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. 

Beyond FitBit: Welcome in the “Wireless Body-Area-Network”

Photo credit: Ron Aira

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing researcher Vivian Motti, assistant professor in the Department of Information Sciences and Technology at George Mason University’s Volgenau School of Engineering. Ms. Motti has joined up with colleagues at Dartmouth and Clemson to develop the “Amulet bracelet,” a wearable mobile health device that is more high-tech than the popular ones today. She says the bracelet acts as a “hub,” interacting with other mobile sensors and aggregating a person’s health information for multiple potential uses, including analysis by health professionals. The research emphasis is on optimizing methods for collecting and using data to reduce battery drain, to enhance synchronizing functions, and to make it easier for wearers to understand and use the information their bodies provide—all while enhancing controls on privacy and data sharing.

Below is a summary of our interview:

Q. Can you tell me more about how the “Amulet bracelet” works and how it began?
R. Our research project began with the purpose of helping people with smoking cessation and behavior change. However, we faced challenges with the nicotine sensors and detection of behavior patterns, so we switched our emphasis to stress management, an area in which we currently have pilot studies going on, including with obese and overweight individuals.

Q. How could your bracelet help people struggling with weight?
R. This technology can collect data essential to any number of medical conditions with a behavioral component, including overeating, stress, and many chronic diseases. The collected data can help individuals and medical professionals better understand a person’s emotional states and correlate that with related data, including environmental triggers.

Q. How did you get into the field of “wearables?”
R. I always had a multidisciplinary academic interest. My background is in biomedical informatics, and bringing technological solutions closer to users to meet their specific needs is my main research goal. I was fortunate to take an elective course on human-computer interaction in my last year of undergraduate studies, which ignited my interest in considering human factors when developing technological solutions. From there, I earned my masters degree in computer science and did my post-doc in wearable health technology.

Q. Why do you think this type of technology is so popular today?
R. I think there will always be people who just want the latest technology. Others seek greater awareness about their health or a specific medical condition. Our aim is to help patients understand what is going on and be more proactive in their own health care, which in turn supports more successful interventions. I think of wearables as a means of preventing disease and of helping people modify their behaviors to hopefully achieve a healthier lifestyle. For healthcare practitioners, this and similar technologies can give them more aggregated data to personalize treatments and better tailor services to their patients.

Coda from Jen: I believe this kind of wireless “body-area network” can empower users with the information they need to potentially improve their behaviors, also giving doctors more data to better tailor interventions and personalize medical treatments. Moreover, in this time when people with chronic conditions drive 84% of national health care dollars and 99% of Medicare spending, we need to embrace technology that will improve health care quality, safety, and efficiency. And since obesity is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, etc., helping overweight and obese individuals change risky behaviors and improve metabolic health and fitness is a worthy goal that can greatly improve their quality of life and benefit society as a whole.

–Keep moving, Jen

Origin of Breakfast Cereal: Cure Your Dirty Colon, Ladies and Gents

Ever wonder how breakfast cereals, now often thought of as sugar-laden, high-glycemic, calorie-dense bad guys of the morning, got their start? As someone who counsels clients to make healthy choices for that most important meal of the day, I was surprised to learn that breakfast cereals actually began as health foods. More specifically, breakfast cereals emerged from a soap opera-like intertwining of events at two wellness centers (called sanitariums) that were seen as retreats for the health-conscious eager to cleanse their colons. The timeline below illustrates how these events nurtured the rise of America’s cereal magnates Kellogg, Post, General Mills, and Quaker Oats.


1863 Dr. James Caleb Jackson, a religious conservative and vegetarian who ran the Danville Sanitarium in western NY, urges his meat-eating guests accustomed to breakfasts of beef or pork to try his new “granula.” Although the hard graham flour dough, dried and broken into shapes, is barely edible, Ellen G. White, a Danville guest and founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, so appreciates his vegetarian lifestyle that she incorporates it into church doctrine. One of the members of Sister White’s new church is medical doctor John Kellogg, also in the health spa and hospital biz.
 1887 Committed to developing health food for patients at his Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, Dr. Kellogg develops a rough-milled mixture of oats, wheat, and cornmeal biscuit, which he also calls “granula.” When Dr. Jackson gets wind of this, he sues Kellogg for infringing on his brand name. A settlement changes Kellogg’s version to “granola,” and thus begins the Kellogg family’s historic involvement in America’s breakfasts.
 1894Image result for kelloggs granose John and his brother, William K. Kellogg, who also works at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, keep experimenting with healthier, whole-grain versions of breakfast to replace meat, which they think is too hard on the bowel. Their greatest discovery happens by accident. The brothers were working on boiling wheat, rolling it into sheets, then grinding it. One morning, they find a pot of boiled wheat left out from the night before and decide to roll it anyway. Instead of forming a solid sheet, the mixture produces hundreds of flakes, one from each wheat berry. They toast the flakes and serve them to their patients, who love them. They call this new cereal “Granose Flakes.”
 1896Image result for kelloggs granose  Will Kellogg, who had begun a packaged food enterprise to fill orders for Granose Flakes, successfully creates flakes from corn instead of wheat. He urges John to sell their flaky products in stores, but his brother fears commercialism would hurt his status as a medical professional.
 1897 Following a stay at the Battle Creek Sanitarium for his second nervous breakdown, Texan Charles William Post, impressed by the health foods served there, develops his own version of granula, known today as “Grape-nuts” and easier to chew than Jackson’s original. He also releases his own brand of corn flakes called “Elijah’s Manna” before changing the name to top-selling “Post Toasties.”
 1906Image result for will kellogg Will Kellogg buys out John’s interest in the cereal patents and creates the Kellogg Company. The entrepreneurial younger brother adds sugar to the boiled grains (and so it starts!) and begins mass-marketing his cereals. By its third year, the Kellogg Company has sold more than one million cases of corn and wheat flakes, thanks to Will’s marketing genius.
1910Related image Quaker Oats, a venerable oat-and-grain processing firm founded on the success of oatmeal, acquires puffed-rice technology. Puffed cereals were made by stripping the grain of fiber, believed at that time to impede digestion, then pumping the processed product full of sugar to get America’s children to eat it.
1922Image result for wheaties washburn Wheaties came about because a Minnesota dietician working for the Washburn Crosby Company (which became General Mills in 1928) accidentally spilled a wheat bran mixture onto a hot stove. After Washburn’s head miller perfected the process for strengthening the flakes for packaging (which took a couple of years), the cereal debuted in 1924 as Washburn’s Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes, which soon became Wheaties. General Mills subsequently created CheeriOats in 1941, which in 1945 became Cheerios (the original version).
1940’s-50’sRelated image Sugar content becomes a selling point as puffed cereals gain in popularity. Post comes out with Sugar Crisp, to eventually become Golden Crisp. In the 1950’s, Post also produced Sugar Coated Rice Krinkles, like Kellogg Rice Krispies but coated in sugar and marketed in a racist box. Not to be outdone, Kellogg debuts Sugar Frosted Flakes in 1952 and a year later introduces Sugar Smacks, renamed Honey Smacks in the 1980s. An analysis by Consumer Reports in 2008 found Honey Smacks and  Golden Crisp to have the highest sugar content of any processed breakfast cereal (50+ percent sugar by weight!), one serving is sugar-equivalent to a glazed doughnut from Dunkin’ Donuts.1

Today. Cap’N Crunch (from Quaker), Count Chocula (General Mills), Kellogg Frosted Flakes, and many others exemplify how far we have strayed from the health-food fervor of America’s founding fathers of breakfast cereal. Let’s do our part to support transparency in labeling and access to healthier, whole-grain, natural-fiber versions of breakfast cereal and other convenience foods. In this vein, the FDA has ruled that by July 2018, “added sugar” must have its own line in the Nutrition Facts box. This is a good start, but you still need to read the ingredients list. You can buy foods that are at least trying to get healthier. Here’s a partial list of cereals I can recommend:

  • Cheerios Original, NOT the version touting protein, which also has 17 g of added sugar (vs. 1 g in the original).
  • Several Kashi brand varieties like Autumn Wheat, Heart to Heart, GoLean Original, and Organic Promise types (Kellogg bought Kashi in 2000).
  • Post (formerly Nabisco) Shredded Wheat (unfrosted). The original toasted wheat version is healthy and simple; for a long time, Nabisco marketed it as floating over Niagara Falls.
  • Uncle Sam Original Cereal.
  • Wheat Chex.
  • Nature’s Path Heritage Bites.
  • Kellogg’s Fiber Plus Cinnamon Oat Crunch.
  • Fiber One Original.
  • Arrowhead Mills Organic Spelt Flakes.
  • Cascadian Farm Organic Multigrain Squares.

1 Better cereal choices for kids? Some child-focused products are 50 percent sugar
( – Accessed January 21, 2017, archived from the original by the Internet Archive)