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Mindful Eating For Middle Age and Beyond

Posted By Nicole Christina, Friday, October 26, 2018
Updated: Thursday, October 25, 2018

Use snack or mealtime as an opportunity for a little break.

Mindfulness has become such a buzzword that hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear it applied to something new; mindful gardening, mindful flossing... Yet its increasing popularity gives us some insight into the impressive benefits it offers. The way we approach food and eating can have a profound effect on our overall health and happiness. After all, the way we eat is one of the most basic ways we care for ourselves, and we’re confronted with food choices several times a day. Mindful eating — being fully present and non-judgemental around our eating — is a total game changer. It allows us to pause, focus on our body’s unique hunger signals, and ask ourselves what would make our body feel satisfied and energized. It is the ultimate in self-care. And self-care is vitally important for keeping our minds and bodies working well in the second half of life.

Yet we often miss this wonderful opportunity to reboot, rest and recharge. Instead of taking a well-deserved break as we eat, we’re trying to catch up on the latest celebrity gossip, and order shoes online. Even though we know by now that multi-tasking means we do several things poorly because our brain doesn’t like to split attention, this is the way most of us live. But I’m going to make a prediction; if you insert just a few rest stops into your day — and eating is the natural time to do it — you will feel more balanced and well overall. And you will feel healthier, both in body and spirit.

Of course, food and eating are tricky subjects, particularly for women. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that most women reading this are focused more on losing weight, not using eating as a way to bring some calm and revitalization to their day. Indeed, in my experience as a therapist specializing in food and body issues, it is clear that many of us could benefit from a new relationship with food. Over focus on weight loss is a terrible waste of our limited time and resources. It takes precious energy away from our creative pursuits. Over focus on weight loss also makes us boring and self-focused. And then there’s the little problem that diets have a 95% failure rate. Better to focus on overall health and how we want to spend our time here on earth. Mindful eating does just that.

Imagine how your life would change if you used eating as an opportunity to care for yourself, nourish your body, and take a well-deserved rest? What if it was an opportunity to bring some pleasure into your day? Ask your body what whole foods would make it feel more energized and satisfied? And you don’t need to look at your friend’s plate. Everyone has different bodies and different nutritional needs, as well as different preferences.


Here are 3 simple ways to practice mindful eating on the go:

  1. Use snack or mealtime as an opportunity for a little break, sneak in time for satisfaction, and even delight. Look at your food and appreciate the colors, textures and flavors. Get curious about where all of these foods come from.
  2. Even sipping your coffee or tea with your full attention makes it more satisfying and more relaxing. It’s a whole different experience preparing your tea with intention and care. Compare this to drinking your drive-through beverage in the car with the radio on.
  3. Make sure you are breathing into your abdomen and taking a moment to just be present. Imagine that your only job in that moment is to rest and enjoy your food. Your body loves getting a good dose of oxygen. You will digest your food better, and feel calmer overall.

Even if you can only take one mindful sip of coffee in the morning, and the rest of the day is a blur, give that time to yourself as a gift. 

Nicole ChristinaNicole Christina, LCSW is a psychotherapist, professional blogger, and host of the acclaimed Podcast Zestful Aging. Nicole interviews inspiring woman about their projects, as well as their own metamorphosis as they age. She also presents on topics related to aging well, and has recently taught at Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Syracuse University and OASIS. Her online course, Zestful Aging; Simple and Sustainable Habits for Health and Longevity, can be found at NicoleChristina.com.

Tags:  Diet  Middle Age  Mindful Eating  Mindfulness  Nutrition 

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National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Posted By Rechá Bullock, Friday, September 7, 2018
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2018

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness month.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. Data from a study conducted by the CDC from 2015-2016 show that nearly 1 in 5 school-age children and young people 6 to 19 years of age in the United States are obese (CDC, 2018). Obesity is an excess proportion of body fat, technically defined in terms of a body mass index (BMI) of at least 30 or above. BMI is calculated in a different way for children and teens 2-to 19-years of age. BMI must be age and sex-specific because the amount of body fat changes with age for children and adolescents. Growth charts are used to verify BMI as a percentile ranking for children. A child is considered medically obese if their BMI is at or above the 95th percentile of children of the same age, height, and sex (CDC, 2017). 

Children who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and depression. Also, children who are overweight or obese are bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers, which can cause children to act out, suffer from depression, and have low self-esteem. These chronic health conditions can significantly set a child back and interfere with their ability to thrive and be successful in a school setting. Moreover, obese children are at a higher risk of chronic health problems into adulthood, which can include hypertension, heart disease, renal failure, stroke, sleep apnea, hypercholesterolemia, death, and even some types of cancers (colon, breast, and endometrial) (Turner et. al., 2012).

It can be very difficult for parent(s) to manage the weight of an overweight or obese child. This is especially true if the parent(s) are also overweight and have poor eating habits. To make matters worse, some health care providers do not feel comfortable discussing weight issues with parents due to the fear of alienating or embarrassing both the parent and child. In fact, in a study provided in the International Journal of Obesity, of the 8,639 overweight or obese children aged 2-18 years of age, who visited a health care provider annually, from 1999 through 2014, only 22.12% in 1999 and 34.43% of parents in 2014 were notified by their child’s health care provider their children were overweight or obese. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) were provided to parents for this study from 1999 through 2014. The study found health care providers increased notifying parents that their child’s weight was unhealthy between 1999 and 2014. However, the opportunity for health care providers to provide clinical interventions to address or reduce childhood obesity is substantially under-utilized (Hansen et al., 2016).


So, What’s Causing Childhood Obesity?

The answer to finding the sole causation of childhood obesity is not as clear as eating too much food and not exercising enough. A number of health care providers and researchers alike believe one of the most significant problems for the spike in childhood obesity rates is directly related to the number of foods that have significant amounts of sugar. In fact, Dr. Mark Hyman from the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic thinks sugar is just as addictive as a drug. In the film documentary Fed Up, Dr. Hyman revealed that added sugars and sweeteners are causing diseases in children that were once only seen in adults. 

Some key risk factors for childhood obesity include genetics, having a family history of obesity, cultural norms, limited or no physical activity, and having a low-income. It can be difficult to buy healthy foods such as fruits and green vegetables if families have a low income and live in a food dessert, where there is limited or no access to healthy foods. Some additional risk factors and challenges that are contributing to childhood obesity is unhealthy school cafeteria food which can be high in sugar, fat, and carbohydrates. Children who do not get enough physical activity at home and at school are at an increased risk for being overweight or obese. And, some children are unable to participate in physical activity where they live if their neighborhood is unsafe. 

Childhood obesity prevention initiatives must be put into place for children who are overweight. If not, children will begin to experience shorter life expectancies than their parents. As children head back to school, September is the perfect month to make changes that include more physical activity at school and swapping unhealthy meals for healthier alternatives. According to the CDC, children and adolescents should participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day (CDC, 2017). One of the best strategies to address childhood obesity is to take a population health-based approach, which involves spreading the word about prevention strategies that will help inform and educate parents, clinicians, and schools. We also need the federal government to support this complex health problem by implementing social media marketing campaigns that promotes healthy eating and weight reduction strategies. The government can also help by implementing legislation and policies that restrict companies from marketing unhealthy and sugary foods and beverages to children. 

In honor of National Childhood Obesity Awareness month, here are some prevention strategies and tips to decrease weight and promote healthy growth for children: 

  • Parents should talk to their child’s health care provider for clinical interventions to address obesity
  • Parents should learn how to read food labels 
  • Cook and eat healthy meals
  • Watch food portions and avoid second helpings
  • Avoid eating at fast food restaurants 
  • Limit or remove sugary drinks and junk foods from meals
  • Teach kids the importance of eating healthy by allowing them to help cook healthy meals
  • Use app-based programs to monitor physical activity like Kurbo Health or Fitbit Ace™ for kids
  • Make exercise a family activity
  • Parents should discuss school menus with their child’s teacher to determine if fruits and vegetables are on the menu. If not, parents should opt to make their child’s lunch and include healthy food and snack options. 
  • Schools can ensure children get regular recess that includes at least 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity

There are a number of great resources available online to learn how to read labels as well as healthy recipes that parents can cook for their families. Here’s a great resource of healthy recipes provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Deliciously, Healthy Family Meals (PDF). Let’s all do our part to reduce childhood obesity. Spread the word and share this article. Be Well!


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2018, January). Childhood Obesity Facts.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2017, August). What is BMI?
  • Couric, K. and David, L. (Producers), Soechtig, S. (Director). (2014). Fed Up. [Documentary]. United States: Radius-TWC
  • Hansen, A R., Duncan, D. T.,  Woo Baidal, J. A., Hill, A., Turner, S. C., and Zhang. J. (2016). An increasing trend in health-care professionals notifying children of unhealthy weight status: NHANES 1999–2014. International Journal of Obesity volume 40, 1480–1485.
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2010, December). Keep the Beat.
  • Turner, M., Burns, S. M., Knight, L., Ward, K., Garo, A., Morris, T., and Conaway, M. (2012). Weight management practices among heart and vascular health care providers in an ambulatory setting MEDSURG Nursing, 21(4), 222-232.

Rechà Bullock is a Certified Wellness Practitioner, Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist, Health Coach, Yoga Teacher (200-RYT), public health professional, and plant-based foodie. Her passion for health and wellness comes from a lifelong love of fitness, health, nutrition, yoga, and a desire to help people transform their health by eating foods that are nutrient rich.

Rechà's goal is to provide information to help people make food choices that are healthier for them and their families. "We cannot afford to continue to purchase and consume foods that are at odds with our health, such as genetically modified foods, steroids, antibiotics, artificial ingredients, and processed sugars." 

Tags:  Children  health  Nutrition  Obesity 

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Coaches, Let’s Get These Wheels Rolling!!​

Posted By Ellen Kocher, Friday, September 7, 2018

Breaking down wheels of life to get to the hub of coaching with a client-centered approach to rolling toward goals and beyond!


“There are many spokes on the wheel of life. First, we're here to explore new possibilities.” - Ray Charles

Some claim that the “Wheel of Life” has been around for over a thousand years. In modern day coaching and personal development, the “Wheel of Life” is a visual tool frequently used to identify the dimensions or aspects of one’s life arranged in a circle around a center like spokes of a wheel. The full circle defined this way, or the wheel, represents the whole of one’s life or one’s self.

A typical “Wheel of Life” exercise used in coaching entails assessing, with the client, the strength of each spoke to see how balanced the wheel as a whole feels at a given moment in time. Since unbalanced wheels are more likely to wobble and crash, this exercise is useful to help identify potential source areas of imbalance. Though such wheels are commonly used to initiate the focus for coaching work, I believe that they can be further developed, refined, and then utilized throughout the entire coaching process to support both client clarity of direction and optimal growth. In addition, this succession gives coaches a simple means for putting into practice many of the core competencies established by the International Coaching Federation and other global coaching organizations. 

In this article I illustrate this process with a “Wellness Wheel” because I believe that anyone can easily relate to personal health and wellbeing and, consequently, the method will be easy to follow. Though such “Wellness Wheels” are commonly used by health and wellness coaches, this Wheeling approach can be applied to any type of coaching. Ready to roll?


The Wellness Wheel(s)

Figure 1: The Six Dimensions of Wellness

A Wellness Wheel typically includes all dimensions or areas of an individual's life that constitute overall health and wellness. One recognized and reputed Wellness Wheel, is called the “Six Dimensions of Wellness”, developed by Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute. Hettler’s Wheel divides wellness into the following six dimensions: Occupational, Physical, Social, Intellectual, Spiritual and Emotional (Figure 1).

Any coach can imagine working through each of these dimensions using open-ended questions, inquiry, and listening skills to guide clients toward their current priorities. Most coaches can also easily imagine using the Wheel as a visual tool for raising awareness, in our clients’ minds, of the inter-connectedness of each spoke as questions and answers in each area overlap and blur perfect boundaries between sections. Typically, a coach would then assist the client in breaking down the spoke of a chosen focus to drive momentum for behavior change in that area, using the wheel as a visual tool for upcoming sessions. Here’s another approach I propose: What if, at this point, instead of just coaching, we made another wheel?

Figure 2: Four Dimensions of Physical Wellness

Let’s just say, for example, that our client chose “Physical Wellness” as the priority area of focus. The coach could then work with the client to create a second wheel representing the client’s vision of personalized “Dimensions of Physical Wellness”. An example of the way this second wheel might be broken down is shown in Figure 2. The client’s chosen dimensions might be: Nutrition, Physical Activity, Sleep and Mindfulness. Some clients, or coaches, might nudge the conversation toward other dimensions depending on how both define and explore Physical Wellness. 

Working with a client and this personalized Physical Wellness Wheel, balance can be explored again, and it becomes easy for both client and coach to visualize where behavioral change might begin. As a result, the coaching process has more specific direction in perfect synchronicity with the client’s understanding of wellness and desired focus. 

Figure 3: Eight Dimensions of Nutrition

At this point, it is possible to continue with traditional coaching around the client-identified area of focus. Alternately, one could “roll” out yet another wheel! For example, based on the prior wheel, perhaps the client discovers a readiness and willingness to prioritize nutrition. How about a “Nutrition Wellness Wheel”? This wheel might include segments such as:: Fruit, Vegetables, Carbohydrates, Protein, Fats, Water, Drinks, Mindful Eating and Micronutrients (Figure 3). Again, the client can be in charge of identifying the wheel’s spokes, perhaps adding fast-food, snacking, alcohol, or other pertinent segments.to their personalized wheel. 


Ready to Roll!

With the degree of specificity achieved using a succession of wheels, the coach and client can work through the third (Nutrition) Wheel spoke-by-spoke, with the coach eliciting the client’s understanding, information requirements, values and challenges in relation to each area. The coach might also provide education or resources, as requested and appropriate, to raise awareness about current and optimal states, thus driving momentum for change to the point at which the client has sufficient understanding and clarity to create SMART objectives.

Figure 4: Carbohydrates Smart Goals

So why not another wheel at this point? The client is accustomed to the approach by now, and this is where the “rubber meets the road”! Let’s assume this client chose to focus behavior change action steps on carbohydrates. The coach and client can now “roll out” goals, breaking down the focus (Carbohydrate) topic into client-identified SMART objectives, which might be, for example, those identified in Figure 4: switch to whole wheat bread, use my fist to determine my carbohydrate portion size, increase complex carbohydrate intake to twice weekly, and replace white carbs with pulses/legumes twice weekly. Now this fourth wheel has also become a clear guide to action steps as well as a monitoring/accountability mechanism for the client to work with until next session. The client has been engaged by the process of creating the wheel that then “rolls into action” as both a visual reminder of how to “steer” toward goals and as a “compass” or “GPS” to check on direction at any given moment. For the coach, this wheel can be referred to in the following session(s) when discussing progress and exploring further forward movement.

In the example I have created in this article, the client is always at the center of the coaching process – the driver “at the wheel,” empowered to steer a personalized route. By co-developing a series of wheels throughout the coaching process, exploration stays simple, focused, clear, and rolling full circle in the client’s chosen direction. At any time, the coach and client can roll backward to drive the coaching toward another spoke or even toward another wheel. Using such a creative succession of wheels in collaboration with our clients allows us to put into practice many of the core competencies established by the International Coaching Federation including Co-creating the Relationship, Communicating Effectively, Facilitating Learning and Results, Creating Awareness, Designing Actions, Planning and Goal Setting and Managing Progress and Accountability. So, are we on a roll here? I would love your thoughts!

A sincere acknowledgement for her encouragement and editing support to Elizabeth Ahmann, ScD, RN, PCC, NBC-HWC, Health and Wellness Coaching Department, Maryland University of Integrative Health

Ellen Koche is an American-Swiss Certified Health Coach. After 10 demanding years in the Finance Industry, Ellen lost 20 kilos through nutrition and lifestyle change and has dedicated the past 15 years to health coaching and to workplace wellness. Through her company, Whealthness, she has coached individuals and groups in over 20 worldwide organizations to go from “knowing what to do to actually doing it!” with their self-care.


Tags:  Coaching  Nutrition  Six Dimensions  Wellness Wheel 

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