Taking a bite out of eating slowly


Many of our readers are familiar with the mindful eating program called Naturally Slim, which has been offered to all three groups of Spirited Life participants. Most of our participants tried Naturally Slim personally; still others may have found themselves at a conference event, hearing their peers talk about “orange water, 10-5-10, and sugar island,” a few of the concepts in Naturally Slim.

One of the Naturally Slim tenets that seems to be most sandwichchallenging for people is eating slowly. I know it is for me! In fact, I would be embarrassed to share with you the number of minutes I spent eating lunch today (fewer than 10 fingers would be needed). Think about your last meal; how long did it take you to finish?

There is growing research to support Naturally Slim’s recommendation to slow down at mealtimes. One recent study out of Iowa State University found that chewing each bite of food more times is likely to result in fewer calories consumed at a given meal. Another study showed that slower eating at lunch resulted in less snacking later in the day, and yet another suggests that slowing down can reduce your risk of diabetes. On the flip side, waiting to stop eating until you feel full and eating too fast can triple your risk of being overweight. A researcher at the University of Rhode Island described it this way: “If you are eating for 20 minutes at 100 calories a minute, that’s a lot. But if you are eating for 20 minutes at 20 calories a minute, that’s not a lot, and it gives your body time to realize it’s full.” There’s also evidence to show that eating too quickly can contribute to digestive problems, acid reflux, and complications after surgeries.

Convinced yet? Maybe you are, but it’s hard to slow down! Naturally Slim offers a free smartphone app with meal timer that chimes when it’s time to take a break in the middle of your meal.

And now there’s a new technology on the market to help you monitor and track your chewing hapiforkhabits. It’s called the HAPIfork, and its slogan is “Eat slowly. Lose weight. Feel great!” The fork measures how many bites it takes to eat your meal, how long the whole meal lasts, the fork servings per minute, and intervals between fork servings. This data can be uploaded via USB or Bluetooth to your smartphone or online account where you can track your numbers. Not only does the fork collect information, but it even lights up and vibrates when you eat too quickly!  Check out this short NYTimes video review; and this Newsweek review for the practical pros and cons of the HAPIfork.

-Katie Huffman

First image from OpenClipArt user rg1024 via CC and second image from Flickr user David Berkowitz via CC

To do, or not to do….a To-Do List


to do list--redSo here we are a couple of months into 2014, and my wife and I are still discussing our goals, our vision and our plans for the year. We have talked about finding more ways to keep ourselves and each other on track.

As parents who both work full time, the To-Do-List is an important tool for getting things done in our home. If you ask my wife, she might say that the Honey-Do-List is the only way things get done in our home. Sometimes The List is an actual list written on a notepad or on the dry erase board, or even a post it note. Other times, it involves her leaving me a voicemail message, sending a text or an email, or just telling me.

Without task or to-do lists, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of things you have to do, and it is also far more likely that you will forget things. Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “There’s an app for that.”  Recently Forbes magazine released its list of The 9 Best To-Do List Apps For 2014. When it comes to managing, scheduling, prioritizing, sharing, and completing tasks on a To-Do-List, taking advantage of these digital apps can help you organize and juggle multiple to-do-lists, meet tight deadlines, and make better use of your valuable time. By being creative with your To-Do-List, you can provide yourself a healthy framework for accountability, affirmation, improved focus, motivation, organization, prioritizing, time keeping, and increased productivity or efficiency.

One example, Wunderlist, is a free app that I have really grown to like. Wunderlist syncs across iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android, Windows and the Web to keep you on top of your to-do’s from just about any device. It has several options and features that allow users to customize their experience, maximizing the app’s usefulness:

  • Share your list with a colleague, a friend, your spouse
  • Include a note, a photo, or web content
  • Add recurrences to capture your daily, weekly and monthly tasks
  • Break big tasks into smaller achievable goals through sub-tasks
  • Print your list with just one click
  • Assign To-Do’s, start conversations, or attach spreadsheets, PDFs, videos and sound files to a task (requires an upgrade to Wunderlist Pro, $4.99/month)

Developing a daily routine is one of the most powerful ways to become better at keeping and completing To-Do-Lists. You might find some inspiration from these seven famous entrepreneurs and their routines. When you flip your perspective by reflecting on what you actually got done at the end of the day, you’re looking at real, concrete evidence of productivity rather than thinking about all the should’ve, could’ve, would’ves. At that point, the To-Do-List, becomes the Done List.

What is your relationship with To-Do-Lists? Share what works for you in the comments below.

-Dwight Tucker

Image courtesy of Straighten Your Paths.com via Creative Commons

Bible App


We began our Spirited Life Group 2 Fall Workshops with a group practice of lectio divina.  After one of the workshops, a pastor mentioned to me that he really appreciated this opportunity because hearing Scripture read aloud by someone else tends to be a rare occurrence.

The pastor also shared that he had recently come across a smartphone app that affords him this opportunity whenever he wants to listen.  He can select a passage, press play, and just listen as it is read to him.  This exercise has changed his prayer life because he can really meditate on the words and reflect on how God is speaking to him through the text.

In addition to the audio feature, the YouVersion Bible App also allows you to find Bible image app devotionals, search for keywords within the Bible, highlight and bookmark passages, and make notes for yourself. The app is available for most brands of smartphones, including iPhones and Droids.

-Katie Huffman

Image from YouVersion.com, via CC




I’ve been thinking a lot about benedictions lately, as my coworkers and I prepare for our final workshop with the pastors in the second group of Spirited Life. It is our task, in a very real way, to offer a benediction, a “good proclamation,” not only for our time together at the workshop, but for all the work that the pastors have put in over the two years of the program. It feels like such a great privilege to pronounce blessing, especially to pastors who spend their days doing just that (among many other things, of course!) and our staff is eager to do it well, thus there have been many resources shared between us recently. There are a plethora of benediction resources out there, from the UM Book of Worship, to contemporary poems and prayers. I thought I’d share a couple of my personal favorites here:

John O’Donohue, Irish teacher and poet, has been widely praised for his gift of drawing on Celtic spiritual traditions to create words of inspiration and wisdom for today. In To Bless the Space Between Us, his compelling blend of elegant, poetic language and spiritual insight offers readers comfort and encouragement on their journeys through life. O’Donohue looks at life’s thresholds—getting married, having children, starting a new job—and offers invaluable guidelines for making the transition from a known, familiar world into a new, unmapped territory. Most profoundly, however, O’Donohue explains “blessing” as a way of life, as a lens through which the whole world is transformed.

  • Carol Penner is a Mennonite worship leader and writer, though people of all denominations will find her accessible. Her website is a wealth of worship resources of all kinds.  On her site you will find benedictions for particular holy days, as well as general blessings.  I particularly love her benediction titled “Pitched, Peeled and Poised:”

Go into your week
with your ears pitched
to the sound of God’s voice calling your name.
Go into your week
with your eyes peeled
for the face of Jesus in unexpected places.
Go into your week
with your soul poised
to receive the Spirit of God,
the Spirit of Peace.

  • St. Patrick’s Breastplate is a much-loved prayer popularly attributed to the famed patron saint of Ireland.  It has been transposed into a hymn, but is lovely on it’s own as a blessing It is not traditionally used as a benediction, but with it’s strong language evoking praise and the abiding presence of God, I think it makes for a powerful one. It’s long, but some of my favorite lines include:

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.
I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

  • There is a lovely video benediction for churches who use multimedia based on the Romans 15:13 prayer at WorshipHouse Media.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

6371421595_c96267e7b8_zGo in peace to love and serve the Lord!

Caren Swanson

Images by flickr users cknara and nffcnnr via Creative Commons.


Monday Giveaway #2: Fitbit (plus other fitness gadgets and apps)


7418728612_d2f66668d3_bIn previous posts, we shared several nutrition and fitness apps that help you plan and keep track of your health habits.  While most apps on the market today don’t have clinical research to back them up, researchers are starting to look into the technology’s effectiveness, and the initial results look promising!

A recent Northwestern University study found that people who used a mobile food and activity tracking app alongside of another weight loss program lost an average of 15 pounds (and kept the weight off for a year!).  Even those participants who used the app alone lost an average of 8 pounds.  Below are some new apps and other gadgets that make a healthier lifestyle more attainable and maybe even more fun!

(Be sure to read to the bottom — we’re giving one of these beauties away!)

Fitbit: Wear this small device to track your daily activity (steps, distance, calories burned, sleep cycle); your information is wirelessly synced to your computer and mobile device.  Use the companion app to set goals, log your food intake, track your progress, and share/compete with friends.  The Fitbit comes in three small and stylish options: One, Zip, and Flex (new!). Price range: $59 to $99

Withings Smart Body Analyzer: This “health tracking scale” instantly gives you your weight, body composition (% body fat) and heart rate; then it automatically transmits this information to a companion smartphone app where you can keep track of your progress, note trends, and get help with your goals. Price: $149.95

Fooducate: Use this website or smartphone app to learn which foods at your local grocery store pack the most nutritious punch.  Using a scientific formula, this program gives letter grades (A-F) to thousands of products so that you can pick the more nutritious items.  You can take a picture of the product’s barcode with your smartphone to get an instant and easy-to-follow report of the product’s contents, to compare it to other products, and to select a healthier alternative.  Price: Free

GymPact: Put your money where your muscles are with this mobile app!  Decide how many days a week you want to work out; select a cash amount that you would be willing to pay if you do NOT work out.  When you work out, check into your gym using the GymPact app (includes a GPS tracking feature), track log at-home workout with the GymPact Anywhere app, or log your outdoor exercise time in the RunKeeper app.  The money paid by those who do NOT exercise is divided up and distributed to all the exercisers.  The more you exercise, the more money you earn, but if you miss a day of exercise, you have to pay up!  Price: Free

Lift: This app extends beyond physical health.  Select good habits that you want to increase the frequency and consistency of in your life.  Examples of habits include: getting outside, pleasure reading, flossing, learning a new skill, spending time with friends, exercising, drinking more water, etc. Use the app to set goals, track your progress, and share your success with friends.  Price: Free

The key to all of these apps?  They encourage you to set goals, track calories and activity, and use social media for social support.

–Katie Huffman

Post adapted from “Better Homes and Gardens” (May 2013), “Fitness 2.0” page 187.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

fitbitWe are so excited to announce that this week we are giving away a Fitbit ZIP!

There are 3 ways to be entered in our giveaway–just make sure to tell us what you did so we can count your entry!

  1. Take a moment to look back through the blog and find a post that catches your attention, then leave a comment with what you like about it!  ( = 1 entry)
  2. “Like” the Clergy Health Initiative’s facebook page! ( = 1 entry)
  3. Share our blog with 5 friends, and tell them about the giveaway! ( = 1 entry)

You can enter as many times as you’d like, just make sure to leave us a comment ON THIS POST with how many entries are “due” to you! That’s right, if you e-mailed 25 friends (or tagged them in a post on Facebook) about the giveaway, and liked our Facebook page, and left a comment on a previous post, you would be entered 7 times! Thanks for celebrating with us by participating in the giveaway!

A winner will be drawn at random on Friday morning, May 17, so be sure to get all your entries logged by 10 a.m. EDT Friday.

Thanks to ALL who supported the blog this week by leaving comments, “liking” the Duke Clergy Health Initiative Facebook page, and telling your friends! This week’s giveaway is now closed! And now, (drumroll, please!) the winner of the Fitbit is Erica!  Congratulations!  Please contact us Erica, and let us know where to mail your Fitbit.

Check back next Monday for details on our next giveaway!

The Quantified Self: Self-knowledge through self-tracking


Gary Wolf is a founder of the Quantified Self, a collaboration of users and toolmakers that share an interest in self-knowledge through self-tracking.  He advocates that gathering quantifiable information about yourself (hours of sleep, happiness rating, mood, time spent on various tasks, calories in, money spent, number of steps per day) can lead to knowledge and insights about your own behavior and reveal the challenges of behavior change.

Quantified Self LogoIn a recent interview with Wolf on On the Media, host Brooke Gladstone seemed skeptical.   She asked Wolf, “What keeps us optimistic is a fantasy of who we are and what we might become, and don’t we run the risk of losing hope when confronted with the harsh, numerical reality of what we really are?”

And he answered (emphasis mine):

“I think that is a very good question.  There is a whole industry devoted to selling the possibility of change to people, for instance, health clubs, which see uptake of membership after New Year’s.  Many, many things we see in our consumer culture are based on hopes that never come true.

One of the things that happens in the quantified self is that people begin to see how related all of their behaviors are, and how difficult [it is] to change one thing in isolation, and then, at the same time, how difficult it is to change many things at once.  On the one hand, this is discouraging, whether it is weight loss, or extreme improvements in happiness, or great leaps in productivity.

The promise of radical change is one of the things we live on in our society.  At the same time, I think trading fantasies of radical change for possibilities of small, important changes is a tradeoff worth making.

Gladstone later asked Wolf, “What is the most powerful truth you’ve learned about yourself by self-quantifying?”

“I track my exercise time, my work time, and I have mediation practice I track. One of the things that became clear…was [that] attempting to increase the quantity of good things that I did too much caused a complete rebound effect…

The advice to ‘go for it,’ advice that is pretty common, and, in my case, at least, it was really pernicious. You could see really clearly that, due to some influence or some ambition, I attempted to turn a steady habit of doing something up, by a lot, a short period of increased activity, say increased physical exercise, then zero on the chart, for weeks!…I think it is more common than people realize.

Really, the advice for people who are trying to do something is to do as little as you possibly can in the right direction, and see what happens, and if that works, then do another tiny little bit in that direction.

As a wellness advocate, I’m struck by Wolf’s insights as they apply to my role of supporting pastors who are pursuing wellness.  Change is difficult, and the process can be frustrating, particularly when our vision of success is unattainable, or we fail to recognize how intertwined a habit has become with our overall lifestyle.

After hearing this interview, I gained an appreciation for the effort required to accurately assess current behaviors before setting a goal and also the importance of exploring how multiple behaviors may be connected.  Self-tracking appears necessary in the process of change to determine whether the adjustments you are trying to make (in small, attainable steps) are working.

For more on this emerging science, visit Wolf’s blog or check out his TED talk.

Catherine Wilson

Photo by Flickr user Bytemarks (via Creative Commons)

Exercise and nutrition apps


Now that most of us carry smartphones at all times and can hardly function throughout an entire day without our favorite device in hand, software developers have created an abundance of apps that allow us to plan and track our exercise and nutrition habits in real time.  Some of these apps, indicated below with double asterisks, are available as an internet-based service as well, so no smartphone is necessary.  Please note that this list is not exhaustive and that there are many more apps out there.  Let us know about your favorites!


Nike Training Club (free): offers workouts consisting of resistance, flexibility, and cardio exercises; provides videos and audio for instruction and motivation

iFitness (currently $0.99): provides workouts for your home or gym; allows you to focus your workout on target areas and includes detailed instructions for every exercise

Fitness Buddy (currently $0.99): includes exercises specific to target areas and exercise equipment; allows you to track your body metrics and fitness progress

Workout Trainer (free) **: provides thousands of exercises based on your area of focus: running, weightlifting, yoga, weight loss, etc; use with or without exercise equipment

JEFIT (free) **: keep track of and plan your weight lifting routines; winner of  2011 Best Fitness and Workout App – 2011 Best App Ever Awards

MapMyRun (free): keep track of your pace, distance, and location while you’re walking or running; you can also post your workouts to social media to let your friends see your progress


Naturally Slim (free): tracks daily food/fluid intake and weekly weights; includes a timer that reminds you take a break during your meals

Restaurant Nutrition (free): allows you to keep a food journal and find out the nutritional information of foods at your favorite restaurants

Calorie Counter by FatSecret (free) **: find nutritional information for the food you usually eat, and keep track of your daily calorie intake

Combo Nutrition and Exercise Journals

My Fitness Pal (free) **: a calorie counter and exercise tracker; includes a large food and exercise database to help you balance calories consumed with calories burned

Lose It! (free) **: set a daily calorie budget; adjust your food intake or exercise level to meet your goal

FitDay ($1.99) **: track your food and exercise habits; chart your progress daily, weekly, or monthly

Cronometer ($2.99) **:  track diet, exercise, and other health-related information

**also available as a free internet service

Katie Huffman

Habit-forming helpers at your fingertips


“Act the way you’d like to be, and soon you’ll be the way you act.” — George W. Crane

Are you interested in breaking a bad habit or developing a new habit? Maybe you want to break a caffeine or junk food habit. Or perhaps you’d like to add flossing to your bedtime routine or start taking the stairs instead of the elevator on your hospital visits.

Research suggests that it takes 60 days to form a new habit. During this crucial period, how do you keep track of your progress? Listed below are two apps for your smartphone or tablet that can help you log your behaviors and see how you’re doing toward your goal of creating or breaking habits.

Healthy Habits by 2Morrow Mobile
smartphone with appsHealthy Habits was awarded first prize in the Integrative Health category of the 2012 Surgeon General’s Healthy App Challenge. The Healthy Habits motto: “Change is not just about thinking; it is about doing.” This free app allows you to track three habits and your efforts to either break them or make them. You can create a custom habit or you can select one from a list provided; then, define a goal, set up reminders and rewards, and track your progress. Upgrade to the premium version ($4.99)  to track more than three habits and to gain access to more graphs, statistics, and other tools. Click here for more information. HabitMaker HabitBreaker is the Android version of this app.

HabitMaster by ProductiveTap
At $2.99, this app for iphones or ipads helps you incorporate positive habits into your life; you can track your progress, set up alerts and reminders, and also view your longest streak of successes (your goal is to beat your own record). With this app, you can personalize if and when it’s okay to skip days. For example, if you’re trying to create a habit of getting up earlier, you might decide that it’s okay to skip Saturdays and sleep in a little; this won’t affect your current streak. For more information about HabitMaster, click here.

Don’t have a smartphone or tablet?  Joe’s Goals is a website that allows you to track your habits (good or bad) online at no charge.

by Katie Huffman