Wednesday, January 27, 2016


"Eight parts of a full stomach sustain the man, the other two sustain the doctor."
                                                     --ancient Japanese proverb

collage representing healthy living and healthy food choices

For children aged 2-19, the prevalence of obesity has remained fairly stable at around 17%, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years.  Some complications of childhood obesity can last a lifetime and may shorten a child's lifespan significantly.   If a youth develops type 2 diabetes as a result of obesity, they will have about 17 years less of a lifespan than a youth who does not develop diabetes.   

Have you heard of “hara hachi bun me” (also referred to as hara hachi bu)?   In The Blue Zones Solution, Dan Buettner writes about communities around the world where residents routinely live to be older than 100.  In Okinawa, Japan, Buettner learned about hara hachi bu, a Confucian teaching that instructs people to eat until they are about 80% full. 

I have always instructed adults and children in Growing Healthy Kids’ workshops about the importance of eating slowly and mindfully, taking at least 20 minutes to eat.  This is because it takes that much time for the stomach to send a message to the brain that one is full and no longer needs to eat.   Americans eat too fast, which causes us to overeat.  There is no mindfulness in the drive-through window at McDonald's.  

In a 1965 book called Three Pillars of Zen the author shares a message written around 1300 by teacher Hakuun Yasutani who advises practitioners to “eat about two-thirds of their capacity.”  Yasutani “advises his students to eat only eighty percent of their capacity, and he repeats a Japanese proverb:  “eight parts of a full stomach sustain the man, the other two sustain the doctor.” 

This proverb is what conscious, or mindful, eating is about.  Before a meal, take a moment to reflect and decide to practice hara hachi bu.  Eat good food.  Eat slowly.  Enjoy your meal.  Make a conscious choice to stop eating before filling up all the way.  

You may not only add years to your life, but life to your years!   A simple solution, that of conscious eating or hara hachi bu, could well be a principle for our childhood obesity solution toolbox. 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Solving the Childhood Obesity Epidemic

“Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.”  --Albert Einstein

When was the last time you took your child to their pediatrician for a checkup and the doctor gave you a prescription to feed your child vegetables every day? 

There are easy, creative ways to include vegetables into daily meals.  In the healthy cooking workshops we offer for children, we give kids opportunities to learn about food preparation firsthand.  Most kids embrace the chance to try a new food when they learn how to grow it, harvest it, chop it up into little itty, bitty pieces and then taste it.  My favorite response to parents who tell me, “My child will never eat that!” is to invite them to go away for an hour. When they come back to pick up their kids, our favorite thing to hear is, “What did you do with my child?  That can’t possibly be my child eating those vegetables!”  All I can say is that magic happens in the kitchen when you let kids be kids and you let them learn.  

With obesity affecting one in six children in the United States, we need solutions that work.  Here are a couple of ideas:

Families need to be able to earn a living wage so that children do not suffer in poverty.  There is a direct correlation between poverty and childhood obesity.   What is the poverty level in your community and is it trending down or up?   

Women who are pregnant need to be supported to breastfeed because breastfeeding lowers the risk of a child becoming overweight or obese.  Does your workplace have a wellness policy that supports employees who are breastfeeding? 

Communities need to be encouraged to increase access to fresh vegetables and fruits, especially in areas considered to be “food deserts”.  How many of the local convenience stores in the food deserts where you live feature fresh “healthy in a hurry” sections with the support of your local health department?

Children need access to safe outdoor play areas and communities, together with the local police departments, needs to ensure kids can get outdoors.  They need sidewalks so it is safe to walk.  Does your neighborhood have sidewalks and outdoor play spaces?

School guidance counselors, psychologists, and cafeteria managers need training on recognizing and protecting children who are being bullied or ostracized because they are at unhealthy weights.  When was the last time your child’s school staff received training in how to reverse, prevent and halt childhood obesity?

The minimum wage needs to be raised to $15.00/hour by 2020 so that families living in poverty do not have to work 2 and 3 jobs to pay the bills and then have no time left for a family dinner.  Does your county have an economic council and how do you become a member to advocate for livable wages for your neighbors?

Eating dinner together is one of the strategies which can prevent childhood obesity.  Families benefit from sharing a meal with real food instead of burgers from the dollar menu at McDonald’s while having conversations that are not rushed.  When you take at least 20 minutes to eat a meal, you don’t overeat (because it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to send the brain the message that you have eaten enough and are full).  How often do you make eating dinner together a family priority?

Throughout the year, I will share more strategies that are effective in halting, reversing, and preventing childhood obesity.  Stay tuned and be the change you want to see in the world.

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

*To learn more about childhood obesity, go to or click here.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Why Reversing Childhood Obesity Matters

Image result for picture of walt disney

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”  ---Walt Disney

Did you know…that obesity now affects 1 in 6 children and adolescents in the United States?  With physical and psychological consequences that can affect a child for their lifetime, we cannot be complacent.  Being obese as a child increases the likelihood of being obese as an adult.  We cannot turn away when we see children in our communities who are obese and pretend as though everything is OK. 

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention*, obesity during childhood can have a harmful effect on the body in a variety of ways.  Children who are obese have a greater risk of:
  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  In one study, 70% of obese children had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and 39% had two or more.
  • Increased risk of impaired glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
  • Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea and asthma.
  • Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort.
  • Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastro-esophageal reflux (i.e., heartburn).
  • Psychological stress such as depression, behavioral problems, and issues in school.
  • Low self-esteem and low self-reported quality of life.
  • Impaired social, physical, and emotional functioning.

The health of all children matters. We can, and must, reverse the childhood obesity epidemic.  The health – and lives – of children is at stake.  

Ready to make some dreams come true?  

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

*To learn more about childhood obesity, go to or click here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Goals for the New Year

“It takes a village to raise a child.”  -- Anonymous

Happy New Year!  What resolutions have you made and which ones do you intend to keep this year?  Is your resolution to be the best you ever? To spend more quality time with your children? Explore a National Park with your family?  Use the simple strategy of making SMART goals to stay on track and make this your best year yet. 

A SMART goal consists of making your goal to be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Specific. If your goal is to exercise more with your kids this year, then turn it into a SMART goal, such as:  “Every week we will walk 30 minutes a day on two weekdays and one weekend day after dinner.” Ask the kids to make the exercise chart to post on the refrigerator and now you have your accountability system built, too. 

My New Year’s resolution for the Growing Healthy Kids movement is to increase our impact by conducting one new parent workshop each month this year with an organization, church, or school with which we have not previously partnered.  We will continue to share healthy and delicious recipes which are economical to prepare.  Your children’s health depends on your ability to make great decisions about which foods to buy and which recipes to prepare balanced with your family budget and schedules. 

Make this year your best year.  Thank you to each and every parent for inviting Wellness Wednesdays - and all of our resources, tips, and recipes - into your family’s home.  Our goal is to make this year our biggest and best year because America needs Growing Healthy Kids!    

ALL children deserve access to healthy food, daily fitness and fun, and educated parents. 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.