Coca-Cola Balanced Living: Lessons Learned in Chicago

I was compensated for my participation in Coca-Cola's Balanced Living Workshop, but my thoughts and views are my own.

So, I went on the treadmill this morning. This means I've been on it twice since we've owned it. Both uses were prompted by my participation in Coca-Cola's Balanced Living Workshop. I was recently invited along with other leading Chicago mombloggers to spend two days learning about healthy lifestyles from the people of Coke. Yeah, I know, my husband raised his eyebrows at that, too. Sure, the company may be best known for sweet bubbly drinks, but they go well beyond that. 

Of course, the event was branded and we did not lack for Coke or Diet Coke, but the plentiful variety of drinks also included Minute Maid Orange Juice, Honest-Tea, Illy issimo canned coffee, and smartwater-- all part of the Coca-Cola family of beverages. 

Highlights of the event included talks and a personal consultation from dietitians and nutritionists, a fun exercise session with Harley Pasternak and a lovely lunch our group prepared from scratch at the Chopping Block. One of the thoughts I walked away with was "mothers are the largest healthcare system in the world." We are often the first responders of our families, from cleaning up skinned knees to making (or providing) meals. We are a powerful lot. 

I'm fairly versed in healthy eating and exercise habits, so this event largely served as a reminder to put that knowledge into practice. That said, I picked up a few helpful tips. 

To make quick work of label reading, use the 5/20 rule. Focus on the right side of the nutrition label in the column labeled "% Daily Value." In general, healthier items are 5% or less in total fat, sat fat, cholesterol and sodium. Healthier items have 20% or more vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 

Stay active all day. While Harley didn't knock the importance of a good workout at one's target heart rate, he stressed that simply leading a more active lifestyle will go a long way toward improving health and staying in shape. 

Also, both Harley and the exercise consultant I met with noted that stretching before exercise is no longer a thing. I was glad to hear that because I never did it, anyway. 

One of the big surprises of the workshop was running into Kathy from Bereaved and Blessed (in pink).  I knew her when she was a teen and here we were 20 years later!
If you want your front to look good, focus on your backside. On a related note, try this: pinch your shoulder blades back, attempting to get them to "kiss." When you do this, your entire body straightens up (and your breasts, however saggy, perk up at least a little). Since returning from the Workshop, I find myself pinching my shoulder blades often now as I go about my day. 

Kris Cain gets schooled on form during her 1:1 fitness consult.

I'm at a medically acceptable weight and BMI right now, so when I met with a nutritionist for a 1:1 consult and saw a listed goal of 100-110 pounds (I'm only 5 feet tall), I gave her the look. I have no desire to look like my teenage son who's two inches taller and 20 pounds lighter than me. She agreed that I'm fine as is, but gave me suggestions for trimming back just a bit. 

She probably would not support the bag of chocolates I've stress-eaten since the Sandy Hook incident, so maybe I'll need to implement her calorie-saving tips by the time I ring in 2013. Nonetheless, I'm going to try to keep a bowl of tangerine Cuties nearby and make fresh popcorn (it gets me up from my chair, right?) or maybe even (gasp) go on the treadmill to counter stress and anxiety, no matter the cause.

Overall, it was an excellent program. The one part that I found awkward was a presentation on Nutrition in the News led by Joan Koelemay and Robin Flipse. Their session on the facts behind controversial ingredients like gluten, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and caffeine needed more time and a better structure. I'm down with the message that we all need to think about how we fuel our bodies. I'm cool with understanding that we all make choices and some of those choices may be less healthy, but if we focus on the big picture, we're probably going to be fine. And I believe in science. 

But I also know that research evolves over time and that some conclusions drawn in the short term do play out in the long term. I understand that science is not apolitical and I'm aware that government guidelines not only take into account what is healthiest (or deemed so at the time), but who is presenting the information on what's healthiest and who is lobbying for that. Parts of this presentation felt a bit patronizing. I wish there had been time for dialogue. Joan, a registered dietitian with chef training and an MBA in Agribusiness, would have been a fascinating person to talk to on a deeper level. She clearly knows her stuff, and yet, hearing her talk about HFCS as a "sustainable, local alternative to cane sugar" and then passing on to the next topic left me with the kind of bitter aftertaste I get from NutraSweet.

I suspect I was not the only one with eyebrows raised during the talk, but time was tight and if you're not well-read on the issues, it's hard to speak up or raise a question to someone like Joan. But I eventually did because as she talked about how organic and conventionally-grown food are nutritionally identical I felt the need to point out that it's not just about nutrition and personal choices, it's about "making the personal political" and understanding how those choices scale. And then the conversation dropped off. Are organic farms the cause of more E. coli outbreaks than conventional? Is caffeine not addictive? Okay, but can we take a minute to define addictive versus dependent? And can we return to the part about that ingredient you said was government-approved and can we see if it's approved in Europe as well?

Like I said, the rest of the program was fabulous. I learned that the brand has a lot of offer beyond the product in the bottle and those cute little 90-calorie portion-controlled cans. I appreciate BlogHer and Coca-Cola including me in the inaugural Balanced Living Workshop. Now excuse me; I'm off to exercise.

Check out Coca-Cola's Live Positively site.  
Help Coke Help Polar Bears through the World Wildlife Fund.
Learning about Coca-Cola initiatives like Troops for Fitness  

Lunch at The Chopping Block.
I made two big batches of protein and fiber-packed hummus within a week of the Workshop.
Images courtesy of The Coca-Cola Company and Bruce Powell Photography.

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