Class aims to change participants’ eating habits
Fast, frenzied and failing. That’s the way registered nurse Vivian Neuharth describes today’s eating habits of the American people.
Wednesday, Feb. 4, was the first session of a four-week nutrition seminar hosted by the Edwardsville Parks and Recreation Department. The goal of the class is to focus on different nutritional aspects each week that would lead to a lifestyle change of healthier living.
“We as a society eat really, really bad,” Neuharth told her students. “I plan to teach you how to eat healthier and the importance of it.”
Neuharth, an Edwardsville resident, has been a nurse since the early 80s, she said, and has developed a passion for health education over the years.
She currently works for a company as a health specialist, teaching employees healthy habits that will help to cut down on the employer’s health care costs. She has also done mission work and teaches classes throughout the country, but decided this would be the year she’d give back in her own backyard.
The first week of the nutrition seminar focused on fiber, with following weeks to include such topics as fats and sugars.
Neuharth said she would teach her students what bad foods do to the body, suggest healthier alternatives and share recipes.
“We feel so much better when we eat right,” she said. “We don’t think about what we’re eating. We just cram in whatever is most convenient.”
The first night of the class got a positive response from its participants. A back-and-forth dialogue between Neuharth and the students continued as people talked about their specific issues and got their questions answered.
One reason Neuharth said Americans have developed such unhealthy eating habits is because everything revolves around food, from everyday schedules to social events. But that’s not an excuse, she said.
A balanced diet, she said, not only affects your physical health but your mental health, as well.
In a video that Neuharth played during the first class, students learned that stress would always be a part of their lives, but the methods they used to cope with that stress were paramount to their health.
“When we eat wrong we do not handle stress as well,” Neuharth said.
That’s where a lifestyle change comes into play, she said. Eating healthy is not just about losing weight or a quick fix. Instead, Neuharth said a healthy diet would bring long-term benefits that went beyond physical appearance.
Her top three tips for starting that lifestyle change are to cut out soda and fried foods and eat more vegetables and fruits.
Jennie Mitchell, of Bonner Springs, attended the class with her friend Jeannie Douglas.
Both women said they felt like they learned a lot after the first class and were looking forward to what the following weeks would bring.
“I know I’m not eating healthy, and I’m trying to change for my kids,” Mitchell said.
It’s that thinking that Neuharth wants all her students to see.
“We’re teaching our kids to eat this American diet,” Neuharth said. “Most people don’t have a clue. We eat whatever is convenient. What we eat affects how we function. We are not taking care of ourselves.”
Neuharth said she would like to teach another similar class in Edwardsville as soon as the current nutrition session ended.
“I believe in this,” she said. “This is my passion in life.”