Journaling enhances weight loss; creating physical activity culture at schools
August 2008
Shape Up America! Newsletter

Diary Keeping Doubles Weight Loss Success
by Barbara J. Moore, PhD
A large, long term weight loss study of over 1,500 adults found that writing down what you eat and how much you exercise can help you lose more weight than if you did not keep a daily diary.1

This report on the first six months of a two-year study, which is currently underway in four centers in Maryland, North Carolina, Louisiana and Oregon, confirmed the value of keeping a diary while attempting to lose weight. The average weight loss was 13 pounds. Those who kept food records lost twice as much weight as those who did not. One of the authors speculated that the simple act of writing down what you eat may lead to the consumption of fewer calories.2

Participants in this study were at least 25 years old and had a body mass index (BMI) ranging from 25 to 45. Over three-quarters of adults were considered obese, with a BMI of 30 or more. All adults were on medications for lowering lipid (cholesterol or triglyceride) levels or for high blood pressure, or both, and were willing to follow a calorie restricted diet and to increase their physical activity to achieve weight loss. Forty four percent of participants were African American and 67 percent were women and the majority attended at least 14 of 20 group sessions offered once a week to help them adhere to their food and physical activity goals.

The study was sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Future results on maintenance of lost weight will be shared once they become available.

Shape Up America! offers a free downloadable form for keeping track of your food and activity. If losing a few pounds is one of your goals, feel free to take advantage of this important and effective weight loss tool.

Barbara J. Moore, PhD, is President and CEO of Shape Up America!

Creating a Culture of Physical Activity
by Francesca Zavacky
How many 8-year-olds need to be prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs before we realize that we must do something about the obesity problem in this country? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 32 percent (about 24 million) of American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are overweight or obese, with roughly half considered obese. The proportion of children that are obese has more than tripled since 1980 and the rates are considerably higher among certain ethnic groups. Creating a culture of physical activity is one of the most important things a parent can do to help prevent an overweight, sedentary child.

One strategy is to examine the practices at your child's school. Does the school support a child-centered culture of physical activity? How will you know?

Inquire about how physical activity is incorporated into the school day. A comprehensive school physical activity program includes physical activity programs before, during and after school that promote physical activity throughout the school day. For example:

  • When your child arrives at school, is there a long wait in a bus room, or does your child have the opportunity to engage in meaningful physical activity while s/he waits for school to begin?
  • Does the school allow for a recess period each day for every student?
  • Is there a quality physical education program, with class scheduled each day for all grade levels?
  • Does the classroom teacher incorporate physical activity breaks during the school day?
  • Is after-school physical activity programming offered to all students?

The answers to these questions may surprise you, and the solutions to their absence can be low cost and significant for the entire school.

You can be the catalyst for creating a culture of physical activity! Many pro-active strategies for raising awareness and infusing activity into the culture of the school do not require expensive funding, just a mindful approach for using resources available in your school community. Some easy steps for parents to take:

  • Start with your playground. Spend a day observing children as they go about their free time outside. What physical activities, if any, are they doing? Do children have scheduled recess breaks during the school day? Is the playground utilized by students in every grade? Is play equipment available for them to engage in play of their choosing when they are outside? Are students active or milling around?

    Approach the school parent-teacher organization for some funds to purchase developmentally appropriate play equipment that can be used not only for sports, but also for individual, partner and small group play. These can be stored in an accessible area in plastic storage chests usually reserved for patio storage; they make great play "treasure chests" for any school. Ask your physical education teacher to guide the stocking of this resource to ensure developmentally appropriate equipment that extend what children are learning in physical education class. Remember that with equipment being used by several hundred children each day, funding is needed to maintain the replacement of equipment on an ongoing basis.

  • Be a champion for before-school programs. Waiting for school to begin can be a transition time that can make or break the school day for your child. If a long bus ride is followed by a long wait in a quiet room prior to the start bell, you may want to advocate for early bird activity classes instead.

    Many schools schedule a physical educator or parent volunteer to supervise intramural activities or simple physical activity offerings in a play area during this time. Physical activity is a great warm up for academic learning, and provides your child with much needed exercise during a time that has the potential to be extremely sedentary and boring.

  • Advocate for daily recess at your school. Generally left to the discretion of the school administrator, recess provides a much needed physical activity break for children, and helps children achieve the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity that children need daily. Recess also gives kids the opportunity to develop the social skills necessary to get along in today's world. Recess before lunch has been identified as a positive practice that results in students who eat more and waste less food, and this helps improve student behavior and increase instructional time for teachers.

  • Observe your child's physical education class. Quality physical education serves as the core of the physical activity culture of your school. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) has tools for observing physical education classes at your school on the NASPE web site. All children should have the opportunity to learn new skills and receive appropriate instruction that is provided by a licensed, qualified professional physical educator.

  • Inquire about after-school programs. Many schools offer academic programs that serve children after school hours and extend the school day. Advocate for physical activity to be included, or pilot intramural programs that offer kids the chance to learn new and exciting activities they might not otherwise be able to try. Recruit community volunteers willing to share their expertise in their specialty areas — many are willing to offer no or low cost classes to school children.

Providing a physically active lifestyle from the beginning of life increases the likelihood that children will learn to move skillfully and establish positive feelings about physical activity. Just as children and youth can learn the habit of regular physical activity, they can learn to be inactive if they are not taught the skills nor given opportunities to be active throughout their developing years. Families, schools, and communities must act now to develop a culture that supports daily physical activity for our nation's youth.

Francesca Zavacky, is Senior Program Manager at the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE)

Calorie Labeling Takes Effect in New York City Restaurants
New York City has now implemented a new regulation mandating calorie labeling in restaurants. The regulation applies only to larger chains such as Starbucks, Wendy's, Burger King and McDonald's. Accounts in the media suggest that the calorie information is causing a stir as people learn just how many calories are in the foods and beverages they routinely consume. Starting this month, restaurants subject to this mandatory regulation will be fined if they do not comply. The public health community eagerly awaits the collection of scientific data documenting how the new regulations are impacting food and beverage choices, overall dietary (especially calorie) intake and body weight. Similar regulations go into effect in several other cities and towns later this year.

Menus for Weight Loss and Healthy Eating
Shape Up America! offers these simple, convenient 1500 calorie and 2000 calorie menus to help you eat healthfully while controlling your calories.

My Story
A big change in lifestyle and physical activity habits allowed Dennis to see amazing results. And he's still going strong!

In June 2005, I weighed more than 290 pounds. I also smoked two packs a day and drank too much. By Thanksgiving 2005, I was down to 205 pounds. My wife and I started going to the gym and riding bikes several times a week. Now two years later, I'm training for a triathlon. My current weight is 187. No more smoking or drinking.

Shape Up America! wants to hear about you! If you would like to share your personal success story and be an inspiration to others who desire to lose weight, simply use our story submission system on the SUA Web site.

Recipe of the Month
This nutritious cold vegetable soup, rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber, is ideal for a hot summer day.
Black Bean Gazpacho
Makes 8 servings


  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 3 cups no added salt tomato juice*
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. low sodium Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup fat free sour cream


  1. Mix all ingredients except for sour cream in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with sour cream.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 140 calories, 1 gram total fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 33 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams protein, 9 grams dietary fiber, 340 milligrams sodium, 180% Daily Value vitamin C, 45% Daily Value vitamin A.

* Editor's note: Low sodium tomato juice is also acceptable.

Source: Fruits & Veggies Matter

phone: 406-686-4844

Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends or colleagues (click on Forward e-mail below). If you have not yet signed up for your own FREE monthly online subscription, or would like more information on Shape Up America!, go to Email addresses are maintained solely for newsletter use. Shape Up America! will not sell, rent, or share your address with a third party for non-newsletter purposes. Past issues are available at our newsletter archive.

Editor: Adrienne Forman, MS, RD

Forward e-mail

Safe Unsubscribe
This email was sent to by

Shape Up America! | PO Box 149 | Clyde Park | MT | 59018