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Promoting healthy eating habits

February 19, 2014
By Cheryl Rude , Marshall Independent

"Lead with a Story" is the title of the book by Paul Smith that I am currently reading before I retire for the evening. I've just barely started reading it, but the premise of the book is that stories are a more effective way to communicate and motivate others to want to achieve a vision as much as you do.

Even though I am only a couple chapters into the book, I can see how this method of communicating can be powerful. If you read Per Peterson's column in the weekend edition of the Marshall Independent, titled "How's this for an eye-opener?" you would have read a powerful story about his suffering a stroke at the age of 42 and how he plans to move on to a "healthier, less-salty life."

Here we are in the middle of February, which is designated as "Heart Month," with March, which is designated as "Nutrition Month" right around the corner. After all these years of being a registered dietitian and writing weekly columns about the virtues of eating healthy, I sometimes wonder how to come up with a new twist and slant to promote healthy eating habits. I think Per did it for me last weekend.

His is a compelling story. He tells about "recklessly salting" his food, not paying very close attention to his cholesterol and blood pressure levels, not consistently exercising and not finding good ways to deal with the stress of his job. "I've spoiled my taste buds without caring about the consequences, and now, because I've painted myself into this corner, I'm doing an extreme makeover on my body," he says.

At the end of his column he urges us all to take better care of our bodies. We have all certainly heard the messages about the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables, including more whole grains in our diet, choosing lean meats and low fat dairy products, cutting back on our sodium intake, etc.

And yet with all the information we read and hear, we continue to go down a road that shows some alarming statistics. For example, consider that in 1960, fewer than 13 percent of Americans were obese, and only 1 percent of the population was diagnosed with diabetes. Today, the percentage of obese Americans has almost tripled; the percentage of Americans with diabetes has increased sevenfold.

So, it makes me wonder if first-hand stories are more compelling than a bullet-pointed article. If you haven't read Per's column in the Feb. 8-9, 2014, issue of the Marshall Independent, please do. It can also be found online at He advises us to take care of our bodies and reminds us that "Life IS short, even though it doesn't always seem that way." Well said - thanks for your help, Per!

Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.



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