The USDA released proposed nutritional standards for snack foods and beverages that are sold in schools. They are currently soliciting comments through the end of tomorrow (April 9th, 2013 11:59PM EST). According to the Atkins Center for Weight & Health at the University of California – Berkeley (disclosure: went to UC Berkeley), the Smart Snacks in Schools Proposal issues guidelines that better meet “common-sense standards for fat, saturated fat, sugar, and sodium, while promoting products that have whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients.”
It is important that we support these new standards to help our children meet their dietary needs and keep snack foods that prevent them from achieving optimal nutrition health out of our schools.
If you would like to read the Atkins Center’s official letter in support, I am posting the .doc file here:
support healthy snacks in schools
To comment on the USDA site, follow these instructions:
- Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FNS-2011-0019
- Find the section “Primary Documents”
- Select the blue button “Comment Now!”
- Fill out the required fields and Type Comment.
- Select Submit.
I believe the standards can be higher, but this is a solid first step in the right direction. This is what I wrote if you would like to copy my comments (pulled from the .doc file):
“Overall, I strongly support the “Smart Snacks in Schools” proposed rule. It is essential that children receive food in school that will help them meet their dietary needs not competitive snack foods that will assuredly prevent themfrom achieving optimal nutritional health.
From a former overweight child, Lindsay”
Further information about the standards:
- Food must be a fruit, vegetable, a dairy product, a protein food, a “whole grain rich” grain product, or a combination food that has at least 1/4 c. fruits or vegetables.
- It must have at least the 10% DV of calcium, potassium, vitamin D or fiber.
- Total fat must be < 35% of calories, saturated fat must be < 10% of calories, and trans fat must = 0g.
- Snack items must be < 200 calories per portion
- Beverages must be water, plain low fat milk, or 100% fruit/vegetable juice.
GOOD posted an article today titled “Five Skills Designers Have That Global Development Needs”. After browsing the list of reasons, I was reminded why I want to design for the childhood overweight problem: Because I have the skill set that this problem needs.
The reasons that Heather Fleming outlines are applicable to any field in which designers are not playing active roles. They are:
- We are system thinkers.
- Fresh eyes.
- We have a prototyping culture.
- We focus on people.
- We create capacity.
Wearable technology has the potential to impact health and fitness in BIG ways, but at it’s current state, designs can be greatly improved upon. In designing wearable technology, it is important to put just as much emphasis on the form as the function. It may be a great piece of technology, but if it’s not cool to wear, people probably are not going to wear it.
E-textiles have already made a dent into wearable technologies over the past decade, and the lesson we can learn from this industry is to integrate the technology into the fabric (of our lives), literally and anecdotally.
The article by Jennifer Darmour on Co.DESIGN offers several design principles:
- Make it Beautiful:
- Fashion and aesthetics are important if you expect customers to wear the product on their body.
- You should also take into consideration where people will be wearing this technology – at the gym or a cocktail party?
- Consider hiding the technology, though invisibility does not need to be a goal.
- Make it Peripheral
- Unlock looking at a mobile phone screen, wearable technology does not have to require all of our attention to operate.
- Interacting with the wearable technology can instruct the technology to do something, turn something on, or operate in its specific fashion. For instance, zippering a jacket can turn the music up or donw.
- Make it Meaningful
- Most likely, the wearable technology is collecting data, so you should make sure that you are deriving meaning out of the data for the user.
- Use the data to encourage good behavior and better decisions in the moment.
Source: 3 Ways to Make Wearable Technology Actually Wearable from Co.DESIGN
Jarrod from Cultivating Heroes outlines how he gave up chocolate for 1- month. How can we map this to other habits?
- Create reasons to change the behavior: When discussing willpower, I mentioned that one of the easiest way to reduce the energy it takes to exhibit willpower is to make an object of desire no longer desirable. Likewise, Jarrod mentions making a list to help build a new belief in your mind.
- Associate things you hate and would never do with the behavior: For instance, Jarrod associated an image of him at 300 pounds with chocolate. In other articles, writers have suggested imagining worms crawling through candy bowls. For me, I think about the possibility of being on thyroid medication every day for the rest of my life.
- Choose a positive behavior to replace it with: Jarrod replaced chocolate with peanuts to help with the transition. When I wanted to stop snacking less, I made myself take a walk down the stairs of my office building, only to walk back up. If I still had the craving, then I would snack.
Source: How to Stop Eating Chocolate Fast
The now infamous 1972 Standford marshmallow experiment demonstrated that children who exhibited willpower (not eating 1 marshmallow for 15 minutes in order to receive a second marshmallow) were more likely to turn out better in terms of long-term success than their counterparts who could not exhibit willpower. “Better” was measured in terms of substance abuse, SAT scores and a general report of competency from their parents.
A more recent study demonstrated that the ability of a chid to exhibit willpower is based on how much they believe the second marshmallow will actually come. The researchers from University of Rochester primed one group with a similar situation using crayons, where the children that waited were given crayons. In another group, the children that waited were not given the extra crayons, therefore the correlation between willpower and reaching their goals was broken. In this second group, the children lost their incentive to use willpower to resist temptation; they believe their reward will not actually come to fruition even if they work hard by waiting.
Even more interesting: The former group of children who were consistently rewarded waited even longer for their incentive.
For any of us adults who have tried different diets and exercise programs, this finding comes as no surprise. If we continue to see success, we will continue to make good decisions. If we feel like our good decisions are not rewarded with success, we are frustrated, and we may consider giving up.
I draw this analogy directly to how I feel right now on my own Paleo journey. I have seen success (in terms of body weight, composition, metabolism, and key vitals) in the past, so I know the diet is worthwhile. But I am not seeing success now, I feel stalled in improvement. I teeter on the edge of feeling that the reward may not actually come. The willpower to be even more restrictive with my diet in hopes of reaching my goals is waning. Of course, this also has to do with decision fatigue elsewhere in my life.
But how does this relate to motivating children to exercise, eat healthy, and lose weight?
Key take aways from this experiment:
- Motivate children to use willpower with rewards that they actually want.
- Deliver on the rewards consistently, without fail.
- Continue to increase the amount of time until the reward is given.
Source: Reconsidering the Marshmallow Test on Slate
Willpower is the ability to resist temptation and exhibit self-control. In their titled “Willpower” by psychologist Roy F Baumeister and science writer John Tierney, the authors write that studies have revealed that willpower forces the brain to exert energy, and just like muscle, willpower can be strengthened and fatigued with use.
The same energy store that willpower draws from also powers decision-making. As each day wears on, our ability to make decisions and exhibit self-control decreases. Our brains begin to lose some ability to control our emotions so that cravings, frustrations, and desires (as well as other emotions) become overwhelming.
Many people point to different foods that force them to practice self-control. To place that food out of sight means we do not have to use our willpower muscle to exercise restraint. Seeing that food every day, at least for a little bit of time, and practicing saying “no” will help. Over time, willpower acts like a muscle. With repetitions it can get stronger.
But what if we could change our idea of what is tempting so that willpower isn’t even a muscle that we need to use?
For a long time, pizza was a food I could not control myself around. One slice quickly became 4 slices, and then the guilt would begin to set in. But in the past 6 months, I have reassessed my diet, cutting out dairy and gluten altogether. I have spent a significant amount of time learning about how both harm my body. Now, when I look at pizza, I think about its negative aspects without hesitation, therefore, my willpower muscle never even gets activated.
If the food is no longer appealing because you can educate yourself on how bat it is for you, it is no longer tempting, therefore willpower is not needed.
More on this later.
Source: Resistance Training for Your Willpower Muscle on NPR
People make irrational and suboptimal decisions because they are subjective by nature. We also know that willpower, like any muscle, can be fatigued. Jon Stein, CEO of Betterment (I use this app, and I love it!) asks on Co.Design “How can we create digital products that help people foster good habits?”
Irrational and suboptimal decision making are all human flaws. We should take them into consideration when we are designing products.
What are the flaws of your target user group? Can they over come them easily or do you need to help them?
Our ability to make good decisions weakens under pressure, stress, and emotions. While we are good at making plans, it’s much harder to implement them now. Willpower, in general, is not a consistent or constant personality trait, but something that strengthens and weakens over time, particularly when it’s being used frequently.
Stein provides some guardrails (not guidelines) for designing better products.
- Automation: Take human error or emotion out of the equation by automating some part of the process.
- Goal Setting: Setting specific goals increases the likeliness that those goals are met. If there’s an opportunity to incorporate automation and goal setting, even better.
- Digital To-Do Lists: They help keep goals organized with reminders and due dates. They also help break a goal down into explicitly steps so as to make reaching the goal more manageable.
- Feedback and Accountability: This is really about the psychology of motivation. What is going to incentivize your user? Or, what is going to punish your user if they don’t keep up with their goals and to-do lists.
How do these translate to motivating children to be active, eat healthy, and make better choices?
Source: Digital Products Should Foster Good Habits. Here Are 4 Rules For Doing It
Homophily is the sociology principle that we all know very well: Birds of a feather flock together. Well, that goes for your waist size, and your approach to health and fitness as well. Several studies in the past 6 years have taken a look at how the company you keep affects your weight. It turns out that the stronger the social network tie is between two people, the more likely the two share the same level of health and fitness. While a 2007 study reported the connection (friends influence your size), a 2011 showed that we change our habits to mirror those of our friends, even when we do not explicitly talk about.
What does this mean when your child is overweight?
You want to consider the friends that they spend the most time with, and the habits of their parents and their siblings. For children, we have to focus on building strong relationships with good role models (parents, coaches, and teachers) and friends that eat healthy food and like to be active.
This story reminds me of a camper, her name was Sammy, that I had in my bunk at the overweight camp I worked at in 2002. On visitation day, her parents and sister took her out, including a stop at a restaurant for lunch. Sammy came back to camp crying because her sister, who had a metabolism through the roof, was allowed to order fried chicken fingers, while Sammy had to order a salad. This was unfair to Sammy, and undermined the positive changes she made all summer. Her parents missed an opportunity to teach Sammy’s sister the importance of good food choices, and demonstrated ignorance of their role in Sammy’s weight problems.
We must look at the eating habits and activity levels of everyone with whom an overweight child has a strong tie. And we cannot look at only their waist size. Children at a healthy bodyweight, but only consumes junk food, are just as bad of an influence as an overweight child that does not want to be active. If your child is overweight, they do not have the luxury of only consuming junk food and maintaining a healthy bodyweight. If they try to mirror their friend’s eating habits (which I did when I was a child) they will have little success. But if they are spending time playing outside and on team sports with other children, no matter the size, they are more likely to pick up habits that are maintainable in the long term.
Active Life’s new campaign against overweight may be misappropriating the blame for child overweight onto toys. By publishing a series of “ads” featuring overweight Barbie, Superman and LEGO, they are pointing out that any examples of adult obesity influence children negatively. While I agree that children pick up bad eating habits from their parents, they can pick up those habits that make them fat as well as those habits that make them starve just the same. Images addressing overweight and obesity need to focus on being healthy no matter the size. Active Life would be better off making ads addressing both ends of the spectrum, and the emotional side effects of (not) eating to treat your emotions.
The original caption is “Keep Obesity Away from Your Child.”
Studies do show that your friends make you fat.
Active Life’s goal is “to make healthy the norm by generating a persistent demand for healthy living among all sectors of society.”
Fast Company’s design focused site “Co.Design” introduces the “Let’s Move Active Schools” Campaign by contrasting it with the President’s Challenge many of us grew up completing each year in gym class. Due to the rise in child overweight, physical fitness is even more important. It’s possible the President’s Challenge does not fit the fitness level of today’s children. We need to rethink how to motivate children of all levels.
First Lady Michelle Obama is behind the Let’s Move campaign, and the Co.Design article focuses on the branding to point out some interesting highlights when designing for 8-to-12-year-olds:
- Children have visual taste, so we should not pander to them in obvious (read: childish) ways.
- We want to excite them in a way that is cool.
- Vibrant colors and symbols that incorporate motion into static images are bold and fun.