Plan ahead for better success – OSC:Wellness tip

OSC:Wellness brings you “quick tip” changes for healthier living. A more balanced sense of wellness can come One Small Change at a time.

This One Small Change tip is from Torey Armul, a Registered Dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She encourages us to plan ahead for better wellness.

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Create a plan for what you’ll eat tomorrow, and when. Preparing and planning ahead is the key to success in any endeavor, including health and weight loss. Take a proactive role by creating a meal schedule, packing your foods ahead of time and setting personal reminders. Without a plan, it’s easy to lose track of your goals and lose control over your food environment (being surrounded by only unhealthy options, for example) and your appetite (going too long between meals builds the desire for unhealthy foods).

Torey Armul, MS, RD, CSSD
Registered Dietitian, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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8 Life Lessons from the Wellness Workdays Worksite Wellness Conference – Part 2

On Monday I shared four life lessons based on things I heard at the Wellness Workdays worksite wellness conference. Continuing from that post, here are four more lessons from the conference.

8 Life Lessons from the Worksite Wellness Conference – Part 2:


5. Be flexible and creative

Respond to changes in needs and interests. The program planner’s goals/needs and the participants goals/needs often differ. Rarely are things the way we expect them to be. Life in general requires the ability to adapt to new situations and move forward.

6. “Meet people where they’re at, but move with them to meet their goals”

Being accessible and helpful depends on being willing to find out where people are, what their struggles and goals are, and then to walk with them to achieve those goals. I forgot to write which speaker shared this advice with us, but it’s really good, and goes along well with lesson #5.

7. Customize, but not too much

Everyone (every business, every group, etc) is different, but there are basic needs/wants. For example, each company wants to be successful. Most see healthy employees as essential to that goal. However, an employee wellness program for each company looks different depending on the organization’s culture, goals, and other factors unique to that organization. Similarly, people may want/do different things with their lives, but we all want to experience health, love, safety, etc. The way you interact with each person or group of people changes on the culture, background, and so on, but the essential elements are the same.

8. Get started

“To have a successful program, you have to start a program.” Christine Durkee, VP of Human Resources Operations at BJ’s Wholesale Club, shared this with us. It’s similar to the concepts of “just ship it,” “start before you’re ready,” and hackathons. This isn’t saying accuracy, quality, or planning is unimportant, it’s simply a reminder that sometimes we get so caught up in trying to get it right that we never get it out.

What is the lesson that resonates most with you? Let me know in the comments below.

Click here to see Part 1 with lessons #1-4, and here to get posts – on health and wellness, recipes, lessons, social media tips, and more – sent directly to your email.

Lessons from leading online health challenge

Photo Credit: photostock via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photo Credit: photostock via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In October, I had the opportunity to lead a health challenge for an online community group. It was my first time leading a health challenge and I tried to apply lessons from classes, as well as from webinars and other training on wellness programming. Overall, I think it went well, but there were some things I’d change if I did it again.

What worked:

Mixing it up: Every week there was a different way to get bonus points. People seemed to like the change and many chose to do the bonus activities each week.

Personal messages: When someone hadn’t posted activity or points in a while, I messaged them personally to remind them to submit activity for points. This was time consuming, but it was a smaller group so it ended up being okay. I wouldn’t do this for a large group, and I stopped doing this halfway through the month even for this small group. Instead, I sent a general reminder with the description of the new weekly bonus.

Incorporating many aspects of health: I tried to focus on different aspects of helath throughout the challenge when designing the activities that would earn points. I included physical health (physical activity, food tracking), goal setting (goals for the next month, motivation, setbacks, barriers), emotional health (stress), and social health (social support, physcial activity with people, recruiting a health buddy who will support goal for next month). Participants seemed to like these and find them useful and fun.

Not taking lack of participation personally (but I should have explored it more): It was difficult for me at first to deal with the emotions of having someone be very excited to sign up and then never participate, even when I sent them a personal message. However, I realize that things come up and sometimes participation in an event or activity you thought you had time for isn’t possible. Reminding myself of this was helpful for my emotions, but I think I ended up forgetting about them, which wasn’t so good. Many of the people who signed up and didn’t participate were new to the group. I wonder if they had different ideas about how the challenge was going to go (I should have asked).

Discussion boards: Each team had its own discussion board to post what they did (to get points) and to discuss with their team. One team ended up really using their board and the other team did not. However, they didn’t really use the board to discuss until I incentivized it by giving bonus points in the third week.

What could be improved:

Discussion boards: As I mentioned, I didn’t think about giving bonus points for participation until late in the month. Had I started with bonus points for interaction, I think more people would have done it.

Maximum points per week: I had it set up so each week had a total of 14 points maximum, one from 20 minutes or more of physical activity and one from the week’s bonus activity. This seemed like very little after a while and I wonder if it did not seem like enough to get people to be inspired to do the minimum required.

Minimum time required to get point: One of the suggestions I received at the end of the challenge was to reduce the minimum time required to get the point for physical activity from 20 minutes (with a cap of 1 point per day for physical activity) to 10 minutes (with additional points per each 10 minutes, with no physical activity points cap per day). The reason I had originally done the points cap and 20 minutes minimum was because that was what was done in previous months by other leaders, but it ended up being that only a few of the people in those challenges were even in this challenge. (It was hard to know who was going to sign up because most people signed up late, after the rules were established. So I should have changed them partway through when I found out, but somehow it didn’t occur to me). I knew that there were many people new to exercise and I wanted to make sure they knew that any activity was good and that they had the potential to help their team get the same number of points as the other team, no matter their ability to sustain physical activity. However, following this logic, it would have been wise to do 10 minutes minimum for 1 point, with a maximum of 6 points per day (for 60 minutes). This follows the recommendation that it is okay to do moderate to vigorous physical activity 10 minutes at a time, and it still wouldn’t provide incentive for obsessive physical activity. It would have been realistic and more motivating.

Asking for feedback sooner: I asked people when they signed up to tell me what they wanted to see in the challenge, and only a few people answered. Most of them said they didn’t have any expectation because it was the first one they participated in. When I asked the next time, it was as part of the bonus activity in the last three days of the challenge, and by then, not too many people were still participating. However, those that did answer the questions gave very valuable feedback. I would ask more frequently and earlier to get feedback on things that could be changed, and I would ask the people who signed up but aren’t participating what could be changed to make the challenge more appealing.

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Have you led a health-related challenge? What worked for you? What would you change for next time? What is your advice for people just learning about designing and administering health programs?

Lessons from my first year of grad school

A very small selection of my many textbooks for the past year, with a page from my very full planner. (C) 2012 Shelly Najjar
Only a few of the textbooks I have from this past year, and a glimpse of my overly packed planner.

I have officially finished Year One of grad school. During that time, I wrote papers, took tests, stressed about deadlines, and learned some things about nutrition and public health.

But I expected that.

What I didn’t expect was to learn so much about myself, about the way I work and think, and about life in general. Here are the three biggest lessons I learned this school year.

1. Choosing something means not choosing other things.

This is difficult for me to remember, because I really want to do everything. Then I remember to practice saying no, and think about this quote, which I saw when passing by a church marquee:

You can do anything, but you cannot do everything.

After talking with some people who know me and whose opinions I deeply respect, it seems that knowing my priorities is possibly the best way to make choices that I won’t regret, or that may even allow me to manage time well enough to choose more than one option.

2. Don’t procrastinate when facing things you don’t want to do. You won’t want to do them any more later than you do right now.

Speaking of time management, the temptation to procrastinate has become a big challenge for me, so this lesson is extra important. When I have something I don’t want to do (but must do), I find that it is better to just suck it up and focus on finishing, even when I don’t feel like it, so that I have more time to do something that is appealing later on.

I’ve also found that for this past quarter, it works better for me to choose one or two things to work on the entire day, instead of choosing eight things to work on for one hour each. (I used to do this so I wouldn’t get bored, but while learning about doing unpleasant things now, I realized I often used this “one hour” trick to procrastinate.)

3. You can do more than you think.

I have never been more academically challenged than I was this past year. It is frustrating and overwhelming, but it produces the best feeling of accomplishment. If I hadn’t been given as many assignments, as much responsibility with my fieldwork, or as much encouragement, I wouldn’t know that I could accomplish all that I did.

It has been a crazy experience so far, but overall, I’ve made progress toward my goal of focusing on learning (instead of focusing on getting good grades). Thank you to everyone who gave me encouragement and advice over the past year!

-Shelly