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Tobacco Cessation: Know Your Resources!

 By Carolyn Peterson, Worksite Services Manager

We have all heard (or experienced) that quitting tobacco is hard. According to the CDC, 68.8% report that they want to quit completely, and millions have attempted to quit. That's a lot of people out there who want to quit tobacco!

The good news is quitting can significantly reduce the risk of suffering from smoking-related diseases. Tobacco/nicotine dependence is a chronic condition that often requires repeated quit attempts, but effective treatments and helpful resources exist. Smokers can and do quit smoking. In fact, today there are more former smokers than current smokers. Below are ways that tobacco users have been successful in quitting.

The majority of cigarette smokers quit without using evidence-based cessation treatments. However, the following treatments are proven effective for tobacco users who want help to quit:

  • Working with your health care provider
  • Counseling: individual, group, telephone counseling and/or online smoking cessation programs
  • Behavioral cessation therapies: training in problem solving or stress management 
  • Cessation medications found to be effective for treating tobacco dependence include the following:
    • Nicotine replacement products
    • Over-the-counter: nicotine patch, gum, lozenge
  • Prescription: nicotine inhaler, nasal spray
  • Prescription non-nicotine medications: Zyban® and Chantix®

The combination of medication and counseling is more effective for smoking cessation than either medication or counseling alone.

Let's make sure employees today know there are resources available through health insurance plans and worksite health promotion programs. Everybody wins!

Photo credit: "Freedom" by Josef Grunig, October 20, 2007.


Worksite Tobacco Cessation: 10 Keys to Success

By Emily Westlund and Karin Junge

In 2012 we worked in partnership with ClearWay Minnesota to write case studies on successful tobacco policies in the workplace. The focus was on Minnesota-based companies that went campus tobacco-free in conjunction with offering tobacco cessation classes, which were managed by HealthSource Solutions. 

Truth Hardware, a window manufacturer based in Owatonna, MN, was one of the companies highlighted in the case studies. From 2011 – 2012 we provided a total of 4 tobacco cessation programs at their worksite. With a high prevalence of tobacco users – estimated at 40% compared to Minnesota’s current adult rate of 16.1% - the company wanted to have options available to their employees after going campus tobacco-free in May 2010.

The classes were a great success with 39 total people signed up. Program participants felt that they were provided the information and support they needed. They were enthusiastic and ready to quit! Below are the top 10 strategies that they recommend to make your worksite tobacco cessation efforts successful:

  1. Upper management support
  2. Provide some comp. time to attend the classes
  3. Reduce health care premiums for non-tobacco users
  4. Present the tobacco cessation program as a way to lead a healthy lifestyle versus a way to save company dollars 
  5. Have the wellness committee sponsor the tobacco cessation program rather than HR or management
  6. Select a credible spokesperson (past/present smoker) to promote/recruit for the program
  7. Provide ongoing support groups for tobacco cessation program participants
  8. Offer a comprehensive employee wellness program
  9. Establish a wellness committee driven by employees rather than by HR
  10. Make wellness program visible as much as possible

Photo credit Eddie Welker, July 20, 2009.

4 Questions with a Health Coaching Participant

1. What were your expectations of the health coaching program?

The reason I registered for the Activate Health Coaching program was to seek accurate information regarding daily protein requirements; I am not a vegetarian, but I do not particularly enjoy eating meat.  I enjoy fruits, vegetables, and most carbohydrates but recognize the need for protein. There is so much information available that it is overwhelming to sort through to get a simple answer to how much protein, given my height and weight, I need in a day, and how much protein is in the food that I eat. The Activate coach was phenomenal, providing me with the daily recommendation, together with non-meat protein alternatives.  She also recommended utilization of a user friendly website for ease in determining daily protein intake, which I enjoy for calorie counting, daily exercise logging, and more!  The calorie counting was a bonus and very easy--and an eye opener for a professional snacker like me!

2. What was your experience as a participant of health coaching?

The Activate coach recommended reasonable deadlines for me to meet goals, scheduled follow-up calls, and was very encouraging and resourceful every time--it was a collaborative effort for my benefit.  It truly felt as though I had a personal coach to help me meet my goals, from start to finish. This was a very positive experience, and my coach consistently inquired whether there was anything else she could do to help me meet my goals, and whether there were any other questions or issues to address. There was not a negative word spoken, and my coach provided free, practical resources.

3. How would you explain the health coaching program to someone who wasn’t familiar with it?

The best description for the Activate Health Coaching program is a free phone-based resource that provides registrants with a wealth of positive encouragement, practical information, and resources. It is a program designed to help you meet your goals--from huge to minor health issues and lifestyle changes.

The coaches are there for you every step of the way, but it is up to you to be "ready" to participate.  Only you can make changes to your lifestyle.

The coaches work with you as their goal is for you to successfully achieve your goal.

4. What are other employees saying about the health coaching program?

Some are thinking about signing up for it after listening to my enthusiasm about the program and the website!


Photo credit: Highways Agency, February 22, 2010

Goal Setting For Success: 4 Easy Steps! A Health Coach's Perspective

By Julie Broberg, Program Coordinator

Each day many thoughts cross our minds including things we desire, wish for and want. However, most of these things remain just a thought. We rush about in our daily lives and pursuits and never really stop to evaluate and go beyond the day-to-day tasks.

Have you ever stopped to think about how important goal setting is? 

Goal Setting:  these are two simple words that pack a lot of meaning. Most of us know about goal setting, think about it, and yet rarely or never put it into practice. Goal setting is an integral part of our health coaching program. Successful behavior change comes from empowering the participant to select and then strategize around their personal wellness plan. We help our participants move beyond just thinking about their goals by taking their thoughts, dreams, and wishes and turning them into action steps. I’ve broken the steps down for you below.

1. Write out everything you wish for. This is not about perfection; it is about learning what you want and creating a plan to get you there.

2. Take each goal and break it down into the following:

a. Specific-This allows you to clearly visualize what it is that you want

b. Measurable-How can you track or measure the progress you are making?    

c. Attainable-You should be able to achieve your goal as long as you work hard at it

d. Realistic- Break down goals into smaller short-term goals and be realistic 

e. Time bound- Give yourself daily check-ins

3. Make your goal VISIBLE!  Type it up or use a post-it note and keep it in several places such as your bathroom mirror, your fridge or your computer. Goals should be read daily. Otherwise, it’s just like the saying goes: out of sight, out of mind.

4. Last but not least: accountability! Tell your friends, coworkers and family members. Ask for support and encouragement. Share your goals with people who can help you achieve them!

Now that you have the 4 easy steps…what are your goals for living a healthy lifestyle?

Original quote image:

Photo credit:


Remembering 9/11

By Ed Boyle, CEO

Today we come together and take time to remember the day that changed us forever. We pay tribute to all those lost in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Let us also not forget those that have made enormous sacrifices to preserving our way of life, and the first responders dedicated to protecting our communities.

We also take the opportunity to thank the many Americans who have served and are currently serving in our nation's military - many of whom enlisted as a response to the 9/11 attacks. 

For more information from the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, visit

The Value of Health Coaching


By Dawn Boyle, Executive Vice President/Partner

Workplace wellness is not a new concept, but making wellness part of your company culture can be a daunting task.  The concept that healthy employees make for healthier companies is becoming more and more mainstream and now is the time to jump on board.  There are small steps your company can take to promote and support employee wellness.  I recently read a great article in Inc. magazine addressing 8 ways to promote workplace wellness when resources are limited.  As it is said with individual behavior change, one small change at a time!  Number 8 on the article’s list is employee health coaching. Our health coaching is an employee-centered approach designed to help individuals improve and maintain their health.  While health coaching as a standard was previously offered to high-risk individuals identified in a health assessment, our program was developed for all employees.  From a one-call model to a 6-month program, we have the perfect fit for your demographics with no minimum requirements. So why not start your health promotion journey with health coaching? Your employees’ health and productivity will be the reward!  For other great ideas, check out the Inc. article at

Don't Wait! Take Charge of Your Eating Behavior

 By Emily Westlund, Program Coordinator

"I'll start my diet after the State Fair." How many times have you or someone you know said those words, maybe substituting "State Fair" for some other excuse? After the holidays. After my vacation. After things settle down. The truth is, there will always be something. We can all come up with a million excuses to delay taking charge of our eating habits. Life is full of special events, celebrations and traditions, and our culture is food-centric. Instead of delaying, take ownership now and learn how to navigate through obstacles without falling off the wagon. Here are some tips from our health coaches about nutrition and weight management:

  1. Stay away from fad diets geared to take weight off quickly. Drastically cutting calories to lose weight deprives your body of essential nutrients. The best way to lose weight is through a combination of developing healthy eating habits and increasing physical activity.
  2. Lose 1/2 - 1 lb per week. This is generally a safe and achievable rate. To lose a pound a week, reduce your food intake by 250 calories and increase your activity level by 250 calories each day (walking briskly for 60 minutes will do the trick).
  3. Keep food records. This will help you evaluate eating patterns, identify problem areas and stay accountable to yourself. We often don't realize how often we make poor choices and what leads us down that path.
  4. Eat foods high in fiber such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice and fruits and vegetables. Fiber fills you up, and eating these foods can help you control the number of calories you eat.
  5. Don't clean your plate at every meal. If you are, you are probably eating too much - especially if you eat out often. At home, serve yourself smaller portions. At restaurants, ask for a box before you start eating and take half of your meal home for lunch the next day.
  6. Enjoy foods that are grilled, broiled or baked. Fried food can have twice as much the amount of fat and calories.
  7. Choose lean turkey, roast beef or ham instead of high-fat meats like sausage, bacon, hot dogs, bologna or salami.
  8. Switch to low-fat or fat-free dairy products. It's an easy way to cut fat and calories from your diet.
  9. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Alcoholic beverages are high in calories and have little to no nutritional value.
  10. Drink water. Soda, juice and sports drinks have a lot of calories that add up fast.

Everyone faces different challenges in their weight loss journey, which makes health coaching a popular component of employee wellness programming. A health coach can be a great motivator and support person when making these healthy lifestyle changes! 

Making the Most of your CSA

By Katie Putnam, Senior Fitness Specialist 

Perhaps it’s the anticipation or the element of surprise in not quite knowing what you’re going to get, but every Thursday for 12 weeks from July to September I get a gift to open. Through the hard work of local farmers and their supporters, I get fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit on a weekly basis. As a member of a local Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) you have direct access to locally grown, in-season produce, free of chemicals and hormones. In our fast and furious Minnesota summers, it’s important to take advantage of being part of the season and enjoying all it has to offer. If you were hesitant to dive into the investment of a CSA this summer, farmers markets are another excellent way to have easy access to fresh and local summer favorites.

With many options to sign up for, there is a CSA to meet the wants and needs of just about everyone. The size of the share you select can typically feed 1 to 4 people and can include everything from crowd favorite blueberries, raspberries, beans and peas to the more unique collard greens, Swiss chard and seemingly endless herbs. It can honestly be overwhelming to have so much perfect, fresh, ready to eat food waiting for you on a weekly basis. Luckily the CSA I’ve invested in sends weekly emails including recipes and instructions for getting the most life out of the specific foods you receive.

Each week when I pick up my box I try to take some time to figure out what I have, check the recipe options and make decisions about what I need at the grocery store to best utilize and supplement what I get.  Prepping and storing as soon as you receive the produce will make you more likely to utilize it and even prolong its shelf life. Once you’re ready to eat it’s time to get creative! Chances are you will be trying at least 1 thing you’ve never had before, and the best way to do that is to incorporate it with something you already eat on a regular basis. Less stress, more satisfaction!

Some of my favorite, go-to ways to enjoy the abundance:

  • Smoothies: Your choice of fruits, vegetables and greens mixed with ice and even milk or yogurt make for a quick and easy on-the-go meal.
  • Omelets: Greens, sautéed vegetables and herbs.
  • Salads or wraps: Greens, vegetables and fruit with the addition of your choice of protein make for a complete meal!
  • Raw: How delicious is fresh fruit right out of the carton, like cold sugar snap peas? I also like cutting up green peppers and cucumbers and having them as a quick snack. Can’t get more simple than that.

Here is a quick and easy recipe for the first meal I made with my CSA–Spinach, Rhubarb and Asparagus Salad:

  • Wash and pat dry spinach or preferred greens. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Cut ¼ - ½ cup each of rhubarb and asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Toss with olive oil.
  • Line cookie sheet with tin foil or parchment paper, spread mixture out and bake for 5 minutes until tender.
  • After 5 minutes allow mixture to slightly cool while tossing greens with goat (or other soft cheese) and sliced almonds.
  • Top salad with warm asparagus and rhubarb and ENJOY!

Mindful Movement

By Joan Wipperfurth, Program Manager at Medtronic Fitness Center

I recently returned from the National Wellness Institutes’ Annual conference at Stevens Point, WI.  Being surrounded by peers working to improve the health of those in their sphere of influence was both refreshing and empowering.  Practicing mindfulness was a common thread to the conference.  I talk about mindfulness and being fully present all the time in a yoga class, but not as much in our other class formats.  Have you ever thought about the importance of being mindful when you lift weights, or when you go out for your run?  Have you ever thought how that might improve your performance, as well as make you feel better mentally? 

Mindfulness can be defined as being engaged, involved in the activity, greatly interested, attentive and having focused energy.  Basically, it means you’re fully present wherever you are, at any given time.   Doesn’t that sound like something that could help you reach your fitness goals and enjoy the process more?  Being fully present ties nicely into being in the flow; which is that state of effortless concentration and enjoyment, being aligned with the task at hand, and doing what you enjoy with energized focus.

How can I try to do that you may ask?  If you’re doing a strength workout, think about what muscles are working and notice the sensation.  This can help to improve safety and satisfaction with your workout.  On the treadmill or bike you’ll probably notice yourself working much harder when you put down the book and really focus on what you’re doing and the muscles involved.  Notice the negative self-talk that goes on in your head while exercising.  Reframe those thoughts with empowering affirmations like – “I’m here today and progressing forward,” or “Every day brings me closer to my goals.” Notice pain in your body; it may be your body telling you that you’re out of alignment, or that a particular exercise isn’t good for your body.  That’s okay.  Find another one.  Be patient with the process and let go of self-judgment.  Learn to really listen to your body and honor it.  Accept that you may not be able to do everything you want to do, but do what you can.  After all, perfection can be prison, but practice makes progress.

Food Journals - More Than Just an App

By Kelly Berte, Wellness Center Manager

Tracking – it’s all the buzz for the health world right now.  Track your steps, track your calories, track your workouts.  So what is the point of all this tracking? While there is great scientific support to show that writing something down helps shift behavior change, you’ve got to know how to use it for you to make it more meaningful than just a motion you go through.

Food journaling is one of the most popular tacking methods. There is no one perfect food journal out there.  Each individual has different preferences, different triggers and different technology. Options are a good thing!  So, survey what’s available and pick one.  You can create your own in an excel spreadsheet, find other existing templates online, or as I’m sure most of you know, there are tons of apps and online trackers.  

At a bare minimum, the best recommended information to track includes a general overview of what you consumed (both food and beverage), the time of day, what triggered you to eat, and how hungry you were.  You’ll notice calorie intake, measurements, etc. were not included.  Feel free to include these if you want.  Remember, there is no right or wrong!

When using a food journal and tracking these things, lots of questions might arise. That’s the point!  Review your journal and think about the following to help you discover more about your eating habits:

Your Triggers:  Are you eating…

  • Because you are hungry?
  • Because the clock says it’s time to eat?
  • In response to emotions?
  • Because you feel other people expect you to? (Happy hour, work pot luck, etc.)
  • Because you are bored?
  • Because you saw or smelled things that are appealing (commercials, candy dishes, coffee shop, driving by your favorite restaurant)?
  • Even though you are actually thirsty?Because it’s just part of your routine?

The routine is one of the hardest hurdles to climb, but using the food journal can help you realize if your eating habits are helping you or hurting you. It will get you to think about why you are consuming rather than just going through the motions.  For example, are you one of those that gets home, immediately goes to the fridge, looks in it, then goes to the pantry, and looks in it? Not really because you are hungry, but just to looking to see if something strikes you? Think about other routines that might trigger mindless eating, such as sitting down to watch your favorite show, grazing while cooking, etc.

The BIGGEST tool you can use in conjunction with a food journal is YOU. How?  By taking the time to really learn your triggers, as exemplified by your food journal, and making adjustments!