Your Health, Your Choice | June

Make better food choices, mind your cues

Do visions of frappuccinos dance in your head when you see the Starbucks logo? Does the familiar jingle in a fast food ad make your mouth water for fries? Don’t blame your lack of willpower. As food companies and restaurant chains know, sensory cues can encourage us to eat “automatically,” based on habit and the expectation of reward, rather than on a food’s nutritional value or on our physical hunger. But a recent preliminary study suggests that interrupting existing cues and creating your own may help you shift your habits. These strategies can help:

Tweak your environment. If you tend to be lured by the ice cream shop on your way home from work, for instance, go a different route for a couple of weeks and see if that helps you break the habit. At home, change your cues by clearing your pantry, counters, fridge, and freezer of junky foods and putting nourishing foods in prominent places. Out with the chips and candy…in with the celery and carrots, hummus, and fresh fruit.

Pay attention to your internal cues. Let your stomach, not your salivary glands, guide when you eat. Before grabbing a cookie on the conference table at work, tune in to your body’s cues. If you don’t feel physically hungry, skip it.

Don’t get “hangry.” We’re more vulnerable to external food cues when we’re hungry, and keeping your blood sugar balanced can help you make good choices. To that end, plan your meals and snacks and make sure each contains a balance of protein, whole grains, and nourishing fat. Check in with your body regularly to avoid getting too hungry, and keep a stash of nuts and dried fruit on hand for emergencies.

Annie’s Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips


  • 2 kiwis, peeled and diced
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples: peeled, cored and diced
  • 8 ounces raspberries
  • 1 pound strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fruit preserves, any flavor
  • 10 (10 inch) flour tortillas butter flavored cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar


  1. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis, Golden Delicious apples, raspberries, strawberries, white sugar, brown sugar and fruit preserves. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Coat one side of each flour tortilla with butter flavored cooking spray. Cut into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle wedges with desired amount of cinnamon sugar. Spray again with cooking spray.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven 8–10 minutes. Repeat with any remaining tortilla wedges. Allow to cool approximately 15 minutes. Serve with chilled fruit mixture.

Creating motivation when depressed

An episode of depression can be physically and emotionally draining. It may be tough to even get out of bed. The instinct can be to wait for energy to return. People who are depressed often fall into the trap of waiting it out, that if you give in to the urge to stay in bed for a few days, that you’ll be re-energized.

It’s not usually as simple as this. Depression breeds depression if it’s not confronted. Catering to our depressive urges actually reinforces them.

While it’s important to give depressive symptoms attention and understand what’s underlying the depressive episode, the concept of mind over matter can help create motivation when depressed. These steps can help us move on with our lives while we continue to work on the underlying issues.

Opposite Action. It urges getting up and going out, knowing it is a healthier behavior. It’s “just do the opposite of your unhealthy urge” technique. Behaviors can create positive changes in your emotions.

Set an Alarm. Not just for getting out of bed, but to signal a meal time, a time to do laundry, or run an errand. The alarm draws your attention to where you want to become more active in change.

Make Your Bed. Getting out of bed can be tough with depression. Visualize leaving all of your troubles behind you in the bed. Then, get up and make your bed, leaving the troubles there. It signals to your brain that there isn’t an option to get back in the bed.

Wash Up. Add routine steps after you make your bed. Try washing your face and brushing your teeth to help wake you up, training your brain to understand that you’re getting ready for something.

Get Dressed. Getting dressed decreases the urge to lounge, because again you’re reinforcing in your brain that you’re prepping for something.

Go Outside. The goal is going outside, not the particular place you go once you’re outside. It can be anything or nothing at all, but the goal is to spend at least ten minutes outside before going back in.

Choose One Exercise. Moving is a good way to start feeling better: walking, jumping rope, swimming. Whatever you choose, make it a point to do it every day when you go outside. If it’s an indoor exercise, do it before you go outside.

Make a List of Activities. Include activities that you enjoy at home and out with people. List things that include others, that give you time to yourself, a mix of work-related activities, and hobbies, and self-care.

Schedule Activities. Plan two weeks ahead of time and write the activities into your calendar with specific days and times. Spread them out as much as possible and stick to the schedule.

Daily Necessity Schedule. Choose the times you’re going to do each activity every day: time to get dressed, brush your teeth, cooking, eating, showering, turning off the TV. This helps you function on a daily basis.

See Family and Friends Being around others improves mood. Schedule dates and times with friends and family, outside of the house. Remove yourself from the environment of depression.

Psychotherapy. The desire to stay in bed is a symptom of depression. Psychotherapy is a step in managing depression to prevent further episodes, reduce severity, and be rid of depression. The internal issues that are causing the depression need to be addressed. Otherwise, the depression may return.

You have the power to increase your motivation and to break out of depression. Reclaim your life!

Eat right, sleep tight

Try not to go to bed hungry, but avoid heavy meals before bedtime. An overfull belly can keep you up. Some foods can help you fall asleep. Milk contains tryptophan, which is a sleep-promoting substance. Other foods that may help promote sleep include tuna, halibut, pumpkin, artichokes, avocados, almonds, eggs, bok choy, peaches, walnuts, apricots, oats, asparagus, potatoes, buckwheat, and bananas.

Researchers have found that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese. It is thought that a lack of sleep impacts the balance of hormones in the body that affect appetite. If you want to maintain or lose weight, don’t forget that getting adequate sleep on a regular basis is a huge part of the equation.

Exercise and your memory

Physical fitness and mental fitness go together. People who exercise regularly tend to stay mentally sharp into their 70s, 80s, and beyond. Although the ideal dose of exercise isn’t known, the exercise should be moderate to vigorous with a goal of three days per week. Examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, stationary bicycling, water aerobics, and competitive table tennis. Vigorous activities include jogging, high-impact aerobics, square dancing, and cardio drumming.

Exercise helps memory by reducing the risk of developing several potentially memory-robbing conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Exercise is good for the lungs, and people who have good lung function send more oxygen to their brains. There is evidence that exercise also builds new connections between brain cells and improves the communication between them. Finally, exercise has been linked to increased production of neurotrophins, substances that nourish brain cells and help protect them against damage from stroke and other injuries. Here are some ways to build physical activity into your daily routine:

  • Walk instead of driving, when possible.
  • Set aside time each day for dedicated exercise. For extra motivation, find an accountability partner, such as your spouse or a friend, to join you.
  • Designate a certain time of day to physical activity.
  • Plant a garden and tend it.
  • Take an exercise class, use the Wellness Center, or find a gym.
  • Swim regularly.
  • Participate in a sport that requires modest physical exertion, such as tennis.

The Wellness Center can help you develop a plan for a long, healthy lifestyle. Please visit one of our wellness experts to continue your journey toward improved health at any age.