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New Dietary Guidelines

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services released Monday the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It was the first update in five years in compliance with federal law.

The guidelines made 23 recommendations for the general population and six for specific groups such as pregnant women.

Some quick thoughts on the new dietary guidelines:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables/Choose a variety of vegetables — studies have shown that Americans don’t eat their vegetables. In fact, only 23% of meals include a vegetable and the number of dinners prepared at home that included a salad was 17%.  Their request is futile!
  • Reduce daily sodiumwith the CDC, NY gov and others behind the goal to reduce sodium, Americans will be doing it without even knowing.
  • Cut calorie intake — even I have a hard time cutting calories and I track them…
  • Switch to low fat milk— I shutter every time I see someone drink whole milk.

Relationships Keep ‘Em

The PR industry has two significant challenges—a high level of staff turnover and a strong demand for a multi-skilled staff.

Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found the number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs far exceeded those released by companies.  According to a December 2010 Right Management survey, 84% of respondents intend to actively seek a new position in 2011, and another 11% are networking or updating their resumes; with only a handful remaining at their current job.

So why do employees quit? Opportunities, salary, challenges and growth are all common reasons. Perhaps one of the main reasons though, is poor management. Because having a good manager can actually help minimize all those other reasons.

Studies have shown that talented employees will quit a job due to the relationship with their manager. Selecting the best people for key management roles, rewarding good management and constantly training managers, an organization can create a good work environment and ensure a low employee turnover.

There are things managers cannot change. They can’t grant career moves or more pay easily. But employees thinking about leaving can often be retained by other means. If they feel genuinely valued and appreciated by their manager they will feel a stronger sense of loyalty. By giving them more interesting work and learning opportunities, many employees who might leave will stay around, at least a while longer.

Maybe not this close, but you get the point

Deep communication is the real secret of employee retention. Career satisfaction is critically important to employees and they need someone who will listen supportively to their hopes and concerns. This needs to be the manager, not someone in HR, because the manager-employee relationship is critical to long term employee retention.

Deny, Deny, Deny

Back in September, Harris Interactive/Health Day completed a poll showing that 30 percent of those in the “overweight” class believed they were actually normal size. And 70 percent considered to be obese just thought they were overweight. (I discussed it in You May Not Like This…But You are Fat)

While Americans are attempting to eat healthier — 59 percent said they were “careful” about their food intake – they may be giving themselves more credit than they deserve.

Of those surveyed, only 15 percent actually counted calories and only 58 percent ate the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Based on the heights and weights they gave Consumer Reports, about 35 percent were at an appropriate weight, 36 percent were overweight, and 21 percent officially qualified as obese, with a body mass index of 30 or more.

See more of the report here.

Sleeping Your Way to the Top

Have you ever had a long night at the office and then gone back to work the next morning hating life? What about even having a late night out with your friends and having to be on a client call at 9:00 a.m.?

The average person now spends 45 hours each week at work. And that number doesn’t take into account additional job-related work people do from home, thanks largely to technology.

Nearly 50 million Americans suffer from sleep problems and disorders that are compounded by, you guessed it, work. Longer work days that extend late into the night get in the way of a good night’s sleep.

Lack of sleep can actually impair your job satisfaction.

At TedWomen in December, Arianna Huffington talked about sleep’s role in your professional life and how it can unlock brilliant ideas.

“The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep,” she said. “We are literally going to sleep our way to the top — literally!”

Check out her video below.

New Rules Call for Healthier Lunches

The school lunch overhaul proposed today by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is a giant leap in the right direction for tackling obesity in America.

The proposed rules would gradually reduce sodium, limit starchy vegetables, ban most trans fats, require fat-free or lowfat milk, increase whole grains, add more fruits and vegetables, and, for the first time, limit the number of calories children consume daily.

In a national telephone news briefing, Vilsack says children get about a third of their calories in school and that the number needs to be reduced to head off “serious consequences” relating to their health and also national security.

The new guidelines apply to breakfasts and lunches served at the school, but not what’s sold in the vending machines. (Apparently this will be addressed later)

This is the first time in 15 years that real changes will be made to school lunches. Today’s proposal comes a few weeks after President Barack Obama signed the child-nutrition bill into law. Vilsack says that law will provide up to $380 million annually in federal funds to help schools meet the new nutritional guidelines. He adds that the standards are a proposal, and it will likely be several years before schools have to make changes.

Running in the Cold

For some reason or another I convinced myself to do New York Road Runners 9+1 program. This way I get automatic entry into the 2012 ING NYC Marathon.

Since there is a chance that after May I may not be here (my fiancée is currently looking for a job, post-graduation), I decided I needed to get it done before then.  This means at least two races a month starting now, which brings us to…cold weather running.

Sunday I ran in my first race of the year (The Fred Lebow 5-miler). It was 15 degrees outside. It was hella cold and this is what I learned.

  1. You will not be the only crazy person waking up at 6:00 a.m. to get on the 6 train to go to Central Park.
  2. My fingers are the only place on my body I could not get warm. I must invest in better gloves. Suggestions welcome
  3. Dogs LOVE snow. I swear that every dog out there had a huge smile on their face from rolling around in the snow.
  4. By mile 4, when it’s seriously cold outside you are practically drinking ice. I am not joking, ice cubes.
  5. Even if you are running next to a guy with a ridiculous hat on, who is taking pictures of himself and CP and is keeping pace with you. That is motivation.
  6. Running faster so that your little fingers don’t break off helps set new PRs.
M, K, & L at the Jingle Bell Jog, wasn't as cold as Sunday's race.

Healthy Eating Varies by Generation

Just as each generation has its defining moment (e.g.; WWII, Woodstock, Facebook etc) they also apparently eat differently.

According to a report by the NPD Group, older generations eat more healthfully than the younger generations. The report, “Healthy Eating Strategies by Generation” identifies the gaps between actual consumption behaviors and intentions; finding those younger generations (Gen X, Y, and younger boomers, ages 21 to 54) have the least healthful diets.

It might just be because those 54 and up often have a greater need to eat healthy due to underlying medical conditions.

What the generations appear to have in common, the report found, is a shared understanding of what constitutes healthy eating. They are all able to define healthy eating and are aware of the top characteristics of a healthy lifestyle:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat well balanced meals
  • Eat all things in moderation
  • Limit/avoid foods with saturated fat/cholesterol/trans fats
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water/day

Maybe just educating consumers about proper health and nutrition should not be the main goal. Connecting the dots for consumers in terms of a product benefit to a fundamental characteristic of healthy eating may be the challenge.

While many aspects of their diets could use improvements, the largest deficiencies in adults’ diets are insufficient intake of fruits, vegetables, and dairy predicts and over consumption of total fats.

Dori Hickey, NPD director of product development and study author, said “It comes down to adult consumers needing help to improve the healthfulness of their diets. Knowing which consumer groups need the most help and understanding how to address consumers’ current and future needs and desires for healthy food is the opportunity for food and beverage marketers.”

Celebrity Weight Loss

Each week US Weekly, People and the likes plaster headlines such as “celebrity bikini bodies” and “how she lost her baby weight in just 4 weeks!” No matter how sane of a person you are, you can’t help but want to try their special workout plan or diet.

Here is the thing though… they have personal chefs and trainers and more than a quick 45 minutes to put into the gym.  That’s why I was really excited when Primetime did a special this week on celebrity weight loss.

The special took a long hard look at what really goes on behind the red carpet. One dietician, Keri Gans, said something that struck me “Celebrities don’t know anything about diets. All they know is that they lost weight.”

However, Kendra’s weight loss story that got me.  She had a hard time losing the baby weight that she so gleefully put on. Working out two hours a day didn’t help. She considered lipo (like so many others), but didn’t.  Her struggle made her seem almost normal.

But she is still a celebrity and her body is still her business.   There isn’t really an opportunity for people like you or me to emulate them.

Even if I quit my job and had all the hours in the day to exercise and make healthy meals, I STILL wouldn’t look like the average celebrity.  The solution? Be healthy for me because I am not appearing on TV (although my wedding photos are motivation).

Weight Gain Changes the Brain’s Response to Food

Every time I come to Florida, I immediately start to crave Publix birthday cake. The yellow cake with buttercream frosting is pretty much my ultimate sweet tooth fix.  That first bite just makes me oh so happy you can probably see it all over my face.

Unfortunately, not everyone continues to feel that same elation. Researchers tested the response overweight or obese individuals had when drinking a milkshake and it turns out they don’t get that same pleasure.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, they found that overweight and obese people showed less activity in the caudate nucleus of the brain (this is the region involved with reward) when drinking a milkshake than did normal-weight people.

Children at risk of obesity actually had an increased caudate response to milkshake consumption, compared with kids not considered at risk. This suggested that the caudate response decreases as a result of overeating through the lifespan.

Among other things, the brain’s caudate nucleus is involved with regulating impulsivity, which is related to self control and addictive behaviors.

This means that overeating may cause adaptations in the dopamine system, leading to further risk of overeating.

Researchers are not sure whether weight loss can return the brain to normal functioning, but plan to find out.