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Nutrition and wellness is tasteful

  • Exercise

    Exercise is a benefit to every part of the body--mind included.

    Exercise makes you look better, lose weight, and lowers your risk of many chronic diseases, and slows down aging.

  • Healthy children, healthy life

    "You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces--just good food from fresh ingredients."
    --Julia Child

    "If we're not willing to settle for 'junk living,' we shouldn't settle for junk food."
    --Sally Edwards

  • Food is medicine

    "Let medicine be thy food, and food be thy medicine."

    "Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."
    --Michael Pollen

Monday, January 15, 2018

Create a Healthy Mindset with these 7 Psychological Hacks

December went by at warp-speed and now here we are in mid-January -- a new year with what hopes to be a year of growth, promise and prosperity. In thinking about this though, how many of us slow down enough to really think about that. Sure, we say we will stick to our New Year's resolutions, but what happens when we get derailed? Do we just say "forget about it" and move on or do we jump back into what we say we were going to do in the first place? I'm not really one for New Year's resolutions anyway, but I suppose the new year could give us a reason to reflect on what we've done so far in our lives and what things we would like to be doing now and in the upcoming year and beyond.

As I was reviewing one of my favorite motivational books - 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Covey shares some powerful thoughts on perspective which gives good cause to perhaps even re-think the way we may see things in general. One of his quotes "Two people can see the same thing, disagree, and yet both be right. It's not logical; it's psychological". With that said, it brings me to this good article I found on what we can do when we are low on motivation along with 7 Psychological Hacks to re-boot our mindset to a healthier one. So how about applying the 7 Hacks in order to gain a refreshed perspective on how we really can set some seriously good goals and 'kick start' the year in the right direction?

(1) Visualize Your Long-Term Goals: Even research suggests that visualization is powerful and can empower us to create a potentially awesome future for ourselves if we apply ourselves to do just that. So how about not only having the long-term goal of a successful career, but also focus on the shorter-term goals of being consistent, continually getting better at what we do and simply being positive in knowing that what we do is meaningful and purposeful. If not immediately, consistency pays off in the long run no doubt. Visualize what the payoff will be to yourself and your loved ones when you know that your hard work was worth it in the end. If it takes visualizing being on a beach sipping a nice cool drink beachside or swimming with sharks just do it! The visualization process is all up to you.

(2) Start your task: By at least starting a task that you may not be all that fond of starting, you are setting yourself up for success. Think about how good it will feel at the end of the day when you know you started a task that you were not looking forward to starting in the first place. Who knows, you may start on the task and get further along than you even thought. It is all about perspective and trying to see it through a new lens so to speak.

(3) Set a timer. Ok, so Monday morning rolls around -- how can you make it different? better? How about setting a timer -- even if it's on your phone -- with the purpose of working a solid 45 or 50 minutes before taking a break. Everyone is a little different so the minutes may change, but regardless the works needs to get done anyway, so why not make the most of your valuable time and spend it in the most efficient way? You will thank yourself for doing it. As the article indicates, studies show that there is an average optimal work-break split for everyone. Read the article to find out what it is and find out what works best for you.

(4) Tell someone what you plan to do. There really is nothing like telling someone at work, a friend or even family member what you plan on accomplishing in the next "x" amount of time. There will be a time when they ask you how things are going with the intended goal. This is just another way to keep up on accountability.

(5) Change your self-talk. This can definitely be a mental challenge, right? We all have self-talk going on inside of us. That little voice inside of us that tells us we can or can't do something. It's all perspective. How do we see things? Instead of believing a challenge at work is one that may be too difficult, why not instead turn our self-talk into something more positive where we see the challenge as totally doable and worth completing successfully. As the article points out, "positive self-talk leads to higher motivation, better self-esteem and an elevated mood, while negative self-talk leads to the opposite".

(6) Keep a task list. In keeping a nice task list going throughout the day, you can just scratch the task off the list. Doesn't that make you feel good? Even if the task may be a small one, by writing it down and completing it, a sense of accomplishment happens and we therefore become more empowered to do even more.

(7) Establish consequences. This is a good one! Even if we don't necessarily need to be accountable to anyone in particular -- namely a boss or work colleague -- what happens to those self-employed folks who create their own work schedules? What happens to them if they don't complete a projected task or make a client unhappy with their work? There really are consequences to pretty much anything and everything if we think about it. What is the consequence to not finishing high school? What is the consequence to choosing a bad partner? What is the consequence to making your boss unhappy with your performance? What is the consequence to eating food that lacks nutritional balance? You get the idea. There are consequences to everything, but it is all perspective in how we approach the task to be completed, even if unpleasant, it will pay off in the end.

By becoming more aware of our surroundings, our perspective and our attitudes, we really can accomplish so much. Let's make every Monday one to look forward to instead of one to avoid at all cost.

Friday, December 1, 2017


We've seen that the number of American children that are considered obese is growing and only getting worse. It's been proven and seen in studies such as the online New England Journal of Medicine that can be seen by reading this article
Childhood obesity is and has become a completely out of control public health issue that continues to flourish and grow. Statistics don't lie. How can we get families and their kids to not "feel embarrassment or shame"  -- but, instead -- how can we influence them to focus on getting their mindset to a place of positivity and healthy determination to change for the good of their own health? What will it take?
The heartache of not giving enough credence to the enormous public health issue -- which is obesity -- is not doing the future generations any favors! In knowing that kids today have a life expectancy that is being cut short by obesity is astounding.
Striving to teach and live with a positive mindset opens the door to so many things beyond 'weight'. How about living a quality life full of promise and hope instead? Can we focus on getting to the root causes of many chronic diseases that are lifestyle related through positive mind growth and emphasizing the appeal of what a healthy outlook on life can look like? It seems that it is definitely worth a try. What do you think? 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Health Coaching for Patients With Chronic Illness

As a health coach, I occasionally get a question from a random person who wants to know what a health coach really does and what value they bring to the table. This article really does a nice job of summing up what a health coach can do, particularly in a healthcare setting.

Health coaching is one of those somewhat new and emerging careers that still needs some explanation. Think of it this way, at some point in anyone's life -- particularly during times of exasperation when goals have not been reached or coming to terms with an illness which has not quite registered with the individual -- that person could use a little helping hand.

Wouldn't you be better at reaching a goal if you had good support from a someone who was cheering you on and simply supporting you emotionally? Wouldn't you be more prone to accept that a chronic disease like diabetes isn't the end of life, but could simply be the start of truly taking care of oneself with proper social support and proper understanding? In talking through issues that are troublesome or even thought-provoking enough to the patient/client without their complete understanding of their current condition is hard enough!

As this article further points out, Health coaching encompasses five essential roles:

(1) Providing Self-Management Support: Here a coach can help with various aspects from teaching disease-specific skills, promoting healthy behaviors, providing emotional support and encouraging the patient to be part of their own solution.

(2) Bridging the gap between clinician and patient: It is hard enough for a patient to be given a new medication that they've never taken before for a newly-diagnosed illness, but if they don't truly understand the 'why's' of taking the meds in the first place, that could lead to confusion and neglect. It helps the patient in knowing they are being heard and also that there is someone there to help them  better navigate current obstacles or needs they may have, wouldn't you agree? What about questions they may have regarding cultural issues or other personal barriers?

(3) Helping Patients Navigate the Health Care System: Particularly for the elderly or more soft-spoken patient, many times they may need assistance with who they should follow up with or where they should go for certain tests or programs. It is helpful to have a voice for those that may not believe they are heard.

(4) Offering Emotional Support: While many clinicians give excellent information to the patient, it may be too rushed or not thoroughly explained to the patient. This is also where a health coach can step in and provide emotional support once trust and rapport have been established with the patient.

(5) Serving as a continuity figure: Despite a patient going to all designated appointments or taking medications when they should, who checks in on them from time to time to make sure they are following a healthy routine of taking care of themselves? Again, a coach is there to 'connect' with the patient and make sure that they are heard and benefiting from good self-care.

All in all, health coaches have been shown to provide excellent support and knowledge to bridge the gap between clinician and patient. Think of it this way, doesn't a student who is having a hard time in a class like statistics benefit from having a tutor so they can get a good grade? Of course! The same goes for a patient who is having a difficult time coming to terms with their own personal situation -- they need to know they are heard and understood. Even if a client's particular goal is not necessarily disease-related -- such as losing 10 pounds -- it helps to consult with a coach that can hold the client accountable enough to really instill good, positive behaviors that can ultimately keep disease off the radar!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Don't Nudge Me: The Limits of Behavioral Economics in Medicine

How do we get better at resisting the everyday temptations that exist in our environment? What are the everyday temptations you may ask? How about the overabundance of quick and easy fast-food "drive-through windows" or the easy access to a quick and easy snack that you can pick up at just about anywhere. To add to the lack of healthy options that our environment offers the everyday citizen, how "walkable" is your neighborhood and how safe is it to walk there at any given time of the day or night? 

To add more fuel to the fire, local food markets that meet daily needs (by offering healthy food choices), safe housing, access to adequate health care services and social support are frankly...lacking in supply -- especially in lower-income households. If we take just one aspect from those above-mentioned determinants of health like access to health care, then how do we ensure that those patients then comply with properly taking care of themselves? This is where the limits of behavioral economics in medicine comes into play. "Lessons to be learned from behavioral economics can be used to create environments that nudge people toward wiser decisions and healthier lives".

This also prompts the inquiry to behavior change being added to the mix of complications that affect overall population health. Particularly with those that suffer from chronic lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes, there happens to be an exceptionally high risk of those that don't comply with following treatment of their illness. In fact, The New England Journal of Medicine about 10 years ago estimated that up to two-thirds of medication-related hospital admissions in the United States were because of noncompliance, at a cost of $100 billion a year. So how can we improve medication adherence for chronic health problems effectively? 

The bottom-line is that it is very difficult for patients to change their behavior. Changing behaviors that are so firmly established can be a daunting task! But, what if there was a way to communicate more effectively with the patient or client to understand where "there head is at" rather than simply telling them what they need to do to get better? How can their compliance improve if clinicians, therapists or those that work closely with the public don't bother to first meet the patient where they are and build rapport and trust? How can we tackle so many of our healthcare concerns that are largely lifestyle related through wiser and more effective approaches? To a large degree, building our society's self-efficacy through various channels of communication by putting the responsibility of their wellbeing on their shoulders can be a positive approach if taken one step at a time. This clearly would be a work in progress.

In the words of Lou Holtz, "Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it". Those words seem pretty wise to me, what do you think? 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Junk Food Is Made To Be Twice As Distracting As Healthy Food

Just yesterday I was at a work-related event where lunch would be provided. Some of the participants brought in their left-over Halloween Candy simply because they no longer wanted it in their house! While I can't blame them, there is no reason to 'unload' it on the innocent who are trying to stay away from the stuff!
Interestingly enough though, a little can go a long way. In other words, try limiting yourself to one or two 'fun size' candies and believe it or not, that should be enough to satisfy the sweetest of the sweet tooth individual! 

Another great reason to limit yourself to one or two 'fun size' candies, can be seen in the results of the two-phase study conducted by Corbin A. Cunningham of Johns Hopkins University Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. (You can read more about the study at the link provided below). In many ways, the study shows that indeed a little can go a long way when it comes to what a 'complete deprivation of certain foods mindset' can do to trick us into going down the path of junk food overload!

What would you do if you were told you could never ever ever have a piece of dark chocolate caramel (or whatever your go-to junk food choice was) ever again? You'd probably want to go crazy and have as many as possible, right? Complete deprivation just doesn't work -- moderation works better. 

The long and the short of it is -- based on the information from the study and the way we are behaviorally wired, it is simply healthier to have a mindset that sets us up for successful and doable baby-step behavior changes rather than one of unrealistic goals, wouldn't you agree? 

Friday, October 27, 2017

How To Cut Back On Highly Processed Foods

Let's get some clarification first on what a processed food is and go from there, okay? As mentioned in Processed Foods 101 from this article, processed foods encompass foods that have purposefully been changed before we eat them. So, just because we may walk down the 'canned veggie' aisle at the local grocery store doesn't necessarily mean that is a bad thing. In fact, canned vegetables usually are quite good for you as they contain fresh vegetables that are canned, hence the nutrition remains intact. Additionally, if simply trying to add vegetables to your diet, canned may be the way to go as well because many times the fresh vegetables are more expensive.

According to the International Food Information Council, the act of processing can be as easy or simple as freezing or even drying food for preservation purposes. Canned beans, tuna and even frozen fruits and vegetables are great examples of good processed food options.

The trickier aspect of processed foods and their nutrient deficient ingredients occurs with more highly processed foods, which we should attempt to minimize or eliminate as much as possible. As many folks may know, these foods are the culprits for higher sodium, sugar and artificial ingredients that can cause havoc on overall health.

If already on the path of eating minimally processed foods whenever possible, good for you; on the other hand, 'weaning' oneself off of highly processed foods that have been more of a staple in the diet is easier-said-than-done to get rid of -- but, oh so worth it!

The following is a list of small, doable steps to begin eliminating highly processed foods from one's diet:

(1) Start Slowly. As I've learned and applied the principals taken from wellness coaching, do what you can to meet the client/person where they are currently. Example: You can't take a chronic smoker that smokes a pack a day down to none over night, right? It is a process of bringing awareness of current behaviors and modifying them in ways that make a positive difference, even at a slow rate.

(2) Supplement current meals with fresh foods. Do what you can to substitute or supplement meals by following the Choose My Plate option to eating well. Even if having a burger with dinner, how about eliminating the fries and substituting a delicious salad instead? That way, you get to enjoy the burger and don't feel totally deprived. Remember, change is a process.

(3) Water can be boring, but in knowing how good water is for your body, it is worth it! If water is sounding 'too bland', how about adding a slice of lemon or other diced fruit to it to give it some jazz.

(4) Cut the sodium out: Now-a-days, there are so many salt substitutes that contain great spices. I can definitely say -- as much as I enjoy salt too -- a simple tweak of a salt-free substitute can add depth and zest to a meal.

(5) Choose Whole Grains Over Processed Grains: Whole grains are most definitely part of a healthful diet so substitute regular white rice with wild rice or brown rice. Once again, when walking down the grocery store bread aisle, find breads that have "Whole Grain" instead of "Whole Wheat" as first ingredient.

(6) Limit or avoid processed meats. This one can be difficult for many people, but in realizing there are delicious and more nutritious substitutes even limiting these foods can contribute to better health. Eating foods like these processed meats have been shown to increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

(7) Plan ahead. If you know you will be having a busy day and will have limited time getting a good meal, try planning ahead with smart snacks. It isn't difficult to throw in some mixed nuts, raisins, sliced veggies into your purse or your bag. Another great option is a portion-sized greek yogurt that adds flavor and nutrients.

(8) Substituting highly processed snacks and foods with healthier snack options is simple to do. The link above provides a list of healthier snack options to adopt into your diet plan.

(9) Make your own version of junk food: Check out Rule #4 in the 'own version' of junk food. As Michael Pollen believes, if you can't make it yourself, skip it all together. Chances are if you make your own junk food, it won't be an everyday occurrence.

(10) Make healthier versions of frozen meals. As in making smart substitutions for foods like Mac and Cheese and burgers, it's easy enough to substitute whole-wheat pasta for the Mac and Cheese or turkey/veggie burgers for the regular burger.

(11) Careful reading of labels is important. When it comes to substitutions that state "fat-free" or "sugar-free", those substitutions could be made with artificial ingredients that contain lots of sugar or food dyes.

By incorporating the above-mentioned healthy foods in place of more processed foods, there is no doubt that you will be feeling at your best in no time.

Friday, October 20, 2017

8 Low Glycemic Foods For Better Health

There are various reasons for doing what you can to stick to low glycemic foods. No, you don't and shouldn't look at carbs as being 'evil' or to be avoided at all cost, you simply need to do what you can to choose the right kinds of carbs. Yes, carbs that are low on the glycemic index are the ones to shoot for as much as possible.

The glycemic index measures carbohydrate-containing foods that impact blood sugar either positively or negatively. There is a scale that ranges from low (0-55) to medium (56-69) to high (70 and above). Becoming familiar with these ranges helps quite a bit when choosing the carbs that one eats frequently. Check out the list of foods, GI rating system and more here.

In knowing that a low-glycemic diet is the most beneficial to the body, it also helps to know why this is the case. Low-glycemic foods are good to incorporate in one's diet for the prevention of heart disease, diabetes and more. In addition, these foods also stabilize energy levels which means a more productive day. How good is that?

By the way, below is a list of the 8 Low Glycemic Foods:

(1) Wild Salmon
(2) Nuts
(3) Oils (Coconut and Olive)
(4) Cinnamon
(5) Oats
(6) Leafy Greens
(7) Seeds (think Pumpkin, Flax or Chia)
(8) Eggs

Friday, October 13, 2017

Video: Lack of Sleep Increases Junk Food Cravings

It is amazing how complex our bodies are...truly. We all know there is an obesity crisis, and it is important to know that it goes beyond the food we eat and the activities we do on a daily basis. While food and activity are crucial for weight loss, there are also other contributing factors that should be sleep.

The following video provides us with real scientific evidence that not sleeping enough contributes to an increase in junk food cravings. It is important for people to see the correlation between sleep and obesity. Our bodies absolutely need sleep and there is no way around it. So why not pass on the extra T.V. watching at night to catch your favorite show and get to bed an hour earlier? Your body and mind will thank you for it! Worried you'll miss your favorite show? Record it and save it for later!

Good health is not just the food we eat and exercising enough, it is more.....