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.
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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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
I’m getting ready for a 3-week state tour during the heart of Wellcheck season. Over the next 3 weeks, MUS Wellness will be sponsoring a dozen workshops covering a whole spectrum of health & wellness related topics. I’m excited about teaching, and in many cases, learning, from all these workshops! And I’m also excited to visit our different MUS campuses and see you guys!
There are still spots available, so register today before they fill up! Check out the schedule below, and click here for a PDF version with registration links.
Last April, we offered a pilot program of the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade to 130 MUS Benefits Plan members. The 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade, developed by nutrition expert Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, CNS, is a simple, yet highly effective way to reshape your eating habits and boost your nutrition. The program requires only about two minutes a day and can be effortlessly incorporated into any daily routine. It’s not a diet or a detox, and there are no forbidden foods.
At the conclusion of the pilot program, we collected feedback from our MUS participants, and here’s what we found:
97% of participants made a positive change to eating habits as a result of the program!
The most commonly cited dietary changes that participants made included:
Many participants reported more energy/improved mood, fewer digestive issues, enjoying their food more, and weight loss (even though weight loss is not a focus of the program).
In addition, here’s what two participants specifically said about the Upgrade:
“…I am always wary of diets and so many extreme approaches to nutrition that are out there. I’ve wanted more structure to help improve my nutrition, but have been afraid of falling into the obsessive diet traps. I loved the balanced and non-restrictive nature of the program.”
“I felt that the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade was an amazing experience. It’s a wonderful addition to the MUS Wellness Program, and I would recommend the Upgrade to anyone!”
Due to the success of the pilot program, we are thrilled to announce that the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade for MUS is back! We will offer the program again this fall, beginning Friday, October 12th at a cost of $10/person (savings of $30 off the regular price). Included in the program:
Live one-hour online kickoff, plus access to a video recording of the session afterwards
Nutrition GPA app for iOS or Android
Downloadable handouts and other program materials
Two live check-ins midway through the program
Frequent communication and support from program leaders, Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, and Cristin Stokes, RDN, LN
Private Facebook group for Montana University System participants for ongoing connection and support
To learn more about the program, and read about Cristin’s personal experience, click here.
The program is open to all MUS Benefits Plan members, including spouses and dependents over 18 years old, and registration opens Tuesday, October 2nd. Mark your calendars and watch for an email from your campus Human Resources or Wellness contact on that morning! If you have questions about the program, check out the informationhere or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
MUS Wellness again has the honor of hosting a dietetic intern for two weeks from the Montana Dietetic Internship program. This year’s intern is Steph Tarnacki. Steph earned her Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from the University of Northern Colorado, and aspires to work as a dietitian in the public school system to improve the National School Lunch Program, provide nutrition education, and establish more Farm to School Programs. We had a reader request for eggplant recipes following our recent post about zucchini, so on day one with us, I asked Steph to write about her favorite ways to prepare eggplant, and she happily obliged. Please welcome Steph Tarnacki as our guest blog writer:
Late August in Montana – the sun shines bright against a foreshadowing chill in the air, the critters bustle and scavenge for food in preparation of the long winter to come, and the gardens burst with deep purple eggplants!
Eggplants, a member of the nightshade family, are known for their slightly bitter taste, and spongy texture. Their roots trace back to Asia, where you can find over 13 varieties! Rich in the antioxidant nasunin, eggplants help protect against harmful free radicals and, most importantly, protect the fats in brain cell membranes. Talk about some delicious brain food! Nasunin also reduces inflammation, helps our body remove toxic waste, and may help stave off cancer, heart disease and arthritis.1, 2
Eggplants are low in calories, high in fiber and also pack a punch in the vitamin department – rich in B vitamins, magnesium, potassium and Vitamin K.
So, how can you incorporate more eggplants into your life? Here are a few of my favorite recipes!
BAKED EGGPLANT PARMESAN
3 eggplant sliced 1/4″ thick (you’ll need 12 slices)
3 eggs beaten
1 (8 ounce) box Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
Sprinkle some salt on both sides of each slice of eggplant. Layer the slices in a colander and place the colander in your sink. Place a heavy dish or pan over the top to press them down. Allow to sweat for 30 to 45 minutes. Rinse well with cold water to remove salt and blot dry with paper towels
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a rimmed baking sheet generously with cooking spray. Dip eggplant slices in egg, then in bread crumbs, pressing crumbs down with fingers if needed to cover evenly. Place in a single layer on oiled baking sheet and lightly spray tops of breaded eggplant with cooking spray.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes then carefully flip each slice and cook an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
In a 9×13 inch baking dish spread just enough marinara to cover bottom of dish. Place a layer of eggplant slices in the sauce. Cover each slice with a spoon full of marinara, a slice or two of mozzarella, and then sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Repeat with one more layer. Pour any leftover marinara and around edges of eggplant slices and top with any cheese that is left. Sprinkle basil on top.
Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Recipe by: Valerie’s Kitchen
Olive oil (for grill and drizzling)
2 pounds Italian eggplants (4 medium)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini
½ garlic clove, finely grated
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sumac, za’atar, crushed red pepper flakes, or Aleppo pepper; grilled flatbreads or pita bread (for serving)
Prepare a grill for medium-high heat; lightly oil grate. Grill eggplant, turning occasionally, until skin is charred and flesh is fork-tender, 25–35 minutes. (Alternatively, you can tuck vegetables into coals left over from grilling something else. Wait until charcoal is completely covered with ash and no black spots remain. Shake grill to knock excess ash off coal, then rake them around and pile them up around vegetables.) Let cool slightly.
Halve eggplant, scoop flesh into a colander set over a bowl, and let drain at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour; discard liquid.
Pulse eggplant along with lemon juice, tahini, and garlic in a food processor until smooth; season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle baba ghanoush with oil and top as desired. Serve with flatbreads or pita bread.
Recipe by NYT Cooking
1 large (1.25 lb) eggplant, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb), cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
5 large cloves garlic, chopped
5 large vine-ripened tomatoes (1.75 lb), cut into 1/3-inch cubes, with their juices
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme, plus more for serving
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to another plate and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pain. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and transfer to a plate; set aside.
Add two more tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 3 minutes more. Do not brown. Add the tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, thyme, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down into a sauce, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cooked eggplant to the pan; bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is soft. Add the zucchini and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until just warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Sprinkle with fresh basil and thyme, drizzle with a little olive oil if desired, and serve warm or chilled. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.