Monday, April 15, 2013

The Weight of the Nation

As a dietitian, I am very conscious of the weight problem that seems to be engulfing our country. Every day, I see more and more people desperately seeking the knowledge and resources to lead a healthy lifestyle. The problem? There are too many environmental factors working against them.

HBO recently released an interesting TV special entitled, The Weight of the Nation. The film was produced as an effort to raise awareness about the ever increasing health problems which are directly related to obesity. The four-part documentary series feature, “case studies, interviews with our nation’s leading experts, and individuals and their families struggling with obesity.” (source) The Weight of the Nation does an excellent job of portraying the seriousness of the obesity issue, especially when it comes to our children. The documentary does not glaze over any of the real issues causing obesity; the invasion of too many processed foods, sedentary activities (video-games, computers, TV, etc), and the strong influence of food marketing on our children.

One of the main concerns addressed in the documentary is childhood obesity. The film states that this is the first generation of children who may not out-live their parents. Scary. Children are our future and a direct result of the environment that surrounds them. It is up to us to make a difference in their environment, from the foods they eat, to the activities they engage in; we are responsible for their well-being.

It is time for our Nation to make a change and The Weight of the Nation is a step in the right direction. Schools need to offer longer lunch periods, better quality foods, and more time for recess. The work environment needs to encourage physical activity, provide employees with healthy food options, and nutrition education. Communities need to offer easier access to healthy foods and ways to be more physically active.

We need to come together as a society and put a halt to the ever-growing obesity “epidemic.” We need to stop putting all our focus on things that don’t matter and start taking time for ourselves. Take care of your body and it will take care of you. If mainstream food companies start to see the public looking for MORE whole foods, they may start making a change! If the community sees a NEED for more sidewalks, parks, and playgrounds, they just might do something about it! If there is a strong NEED to get healthy, our society will (eventually) accommodate.

In the meantime, help set the example!!! BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN OTHERS! (Isn’t that how the famous saying goes?)

  • Always take the stairs.
  • Go for walks on your lunch break.
  • Hit the gym after work.
  • Form an after-work exercise group.
  • Work in the yard when you come home!
  • Make time for the grocery store!
  • Cook from home!!
  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store.
  • Bring healthier foods to potlucks and parties.
  • Pack your child’s lunch with fruits and veggies!!
  • Inform your children about healthy eating and if you don’t know yourself? Get help!
  • Limit sedentary activities to <1-2 hours per day, particularly for children!

Do you have anything to add to the list? How have you tried making a change? Have you seen HBO’s new documentary? What are your thoughts?

Today's Guest Blog: The Value of Eating Well During Cancer Treatment by David Haas

Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy -- all of these cancer treatments can be hard on the body. Eating well during treatment can help cancer patients feel better, function better and improve their chance of recovery. Doctors and nutritionists can work with patients to create healthy cancer diets.

Healthy Foods

Doctors and nutritionists do not recommend foods as a way to destroy tumors and kill cancer. No single food can do this. However, healthy foods can give the body the strength and energy it needs to fight cancer and cope with treatment side effects.

 When people battle cancer, extreme diets can leave them short on life-saving nutrients. Color and variety ensure a well-balanced diet, and plant-based foods are generally healthier than animal-based products. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and 100-percent juices supply the body with key nutrients. Whole grains and cereals provide important fiber.

Poor Appetite

Cancer treatments cause a loss of appetite, so eating well is hard for most patients. Other symptoms also impact nutrition and digestion. Among them are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, sore throat, pain and depression.   

Malnutrition is a real and dangerous threat for many cancer patients. According to the National Cancer Institute, malnourishment plays a role in up to 40 percent of all cancer-related deaths. Eating well during treatment can increase the chance of survival, and nutrition therapy can help.

Nutrition Therapy

Patients who cannot eat normally because of cancer treatment face a number of health risks, such as drastic weight loss, unhealthy blood counts and depleted nutrient stores. Nutrition therapy can help alleviate the side effects, prevent treatment delays and improve overall health.

Nutrition therapy for cancer patients may include simple dietary changes, between-meal supplement drinks, tube feedings and intravenous nutrition therapy. Nutrition therapy is especially important for cancer patients who receive stem cell transplants.

Dietary Supplements

When people are diagnosed with common cancers like prostate, breast or lung cancer, or with rare diseases like mesothelioma or heart cancer, it is tempting to supplement the diet with nutritional supplements and herbal remedies.
When recommended by a doctor or nutritionist, dietary supplements can be a good way to meet nutritional needs. Multivitamins and botanicals can interfere with some treatments, however, so they should always be discussed with a doctor. - David Haas

Monday, April 2, 2012


Every April since 1995, communities around the country have come together to celebrate National Public Health Week (NPHW). This year, NPHW 2012 is April 2 - 8, 2012 and the Lake County General Health District will focus on the theme “A Healthier America Begins Today: Join the Movement.” Preventing disease before it begins is critical to reaching this goal, as well as to lowering the cost of health care. If we take small actions, our communities, homes and families will see the large benefits of preventive care and contribute to the growth of the movement. Each year, chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes are responsible for millions of premature deaths and cause Americans to miss 2.5 billion days of work, resulting in lost productivity totaling more than $1 trillion.

The 2011 Lake County Community Health Assessment indicated that Childhood Obesity (53.4%), Drug Addiction (44.4), Mental Health/Illness (42.2%), and Childhood Obesity (39.9%) were the most important problems facing Lake County. The report further indicated that 68.5% of Lake County adults are overweight or obese. Additionally, the report cited lack of exercise (46.7%), poor eating habits (42.3%), and smoking/tobacco use (38.6%) among the “unhealthy behaviors effecting health.

In order to make Lake County the healthiest county in Ohio, Lake County General Health District is developing key partnerships with stakeholders and agencies, such as Lake Health, Lake County YMCA, Lake County Free Clinic and countless others.

Lake Health leads the B-Fit Corporate Challenge with support from the Lake County General Health District, Lake Metroparks, and the Lake County YMCA that allows for employers and employees to keep active and expose them to life-long physical activity options. For more information, visit or contact Sharon Minjares 440-350-4512.

Action Communities for Health, Innovation, & EnVironmental ChangE (ACHIEVE) Wellness Lake County is a central site to get involved in starting your school or agency on a path to better health. We are also looking for leaders to become engaged in our efforts to impact health policies and programs in Lake County. To find out more, visit or contact ACHIEVE Coach Tori Sinclair at 440-350-2442.

Over 25 Lake County families have benefited from the personalized nutrition and healthy lifestyle coaching services of the Lake County Healthy Lifestyle Initiative. One family first seen during the month of February was able to incorporate changes they learned from the Healthy Lifestyle Initiative Registered Dietitian and Health Educator into their daily lives and have began to see results. The son saw a two pound weight loss over the course of the month and has gotten his blood glucose readings under control. Additionally, the whole family has seen an improvement in their health since beginning the program.

For more information on NPHW, visit

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lighten Up 2012

Every year The News Herald hosts a weight loss competition for readers.  Competitors are required blog their journey through the New Herald web page, weigh in monthly, and be featured in the newspaper.  Due to this year’s surplus of applicants The New Herald was unable to take all that were interested and has asked the Lake County General Health District to assist them in reaching out to more participants.

The Lighten Up program has been able to pull together many local resources to help support participants.  The Lake County YMCA is offering a free 4 month membership to be used at any of the 3 branches. Additionally, Lake Health has graciously offered to provide participants with free classes through their Wellness Institute.   Last, the Lake County General Health district is managing the weigh-ins for the non-News Herald participants, offering free registered dietitian services, and any additional services deemed necessary to the success of the program.

We are excited that so many local resources are willing to share in this endeavor and hope that these participants can help be an inspiration to all those hoping to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Walmart to Assist With School Nutrition Initiatives

The Lake County General Health District is glad to see another private industry join the fight against obesity.  The Walmart Fondation is donating a total of $9.5 million nationwide to various health promotion and healthy eating initiatives.  One such program, Action for Healthy Kids, a non-profit organization helping schools provide better nourishment for children, will be receiving a grant for $1.5 million.   This grant will be used to help increase access the healthy foods, provide students with nutrition education, and provide 20 state teams with funding to recruit more volunteers and carry out support services. The additional funding will assist in reaching 160,000 children at about 400 schools nationwide. 

Action for Healthy Kids reaches students in all 50 states and has over 20,000 volunteers.  In the 2009-2010 school year the organization reached about 4.5 million students in over 9,000 school districts.  Many of the programs focus on increasing physical activity and healthy eating habits for life.  Volunteer and donation materials can be found on their website, along with information regarding some of their different programs.  

The Lake County General Health District is the representative to the Ohio Action for Healthy Kids Zone 4 efforts on behalf of Lake County.  Visit to find out you can get involved. 

If you would like more information on the different organizations receiving money for health promotion activities from the Walmart Foundation, you can find that information on their corporate website by clicking here. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Change is Good: USDA's New Standards for School Lunches

On January 25, 2012 USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and First Lady Michelle Obama announced new school lunch guidelines that will gradually be phased in starting in Fall 2012.  The changes reflect the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were released last January, and are a part of The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans focus on calorie balance, consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages, limiting added fat and sugars, limiting sodium, increasing whole grain intake, and increasing intake of fruits and vegetables.  The new guidelines for lunches follow these recommendations.  Schools will now offer children portion sizes consistent with their estimated calorie needs, provide a full serving of fruits and vegetables each day, vary the colors and types of fruits and vegetables, limit saturated and trans fats, limit sodium, and increase whole grains.   For more specific information on these changes you can view the USDA press release here.  Also, a sample menu depicting the changes can be viewed here.
About 32 million children in the United States participate in school lunch programs everyday and with about one-third of school school-aged children being classified as overweight or obese, these changes have the potential to help kids establish healthy eating habits.  For now these changes will only effect school meals and do not apply to vending machines or รก la carte items.  New guidelines for those foods will be released in the future. 
If you would like more information regarding the recommendations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans you can view the Executive Summary online here.
*Information adapted from the USDA, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, and “Government requires more fruits,  veggies for school lunches” USA Today available at

Friday, December 16, 2011

Great News for the Fight Against Obesity!

For Medicare beneficiaries with obesity, who are competent and alert at the time that counseling is provided and whose counseling is furnished by a qualified primary care physician or other primary care practitioner in a primary care setting, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will now cover:
  • One face-to-face visit every week for the first month;
  • One face-to-face visit every other week for months 2-6;
  • One face-to-face visit every month for months 7-12, if the beneficiary meets the 3kg weight loss requirement as discussed below.
At the six month visit, a reassessment of obesity and a determination of the amount of weight loss must be performed.  To be eligible for additional face-to-face visits occurring once a month for an additional six months, beneficiaries must have achieved a reduction in weight of at least 3kg over the course of the first six months of intensive therapy. This determination must be documented in the physician office records for applicable beneficiaries consistent with usual practice.  For beneficiaries who do not achieve a weight loss of at least 3kg during the first six months of intensive therapy, a reassessment of their readiness to change and BMI is appropriate after an additional six month period.

For the purposes of this decision memorandum a “primary care physician” and “primary care practitioner” will be defined consistent with existing sections of the Social Security Act (§1833(u)(6), §1833(x)(2)(A)(i)(I) and §1833(x)(2)(A)(i)(II)).
While this is a HUGE step in the right direction of putting a stop towards the rising rate of obesity it is sad to see that Registered and Licensed Dietitians, who are uniquely qualified to effectively address weight management at low cost. 

For more information on this newly developed benefit visit:

Ron H. Graham RD, LD, MPH