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For Your Well Being: Lighten Up and Look Out

April 19, 2007, Vol. V Issue 8

Dear Friends,

I’ve been so busy writing about events I’ve been attending that National Nutrition Month (March) flew right past me. It’s always a good time to talk about nutrition as far as I’m concerned so I’m especially pleased to feature a program called, “Lighten Up Iowa,” in this post. Zonya Foco, RD, was in Dubuque in March to stir up participants who were mid-way through their four-month commitment to losing weight and exercising. Her lifestyle habit ideas were just the ticket to re-ignite enthusiasm.

And, in a turn of events, my husband invited ME to a speaker program. John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry were in Portland with their new book, This Moment on Earth – Today’s New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future. After hearing them and reading the book, I have a whole new awareness of the nexus of women’s health and environmental issues, particularly as they relate to toxins and women’s health. And I’m especially impressed with the leadership Teresa has been providing. Because of her long-standing interest in women’s health and the environment, her foundation began holding an annual national conference in Boston in 1996 on the topic. This year it’s in Pittsburgh – starting tomorrow — and if I lived anywhere near there, I’d definitely be attending it. If any of you get to go, I’d love to receive a report from you and share it with our readers!

Lighten Up Iowa

The news has been consistently letting us know there’s an obesity problem in America and how it’s growing. I’m happy to share that there actually is some good news in the heartland of America – Iowa – where the obesity problem is shrinking. Since the introduction of “Lighten Up Iowa,” in 2002, over 74,000 individuals have participated and lost over 153 tons of weight. Isn’t that impressive?

“Lighten Up Iowa” provides a network of support and education that teaches participants how to incorporate healthy behavior into their daily choices. Participants form teams of 2-10 adults – friends, family, co-workers or neighbors — to motivate and support each other. They choose one person, who has regular computer and internet access to be their team captain. Teams could participate in the Minutes of Activity Division or the Weight Loss Division – or both. Through the website, team captains register the team and team members report their progress monthly. This site also provides a daily journal and message center to help keep team members connected and involved in making healthy changes toward reaching their fitness goals.

“This was our second year of participation and we changed from a five-month program to four months,” Barb Horsfall, of the City of Dubuque steering committee, told me. “There was strong consensus that a motivational event midway would re-ignite commitment in our community,” Barb said. “People start out all fired up in January. About midway, as the weather starts getting nicer, they start to lose their focus.”

Almost 500 people turned out on a Tuesday evening to hear Zonya Foco, RD. “Zonya’s message is a lifestyle message — not a diet mentality — and she makes it fun and engaging,” Barb said. “Her message, congratulating them on how far they’d come, reinforcing the changes into their lifestyle and giving them new ideas, was a perfect fit.”

“I loved sharing my newest topic, ‘8 Habits that Will Change Your Life,’ based on my newest book Water with Lemon,” Zonya said. “I’m excited to finally be able to help people have peace of mind when they crawl into bed at night, knowing they’ve eaten the amount of calories that was healthy for them — an amount that will normalize their weight or allow them to lose weight if they need to. And it’s not just about calories, it’s about foods that will help them prevent and manage arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”

It’s all based on the simple habits that are revealed in Water with Lemon, which is actually a story – a health novel. Unlike preachy diet books filled with structured plans, this book models the emotional challenge of turning knowing into doing. It’s the story of diet-free, guilt-free weight loss.

“And what people really appreciate is that they never feel deprived, they’re never on a diet,” Zonya said. “What it boils down to is eight habits to learn – they’re simple. You start out with one or two and add as you go. When you do all eight in concert, magical things happen in your body. Some people call it ditching the diet mentality and I saw a lot of eyeballs in the audience get it that night in Dubuque. The beauty of it is that it works for everyone. The same habits apply for someone who wants to lose weight as for a seven-year old child who is simply learning good habits that will serve him for a lifetime, so he never has to lose weight. I call that obesity-proofing your child!”

“Lighten Up Iowa” has evolved into ”Lighten Up America” using this model to spread health across the country and create a supportive network of individuals and businesses who are motivated to change their lifestyles one step at a time.

To learn more about Zonya Foco and her programs, visit our website.

Look Out: Women’s Health & The Environment

After hearing John and Teresa Heinz Kerry speak during their book tour for This Moment on Earth, I have a heightened awareness and sensitivity to the relationship between women’s health and the environment. At the talk we attended, John Kerry was very clear that Chapter 2, “This Body of Evidence” regarding toxins, was Teresa’s baby. She has been an advocate for women and at the forefront of women’s issues for more than 30 years. Her goal has been to have an impact on educating women about the important nexus between the environment and women’s health by focusing on the impact of global climate change and how toxins are impacting our lives, our children’s lives and the lives of future generations.

The Women’s Health and the Environment Conference series explores the impact of the physical, psychological, and economic environment on the health and well-being of women. A project of the Heinz Family Philanthropies, the conference series began in 1996, bringing together environmental and women’s health leaders.

In a message on their website, Teresa shares some history: “When I convened the first Conference on Women’s Health & the Environment in Boston a decade ago, I wanted to arm women with information about the relationship between the environment and their health. Useful information was hard to come by then. There was a shocking lack of scientific research and policy discussion on the potential environmental causes of rising rates of various types of illness. It was almost as though no one wanted to consider the possibility that we might be poisoning ourselves through our environment.

“But the 1,000 women who attended that first conference got the idea immediately. They were moms, sisters, daughters and caregivers, and no one needed to tell them what the stakes were. Everyone there had lost a friend or loved one to breast cancer or some other disease, or had seen a child suffer from asthma or autism. And everyone there had at least wondered at some time whether the environment might be connected somehow. At the very least, they wanted to know more. And they wanted scientists and policymakers to have the courage to ask the question with them: How is our health being affected by the environment, and what can we do about it?”

Under the theme, “New Science, New Solutions,” this year’s featured speakers, in addition to Teresa Heinz, are Sandra Steingraber, author of  Living Downstream and Having Faith; Tyrone Hayes, author of Silent Spring to Silent Night: Hermaphroditic Frogs, Breast Cancer and Pesticides; and Fran Drescher, TV actress and author of Cancer Schmancer. In addition to educating women, the series encourages women to take an active and responsible role in decision-making about their health, lifestyle choices and economic futures. We’ll post further information after the conference.

Personally (and I look at this outside of politics), I’m very grateful we have a champion for women’s health of the caliber, credibility and commitment of Teresa Heinz Kerry.  And please note that all of John and Teresa’s proceeds from the book will be donated to environmental causes.

 A Personal Challenge

One of the most challenging aspects of environmental issues is that they can feel overwhelming, and it’s easy to feel frustrated and helpless about doing something – anything – to contribute to change. No more excuses! When it comes to toxic products, there are grass roots ideas and resources in the Kerrys’ book, This Moment on Earth. “How many of the products we use each day, even before ever leaving the house, have ingredients we cannot name (let alone pronounce) with chemical properties we do not understand,” they ask in the book?

Pioneering work on the “body burden”(chemicals we come into contact with that are seeping into our bodies) has been done by the Environmental Working Group, which spearheads the Human Toxome Project, the largest non-governmental bio-monitoring program in the country. EWG’s testing programs have uncovered nearly 500 chemicals in children, teens, and adults, including nearly 300 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood collected from a sample of 10 babies at the moment of birth. In every person tested EWG has found complex mixtures of industrial chemicals never tested for safety.

We’re talking about chemicals from products we’re exposed to every day, like vinyl shower curtains, shampoos, lotions, disinfectants, stain-proof carpeting, wrinkle-free clothing and “ocean”-scented detergents – even babies’ pacifiers that contain phthalates. And what are we putting INTO our bodies? Milk that originated at a factory farm where the animals were pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones, fruits sprayed with pesticides, and genetically modified corn syrup in our soft drinks?

To guard against this onslaught of chemicals, you need to educate yourself about the products you use and buy everyday -– from personal care to household cleaning products. The Environmental Working Group website has analysis of lots of specific products –- what you need to know and why. You can look up your shampoo and household cleanser, and hundreds of other products. By educating yourself, (and spreading the word to your friends and family) you become an informed consumer and then you can protect yourself and your family from harmful chemicals while voting with your shopping dollar. This is a very easy thing you can do for yourself that contributes to the Big Picture at the same time.

Until next time, I urge you to get involved and take a stand for your good health and the ones you love.

Yours truly in good health,
Barbara

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