1. Self-monitoring is an important behavioral skill for adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyles. There are many cell phone apps and resources for monitoring your diet, but the web-based resources available through MyPlate provide a free, comprehensive set of tools (called SuperTracker). An easy-to-use food database (Food-A-Pedia) allows you to enter the name of a specific food and get quick feedback concerning the food’s content. A customized tool called the Food Tracker evaluates the nutrient quality of your diet and an accompanying Physical Activity Tracker evaluates activity levels compared to the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines. An integrative tool (My Weight Manager) combines data on energy intake and expenditure to facilitate weight management. Companion tools let you set goals, use virtual coaches, and monitor progress over time. The comprehensive set of self-monitoring tools can assist consumers in adopting and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.
The SuperTracker software provides a set of tools designed to help in adopting healthy eating patterns and in increasing physical activity. The resources are designed to be used by all segments of the population, but some may benefit more than others. How does your diet stack up to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines? Would you benefit from tools designed to evaluate and track the quality of your diet over time? Why or why not?
2. In his book, Mindless Eating, Dr. Brian Wansink presents a somewhat different approach to eating. Based on his research, Dr. Wansink contends that subtle and almost imperceptible cues and prompts in our day contribute to a tendency to overeat (“We overeat because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboard and containers”). His research on labels and containers led to the development of the 100-calorie snack packages. He also advocates for eating with smaller plates and drinking from taller glasses since it tricks our mind into thinking that we ate or drank more than we did. By better understanding cues that lead us to eat, we can set habits and environments that help us to eat less. According to Dr. Wansink, “The best diet is the one that you don’t know that you are on.”
The concepts of “mindless eating” represent a novel approach to weight control. Rather than changing the foods we eat, the method focuses on how we can modify our perceptions of food to regulate intake. Take a closer look at Mindless Eating (or search “mindless eating” or “Brian Wansink”) to better understand the ideas. You may view the video, try the quiz, or view the related resources. Comment on whether you think this is a novel approach or whether it is just another fad diet. Would this mental approach to weight control help you better regulate your weight?
3. The recent “Stress in America” report from the American Psychological Association provides insights about patterns and trends in stress. Although sources and consequences of stress are similar for men and women, there are many key differences in how each gender reports and perceives stress. Women tend to report higher levels of stress than man, but they also appear to be following better stress management practices than men. The report suggests that men may be less concerned about managing stress and feel they are doing enough in this area. Women, in contrast, tend to place more emphasis on the need to manage stress, but feel they are not doing a good enough job of it.
Visit the StressinAmerica.org website to take a closer look at stress patterns and trends. Comment on interesting patterns or relationships you observe for gender, region, or generation. Are you surprised that there are gender, age, or generational differences in stress ratings? Why or why not?