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Greenwich Woman Leads Fight Against Fat

First Lady Michelle Obama has made the national obesity epidemic her personal cause, and that’s just fine with Donna Gaudioso-Zeale, RN. “We need to recognize we’re in pretty bad shape as a nation,” says the director of Greenwich Hospital’s Center for Healthy Living. “Obesity causes diabetes, heart and joint disease, some cancers -- if we don’t get it under control, we’re heading for a collision course. We have to change behavior to do it.”

Gaudioso-Zeale realizes it won’t be easy, but she points to the way attitudes toward recycling have changed in the past few decades. “It should be even easier when it’s related to our own health,” she says. Nonetheless, she feels some changes will have to be mandated, others driven by incentives or penalties.

“We need to take the expertise within the hospital walls and get it into the community,” she says. To that end, dietitians and chefs from the hospital have gone to schools to speak about the principles of healthy eating. “I tell people I’m a cheap date,” says Gaudioso-Zeale. “Show me the health benefit and I’ll work with you on anything.”

Gaudioso-Zeale feels that behavioral change must begin with young people, and her pet project is the Edible Schoolyard, where students grow, harvest, process and eat their own food. “It’s hands-on learning,” she says. Her dream would be for each of the 13 gardening groups in Greenwich to adopt a school and provide advice to the students on planning and maintaining a school garden of edible plants.

“We need to create a culture of health where we work and live,” she says. “Otherwise, we’re not going to see a change.”

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