Fresh Start

I refuse to recommend anything to my clients that I wouldn’t use myself – that’s not something to brag about (or it shouldn’t be); it’s just basic professional responsibility (or it should be). And that is why next week I’m going to be test driving a program that some of my amazing colleagues and I are running later on in the spring and I’m documenting it here for all to witness.

The program is called Fresh Start, a health-building program to help you get back on track dietarily. It’s a 5-week program with the first week being a nutritive cleanse to help eliminate those cravings that often get in the way of getting into a new healthy eating regimen and to help your body systems function more optimally in eliminating toxins from your body . The cleanse week is followed by 4 weeks of “health-building” – being coached through healthy eating habits with a different set of dietary supplements for nutritive support. After the 5 weeks, your body is functioning more optimally than before and you are in a much stronger position for pushing forward with a healthy lifestyle.

So, next week I start my cleanse week. That means no coffee, no dairy (no cheese!), no grains, no meat, no sugar, and no alcohol. I’m not gonna lie – I’m not looking forward to it! That’s not really true – I’m looking forward to what a difference I will feel during and afterwards as I heal my body with food. I’m also looking forward to being able to tell YOU about the experience and its impact firsthand.

So let’s be real: as someone with no food intolerances who firmly believes in the importance of eating a variety of foods, that’s a lot of stuff for me to cut out of my diet all at once, so I’m actually easing into it this week by cutting a little out at a time beforehand. Don’t judge.

The coffee  was a particular point of concern for me so I decided to cut that out this week to make next week less of a shock all at once. I’ve been drinking coffee since high school. I drink it black – no milk or sugar, just pure, unadulterated coffee goodness – and I have a three-cup-a-day habit. I tend to get headaches if I don’t get my coffee so I’m not expecting that I will be a pleasant person for the first part of this week. Don’t. Judge.

This is Day 2 of no coffee and I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised by how easy it has been. I was positive that I was going to be wearing my cranky pants and guzzling Advil but I haven’t had a headache and I haven’t been an intolerable jerk to be around – at least not that anyone has told me. I also haven’t really been craving it at all, which really surprises me. I never would have thought that starting the day with a cup of herbal tea instead of coffee would do it for me, but it’s really just the habit, not so much the substance.

I’m also starting to cut back on dairy and grains this week in preparation for next. Like a step-down approach. I think it will also help me start thinking of meal ideas and recipes for next week.

One thing I want to point out that I’m NOT doing this week is going all out and overindulging before starting this program. A lot of people will do this before they start a diet or program and I don’t see the point. First of all, I don’t feel well when I consume a bunch of junk and sit around so it’s not worth feeling like crap to me to get in all the foods I won’t be eating next week. I have my whole life ahead of me to eat those foods if I choose to so I don’t need to eat them like there’s no tomorrow.

I also think that this approach gets you in the completely wrong mindset. Before you even start you are looking at it from the angle of deprivation. Guess what? Shockingly, human beings don’t respond well to deprivation. Essentially, you’re setting yourself up for failure at worst and an incredibly unpleasant experience at best. Instead, I recommend looking at things like this as an opportunity or a new beginning. It’s exciting! You get to see your body functioning better and you get to pat yourself on the back for getting through it.

This is also the mindset that gets you into diet mode rather than lasting lifestyle change. You’re setting up the cycle of overindulgence –> deprivation –> overindulgence –> deprivation which is at the core of all crash diets.

Finally, if you’re going to run a race, why would you take 10 steps back from the starting line first? To me, that is what you’re doing when you have a crazy blow-out week eating all the things before you start a healthy eating program. By doing that, you are guaranteeing that you start off feeling like crap, you feel more deprived, and you may even be starting off heavier than you would have otherwise (if your goal is weight loss).

So that’s what I will be doing for the next month+. Be sure to check back here for updates on my progress – I’m sure it will be comical and may involve me sitting on the floor in a closet savoring a contraband piece of cheese.


Staying Healthy on the Road

How many times have you heard it said or said it yourself: I was doing so well but then I had to go out of town…

Travel and vacations have long been the dieter’s nemesis and eating well on the road definitely comes with its share of challenges. There are so many temptations, often there are limited options for those looking to eat healthy, sometimes you’re just too busy to find a healthy option or you’re at someone else’s whim for food. These are difficulties we can all sympathize with. I think it’s safe to say that pretty much nobody eats perfectly when they are away from home, but there are lots of ways to keep you mostly on track. So here are my tips for keeping to your healthy habits when you’re on the road.


  1. Bring as many snacks with you as you can.

When you’re sitting in the car for hours or traveling via plane, chances are you are not going to find a healthy snack readily available for you, so it’s important to plan ahead and pack your own snacks. Some of my favorite health snacks to bring with me are cut up carrots, sugar snap peas, celery sticks, apples and other more durable fruits, whole grain crackers, Cabot sharp cheddar snacks, Justin’s peanut butter packets, and beef jerky. These are all snacks that are easy to eat on the go and they keep fairly well without being refrigerated.

2. Bring a water bottle.

This will help keep you hydrated and help keep you away from sugary drinks that are often much cheaper than bottled water. Having water with you to sip on will also keep you from eating out of boredom or when you’re actually thirsty. A tip for traveling by plane: bring an empty water bottle with you to get through security. Once you’re through security, you can fill it up at a water bubbler before you board the plane.

3. Look for key healthful items when dining out.

Eating well when dining out can be a challenge because often items that seem healthy have been prepared in an unhealthy way, like drowned in salad dressing or deep fried or covered in a sugary sauce. Some key menu items to look for when dining out include: whole grains, lean proteins like chicken or fish (broiled, not fried), and fresh vegetables. You can also modify your orders to omit the bun or request your vegetables steamed. You can also order any sauces on the side or substitute olive oil and vinegar for salad dressing. Your health is an important investment and, if it’s a priority, you shouldn’t feel guilty about requesting small modifications to your orders.

4. Make the most out of the continental breakfast.

Ah, the continental breakfast, the cheapest way for a hotel to say they gave you more than just a roof over your head so that extra $50/night was totally worth it (did I mention I am super cynical?). Continental breakfasts, in addition to being universally underwhelming, are notorious for providing some of the least effective foods for starting your day. Empty carbs are often abundant at continental breakfasts and all they do is spike your blood sugar only to allow it to plummet later along with your energy. They also don’t stay with you very long. My advice when it comes to the continental  breakfast is try to find a whole grain option mixed in with the carbohydrates and go with that. Also, at many of these breakfasts, they put out a bowl of fruit, so take advantage of that and maybe throw a piece in your bag for later, too (helping you get your money’s worth there). If it’s a nicer continental breakfast and they offer eggs, take advantage of the protein but be mindful that scrambled eggs may have been prepared with cream rather than milk. Finally, avoid white breads, pastries, and fruit juices. They will not keep your satisfied and they will not fuel your body for very long.

5. Offer to prepare dinner.

If you’re staying with family or friends, offering to cook dinner for everyone one night is a great way to keep to your eating habits while also thanking them for their hospitality. You get to plan the menu and could even pick up some extra snacks for yourself for the remainder of the stay.

6. Fit in movement wherever you can.

Traveling often means hours on end spent sitting as you make your way to your destination so it’s important to try to offset that with movement whenever you can get it. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, take a walk around the airport while you’re waiting for your flight, go for a walk after dinner, take advantage of the gym or pool if your hotel offers them. If you’re into strength training, resistance bands are small and easy to travel with and you can get a whole body workout in with those in your hotel room.

7. Be gentle with yourself.

This is probably the most important tip on this page. Sometimes you have to be OK with good enough. Being healthy doesn’t mean being perfect all the time. What matters is that you make the healthful choice most of the time. It’s about balance. You have to indulge occasionally  and sometimes you’re just not going to be able to stick with your health plan. In those situations, it is very important that you not beat yourself up about it. Beating yourself up is how you get into unhealthy patterns of guilt and even self-hatred. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle should be done out of love for yourself. It shouldn’t be used to punish yourself for eating that slice of cake. If you can’t stick to your healthy routine as much as you’d like to or if you decided to just go all out and indulge the whole trip, the best thing that you can do for yourself is say “I ate those things and I enjoyed them and that’s OK, but now I’m going to go back to eating healthy again.”


Listen To Your Body

When most people think about living healthy, they think eating right and exercising. But there is so much more to being healthy than that. There is spiritual health, mental health, emotional health. It’s about what you put in your body just as much as what’s on and around your body. Nobody’s perfect and if someone tells you they have their act together in all of these areas, they’re lying. We’re human. Life gets busy and stressful, we get tired, and things fall by the wayside from time to time. It’s normal. What is key is doing what is right for you and picking back up as soon as you can.

I want to share a personal story to highlight the importance of something we don’t talk about enough when we talk healthy living in our culture: the importance of listening to your body and being gentle with yourself. Nobody’s perfect and this is a personal example of what not to do.

As for most of us, life was very busy for me leading up to and around the Christmas/New Year holiday stretch. I was taking health coaching classes, working full-time, getting a coaching practice started, working out, taking care of a household, Christmas shopping, cooking, traveling, and meeting my family and friend obligations. On top of that, I was taking on a lot of other people’s problems as my own and all that stress and activity was putting me in a place where all I could focus on was what was going wrong and how much more I had to do.You’ve been there, right?

The signs of burnout were there. Right in front of me. I was tired no matter how much I slept. I was cranky and overly emotional. Life felt foggy. I felt…yucky, like I was just off. But I kept pushing.

By the time the New Year rolled around, I was sleeping 10 hours on the weekends, I had developed a planter’s wart on the bottom of my foot, I had a tension headache that lasted for days, horrendous acid reflux so I couldn’t even take Advil for the headache, a horrible breakout on my face, and I just felt…mopey. I had burnt out and shut down. My body was pulling all the alarm bells telling me I needed to cut the crap and take care of myself.

It was the third day of the tension headache when I had missed out on the holiday weekend because I felt so awful that I saw what was happening. In that moment, I gave myself permission to take care of me. To say “no” to the things that I didn’t want to do. To take a break from working out so I could recharge. To ask for help getting things done.

Most importantly, I didn’t berate myself for doing these things. Listening to your body also means being gentle with yourself. Remember that you’re human and you’re going to need a break now and then and you’re going to have to settle for “good enough” once in a while.

There will be times on your wellness journey that you want to jump right in and take on every goal at once. And if you swing and miss, you’ll want to beat yourself up. Life is not a race; it’s a marathon. You have miles and miles ahead of you, so you need to slow down and check in with your body every once in a while. How do you feel? What do you need? What could you do without? Some miles will be slower than others and you may need people to help you along at some points. That is OK because you’re still moving forward and you will get there.
Connect with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Have faith in yourself.

You’re Not a Bear – Don’t Hibernate

Those of us who live in cold winter climates know that this time of year comes with special challenges to living an active lifestyle. It’s cold. It’s slippery. It’s snowy. It takes twice as much time to get dressed to go out. But this time of year our bodies naturally slow down and store more fat, which means that it’s still very important that we keep active throughout the winter.

There are lots of ways to stay active when the snow flies other than spending a fortune for a day of skiing or snowboarding. Here are some tips for keeping active when all you want to do is snuggle up in your flannel and wool socks.

  • Try a new winter sport – Never tried snow shoeing or cross country skiing? Why not now? Outfitters like REI offer classes in these with equipment included and they offer equipment rentals for your own excursions at very reasonable prices. That’s how I discovered I love show shoeing. The great part about sports like this is you don’t need to go to a mountain or make a project of it. You can do them in the backyard or at a local golf course.
  • Ice skating
  • Buy some crampons and get out there – You can buy a pair of crampons that stretch over the bottoms of your shoes for $20 on Amazon so you can go for a run or a hike without worrying about slipping and breaking something.
  • Bundle up and go for a walk – Take a brisk walk by yourself or make a romantic evening of it and go out with your partner during or after a fresh snow.
  • Do a workout video – I’m a big fan of Daily Burn and Zumba fitness, but there are also a ton of free videos on the Internet. Get your family or partner involved for more motivation and group fun.
  • Go sledding! It’s still fun as an adult! – Sledding down is fun but hustling back up that hill works up a sweat. Plus your kids will get a kick out of seeing mom and dad sledding, too.
  • Shoveling is also a workout but it’s very important that you take it slow and be careful. It’s easy to overexert yourself or hurt your back doing this.

Try out a couple of these and see what you think. What are some ways you’ve figured out to stay active this time of year?

Smart Shopping

Given just the information below, which of these do you think is a healthy choice for breakfast?

Envirokidz Organic: $4.00           Nature Valley 100% Natural: $3.00

Chances are you chose Envirokidz Organic. What went into your rationale behind that choice? Was it the fact that the label says organic? The gluten free label? Or maybe the fact that it’s more expensive than the Nature Valley?

Here is the nutritional breakdown for each of these:

The Envirokidz bars contain just 1 gram of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and one gram of protein. That is too much sugar and not enough protein or fiber. Looking at the ingredients list, these contain “natural flavors” AKA chemicals (processed packaged foods don’t have to be 100% organic to have the organic label) and FIVE different types of sugar. This is NOT a healthy breakfast option.

However, the Nature’s Valley bars are no better. Those contain 2 grams of fiber, a whopping 12 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein. Sugar is listed as the second ingredient on the label. Keep in mind, ingredients are listed in order of how much of each the food contains. That means that sugar is the second most abundant ingredient. The ingredients also include canola oil, which is almost always GMO and heavily processed, and “natural flavors” or chemicals.

So this was a little bit of a trick question since there really is no healthy option listed, but it illustrates what we typically consider when choosing foods and the information that we really need to look at.

A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research indicates that many people associate higher price with healthier foods. In a world where organic options are pricier and processed junk food is cheap, this isn’t such a strange assumption to make. However, it’s not always true and can lead you to unintentionally make very unhealthy food choices. (Read more about this study here)

The ingredients and the nutrition facts are where the important information about a packaged food lies. Ideally, a smart breakfast cereal choice will contain at LEAST 3 grams of fiber, less than 5 grams of sugar, and at LEAST 3 grams of protein. This is so the fiber and protein can slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. The way our food labeling laws work allow for manufacturers to put labels on their foods that may not be entirely true and reading the ingredients list is the only way to know what a food truly contains. For example, a package may say “0 trans fat” but the food still contains trans fats, also know as hydrogenated oils.

In a perfect world, we could all only eat whole foods, but reality is that we are busy and need some convenience in our lives so we are going to buy packaged foods from time to time. With the knowledge of how to shop smart, you can still make healthy choices in any aisle of the grocery store.

This is about YOU

As the temptation-filled holidays are coming to a close and the New Year is fast approaching, many of us are making diet plans and setting health goals with really wonderful intentions for 2017. To be completely honest, though, most of us will struggle with these diet and exercise routines and they will fall by the wayside. There are a lot of reasons for this but the one that I want to focus on here is that these diets and exercise schedules we find online and in books and magazines aren’t made for you. They weren’t put together with your goals, your motivations, your strengths, and your needs in mind. You are setting these goals and starting these changes to benefit YOUR health and improve YOUR life, so shouldn’t the things you do work with YOUR lifestyle?

I am right there with you on the healthy New Year’s resolution train. I have tried so many popular diets and exercised the way others told me and, every time, it went well for a few weeks and then fell off. What I eventually realized is that part of the reason why these things weren’t working is because they weren’t designed to accommodate the way I work.

We are all human and, as such, we all have our own motivations, limitations, and strengths. For any lifestyle change to really work, it needs to factor in what those motivations, limitations, and strengths are.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning Your Fitness Resolutions:

In order to figure out what will and will not likely work for you, you need to figure out how YOU work. I recommend that you start out by asking yourself these questions to help shape your plans.

  1. What motivates me?

For most people, a lofty, long-term goal is not motivation enough to stick with a plan because it is so far off and abstract. Maybe you are success-driven and need to set concrete milestones for yourself at regular intervals. Maybe you are reward-driven and need to figure out a way to reward yourself for your progress regularly in order to keep going. Figure out how you are motivated and figure out incentives for yourself based on your motivation.

2. How do I work?

Some people are great self-motivators and can put together a plan and push themselves to stick with it. Other people need more instruction and supervision so individual training or group classes are a better fit for them than a gym membership. For others, being accountable to a gym buddy is what keeps them going. Figure out what your work style is (looking at how yourwork in your job or in school can help with this) and try some different ways to accommodate it. If you’re a visual learner, having someone recite something to you over and over again isn’t going to help you learn. Likewise, trying to keep to a running schedule on your own when you really need someone to encourage you to keep your pace up isn’t going to get you where you want to be.

3. What obstacles threw me off last time?

“The definition of ‘insanity’ is repeating the same behavior over and over again expecting a different outcome.” I don’t remember what movie this was in and that’s definitely not the real definition, but this statement is perfectly applicable here. If you don’t take the time to examine the things that worked and did not work for you in your past health endeavors, how will you be able to develop a more effective plan this time? Spoiler alert: you won’t. Was finding the time to work out or meal prep a problem for you in the past? Were you bored by your workout routine? Did you feel like your diet was leaving you feeling deprived or dissatisfied? Try listing out on a piece of paper what worked in one column and what didn’t in the other. This will become a helpful roadmap when figuring out your plan this time around.

4. What is my goal?

Having a concrete, measurable, time-bound goal is the key to success in pretty much anything. So many people start out their resolution with “I want to lose weight.” Okay, how much weight? by when? If you can’t answer these questions, how will you know when you’ve succeeded? how will you track your progress? how will you stay motivated? You can’t.


It took me a long time of progress and set backs to figure out what truly worked to keep me on track with my workouts. Eating well was one thing, but, when I got home from work in the evening, a glass of wine and the couch was WAY more appealing than getting changed and going back out to the gym.

First, I figured out that if it’s up to me to get myself to the gym regularly, I’m not going to do it. Period. I need to have a set time to be somewhere and I need the added accountability of losing money if I am not there when I’m supposed to be. Knowing this, I figured out that fitness classes are key for keeping me on track. I book in advance, have it on my schedule, and, if I don’t go or cancel too late, I lose the $15 I paid for the class. Once I started going to these classes, I also figured out that I was working much harder and seeing better results than I was when I was actually making it to the gym. Having an instructor to regularly challenge me to work harder and to switch up the routine was what I needed to continue to improve. On top of that, I have fun in those classes! And that is some solid motivation, too.

We live busy lives and are surrounded by temptation and excuses every day. Why make it harder for ourselves by trying to force ourselves into a mold that doesn’t fit? If you want to live a healthier life, you absolutely can and you can find a way to do it that suits you.



My Journey

I think it’s safe to say that most of us have been there: having to torturously force yourself to get out of bed 5 mornings a week, the dread of heading in to the office, the tiresome feeling of going through the motions, the struggle to keep from flipping your desk and running out screaming, the overwhelming and constant nagging knowledge that you are not doing what you are meant to be doing. You’re not fulfilled. You’re not happy. You’re trapped. Truly, I think only the most fortunate of all of us have never had a work experience like this.

But that’s what I was doing for years. I was forcing myself to go through the motions at a job that I had no passion for anymore. It left me stressed out, resentful, depressed, drained. It hurt my mental health, it hurt my relationships, it hurt my self-worth. I stopped taking care of myself. I started drinking more. And I felt like crap.

But what was I supposed to do? This is what I went to college for. This is what my mother sacrificed so much for me to pursue. This is what you’re supposed to do. You go to college, prepare for a field, get a job, and you slave over it until you retire and if you’re really lucky you won’t hate it.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. The thought of another year, no, another day, in that field without an end in sight was enough to make me cry. I wasn’t being true to myself and I wasn’t making a difference – not the way I wanted to anyway. But I literally had no idea what to do. This was all I’d ever known. I came from a family where everyone did the same thing for decades. And, on top of that, all of that time spent pretending left me without a sense of myself.

I knew something needed to change and I didn’t know what or how, so I started with what I knew: myself. Step 1: start taking care of myself again. So I stopped keeping wine in the house, I started meditating again, I started working out again, I started eating right again. And,man, what a difference! I started doing things for myself instead of doing things out of obligation. And, slowly but surely, I started reconnecting with myself and my passion.

It took a while and a lot of conversations with friends and strangers and a lot of research, but I started shaping an image of what I am passionate about. And then I learned that this could be a career and that there is even a name for it! I was going to become a wellness coach.

Holy crap.

What does that mean? I’m a government major! I work in government. I went to school for this. I’ve been doing this for years. How do I just drop all that? Oh my gosh, people are going to judge me. People are going to be disappointed in me. What if I fail? What if I’m wrong and I hate it? Will my partner forgive me if I drive myself into poverty following some harebrained idea and make him shoulder the entire financial burden of the household?

Step 2: stop overthinking, follow your heart, and take a risk. Turns out, the people who care about you care more that you are happy than that you’re following a more traditional career path. The people who care about you will support you in your pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. And the people who don’t support you? Well it turns out they were pretty shitty anyway and you’re better off. But be grateful for them, because they test your commitment.

So, I took my leap, put my money where my mouth is, and enrolled in the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute. The wellness coach certification landscape is CRAMMED with different institutes, trainings, programs, etc. so it took a while to find the right one for me. One of the perks of my initial college education is that it taught me the value and process of evaluating the integrity and veracity of information. What appealed to me about Dr. Sears’ approach is his insistence that you “show [him] the science.” This program appealed to my more holistic leanings by focusing on more than just nutrition, but also appealed to my critical side by basing itself in science.

I’m four weeks into my training and have not a single doubt that I made the right choice. I am so excited and intrigued by everything I’m learning and can’t wait to share it. This is where my passion lies.

Within a couple months, I will be certified health coach focusing on family health and pregnancy. My goal is that within the next year, I will be able to quit my job and be working for myself in my own coaching practice. For now, I’ll be using this space to post about my journey training and following my dreams.


Download Your FREE Guide to Writing Your Food Story

Understanding where your eating habits came from is the first step to changing them. Download your free guide to writing your Food Story to dig in and start to understand your habits.


Enter your information below to receive yours!