
  • The showers at the gym are much nicer than the shower in my apartment
  • The TVs are always playing a few chick-flicks (it’s an all women gym), SVU marathons, and random other things
  • The other people who go to the gym are serious about it, too, so aren’t drinking iced coffee and chewing gum (as previously experienced)
  • I go. Regularly. For all of these different reasons. And I love going.

In all practicality  I cannot afford this gym, but I don’t plan to leave it anytime soon. Exercise makes us much healthier, both in the long and short term. It’s winter in Boston–exercising outside is difficult, and I don’t have the equipment to do preferred strength exercises at home. Spending this much money on a gym ensures regularity for me. Knowing that I will continue to regularly exercise is priceless because healthy people exercise and that’s what I need to be forever and ever.

Fitness is truly is worth spending money on — and it makes us happier and healthier. Wanting to exercise and having a space in which to do it is worth much more than $90 a month. Our own health is, perhaps, the most worthwhile investment there is. When our bodies are strong, they are healthy. Exercise is shown to decrease risk for pretty much every single disease that we don’t wanna get. I’d much rather shell out $90 a month and feel strong and energized than save my money and hate going to a terrible cheap gym so instead and spend time trying to get better at driving prostitutes to the ball in grandly thieved autos. Pay for fitness!

December 29, 2012

3 Dietary Changes Inspired by 1 Nutrition School Semester

People often ask nutrition students what they should eat. I usually answer “eat real food” and then follow up that I have changed 3 things about my standard healthy diet since gaining 1 semesters worth of knowledge.

1. Milk Twice A Daymilk

How: While my roommate bet that I wouldn’t drink the first gallon of milk I bought before it went bad, I did. Challenge accepted. I just have a glass of milk with breakfast (or in cereal) and at some point later in the day, ideally after a workout. I prefer the taste and morals, etc, behind organic milk, but prefer the price behind regular milk, so I flip-flop.

Why: Most people have low calcium intake, and we really don’t want to be because after 30 our bone mass will start deteriorating, and if it deteriorates enough, SMASH, osteoporosis at an old age. And if it’s not osteoporosis, I mean. It’s not good–we want our old bones to still be strong bones. With menopause and decreased estrogen production, this is an even greater issue for women (estrogen helps calcium get where it needs to go in the bones). By ensuring adequate calcium intake we’ll have the strongest bones possible, and then it’ll be fine when they start deteriorating. Continue reading

December 27, 2012

Warming Up for Re-blogging

After an always indulgent and wonderful Christmas, I decided that it’s more beneficial to spend the rest of my semester break re-vamping and re-committing to the world of blog than re-watching every game of thrones episode (again) and try to decide on another show to watch. Parenthood and Hell on Wheels are top contenders, and I would like to finish freaks and geeks… but those just aren’t life choices that will benefit future-Sarah the most.

My first semester at school was glorious. It confirmed that I need to be in the nutrition/health promotion/fatness stopping field, and I’ve learned a lot (but looking forward to more) and met many wonderful people.

This is the first time I was a student after losing all the weight, and especially after slowly-weight-gaining-phase (which I can easily “blame” on the run-stopping foot injury and the big life change of deciding to leave a stable job to become a student again), I didn’t do a great job on focusing on my own healthiness and weight loss continuation/maintenance during this last semester. Learning how to prioritize new responsibilities and still eat smart and exercise was hard (I’m great at making excuses for myself), especially when all that school work and so many wonderful new social opportunities were thrown in! But I’m back in the saddle. I’m probably up 20 pounds from my all time maintainable low. It’s time to go back down (without sacrificing much of the blues music, football, and beer).

As I clean up the blog, update things as necessary, and start on new posts, I figured it would be nice to say hi and link to some old posts that really speak to the nature of why I loved blogging and what my goals of the blog are.

Brain Window on the Importance of Moderate Self-Elevation: Good head-stuff here, if I do say so myself!

Why I Was Vegan and Why Now I’m Not: Philosophies on food and simple eating

The Strength Part of the Gym is not Male Exclusive: encouraging badass lady gym-ing

On Binge Eating: Amazed with the response I got from this one–really showed how neat blogging can be.

On Balancing Work, Self, and Healthiness: Interesting to read with the new grad-school perspective!

On Not Running: In which I accept that injuries are not the be-all-end-all and that stubbornness is not always the answer.

Okay, so I hope that in this it doesn’t seem like I’m just linking back to old content for the sake of putting up another post without having to write a full one. That’s not the intention. Reading through those made me excited to get back on track and get back with the blog! School doesn’t start up again until the 16th-ish, so I should be able to get some solid content going (and perhaps even appeal to my nutrition-school friends for guest posts–wink, wink). I hope you all are enjoying the holidays, and generally also enjoying the life–I’ll be putting up new content soon!

%d bloggers like this: