Surround Fitness Home

Greetings! My name is Jennifer Katt, though I like Jen Katt best. I am a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers. I am also a Weight Management Specialist through the American Council on Exercise. Welcome to “Surround Fitness,” and to my website.

Here you will find my growing collection of blogs offering assorted advice and guidance on exercise and nutrition.  My plan is to help people (mainly women over 40) realize a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, working it from all angles—what you eat, how and how much you move, and where you put your energy: thus the “surround fitness” moniker.workout stuff

What Do I Offer? Surround Fitness will create for you a 16-week program of personalized fitness and nutrition training for a healthy sustainable lifestyle. I come to you, with weekly sessions delivered in your home. (read more…)

Giving Back. Another aspect of my “mission” is to work with nonprofit organizations at the community level to help stem the tide of obesity and sedentariness that is engulfing our society and afflicting people of all ages. It is a dream come true, to be able to devote myself full-time to a holistic vision of fitness and also to give back to the community. Please contact me if you know of any speaking or workshop opportunities. My presentations are known for being informative, interactive, and, best of all, fun!

I left a long career as a science writer to become a personal trainer/fitness instructor/nutrition counselor because I wanted to go where—as the writer and theologian Frederick Buechner said—my “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” So, here I am, revved up and eager to teach others what I know, even while I continue learning. I hope you will become a regular visitor to my site!

–Keep moving, Jen Katt

Please contact me for a free fitness and nutrition consultation. I can design a program for you that uses science-based principles and incorporates cardio, resistance, and flexibility elements to address your specific goals. 

What Should I Eat?!

How the dietary guidelines for Americans have “evolved”

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As nutrition advice continues to evolve, some of it will stay the same, such as whole and minimally processed foods are the best, and make sure you eat your fruits and vegetables. That said, a recent look at the history of dietary guidelines for Americans shows that although some things are immutable in their goodness, others come and go and come back again. In responding to ever-changing nutrition science, we may risk trading simple, solid basics for a flurry of latest findings whose complexity can bury key messages. And dietary guidelines do matter. Our country’s nutrition policies not only provide guidance to the general population; they also require that all feeding programs align with them, including school lunches and breakfasts and meals served to soldiers. Read on to see what I mean.

Below is a summary of Dietary Guidelines from 1980 to 1995, published every 5 years. The strikeouts and additions reflect minor changes, generally for the better, during this 15-year time span:

  1. Eat a variety of foods (1980, 1985, 1990).
  2. Maintain ideal (1980) desirable (1985) healthy (1990) weight. In 1995: Balance the food you eat with physical activity—maintain or improve your weight.
  3. Avoid too much (1980, 1985) Choose a diet low in (1995) fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.
  4. Eat foods with adequate starch and fiber (1980, 1985). In 1995: Choose a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits and grain products.
  5. Avoid too much sugar (1980, 1985). In 1995: Use sugars only in moderation.
  6. Avoid too much sodium (1980, 1985). In 1995: Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium.
  7. If you drink alcohol (1980) alcoholic beverages (1985, 1990, 1995), do so in moderation.

In 2000, the Dietary Guidelines ushered in a new millennium and took on a more sophisticated air. Instead of 7 recommendations, there were 10, with much more scientific background added along with information about dietary patterns and food safety. In 2005, the guidelines continued to balloon. What was once a snappy brochure in 1980 had now morphed into a 70-page policy tome with 41 recommendations grouped under 9 major headings, with lots of detail added. It’s easier now to provide links in case you’d like to ferret out the key messages for each:

  1. Adequate nutrients within caloric needs
  2. Weight management
  3. Physical activity
  4. Food groups to encourage
  5. Fats
  6. Carbohydrates
  7. Sodium and potassium
  8. Alcoholic beverages
  9. Food safety

In 2010, the emphasis shifted to solid fats and added sugars—that is, to reduce the discretionary calories spent on them. Moreover, in a much-needed return toward simplicity, the “MyPlate” guide showing what your plate should look like in terms of recommended portions of food types was released in 2011. It was quickly improved upon by Harvard Medical School, which released its Healthy Eating Plate the same year (see below).

The Harvard Eating plate can actually stand in for the latest 2015–2020 guidelines (see box below). Fill half your plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables, a quarter with whole grains, and the remaining quarter with lean protein. The perimeter of the plate talks about healthy fats and non-sugary beverages, with examples. The only guideline not represented is the last one, which is a call to action for us all (especially important in the current political climate). It reminds us that “everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple setting nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.”  Amen!

2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the life span.All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.
  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
  5. Support healthy eating patterns for all.Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.

So for 2018, my advice, distilled down to ONE guideline is: “Look at Your Plate,” and print out a copy of The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate for the fuller picture.


Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and HHS (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015-2020.

Sanna Delmonico, MS, RDN, CHES, “Lessons from 40 Years of Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” IDEA Fitness Journal, Oct. 2017.

Kelsey N. Graham, Med, CHES, “Eating Right: What the Science Says, IDEA Fitness Journal, Nov. 2017.

Working Out Away from Home—Better than Before

Remember when the hotel “fitness room” was a sad little place akin to the mandated but forgotten tot lot in a planned community? One creaky stationary bike, a wobbly treadmill, and sometimes a scruffy mat and mismatched dumbbells? Well, we’ve come a long way, baby!

Nowadays, because so many of us have embraced a fitness lifestyle, hotels are one-upping each other to provide better fitness equipment and access to services. The number of hotels offering an exercise room or fitness facility has grown from 63% in 2004 to 85% in 2016, according to the 2016 Lodging Survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Giving passes to nearby facilities is also on the rise. I recently sojourned at a modest (ahem) Days Inn that nonetheless gave me access to a beautiful Gold’s Gym right across the street!

As a Washington Post lifestyle article noted in May, among the newest trends are in-room fitness options, such as Hilton’s “Five Feet to Fitness” rooms. These rooms, which cost between $45 and $90 above standard prices, include about a dozen pieces of equipment right in the room, along with a fitness “kiosk” with touch-screen access to 200+ videos featuring cycling, high-intensity interval training, and yoga classes. Snazzy!

For those of more modest means (like me) who still want to work out in-room, consider the guest “fitness kit.”  My friend and client says this about his experience with the Omni in Charlottesville:

“For many years, my wife and I have attended the annual Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, always staying at the wonderful Omni hotel, where many festival sessions are also held. Since we’re once-yearly Omni regulars, we joined the free Select Guest program. Among its benefits is the ability to register my preference for a well-stocked fitness kit for in-room exercise (see pictures to left), nicely supplementing the well-equipped fitness center with multiple treadmills and other professional-grade equipment (pictures above). Both are free. Another always-pleasant aspect of these stays is the hotel’s Loyalty Ambassador, a staffer who contacts guests shortly before arrival to convey a welcome message and ensure a pleasant customized experience; for me, this raises Omni above other hotel visits.”

Cool, huh?  Have you had a good fitness experience on the road?  What was it?  Next time you book your trip, ask about the hotel’s fitness options. It may simplify your choice and prompt you to work out while away.

–Keep moving, Jen