The Social Network Diet (FastPencil Premiere, September 2011) isn't another fad diet book, but rather a practical guide on making lasting, positive changes by creating a supportive social network and a favorable food and physical activity environment.
Are there parks or trails near your workplace for a lunch-break walk? Keep a pair of walking shoes at work and head out with a co-worker to get some fresh-air exercise and power up your productivity for the afternoon. Do you rely on caffeine and a vending machine raid to get you through the day? Re-evaluate your food choices and try non-processed, nutritious meals and snacks to meet your body's fuel requirements and boost your mood.
Dr. Miriam Nelson is on a mission to inspire women and fight obesity head-on with her book The Social Network Diet. "More than 67 percent of U.S. residents are either overweight or obese, and with that our nation is facing a problem of epidemic proportions, diminishing the quality of life for all. This is an urgent issue that requires a creative, collective approach," says Nelson, the director of the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Prevention and a professor of nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. She is also the founder of the StrongWomen Initiative, a community nutrition and physical activity program available in 40 states that is designed for women.
The aim of this socially-focused diet is "to produce a ripple effect where the idea starts with an individual and is passed along from person to person until we create an environment that promotes health for all." It challenges the reader to take a hard look at her choices, her social network of friends, family, colleagues and online connections, her community and society — all factors that influence physical activity and nutrition. It's not just our 198 genes that are related to body weight — our social networks and environment play a major role, too. If your friends, for example, get together for a calorie-heavy dinner and drinks, try organizing a group hike or cross-country ski afternoon instead. Join a new group to expand your social network and have a ripple effect, Nelson points out. "Church activities, group sports and recreation, or neighborhood functions can foster good feelings about yourself and your community and encourage healthy activity. This, in turn, makes you and your neighbors feel more attached to your neighborhood."
Nelson looks at how our everyday actions can influence our environment, such as buying 100 percent whole-grain breads and not buying soda. As consumers, we can drive product development. If we shop at businesses that sell the best produce and other healthy foods, such as local grocery stores and farmers' markets, these sellers will prosper. Need inspiration? In the book, the "Game Changers" chapter highlights women who have spearheaded community programs, including turning lawns, driveways and empty lots into produce gardens, adding bike lanes to roadways and establishing organized play activities, like kickball, for kids at recess. "All of the women we interviewed saw a need in their surroundings and were compelled to do something about it," says Nelson. "They were not willing to let the status quo stand." And neither should you.
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