Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Fasting for Weight Loss: Is It Effective?

This blog was written by Dan Walker. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

(part 2 of 2)

Last time we took a look at the proposed health benefits of fasting, such as lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, detoxification of harmful substances, and a lower risk of developing various diseases. This time we’ll look at fasting for weight loss to see just how effective it can really be for managing weight.

Many people feel that they are exercising consistently and are eating right, but Empty Plate resized 600have either hit a plateau in their weight loss or haven’t been very successful at initiating weight loss over the years. Because of this, many have turned to fasting for weight loss. The logic is that although it will cause a little pain and discomfort initially, it will indeed result in weight loss as the body is forced to burn stored fat for fuel.

But is that what really happens? And if so, will it produce lasting weight loss?

Problems with Fasting

Although I have never tried fasting for weight loss personally or talked with anyone who has, I along with many others feel the proposal is flawed in a few key ways:

  • Our bodies are designed to maintain homeostasis and resist change. If you dramatically cut your caloric intake and don’t provide your body with what it needs to function properly, it will fight back by slowing down your metabolism to prevent starvation.
  • Any fast you go on (along with any diet) can’t last forever, so you eventually will have to come off of it. Even if you did lose a little weight, what happens now that you are off the fast but have no plan in place for maintaining your weight loss?
  • Fasting doesn’t address the real problem underlying your weight gain: too little physical activity and/or too many calories consumed each day. Fasting for weight loss is only treating the symptom of a much larger problem. It might help a little, but there is a bigger underlying issue that should be addressed if you are looking to maintain a healthy weight for a lifetime.

Instead of Fasting, Make Appropriate Diet and Exercise Changes

Fasting has its place in the lives of those who, after talking about the decision with their doctor, would like to try it periodically to see if it can improve their health. It can even help you learn to control your desire for food as you learn to go without it for a period of time. But your best bet for permanent, healthy weight loss is to carefully examine your life and make the appropriate changes.

Start by writing down what and how much you eat each day and see if any patterns arise. A Personal Nutrition Coaching session with a NIFS dietitian can help you analyze your diet and give you a plan for weight loss.

If you feel that you can’t find enough time in the day to exercise, analyze how much time you spend watching television, surfing the Internet, and other fun but unnecessary pursuits. Even some worthwhile activities and hobbies may need to be scaled back a bit if you’re just too busy to work out. Exercise might from time to time take you away from other things you’d much rather be doing, but it won’t matter if you’re not around anymore to enjoy those things.

Topics: nutrition weight loss disease prevention

The Importance of Sunscreen for Employee Health

This blog was written by Veronica Hofman. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Everyone knows that sunscreen is important…right? Everyone uses it everyday as they should…right? Wrong! I think everyone knows they should use sunscreen regularly, but the truth is many people don’t!

sunscreen resized 600Let’s hope that if people are sitting at the beach all day they will think to use it, but there are many circumstances in which sunscreen should be used but just isn’t. I recently went on a several-hour car ride and although I do wear sunscreen on my face, my arm and shoulder were red from the sun coming through the sunroof!

Why Sunscreen Is Crucial for Your Health

Now that summer is upon us, it is time to start a new routine that includes sunscreen. The FDA has released new rules for sunscreen makers. There are many reasons to include sunscreen in your day: It helps protect against

  • burns
  • premature aging
  • wrinkles
  • And of course, cancer

The most common type of skin cancer is melanoma, and it is also the leading cause of skin cancer deaths. Although more common in fair-skinned blonde and redheads, melanoma can affect anyone. It is also more common in those who have had a severe burn in the past and those who are exposed to the sun very often. But again, it can affect anyone. And who really wants wrinkles?

Tips for Sunscreen Use

So here are some sunscreen tips:

  • Apply sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before being in the sun.
  • Remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming or strenuous exercise.
  • Apply sunscreen often throughout the day if you work outdoors, and wear hats and protective clothing.

Click here for more information about sunscreen and what to consider when choosing your SPF!

Does your company have onsite walking paths, or hold meetings outdoors on a nice day? Consider the health and wellness of your employees by providing sunscreen as a corporate wellness program benefit!

Topics: corporate wellness employee health disease prevention

Listen to Your Plate! Portion Control for Employee Health

This blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

healthy plate, employee health, nifs, senior wellness, fitness center managementPortion sizes can be tricky. Your employees have probably heard before that a serving size of meat is similar to a deck of cards. Or a serving of cheese is equivalent to four dice.

It's Easy to Dish Up Too Much Food

However, when you’re loading up that plate at dinner time, your hungry stomach can you fool you into thinking that one serving of meat should look more like three decks of cards than just one. Measuring by ounces or cups can be even trickier. One cup of pasta constitutes an entire serving, but chances are our plates are full from edge to edge with noodles.

Ways to Visualize Smaller Portions

One diet tip I’ve read before is to start using smaller dinner plates—that way, your plate will look full with less food.

To even better visualize proper portion sizes, try using a portion-control plate. These fancy meal inventions have outlines or even full illustrations depicting how much of your plate should be filled with each food group. They come in different versions for adults, children, and even diabetic populations. The most common version illustrates that half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, leaving one-fourth of the plate for a lean meat or protein and another fourth for whole grains.

Now, say you do a lot of entertaining in your home, and you want a more sophisticated look for your dinner plates. I’ve now seen portion-control plates that are subtly designed, using a floral pattern for example, to still show you the outline of where your foods should be fitting!

Starting with dishware, we can introduce tools into the household to make dinners easier and healthier. Emphasize the importance of portion control in your corporate health and wellness program.

Topics: overweight employees nutrition

Can Eating Gluten-Free Improve Employee Health?

This blog was written by Lisa Larkin. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

gluten free, employee health, nutrition, dietWhat is gluten? It’s a protein found in wheat that causes severe indigestion problems. Gluten is in so many of our favorite foods and is hard to avoid. Although the thought of a gluten-free diet doesn’t sound fun to most, it's becoming more popular in younger generations.

A gluten-free diet is used to treat celiac disease. Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. Even people without the disease can find benefit in eliminating gluten from their diets. Most people who take on a gluten-free diet are getting more fruits and vegetables and eating less processed foods, which is a good thing.

The signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance do not sound fun. These signs and symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, cramping, and constipation. Always having an upset stomach will definitely make it easier to go gluten free.

There are more gluten-free products to choose from now that it’s becoming more popular. Stores like Whole Foods provide gluten-free shopping. You would be surprised at all they have on the market: pastas, breads, beer, and more. Carefully read the food labels because some gluten-free foods can be higher in calories.

Going gluten-free can’t be all that bad for you; Oprah gave up gluten on a cleansing diet. Gluten is fairly indigestible, so eliminating it might help with stomach issues in all of us. Some doctors still recommend that you go gluten free to solve signs and symptoms, even if you test negative for celiac disease.

Corporate Health and Wellness: How is your onsite cafeteria incorporating healthier food choices, including gluten-free, into its corporate wellness program? 

Topics: nutrition disease prevention

Using Corporate Wellness to Promote the Importance of Slow Eating

This blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

With a culture that is on the go constantly, and whose entertainment consists of watching hot dog speed-eating contests, how do we reinforce the truth that eating more slowly can fend off obesity?

corporate health and wellness, corporate wellness, nutrtion, employee health,senior wellnessThe Benefits of Eating Slowly

The benefits of slower eating are twofold:

  • Firstly, it takes around 20 minutes for the brain to signal to the stomach that it’s full. If we’re eating our entire meal in five minutes, the stomach doesn’t get that signal until it’s too late to stop eating.
  • Secondly, the more time we take eating our meal, the more conscious we are of what and how much food is going into our bodies.

Slowing down the pace of eating ties into the concept of mindful eating. By this, we mean that we are eating with the intention of fueling the body as well as finding some enjoyment in the foods. Gulping down meals doesn’t leave a lot of room for the satisfaction of actually tasting the food and enjoying the flavors. It’s not healthy to leave a meal so full that you feel sick and are uncomfortable in your clothes. When you slow down, you can better gauge the point of “satisfied” and avoid crossing the line to “stuffed.”

How Corporate Wellness Programs Can Help

One thing corporate health and wellness programs can do to assist in the matter is to make sure employees don’t always have rushed lunches. Sure, there may be days where a meeting-booked employee has to eat on the run, but companies should take a look to see whether rushed eating is the norm in their workplace.

Stress to your corporate wellness clients to use the full hour lunch break and avoid working and eating simultaneously if avoidable. Even taking a few minutes to breathe and de-clutter the mind before eating can remind someone to slow down and savor meals—thus putting thought into eating, saving money in healthcare, and sparing extra pounds on the body.

Topics: overweight employees nutrition

Vitamin D and Employee Health

This blog was written by Lisa Larkin. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

corporate wellness, vitamin D, employee health, senior wellnessWe have been told for years to stay out of the sun because of its aging effect on our skin and bodies. Finally, there's a benefit to being out in the sun and eating lots of sushi! Sunshine and salmon are the two best sources of vitamin D. You may want to reconsider a little bit of sunshine to prevent some common diseases as people age.

The Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study, CAREDS, was performed to research the 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in the blood. These levels were associated with early development of age-related macular degeneration, which is a common cause of eyesight loss in the elderly.

Studies have also found that vitamin D is linked to reducing the risks of Alzheimer’s, depression, bone fractures, multiple sclerosis, lupus, fibromyalgia, diabetes, heart disease, and several major cancers. Aging can be scary, but I think we need to be more aware of our vitamin D intake.

You heard it right: It’s okay to sit in the sun (with sunscreen, of course) for a little bit. And it’s okay to treat yourself to a nice seafood dinner.

Check with your corporate health and wellness team for more information about how to incorporate vitamin D into your diet.

Topics: employee health nutrition disease prevention

Corporate Wellness: How Do You Know Your Trainer Is Competent?

This blog was written by Penny Pohlmann. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Have you ever thought about hiring a personal trainer? When choosing a personal trainer to work with, you should feel confident that the person you're hiring is not only qualified but is someone who will listen to you and your specific goals when it comes to exercising and improving your health.

You may be surprised to know that some certifying organizations do not require a formal education in the field of health and fitness to sit for their personal training exam. Now, this is not true of all certifications. But there are so many certifying bodies out there; how do you know which ones are reputable?

personal trainer, corporate fitness center managementRecognized Fitness Organizations

Here is a list of organizations that are recognized by the NCCA, a group that evaluates and measures organizations' professional competence, as certifying organizations that meet its Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs.

Making Sure Your Corporate Fitness Manager Is Qualified

Want to ensure your employee health and fitness program is staffed with qualified personnel? When interviewing a trainer to hire, he or she should maintain at least one certification from one of the organizations listed above. Additionally, he or she should also be able to produce a current copy of his or her CPR/AED certifications. These guidelines should help you determine who and what is the best fit for you and your fitness needs.

Topics: corporate fitness program exercise

Corporate Wellness and the New USDA Nutrition Guidelines

This blog was written by Penny Pohlmann, MS. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

For as long as I can remember, the national nutrition recommendations have been visible on a pyramid-shaped icon. However, the era of the pyramid has come to an end.

On June 2, with the help of First Lady Michelle Obama, the USDA introduced a new nutritional icon, MyPlate, which will replace MyPyramid. Part of the change to a new icon was inspired by a need for a more simple and easy-to-interpret guide for Americans.

How Is MyPlate Different Than MyPyramid?

Besides the shape of the icon, what else has changed? Check out these changes represented in the updated nutritional icon and recommendations:

  • The former Meat and Bean group is now referred to as Protein.
  • The group once called Milk is now represented on the icon by a blue circle called Dairy.
  • The former group Sugars, Fats or Oils, which once represented a small sliver on the pyramid, is not even represented on the MyPlate icon. However, once you visit the new site,, you’ll see a link for Oils and Empty Calories.
  • The MyPlate icon does not reference physical activity formerly seen on the pyramid. However, once you visit the website you will see physical activity is still recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Want to help bring attention to the new icon? The USDA is encouraging consumers who are putting MyPlate recommendations into practice by asking them to share photos of their plates on Twitter with the hashtag #myplate or on the USDA Flickr photo group.

Corporate wellness, nutrition, portion control, employee health, senior wellnessCorporate Wellness with MyPlate at Work

How can employers use the new icon in corporate health and wellness programs to spur healthy changes? Here are some ideas:

  • Initiate corporate health and wellness by assisting your employees in becoming familiar with the new icon by posting it in your cafeteria, wellness center, break rooms, or newsletters.
  • Choose one of the selected messages the USDA has identified as a starting point to guide your employees toward making healthier nutritional choices.
  • Host Lunch and Learns led by health educators or nutritional experts who can educate your employees on the makeup of a healthy, balanced diet.
Topics: corporate wellness nutrition

Employee Health: Should Artificial Food Color Be Banned?

This blog was written by Veronica Hofmann. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Many of you have probably heard or read the buzz about the FDA considering a ban on artificial food coloring. There have been warnings of these dyes possibly contributing to ADHD in children. Many parents claim that after their children ingest the dye their behavior changes. The FDA recently voted not to ban these dyes, stating they need to research further as to the possible connection between the dye and hyperactivity.

nutrition, employee wellness, pasta, artificial food coloring, heath, diet, weightlossMany parents are surprised by this decision—mostly the health conscious who realize that any ingredient that is not natural is just not good for our children. The problem is that most parents who feed their children a diet of whole foods stay away from products that include these dyes already. But there are many people who don’t realize the importance of a proper diet. This makes me think that the bigger problem is education on proper diet, not singling out one specific item.

This leads me to the question of whether or not we want the government making decisions on our food. In my opinion it would be a good thing because as a mother who tries her best to keep artificial colors out of my child’s diet there is absolutely no way to control this when they are at school, with friends or grandparents—often the worst offenders! No, I am not in favor of governmental control; but if the ingredient is not doing anything good and is found in kid friendly, cheap, and easily accessible foods, it may not be a bad thing to have it banned from the market.

Will this ever happen? Who knows? So in the meantime it is important to spread the word about healthy diets for everyone! We should start focusing on what to eat rather than what not to eat, and try to make the best nutrition decisions we can. I cringe when my little one bites into a ridiculously colored cake, cupcake, or candy but it is not a normal occurrence so until it is banned we will have to be flexible and pray it does not cause a complete meltdown.

This topic would be a great conversation starter for your worksite wellness program. Get the chatter started and it will travel.

Topics: employee health nutrition