Friedman Loves Fitness!


Photo: Courtesy of Bojan Mandaric, November Project

This month, we’re talking about fitness, in all forms and fashions.

Katherine Pett sits down with new Friedman School Dean Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and discusses how he is fit to lead the school into the future. Friedman alumna and recent Runner’s World cover model Micah Risk (FPAN ‘13) talks with Matt Moore about her nutrition education and athletic pursuits, including her role in the grassroots fitness movement, the November Project. 

Cailin Kowalewski looks into Professor Jen Sacheck’s grant for standing desks for the school, and Lara Goodrich Ezor examines the implications of the American Beverage Association’s new initiative to reduce Americans’ per capita consumption of calories from beverages by 20% by the year 2025.

In “Justice on the Move,” Emily Piltch talks with FPAN PhD candidates Alison Brown and Dan Hatfield about their work in promoting physical activity in underserved communities. Katherine Pett lets us in on the ups and downs of ClassPass, a membership service that allows you to sample lots of different fitness classes at various gyms and studios. Mimi DelGizzi captures the Student Council and Slow Food’s Pumpkin Party on camera, and Tanuja Kulkarni cooks up a delectable recipe featuring farro, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts that is sure to keep you fueled. Interested in the goings-ons around Boston related to food and fitness? Our Calendar of Events section is back up and running, thanks to Brittany Peats.

So, cozy up with this month’s Sprout, and then, get up and go!

Sheryl and Lara

In this issue:

140601_14287_mozaffarian096.jpgFit to Lead: An Interview with Friedman’s New Dean, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian

by Katherine Pett

This year, we’re excited to welcome our new dean Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian. Previously an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, he comes to Friedman with an expertise in epidemiology and a mission to promote better fusion between the worlds of nutrition science and policy. His vision overlaps perfectly with the focus of the Friedman School. Read on to learn about the dean’s take on his new position and his advice for students.


RW1014_COVFriedman Alumna, Micah Risk, Appears on Runner’s World Cover and Balances Nutrition, Fitness, Work, and Family

by Matt Moore

Micah Risk (FPAN ‘13) graces the cover of the October 2014 issue of Runner’s World. In addition to being a runner, Risk is a nutritionist, an active member of November Project, and a proud vegan. She recently discussed each of these aspects of her life with The Sprout.

An adjustable-height desk

An adjustable-height desk

Friedman Gets Fit With New Classroom Tools

by Cailin Kowalewski

Classrooms and offices in Jaharis will be outfitted with new activity-promoting gadgets in 2015.


ABA2Beverage Industry Joins Fight for Obesity Prevention, Launches “Mixify” Campaign

by Lara Goodrich Ezor

The American Beverage Association has announced its new “Balance Calories Initiative,” which aims to reduce calorie consumption from beverages by 20% by 2025. Through the initiative, beverage companies will join together to reduce portion sizes, increase access to low-calorie drinks and calorie information, and launch the “Mixify” campaign, which encourages consumer choice in formulating a healthy balance between food, drink and physical activity.


Justice on the Move

by Emily Piltch

Need inspiration to integrate your Friedman experience into the greater Boston community?   See how Dan Hatfield and Alison Brown, both Food Policy and Applied Nutrition (FPAN) doctoral students, are humbly contributing their expertise to fitness programs in underserved neighborhoods.


ClassPass: Exercise Variety for the Easily Bored

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 11.28.07 AMby Katherine Pett

ClassPass makes sampling of a variety of fitness classes easy, and it’s great for the bored or overly busy. A Friedmanite explores the pros and cons of ClassPass, and the not-to-miss fitness spots in the Boston area.


Friedman in Photo: Pumpkins, Cider, and Gourds – Oh My!

Photo 13by Mimi DelGizzi

On Tuesday, October 21st, Friedman students convened in the Jaharis cafe for some much-needed relaxation and an opportunity to wax their creative sides. The Friedman Sprout was there to document both the creativity and merriment of the occasion.


IMG_4744Farro’d Up and Ready to Go! Farro Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash & Brussels Sprouts

by Tanuja Kulkarni

Need to fuel your body? Here’s a recipe for an ancient grain that is said to have fed the Roman Legions!

Fit to Lead: An Interview with Friedman’s New Dean, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian

by Katherine Pett

This year, we’re excited to welcome our new dean Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian. Previously an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, he comes to Friedman with an expertise in epidemiology and a mission to promote better fusion between the worlds of nutrition science and policy. His vision overlaps perfectly with the focus of the Friedman School. Read on to learn about the dean’s take on his new position and his advice for students.

Friedman School Welcomes New Dean

Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian

Last summer, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian stepped up to the plate as the new Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition. Previously, Dr. Mozaffarian was an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, where he co-founded and co-directed the program in cardiovascular epidemiology.

In addition to his work as a professor, Dr. Mozaffarian is a leader in the world of research and was named to the Thomson Reuter’s 2014 list  of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds.

I was excited for the opportunity to speak with Dr. Mozaffarian and get his take on becoming the dean, his priorities for the future of health and nutrition research, and – of course – his opinion on the explosion of all things gluten-free.


Q: Previously you were an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and at the Medical School, where you led many initiatives like co-founding and co-directing the program in cardiovascular epidemiology. How do you see your priorities and responsibilities changing in your position as the Dean of Friedman, as opposed to your previous appointments?

Dr. Mozaffarian: Over the last year at Harvard, I was trying to build consensus and trying to build a new university-wide initiative on global nutrition policy. That would involve the Medical School, the School of Public Health, the Kennedy School, the Law School, other schools, and bringing them together — people across the university doing nutrition science and nutrition policy — to increase the missions of education research and impact.

So in many ways the position at the Friedman School is a natural next step toward what I was trying to do: bring together diverse faculty with diverse expertise to teach and do research and impact not only nutrition science, but also policy.

One key difference is that my major role [before]…was my research activity. And so now, as the Dean of the Friedman School, I’m first thinking about all of the issues and missions of the school: everything related to strategic directions, hiring, space, plans, and many other things.

Another thing that’s different is that as a dean, we have a major voice in the university-wide priorities and university-wide missions, and so a lot of out time is spent advising the provost and the president about university-wide missions…It’s a wonderful school with great faculty and students, so I’m doing much more, in many ways, than I was doing before.


Q: You spoke about trying to tie together different schools and disciplines. The Friedman School has a policy side and a nutrition science side. Do you have a specific vision for the Friedman School?

Dr. Mozaffarian: I think that’s what’s so attractive about the Friedman School. In the end, the goal is not just to publish papers, to generate knowledge, and to generate graduates but to have an impact on the diets of the world, on the nutrition of the world, and the health of the world. If you want to do that, what has become really clear to me is that one cannot simply just focus on nutrition science; one really has to have strong policy science as well and, most importantly, the two sides need to communicate.

US policy has many examples of what happens when the two sides don’t communicate, and in global health, not just US policy, you have policies being set by very smart policymakers who don’t know the latest nutrition science. And you have very smart nutrition scientists who are advising policies that don’t actually make sense based on policy outcomes. You really need to have both sides to make a difference.

What’s great about the Friedman School is that it has strengths in both areas. And not just in science and policy – it has strengths in agriculture and food production, sustainability, economics, and public health interventions – a range of areas that are all working together.


Q: What would you say is the most important thing you learned from the process of advising international organizations? You advised the World Health Organization, United Nations Food, and the American Heart Association. What is the most important thing you took from that experience?

Dr. Mozaffarian: I’ve mentioned this before, but the most important thing I’ve learned is really the crucial need to bring together strong nutrition science and strong policy science to make decisions. I think that sometimes happens, but it often does not happen; either the policy science, or the nutrition science, or both are not taking advantage of the newest knowledge. And so, I think the most important thing is to be sure that nutrition scientists and policy scientists are working together, and working with the people making decisions, to be sure that the policies that we’re setting are based on the strongest and most sound policy and nutrition science.


Q: Can you give an example of an instance where somebody making policy wasn’t up-to-date with nutrition research, or when somebody working in nutrition science wasn’t in line with what’s going on in policy?

Dr. Mozaffarian: I can probably give you pages of examples. One example is the school lunch program. The school lunch program has banned whole milk but allowed chocolate skim milk. If anything, there is evidence that kids who drink whole milk gain less weight than kids who drink skim milk. There’s evidence that people who consume more dairy fat observationally have lower risk of diabetes, and there are myriad reasons why that might be protective. So there’s really no reason to recommend skim milk over whole milk to children, no science other than theory. And certainly there is no reason to recommend chocolate skim milk, yet that’s policy. So that’s one example.

Menu labeling is a national law [requiring] calorie labels, but there are crucial science questions and crucial policy questions [regarding this issue]. The crucial science question is, “Do total calories actually provide meaningful information and help people make a decisions about healthfulness?” And the second question is, “Even if they do, does putting calorie labels on the menu lead to the decisions you want?” And I think there’s very, very little evidence either of those are true.

So we have a national policy that’s been set without really any evidence. It’s just set based on the fact that it [seems like] a good idea. I think a lot of policies happen that way. People think they’re a good idea based on theory, and so they just try it without looking to see what the evidence is.


Q: Your background lines up perfectly with the focus of the Friedman School. What advice do you have for students focusing primarily on policy?

Dr. Mozaffarian: I think two things. First, be sure while you’re studying here at the school and also in your career that you also understand the nutrition science.

For example, there are behavior change scientists who know a lot about behavior change, yet their dietary goals are just to have people on low-fat diets, which we know from extensive evidence is not an ideal dietary intervention. So you could be a wonderful behavioral change scientist and design the perfect behavior change intervention, but if you have the wrong target then what you’ve done is useless or even potentially harmful. I think that policy students need to be sure that, during their education and their career, they understand the nutrition science.

And…part of what the Friedman School does is teach the students how to objectively design and evaluate policy. Policies are interventions, sometimes on a community scale, sometimes on a state scale, and even on a national scale, [but] it’s remarkable how often we are pursuing national interventions without ever evaluating the actual impact of that intervention.

…[So], I would emphasize: be sure to understand how to design and evaluate policy, and be sure to understand and be able to evaluate nutrition science.


Q: Any specific advice for students in the biochemical and molecular program or the epidemiology program?

Dr. Mozaffarian: I think it’s along the same lines. The strength of the Friedman School is that we have all these different disciplines and fields together. I think that’s why the Friedman School is such a wonderful place and why it has such potential for impact. You need to bring all those groups together to decide what is the right direction.

The food system is incredibly complicated: from the climate, to agriculture, to food production and storage, to sales, and people’s choice, and health effects. In every program [at Friedman] people should be sure to learn what they need to learn, but also take advantage of the breadth of [the school] and make sure to be exposed to and learn from all the other fields as well.


Q: Not even everybody at Friedman currently shares the same viewpoint about saturated fat. What do you think should be done about that, if anything?

Dr. Mozaffarian: I don’t think anything should be done. There’s no requirement that people have the same viewpoint! I think it’s perfectly fine for people to have different points of view, and that’s what makes academics so great. People have differences.

We need to continue to build the science. I think that science is moving toward consensus that individual nutrients are not that important for chronic disease; it’s overall diet patterns…But the wonderful thing about being at an academic institution is that different scientists have different ways of approaching questions and interpreting data. And all of that gets put together, not only within Friedman, but also outside Friedman, and eventually a consensus is reached and hopefully that consensus reflects the science.


Q: If you could design your ideal experiment — any type of experiment with no funding limits, no interference at all — what would it be and what would it examine?

Dr. Mozaffarian: I think there are questions on the policy side and on the nutrition science side.

One of the key questions on the nutrition science side, I think, is the role of dairy in health. I think that there’s enormous potential for understanding how different dairy foods affect different outcomes. It’s substantially understudied and it’s a huge part of the diet, so I think that’s really important.

But probably the most important thing to start, and this is true in the medical field as well, we need to generate knowledge on how to implement and evaluate policy.   I think the most crucial thing we can do right now is take what we know, what everyone agrees on, and understand “How do you actually implement policies that are effective?”

How do you identify policies that are effective, how do you actually get those implemented, and how do you evaluate them?

And that’s the same story in the medial system. People are trying to move the system away from generating new knowledge, generating new drugs, generating new treatments and technologies to, “We have all this technology in the medical system that are effective, and so why aren’t we actually using them to their full advantage?”

I think we’re in the same place for nutrition. There are an enormous number of things people agree on, so we need to figure out what are effective policies to get people to consume healthy diets, how do we get those implemented (which is political science as much as nutritional science) and how do you evaluate those to be sure they’re having the intended effect?


Q: A “popular news” question: Recently, there has been a bit of a craze for eliminating gluten or all grains from the diet, propagated by books like Grain Brain and Wheat Belly. Do you have an opinion on this? Do you think there is substantial evidence that gluten is harming the population?

Dr. Mozaffarian: No, I don’t think there’s substantial evidence, but I think there’s emerging evidence that gluten is independently harmful, and I think that’s very interesting and potentially could be very important.

But most of the studies are from very limited, short-term human studies, anecdotal reports, or animal studies, so I think that more human study is needed before we know for sure that gluten is itself causally important…It’s just one example about how little we relatively know about nutrition and how much more there is to learn.

Katherine Pett is a first year in the Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition Program. She can be spotted around her North End neighborhood in bright-blue headphones listening to an audiobook, or enthusiastically (if not gracefully) trying out the hottest new group-fitness trend at the gym.

Friedman Alumna, Micah Risk, Appears on Runner’s World Cover and Balances Nutrition, Fitness, Work, and Family

by Matthew Moore 

Micah Risk (FPAN ‘13) graces the cover of the October 2014 issue of Runner’s World. In addition to being a runner, Risk is a nutritionist, an active member of November Project, and a proud vegan. She recently discussed each of these aspects of her life with The Sprout.


Risk on the cover of the October 2014 issue of Runner’s World.

When the editors of Runner’s World decided to launch a redesign of their magazine, no one—including Micah—knew what the cover would be until the last minute. But since it was a special Nutrition issue, Risk was the perfect fit.

The cover and corresponding “Street Style” feature on Risk brought a lot of attention to the 29 year old. People want to know about her marathon time, her tattoos, the “VEGAN” socks she proudly sports (and is preparing to make available for interested athletes), and how she juggles her sport and her job along with being a mom.

“It has been a lot of fun!” Risk said of the attention raised from the cover. “The first few days it made my head spin a bit. Seeing hundreds of strangers reacting to it on social media within a very short time period was really intense. I knew people would have a lot of questions about the cover and the socks in particular, so I did my best to stay accessible.”

Risk has indeed made herself accessible. In addition to speaking with The Sprout, she was featured in Boston Magazine and interviewed on the No Meat Athlete (a vegan athlete training website) podcast.

Runner’s World acknowledged that its decision to feature Risk in lieu of a well-known elite athlete as well as an urban running environment is a departure from its usual cover image but fits the magazine’s new mission to be “more visual, more fun, and more reflective of what’s happening in the sport and in the running community.” Risk is also the first nutrition professional to be featured on the cover.


Runner’s World on the newsstand.

“I want people to know that I am a real person, that is my real identity, and I’m not just a model that was hired for a cover shoot. I want to highlight how interesting it is that they chose me, an average runner with no reputation in the running community, for the cover of their redesign issue. How many publications do that? I didn’t have any makeup on, no one did my hair, and I was wearing everyday gear. Plus, I was wearing a very bold message that was once a very polarizing topic. Runner’s World is not a vegan or plant-based company, but it is an excellent platform for talking about the benefits of a plant-based diet,” she said.

Risk became a vegan when she was 16 after watching undercover footage of meat production in factory farms. That inspired her to study the social, health, and environmental consequences of human dietary patterns. What she discovered had a profound effect on her life.

“I think veganism is an important lifestyle to promote for many reasons. We all know by now that there are many health benefits to eating more whole, plant-based foods, but the advantages go beyond personal benefit. The production of animals for food is unsustainable and has devastating consequences for our environment. One of the best ways to reduce our impact on the environment is to eliminate animal products from our diet. And as a side benefit, we might start feeling better, too,” she said.

Risk has put her support for veganism into action as a co-founder of and Director of Nutrition for Lighter, a Cambridge-based company that provides a plant-based, budget-friendly, curated grocery delivery service for its clients. Customers work with Risk to develop nutritional goals and personalized meal plans, and she coordinates grocery delivery and provides simple and balanced recipes.

0bd00b_5e7108378c844b3dbda64e1697584cce.jpg_srz_p_231_231_75_22_0.50_1.20_0“Lighter’s mission is to make healthy food the easy choice. We are able to remove many of the common barriers people have to healthy eating through our curated grocery delivery service and meal plans. We are making healthy, sustainable food more accessible to people around the country, which is something I’m extremely proud of,” said Risk.

Lighter works with both men and women, but focuses on empowering women to “challenge the Standard American Diet (SAD) and celebrate real food.” It began as a regional service, but is now expanding nationwide and aims to be available in the United Kingdom soon.

Risk is also proud that she has been able to achieve her accomplishments as an endurance athlete while on a plant-based diet. This includes completing the New Jersey Marathon—her first ever marathon—in April in 3:18, which qualified her for next year’s Boston Marathon.

Although she was surprised to qualify for Boston so soon, Risk was confident in her training. She developed her plan with the help of a coach from New York Road Runners, emphasized good nutrition, and trained with others who helped her stay focused.

Risk described her training as “working outside her comfort zone.” In fact, Risk did not consider herself a runner until attending Friedman. She grew up playing soccer from age five through freshman year of college. She tried to play in organized adult leagues following school, but could not fit them into her busy schedule. All along, she never considered running to be particularly fun.

It was an early morning workout with November Project that changed her mind.

November Project is a free fitness movement founded in Boston by Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric in 2011 as a way to encourage each other to stay fit during the cold New England winter. It grew from two friends to groups in 17 cities in North America. Three times a week, athletes gather together for 6:30 a.m. workouts.


Risk was initially hesitant to try November Project because of the early-morning start, but gave in last year after being invited by a Friedman alumna and friend who was about to move out of the state. She was immediately hooked.

“Finding talented, fun athletes to run with changed my running experience entirely. Some people enjoy running for the solitude, but I enjoy it as a chance to socialize and spend time with friends. I’m used to team-based athletic endeavors, so having a group to consistently train with is important when I am working towards a goal. In the nutrition field we talk a lot about how environment influences behavior and can have an enormous impact on health outcomes. November Project has been a great influence on my physical and mental health,” she said.


Risk runs the steps of the Harvard Stadium with the November Project.

In Boston, Mondays are “Destination Deck” days: participants run from their homes to a different location every week. These runs range from two to 12 miles depending on where members live. At the rendezvous destination, the group goes through a bodyweight circuit workout and takes a group photo before running home. On Wednesdays, the group runs the Harvard Stadium steps, and on Fridays they run the Summit Avenue hill in Brookline. Every workout is scalable depending on a participant’s ability.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s negative 30 degrees outside or if it’s Christmas. November Project is consistent and reliable no matter what the circumstances are. We have regular members who never worked out a day in their lives and professional hockey players doing the same workout. Both are pushed in a way that’s appropriate for their level of fitness, and both are sore the next day,” said Risk.

It was her involvement with November Project that led to Risk’s Runner’s World cover. Last November, the magazine featured November Project for an issue that examined the increasing popularity of running and fitness groups. The staff worked out with November Project and recruited several members for a photo shoot. The final cover included Risk, and—just like this October—she did not know she would be featured until the issue was published. Risk remained in contact with the Runner’s World staff, and they eventually reached out to her about being the subject of the debut Street Style feature.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 11.32.13 PM

Members of November Project on the cover of the December 2013 Runner’s World.

In addition to Risk’s socks and her marathon time, the part of the Street Style feature that stands out to people is the fact that she sports a “P” charm in honor of her five-year-old daughter, Pru. Risk hopes that her daughter will be inspired seeing her mother have fun while working hard.

“Within the context of running I hope to show her that strength, competitiveness, and fearlessness are perfectly appropriate and admirable ways to describe a woman,” she said.

As she prepares to train for next year’s Boston Marathon, Risk has not stopped racing. On October 18, she completed the Trail Animals Running Club (TARC) Fall Classic 50K ultramarathon in Carlisle. She finished with a time of 5:15, placing tenth overall and as second overall female.


Risk runs with Brookline with November Project.

With all that she has been able to accomplish, Risk provided advice for current students trying to balance busy schedules with nutrition and fitness: “Our bodies are designed to move, and sitting on a computer all day can be very stressful. Show yourself some love and get moving! Waking up early to work out seemed preposterous to me before November Project, but now it extends my day and makes me even more productive. Get a fitness buddy or buddies and be accountable for each other. Fitness can be therapeutic, it can increase productivity, and it makes you feel great. There are so many reasons to make it a priority and only excuses not to.”

One of the reasons Risk attended Friedman was to find solutions to problems in food systems, and she sees her work at Lighter fulfilling that goal. In addition, Friedman’s comprehensive nutrition training was very attractive to Risk. She credited her education at Friedman with providing scientific evidence to support a vegan lifestyle and refining her own understanding of the benefits of a plant-based diet. In particular, she cited the Nutrition in the Life Cycle and Nutrition and Chronic Diseases classes.

“Students at Friedman are exposed to all of the fields that intersect with nutrition, helping us build a better understanding of the problems, which equips us with the tools needed to be problem-solvers. And it goes without saying, but the students, staff and faculty at Friedman are unmatched in the nutrition field. It was incredibly inspiring to work alongside highly motivated and accomplished individuals,” she explained.

Finally, Risk encouraged students to take advantage of every opportunity provided by Friedman, both inside and outside of the classroom. She highly recommended debate and discussion with professors and students, as well as participating in extracurricular activities, where she said she found real growth.

“My experience at Friedman contributed to my career in unexpected ways, and my career path ended up going in a very different direction than I had planned. What I’ve found to be most valuable were the lessons learned from in-depth discussions and critiques on policy, program design, nutrition communication, and interpretation of the literature,” she said.

Matt Moore is a first-year AFE student and just ran his first half marathon last weekend. He is still recovering while enjoying Southampton F.C. dominate the Premier League.

Friedman Gets Fit With New Classroom Tools

by Cailin Kowalewski

Classrooms and offices in Jaharis will be outfitted with new activity-promoting gadgets in 2015.

This spring, Friedman students and staff will have the chance to practice what they preach.

Thanks to efforts by Dr. Jen Sacheck and a team of doctoral students, workspaces and a classroom in Jaharis will feature new and innovative technologies that promote more active work and learning.

Dr. Sachek, who teaches N272: Physical Activity, Nutrition and Health in the spring, has a general research focus in physical fitness/activity and its associated health outcomes, in addition to sports nutrition, energy balance, and muscle health. She is also an avid rower and athlete, making the issue of activity-promoting workspaces a very personal one.

Adjustable height desks will allow students to mix up their stand/sit time during class

The forthcoming technologies, which include standing desks, exercise balls, and ergonomic rocking stools, are part of an effort to promote cultural shifts towards health and wellness in Chinatown and across the university. The new tools will be available to students in classes held in Room 156, in addition to a random selection of faculty offices on the second floor of Jaharis.

The project is funded through a year-long Tufts Innovates grant, offered by the Office of the Provost to “spark imaginative ideas to enhance learning and teaching, including interdisciplinary approaches that integrate research.” Dr. Sacheck and doctoral student Stacy Blondin successfully applied for the grant last February, and have since been acquiring the devices to use in NUTR272, which is offered every spring semester. They hope to make the class a more active “learning lab” for understanding physiology, exercise, and physical activity interventions. Students in the class will have access to the above devices in addition to lactate meters, exercise-related smart phone apps, body composition calipers, and about five Fitbits, which track physical activity.

The motivations for these changes are multifaceted. Dr. Sacheck’s interest in alternative methodologies for increasing physical activity and improving attention is an important one. But equally important is the fact that, despite recent flurries of media attention, comprehensive research is still lacking regarding the sit/stand issue. An article in Smithsonian magazine gives a fair summary of the hypothesized benefits of standing time (or rather, the commonly-cited threats associated with sedentary time), in addition to the research upon which these claims are based. Not surprisingly, extensive sedentary time has been examined in relation to all of the usual suspects, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. But whether standing can have a notable impact on these outcomes remains to be seen.

Even without rigorous evidence for its specific health benefits, diversifying classroom environments seems like good policy for the university. If for no other reason, innovation at Friedman is warranted because, as Sacheck explains, “the school of nutrition hasn’t tapped into many of the technological improvements that have gone on in other classrooms.”

A better Jaharis 156?

A better Jaharis 156?

If feedback from Friedman students and faculty is positive, the standing desk movement may spread beyond Friedman and across Tufts campuses. Sacheck and doctoral student Nicole Schultz are planning focus groups among undergraduate students to gauge their interest in the tools, and have submitted a proposal to the National Heart Association for a corporate wellness initiative using standing desks. Hopefully, Friedman students will benefit as their research gathers momentum and staying power…not to mention the fact that extra gadgets could potentially find their way into the student lounge.

For many students (ahem), it may seem hypocritical to study the negative health effects of extended sit/screen time in dimly-lit, three-hour classes. But as you slog your way to the gym or yoga studio this winter, feel encouraged by the fact that great changes in Jaharis may soon be heading your way.

Spring Classes in Room 156

NUTR 218: Communications Strategies in Health Promotion

NUTR 272: Physical Activity, Nutrition and Health

NUTR 330: Anthropology of Food and Nutrition

NUTR 342: Food Systems Modeling and Analysis

Cailin Kowalewski is a second-year FPAN student from Western New York who loves big dogs, tiny houses, and a good run. She plans to survive this winter with the help of homemade applesauce and copious amounts of Sabres hockey.    

Beverage Industry Joins Fight for Obesity Prevention, Launches “Mixify” Campaign

by Lara Goodrich Ezor

The American Beverage Association has announced its new “Balance Calories Initiative,” which aims to reduce calorie consumption from beverages by 20% by 2025. Through the initiative, beverage companies will join together to reduce portion sizes, increase access to low-calorie drinks and calorie information, and launch the “Mixify” campaign, which encourages consumer choice in formulating a healthy balance between food, drink and physical activity.

ABAIn September, the American Beverage Association (ABA) announced its Balance Calories Initiative, which they’re heralding as the “single-largest voluntary effort by an industry to help fight obesity.” The Balance Calories Initiative aims to reduce beverage calories consumed per capita by 20 percent by 2025 in the United States. ABA represents Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the Dr. Pepper-Snapple Group, among other beverage companies.

“Our industry has a longstanding commitment to being part of the solution to reducing obesity in America,” the ABA said in a press release. “Now, with our Balance Calories Initiative, we are transforming the beverage landscape in communities nationwide. This initiative will take our efforts to provide consumers with more choices, smaller portions, and fewer calories to an ambitious new level.”

The new initiative was announced at the Clinton Foundation, and former President Bill Clinton lauded the move. Citing successful industry-supported programs to reduce sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) in schools, Clinton proclaimed that the new initiative further illustrates the promise of “creative cooperation” between public health interests and industry.

“I am excited about the potential of this voluntary commitment by the beverage industry,” Clinton said in a press release. “It can be a critical step in our ongoing fight against obesity.”

In partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the initiative puts forth three principal, national-level goals for beverage companies: first, to “increase and sustain consumer interest in and access to smaller portion sizes, water and no- and lower-calorie beverages.” Second is to post calorie lists on all points-of-sale of beverages, including vending machines. And third is the launch of a “national consumer awareness and engagement program — Mixify™ — encouraging teens and their families to balance their calories by moderating what they consume, including beverages, and getting more active.”


On the local level, the initiative will target communities with limited access to lower-calorie options. Efforts will include providing more low-calorie options for sale, as well as the implementation of coupon and product placement campaigns to encourage their consumption. The community initiatives will launch first in Los Angeles, California and Little Rock, Arkansas.

The Balance Calories Initiative isn’t the only thing on the horizon for the ABA. This month, Berkeley and San Francisco voters will decide on Measure D and Proposition E, proposed sales taxes that would increase the price of sugar-sweetened beverages by 1-2 cents per ounce. Thirty previous initiatives around the country – including Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed New York City soda tax – have failed to pass. The Balance Calories Initiative was announced as the ABA simultaneously poured $7.7 million into preventing the passage of these upcoming ballot measures. The ABA has also lobbied the FDA to ditch its proposed “added sugars” label to the new Nutrition Facts panel.

Consumer choice and freedom have consistently been the core arguments against proposed “soda taxes.” By attempting to reduce beverage calories consumed through increased access and awareness, the Balance Calories Initiative and Mixify campaign further champion the right of consumer choice. By helping consumers think about their daily choices, the new initiative tries to move consumers towards a personalized, healthy balance of food, drinks and physical activity.

The Mixify campaign’s first promotional video says the project offers “tips, tools and inspiration to help find a balance that’s right for you…Balance what you eat and drink with what you do. That’s how you Mixify.”

Aimed at teenagers, the largest consumers of sodas, the video directs viewers to resources for creating a personalized, “mixified” balance and encourages them to share their personal mix with the Twitter handle #mymixify.

How this initiative will register with consumers remains to be seen. But one thing is clear – the ABA and the companies it represents don’t anticipate sacrificing profit in the name of their new initiative. Of course, they will continue to innovate. Thus far, some profitable and lower-calorie innovations include the sale of bottled water, smaller soda cans, and reduced-calorie drinks (such as Coke Life, sweetened by a stevia and sugar combination).

As nutrition and public health students, many complex and critical questions emerge with the launch of the Balance Calories Initiative and Mixify campaign. Is this a tacit admission that SSBs have played an instrumental role in the obesity health crisis? Or is it a strategic move on the part of an industry whose sales have been falling? (Sales of caloric soda have fallen 15% since 1998.)

Do lower-calorie alternatives provide a true improvement over SSBs, or is this an example of an industry trying to make less healthy products appear integral to a balanced diet? And, does immense funding to defeat “soda taxes” while touting a Balance Calories Initiative illustrate hypocrisy in the beverage industry?

Finally, do the motivations of the industry even matter if they lead to better public health outcomes and dietary balance? These are no small questions.

That Americans have slowly reduced consumption of nutrient-poor, calorie-dense sodas is certainly good news for our health. But calories from beverages continue to contribute substantially to our diets.

With its new initiative, the ABA is attempting to adapt in order to meet an important public health goal. At face value, however, joining the fight for obesity prevention might seem contrary to the mission of the ABA and soda companies. You can call it hypocrisy or “creative collaboration” — see the glass “half empty” or “half full” – but it’s clear that the beverage industry has solidified its place at the food policy table.

So, how do you “Mixify?”

Lara Goodrich Ezor is a second-year FPAN student and co-editor of the Sprout. She takes soymilk in her coffee, drinks a green smoothie every morning, and is known to sip diet soda on airplanes. That’s #mymixify.

Justice on the Move

by Emily Piltch

Need inspiration to integrate your Friedman experience into the greater Boston community? See how Dan Hatfield and Alison Brown, both Food Policy and Applied Nutrition (FPAN) doctoral students, are humbly contributing their expertise to fitness programs in underserved neighborhoods.

Each month, the Friedman Justice League (FJL) writes a piece for the Friedman Sprout touching on the theme of the month with an eye towards FJL’s mission: seeking to make our community more diverse and finding ways to allow the Friedman community to better address issues of discrimination and oppression in its teachings, research, and programs.

Photo: Courtesy of the East Boston Neighborhood Center

It seemed like a perfect opportunity to highlight the powerful work that two Food Policy and Applied Nutrition (FPAN) doctoral students have been engaged in, striking a delicate balance between academic life and community work. Dan Hatfield, MS N11, New Balance Childhood Nutrition Fellow, has been working for four years at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. Alison Brown, MS, USDA Doctoral Fellow in Obesity, spent this past year engaging with Healthworks Community Fitness in Dorchester.

Dan and Alison completed Albert Schweitzer Fellowships and continue to carry out its mission: “Improving Health, Developing Leaders and Creating Change.” They both started community work in Boston with great humility. Dan was a high school teacher and running coach for six years prior to joining the Friedman School. When he contacted the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center with an interest in working with youth, he jumped at the opportunity to develop a walking/running club for 6th grade boys who were referred by their pediatricians based on overweight or obesity. This program is one of several chronic disease prevention initiatives implemented at the Center, including food access initiatives, a community garden, farmers market, and programs for parents. While Dan didn’t go in with a specific program in mind, it evolved as he learned about the community.

Dan grew up in a safe, suburban town where his dad coached his teams, and resources were readily available for youth sports. He had a parallel experience when he taught and coached in well-resourced private schools.

“I went in with a lens that was informed by my own experiences,” Dan shared about his initial work in East Boston. But he quickly learned how little is needed to establish an impactful program. “When I started there, I basically had a corridor and a cement parking lot to work with in terms of facilities. At first, I had this narrow view that to really have an impact I’d need to bring in new and better resources,” Dan said. But even without access to these resources, Dan saw large changes in fitness and activity levels among the participants, with substantial benefits on short and long-term health.

“I’m interested in how we can design programs that meet kids where they are,” says Dan. “Traditional sports and exercise programs often assume participants have a certain foundation in terms of fitness or skills that, in reality, many kids never had the chance to build. There’s a lot of room to do better in terms of designing programs that elicit high levels of activity while also building kids’ skills and confidence, making physical activity fun, and motivating, sustainable changes in behavior.”

Dan’s role at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center evolved to standardizing a curriculum the Center could use in summer and after-school programs across sites, serving over 200 at-risk kids each year. About 90% of the participants are Hispanic, mostly first-generation born in the U.S. with about three-quarters living in households below the federal poverty line.

Program evaluation is often one of the last components to be considered during program planning. Through a partnership that also supported his dissertation research, Dan worked with the health center to upgrade their evaluation protocol to consider dimensions beyond simply changes in body mass index (BMI). The goal was to generate evidence that could test research questions while also providing the program with a fuller understanding of how it was impacting kids across multiple dimensions, including physical activity, fitness, and dietary behaviors. Research questions included: What factors predict how active kids are? And what happens to their fitness levels when they participate in community programs? If BMI doesn’t change, what about aerobic fitness, muscular strength, dietary and physical activity behaviors? One key consideration was ensuring that those protocols were rigorous but also feasible for the program to continue to use after the research was completed.

Dan seems to thrive on putting the pieces together. He started with assessing resources of the organization and then helped identify what is feasible and impactful in terms of both programming and evaluation. One summative outcome was to generate practice-based evidence that advances understanding of how things play out in real-world settings.

“Randomized control trials are really important and provide us with specific types of knowledge about the efficacy of interventions in controlled settings. But it’s equally important, I think, to take the time to bridge that evidence to practice environments and evaluate effectiveness in uncontrolled settings.” Dan said. “It has been amazing to be here at Tufts with world-class researchers who really care about communities while also being really close to the ground and attuned to what is feasible and usable in a resource-constrained environment.” Moreover, rigorously designed evaluations can make a much stronger case for policy, programmatic or fundraising decisions, he said. “There is a lot of low hanging fruit, if people who understand research and evaluation are willing to help these community organizations think through these questions.”

One of the challenges of Dan’s work is to consider how change is or is not facilitated outside of settings like the Health Center. Dan acknowledged, “environmental determinants in under-resourced communities can be a huge barrier. Even if you get kids motivated, if they or their parents are afraid for their safety in their neighborhood, it could be really difficult for kids to translate that motivation into behavior.” This is certainly a social justice issue that some might take for granted. Dan continued, “if we want to support change over the long term, we really need to think about how these neighborhoods are set up, not just creating parks and other spaces but also accounting for things like lighting that makes those spaces feel safe or programs that make them accessible for kids of a variety of abilities.” Dan can be proud of the contributions he’s made to supporting long-term change in East Boston.

“The program continues to use the curriculum and the evaluation methods that I helped to develop,” he said. “At this point they could really sustain all those things without me.”

Photo: courtesy of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship

Photo: Courtesy of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship

Like Dan’s trajectory into community-based work, Alison Brown had a similarly humbling experience. When she moved to Boston to start the doctoral program, she also sought volunteer opportunities, particularly in underserved communities of color. Having lived in numerous parts of the country—from Atlanta and the Washington DC area to New York and Philadelphia—the stark racial and ethnic segregation between neighborhoods and limited access to resources in the communities of color in Boston became clear. Alison began to volunteer at the Healthworks Community Fitness in Dorchester, where her background in personal training, wellness coaching, exercise physiology, and nutrition made her well-suited to improving community fitness.

During her initial conversations with women who came to the center, Alison realized that the minimal, individual nutrition counseling offered was not enough.

“I would come in each Wednesday and instead of finding the nutrition coach engaged with members, he or she would be preoccupied and sitting behind a desk,” explained Alison. This helped prompt her to apply for a Schweitzer Fellowship, which she received and used to develop a group-based nutrition program for the center.

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 11.25.50 AMCoupling her guidance in a summer health literacy course with prior experience developing a nutrition education program in New York City and workshops at an urban farm in Washington DC, Alison initiated the Keeping It “Real”: Better Food for Better Health nutrition intervention. The intervention included 12 sessions over 6 weeks and was designed for intergenerational, healthy dietary change focusing on common myths about food and encouraging the consumption of more ‘real,’ less processed foods. Alison offered three cycles of the program. A total of 21 women and 15 children participated, with about three-quarters of the women who began the program attending all sessions.

 I am so grateful for changing my perspective on what we eat and how,” one participant explained. “Ever since the workshop started, I am amazed at myself…I can also see its impact on my body already…and I feel very energetic.” Among those women who completed both pre and post surveys, 60% decreased their frequency of eating out, 50% increased their frequency of dinner preparation, and 40% decreased their sugary beverage consumption.

Alison encourages students interested in volunteering in the community to take matters into their own hands and start by using a simple Google search to identify organizations doing what they’re interested in.

“Take the leap of faith and reach out to an organization and start off by asking about the needs of the agency.” Alison’s journey took her from simply cleaning floors at the Center to developing a successful workshop series, to initiating a Saturday morning walking group in Franklin Park. When asked what inspired her to get so involved in community work in Boston, Alison’s response was both optimistic and motivating.

“Going to class can be draining,” she said. “Talking to the membership (at the gym) was soul filling, if you will; uplifting for me, mentally…At certain points, looking at STATA output and the racial/ethnic disparities got disheartening. Putting a face on what I was reading about reinvigorated me and makes the work worthwhile. It’s easy to lose connection with why you do the work in the first place—it’s not just numbers, it’s people and families we’re talking about.”

Emily Piltch is an AFE PhD student. When she’s not thinking about infant feeding practices and the cultural and social underpinnings of dietary-decision making on the Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico (her dissertation), she’s dodging traffic on her bike and perfecting vegan, apple, butternut squash muffins.

ClassPass: Exercise Variety for the Easily Bored

by Katherine Pett

ClassPass makes sampling of a variety of fitness classes easy, and it’s great for the bored or overly busy. A Friedmanite explores the pros and cons of ClassPass, and the not-to-miss fitness spots in the Boston area.

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 11.28.07 AMIn Boston, specialized exercise studios pop up all over the place. Often located on the second or third floors of other retail establishments, these boutique-style studios feature friendly staffs and special touches that make the experience better; free hair ties, heart rate monitors, free towels and amazing shampoo in locker rooms, or spin bikes that track your RPMs and send them to you in a post-workout email. Be it traditional flow yoga, hot yoga, indoor cycling, or CrossFit, these alternatives to the gym are new, trendy, fun…and expensive. If you’re the type of exerciser that likes variety, it’s not easy to partake in these specialized classes without partaking in the price. And once you commit to a monthly fee for, say, a Bikram yoga studio, you’re tied to taking nothing but yoga unless you want to pay a steep price per class somewhere else.

Exhale's front lobby, which serves a dual purpose as a boutique

Exhale‘s front lobby, which serves a dual purpose as a boutique

However, there is an alternative to this system in ClassPass, an online subscription service that allows you to attend any of 145 different exercise studios for a monthly fee of $100. Once you register online, you can search through available exercise classes by time, location, or activity.

ClassPass is a great option for someone who can’t stick to a regular gym routine, either due to hectic schedules or boredom. But the online service doesn’t come without its drawbacks.

Do you think you might be interested in ClassPass? Take a look at some pros and cons of the site and decide for yourself!

 Pros of ClassPass:

  • Find a class at any time of day and any day of the week.
  • Search for classes based on location, time, or activity. Drop-down menus make it easy to search and find classes that meet your specifications.
  • Take an unlimited total number of classes per month. ClassPass limits the number of classes you can take at one location, but not the total number of classes.
  • Try out something new: In Boston there are classes available in CrossFit, boxing, martial arts, dance, and even circus!
  • Utilize gym facilities that would be much more expensive otherwise. CrossFit and Exhale gyms are usually $200 per month, while indoor cycling classes can be up to $30 per class. However, these gyms and countless other studios are available through ClassPass.
  • Reserve classes weeks in advance or same day.

Cons of ClassPass: 

  • You are limited to 3 classes at any one studio per month.
  • There is a $20 skipped-class fee and a $20 dollar fee if you cancel scheduled class within 24 hours. If you miss a class because you’re stuck in traffic, or wake up with a severe cold the day of class, you’ll be charged more than the cost of the class for not going.
  • Not all studios in Boston are available through ClassPass. Popular workout spots like Barry’s Bootcamp and North End Yoga are currently unavailable. If you’re loyal to particular location, make sure it’s listed on ClassPass before you join.
  • Though there are 145 different studios, they are spread over a wide area. If you’re in urban Boston, you probably won’t want to attend the classes offered in Framingham, Newton, or Waltham.

I have to tell you readers that I am an enthusiastic ClassPass-er! So, if you decide to take the fitness plunge, here are some studios I highly recommend:

For Strength and Conditioning: You need to try Raw Fitness Performance – Jane (the owner) teaches all the classes in this open garage-style space right off the Lechmere T-stop. Classes are small and based on form-focused programming that includes bodyweight and weighted strength exercises as well as agility work. The mood is casual and friendly, and I can guarantee a great workout!

Complimentary tea and water at Exhale

For Yoga: O2 Yoga has to be my favorite. Their Somerville location has a large, open space, and their Cambridge location has a trendy vegan-café in the front! They offer a variety of classes, from beginner to advanced.

For Pilates: If you want to try a reformer-pilates class, you need to check out Btone! OK, it isn’t technically “Pilates,” but taught on special reformer-like equipment called “Megaformers,” these resistance exercises are guaranteed to leave you sore (in a good way) the next day.

For Cycling: I recommend checking out Pursuit in Back Bay. Classes take place in stadium-style studio with low club-lighting, loud beats, and enthusiastic coaches. Although the bikes record your RPM and calories burned, the studio doesn’t have the competitive mood of some other popular spin studios. The best part is that after class, your performance is emailed to you in a summary sheet!

For the Perks: If you’re looking to hit up the sauna after a class or towel off in luxury, you need to take a class at either the Battery Wharf or Back Bay location of Exhale, the spa-style gym that specializes in amazing Core-Fusion Barre classes.

Katherine Pett is a first-year in the Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition Program. She can be spotted around her North End neighborhood in bright-blue headphones listening to an audiobook, or enthusiastically (if not gracefully) trying out the hottest new group-fitness trend at the gym.


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