Monday, May 9, 2016

Building Your Own Blue Zone

One aspect of the University of Maryland internship that sets us apart from others is our concentration in information technology.  During March and April, I rotated at Wellness Corporate Solutions in Bethesda, Maryland for one of my technology rotations.  Wellness is a provider of customized wellness solutions to public and private sector companies.  Their goal is to help develop and support workplace wellness  that encourage healthy life choices in and outside of the workplace.  Services and programs include biometric screenings, health coaching, health informatics, and full circle wellness.  Full circle wellness incorporates a well employee portal, program management, customized incentive programs, and wellness campaigns.  

During my time at Wellness I was able to observe many ways they use technology to develop a workplace culture that helps put wellness at the forefront.  I had the opportunity to write blogs and newletters to be used for employee education material.  I also researched and put together a package of educational material in Spanish focusing on MyPlate, hypertension, diabetes, and healthy eating.  One of my major assignments was developing a presentation on "Healthy Aging".  While researching for my presentation, Juliet Rodman, the Co-Founder and Chief Wellness Officer of Wellness Corporate Solutions, introduced me to "The Blue Zones".  This is a book written by author and researcher, Dan Buettner.  He spent time traveling the world finding areas that seem to have found the secret to longevity and quality of life.
"The Blue Zones"
The five areas are: Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Icara, Greece; and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.  These regions have seem to have found a "Fountain of Youth".  Although each community is in a different part of the world and have a unique culture, they each follow similar principles to live a healthier lifestyle.  Buettner has named these common practices as the "Power of 9". 

The Power of 9
Visual depiction of the "Power of 9"
Move naturally: many communities allow for people to get physical activity in their everyday lives.  Like gardening and walking outdoors.  This concept teaches us to not only add physical activity, like going to the gym to our routines, but also to fit regular activity to other aspects of our lives. 
Right outlook: People in these communities felt they had a strong purpose in life and actively worked towards lowering their stress levels. 
Eat wisely: In the Blue Zone of Okinawa, Japan, the saying “hara hachi bu” before meals to remind themselves to stop eating when their stomach is 80% full.  This is similar to idea of mindful eating.  
Belong: All Blue zones had a strong sense of community and emphasis on relationships.  One of their main goals was to build and maintain their personal connections.
  Although my time at Wellness Corporate Solutions researching the mystery behind healthier aging, I did find the guidelines to healthier living.  Finding ways to fit the Blue Zones concepts into your everyday life may help lead to a healthier (fingers crossed), longer life!  Time to build your own Blue Zone!  Start with small steps and build your Blue Zone with movement, a sense of purpose, a balanced diet, and the relationships that matter most to you. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The DCMAND Conference

Every state has an affiliate chapter under the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and on Friday our internship class attended the annual conference put on by the DC Metro Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, or DCMAND. As a resident of Washington DC, I was excited to see what my local chapter was all about! 

The conference was titled “Planning with a Purpose: Modern Strategies for a Better Food Future” and it focused on the entire food supply chain, food policy, customer patterns, federal oversight and technological advancements of both food production, access and consumption. 
Some of the highlights for me included:
  • Learning how local urban populations are growing and increasing the demand for locally sourced and produced food products – only with the help of technology used in food production can these demands be met.
  • Hearing about how a specific product (Chobani yogurt, in this case) can grow to be a national leader and still maintain locally oriented production with a strong commitment to sustainability, quality and nutrition.
  • Understanding how the FDA reviews prospective changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel. 
  • Seeing how science-focused communications are most effective when delivered with a bit of humor. 
  • Reviewing some of the methodology used to conduct NHANES, and learning how anyone can assess the treasure-troves of nutrition and eating behavior data the USDA collects on an ongoing basis, including the Healthy Eating Index. 
  • Understanding how public schools are measured according to the USDA’s healthy lunchroom standards – and seeing how few schools actually meet the relatively attainable standards.
  • Getting introduced to new apps that can help dietitians council their patients and clients towards personalized food and fitness goals. 
  • Learning more about how grocery store dietitians can coach shoppers towards making healthful purchases, and manage their specific nutritional needs. 
  • Being introduced to local DC companies that focus on local, healthful, affordable meals for lunch and dinner (check out Scratch DC and Tiny Grocery!). 
We were encouraged to tweet about the conference with using #DCMAND2016, take a look at some of the topics mentioned during the conference, here.

Meredith next to her award winning poster project!
In addition to attending the conference, our class and dietetic interns from National Institutes of Health and Howard University were invited to present posters and original abstracts. Our classmate Meredith Dillon won an award for outstanding original project! Congrats, Mere!

Attending the DCMAND meeting is a great way for our intern class to see how important it is to be connected to our local Academy affiliates. These groups provide great networking and discussions about potential job opportunities. We also were introduced to future opportunities for leadership roles. Involvement in local Academy affiliates can only help each of us grow in our careers as we become dietitians.