Mindfulness: For Sale By Owner

in Uncategorized, Wellbeing

lotus representing meditation and mindfulness

I’ve practiced mindfulness and meditation since 1977, and have had the good fortune to have learned from some of the greatest teachers in the world. 

In 2000, I took personal vows to commit my life to mindfulness (admittedly, I haven’t been diligent in recent years). 

In my 2003 book — now out-of-print — the longest chapter was called, “Mindfulness: The Secret to Health Change?”

 Around 2004, I founded a small mindfulness group in upstate New York that is still going strong. 

If I had final words of wisdom to offer my kids, I’d commit my last breaths to advising them to practice mindfulness.

That said, I still believe mindfulness is being oversold in the corporate and wellness worlds.

Chez Workplace: Study Links Teaching Kitchens to Good Employee Wellbeing and Health Behavior Outcomes

in Uncategorized
cooking class

Photo: The Teaching Kitchen Collaborative evolved out of the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives® conference, shown here. Photo creative commons copyright courtesy Culinary Institute of America Leadership Programs. Acquired via Flickr.

A study investigating the feasibility of workplace teaching kitchens, and the outcomes that might result from integrating them with other types of health behavior interventions, may herald a new and important movement for employee wellbeing programs.

The Teaching Kitchen Collaborative — led by the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health — endeavors to promote teaching kitchens as “catalysts of enhanced personal and public health” across a variety of settings, including workplaces.

The study — led by Dr. David Eisenberg, Director of Culinary Nutrition at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and published in the Journal of Lifestyle Medicine — set out to determine the feasibility of an interdisciplinary teaching kitchen curriculum that includes…

  • nutrition education
  • hands-on cooking instruction
  • encouragement and resources to promote physical activity
  • mindfulness training, and
  • personalized health coaching

… and to measure the program’s behavioral and health outcomes.

At the completion of 14- and 16-week interventions participants showed statistically significant decreases in body weight, body mass index, waist circumference, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and total cholesterol.

Participants who completed the program also were more likely to engage in positive behaviors, such as cooking meals from scratch at home more often, relying on ready-made meals less often, reading nutrition labels on purchased foods more often, and feeling more confident in cooking.

The study had several limitations, as the researchers noted in their published article. The number of participants was small (40 all told) and the pool of potential participants was comprised of (non-culinary) employees of the Culinary Institute of America, which meant they had state-of-the-art teaching kitchen facilities available to them. The intervention was expensive, and many of the results weren’t statistically significant or sustained over 12 months of follow-up.

Models for teaching kitchens, in the workplace and in other settings, will continue to be refined and studied. The pilot study described here represents an encouraging first step. As Harvard wrote in its summary of the findings:

With dramatic increases in obesity and diabetes, the search is on for innovative strategies to change the paths of those living with, or at risk for developing these and other lifestyle-related chronic diseases. In conjunction with good medical guidance, holistic strategies are needed.

Dr. David Eisenberg may have tapped into one winning strategy with Teaching Kitchens—a kind of cooking laboratory that combines culinary instruction using healthful whole ingredients, nutrition education, exercise, mindfulness, and personalized health coaching.