Category Archives: Fitness

Doing “Everything Right” and Getting NO Results?

Have you been doing ‘everything right’ and still not making any progress?  You eat a relatively healthy and clean diet of whole foods and minimal amounts of processed foods, and you have challenging exercise sessions 5-6 days a week –yet your weight stays the same, or you even gain.  You buckle down, getting a little stricter with food and pushing yourself harder in your workouts…and nothing happens.  More and more women are expressing this frustration.  I get it; I’ve experienced it too.  Guess what?  The solution is counter-intuitive, but it works.

I stopped getting results (and even started gaining weight) while following common exercise guidelines and programs that promote 45-60 minutes of intense cardio and/or strength training 6 days a week.  This had worked for me in the past when I lost 60 pounds –why not now, and why the opposite effect?  Aren’t these healthy recommendations?  Well, it depends.  These guidelines are based on research on young, fit individuals, and mostly males (though not always).  The problem is that there is very little research on how exercise impacts certain groups with hormonal and metabolic challenges.  I had a strong hunch that there was a different set of exercise “rules” for these populations, based on my own experience and how often I was seeing this in other women.

Due to my thyroid issues, I first examined how exercise affects the thyroid; as usual, the rabbit hole went deeper.  I discovered that not only does exercise affect the thyroid and its hormones, it also interacts with estrogen and progesterone, and key stress and fat burning/storage hormones (cortisol and insulin).  I confirmed my suspicions:  women who are not hormonally balanced have a tougher time getting results with traditional exercise programs.  Translation:  what I’m about to tell you not only applies to thyroid patients; it applies to all women…especially the over 40 crowd.

One of the leading experts in the area of women’s metabolism and exercise is Dr. Jade Teta.  I have been reading his work for a few years and am convinced that the science that he presents (and has heavily researched) makes sense.  Even though I agreed with the science, it was a challenge for me to let go of my ingrained old-school mentality that traditional exercise programs and the eat less/exercise more philosophy were THE best ways to achieve results.   Keep in mind that this was what I was taught as a trainer…and up to a point, this approach had worked for me personally.  It’s incredible how the brain works: something worked in the past for me, so I kept doing it.  It stopped working, but I kept doing it, expecting a different result.  Can anyone else relate to this pattern of insanity?

I decided to apply Dr. Teta’s approach and was astounded by the results.  Let me boil down what I have learned in order of importance (in my opinion):

  • Most of us underestimate what stress IS and what it can DO to our bodies. Up to a point, exercise is extremely  However, beyond this point the body perceives exercise as stress…no different from other stressors in life.  This is what stress does to you:  it makes you fat and sick.  Ok, more scientifically:  it disrupts the natural hormone balance, both in the body and in the brain.  Signals aren’t sent or received properly.  Certain hormones that promote fat storage are getting turned on while the fat burning hormones are getting turned off.  Everyone has a different threshold for exercise stress, based on their unique challenges, which is why one-size-fits-all programs set people up for failure.  This is a huge concept!  Have you ever been told that too much exercise is synonymous with driving in rush-hour traffic, workplace conflict, family strife, etc.?  Our bodies don’t compartmentalize it: stress is stress.
  • Women’s hormones make them more stress-reactive (and the thyroid is extremely sensitive as well). Therefore stress management isn’t just a buzz-phrase; it’s the foundation of a successful fitness plan:  Relaxing walks, naps, spending time socializing or in solitude (depending on your personality and what fills your bucket), time with pets, time in nature, Epsom salt baths, tapping into your creative side, restorative yoga/stretching, playing a musical instrument, listening to music, meditation….the list goes on.  It’s important for us to carve out time for play and to be mindful of our bodies’ signals that tell us to rest and refuel.
  • Given the above information, the more your hormones fluctuate and dip (especially in peri-menopause and menopause), the more reactive to stress you become. Women in this situation will benefit more from restorative exercises, especially walking.

    Photo by Genevieve Dallaire on Unsplash

  • Daily leisurely walking is a game-changer. I didn’t want to believe it, but walking has had a tremendous impact on my ability to buffer life stress as well as exercise stress.  (I recommend relaxation breathing while walking.)  As a result, my body is able to respond better to exercise.  Why is walking so effective?  It’s the only exercise, according to Dr. Teta, that keeps the metabolism burning without increasing the perceived stress on the body.  Also, it doesn’t increase your appetite, like long cardio and strength training sessions can.  When our appetites increase due to exercise stress, it can easily negate all of our hard work in the gym.
  • Weight loss results are not just about diet and exercise; you need to move more. Now, movement and exercise are not the same thing.  NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) impacts our metabolism by 15%, compared to exercise, which is only 5%.  Examples of NEAT include, walking while shopping, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, cleaning your house, chasing your kids/grandkids, gardening, standing while working…basically anything that is not sedentary.  Being mindful of your NEAT every day will have a significant impact on your metabolism.
  • Simple carbohydrates absolutely make things worse for women who are navigating peri-menopause and menopause. I’m not thrilled about that either.  This doesn’t mean that you should cut carbs completely, but understanding that you are more sensitive can help with portion control.  Remember that fruits and vegetables are carbs, but that fruit sugars can be a bit problematic as they can cause insulin levels to rise (and fat storage to be the boss).  Limiting fruits to 1-2 low glycemic servings/day is a good idea while increasing vegetable consumption.  Other good complex carbs: oatmeal, potatoes, rice, beans, starchy vegetables like squashes.  It’s important to find the “just right” amount for you.  Too little will slow your metabolism and cause your energy to crash.  Too much will increase cravings and trigger fat storage.
  • The traditional adage, exercise more/eat less, only works temporarily. Then your metabolism rebounds and you begin gaining weight.  I tackled this topic in-depth here and here.  Going back to point #1, the practice of exercising more/eating less increases the stress on the body, which leads to weight gain, weight loss resistance, and cravings.  A more beneficial approach, according to Dr. Teta, is to cycle between exercising more/eating more and exercising less/eating less.  And only very occasionally, for a very brief period (of a few days) to avoid rebound, should one exercise more/eat less.  The way that you cycle through these will depend on your own hormonal challenges.
  • Women benefit most from HIIT strength and cardio workouts, but frequency depends on what they have going on hormonally. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) involves short bursts of activity where you work hard, followed by rest, and repeat.  The time of actual “work” is a relatively small portion of your session.  Research has compared HIIT with traditional aerobics and found that HIIT offers more benefits in improving: heart function, overall fitness, diabetes prevention, brain health, fat burning and metabolic functioning.  But you can’t, and shouldn’t, do this type of exercise every day.  Doing less of the right thing has the same benefit as doing more, but is less stressful on the body.  Remember my first point about stress?

Creating a diet and exercise plan based on these principals is a highly individualized process and will depend on your personal situation.  It might require some detective work and trial-and-error because the metabolism is always adapting and compensating.  The key is to find the “just right spot” with diet (especially carbs) and exercise –not too little and not too much, while always being mindful of stress reduction and general daily movement.

I’ve been using Dr. Teta’s approach with myself and my clients and am amazed by the results.  Personally, I have experienced a dramatic reduction in stress reactivity, cravings, anxiety and PMS, hot flashes and night sweats.  One of my biggest frustrations was finally eliminated:  traditional exercise programs caused a massive appetite increase for me, leading to cravings and weight gain.  After using this approach, my hunger cues, appetite, and weight normalized.  My clients have had very similar results and have reported losing stubborn weight as well.  Once hormones are balanced and stress is reduced, the metabolism can do its job.

If your situation sounds anything like the above, I’d like to encourage you to resist the habit of living out the pattern of insanity.  It’s time to try something different.

I’d love to help you navigate your own hormonal situation!  For more info on Dr. Teta, check out the link below.  If you’d like to schedule a call or Facetime session with me, click here.  We can do something tailored to your needs and/or I can guide you through Dr. Teta’s program.

My Books

What This Non-NBA Fan Learned During the Finals

I’m a college basketball fan, but I rarely watch the pros.  My 12-year old son, who is enamored with the game, begged me to watch the 2017 NBA playoffs between the Warriors and Cavaliers with him.  As a mom of a “tween,” I’m looking to seize any opportunity for mother-son quality time—so I enthusiastically said yes.  Once I got past the lackluster fundamentals in the NBA, I actually got into the playoffs.

I’m familiar with most of the big names out there, but could tell you very little about their stats or their stories.  My son, like many young boys, is a Stephen Curry fan –apparently you’re extra cool if you call him “Steph” for short.  After watching him play, I understood why.  He’s an incredible shooter (and rebounder…HELLO?!), and at 6’3’’- 190 pounds, often one of the smallest guys on the court.

I wanted to know more about this player that my son admires.  What’s his story?  Is he a good role model?

In my research, I stumbled across the following quote on, and was struck by how it applies to many aspects of life beyond basketball:

“Make it work no matter what you have to work with – that’s something that stuck with me very early on as a point guard. Adjust. Get creative. Try a different angle, a different lane, a different move or a different shot – just make it work.” – Stephen Curry

This is my fitness journey.  And it might be yours, too.

We all have unique challenges and “cards” that we’ve been dealt, whether physical, medical, or psychological.  Perhaps we wish that we could do certain things…an intense 60 or 90-day workout program, a sprint triathlon, a Tough Mudder, or run a 10k.  Or maybe you are simply wanting to be consistent with exercise.

Whatever your goals, there might be times when you must adapt and adjust to your needs and limitations.  And that’s ok, because this is real life.  The greatest disservice we can do for ourselves is to choose to sit it out—because somehow doing nothing seems better than trying and failing.

Mindset can hold us back or propel us forward.

It’s easy to get stuck in the past.  Don’t let your used to’s haunt you.  I get it.  There are many things that I used to do, some I can still do, and some that require adjustments.

I’ve gotten creative with my own routines as my body’s needs changed (hello, thyroid disease).  I don’t do as much cardio as I used to and my sessions are shorter and smarter.  I lift weights strategically and focus more on recovery days/weeks than ever before.

My unique challenges taught me that I can still get results by trying a different angle, a different approach, and making it work with what I’ve got.  Thanks, Steph Curry, for making my point.

Do you need help making it work no matter what you have to work with?  Fill out a contact form…I’d be honored to train you!

Setbacks Can Reset Your Priorities

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by a setback? It might have been with your health, career, finances, or relationships. While I will focus on fitness setbacks here, the takeaways can be applied to just about any situation.

Some people are fortunate enough to emerge from a health condition or injury unscathed, but most of us retain physical and/or psychological scars from the experience.  Are you scarred?  You’re in good company.

It stinks to have setbacks.  I’ve had my share of them…injuries, surgeries, disease, crushing fatigue, broken metabolism, surgeries.  Oh, and did I mention surgeries?

When I first got in shape and became a trainer, I had a plan in mind about how my “fit life” would progress…the workouts I would be able to do…the races I would be able to run…the body I would achieve.  Then, life happened…

In the thick of my struggle, it was hard to see the big picture.  I wondered if my situation would improve or if I would have to say goodbye forever to my definition of a fit lifestyle.

There were physical scars that taunted me: will this inflammation go away or will I always have a belly like this? I can play connect-the-dots with the incision scars on my abdomen. My neck looks like the laces of a football.  I’m too exhausted and in too much pain to exercise. 

The psychological scars were really tough, too: What will it mean for me if I can’t exercise like I used to? What if I have to go up a jeans size (or two) for good? I may not ever have the body that I hoped for.

These scars can be dream-killers. But what happens when we tuck them into our stories and press on to more meaningful goals?

Perhaps the lessons I have learned will resonate with you:

  • We have plans for our lives, but they may not be God’s plans for us. If anyone is guilty of over-planning and “control-freaking,” it’s me. I have to continually remind myself of this teaching…

James 4:13-15 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.

Perhaps if I ran all of my goals by God first, allowing him to edit them as needed, I wouldn’t have been so devastated by life’s setbacks.

  • My goals – vs – living a full life: do these concepts complement or compete? When you are forced to re-examine your goals during a setback, it could be a gift of perspective. My goals of achieving a certain size or look were limiting my potential and had little to do with living a full life. I was given this gift of perspective during an 18-month ordeal:

Thyroid-related fatigue, my nemesis, threw a giant wrench in my goals several years ago. It was crushing and incapacitating. I could barely care for my family, my memory and decision-making skills suffered, my body ached constantly and exercise was extremely difficult. Despite sleeping 14 hours a day, I never felt rested. I was living half of a life, barely keeping my head above water.

During that season, I yearned for the energy to be a fully engaged mother, wife, friend, and trainer. My goals of achieving a flat stomach and toned legs suddenly paled in comparison. Ironically, certain exercises were making my condition worse, and in order to get well, my fitness goals HAD to change.

I adopted a new perspective. What can I do fitness-wise to improve my health in a way that will help me to live a full life? I wanted to be “fit to serve” those around me: my family, friends, clients, church family, and even strangers.

Investing in relationships, intentionally loving others, living in the moment, and being God’s hands and feet—this perspective suddenly became more important than having less cellulite and being able to do unassisted pull-ups. I’m not saying that you should never have these goals…just don’t stop there!

  • Having eternal impact. Our lives are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14). Every once in a while we get a reminder that life is fleeting, that there is a bigger picture. We have such a short time on this planet and time’s a wastin’. What enduring legacy do you want to leave? How can your goals maximize eternal impact?

The physical and emotional pain from setbacks is real. Acknowledge it. Give it a voice. Tuck it into your story, but don’t let it define you. When you are ready, take your next step with renewed purpose.

Choose Your ‘Brave’

I have days when I REALLY don’t want to exercise, even though I know I need to just DO it.  I look at my inner rebellious streaks like this:  We all have an adult and a child woven into our personalities.  Our adult side is rational and makes decisions for our betterment, while our child side acts much like a toddler, is impulsive, pitches fits, and sometimes refuses to cooperate.  When I’m feeling this way, I remind myself that it’s my inner child talking and I must switch to my inner adult to get myself back on track.  There is a time and a place to tap into our inner child, but we can’t let them run the show.

With that said, the inner child in us could stand a little attention in one area of our lives –our stagnation.  Children, for the most part, are quite brave if you think about it.  They have many obstacles to overcome in their young lives:  learning to walk, run, climb, dark bedrooms, crossing the street, meeting strangers, going to school, trying out for a play or sports team, sticking with classes that they struggle with, applying for college, leaving home –and everything in between.   All of these things require a measure of fortitude.  Each one of us moves through these developmental stages, and then settle into our lives…

and bravery begins to fade if it isn’t exercised regularly.

Experts agree that it is beneficial to your health to try new things.  I think it can be extra valuable to exercise bravery by doing things that are outside of your comfort zone:  try something new or difficult, challenge yourself, and step out of that box.

What is ‘brave’ for you?  Perhaps it is revisiting your “I’ve always wanted to” dreams:  learning to play an instrument, traveling to a certain destination, going on a mission trip, writing a book, pursuing a dream.  It could be specific to fitness (since this is a fitness blog) like learning to do real push-ups or pull-ups, starting a regular exercise program, trying kickboxing or weightlifting, taking dance classes, training in martial arts, or signing up and training for a race or event.

What about something you never dreamed you could do –something that both terrifies and excites you?  A natural response is one of fear.  Oh no, I can’t possibly do THAT!   Several studies have demonstrated that people regularly overestimate their fears, so keep that in mind.  Fear’s cousin, we’ll call him failure, has a huge impact on our stagnation.  Failing isn’t pleasant, but if you let the fear of failure hold you back, you will inevitably close the door on success.  When we step out anyway, knowing that failure is a distinct possibility, growth is inevitable.  Many of us fail more often than we succeed, so we aren’t alone.  Just remember that if you let this fear hold you back, you might miss out on a great adventure.  What do you learn about yourself when you fail?

Now, I’m pretty risk-avoidant.  You won’t find me base jumping or skydiving…not while I’m a mom of younger kiddos anyway!  I’m not suggesting doing dangerous things here.  The exciting/terrifying thing for you might be switching career paths, applying for a different job, running for office, going into full-time ministry, or entering a competition.  Maybe it is something less big-picture, like sticking up for someone who needs an advocate, or doing the right thing, embracing ridiculous generosity, or reaching out to a stranger in need.

Whatever it is, choose your ‘brave’…and then do it again.  Happy New Year!

What if Being Fit Isn’t What You Think?

When I hit my 40th birthday one year ago, I wasn’t thrilled at first.  I had been through the wringer with my health and part of me mused:  is this as good as it gets?  Have I peaked?  Am I past my prime?  Many of us can get hung up by a milestone birthday.  Then I realized that I have gained some wisdom over the years, and am truly grateful for my journey.

I certainly haven’t arrived at my destination, but I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way.  I spent too many years trying to cram myself into a fitness mold that was just…wrong.  If I could take my 20 or 30-something self by the shoulders, I would gently (or perhaps rather emphatically) share these pearls of wisdom:


Stretching, yoga, and recovery days are not optional.  All of these aspects provide valuable pieces to the fitness puzzle.  Yoga is beneficial for stress relief, flexibility, strength, balance, weight loss, metabolism, injury prevention, athletic performance…the list goes on and on.  Recovery days (and weeks) are essential to help our muscles recover and for the metabolism to reset.  Pushing the body day in, day out with little rest WILL result in injury, and the metabolism will respond by slowing down.  If God rested on the 7th day, why shouldn’t we?

You don’t have to kill yourself in the gym every day.  I used to think that the only way that I could be fit was to spend at least 1-2 hours, working as hard as I can, drenched in sweat every day.  This mentality will lead to exhaustion and a broken metabolism.  Our bodies weren’t designed for a constant barrage of intense exercise.  More of a good thing is actually, well, bad.  True fitness comes from the right mix of endurance (cardio), strength, flexibility, and balance for YOUR BODY.  Read more about avoiding a one-dimensional approach to fitness here.

It doesn’t pay to use exercise as an insurance policy against poor food choices.  We’ve all done it, haven’t we?  A pizza and a brownie sundae get the best of us and we vow to work it off by doing an extra-long session in the gym or tacking on more miles to our run.  There is no way to work off all of those extra calories in a single session, and psychologically it sets you up to view exercise as punishment.  Before you know it, exercise becomes a dreaded, rather than celebrated, activity.  To cultivate a healthier relationship with food and exercise, strive for eating whole foods at least 80% of the time, and learn to view exercise as a tool to achieve overall health and to age gracefully.

Comparing your body to others is like buying clothing off of the rack without looking at the tag.  Most people would never purchase clothes until they have some key information:  size, cost, brand, fabric, how it looks when tried on, etc.  Yet we often ignore critical factors (i.e., genetics, individual health status, strengths, struggles, and life circumstances) when comparing ourselves to others.

Each person is unique, with their own strengths and challenges.  When we compare ourselves to others, we are taking away from our own potential and giftedness.  God created you to be you, so strive to be the healthiest version of yourself that you can be.  Just. Stop. Comparing.

Don’t miss out on life because you are afraid to:  put on a swimsuit, learn something new, or get out of your comfort zone.  Life is too short.  Enough said.

God doesn’t care if you have a 6-pack.  There are no “best abs” awards being given out at the end of our lives, but there are rewards that matter more.  True fitness isn’t about achieving a certain “look.”  Constantly focusing on this piece will leave you frustrated and unfulfilled…and possibly extremely bored with eating broccoli and salmon for every meal.  Rather, ask yourself what you will be able to do in life if you are healthy and fit.  This is your “why.”  It’s a goal that is more than yourself:  playing/keeping up with children and grandchildren, energy to live life to its fullest with our loved ones, being able to go on mission trips, serving others, to name a few.  Personally, my favorite motto is being “fit to serve.”  When I am fit and healthy, it enables me to love and serve those in need around me (my family included).  The eternal rewards from this philosophy are far greater than sporting some killer abs.

Surround yourself with people who encourage and inspire, and then pay it forward:  I have the privilege of spending time with people in all stages of their fitness journeys.  One thing that is crucial to achieving personal goals is having the following people in your life:  those who are ahead of you, who teach and inspire you; those who are in the trenches doing life with you; and those who you can encourage.  Being fit is hard to achieve and sustain alone; the journey is far sweeter when you share it with others.

I don’t know where you are today, but maybe you need permission to redefine fitness for yourself.  I encourage you to do so!  Life is too short.  Are there any points mentioned above that resonate with you?  Perhaps you have been prompted to consider some of your own.  Please feel free to share below!

Move More, Eat Less for Weight Loss? Not so Fast!! ~Part 2~

dsc08472In Part 1 of this topic, I discussed how the “move more, eat less” strategy for weight loss backfires and slows the metabolism.  Research has proven that this method doesn’t work, yet the mainstream health and fitness industry continues to recommend moving more and eating less for weight loss.  The bottom line is that hormones (i.e., insulin, leptin, and ghrelin) are the driving force behind whether or not we gain or lose weight.  What we eat and don’t eat can have a radical impact on the process.

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is comprised of low quality processed foods, unhealthy fats, and sugar.  These foods are devoid of nutrition, facilitate addiction, work against our fullness cues, and throw our weight-controlling hormones out of whack.  How does this happen?

Food is information for our bodies, sending signals that affect burning/storing fat as well as hunger/fullness cues.  For instance, sugar causes insulin to spike, signaling our bodies to store fat rather than burn it.  Given the processed nature of these foods, it is extremely easy to overeat on the SAD.  It has little to do with willpower.  Millions of dollars are spent to increase the “craveability” of this food –the more we eat, the more we want.  The same applies to sugar; it is intensely addictive, which is a topic I’ll tackle in another post.  When we eat these types of foods, we find ourselves eating when we aren’t even hungry because our fullness cues are completely messed up (hormones!).  Have you ever found yourself double-fisting chocolate chips until the bag was empty, saying to yourself when you got to the bottom, what just happened?!  Or…maybe that’s just me.

Not all calories are created equal; it’s about quality over quantity.  “Whole foods” like broccoli contain vastly more nutrition than a bagel.  The bagel is going to signal fat storage while the broccoli is going to energize and protect the body from disease.  Research repeatedly shows that when people eat high quality food, they have balanced hormones, their weight is much easier to manage, and they actually burn more fat than their imbalanced counterparts.  How do we know if we are eating high quality foods?

This is my litmus test for high quality foods:  if it comes in a box/bag/can, reconsider your choice.  The ingredient list should be extremely short; if you don’t recognize something on the list, your body won’t either.  That’s where hormone imbalances come from.  Our bodies were not created to digest and manage overly processed “frankenfoods”—which is what we call food-like products that are created in a lab and end up on store shelves.  A lot of manufactured low-calorie and “healthy” products fall into this frankenfood category, so don’t be fooled by clever marketing.  We need to strive to eat foods in their most natural state.

Non-starchy Vegetables are at the top of the list of high quality foods.  Organic is more expensive, but preferred because chemicals and pesticides (otherwise found in non-organic options) disrupt our hormones.  I completely understand the cost struggle; one option is to purchase only the highest risk produce that you eat the most often.  Here is a website (imbed with the highest pesticide-containing fruits and vegetables, if you feel you must pick and choose.  Research shows that we need at least 7 servings of vegetables a day (and closer to 10 is ideal), in order to get the maximum health benefits.  This is why veggies should be a part of every meal, preferably 2-3 options per meal.  I know that is an overwhelming number for most people.  I used to detest vegetables and now I eat 8-10 cups/day by practicing a “veggie-centered mindset.”  If I can do it, you can too!   For tips on incorporating more veggies into your diet, click here.  Strive for “eating the rainbow”… the deeper the colors, the better they are for you.  Raw is great, but some people (myself included) can’t eat every serving that way.  Eating more veggies is more important than whether or not they are raw vs. cooked.  Also, due to their amazing health benefits, make sure you are consuming deep greens every day (romaine, spinach, kale, broccoli).

Lean protein is essential for muscle repair and stoking our metabolic furnace.  We want to stay away from higher fat animal proteins because pesticides, added hormones, and other chemicals from the animals’ diets accumulate in their fat.  That is why larger, fattier fish have higher levels of mercury.  Organic, wild caught, grass fed, and free range is better, though not perfect.  If you are a vegetarian, make sure you are eating high quality plant-based protein.  Recommended quantities vary and this topic isn’t without controversy.  I prefer an individualized approach to diet because everyone’s needs are different.  Many experts believe that we need 30-55 g of protein per meal (100-200 g per day), depending on our size and activity level.  A large chicken breast contains approximately 40 g of protein, 3 large eggs contain about 18g.  Intense exercisers need more protein than less active individuals.  You can always tweak that amount as you learn to listen to your body’s energy cues (which gets much easier when you are eating whole foods).

Fruits can have 10-20 times the amount of sugar as vegetables, so it is important to incorporate low fructose fruits such as berries and citrus.  I love fruits, so in full disclosure, I am challenged to keep all of my fruits low sugar.  We only need 1-3 servings per day.  If you aren’t a big fruit eater, no problem.  Just make sure that you are eating more vegetables instead.

Healthy fats are best when consumed in their whole food form:  nuts, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, other seeds, avocados, coconut (unsweetened), cacao, eggs, and seafood.  Keep in mind that oils are processed, but the best choices are coconut and olive, which can be used for cooking.  Make sure you are getting at least a serving of healthy fat per meal, with a serving ranging from 2T for nut butters and 3T for nuts.  One-third of a medium avocado is one serving, while seeds are about ¼ tsp.  Many experts recommend 3-6 servings of healthy fats per day.

What about “other” carbs?  You may have noticed that starchy carbs are missing.  Keep in mind that vegetables are also carbohydrates and are much higher in nutrition than starches.  Breads and all of their counterparts (pasta, cereal, “whole grain” stuff, etc.) are highly processed, except for breads made from sprouted grain, such as Ezekiel.  Applying what we know, these carbs wreak havoc on our hormones.  However, there are a few “other carbs” that I can recommend:  sweet potatoes, wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, other ancient grains (amaranth, buckwheat, kamut, spelt, millet), steel cut oats, and beans/legumes.  One serving is ½ cup, two servings per day.

I know that was a lot of information!  If you’ve made it this far, thanks for hanging in there.  While nutrition takes precedence in balancing our hormones and healing our bodies, exercise is still important.  I prefer to view exercise as an effective tool to help us age slower, rather than to be used as a consequence or punishment for eating poorly.  You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet.  Over-exercising isn’t good for our hormones either.  However, if we are eating a high quality diet, we will have the energy and desire to move our bodies.  Then we can work on the important aspects of fitness that help us slow aging (and have more fun in life):  endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance.  An excellent fitness plan addresses all 4 of these components.

A few final thoughts:  some of you might be overwhelmed with the number of changes you need to make.  Take it slow.  I suggest getting started by doing an inventory of what you are eating, making note of what is processed.  Then, work to switch out those foods for whole foods.  For tips on increasing vegetable intake, click here.  Practice a “loving yourself to health” mentality.  You are worth it.  We only get one body this side of heaven and by taking care of it, we are able to live out our purpose on this earth.

Disclaimer:  There are other things that contribute to hormone disruption and weight gain, such as food allergies, environmental toxins, and inefficient detoxification.  However, these topics were beyond the scope of this post.

Move More, Eat Less for Weight Loss? Not so fast!!

dsc08472You have probably heard that if you want to lose weight, you simply need to move more and eat less.  What if I told you that this concept is outdated and potentially dangerous?

While recovering from an eating disorder, I felt like I had lost the owner’s manual to my body.  I was determined to understand what had happened to me, scrutinizing all that I was taught as a personal trainer.  I suspected that many of the mainstream ideas about health & fitness actually contributed to my downfall.

In my exhaustive search for the truth about how our bodies work and what we can do to support our health, I confirmed my suspicions.  The widely taught principal of moving more and eating less (calories in/calories out) is a completely false notion when it comes to healthy weight loss.  Eating less than what our bodies need, while increasing energy demands, can have a detrimental effect on our metabolism.

You might be thinking, I’ve lost weight by exercising more and eating less in the past, so that has to work… right?  In the short term, it might work.  We can do almost anything for a limited time and get temporary results.  But in my opinion, most people have one chance in their lifetime to lose weight in this way.  ONE CHANCE…after that, Mother Nature is going to put up a fight.  Maintaining this weight loss will require drastic, unsustainable measures, and the weight will come back on with a vengeance.  Any future attempts at weight loss will be more difficult, since the metabolism becomes slower every single time we practice the “move more, eat less” strategy.

When we restrict calories, the body perceives a threat and works hard to compensate.  This occurs through complex interactions between our brain and hormones.  If energy coming in is low, then the body makes sure that it expends less energy.  This metabolism slowdown happens by:  reducing the number of calories needed for the body’s daily processes, adjusting hunger and fullness cues, and breaking down muscle while storing fat.  This can still happen when exercise is a part of the equation; I witnessed it first-hand.  Have you ever noticed that you are literally working your rear-end off (in terms of exercise and diet), but not really losing your rear-end like you’d hoped?  In reality, the body might be packing on fat while losing muscle!

One of my favorite studies that illustrates the effects of restricting calories is one conducted at Columbia University Medical Center.  People weighing around 335 pounds were put on a starvation diet of about 1400 calories/day, and their weight dropped to approximately 220 pounds.  Researchers then compared the energy needs for this 220-pound group with the needs of a group that had NOT restricted calories and weighed 138 pounds.  They found that the individuals who weighed 220 pounds required significantly fewer calories than the 138-pound, non-starved group.  These individuals needed 1480 fewer calories per day than the group that weighed 82 pounds less than them!  How is this possible?  Generally, the more a person weighs, the more energy (calories) their body requires on a daily basis.  However, this study demonstrates that the metabolism can be radically altered, practically injured, by restrictive dieting.  (See the full Columbia study here:

Numerous studies support this finding, yet the mainstream health and fitness industry continues to recommend moving more and eating less for weight loss.

Beyond the results of eating less, what about exercising more?  Exercise obviously has numerous benefits for the body.  But when examining its effectiveness for weight loss, the research is surprising.  Today, our population is intentionally exercising more than ever, yet obesity rates are at their highest.  What gives?

First, increasing exercise naturally causes an increase in appetite.  If you run 3 miles, you might burn 300 calories.  (This number varies based on individual metabolic rates.)  Many people then consume more replacement calories than they burned off while exercising, due to increased energy demands on the body.  But what if you are extra careful about your food intake, even cutting calories?  Based on what we know about the body’s response to eating less, your metabolism will slow down and you won’t burn as many calories while exercising.  Eating less makes exercise less efficient.

Second, exercising more doesn’t automatically increase weight loss.  In a study from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, three groups of women exercised various durations (72, 136, or 194 minutes) for 6 months.  The results were not what you might expect.  Women who exercised 72 and 136 minutes lost 1.4 and 2.1 pounds, respectively.  But the women who exercised 194 minutes only lost 1.5 pounds.  The research concluded that these lengthy exercise sessions created stress, which caused the body to compensate, and resulted in less weight loss.  (See the full PBRC study here:

At this point, you might feel discouraged, but hang on—there is a way!  Weight loss is all about the hormones:  if you do something to throw them out of whack, you won’t lose weight; if you balance your hormones, weight loss becomes much easier.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this topic next week, where I’ll explain how to lose weight (and keep it off) in a healthy way!

Re-Prioritizing Running

DSC05139I remember a time in my life when I thought that running was THE ultimate form of exercise.  If I could master running long distances, then I would “arrive” as an extremely fit person.  My sense is that this attitude is still out there, but it isn’t entirely accurate.

I spent a lot of years running various distances from 5Ks to 10Ks, and half-marathons.  I enjoyed it, and finishing races within my time goals gave me a sense of accomplishment.  But as I got older, I began to notice that running was taking a toll on my body.  Of course there were the nagging injuries over the years, mostly plantar fasciitis (the kiss of death for runners), and random calf, hamstring, and knee issues.  Less expected was the weight I was gaining, despite running for hours.  How could this be?  I also noticed that my level of fitness was what I would call one-dimensional.  I could run, sprint, and do great speed drills, but after trying a new “non-running” workout program, I found that my balance and flexibility were horrible.  My stamina for lifting weights and doing intense cardio wasn’t great, even though I had been cross-training.  What was the deal?  Running is THE best exercise, right?

When I don’t understand something, I research it.  A lot.  I discovered that running long distances can inhibit thyroid function.  That wasn’t good, considering I only had half of a thyroid and a thyroid disease.  Specifically, running reduces the amount of t3 hormone, which is responsible for our energy, metabolism, weight maintenance, and feeling good.  Long distance running also increases cortisol, which is our stress hormone.  Yes, running for long periods of time is stressful on the body!  A body in a stressed state holds onto weight, especially fat.  It’s a survival mechanism, so these two factors combined certainly could explain why I was gaining weight with running.  In addition to the weight gain, I had a significant increase in my appetite, which triggered disordered eating patterns of binging…guilt over said binging…and restricting food as a result.  (I will save those details for another post, but it is worth mentioning here.) Clearly, running was not my friend.

Given this knowledge, I had some choices to make and some questions to answer.  If you find yourself in a similar situation, consider asking yourself:

  • What are my fitness goals? How does running fit into these goals?
  • What priority do I place on other aspects of fitness such as strength, core strength, balance, and flexibility?  How does my current performance rate in these areas?
  • Am I running in order to get fit or am I getting fit in order to run?

After answering these questions for myself, I decided that running was something that could be a “side dish” rather than the “main course.”  I really valued being a well-rounded athlete in terms of strength, cardio fitness, balance, and flexibility.  When I spent most of my time running, it took away from these other aspects of fitness.  I found a program that addressed all of these areas and decided to take a break from running just to see how my body would respond.  It was a tough transition at first.  Despite running half-marathons, I found myself struggling through a 30-minute high intensity interval (HIIT) cardio routine.  It was ugly, but I stuck with it.  In time, I improved in all of these areas and found my level of fitness to be more multi-dimensional.  My body also started to let go of the signs of stress and overtraining that I had been experiencing while running.

I still run occasionally, but I train daily so that I can do whatever I’d like to when the opportunity strikes, whether it is running, rock climbing, mountain biking, tennis, basketball, etc.  This is what works for me.  Everyone is different.

Please don’t misunderstand; if you are running and it is working for you, that’s great!  However, I’ve met many people, especially women, who have become discouraged with running.  It doesn’t have to be a source of frustration; you just might need to be intentional about your fitness goals and listen to what your body is telling you.  In the end, do something because you enjoy it and your body thrives doing it.  Life is too short to beat yourself up.  Happy Training!