Wednesday, January 29, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNEDAYS: The Stigma of Childhood Obesity

"An educated patient is empowered, thus more likely to become healthy." 
                                                          --Dean Ornish, MD 

Working in elementary and high schools, I see kids every day who are overweight and obese.  There is a sadness that follows them.  There is a stigma, like wearing an unwanted 100 pound backpack, that they live with everyday. 

There is a psychological consequence to childhood obesity.  Kids hide their emotions dressed in drab colored, oversized clothes.  There is a reluctance to make eye contact.  They walk slower than other kids.  Psychological consequences of obesity often linger for a lifetime when kids are at an unhealthy weight.  

The physical consequences of childhood obesity include joint problems, high blood sugars, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, gallstones, and breathing problems such as asthma and sleep apnea.  Not getting enough sleep is a known contributing factor to obesity.  Kids who are overweight or obese are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. 

When I teach a Growing Healthy Kids workshop, I ask the kids who wants to grow up and get diabetes.  They are chomping at the bit to raise their hands and then at the last minute, when they hear the entire question, their hands quickly go down by their sides and they become very quiet and serious.  

No child wants to be at an unhealthy weight or develop an obesity-related disease like diabetes.  

Not. One. Child. 

With love,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder and Wellness Architect
Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


“This is my simple religion.  There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy.  Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”  
                                                                --Dalai Lama

Every Growing Healthy Kids workshop includes a lesson on kindness.  
Growing Healthy Kids is a faith-based organization that values respect, compassion, and joy.  We take great pride in having integrity and honoring our commitments to children.  Teaching kids about the joys of being physically, spiritually, and mentally healthy, learning what real food is, meeting the farmers who grow our food, and learning to prepare delicious dishes using locally grown ingredients that are free of chemicals are practices of great value in our organization. 

Children are taught the importance of saying “please” and “thank you” in every Growing Healthy Kids workshop.  Parents are asked to put down their cell phones when they accompany their kids to our workshops so they can lean into our conversations and learn alongside their children.   Why volunteer to attend a program with your child and then tune out on your cell phone?  

Be kind, smile, and make eye contact when in a conversation with others.  Is it really so simple?  These things seem so small, yet when practiced daily, they are game changers for a good life.  We can all benefit from giving and receiving kindness. 

With love,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder and Wellness Architect
Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Selling Sodas to Kids

"Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina states that of the six hundred thousand food items for sale in the United States, 80% are laced with added sugar.  Ninety percent of the food produced in the United States is sold to you by a total of ten conglomerates-Coca-Cola, ConAgra, Dole, General Mills, Hormel, Kraft, Nestle, Pepisco, Procter and Gamble, and Unilever."

 --Robert H. Lustig, author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease

Teaching about natural sugar (found in fruits) with Louis Schacht of Schacht Groves, at a Growing Healthy Kids' event. 

Next time you visit a grocery store, look at the checkout area.  You will probably notice a refrigerator with glass doors attractively stocked with sodas.  

I am always fascinated to watch who opens the door and who doesn’t.  Do they have kids with them or not?  What else do they have in their grocery cart?  Let’s just say that it will be my cart that contains the kale, not theirs. 

Marketing sugar to kids is a huge business.  And why shouldn’t it be?  There are huge profits to be made from selling sugar, a highly addictive substance with no nutritional value.  A 12-oz soda with 39 grams of sugar contains 10 teaspoons of sugar.  At a recent Growing Healthy Kids workshop, the discussion was on identifying added (read “unhealthy”) sugars, such as the high fructose corn syrup found in sodas and ketchup.  When I put 10 teaspoons of sugar in a cup and passed it around, the kids recoiled, refusing to consume it.  But put a soda in a bright red can in front of them and they will all grab for it.

For-profit companies develop and market highly profitable food products such as sodas, fruit drinks, and breakfast cereals that are addictive to kids.  It is our job as parents to understand that our children’s health is not for sale.
With love,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder and Wellness Architect
Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Diabetes and Obesity Matters

“A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” 
                                                                    ---Spanish proverb

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in ten Americans has diabetes (30.3 million, or 9.4%).  Another 33.9% of U.S. adults aged 18 and older had prediabetes in 2015.  Diabetes is where there is too much sugar in the blood.  

One of the leading risk factors for diabetes is obesity and overweight. Other risk factors are: smoking, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, high cholesterol, and high blood sugars.  Diabetes and obesity are intricately linked and both can be reversed and prevented.  To tackle the childhood obesity epidemic, we must look at the diabetes crisis.  

Most Americans with diabetes have type 2, or adult onset (90-95%).  The remaining 5-10% have type 1, formerly called juvenile diabetes, where the pancreas makes no insulin and the individual is insulin-dependent.  Gestational diabetes occurs when a female is pregnant and develops diabetes during pregnancy; having gestational diabetes increases the girl or woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes sometime later in her life.  Many kids who are overweight or obese are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related diseases such as sleep apnea and bone and joint disorders. It is misleading to call the most common type of diabetes "adult onset" when so many teens are now at risk for developing it due to what that they eat and their physical inactivity.  

Diabetes is preventable.  Yet 7.2 million Americans are undiagnosed (23.8% of people with diabetes).   In round numbers, 1 in 4 Americans with diabetes doesn't know they have it.     

In working with kids who are overweight, I have learned that kids want to be taught how to eat well so they don't get sick.  They didn’t ask for the burden and bullying from carrying an extra 40 or 50 pounds as a result of being fed highly processed foods and having easy access to cheap, sugary drinks. 

Do you have a family member with diabetes?  You can help by starting with small, easy changes.  Begin to look at everything your family consumes that is sweet.  One of the easiest things to do is to eat fresh fruit instead of fruit juice.  Replace sodas and diet sodas with water.  Make most of the sugar you eat NATURAL SUGAR not ADDED SUGAR, such as the high fructose corn syrup found in sodas and fruit juices, even foods we give little thought to such as ketchup.  Added sugars have no nutritional value, they are just empty calories.  Teach your kids the difference. 

Replace that morning donut with a slice of toasted whole grain bread (I like Dave’s Killer Bread, the one in the green package) with some almond butter and sliced organic bananas.   If you do nothing more than start reading all the food labels before throwing things in your grocery cart, look for “high fructose corn syrup” on the ingredients list of the package. Make the very smart decision not to buy or consume ANYTHING that contains high fructose corn syrup. 

Small steps, simple changes, big results.

With love,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder and Wellness Architect
Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

Photo credit:  Ella Chabot

Wednesday, January 1, 2020


"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."  
                                                          --Nelson Mandela

We made it to Twenty Twenty.  While there is so much good to celebrate in the world, there  are so many reasons for concern and worry.  The quality of our children's health and lives is at stake.

This year is an especially critical year for Mother Earth.  We are at a critical turning point in what happens to our future.  We need the dignity, leadership, and passion of women - and men - to lead the planet away from the cliff of climate change. 

No apologies for starting the first 2020 Wellness Wednesdays article on a serious note.  In my humble opinion, New Year’s resolutions should be laser focused on what each of us can do to reduce our carbon footprint and to teach our children about the interconnectedness of how the burning of fossil fuels is affecting migration patterns of birds, rising water and air temperatures, rising sea levels, increased flooding, fires, and hurricanes, the impact of rising temperatures on food production, human migration, health issues, and the quality of life of every person on this planet we call home.

We have reached a point where the health and lives of America’s children will be dramatically different than what their parents imagined for them.  Unless we can take dramatic steps to dare to become educated, to change what must be changed, to care about the future. 

Growing Healthy Kids will work this year to educate children and parents about healthy eating and reversing and preventing childhood obesity.  We will educate children and parents about taking care of our planet by taking care of our local communities by eliminating the use of single use bottles, recycling, and reducing our impact.  What you can do as parents is educate yourselves about what you and your children can do to reduce your use of fossil fuel.  Start this year by making the resolution to plant trees where you live.  

The planet will survive.  The question is, will we? 

With love,
Nancy Heinrich, MPH
Founder and Wellness Architect
Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.
Dedicated to improving the health - and lives - of America's children