Weight Management and Health Status

Recently I have gotten a lot of inquiries related to weight loss. These questions have come from a variety of people with a variety of shapes and sizes. When I get these questions I inwardly cringe. Not because these people are being annoying or unrealistic, rather they have a misperception about weight.  Our current culture perceives skinny as healthy and fat is fraught with fear about how well our clothes fit and what the reflection in the mirror is going to show.


First, I would like to say that weight is a state of being. It is not a disease or health condition on its own. Weight is an outcome that occurs as a result of how our body responds to the input from foods, beverages, medications, skin care, unknown toxins that we breathe or otherwise ingest without knowing, stress and electromagnetic fields. If our body is unable to metabolize or process one or more of these inputs, then it adapts. If one of these inputs disrupts a particular system, like the endocrine, adrenal or reproductive system, then it adapts. Often that adaptation is to neutralize the excess or foreign substance and store it as subcutaneous tissue we call fat in an effort to prevent harm.


Second, weight can often be an outward reflection of our internal health or struggles. By managing a health conditions such as diabetes, adrenal dysregulation, thyroid dysfunction, gut dysbiosis, high blood pressure, depression/anxiety and even cancer, we will by default begin to shift our weight. As our health status improves, so will our ability to metabolize and process the inputs in a way that provides us energy and vitality, while effectively eliminating that which is not functional or useful. This is true on from both a physical and mental perspective.


In order to change the weight status there must be a change to one or more of the inputs. These inputs are behaviors. For example, consuming appropriate selections and preparation of carbohydrates, proteins and fats will aid in the management of diabetes, which will therefore better control insulin production and sensitivity, and ultimately aid in weight management for people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Consuming a protein-rich diet in the morning and shifting to a more complex carbohydrate diet in the evening with food intake about every 2-3 hours, while reducing strenuous activities, including high intensity workouts will be helpful in regulating adrenal function and stabilizing energy. Eliminating gluten and dairy, while transitioning away from processed foods high in sodium and preservatives can prevent flares from auto-immune disorders including thyroid dysfunction. Timing meals, correctly, increasing physical activity, eliminating toxic exposure to alcohol, plastics, pesticides and negative attitudes can drastically improve depression and anxiety.


We are not victims of our health or weight status, rather we are co-creators. This is not to place blame or make us feel badly about our current state of health and weight. It is a statement meant to empower us to make the changes and feel good enough to sustain behaviors that are supportive to a different state of health and weight that is more supportive to our well-being and longevity.


As I continue to reflect on how I respond to questions about weight loss and weight management, I realize that my personal practice as a dietitian is much more focused on health and well-being rather than the external manifestations of these behaviors. When asked about weight management, I in turn ask the questioner a series of questions that tune me into their clinical status. Here is what I mean:

  1. How many of hours of uninterrupted sleep do you get each night?
  2. How frequently do you get up each night to go to the bathroom?
  3. Do you wake up energized or feeling tired?
  4. Do you get tired at specific times during the day?
  5. What is your level of stress at home with family and friends, at work and within yourself?
  6. Do you suffer from acne or skin irritations (psoriasis, dry skin, oily skin, rough skin, itchiness or rashes)?
  7. How frequently do you have a bowel movement?
  8. What is the consistency or texture of your stool?
  9. Does your stool float or sink?
  10. Is your stool super smelly?
  11. How frequently do you get gas and is it painful?
  12. Do you feel bloated (with or without gas)?
  13. How frequently, if ever, do you suffer from heartburn?
  14. If you are a female of child-bearing years (still menstruating):
    • Do you have regular periods?
    • Do you suffer from PMS? If so, what occurs and in what time frame associated with your menstrual cycle?
    • Do you have a heavy flow throughout any part of your menstrual cycle?
  15. Do you eat processed foods more than fresh foods?
  16. Do you eat away from home more than you eat at home?
  17. Do you have distractions while you are eating (TV, computer, phone, work, stressful environment)?
  18. Do you eat or drink from plastic containers?
  19. How frequently do you consume alcohol and in what quantities?
  20. Do you ever feel shakey, disoriented or get headaches between meals?
  21. Have you previously been diagnosed with a chronic health condition or do you suffer from a regularly occurring illness (sinus infections, headaches, joint pain etc.)?
  22. Do you currently take medications, vitamins/minerals or other supplements?
  23. Have you taken medications for prolonged periods of time in the past?
  24. How much physical activity do you get daily (consider more than just exercise)?
  25. Have you had a recent, unintentional change in weight status?


The answers to these questions can all have an impact on weight management, and none of them really have to do with portion sizes, how many calories you consume or how many calories you burn off. While those issues might be a component to an overall eating pattern and nutrition lifestyle, they are not going to be the solution to weight management. Solutions to weight management with always come from changing the inputs. We can be healthy at any size, and that health, size and shape will change as we progress through life.


Need help with your health, then contact me. Want to lose weight, then be ready to answer a few questions and take a deeper look into your wellness.


Confessions of a Pregnant Dietitian with Constipation and Indigestion

Hey! Guess what I found this week? Energy…it is absolutely amazing. For the last two days I have been motivated and productive to actually do more than survive on my couch. My eyes feel like they are opening all the way.  I climbed the stairs at work more than I took the elevator. And, probably the most important, is that I feel like my brain is fully functioning. I can actually find words to make a complete sentence. Amaaazing (imagine me singing that word)!!!


At this point I am teetering between my first and second trimester. Like any good foodie I am tracking the progress of fetal development by using food comparisons. Baby H is approximately the size of a lemon (credible source pending). Its eyelids are closed, limbs have formed, the central nervous system is developing and its head is half the size of the rest of its body. (BTW, I have no qualms calling Baby H “It” right now because we do not know the gender and repeating Baby H 45 thousand time is exhausting…remember I have to keep my energy up for things like moving and making complete sentences.)


For me, the lemon comparison is very apropos. Generally, lemons are good for gut health. They aid in digestion and increase stomach acid needed to begin the digestion process before food contents actually reach the intestines for absorption. I however, am avoiding them like the plague right now.


Recently, I wrote an FB post about some of my pregnancy experiences, which included 3 points, all of which focused on my gut, and all of which I am attributing to the excess progesterone coursing through my body and keeping Baby H snug in the womb.


First, despite knowing a lot about gut health I continue on my own journey for the perfect poop.
Second, in light of point 1 I am having difficulties going number 2. (Is that too much information? I mean…we all poop, ideally daily, but no one ever wants to talk about it…except for me of course. My poor husband has to a get an update on my bowel habits daily right now. Some one should probably feel sorry for him.)
Third, complications with the lower end of my gut are not currently the only joys of pregnancy. I also have the pleasure of a new kind of indigestion. When the GI system slows down it can create constipation (hence points one and two) and/or indigestion (point 3). The longer it takes the stomach to empty its contents into the small intestines, then the more opportunity there is for those contents to move back up, causing that burning sensation in the middle and upper chest. It can also leave a sour taste in the mouth, cause a dry cough and generate some stinky burps that might taste like gross versions of your last meal.


A common misperception is that there is too much acid, and so many clinicians recommend an acid blocker or a PPI, proton pump inhibitor. Usually there is not too much acid though, rather there is acid is in the wrong spot. Using an acid blocker or PPI to manage these symptoms does not always solve the problem. Whether pregnant or not, many people find that acid blockers and PPIs do not work for them in the long run. This is because they neither prevent acidic stomach contents from getting in the wrong spot, nor do they help the stomach empty faster. In addition, acid blockers and PPI can prevent optimal digestion of protein, especially animal-based protein. It can also prevent absorption of many B vitamins.


In my opinion there are better ways to treat constipation and indigestion than using pills. My professional opinion and personal experiences are as follows:


For constipation or sluggish bowels:

  • Add more fiber. This is a helpful tip for those who have constipation without a chronic inflammatory bowel disorder (IBS/IBD, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis). Soluble fiber attracts water and can make stools softer and bulkier, therefore easier to pass. Insoluble fiber can increase intestinal motility, which keeps things moving along at a more desirable pace. I recommend getting fiber from whole, real food sources, like most fruits and vegetables, and whole grain sources that do not include gluten. Whole grain sources like gluten-free oats, chia seeds, flaxseeds and quinoa (just to name a few). Say no to things like Fiber One bars, whole grain breads, granola and even popcorn.
  • Avoid foods that ferment in the belly. These can cause excess gas and bloating and are really stinky . Enough said. It is not comfortable, and for most people does not feel socially acceptable either. Avoiding these foods is only temporary until the gut starts functioning at a more normal pace, i.e. you have a bowel movement everyday. Some of these foods are lactose, gluten, beans, onions, garlic, avocados, cauliflower, asparagus, fruits with peels you eat (apples, pears, peaches), dried fruits, honey, agave nectar, alternative sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup and high concentrated sweets like juices and desserts. I like this handout from Stanford, https://stanfordhealthcare.org/content/dam/SHC/for-patients-component/programs-services/clinical-nutrition-services/docs/pdf-lowfodmapdiet.pdf
  • Drink water, a lot of it. Water is the body’s preferred solvent. It carries away waste and toxins and promotes regularity. Water helps breakdown food during the digestion process so that it can be absorbed. It also combines with fecal matter to make stools softer. (See the pattern here? Fiber and water combined are a powerful combination.) I have been drinking about 90-120 ounces of water per day.
  • Move! Physical activity also promotes gut motility. Gentle aerobic activities such as walking, riding a bike and swimming increase blood flow to organs, including the intestines. This increases contractions and stimulates digestive enzymes.
  • Add some magnesium citrate as a nutrition supplement. This supplement is available in a liquid or pill form. It increases water in the intestines and generally promotes a bowel movement within 30 minutes to 6 hours. Usually doses are less than 300 mg. My recommendation is to dose low and increase slow.


For indigestion:

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Smaller meals put less burden on the stomach itself, which may be help prevent delayed gastric emptying. If you eat too much, to the point that you actually feel full, then your stomach has become distended. Stomach distension puts pressure on the valve between your esophagus and your stomach. If gastric contents cannot leave the stomach and move down into the small intestines in a timely manner, then it will move up into the esophagus causing heart burn.
  • Eat less fat. Despite my belief that fat is necessary for optimal health, when it comes to indigestion excess fat is not your friend. Fat naturally slows down gastric emptying. During normal digestion this is helpful to maintain satiety and keep us feeling full longer. Once again though, too much fat can exacerbate an already slow digestive tract. Remember that the longer food sits in the stomach, then the more opportunity for stomach contents to move up instead of down.
  • Avoid traditionally acidic foods to prevent an increase in acid production which only makes indigestion feel worse. This includes coffee, tea, citrus fruits, tomato products, caffeine, chocolate and spicy foods. Avoid dairy products too. Some feel that dairy is an antidote to indigestion, however it increases in acidity as it is digested. Lastly, avoid concentrated sweets (desserts, juices, sweetened beverages etc). Like dairy, sugary foods become more acidic as they breakdown. Why fuel the fire?
  • Avoid a few other foods too. Peppermint (tea, hard candies etc) is a relaxant. This means that it can also relax the valve between your esophagus and stomach, thus allowing stomach contents to move up instead of down. Avoid all carbonated beverages and alcohol. Carbonation increases gas, namely carbon dioxide, in the stomach. More gas in the stomach increases gastric distension and pressure on the valve between the esophagus and the stomach…I am starting to sound like a broken record.
  • Check out my previous blog post, Feel the (Not So Good) Burn


Here’s my week in review that incorporates my recommendations. Notice the simplicity of these meals. Nothing fancy, creamy, super smelly or spicy for this mama right now.

  • Breakfasts: 2 eggs scrambled in 1 teaspoon of coconut oil, 1 cup oatmeal chia cereal
  • Morning snack: 2 stalks celery with 2 tablespoons dairy-free ranch dressing
  • Lunches: Salad of romaine hearts and ½ bell pepper with 2 tablespoons of homemade vinegar and oil dressing, 1 cup of yellow cherry tomatoes (naturally lower in acidity), 3 ounces grass-fed beef burger or Italian sausage, 1 cup fresh strawberries
  • Afternoon snack: muscat grapes with ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Dinner:
    • Grilled chicken leg, grilled zucchini
    • Grilled pork steak with steamed broccoli and boiled sweet potatoes seasoned with 1 teaspoon butter


Final thoughts. I have noticed that I can no longer tolerate highly processed snack foods. I find that these make the indigestion worse. The clinical professional in me speculates that these refined products breakdown faster than real food, and since they cannot leave the stomach because of delayed gastric emptying they create an even more acidic environment and make the indigestion feel worse as it moves upwards instead of down.


Alright…that is all for now. Let me know your thoughts and any other preggo tips and tricks you used. You can also leave your tips and tricks for managing your own GI issues.


Meal Prep Without Motivation

This blog post was supposed to be about coffee. I have actually been working on it for more than a week. I so wanted to follow up on the science part of the delicious beverage that we did not get to discuss during episode 8 of Real Foodie Friends podcast, but…life happened and it just did not get done. If I am being honest, it will not get done this coming week either, so just consider this opening paragraph a teaser for an upcoming post.


Instead this week I decided to show you what it looks like in my house when we have limited time, energy and emotional capacity to multi-task. I took a 3-2-1 approach that included meal prep for 3 days, in 2 hours and ended with 1 fabulous dinner made by the darling Grateful Guts hubby.


  • Breakfast for Monday-Wednesday: Parsnip and egg stuffed bell peppers ready for reheating each morning. This is a Grateful Guts made concoction of:
    • Make ahead:
      • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
      • Shred 4 small parsnips, sauté in ghee and season with salt and pepper. It would be delish with a few other spices too.
      • Chop tops off 3-4 bell peppers and remove seeds and stems.
      • Stuff the sautéed parsnips into bell peppers.
      • Whip an egg and pour into pepper and parsnips.
      • Put peppers in a glass dish or muffin tins and bake for 30ish minutes.
    • Finish in the morning:
      • Re-heat in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. (This is how long it takes me to get dressed and do my hair and make-up.)
      • Fry 1 egg over easy and top reheated stuff bell pepper.
      • Enjoy!IMG_1751
    • Lunch for Monday- Wednesday: Green beans and red cabbage with bacon aka German-style cabbage and beans from http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/german-style-cabbage-and-beans. I pair mine with yellow cherry tomatoes, nectarines and 1 ounce of 86% dark chocolate. Nathan has carrots, whole milk yogurt and nectarines with his.
    • Sunday night dinner, prepared mostly by the most adorable Grateful Guts hubby:
      • Sautéed mushrooms, onions and bell peppers (chopped by yours truly).
      • Cast-iron seared ribeye, oven finished.
      • Rich and delicious. Small portions best in this case.
      • Check the Instagram or Facebook for the scrumptious photo…It is completely acceptable to have a little food jealousy over this meal.


Here is my plan for dinners for the rest of the week. All meals take less than an hour from start to finish. Some of them include more oven time than others, but they are simple and nutritious. Since it is cold outside my cast-iron skillet gets used in place of my grill.

  • Monday – cast iron skillet chicken served with roasted cauliflower
  • Tuesday – zucchini noodles seasoned with ground beef and fire roasted canned tomatoes (BPA free of course) and Grateful Guts-friendly cornbread.
  • Wednesday – cast iron seared bone-in pork chops with roasted broccoli (florets and stems included)

This week’s meal prep was definitely a team effort. I am good at managing multiple meal preps simultaneously, and Nathan is good at cleaning up after me. I am also good at figuring out what needs to be started first and giving Nathan directions on how he can help with prep. Tonight he popped beans between soaping up pots and pans.


If I am having another honest moment, then you must be aware that I had negative motivation to actually begin meal prep. Here’s what changed my perspective:

  • Colorful food always inspires me.
  • Knowing how I feel when I eat junky food prevents me from being too lazy in the kitchen.
  • Knowing how important it is for me to maintain optimal health right now
  • Wanting to manage my funds, which means relying on my own skills rather than paying for some one else’s ability, their food costs and up charges for extra guac or exceptions to “no bun please, no cheese, and vinegar/oil dressing is fine.” I can do better at home for much cheaper…that should actually be another blog post.



Happy New Year 2016 – To Resolve or Not Resolve

I have had several synchronicities in the last 24 hours that affirm I am on the right path even though I am not setting New Year’s resolutions.


Foodie RN and I got to spend New Year’s Eve together. We actually got to spend an uninterrupted 36+ hours together. It was amazing. We ate dinner at a new-to-us restaurant in Indianapolis when we first got in town. We had homemade eggs and bacon for breakfast the next morning, then went to yoga while our husbands went a new-to-them brewery downtown. After yoga we had gluten-free, dairy-free pizza from a local fav, then planned our evening meal and acquired our New Year’s Eve libations. Foodie RN drinks Proseco and I stuck with hard cider (the drier the better). We spent the rest of the evening playing euchre, visiting with a few other friends who made guest appearances, and watching the ball drop.


In the midst of our NYE festivities we also got to record an upcoming episode of Real Foodie Friends podcast, which will air on January 18, 2016. I may be partial, but I am pretty sure it is our best one yet. We talk about the new year, why Kristi likes to set New Year’s resolutions and why I do not.


During the podcast I listed my core desired feelings as described by Danielle LaPorte in the Desire Map. These will guide me in making decisions, setting goals and determining what is most important to me on a daily basis. These are purpose, connection, freedom and assertiveness.


As soon as I logged into Instagram this morning I saw posts from Mark Hyman, MD and Danielle LaPorte that were in direct alignment with these core desired feelings. I am clearly on the right path to feeling, serving and living better with these core desired feelings rather than the achieving associated with setting resolutions.



























Foodie RN and I both follow the works of Danielle LaPorte and Gretchen Rubin. Because of Gretchen Rubin I understand it is likely my questioner tendency that prevents me from setting New Year’s resolutions. January 1st feels like an arbitrary number. If I discover a need for change, then I embark on that journey at the time of awareness. I also do not think very highly of setting resolutions that are focused on outcomes. To me, these lack purpose and just set me up for failure.


The purist in me wants to bring it to your attention that a resolution is not the same thing as an outcome. My friend Merriam-Webster defines resolution as “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.: the act of resolving something: an answer or solution to something.” She defines an outcome as, “something that happens as a result of an activity or process.” So the Grateful Guts translation is that a resolution is the behavior change strategy created to achieve a specific outcome.


Usually a behavior change strategy has a broad reach, so if you are setting a resolution, then do you still measure your success on a single outcome? Consider that you want to lose weight (outcome). You decide to stop drinking soda (resolution to changing your behavior that creates the problem of consuming too many sugary calories). You might notice you feel less bloated and have less heartburn, because there is less air in your belly from the carbonation and less acid from additives. You might also notice more consistent energy throughout the day, because you are not on a blood sugar roller coaster with high energy immediately after the soda and a crash an hour or two later. You might actually sleep better, because you have less heartburn and less caffeine, which can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Better sleep also results in more consistent energy throughout the day, improved moods and (gasp) improved weight management (foreshadowing for another blog post on the association between sleep and weight management).


What happens if you had all of those positive outcomes, but still do not lose weight? Did you fail? NO! You successfully met your resolution because you stopped drinking soda. You improved your health, but did not lose weight…big deal. Try something else. Better yet, come talk to me or another functional health practitioner who can help you determine where to focus your efforts and continue improving your health to get the targeted results you are desire.


My aversion to resolutions that are outcome oriented is the reason why I rarely post before and after photos. The shape of your body is less important than the way it feels and your level of health. There is so much information that cannot be portrayed in a one dimensional photo.


Let me share a story if I may. My sister lives with hypothyroidism and Meneire’s disease. She struggles with weight management, feeling cold and tired, losing her hair, covering up acne, regulating her menstrual cycle and managing vertigo that can be very debilitating. At the beginning of 2015 we did an elimination and re-introduction program focusing on nutrition. Her initial goal was to lose weight. While I spent a considerable amount of time discussing that the weight is another symptom of her health status rather than cause of her states of dis-ease, it took her own personal experience to shift her perspective on how healthy feels and what it means to her. Throughout the 6 weeks of the program she did not lose weight, but she discovered gluten exacerbates her symptoms. In the last year since changing her diet alone, her energy has improved, her hair stopped falling out, her skin does not breakout, her menstrual cycles are regular and her vertigo episodes are less frequent and less severe. She now has purpose in maintaining a gluten free lifestyle, rather than following a short-term diet for weight loss. And now she is also connected to her body in ways that help her make decisions about how she feeds it and manages the symptoms related to her dis-eases.


While I do not set New Year’s resolutions I do believe in creating goals for changing my behaviors to achieve my core desired feelings. This is different than resolutions, because the core desired feelings guide my actions. I am free to change and adjust my goals and strategies based on how they align with my core desired feelings.


Danielle LaPorte in The Desire Map also discusses letting go of outcomes. I love this. I can create behavior change strategies to achieve a specific feeling, but I do not have expectations about the outcome. I want to achieve financial freedom. Many would think of this as getting rich. If I also held this belief, then I would fail this year if I did not acquire an abundance of wealth. So the approach I am taking is to first to stop fearing finances. One of my behavior change strategies is to listen to 1 podcast each week on personal finances in order to get more educated and shift my perspective about money. In three months I may be ready to take different action. My behavior change strategy will likely change.  I can change goals and strategies as I grow and develop in relation to this topic. I am not held to an unrealistic expectation.


The same is also true for innumerable health-related core desired feelings. Look at my sister. After learning about her gluten intolerance she shifted her perspective away from losing weight and towards achieving improved health. She succeeded in 2015. Hopefully I can get her to check in with me again for a 2016 update.


Foodie RN and I will do a follow up podcast on her resolutions and my progress towards achieving core desired feelings in three months. We both think it will be a much different conversation.


For now I am done writing about New Year’s and I am ready to start living in it. No quick tips for this post. Figure out what works for you, and then set some strategies to support change.



Grateful Guts Approved Fudge


I am alIMG_3884ways modifying recipes and making my favorites Grateful Guts approved. Some dishes turn out much better than others. For instance, my grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free ginger snap cookies tasted so good. The texture though was awful. It was chewy and leathery and not comforting at all. Not sure there was enough coffee in the world to soften those to an edible consistency.


Anyway, I digress…the reason for this post is to share a super success. The best ever, Grateful Guts-approved fudge was created from a vegan recipe I found online. Admittedly I took inspiration from an existing recipe posted on www.babble.com, but the final product is all mine…and soon to be yours because even the worst cook in the word could make this super simple fudge.



¾ cup coconut oil

½ cup coconut butter

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, then add a little extra for dusting at the end

½ cup maple syrup

pinch of sea salt

½ cup freeze dried strawberries (any kind will work)

¼ cup chia seeds

2 tablespoons semi sweet mini chocolate chip (Enjoy Life is my favorite and allergen free)



Line a square pan with parchment paper that covers the bottom and all the way up the sides. My pan was 6” square.


Combine coconut oil and coconut butter in a double boiler until melted and smooth. Actually I just want to sound like a fancy cook. I do not have a double boiler, so I put a medium glass mixing bowl over a small sauce pan of boiling water. It works the same.


Add the cocoa powder to melted coconut mixture and whisk until combined, then stir in the maple syrup and salt.


Remove mixture from heat.


Add the freeze dried fruit, chia seeds and chocolate chips, gently stirring so the fruit does not break into powdery particles. Also, work quickly so the chocolate chips do not melt completely. They add good texture in the final product.


Pour mixture into parchment lined pan and refrigerate until set. Mine took a little over an hour, but the total time will depend on the size of your pan and how thick the fudge is.


Cut fudge into smaller squares. I like 2-3 bites per square personally, and no I do not have an exact size for that. The easiest way to do this is to life the fudge out of the pan using the parchment paper as a sling. Cut with a sharp knife.


Dust with cocoa powder to garnish.


Keep it chilled to maintain texture. Coconut oil starts to soften when it gets warmer than 76 degrees.



Confessions of a Real Food Dietitian: Why I Oversnack

I have been dealing with my own special flavors of stress recently. They have come in the form of snap pea crisps, flaxseed crackers, copious amounts of dark chocolate and honey crisp apples. I know, I know…seriously these have been my snacks. I mean really, who can relate to snap pea crisps as a guilty pleasure? Well, I can, and I do.


Frankly the form of the snack does not matter. The point is I know I am not the only one who has gone through some shit using food as a coping mechanism. While I do not condone it, I have to admit I am susceptible to it and have to figure out how to deal with it myself…because they did not teach me this in grad school.


While I am not ready to divulge all the glorious details of my personal struggles, I can say that recently I have felt disappointed, unfulfilled and unsatisfied, and somewhat cheated. The other day in the midst of my own private pity party I had several realizations.


First, my excessive snacking is always done in private. Anyone who has studied psychology or understands connections between food and emotions is aware that privacy is often associated with shame. I could probably write an entirely separate blog post on that. Instead I will briefly acknowledge that my shame centers around feeling unworthy of such personal distress because there are many others with worse problems than mine. I should also acknowledge that there is a little part of my professional persona who is insulted that I have food-related issues. I know better than this, right?  And now, I will rely on Brene Brown’s work to fill in the rest of the gaps.


My second realization is that my food selections have been very intentional, in only a way that a highly trained nutrition professional can justify…nutrient dense and high fiber with adequate sensory perception. See what I did there? Let’s be honest though. Food should not be justified. We are either hungry or we are not. In the setting of a private pity party food is providing the entertainment. It is not a necessity.


The third realization has been the most profound and the hardest to admit. I have used food to fill the emotional voids left from feeling disappointed, unfulfilled and unsatisfied. I select foods that I like, because I know what to expect as I eat them and am rarely disappointed in their flavor or texture. The excess is an opportunity for fulfillment, but usually there is a let down when I get to the end of the bag or take the last bite and realize that I want more. The operative word in that last sentence is want. I know I do not need more, but I want more because I am not satisfied.


My pattern of snacking and trying unsuccessfully to make an emotional connection with food is not unique in the least. There are volumes of nutrition and psychology texts written about this and probably even more self-help books. Most people cannot relate to a textbook. It is also difficult to practically apply the tips and solutions offered in self-help books, so I decided to keep it personal and practical by sharing what I am doing right now…and if I am being totally honest, this blog post serves as my own accountability for improving my coping skills. I hope to lead by example, so here goes:


  1. I try not to eat alone, unless I am truly hungry. I have nothing to hide, because when I eat I need nourishment.
  2. I recognize true hunger by my willingness to eat whatever is available (within my real food philosophy of course…I am not sure if I will ever be hungry enough to eat Twinkies or Ritz crackers with spray cheese again). I can also recognize that I am hungry if I become shaky, a little anxious or have difficulty concentrating. Sometimes my stomach growls really loudly too. If I stand in front of the fridge letting out cold air, or I stare into the pantry until I am glazed over and complaining that there is nothing to eat, then I am not really hungry.
  3. I acknowledge when I feel like shit and do not try to cover it up with fake gratitude. One of my favorite authors and life coaches, the late Debbie Ford, used to say, “Do not pile ice cream on top of poop.” I love that! I have to recognize how and why I feel this way before I can shift my perspective. I believe in the power of positive thinking, and know that once I can acknowledge the situation, then I can choose to feel or respond differently.
  4. I try to find distractions. For me a distraction is a good workout or a quick walk. I also tend to text with the other half of my brain residing in California. It is surprising that her name and number are not burned into the top of the screen on my phone. Before my wedding I dealt with stress by hand painting all of my thank you cards with water color flowers. And last year I dealt with my winter blues by arm-knitting a ridiculous amount of infinity scarves. The key to finding a successful distraction for me is finding a physical feeling or emotion that can override the overwhelming. It is likely that there is a psychologist (educated or armchair) out there who could tell me all the reasons why these are not functional ways to cope, but they work for me for now.
  5. I try to make a better decisions the next time.

Happy Holidays 2015 – Figure It Out

What kind of health coach or dietitian would I be if I didn’t at least mention the holidays this week…or for the next six? We are going to be surrounded by food. We are going to try and stick with our fitness plans. And by all means, we are all going to have fun! That being said, many people get hung up on the “surrounded by food” part. There are so many tips and tricks intended to keep us healthy, thin and “on track.” If this blog post could talk, then you would hear the sarcasm dripping from the last sentence. I mean really, health is relative, thin is an adjective (or is it an adverb…my Grandma would be disappointed in my grammar skills) that has no bearing on our worth as an individual, and “on track” implies that we are going somewhere other than the present moment. In other words, if healthy, thin and on track are what keeps us pre-occupied and up at night, then we are not present people. Let’s all take a breath and enjoy the moment!


So, here is my take on managing our holidays, our waistlines, your blood sugar and your sanity.

  1. Figure out if you are an abstainer or a moderator.
    Gretchen Rubin has created some wonderful work that is apropos to this time of year.  (Side note, Gretchen Rubin has no idea I exist and does not know that I have been bingeing on all of her work recently. Perhaps that can give you some insight into my personality.) Abstainers completely avoid a trigger because once they start, they can’t stop.  Telling an abstainer to take a small portion of pie or to stop at one cocktail is like trying to dodge snow flakes during a Michiana winter. Moderators, though, can indulge in a little bit without overindulging. One bite is enough to satisfy their sweet tooth.  They are like modern Brylcreem ads, “a little dab’ll do ya.’” (Google it, the YouTube videos of the 1950s commercials are awesome…but I digress).I happen to be an abstainer. I am fine if it is out of sight and out of mind, but an entire tray of Erin-friendly cookies is just asking to be consumed all in one night. This means that holiday buffets in the kitchen are the worst way for me to manage my waistline and my blood sugar. Incidentally if I feel that either one of these are even slightly out of whack, then I may temporarily lose the sanity we all work so hard to maintain this time of year.
  1. Figure out your trigger.
    Triggers are often food and/or drink related. A simple personal reflection is in order here. It does not even require a fancy quiz or highly educated professional. What do you tend to enjoy in excess? Do you need to remove the trigger completely in order to manage behavior and honor your health habit? Or, will you feel deprived if it’s gone completely and risk a mini-binge if the temptation becomes too strong without it?My over indulgences are desserts.  There are some that I have to completely abstain from and others that I have to work really hard to moderate. I can completely abstain from desserts and snacks like breads, cakes, crackers and candied pecans.  In the last year I committed to being gluten-free, dairy-free, and I reluctantly stopped eating nuts and seeds once I saw how these foods were affecting me. Now I do not crave them or cave into them, because the consequences of indulging outweighs the pleasure.  Erin-friendly desserts, especially ones with fruit, dairy-free caramel and chocolate, on the other hand are still triggers. I know these will be around in abundance this holiday season. If I try to completely avoid them, then at some point I will over-indulge in a mindless-eating moment. And, let’s be honest, when there is good company, a variety of libations and so many fun festivities, mindless eating will occur. It’s best to figure out how to deal, rather than get caught off guard, feeling like our will-power failed.
  2. Figure out how to deal with it.
    If I may borrow from the work of Gretchen Rubin again, then we understand that some people like plans and strategies that create an internal expectation of how they will respond when faced with a holiday health crisis. Other people need an accountability partner to set an external expectation related to how they will react in a given situation. Still others will likely rebel from any rule-setting, expectation-generating plan, but may be able to manage their holiday habits once they know and accept the consequences of their actions.I am going to totally copout on this one. I do not have the answer for you, and honestly the holiday hacks for cutting calories and keeping you healthy do not work for most people. This is not a bah humbug moment. It is just a reality check, and a moment for me to get a little sickeningly sweet. During this holiday season give yourself permission to not be perfect. You may indulge (which is an event, not a lifestyle) or you may abstain. Either way it perfectly acceptable as long as it is your choice. You may have fun. You may say yes, and you may say no. Let’s spend this holiday guilt-free…not because the cookies are lacking calories or because we ran off last night’s dinner, but because we want to feel good and feel connected to our family, friends and the spirit of the holidays. As Gretchen Rubin’s tireless review of the research suggests, strong relationships are the best indicators of happiness, which is also an integral component of healthy.



Real Food Late Night Snacks

There are about as many reasons why we eat late at night as there are snack options.  My most frequent response to the “4th meal” debate, “It depends.”  Usually I want to know the when, what, why, where and how of your snacking habits.

When – Timing is important for snacking.  Despite popular belief eating before bed will not necessarily cause weight gain.  Your body still requires energy (aka calories) while you sleep.  There are also some foods and beverages that are calming and can aid in relaxation or falling asleep, while others can keep you up.  More on that in the What section.

  • Snack – If you eat dinner around 5 or 6 p.m. and go to bed after midnight, then eating a snack around 9 or 10 p.m. is completely acceptable…assuming you are making a quality, real food snack.
  • Don’t snack – Snacking too close to when you plan to get horizontal for some shut eye can make it difficult to sleep.  People who experience reflux, heart burn, GERD…whatever you want to call it…should not eat within 2 hours of bedtime.  Check out my post Feel the (Not So Good) Burn for more info.

What – If you select your food and beverage choices carefully, then your bedtime snack might actually help you fall asleep and sustain your blood sugar overnight.  On the other hand if you do not make the wisest, real food choices, then you could be wide when you would rather be sleeping.

  • Snack – Having more carbohydrates later in the evening or as a night-time snack has been shown to aid in sleep induction, meaning it can help you fall asleep faster.  (Am J Clin Nutr February 2007 vol. 85 no 2 426-430).  There is also evidence that indicates foods or beverages that contain glycine, such as bone broth, gelatin powder, animal skins or meat directly off the bone, aids in sleep.  For the fellow science nerds, a higher glycemic load (more carbs) increases plasma levels of tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin.  Besides being the “feel good,” serotonin is neurotransmitter that can be a sleep-inducing agent.  I am still reading about all of the wonderful effects of glycine.  I have recently learned though that it can reduce core body temperature, which is strongly correlated with circadian oscillation.  Our circadian rhythm is also known as our sleep-wake cycle.  When our core body temperature is at its lowest we are at our most rested state.  As our core body temperature increases we awaken.   The Journal of Pharmacological Studies has just one of the articles I reviewed for evidence-based information related to glycine and sleep (J Pharmacy Sci 118, 145-148 (2012)).  So what would appropriate real food snacks look like?
    • 8 ounces of home made bone broth
    • 1/2 baked sweet potato with 1 teaspoon coconut oil or ghee and a sprinkle of vanilla salt
    • 1/2 peach, pear or apple roasted, topped with 1 tablespoon heavy cream or coconut oil and chopped walnuts, then sprinkled with cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup vanilla chia seed pudding (adapted from Whole Foods Market recipe) – Combine all ingredients into large bowl and soak overnight.
      • 2/3 cup chia seeds
      • 2/3 cup full fat coconut milk
      • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
      • 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
      • 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Don’t snack – Foods that are high in pure protein, such as fish, lean white meat chicken or pork or even beef jerky, have a higher thermodynamic effect.  It takes more energy to digest these foods.  More energy required for digestions means increased  body temperature.  Caffeine can also be a huge contributor to sleep disturbance.  The effects of caffeine peak within 30-40 minutes of ingestion, however it can take 5-1o hours for it to be completely eliminated from your body.  While having a cup or two of coffee early in the morning will not affect your quality of sleep later that night, drinking a cup or two in the afternoon might.  Avoid caffeinated beverages including coffee, teas, sodas and of course energy drinks.  If you are super sensitive to stimulants, then you will want to avoid chocolate as well.  Theobromine is a naturally occurring chemical in chocolate that acts similar to caffeine.  Its effects are not nearly as strong as caffeine, but it can still disturb sleep.

Why – This part of the snacking equation may be a bit more difficult to ascertain.  There is no eat-this-not-that food selection here.  This part actually requires you think about your feelings and reasons for snacking.    Typically I see 3 main reasons why people need or want snacks.

  • The first reason is that they simply are not eating enough throughout the day or their intake is imbalanced and missing one of the major macronutrients, so they are actually hungry.  This is common for people who are dieting to lose weight by eliminating a specific nutrient (i.e. low fat diet or low carb diet).  This can also be experienced by people who have intense workouts in the evening time.  Carbohydrates are important for replacing glycogen stores, which are not repleted if following strictly low carb diets without allowances for increased carbohydrate intake after heavy workouts.
  • A second reason why people want to snack before bed is often related to emotional eating or boredom.  If you stand in front of your refrigerator, freezer or pantry and say, “I’m hungry, but I don’t know what I want,” then you are almost certainly not hungry.  Take a time out for a little reflection.  Is there a need you have that is currently being unmet emotionally?  Are you trying to stuff your insides with foods to create a physical sensation that masks the emotional sensations you are trying to avoid?  We could get deeper, and likely most of us should.  Sometimes understanding why we want to eat is more important that what we choose to eat.  Using food as a coping mechanism often means we are not listening to our body cues, so our “off-valve” does not work and we unintentionaly over-eat.
  • The third most common reason why people snack when they are not hungry is because they haven’t stopped to relax during the day and they are simply in the habit of doing something all the time, they are in perpetual motion.

Where and How– The location of your snacking can overlap a little bit with the why of snacking and the how.  If the reason you are snacking is because you are super hungry and ready to eat anything in site, then you are less likely to make it to the table for proper set-up.  On the flip side if you want to sit on the couch and watch TV while munching away, then you are likely not that hungry.  The key to effective snacking is ensuring that you are in a relaxed environment, at a table and free from distractions.  So these dos and don’ts may go without saying:

  • Snack – Put a small portion of food on a plate or in a bowl, get a proper utensil and take the items to a table.  Remove all distractions, including phone and electronic devices, TV, newspaper, books, mail, work etc.  Focus on your food.  With this method you will only eat until you are full.  If you are not really hungry, then this method will also mean you eat less than you would elsewhere because you will get bored and not want to keep eating…in other words you will recognize that the food is not serving the purpose you assigned to it.
  • Don’t snack – If following the above Snack strategy feels too cumbersome, then do not snack.  Try to find some other way to distract yourself for 15-20 minutes.  Go for a walk.  Call a friend.  Watch TV.  Relax with some deep breathing exercises.  If you are still hungry after 15-20 minutes, then set up your snacking space and go back to the above listed Snack strategy.  Whatever you do, do not snack in front of the TV with an open bag, box, carton or container.  That never ends well.

If you have questions or comments about snacking or curbing your late night noshing, then please feel free to email or call me.  Otherwise, enjoy your food, stay active and have fun.


Accepting Imperfections

There have been a lot of changes in my life in last several years.  I am very grateful for all of the experiences these provided, and for all of the success along the way. I have also learned a few lessons that only came from acknowledging my flaws, admitting mistakes and accepting my own imperfections.
Accepting imperfection has been a lesson I have learned over and over and over again. As a high school athlete I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best. Most of the time I was not, but I still worked my ass off to try and be the best. In college I kept working out like I was training for the biggest event of my life all because I was striving to have the perfect body. No matter how much weight I lost (which was never very much), or how much weight I gained (which happened more than I preferred), I was never satisfied with myself.
This focus on imperfection has carried itself well into my adulthood. Admittedly it has taken on many different variations, but nonetheless, if there was just one more thing I could change, then I would _________ (fill in the blank with any number of responses). And, if you are being totally honest with yourself, how often have you felt this way, just one more thing to change before you actually feel good about yourself, feel worthy or good enough?
Now I actually have a much healthier relationship with my body and I like to think I am a little kinder to myself in general. I tend to focus more on how I feel, rather than how I look. Sure there are still times I wish I could find the perfect pair of jeans that fit my waist, hips and quadzilla thighs that do not require a set of air squats until they fit just right. I would like to be less emphatic when I get riled up about something, so that people don’t look at me and say, “whoa,” or worse, “calm down.” Through some of these imperfections though I have discovered a few things that I really like about myself. I have great shoulders and the strength to do some killer push ups. My thighs are very muscular, which allows me to ride my bike and go for long walks.  And of course all of the energy I release when I get riled up about something is simply a manifestation of my passion.
Today I am learning to accept a new set of imperfections. I am starting my own private practice as a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer, which means I am becoming a business owner. I am building my own website, writing my own blog, sharing more of my own stories than ever before. I am feeling very vulnerable at times, inadequate at other times and super excited.  I read through my previous blog posts and see 45 things I should have done differently or that I should fix…from typos to poor word choices, bad grammar and foul language.  For right now though I am going to continue accepting these imperfections and focus on the lessons to learn, rather than what is wrong.
Instead of ending this blog post with my top five tips for some food, fitness or fun strategy, I am going to ask that you too accept imperfections.  I ask that you accept my imperfections and give me a little wiggle room for learning how to develop my skill sets as an entrepreneur and how to build your trust.  I also ask that you accept your own imperfections, give yourself a little wiggle room for learning your own lessons and being more comfortable than perfect.

How I Got Rid of Adult Acne

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 1.19.26 PM
Even thinking about adult acne makes me cringe.  I mean really, anyone who has had big, fat, red zits as an adult can relate to the pain and even embarrassment of the unsightly blobs.  My story is unique to me, because the last time I checked every physical body is different from another.  There may still be parts of my experience to which you can relate.  For those of you with acne who cannot relate to my story, keep reading! There are some strategies for acne-management that are still effective for you.
So, my zits were cystic and red and painful.  They were hard round bumps that wouldn’t just go away either.  Zits as a teenager came and went for me in like 2 or 3 days.  As an adult they lingered, sometimes for months.  I’m not kidding.  It was awful.  The discoloration of my skin was a reminder that haha, puberty might be over, but your hormones are still all jacked up.  I just wanted to flip off mother nature while sarcastically saying, “Thanks for the experience.”
The first round of adult acne came in my mid to late 20s, perfectly timed right before I got married.  At the time I was not fully integrated into the nutrition and functional medicine world as I am now, though I was resistant to taking oral medications for it.  So, I decided to see a dermatologist, who quickly prescribed multiple creams that most teenagers use.  Guest what, they didn’t work.  Why? Because hello…I was not a teenager and, although I didn’t realize it at the time my acne was not a dermatological problem!  The retinol A was so harsh on my skin that it made other areas breakout in red, itchy splotches. Round 2 of treatment came in the form of blue light therapy to which I did not respond well.  On top of the treatment itself, I had to take steroids to control the inflammation and ran a low grade fever for several days.  People were also scared to look at me for a good 2 weeks, during which time I got more zits.  That was so frustrating, and I was mortified at what I had done to myself.  The dermatologist office said it was just a bad reaction, but it was still “normal” and recommended that I come back in for another treatment.  Um no thanks.  Like any polite, skeptical patient, I just ignored their recommendation and never went back.  So, after that I tried Proactive, which also didn’t work…duh…read the ingredients.
As I continued to seek solutions for my acne I also started noticing other signs of dysfunction.  My blood sugar would drop too low after workouts and big meals, so my level of hangry was off the charts.  I was stressed out all the time, worked too much and studied too much. I also had a bad habit of working out like a crazy person.  And to bring it all together my menstrual cycle was unpleasantly unpredictable.  For some one who wants to be the epitome of healthy, there was a lot of shit going wrong.  Excuse my language, but I don’t feel hormone imbalances and adult acne are polite, so I don’t want to be polite when discussing it.
I finally found an osteopathic physician with a functional medicine approach.  After changing my diet and taking a ton of supplements I finally had better control of most of my ailments and happily discovered my skin was clearing up.  The good news is this lasted for several years.  The bad news is I did not maintain all of those lifestyle changes and I got a fresh round of zits 8 years later.
Fast forward to now, when I have a master’s in dietetics, an obsession with functional medicine and access to quality food and supplements, and I am cured!  Well, maybe cured is a strong word.  I now have an understanding of what causes my zits and how to manage it.  I have also gone through cycles of being willing to make necessary changes and seeing good results, then getting lax and living with more zits.
So, what’s my deal?  I have poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).  Approximately 5-10% of women of childbearing age have PCOS.  There is not one singular test that diagnoses PCOS, rather it is a cluster of symptoms that may include weight gain, hormonal imbalances such as insulin resistance and excess androgens (fancy way of saying higher than normal testosterone levels), excess hair growth in unsightly areas (chin, upper lip, areolas), acne and multiple cysts on ovaries or enlarged ovaries.  I’ve experienced all of these symptoms at one point or another. What’s even more exciting is that the hormone imbalances also cause mood swings and some of the more notable signs (excess hair and acne) really took a toll on my body image.
So, what did I do about it?
  1. Work with qualified health professionals to get the support I need for determining which changes are most important and what supplements may be most helpful FOR ME!
  2. Eat more fresh vegetables than any other type of food.  I use the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 to guide me through the world of organics.  I eat a minimum of 1 serving of vegetables with every meal.  Most days I consume over 1 pound of vegetables.
  3. Limit fruit, avoid all fruit juices and shun all sugar sweetened beverages.  Fruit is not bad because it contains a lot of great vitamins and minerals and it has fiber…yay fiber!  Fruit does have a lot of naturally occurring sugar though.  Because I have had insulin resistance and fluctuating blood sugar levels I do not need to add to the problem by dumping more sugar into it and making my body work harder.  I typically eat 2 servings or less of fruit each day.
  4. Consume grass fed, free range animal products and wild caught fish.  Conventionally raised animal products contain added hormones to increase the rate of growth and size of the animal.  Clearly I do not need extra hormones, since as I mentioned earlier mine are all out of whack.  Grass fed, free range or pasture-raised animals have some other health benefits, such as higher amounts of essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids that fight inflammation and vitamin K2, among several others. (Explaining all the goodness of vitamins and minerals will have to be saved for another blog post.)
  5. Drink more water and less alcohol, in fact, avoid alcohol most of the time.  I do not drink heavily, but I do enjoy wine and hard cider.  I love dark beer, but don’t drink it anymore because it contains gluten.  Alcohol itself is an endocrine disruptor, which is another fancy term with a simple meaning and basically sends your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride which is hard to control for several days after consumption.  The beauty of drinking more water is that it helps us get rid of a variety of toxins.
  6. Avoid dairy, gluten, soy, nuts and seeds. 


·      Dairy is one of the most common food sensitivities.  Dr. Sara Gottfried provides a great overview of dairy’s effect on hormones and health in The Hormone Reset Diet.  Approximately 75% of people cannot make the enzyme, lactase, needed to breakdown lactose, which is the naturally occurring sugar found in milk.  It is a major cause of inflammation for many people who are sensitive to a specific milk protein known as casein. Conventional dairy has also been linked to rises in growth hormone and insulin, both of which trigger fat deposition (increased weight gain) and blood sugar dysregulation.  For me the bottom line is I get zits.  No amount of scientific evidence is as strong as my own personal experience.
·      Gluten is found in barley, wheat and rye.  It is a food glue used in a gazillion different processed foods, most of which we are completely oblivious to because the food label does not say gluten, barley, wheat or rye.  Gluten itself is a protein that provides structure to many baked goods.  Unfortunately, it too is on the list of the top 8 most allergic foods.  The problem is our guts really do not know what to do with gluten.  When our guts are not working perfectly, which let’s face it most of our guts are not, gluten damages the tight junctions that maintain the integrity of our gut lining.  When the gut lining is damaged the large gluten molecules can leak out of the gut and into the blood stream and cause a variety of reactions, such as skin rashes and acne, dry coughs and brain fog just to name a few.
·      Soy, nuts and seeds are all plant-based food sources that may be very healthy for other people.  For me though, these foods contain an excess of phytoestrogens.  This plant-based version of the hormone estrogen found in the human body exacerbates hormonal imbalances.  In my case it further increased estrogen dominance and made PMS symptoms even worse.  I’ll spare you the details of my monthly discomforts, but suffice it to say I can control them through mindful eating and managing my hormones.
Let me also be super honest and say that despite knowing this information and understanding all of the science (which I did not include in the blog post…waiting on my future book deal for that…kidding), I still stopped and started dairy like 14 times.  I am also well-aware that I have been “glutened” while dining out and on very rare occasions have knowingly consumed it.  It also took me the longest to even recognize that I am not able to tolerate nuts and seeds.  The bottom line is that this is a lifestyle change.  It comes with the traditional learning curves of any change and has led me through a number of successes and failures along the way.  All in all, I have learned a great deal about myself and how food affects my health.
Since I am still alive and well I cannot say “the end” to this story.  The journey continues, but for now I am done sharing.  Go forth and prosper, and I will do so gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free.  Be well.