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Don't Wait! Take Charge of Your Eating Behavior

 By Emily Westlund, Program Coordinator

"I'll start my diet after the State Fair." How many times have you or someone you know said those words, maybe substituting "State Fair" for some other excuse? After the holidays. After my vacation. After things settle down. The truth is, there will always be something. We can all come up with a million excuses to delay taking charge of our eating habits. Life is full of special events, celebrations and traditions, and our culture is food-centric. Instead of delaying, take ownership now and learn how to navigate through obstacles without falling off the wagon. Here are some tips from our health coaches about nutrition and weight management:

  1. Stay away from fad diets geared to take weight off quickly. Drastically cutting calories to lose weight deprives your body of essential nutrients. The best way to lose weight is through a combination of developing healthy eating habits and increasing physical activity.
  2. Lose 1/2 - 1 lb per week. This is generally a safe and achievable rate. To lose a pound a week, reduce your food intake by 250 calories and increase your activity level by 250 calories each day (walking briskly for 60 minutes will do the trick).
  3. Keep food records. This will help you evaluate eating patterns, identify problem areas and stay accountable to yourself. We often don't realize how often we make poor choices and what leads us down that path.
  4. Eat foods high in fiber such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice and fruits and vegetables. Fiber fills you up, and eating these foods can help you control the number of calories you eat.
  5. Don't clean your plate at every meal. If you are, you are probably eating too much - especially if you eat out often. At home, serve yourself smaller portions. At restaurants, ask for a box before you start eating and take half of your meal home for lunch the next day.
  6. Enjoy foods that are grilled, broiled or baked. Fried food can have twice as much the amount of fat and calories.
  7. Choose lean turkey, roast beef or ham instead of high-fat meats like sausage, bacon, hot dogs, bologna or salami.
  8. Switch to low-fat or fat-free dairy products. It's an easy way to cut fat and calories from your diet.
  9. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Alcoholic beverages are high in calories and have little to no nutritional value.
  10. Drink water. Soda, juice and sports drinks have a lot of calories that add up fast.

Everyone faces different challenges in their weight loss journey, which makes health coaching a popular component of employee wellness programming. A health coach can be a great motivator and support person when making these healthy lifestyle changes! 

Making the Most of your CSA

By Katie Putnam, Senior Fitness Specialist 

Perhaps it’s the anticipation or the element of surprise in not quite knowing what you’re going to get, but every Thursday for 12 weeks from July to September I get a gift to open. Through the hard work of local farmers and their supporters, I get fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit on a weekly basis. As a member of a local Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) you have direct access to locally grown, in-season produce, free of chemicals and hormones. In our fast and furious Minnesota summers, it’s important to take advantage of being part of the season and enjoying all it has to offer. If you were hesitant to dive into the investment of a CSA this summer, farmers markets are another excellent way to have easy access to fresh and local summer favorites.

With many options to sign up for, there is a CSA to meet the wants and needs of just about everyone. The size of the share you select can typically feed 1 to 4 people and can include everything from crowd favorite blueberries, raspberries, beans and peas to the more unique collard greens, Swiss chard and seemingly endless herbs. It can honestly be overwhelming to have so much perfect, fresh, ready to eat food waiting for you on a weekly basis. Luckily the CSA I’ve invested in sends weekly emails including recipes and instructions for getting the most life out of the specific foods you receive.

Each week when I pick up my box I try to take some time to figure out what I have, check the recipe options and make decisions about what I need at the grocery store to best utilize and supplement what I get.  Prepping and storing as soon as you receive the produce will make you more likely to utilize it and even prolong its shelf life. Once you’re ready to eat it’s time to get creative! Chances are you will be trying at least 1 thing you’ve never had before, and the best way to do that is to incorporate it with something you already eat on a regular basis. Less stress, more satisfaction!

Some of my favorite, go-to ways to enjoy the abundance:

  • Smoothies: Your choice of fruits, vegetables and greens mixed with ice and even milk or yogurt make for a quick and easy on-the-go meal.
  • Omelets: Greens, sautéed vegetables and herbs.
  • Salads or wraps: Greens, vegetables and fruit with the addition of your choice of protein make for a complete meal!
  • Raw: How delicious is fresh fruit right out of the carton, like cold sugar snap peas? I also like cutting up green peppers and cucumbers and having them as a quick snack. Can’t get more simple than that.

Here is a quick and easy recipe for the first meal I made with my CSA–Spinach, Rhubarb and Asparagus Salad:

  • Wash and pat dry spinach or preferred greens. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Cut ¼ - ½ cup each of rhubarb and asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Toss with olive oil.
  • Line cookie sheet with tin foil or parchment paper, spread mixture out and bake for 5 minutes until tender.
  • After 5 minutes allow mixture to slightly cool while tossing greens with goat (or other soft cheese) and sliced almonds.
  • Top salad with warm asparagus and rhubarb and ENJOY!

Mindful Movement

By Joan Wipperfurth, Program Manager at Medtronic Fitness Center

I recently returned from the National Wellness Institutes’ Annual conference at Stevens Point, WI.  Being surrounded by peers working to improve the health of those in their sphere of influence was both refreshing and empowering.  Practicing mindfulness was a common thread to the conference.  I talk about mindfulness and being fully present all the time in a yoga class, but not as much in our other class formats.  Have you ever thought about the importance of being mindful when you lift weights, or when you go out for your run?  Have you ever thought how that might improve your performance, as well as make you feel better mentally? 

Mindfulness can be defined as being engaged, involved in the activity, greatly interested, attentive and having focused energy.  Basically, it means you’re fully present wherever you are, at any given time.   Doesn’t that sound like something that could help you reach your fitness goals and enjoy the process more?  Being fully present ties nicely into being in the flow; which is that state of effortless concentration and enjoyment, being aligned with the task at hand, and doing what you enjoy with energized focus.

How can I try to do that you may ask?  If you’re doing a strength workout, think about what muscles are working and notice the sensation.  This can help to improve safety and satisfaction with your workout.  On the treadmill or bike you’ll probably notice yourself working much harder when you put down the book and really focus on what you’re doing and the muscles involved.  Notice the negative self-talk that goes on in your head while exercising.  Reframe those thoughts with empowering affirmations like – “I’m here today and progressing forward,” or “Every day brings me closer to my goals.” Notice pain in your body; it may be your body telling you that you’re out of alignment, or that a particular exercise isn’t good for your body.  That’s okay.  Find another one.  Be patient with the process and let go of self-judgment.  Learn to really listen to your body and honor it.  Accept that you may not be able to do everything you want to do, but do what you can.  After all, perfection can be prison, but practice makes progress.

Food Journals - More Than Just an App

By Kelly Berte, Wellness Center Manager

Tracking – it’s all the buzz for the health world right now.  Track your steps, track your calories, track your workouts.  So what is the point of all this tracking? While there is great scientific support to show that writing something down helps shift behavior change, you’ve got to know how to use it for you to make it more meaningful than just a motion you go through.

Food journaling is one of the most popular tacking methods. There is no one perfect food journal out there.  Each individual has different preferences, different triggers and different technology. Options are a good thing!  So, survey what’s available and pick one.  You can create your own in an excel spreadsheet, find other existing templates online, or as I’m sure most of you know, there are tons of apps and online trackers.  

At a bare minimum, the best recommended information to track includes a general overview of what you consumed (both food and beverage), the time of day, what triggered you to eat, and how hungry you were.  You’ll notice calorie intake, measurements, etc. were not included.  Feel free to include these if you want.  Remember, there is no right or wrong!

When using a food journal and tracking these things, lots of questions might arise. That’s the point!  Review your journal and think about the following to help you discover more about your eating habits:

Your Triggers:  Are you eating…

  • Because you are hungry?
  • Because the clock says it’s time to eat?
  • In response to emotions?
  • Because you feel other people expect you to? (Happy hour, work pot luck, etc.)
  • Because you are bored?
  • Because you saw or smelled things that are appealing (commercials, candy dishes, coffee shop, driving by your favorite restaurant)?
  • Even though you are actually thirsty?Because it’s just part of your routine?

The routine is one of the hardest hurdles to climb, but using the food journal can help you realize if your eating habits are helping you or hurting you. It will get you to think about why you are consuming rather than just going through the motions.  For example, are you one of those that gets home, immediately goes to the fridge, looks in it, then goes to the pantry, and looks in it? Not really because you are hungry, but just to looking to see if something strikes you? Think about other routines that might trigger mindless eating, such as sitting down to watch your favorite show, grazing while cooking, etc.

The BIGGEST tool you can use in conjunction with a food journal is YOU. How?  By taking the time to really learn your triggers, as exemplified by your food journal, and making adjustments!

Do You Eat to Live, or Live to Eat?

By Ashley Schumacher, Program and Development Coordinator

Take a moment to reflect on food. Do you relish the thought of creating your next culinary masterpiece, or do you find yourself dragging your feet on the way to the grocery store? For many of us, preparing meals can be an unsavory affair due to the time, expense and inevitable mountain of dirty dishes to clean. Cue meal replacement shakes: fast, easy, no prep/clean-up and supposedly “healthy.”Have you ever tried replacing a meal or even two with one of these shakes? It is hard for me to believe that this would benefit anyone physically, mentally or socially.

At its most basic level, food gives us energy to live, but it also provides us with so much more. Everyone eats in certain ways and at certain times because of cultural, religious, social, economic or environmental influences. Sharing food at celebrations or holidays is a wonderful chance to bring families, friends and communities together. I enjoy preparing meals that satisfy my nutritional needs as well as my taste buds. Eating a balanced diet may seem difficult at times, but I take pride in making daily, health-conscious choices (and occasionally treating myself with ice cream). While meal replacement shakes continue to have a presence in the market, I wouldn’t want to give up the pleasure I get from a nutritious meal or the social aspect that mealtimes provide. What would you lose if you gave up eating ‘real food’?

Remember, no single food substance contains all the nutrients needed for good health. HealthSource Solutions supports the Dietary Guidelines for Americans which recommends enjoying a wide variety of foods in a healthy balance to support long-term health. Eat moderate amounts from all food groups, not large amounts of a few foods. That way, you will be getting all the nutrients your body needs as well as the satisfaction your mind craves. 

HealthSource Solutions Exceeds QuitPlan at Work Goal!

By Carolyn Peterson, Worksite Services Manager

What does it feel like to be part of a project that has helped over 5,000 Minnesotans make a successful quit attempt? Having a sister who has battled tobacco for over 40 years and has serious health issues related to tobacco, it feels great!  

I have had the privilege of managing QuitPlan at Work, a tobacco cessation grant funded by ClearWay Minnesota for the past ten years. We provided onsite group counseling to Minnesota worksites that had at least eight employees interested in quitting tobacco. The goal of the program was to provide service to at least 50 worksites each year and include various industry sectors and reach all regions of the state.

The goals of the program seemed daunting as we began in 2003, but as we started, great things fell into place. Here is what I attribute the success of the program to:

  • FREE face-to-face group counseling for employees & spouses 
  • High-quality counselors throughout the state of Minnesota
  • Professional tobacco cessation training for the counselors through Mayo Clinic Tobacco Treatment Specialist program
  • Great connection to the business community through HealthSource Solutions
  • Robust program evaluation data showing 1 in 4 was still quit 7 months post-program
  • Relentlessly getting the word out through statewide conferences, networking and social media

Most importantly, this program was about people helping people with a very difficult task – quitting tobacco for good. It causes both health and financial hazards. I couldn’t be more proud of the outcomes of this program over the past ten years. June 2013 is the last month of the grant and we hit 505 companies served – we exceeded our goal!

We are currently working on developing the next generation of this important initiative – Kick it Together. More details to come in August!

QUITPLAN at Work counselors from around the state of Minnesota pose during their final annual meeting

Work Smarter, Not Harder

By Crystal Miller, Fitness Center Services Manager

As a student in college, I had the opportunity to conduct exercise metabolic assessments on students and faculty, but never did one myself. HealthSource Solutions has been offering this service for many years and once I started administering them a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to go through one myself.  I found it to be a huge benefit in reaching my goals! Being in the fitness industry, I feel confident instructing clients on a proper workout plan, allowing for a variety of exercises and intensity levels. However, after going through the assessment, I realized I needed to start practicing what I preach. As much as I was doing outside of my classes at work, I soon realized it’s not the intensity at which I exercise; it’s how efficient I can be doing it. Not only was I doing too much above and beyond my exercise at work, I was working out at a very high intensity each time…burning more carbohydrates for fuel, rather than fats.

The exercise metabolic assessment provides insight into your personal metabolism, giving you detailed information about caloric needs and how you burn fat. It helps fine tune your training program to meet your goals, whether it's weight loss, fitness or athletic performance. It’s unique to you and helps you be successful in your personal exercise planning.

With only 8-12 minutes on the treadmill wearing a heart rate monitor and mask, you will receive your detailed metabolic profile. Afterwards, you and a fitness professional will determine how long and how intensely you should exercise to improve your Vo2 and overall fitness level, resulting in a more efficient workout.

Regardless of your fitness level or age, I am certain you will see the benefit. I did! It’s a small investment and well worth it. 


Summer Wellness Bucket List

Summer Wellness Bucket List
By Annie Ketcher

Today I did something that truly lifted my spirits and put a smile on my face. I went for a walk outdoors! It is amazing how much you appreciate a sunny and warm spring day after such a long, cold winter. And as I was walking, I was thinking that I need to take advantage of every opportunity I have to get outdoors this spring and summer. So I thought I would create a summer wellness bucket list to help ensure that I make the most of a beautiful Minnesota summer. You may notice based on my list that wellness is more than just eating healthy or exercising. It’s also about relaxing and spending time with friends and family! Here it goes:

  • Run a 5k race
  • Head to a baseball game and cheer on the Twins!
  • Go tubing down the Namekagon River
  • Take a nap in my hammock
  • Attend an outdoor concert
  • Go on a weekend motorcycle trip
  • Swim in a lake
  • Have happy hour with my co-workers
  • Take a boat ride
  • Attend a festival of some kind (music, art, etc)
  • Spend a day garage sale-ing
  • Go to the zoo
  • Play Frisbee
  • Go golfing
  • Grill a completely vegetarian meal
  • Walk or run the 6 miles around Lake Rebecca
  • Lay on the beach and read a book
  • Plant a vegetable garden
  • Sit around a bonfire
  • Visit a Farmers’ Market
  • Play beach volleyball
  • Do yoga outside
  • Go geocaching
  • Have a picnic in the park
  • Make real fruit popsicles
  • Go wine tasting
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Pick berries

This is going to be a busy summer! I better get started right away. Item #1 to check off my list: Run a 5k race. Thank you Get in Gear!

Left to right: Ed, CEO; Annie, Program Coodinator; Katie, Senior Fitness Specialist.

Pay Attention to Your Health

Whoa! How did that happen?

The Importance of Paying Attention to Our Health

By Karin Junge, Sales Associate

I recently returned from The American Journal of Health Promotion conference. I was exhibiting to promote HealthSource Solutions, but was fortunate enough to attend several wonderful sessions. Although I picked my sessions randomly, I was able to piece together a theme from these sessions that could be helpful at work and in my personal life. I attended several sessions around mindfulness and around the brain and our health. The theme that emerged was the importance of paying attention to our bodies and mind to create and sustain healthy behaviors. I gathered great information and some techniques. Here are my top 10:

Negative impact on health:

1. The information overload that we receive through our addiction to technology is negatively impacting our health. We are more stressed, depressed, sleep deprived, and have less brain function than ever before. We think we can multitask, but we actually are less productive due to all the distractions from technology.

2. Too many choices and too much information = contradictory     information, brain freeze and less ability to make good decisions.

Changing behavior:

3. Our unconscious mind governs 90% of our behavior. We need to tap into this through being mindful/paying attention to create and sustain behavior change.

4. To change a behavior you need to bring in a new behavior to replace it with and practice that behavior. Since unhealthy behaviors are a habit that we do when we are not paying attention, we need to practice, over train, memorize the healthy behavior so it becomes habit.

5. To sustain behavior change you also need immediate feedback along the way. Pay attention to your energy, mood, emotions, anxiety, etc. After exercising (or being sedentary), eating healthy (or unhealthy), meditating/relaxing (or spending hours in front of a screen), ask yourself “how do I feel?” Your body will give you feedback and help support healthy behaviors if you pay attention.

So you may be saying great Karin, but how do I pay attention?  Below are some helpful techniques.

How to pay attention:

6. Daily Check-ins: Check-in throughout the day. Pause while working. See if your body needs anything (a break for water, movement, deep breaths, to stretch, etc).

7. Mindful Eating: While you eat, pay attention to the taste and your fullness. You may notice that your fruits and vegetables actually taste good and that some of the other unhealthy things you consume don’t!

8. Reduce Screen Time: Turn off technology when eating, relaxing, spending time with others, and 30 or more minutes before you go to bed.

9. Body Scanning: Close your eyes and start deep breathing as you scan from your feet to the top of your head (or head to toes). Notice muscle tension, hunger, anxiety, etc.

10. Self Coaching: This is more complicated, but is basically asking your sub personalities (self leader, creative self, autonomous self, rational self, confident self, curious self, critical self, calm self, and spiritual self) how they are doing and what they need. This could be related to your current state or to a life situation/problem. It helps to close your eyes and spend 30-60 seconds with each personality, then write down what came up.

Can’t remember to pay attention? Set a timer!

Use technology to your benefit. Set your phone alarm/calendar reminder/microwave timer to remind you to check in/take a break. Set this reminder at work & home. This can be to check in with your body and mind, or to remind you to get away from technology and do a healthy behavior like move your body, connect with a friend or family member, grab a healthy snack or take a deep breath.

Balance and Business

By Ed Boyle, CEO

Balance is a worldly concept – the term is used frequently.  At HealthSource Solutions we incorporate balance into all our employee wellness programs.  Our Work Life Balance campaigns continue to be very popular. 

As it relates to our business, I will illustrate balance using a 3 legged stool analogy where each leg of the stool represents a different, yet vital, business component.  The legs are:

  • People
  • Operations/Execution
  • Financial Results

We all know what happens if one of the legs break or is shorter than another – the stool falls over or wobbles until the thing collapses!  The same thing happens when decisions are not made in a balanced manner.

The seat of our 3 legged stool represents HealthSource Solutions.  For HealthSource to compete, remain relevant and endure, each leg of the stool needs to considered and hold its weight – each leg needs to be part of the decision process – decisions need to be balanced.  Organizations out of balance will sustain themselves for a while but eventually break. Organizations focused singularly on profitability will eventually burn its people out or fail to execute.  Those that go overboard on people will eventually price themselves out of the market or face non-sustainable margins.  And so on….

I am proud that over the last few months I have felt a greater sense of balance in our decision process.  We are having more and more ‘robust’ conversations about the business and I feel we are seeking a better sense of balance in the decisions we are making and their effects on our people, operations and financial results.

I’ve had a few conversations recently that really lead me to this topic – it was refreshing and rewarding to have a business discussion where the conversation covered all of the 3 legs.  What was even more refreshing is that although we did not necessarily agree on each point, we were including all the legs in the dialogue.

We are almost 4 years as HealthSource Solutions – we continue to grow!