Initiate Countdown!

We’re hours away from the launch of our 6th year of the MUS Wellness Incentive Program, and to be honest, we can’t wait to get started! It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be challenging. It’s going to be fresh. Here are some new things to look forward to!

All your favorite things, plus a focus on Mental Health

All your favorites will return—challenges and educational videos from Neal & Cristin. Team step challenges and other physical challenges throughout the year. Plus, this year, we’re adding a focus on mental health. To facilitate this we have a new partner called Whil, which provides training directly through our Incentive site or on your smartphone, in the areas of mindfulness, stress resilience, and productivity. The Whil micro-learning sessions can be done in 1 to 5 minutes, whenever and wherever you need them. We hope you will join us in making 2019 a year of personal growth and achievement by doing some new training with your most amazing possession—your brain.

Other New Features

Our Incentive Program will have a personal feel this year through a feature called My Choice. Personalized challenge recommendations will be pushed to you based on your ongoing challenge selections and your Well Being Assessment results. You will be able to earn up to a quarter of your incentive points by choosing these personalized challenges.

Fitbit is Back!

We’re pleased to offer an array of Fitbit Health trackers at no cost or a significant discount for our first incentive. When you reach Scout level, you’ll be directed to a Fitbit webcart offering the lastest Fitbit trackers, including some brand new products that have just been introduced!

Staying in the incentive lineup are Amazon Gift Cards, plus an opportunity to receive a special Expedition Leader hat at our top level!

Tune in Wednesday for the whole scoop!

Wednesday, January 16th, we’ll host our 2019 MUS Wellness Overview webinar to talk about our entire Wellness program, including details regarding all the information we just announced. We hope you’ll join us as you discover great health with MUS Wellness and blaze a trail to your best life! 

Happy New Year!

Happy 2019! Although I’m not one to make strict resolutions, I do find that the start of a new year is a good time for self-reflection and a setting of intentions for the coming year. For me, the subtle language shift from resolution to intention allows more flexibility, and when it comes to making behavior changes that stick, flexibility is key. Few of us are able to make drastic changes overnight.

According to a YouGov poll from 2018, “eat healthier” was tied with “getting more exercise” and “saving more money “ as the most popular new year’s resolutions. If you are one of the millions who’s resolved to eat healthier in 2019, first, please read Neal’s past blog post about setting SMART goals, and second, I wanted to remind you that MUS Wellness is here to help. Our next round of the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade kicks off Monday, February 4th! This program provides a simple way to reshape your eating habits and boost your nutrition.

Unlike the diet plans that abound on the internet, this program is not a diet or a detox. In fact, a previous participant said this about the Nutrition Upgrade in her 2018 Success Story, “I have been tracking my calories in – calories out for years after learning at a young age from my mother. This year, I was able to participate in the Nutrition Upgrade program offered last spring and that gave me a different perspective on tracking my food intake and nutrition.”

Another participant said, “I’ve been looking for a food plan that fits me and my busy life for years. It feels so balanced and realistic. I can still really enjoy eating and cooking. Thanks for sharing it.”

If you’ve attempted to eat healthier in the past, but were not successful, I encourage you to try the Nutrition Upgrade. It provides a refreshing way to view nutrition that doesn’t involve counting calories or strict rules. By participating, you’ll receive access to a live one-hour online kickoff, the Nutrition GPA app for iOS or Android, downloadable handouts, two live check-ins midway through the program, and a private Facebook group for MUS participants. Plus, new for this round: participants will receive a email every day from Monica and me with a helpful tip or tasty recipe!

Even better, program creator Monica Reinagel will be here in Montana for a live kick-off at MSU Bozeman, followed by presentations and meet-ups at UM, Montana Tech, and MSU Billings! Monica is a board certified, licensed nutritionist and professionally trained chef. She’s the author of six books about nutrition including Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet and Inflammation Free Diet Plan. She writes the blog at http://www.nutritionovereasy.com, and she’s the host of the popular Nutrition Diva podcast. She’s an incredible nutrition resource, and participants in select locations will have the unique opportunity to meet her and ask nutrition questions in person!

To sign up for the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade, go to https://nutritionovereasy.com/mus. Email me at cristin.stokes@montana.edu for the discount code to receive $30 off (you pay $10).

Perhaps it’s not healthy eating that you want to focus on this year, but instead you want to get in better shape, become more financially savvy, or start a daily meditation practice. Or maybe you didn’t make any resolutions at all, but are still interested in improving your health and well-being in 2109. MUS Wellness is here to help you too! Our online Limeade Incentive Program kicks off Tuesday, January 15th with daily, weekly, and monthly challenges designed to set you on the path towards better health, and a new tool to help you focus on improving your mental health. Plus, participants can earn a free Fitbit health tracking device, and up to $80 in Amazon gift cards!

To learn more about what MUS Wellness is offering in 2019, please join us for the 2019 MUS Wellness Program Overview Webinar on Wednesday, January 16th at 12PM. We will be focusing on what’s new with the Incentive Program, but we’ll touch on all of the programs available through MUS Wellness. If you are unable to watch at that time, we encourage you to still register for the webinar, and the recording will be sent to you as soon as it’s available.

We hope 2019 is your best year yet, and we at MUS Wellness are here to support you along the way!

Cristin

End of Year/New Year News

Our MUS Wellness Incentive Program is winding down this week, so we wanted to share some important end-of-year dates for our participants, plus share some news to get you excited for our next round!

2019 Program News

The MUS Wellness Incentive Program will be returning January 15th, 2019, for our 6th year of programming! Here are some quick highlights we’d like to share with you to get you excited!

  • Fitbit is back on the incentive table in 2019! Look forward to some awesome new products and choices from Fitbit!
  • Introducing Whil. In 2019, our program will have a special focus on mental health and mindfulness. As a tool to help, we’re adding a resource called Whil to our program platform. Whil offers short practices on mindfullness, meditation, stress resilience, and productivity. Take your mental game to the next level in 2019 with Whil, Limeade, and MUS Wellness!
  • We’ll kick things off with our MUS Wellness Overview Webinar on January 16th. Click the link to register! 
Introducing Whil mindfulness and stress resilience training in 2019!

Hitting 10,000. Every Day.

Today’s success story comes from Trudy Carey. Trudy is the director of Disability Support Services at MSU Billings, and has been a Wellness Champion on that campus for several years. Trudy has also been a very active and competitive participant in all our wellness challenges. She especially loves a good step challenge, as her story will attest to. Thanks for sharing Trudy! Keep up the awesome work!

I love the Limeade program, especially the step/mile challenges.  I have walked 10,000+ steps every day since the 10,000 step-a-day challenge a couple of years ago.  Thanks to that, and the fact that I can see how many calories I burn on my Fitbit, I lost 35 pounds and have kept it off for more than two years.  I never thought of myself as a competitive person, but I discovered that I am very competitive about staying on the leader board for walking challenges.  In fact, the most recent team challenge in which I participated named the team “We follow Trudy”! 

Trudy Carey, MSUB

Here’s some good news for Trudy—we’re thinking about bringing back that 10,000-step-a-day challenge [Million Step Club] in 2019. Who’s up for starting your own streak?

Wellchat Episode XXI: Life Hacks

Episode 21: Neal and Cristin discuss and comment on the recent MUS employee crowd source question regarding favorite Life Hacks. Tune in to learn your peers’ secrets to making life easier, more manageable, and creating healthy habits that stick.

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

Very Healthy Competition

Kudos to our Bozeman and Missoula communities, who set more records this year in their annual Can the Griz/Can the Cats Food drive competition.  Over 850,000 lbs of food and funds were collected this year between the two communities, with each receiving record donations to their local food banks. Amazing!

MUS Wellness was able to contribute a small portion, as Montana State put together a team for the annual Huffing for Stuffing Thanksgiving Day run. We had 102 members on our team, which turned out to be the largest team in Huffing for Stuffing history! MUS Wellness donated $500 to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank on behalf of our Wellness team. 

Members of the MSU Huffing for Stuffing Wellness team, ready to smoke the turkey!

This is another reminder of how outstanding our Montana communities are! It feels great to live in a place where everyone pulls together to make where we live and work healthier and happier!

Thanks to all who gave, ran, and volunteered!

MUS Wellness

Feeling Thankful.

For the past six years, our end-of-year tradition at MUS Wellness has been to collect success stories from our awesome MUS employees, and share some of the highlights. We’ve just begun reading your stories, which are always inspiring and a great reminder of why we do what we do here at MUS Wellness.

I thought I’d get our Wellness success story season kicked off with a tale of thanks as we go into the Thanksgiving holiday. This one is from me, and it turns out to be a very different success story than any I would’ve envisioned at the beginning of the year.

On August 24th, I was riding bikes with a group of guys from MSU. We do a regular lunchtime road ride on Mondays and Fridays throughout the summer, and it’s always a highlight of my week. It was a beautiful, sunny Friday, and I remember feeling really good—the weekend was coming up, I was feeling fit, and I was excited about the transition to fall. Everything was great. Until it wasn’t.

I was going down a modest hill at around 20 mph, and I had a routine left-hand turn to negotiate. As I leaned my bike into the turn I felt and heard an awful skidding sound as the tire suddenly lost grip, and I was down in an instant. I landed hard on the back of my left shoulder. If I were in a cartoon, there would’ve been a big, colorful flash…

…and then I was aware of my head skidding along the pavement. Luckily for me there was a very effective Giro helmet between my skull and the ground. I had broken one of my cycling rules: “Always wear your helmet, but try not to use it.” Well, I used it, and I sure am glad I was wearing it. I sustained no head or neck injury whatsoever.

My left clavicle, however, was not so lucky. It was in pieces. As I lay on the pavement staring up at the beautiful big Montana sky, I didn’t know I had broken my clavicle, but I did have the sense that my shoulder was injured pretty badly. I knew my head was okay because I asked if my bike was alright. Turns out it mostly was, but later I would learn that I had a small puncture in my front tube, which caused my front tire to gradually lose air until it failed. Normally, you notice things like this during a ride without something so dramatic happening. It was just an unlucky thing. But I was fortunate to be riding with a group, and also fortunate that I didn’t take out any of them in my fall. They took care of me on the scene, called for help, and got me to the Emergency Room quickly.

I elected to have surgery to put the pieces of my clavicle back together, and I’m glad I did. My surgeon, who did a marvelous job, said most of the time these surgeries take 30 to 40 minutes. Mine took him 90. Yikes. Here’s the before and after:

For many of you who know me, you may know that I am goal oriented, and I write out my yearly athletic goals and post them at home and in my office. When I had this accident, I realized immediately that most of my goals for the second half of 2018 were going to be put on hold. But almost immediately, as in, while sitting in the bed in ER, I was formulating a new goal—be fully recovered and fully functional by ski season. I quickly added a second goal after that first weekend at home and realizing how annoyed my very physically active 6-year-old was with my new condition, and that goal was to be able to play with my kids normally again as quickly as possible. I had suddenly become a considerably less-fun, fragile, one-armed dad, and that was motivation enough. 

One of my 6-year-old’s favorite things, especially this time of year, is tossing the football with me. I did the best I could one-handed, but a couple of weeks post-surgery I got in trouble with my wife after Dax zipped a football over my head that I reflexively reached for with both hands and let out a yelp. My wife advised us to stick to soccer.

Fast-forward to today, and I’m feeling very thankful to say that my impromptu recovery goals are largely being achieved. For that I give credit to an amazing job by my orthopedic surgeon and staff, a lot of care from my wife and family while I was pretty helpless, and diligent rehabbing throughout the fall. Now I’m feeling strong and ready for Bridger’s opening day this Friday! And this morning, before he went to school, Dax had some extra time and we spend it pitching the football around, and I thought about how nice it was to not be limited, and what a gift movement is, even for such a simple thing as tossing and catching a ball in your living room.

As we go into the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m sure you have many things to count as blessings. If you can name health and freedom of movement as part of your list, please do so! They are one of the most common things we take for granted until we lose them, and they are truly wonderful gifts.  

For those of you running 5k’s on Turkey Day, hitting the slopes on opening weekend, heading to your favorite trail, hunting, or just walking around the block with a family member, be mindful of how wonderful it is that we get to do it!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Be well!

Neal

P.S. To share your MUS Wellness 2018 Success Story, write us at mtchallenge@montana.edu

Life Hacks

First off, hi! It’s been a hot second since we’ve posted to the blog—we hope you missed us! Following the busy fall travel season, I’m settling back into the comfy confines of the Wellness office for the winter, so you can look forward to more posts, podcasts, videos and news about our 2019 Wellness program to start cranking out of this site at a steady pace.

In October, one of our challenges was to share a favorite “Life Hack” with us. We defined Life Hack as any tip, trick, shortcut, skill, or process that increases your daily productivity and/or efficiency, or that helps you stay consistent with a healthy behavior or habit.

As usual, our MUS population did not disappoint, and we wanted to pass back the treasure-trove of good ideas you all provided. We’ll start with some big themes and popular responses, and then plan to delve even deeper on one of our next podcasts or subsequent posts.

First, there were two very popular answers, one having to do with exercise habits, and one having to do with nutrition.

  • Exercise Habits: Laying out and/or packing the next day’s fitness outfit and footwear the night before. This eliminates the excuse of not having workout clothes, and is one less thing you have to do in the morning.
  • Diet & Nutrition: Many variations of meal planning, food prep, and batch cooking, all in the name of making weekday meals easy and healthy. I’m betting Cristin might have some commentary on this soon.

Simple healthy habits like walking and drinking water also came up quite a bit. Cristin and I were very proud of these popular responses, as we are a big proponent of these and talk about them often. The following were some more specific life hacks that were shared. Pick a favorite from the list below and try it out for yourself!

  • Take the stairs. Every time.
  • Tell fitness instructors “See you next week” as you leave class. It adds accountability.
  • Never eat straight out of a bag. Pre-portion what you want and put the bag away.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday (IPhone users, there is a function on your phone called Bedtime, which can help with this.)
  • Stretch in the shower.
  • Take a campus stroll when stress gets too high.
  • Make a daily To-Do list at the end of the day for the following day, so you come into the office focused.
  • Start off the day with gratitude.
  • Keep sweets out of the house.
  • Set up automatic bill pay.
  • If I notice I am getting distracted, I get up and stretch, take a short walk, or work on something more physical.
  • Keep a journal.
  • I recently started throwing a load of laundry in the washer as soon as I wake up in the morning. It’s ready to toss in the dryer when I leave for work…and then I’m not spending my precious evening hours dealing with laundry (or forgetting to dry it).

Great ideas! We’ll stop there to let those sink in for now, but we promise to share more soon!

Be well,

Neal

The Good Enough Diet

My baby boy turned one year old last week. Birthdays have always been a natural time of reflection, and my son’s birthday was no exception. My husband and I found ourselves reminiscing a lot about the past year; talking about the enormous challenges of becoming parents for the first time, the incredible joys, the sleepless nights, the embarrassing moments, and the times that made us laugh, cry, and everything in between.

Needless to say, becoming a parent has profoundly changed me. And one of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is my general approach to life, specifically my perfectionism. Perhaps academically, perfectionism is an asset, but in all other ways, I find it’s a difficult, daily struggle. However, now as a parent, there’s simply not enough time, nor do I have enough energy, to devote to trying to be perfect, which of course is an impossible task anyway! Taking care of a little human being has demanded that I prioritize in a way I never have before, and accept as a success when something is simply “good enough”.

In fact, this “good enough” concept has become somewhat of a mantra for me, albeit unintentionally. When feeling inadequate as a mom, I began reminding myself that I just have to be good enough; good enough that my child is taken care of and feels loved. When I am feeling guilty for skipping the gym for the 4th day in a row, I take a walk outside and remind myself that it’s good enough; good enough for health and stress reduction in this phase of my life. When I see piles of laundry and floors that haven’t been swept in a week, I put in one load of laundry, pick up the obvious piles of dog hair, and I remind myself that it’s good enough; good enough that my house isn’t in complete shambles.

This good enough concept easily extends to diet as well, and this is actually something that I’ve been practicing for much longer than just my last year of non-perfectionism. I talk frequently about the 80/20 rule of moderation, which is another way of saying and affirming that perfectionism and diet don’t pair well. 

How many times have you given up on a diet because you ate one off-plan food? “I already screwed up”, you might think, “so it doesn’t matter now!” And maybe you go from having one extra drink at happy hour to a whole weekend of indulgent food and drinks. Or maybe you don’t even want to try eating a healthier diet, because you know you can’t live up to that stringent paleo/no-added-sugar diet your friend or co-worker is touting.

The “good enough” diet is different. Eating good enough means healthy changes that you can sustain for the rest of your life instead of dramatic shifts you stick to for just 14 or 30 or 60 days. Cutting your overall added sugar intake by 25% for good is much more powerful than doing a zero-sugar challenge for two weeks.

A belief in the  “good enough” diet is what led Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN to develop the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade program, and it’s why I’m such a proponent of the program.

Unlike other 30-day nutrition “boot camps,” the 30 Day Nutrition Upgrade doesn’t ask you to eliminate entire food groups or follow a rigid or restrictive protocol. You don’t have to avoid restaurants, cancel social plans, or pack special food to bring with you everywhere. You’ll just keep on living your regular life, only a little bit healthier.

The 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade features the Nutrition GPA™ app, which was recently named by the New York Times as one of 4 best food tracking apps! Each day, you answer 10 yes-or-no questions about your diet and get a grade for the day. Your daily grades are then averaged to reveal your Nutrition Grade Point Average (GPA).

There’s no grade inflation here; we’re not aiming for an A. We’re aiming for a solid B. Because a good-enough diet is healthier than a “perfect” diet followed by a reactionary binge.

As simple and fun as it is, the Nutrition GPA is a powerful tool. As one recent Nutrition Upgrader wrote: “Good news: One D day does not shift my GPA all that much. Bad news: One A day does not shift my GPA all that much. It really is the pattern of your eating on most days!”

The best part is that when we get to the end of the 30 days, you won’t be celebrating that it’s over. On day 31, you’ll be thinking, “Hey, that was easy! And I feel great! Let’s keep going!

The next 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade for MUS is kicking off this Friday, October 12th and there are still spots open! Come join us! We can’t wait for you to throw unattainable perfection to the curb and embrace the “good enough” diet. 

Happy “Good Enough” Eating,

Cristin

You must be a MUS Benefits Plan member to participate in the Nutrition Upgrade for MUS. For our blog readers who are not MUS Benefits Plan members, you can sign up here for the next Nutrition Upgrade for the general public, beginning October 19th.