National health conference in Jackson focuses on healthy lifestyles

April 11, 2008
Mindy Meuli

A national conference in Jackson this month has potential to change the way people think about healthy lifestyles for children and adults in Wyoming.

Professionals from a wide range of disciplines who work at the community level with youths and adults will attend "Shaping a Healthy Future IV: A Rocky Mountain Conference" April 23-25. The conference focuses on promoting health through pleasurable and healthful eating, enjoyable physical activity and positive body image for youths and adults.

This is the fourth conference hosted by the Wyoming Dietetic Association and Wellness In Wyoming (WIN Wyoming). A youth component was added this year with Wyoming Action for Healthy Kids as another co-host. Previous conferences were in 2000, 2003 and 2005.

"The purpose of the conference is to promote the adoption of enjoyable and healthy lifestyles related to food, physical activity and body image independent of size, shape or age," said Mindy Meuli, a co-chair of the conference, representing WIN Wyoming.

"The slate of presenters is awesome," said Meuli, who is in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences in the University of Wyoming's College of Agriculture. "We have a variety of nationally and/or internationally known researchers, authors, and experts who are very well respected in their fields. Although space is limited, we have had an overwhelming response from more than 20 states. We still have a few open spots for people."

The kickoff speaker is Brian Wansink, recently appointed director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Policy and Promotion and author of Mindless Eating. Wansink will present the new MyPyramid Menu Planner, a tool to help Americans improve their food choices.

Also speaking will be Susan Linn from the Harvard School of Medicine on how marketing and commercialization affect children's health, Jennifer Orlet Fisher from the Baylor School of Medicine on how caregivers and parents influence children's eating habits, Russell Pate from the University of South Carolina on ways to increase physical activity in youth, and Dayle Hayes, a consultant in Montana on improving the health of school environments.

Topics covered by additional speakers will be creating communities that support walking, bicycling, and other physical activity; improving family mealtimes; and incorporating size-acceptance into a healthy lifestyle.

The conference includes physical activity breaks and "walk-the-talk" activities. Participants can experience qigong, yoga, and they can exercise on GeoMat exercise mats. A share fair will feature booths from exhibitors as well as nearly 40 displays from field educators and practitioners who promote healthy lifestyles through food, physical activity and acceptance of body-size diversity.

Nine agencies are sponsoring the conference including the UW Cooperative Extension Service and Department of Family and Consumer Sciences within the UW College of Agriculture, and Wyoming Department of Education.

Information about the conference, including an online registration is at

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