Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Window to Weight Gain: Food IQ for Kids!

My six year old wants to "science" this summer and I'm all over it. I've been googling fun science projects we can do together and checking my supplies of baking soda and vinegar. 

I stumbled upon this cool activity that can visually teach your young one about why some foods are healthy and some are not: their fat content. I call it "Window to Weight Gain," because it reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons when Homer wants to gain weight really quickly so he can qualify for disability and get to work from home. The doctor advises him to put his food on a paper plate and check to see if the plate turns clear. If it does, that's Homer's window to weight gain!

Same principle applies here! You can download the project plan here, but the jist of it is placing different foods of differing fat content (they suggest potato chips versus grapes) on paper plates and then comparing the relative level of residue left behind. Then, of course, you can talk about what happens to your body when that grease and fat gets eaten: your heart has a hard time pumping blood because your veins get too crowded with plaque, your body gets too big to play sports and run around in comfort, and you might have to start taking medication to help your body work properly. 

Remember, the HBO documentary Weight of the Nation has revealed that heart disease begins in childhood! This is a great activity for helping kids create healthier habits that will prevent poor health later in life.

Yeah, we're also going to make our own crystals and mix up baking soda and vinegar and do leaf rubbings all old-school camp arts and crafts style this summer. But what kind of mom would I be if I didn't take the opportunity to get all preachy about nutrition? A bad one, that's what kind!

Kids are more receptive to healthy lifestyles than we think. Try this out with your kiddos and see where the conversation takes you. It might be towards more grapes and fewer chips!

Get out there and get healthy!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The 5 Stages of Clean Eating

You've heard of the five stages of grieving, right? This week I've decided there are also five stages of clean eating: that process by which you go from a seemingly content consumer of food to a crazed person on a mission to eat clean and healthy or else!

First, Denial. Many of us think we already are eating healthy food. After all, we buy whole grain, yogurt, nuts, and sports bars. We eat this food thinking it's "health food," and then start looking at labels. That's when we notice that the whole grain bread is full of preservatives, the yogurt is filled with sugar, our nuts are drenched in oil and salt, and our sports bars are really just candy with a picture of someone exercising on the package. That's when we get to the second stage.

Confusion. We like this food. We feel betrayed when it turns out it's not as healthy as we thought, and don't want to stop eating it. That's also because we're kind of hooked on it. Processed food has a way of tapping into the reward centers of our brains and getting us addicted to their perfect fat/sugar/salt combo. But, in the spirit of health, we begin to shop for cleaner foods. That's when we encounter...

Anger. As we start scouring the grocery store for products that don't have artificial sweeteners, preservatives, chemicals, and flame retardant, we start to get ticked. What the heck? Why is all of this stuff in our food and why do PICKLES need high fructose corn syrup? What the *&(%$ are we supposed to eat? Is there nothing that is "safe?" Realizing that there is very little on the grocery store shelves that isn't laced with junk, we go sit in the corner and sulk for a while.

Then, slowly, we enter Acceptance. We realize that this is the world we live in, and that we're surrounded by food that is manufactured for profit, not health. We know there are organizations and initiatives in progress to change the way our food is produced, marketed, and distributed, but while that change is underway we begin staging our own personal revolution at home. We learn how to look for the Certified Organic seal, what different eco-lables really mean, and how to appreciate the simplicity of single-ingredient foods. It starts to get easier.

And finally, we find that we have arrived at the final stage of clean eating: Elation. It feels good to eat clean. Really, really, awesomely good. We begin to lose the love handles, our skin clears up and energy increases, and even cellulite seems to dissolve. Sugar cravings decrease. Headaches go away. We start looking for opportunities to learn more about the food we eat, and encouraging others to clean up their act. And, we look back and wonder why we waited so long.

Clean eating is rarely a cold-turkey decision. Over time, as we learn more about the food around us, we evolve into healthier people. But that doesn't mean the process is always easy. The good news is that it is never too late to start eating clean.

Are you in denial? Take a look at the labels of the food in your pantry and fridge today and ask yourself whether you're ready to make some swaps. Get out there and get healthy: start your journey today!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Be Weird: Eat Food

My brother cooking up some
weird food on the grill
(corn and asparagus).
I had my family in town this weekend, which was awesome of course. We always have so much fun. And of course the subject of health and wellness comes up a lot because, well, get enough women together and eventually all conversation turns towards dieting. Sad, but true. So my mom and sister are always curious about what  is in my pantry and fridge, and why I buy what I buy and not something else. 

Making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids, my sister looks at the side of the jar. "Now, why this kind?" I point to the ingredients, which says "peanuts," and explain that peanut butter should be just ground peanuts, maybe a little salt. The next morning at breakfast, she asks for my oatmeal recipe. I show her my bin of oats. The ingredients say, "rolled oats." Then we get out the raisins. The box simply lists, "raisins." Some ground flax, some cinnamon, some water, done. She is mystified.

Then later I mention to my brother that we're going to grill some burgers for dinner. Our conversation went a little like this:

Me: We're grilling burgers for dinner tonight.
Him: Are these real hamburgers?
Me: Yes.
Him: Not black bean turkey quinoa tofu burgers?
Me: No, just hamburgers made with beef. On real bread, with real cheese if you want it.  

And I wondered why everyone thinks I eat "weird," when I'm the one who eats food! Take a trip into most pantries in our country and you will find all manner of interesting concoctions of science, none of which are actually food. But those of us who eat clean, who eat actual food, are the weird ones.

That's weird.

The burgers were awesome, as were the corn and asparagus we roasted on the grill, the green beans I steamed, and home fries I baked in the oven. Yeah, we also had a can of baked beans on the stove because I waited too long to make them from scratch. I baked some Immaculate Chocolate Chip cookies for dessert. All good, almost all clean, and all FOOD. Not weird.

Clean eating is not about eating weird food in the name of better health. It's about eating FOOD in the name of better health. Eat some food today.

My sister texted this morning that she made my oatmeal recipe for breakfast. Maybe it's not so weird after all. 

Get out there and get healthy today, even if it makes you weird. :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Weight of the Nation: Watch it!

Inch by inch, step by step, we as a country are starting to clue in to the massive impact of how and what we eat on our health. The veil is being removed and gradually, we are being forced to deal with the impact of our nutrition choices on our bodies, and more sobering, on the bodies of our children. To hear that today's kids are the first generation likely to have a shorter life span than their parents is a wake-up call. To see overweight kids on the playground is heartbreaking. And to know that it can all be prevented through simple education and discipline is enough to keep me up at night. It does, regularly. I feel near panic on a daily basis about the health of our country and my potential role in helping to solve the problem.

But enough about my neurosis.  I'm hoping that you will take time to watch the HBO documentary, The Weight of the Nation, and think about what you can do, too. It is a four-part series and it is free to non subscribers to view at 

Here's the trailer:

Please watch, and then ask yourself what is more important: the instant gratification of a fast food meal or sugary snack or the lifelong impacts to your health as a result of eating the way we have for the past thirty years. It might sound dramatic, and that's because it is. We have dramatically changed as a population, and we need dramatic action to reverse the trend.

I feel called to be part of the solution. That's why I coach, blog, write, and promote health every day and in my every action. You can be part of it too. It just takes one decision: yours. One of the people profiled in the first part of the film said it perfectly when recounting how he lost over 150 lbs (and has more to go): it boils down to making a decision of what you will do and what will happen. This is in our hands to change, and we can!

Get out there and get healthy The Weight of the Nation and decide how.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Power of Empty Praise

This weekend I was digging through our storage unit looking for long-lost baby toys, and I found a bin of stuff from my own childhood that my mom packed up from her attic and made me take to my attic. I'm not a sentimental person at all, so I'm pretty shocked that I still have this stuff. But, I opened the lid to peek inside and what was lying on top? A trophy from a race I did when I was a kid.

I didn't look like that during the race.
Now, I grew up before the "everyone gets a trophy," mentality of kids' sports kicked in, but I can't say I really earned this one. I remember this day. A friend and I were dead last, as in the policeman that brought up the rear of the race asked us to please get inside his patrol car so he could drive more than 2 miles an hour (we did not). It was a one-mile fun run at my church and I think I finished in about an hour. Since I technically stepped over the finish line before my friend, I "won" my division: 10-12 year old girls.

Now running is one of my passions (that sounds so lame to say but it's true). I smiled when I saw the trophy because even at the time I knew I had not exactly challenged myself that day, but I remembered feeling that the trophy seemed to imply that I could in the future. I felt more athletic just holding it. I had a trophy. For a sport. If you knew me as a kid you would understand the emphasis of that statement. 

Anyway, the trophy symbolized potential to me. The next year, I figured, maybe I would try to beat my time. After all, there might be more than two 10-12 year old girls in the race by then. 

I thought about bringing the trophy home and displaying it somewhere meaningful, but I didn't. I put it back in the bin and closed it up. But, it was a reminder to me that sometimes all we need is a little positive reinforcement to spur a whole revolution of change. I didn't earn that trophy, but it made me feel like I could earn one someday. And now, twenty years later, I have a whole dresser drawer crammed with old race bibs and finisher medals.

Maybe I am more sentimental than I think.

Get out there and get healthy today, and earn it!

Friday, May 11, 2012

I'm tired. I want ice cream.

Is life always better on the healthier side of the fence?
Source: scottchan
Even healthy folks like me sometimes crave unhealthy behaviors. Yeah, there are still times when I want to pig out on something really bad for me and not care. This week, I was checking out at the grocery store and the man in front of me had a gallon of ice cream and a bottle of Kahlua. I kinda wanted to go home with him. 

Then later, I collapsed on the couch next to my husband to fire up the season finale of Amazing Race on the DVR and confessed: I really love being fit and healthy but sometimes I miss the days when we would finish off a pizza and then have a big bowl of ice cream with lots of chocolate syrup. He laughed and commiserated. We're tired parents. We know our life is awesomer with lower body fat percentages and two beautiful kids, but all the toned hamstrings and sticky kisses in the world don't erase the fatigue that meets us at the end of maintaining all of that wonderfulness for one more day. Sometimes it seems like life was simpler when I ate first and asked questions later!

It's been a full five months (almost six!) since I've had any sweets. That's the longest I've ever gone without added sugar. I've had a few granola bars as running fuel, but I haven't had cookies, desserts, frozen yogurt, candy, chocolate, muffins, sweet breads, any of that stuff. There have been times when sugar cravings were really, really, REALLY hard to ignore. But I realized this week that the siren call of sugar is much softer than it used to be. It's a good feeling, but it also makes me wonder if I will ever have sugar again.

I really don't know. I know I won't ever expect my problems to be solved by ice cream, or expect to feel better about them as a result of eating. But will I really live the rest of my life never having a piece of chocolate? Never having a decadent dessert? I can. But do I want do? 

I kinda do. I don't need it, after all. I've never really felt better about anything after having eaten sweets. On the other hand, I do feel better about things after eating healthy food. 

I don't really have a point today, just reflections. I used to be unhealthy. Now I am on the other side. That doesn't mean I don't sometimes peek through the fence and get all nostalgic about Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip when I am tired and worn out from trying to be super mom. But it's nice to feel less compelled to climb over.

Get out there and get healthy today, and reflect on your own journey! Have a healthy day (and don't eat the ice cream). :)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Eco-labeling: The New Supermarket Hassle

Source: Ambro
Okay, so right when it seemed that all we needed to do to eat clean and healthy is shop organic and keep it all natural, guess what happened? Labels on organic (or is it?) stuff started to get as complicated as the ones on junk food.

Farm-raised vs Cage-free?
Antibiotic Free vs Certified Humane?
Organic vs All-Natural?
High-Fructose Corn Syrup vs Corn Sugar?

Seriously, why does grocery shopping have to be so darn complicated?!? Broken record alert: this is a great opportunity for me to once again advocate skipping the packages and going straight for the fruits and veggies. But, now those are even sporting fancy eco-labels. 

Yep, eco-labeling is the newest supermarket hassle. It seems every package now sports a fancy and impressive-sounding "certified something" label singing the praises of its health virtues. "Greenwashing," has become big business, as most of us will blindly toss something into the buggy if it claims to be good for the environment, all-natural, or organic. Even if it's not.

Here's the lowdown: 

There are three categories of organic labels:

1. 100% Organic: made with 100% organic ingredients.

2. Organic: made with at least 95% organic ingredients.
3. Made with Organic Ingredients: at least 70% organic ingredients are used, and the remaining 30% must be free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms)

For a product to be certified as organic, it must meet the following criteria: 

  • meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. 
  • food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. 
  • a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.

"All-natural" means that the product does not contain any artificial ingredients, colors, chemical preservatives, and is minimally processed. But, the definition of "minimal" is up to the discretion of the producer, who should explain what they mean on the label. Read the label and decide if it gibes with your personal standards.

For more info, check out these resources for learning what really is organic, what those terms really mean, and how to decode the marketing mumbo jumbo.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Obesity Snapshot: Are you in this picture?

This image really spoke to me recently. It's not new information, just a review of the ever-growing (pun intended) obesity issue that our nation faces. Seeing it all together like this makes it seem like national obesity is like a big boulder rolling towards me Indiana Jones-style and begs the question, "what are we going to do about it?" 

The way I see it, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is the statistics look grim, the outlook is hazy, and it's going to take a lot of work to reverse it. But the good news is, the vast majority of obesity issues are behavior related. That means, we can reverse it.  Not easily, but it can be done. 

Just sharing...and thinking. Get out there and get healthy today. Because you can.

Medical Coding Career Guide
Created by:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Marketing Making you Hungry? Here's how to tune it out!

Do you ever get sick of commercials yelling at you to do this that or whatever? I get especially annoyed by television ads for food...because they make me want to eat bad stuff! Well, not really bad stuff, but stuff that's not part of my healthy plan. Even worse, they make my son want to eat sugary snacks that I don't want him to even know are available for purchase. But, I like to watch TV so I am stuck with ads. Luckily, there's a couple of things you can do about that. Click and learn!

Now get out there and get healthy!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Food Evolution: Our Journey to Organic

I cringe when I think about what I used to eat. Seriously, back in the day, dinner was a microwaved Lean Cuisine spaghetti and meatballs, a frozen Pillsbury biscuit heated up in the toaster oven, and finished off with a container of Weight Watchers ice cream. Breakfast and lunch were no better: everything was "diet food," and "healthy for me," and I was well within my calories for the day, but I wasn't achieving any of my goals. I was sluggish, soft, and wondering why the heck I felt that way when I was eating healthy and playing the numbers. I was stumped.

Eventually, when I was trying to lose the 75 lbs I gained in my first pregnancy, I got sick of reading package labels and deciphering the code language used to promote the health benefits of food. In frustration, I started eating fruits, veggies, and lean meat out of defiance. But as the weight easily came off I realized that I didn't need that diet food. Then, when my baby was ready to eat solid food, I made the transition to ditching processed food altogether. I didn't need it, and my baby certainly didn't either. We decided to not junk up our kid with processed food, and became clean eaters. Over time, my body has rewarded me with sculpted muscles, increased energy, and athletic ability I never dreamed I would have, all thanks to better nutrition.

Now, my second baby is here, and he just started eating solid food. In the same way that our first propelled us into clean eating, our second little body to nourish is pushing us closer to the edge of going organic. Over the past six years I have gotten a big education in how food works. As I read more about GMOs, pesticides, food manufacturing, and especially the politics that goes into food production and marketing, I am becoming more convinced that we need to be an organic family. So, for the three short weeks that my little baby has been eating solid food, it's been organic. I hope to keep it that way, and that by the end of the year we will all be eating organic.

But organic produce is way expensive! So, over the next seven months I will gradually begin to replace non-organic foods with organic, with the goal of eating almost exclusively organic by December 31. I can't realistically plan to go 100% because, after all, I do eat in restaurants occasionally, go to parties, and you know I love my Papa John's. So, 99% will be good enough for me. I plugged the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists into my phone so I am ready to start making the switch with this week's trip to the grocery.

Here's why organic is a priority for me and should be to you:

1. It's just plain healthier. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides, and "Frankenfood"(AKA processed food with chemical ingredients) are obviously not natural and shouldn't be eaten. Period.

2. It's better for the environment. I've never been a big environmental person but the more I read, the more I become aware of the effects of food production on our soil, air, and water. It really does trickle down to someone, and I need to be more considerate of that.

3. It's better for humanity. I hope that, as more people choose organic, the demand will increase. Food producers will strive to meet that demand by making more organic food, which will increase competition. Increased competition should decrease the price. And then, more people can afford organic. If more people can afford it, more people will eat it, and the health of our population will be better.


In my perfect world.

I don't know if that is realistic or not, but I'm gonna try. Starting this week!

Get out there and get healthy, even if it's just one switch on your grocery list.