MountainStar Health - February 08, 2021
by Jennifer James

The Ogden Regional Medical Center / Heart Center, “Losing It & Loving It” weight loss class & support group newsletter


We celebrate the heart (Heart Month), love (Valentine's Day), our presidents (President's Day), and a large rodent (Ground Hog Day) this month. After what we survived in January, it seems quite fitting. Hah! As we dig ourselves out of last year, let's listen and understand one another, as we figure out the best way forward with the least possible damage. Yes, we can do this. If you need a reason to believe this, listen to Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb”.

In good health,
Jennifer James

Success Story

I am acquainted with a wide variety of people. Some have endured traumatic childhoods, usually at the hands of their own parents, with some bullying from classmates thrown in. They often struggle with chronic illnesses, such as fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder and lupus. Could the ongoing physical and emotional stress they endured as children have something to do with these disorders? New research points in that direction. What is so amazing about some of these folks, is that they SHOW UP. They work full-time jobs, they marry and raise children, they speak to groups about how they chose to be a survivor rather than a victim, they make wonderful friends, and they are incredibly compassionate. They have been there and done that. If that is not a Success Story, I'm not sure what is. What does this have to do with weight? Often people learn to comfort themselves as children in these horrific situations by turning to food. As adults they end up in my office determined to lose weight, and get past using food as their “blankie”. So my friends, are we survivors or victims of our circumstances? It really is our choice.

The 2020-2025 DGAs

The American diet is a hot mess. Seventy-five percent of us do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, 63% eat too much added sugar, 77% eat too much saturated fat, 90% eat too much sodium, 74% are overweight or obese, and 60% live with at least one diet-related chronic disease. Yeah.

Very quietly this past year, the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) were jointly published by the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. There is an appointed Dietary Guidelines advisory committee of experts that reviews the latest research on nutrition and health and makes the recommendations. The DGAs are guidance for federal nutrition programs, policy makers, and health and nutrition professionals. Other entities, such as the food industry, State and local governments and schools  use the DGAs to develop policies, programs and communications. The National School Lunch Program is one example. By federal law, they are updated at least every five years. In the midst of a swirling cyclone of nutrition misinformation, this is one reliable source. There is a LOT of information and recommendations in the DGAs, but the four main messages are:

  1. Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.
  2. Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.
  3. Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits.

A healthy dietary pattern includes:

  • Vegetables: all kinds, all colors, including the starchy ones. Yes, even potatoes.
  • Fruits: especially whole fruits.
  • Grains: choose whole grains at least half of the time.
  • Dairy/Dairy substitutes: fat-free or low fat milk, yogurt and cheese or lactose-free versions, or fortified soy beverages and yogurt. The other plant “milks” were not included.
  • Protein foods: lean meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds and soy products.
  • Oils: especially liquid vegetable oils and oil in foods, such as peanut butter and avocados.
  1. Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Limit alcoholic beverages.
  • Added sugars: Less than 10% of calories per day. Avoid added sugars for those less than age 2. Saturated fat: Less than 10% of calories per day starting at age 2.
  • Sodium: Less than 2,300 mgs per day, and less for those younger than 14 years.
  • Alcoholic Beverages: If one drinks, 1 or less alcoholic beverage for women and 2 or less alcoholic beverages for men per day. Avoid alcohol if pregnant.

For additional information, (there is a lot), visit

US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at

Exercise, TV and the Blues

Two Swedish studies regarding cardiorespiratory fitness, mental health benefits, and sedentary activities have some note-worthy results. Researchers discovered that consistent exercise, opposed to a high degree of cardiorespiratory fitness, was better at providing mental health benefits in 36K+ middle-aged folks. They stratified people into three groups based on their cardiorespiratory fitness level, asked how often they exercised in the past 30 days, and how often they had felt “worried, with a depressed mood or anxiety” during that time. What they found was that those who exercised more consistently, even as little as 1-2 times per week, had less worry and anxiety than those who did not. This was regardless of their cardiorespiratory fitness level.

The second study found that the more passive sedentary activities a person engaged in, such as watching television, the more depressive symptoms they experienced . If they participated in a sedentary activity that was mentally stimulating, such as playing chess or reading, it seemed to prevent said symptoms. Here is the nugget: the more time a person spent in passive sedentary activities (like watching TV), the more it diminished the positive mental effects gleaned from regular exercise. This was the case even if one was quite fit.

The take-home message: if you want to feel less anxious and worried, do an enjoyable physical activity regularly, limit passive sedentary activities and, if you are sedentary, do something that is mentally stimulating. So, if you watch a lot of television and run 5 miles once a week, this will generate fewer mental health benefits than if you walk 30 minutes every day, and play Sudoku instead of surfing the internet.

Ellwood, Beth (2021). Regular exercise offers stronger mental health benefits than cardiorespiratory fitness, study finds. PsyPost. Retrieved 27 January 2021, from

Listen Up!

One of the often overlooked, but crucial skills we can have as humans, is the ability to listen. Not hearing, mind you, but listening. When we really listen our mind should be calm, focusing on what the other person is saying. Not just their words, but their facial expressions, body language, energy and tone. Do we really listen to our spouse? Children? Friends? When we are present, in this moment, without static, only then can we truly hear what others are trying to tell us. I encourage you not to think of the next thing to say. Let the other's words be the only thing that exists. Acknowledge what they are saying rather than trying to better their story. Summarize what you hear. Agree that things are difficult. Praise them for an accomplishment they relate to you. The simple act of being heard actually stimulates the reward system in the brain.

If we listen to our bodies, we can learn all kinds of things about ourselves. Do we listen to our mind's chatter? Is it encouraging or dismissive? What is our heart trying to tell us? How do we feel physically?

The bottom line is, we all want to be heard. Are we offering this kindness to each other? And ourselves? For the month of February, let's do a better job of listening to each other.

Great Grape Dessert

It's not often I come across a new dessert idea that is healthy, easy and fun to make. Enter a fun dessert to try for your precious ones on Valentine's Day. You can try a variety of different grapes. Possibly throw in a few pieces of frozen banana to add more creaminess. This recipe did not need any additional sweeteners.

  • 2 cups seedless frozen black grapes
  • 2-4 Tbsp. nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 drops vanilla extract
  • Blend the grapes with the Greek yogurt
  • and extract in a food processor or high
  • speed blender. Enjoy immediately.
  • It can also be frozen and eaten later, it will
  • still be tasty but not as creamy.

Makes 2 servings.
Calories per serving: 80 with the 4 Tbsp. yogurt

February Support Groups

  • Mondays, 2:00pm-3:00pm
  • Tuesdays, 4:30pm-5:30pm
  • Free to graduates of the LILI classes
  • Heart Center Conference Room


Webex conference calls. You must download the Webex app to your desktop, laptop, tablet or phone.

  • Mondays: password: 38HWuJ3pChs, meeting #145 779 2803
  • Tuesdays: password: 8iW3GqtZ9Ud, meeting #145 440 2353

Either group can be accessed with a phone call: (415) 655-0001, the access code is the meeting number.

If you are new to the support groups, please let me know you will be joining us, and which group.

One of the most
sincere forms of respect
is actually listening
to what another has to say.

Bryant H. McGill