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Finding the balance of physical and mental health through adventures and fitness

Monthly Archives: January 2018

“Some people can’t believe in themselves until someone else believes in them first.”– Sean Maguire, from Good Will Hunting

I can be like this.

But,  it used to be worse.

I used to feel – I used to believe that I couldn’t do great things unless someone else saw it in me to. That kind of thinking got me no where. That kind of thinking caused me to set goals that never really were about me. I’m a little more risky with my goals now, but I still look on with caution at times.

I think we all need some kind of validation that we’re making the right moves.

I was driving in the car the other day and I had the radio on, which may seem like a normal thing. But sometime over the summer when I was figuring out my life for lack of a better phrase, I found myself stuck on sports talk radio. I know that’s really weird and JP doesn’t understand it either, but I found myself unable to change the radio station.  However, about a month ago, I started playing with the buttons to find something else.

Again, this is weird for many people, but to me it makes sense and for others with anxiety or trauma in their past, it’s going to make sense to. Voices that seemed calming for a few months with concepts that I had to focus on so I understood the discussion weren’t necessary anymore. I didn’t need to hear those specific voices over the airways any more to get through my drive.

So, I’m driving and I’m listening to the radio and the guest of a show talks about how when we are determined to achieve something we look forward at what is still yet to come. He said, it’s reasonable to reflect because we do need to think about where we came from sometimes.

He then continued to compare it to driving.

You drive by looking forward. Yes, you do use the rearview mirror or side mirrors to see what’s happening behind you, but if you continued to look that way the whole time you’d crash. He explained that to move forward you need to see straight ahead of you and with a wide windshield you can see so much more road than you do in the overhead mirror looking back.

I don’t know why, but this just clicked and then the skies open up and things felt good… no, not really, but it did click.

I didn’t think I would ever be here. I’ve said that before. But with the first week of classes behind me, I really never thought I would be here. When I started this degree, it was solely to be able to be more educated and better qualified to assist others.

I think experience is important. For me it was hard to listen to a doctor who had never been overweight or never struggled with their health in the ways I had. It was hard to connect with people that couldn’t empathize with me about how I saw or felt the world. I think experience is necessary to be able to see the world from multiple points of view, but I also believe you need education behind you to further that experience or provide some foundation.

I know people can be successful with one or the other, but for me, I want both because you don’t know what you don’t know until you learn what you didn’t know.

Thinking about the conversations in class and the state of affairs of healthcare and health education and stigma in general – I’m thinking more about population health. That’s what public health is anyway. I found it interesting because it intersects everything I practice and preach – mental and physical as well as how social relationships make an impact on both of those aspects of health. Population health asks how do we assist large groups of people, how do we to educate different populations at their level, how do we create an environment where people who want help can ask for it, how to provide resources and tools to prevent illness and disease.

I love working with clients on an individual level, but if there isn’t access to basic needs like healthy food options for the short term, they won’t be able to see how to create a plan for the long term.

It’s weird to say that coaching may never be full-time like I thought I wanted it to be, but I think that also means that there’s more possibilities than I imagined. I guess the road is wider and continues on.

I think working with individuals has shown me that I can teach, that I can make a difference in how someone sees themselves and therefore sets, works towards and achieves their goals. Going back to school has shown me that it can start with an interest and with hard work, it can become more than Googling research articles for fun.

We all have doubt.  I have doubt. But little things over time can help us change how we see ourselves and our abilities.

Week one of the spring semester done, fifteen more until graduation.

Let’s make some magic happen.

❤ Cristina

 

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Did anyone else feel bad for Regina George when she was duped by Cady Herron when she asked if butter was a carb? I found myself laughing at the time the movie came out, but after a year of working with clients and more time talking with others, it’s clear that it can be hard for people to think about food in terms of their macro nutrients, especially carbohydrates.

So what is a carbohydrate and why is it important?

This post will talk about the what because it’s slightly more complicated that you think. There’s a little bit of the why in here, but that will mostly come in the next post.

Ok, so what are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the first source of energy for us. They are fuel for us when we are sitting, sleeping, exercising or thinking of doing all of those things.

The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) suggests that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65% of your diet…if you’re consuming 2,000 calories a day. We’ll talk about this more in the next post because I think it’s safe to say that most people won’t fit these guidelines.

The Institute of Medicine set the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)  for carbohydrate intake to a minimum of 130g a day. Obviously, this amount wouldn’t fit the AMDR – it would be too little based off a 2,000 calorie diet. The RDA number is set based off the estimated minimum use of glucose for the brain for an average body, which means it’s relative (Institute of Medicine, 2005). It might be slightly lower or slightly higher.

Since we have some of those basics out of the way, let’s start small, molecular small.

This is where biology and chemistry meet.

Carbohydrate means hydrated carbon (Reece, Taylor, Simon, Dickey, & Hogan, 2015). At the molecular level (and trust me this is helpful to know later) carbohydrates are made up of CH2O – 1 carbon, 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen. In biology we actually learned a little upbeat rhyme of the abbreviates to memorize the molecular make up for carbohydrates, lipids (fats), nucleic acid and protein: CHO CHO CHOPN CHON, but you had to study so you knew how many of each were needed. Moving on…

The simplest carbohydrate is a monosaccharide – you’ll find these in glucose and fructose, which are sugars that carbohydrates break down to (Reece, Taylor, Simon, Dickey, & Hogan, 2015). You’ll find fructose in fruit. Glucose can be found in corn syrup and plants and found in the blood stream after certain carbohydrates are consumed and broken down. No your blood isn’t made of corn syrup.

Below are the chemical layout for glucose and fructose at the molecular level so you can see the difference.

Glucose and Fructose molecules

When you add two monosaccharides together, they form a disaccharide. For this binding to happen, water has to be lost. This is how we get maltose, which is used to make beer, malt whiskey and malted milk candy (Thompson & Manore, 2015).

Below is a picture of maltose, so you can see how glucose joins together. It’s like they’re holding hands if molecules had hands.

 

maltose

We also get sucrose when glucose and fructose join together. Sucrose is found in plants and it’s how we get table sugar (Thompson & Manore, 2015).

Below is a picture of sucrose. See more water is lost. Goodbye H2O!

sucrose

A longer chain, known as a polysaccharide are made up of hundreds of thousands of monosaccharides connected by water loss. Starch is an example, this is found in plants and contains glucose mononers. Glucose is stored in us in the form of glycogen in our muscles as a form of energy.

There’s a lot of ‘oses.

Here’s a few other ‘oses:

  • galactose – doesn’t occur alone in foods. It combines with glucose to create lactose.
  • lactose – “milk sugar”. A common disaccharide found in cow’s milk and breast milk.
  • ribose – five-carbon monosaccharide produced in our bodies from eating other carbohydrates. Can be found in the genetic material in our cells

Knowing the information above can be helpful for this next part. Carbohydrates are considered either simple or complex (Thompson & Manore, 2015). Like stated above the simplest carbohydrate is a monosaccharide and consists of one sugar; disaccharides are also simple and consist of two molecules of sugar. As you imagine, the most complex is the polysaccharide that is made up of hundreds of thousands of monosaccharides.

What is considered simple?

  • fruit (fructose)
  • vegetables (fructose)
  • milk (lactose)
  • fermented beverages (maltose)
  • sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, table sugar, brown sugar (sucrose)

What is considered complex?

  • starches including grains like rice, wheat, corn, oats and barley
  • legumes like peas, beans and lentils
  • tubers like sweet potatoes and yam

The digestion process is different for each macronutrient (fat, carbohydrates and protein), which means they breakdown at different rates (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2017). Carbohydrates breakdown the fastest out of the macronutrients with fat being the slowest.

There are a few enzymes that help breakdown carbohydrates.

  • Salivary Amylase is found in the mouth in your saliva
  • Pancreatic Amylase and Maltase are found in the pancreatic juices (yes, gross I know) that are released into the small intestine to breakdown maltose
  • Sucrase and Lactase are found in the small intestine and help breakdown sucrose and lactose, respectively
*side note: when your body lacks the ability to create enough enzymes you may find intolerances like lactose in tolerant – you lack enough lactase enzyme to breakdown lactose. This can result in bloating or other digestive issues.

This is important to know the rate of digestion for a couple reasons:

1. Simple carbohydrates are digested and absorbed more easily causing a quicker energy utilization, which is why you may feel a “spike” in energy after eating something high in sugar, but then feel a “crash” later. This is also why individuals who are diabetic are encouraged to eat low-glycemic foods – foods that will breakdown at slower rates causing less of an increase in blood glucose since their bodies can’t produce insulin at all or don’t produce enough.

2. Our bodies can’t utilize complex carbohydrates in their consumed state, they need to be broken down to glucose (Thompson & Manore, 2015). These foods also contain fiber, which impacts how satiety controlling hormones are released (Chambers, McCrickerd, & Yeomans, 2015). This is why these foods keep us fuller longer even though protein has the highest satiety effect out of all three macronutrients.

When there’s not enough carbohydrates for this process the body turns to fat. To learn more about that, please check out this post.

Understanding the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates can be helpful for a  couple of reasons.

1. You can create a meal plan that combines complex carbohydrates with other foods to not only provide energy in the immediate time, but help you stay feeling full longer. That’s why oats and peanut butter “stick” with you for a long time. Being satisfied for a longer period of time prevents snacking and can assist you in staying in  caloric deficit if you are seeking fat loss.

2. You can create a meal plan that prevents or lessens “energy crashes”. Like stated above, complex carbohydrates take a longer time to breakdown a, which means glucose enters the blood slower so feeling tired or fatigued are less likely or are less impactful.

Carbohydrates that aren’t easily digested and broken down into this simple state are classified as fiber.

What is fiber?

Fiber is also a carbohydrate and is considered a polysaccharide, but it’s not easily digestible so it doesn’t provide energy to us (Thompson & Manore, 2015). There are two kinds of fiber:

  1. dietary – nondigestible parts of plants that make the form of the plant like leaves
  2. functional –  nondigestible parts of plants that are extracted or manufactured in a lab that is added to foods for health benefits

Even though fiber doesn’t provide energy to us, fiber is important because it helps regulate blood sugar. It also helps prevent constipation when consumed in a moderate (relative to an individual) amount, however, it can also cause constipation when over consumption occurs (also relative to an individual) (Anderson, et al., 2009). Foods with fiber also help regulate satiety hormone leptin, which tells our brains that we’re no longer hungry.

Currently, the recommended amount of fiber daily is 14g per 1,000 calories consumed, however, this number is relative to an individual and may be a little more or less based on your own caloric intake, weight and activity level. You should listen to your body to determine true needs. I personally need a little less fiber or I get bloated and constipated #everyonepoops.

 

 

Ok, so we know carbohydrates are the first source of energy for us. We know they breakdown at different rates. We know they’re relative to each individual. We know that they are found in fruits and veggies just like they are found in cookies and pizza.

Before we get into why they’re important and what the do for us, think about the carbohydrate sources you consume on a regular basis. Do they make you feel energized? Do you crash quickly in the day? Do you feel bloated? Do you combine simple and complex in your diet? Do you get enough fiber?

 

 

 

References

Anderson, J. W., Baird, P., Davis, R. H., Ferreri, S., Knudtson, M., Koraym, A., . . . Williams, C. L. (2009). Health Benefits of dietary Fiber. Nutrition Reviews, 188-205.

Chambers, L., McCrickerd, K., & Yeomans, M. R. (2015). Optimising Foods for Satiety. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 149-160.

Institute of Medicine. (2005). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017, December). Your Digestie Syste & How it Works. Retrieved from National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works

Reece, J. B., Taylor, M. R., Simon, E. J., Dickey, J. L., & Hogan, K. (2015). Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections. New York: Pearson Education.

Thompson, J., & Manore, M. (2015). Nutrition: An Applied Approach. San Francisco: Pearson Education.


Pizza is a weakness.

I’m not the only one that feels this way. We don’t really order take out because I’m going to want to eat the whole thing. No amount of lifestyle change has made an impact on how I feel about pizza.

I’ve talked about my own struggles with food and there are events in my history that my eating can be linked to – these are times of high stress, times my PTSD is triggered, times of anxiety. For me, like many people I’ve spoken to and worked with, removal of an item can be helpful, but it doesn’t necessarily teach us how to behave around that food.

One way I’ve learned how to behave and treat certain foods is to keep them around in moderation and make some of them on my own. Pizza is one of those foods.

This is easy and completely from scratch, so let’s get started with the dough.

Do you like a classic, standard crust or do you prefer a thinner crust? Choose your crust below.

Classic Crust

What You’ll Need

  • 3/4 cup +1 and 1/2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1/3 tablespoon of salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 3/4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of warm water (around 110 degrees)

Directions

  1. In a medium sized bowl combine flour and salt until blended well. Then make a well.
  2. Warm the water to 110 degree to active the yeast. Too cold or too hot can prevent the yeast from working. I used a cooking thermometer to determine exact temperature.
  3. Add water to the well and dump in yeast and sugar. Let is sit for about 10 minute until bubbly.
  4. Add olive oil to the well mix with a fork until most of the dough has formed a ball.
  5. Then using your hand kneed the rest of the flour and dough pieces into the dough ball.
  6. Let the dough rest in a greased bowl with a cover for about two hours so it can rise.
  7. On a counter or large flat surface, sprinkle some flour down so that your dough doesn’t stick.
  8. Wipe some flour on a rolling pin and roll your dough out to a 1/4 inch thickness.
  9. If you’re using a pizza stone, prep your pizza stone as necessary. I used a metal pizza tray, which I sprayed with cooking spray.
  10. Lay your rolled out dough on the baking stone or sheet.

This nutrition of the whole crust is  482 calories, 4.5g of fat, 84g of carbohydrates and 15g of protein.

Thin Crust

What You’ll Need

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/3 teaspoon baking powder (I used 1/4 teaspoon and 1/8 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/3 cup of water

Directions

  1. In a medium sized bowl combine dry ingredients until blended well.
  2. Add olive oil and water to flour mixture and mix with a fork until most of the dough has formed a ball.
  3. Then using your hand kneed the rest of the flour and dough pieces into the dough ball.
  4. Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. On a counter or large flat surface, sprinkle some flour down so that your dough doesn’t stick.
  6. Wipe some flour on a rolling pin and roll your dough out to a 1/4 inch thickness.
  7. If you’re using a pizza stone, prep your pizza stone as necessary. I used a metal pizza tray, which I sprayed with cooking spray.
  8. Lay your rolled out dough on the baking stone or sheet.

This nutrition of the whole crust is 620 calories, 20g of fat, 92g of carbohydrates and 16g of protein.

Now for toppings. This is where nutritional value can really change.

Pick your sauce. Pick your toppings and just be mindful.

Philly Cheeseteak Pizza

We went thin crust and sauceless because we made Philly Cheesesteak Pizza and felt that it had enough flavor that we wouldn’t be missing anything by not having sauce.

What You’ll Need:

  • 8 ounces top sirloin, sliced and pan-fried
  • 1 medium bell pepper – about 150 to 200g, sliced into strips
  • 1 small red onion – about 75g sliced into strips
  • 4 large mushrooms – 50g sliced
  • 56g of mozzarella provolone shredded cheese blend
  • 28g of Parmesan Romano shredded cheese blend

 

Directions

  1. Pre-heat your oven 425 degrees so it can warm up while you get your toppings ready.
  2. Trim excess fat off your steak and slice it into 1/4 inch thick strips, ours were about an inch or two long as well.
  3. Cook steak in a medium sized pan. You will use this pan for the veggies as well, so a medium to large pan is necessary. You can use olive oil or cooking spray if you think you’ll have issues with the meat sticking to the pan. We used a little bit of olive oil wiped with a paper towel.
  4. Cook steak about half way before removing it from the pan. It’ll continue to cook in the oven and no one likes dry steak. Spread evenly onto your crust.
  5. Using the same pan, add sliced veggies and sautee in the steak juices until tender. You can skip this step if you prefer crunchy veggies on your pizza.
  6. While your veggies cook, in a small bowl mix your shredded cheese.
  7. Sprinkle a small handful of cheese over the steak already on the crust.
  8. Add your cooked veggies to the crust. Try to spread them evenly. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining cheese to your crust as evenly as possible.
  10. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes depending on how crispy you like your pizza.

 

Nutritional Notes:

  • Fat content in dairy changed depending on the kind of cheese you buy, however, so does the melting. If you get a cheese that is lower in fat, it tends to be a little drier and won’t necessarily melt as well. If you want to go with a lower fat dairy, 2% still tastes good, melts and saves a gram or two on fat per serving.
  • Fat content in meat changes greatly depending on the cut. We used tri-tip sirloin steak, which has 9g of fat per 4 ounces according to the package we bought. Round, sirloin and top sirloin are the leanest cuts of steak.

We each ate half a pizza.

I also made a salad with tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli slaw and balsamic and oil.

When you’re cooking at home and cooking bulk or in an assembled way like a pizza is you make the best estimates for portions.

I know for certain that this WHOLE pizza was 61g of fat, 110g of carbohydrates and 86g of protein. We tried to spread the steak and cheese as evenly as possible and we got it cut pretty much down the middle.

I estimated that I ate about 30.5F (with 9.5g of saturated fat)/55C/43P or 667 calories.

Now before some of you freak out. Let’s discuss. The steak was pretty lean, the veggies were fresh veggies and the cheese was well under a standard portion at a restaurant.

I ate half a pizza, which was about four slices, completely loaded. If I compare this pizza to Domino’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza here’s what we get:

A medium Domino’s pizza is 8 slices and so is the large.

1 slice of medium Domino’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza has:

  • 230 calories
  • 10g of fat including 5g of saturated fat
  • 26g of carbohydrates
  • 10g of protein

So if I ate 4 slices of this pizza, I would’ve consumed 920 calories, 40g of fat (20g of saturated fat), 104g  of carbohydrates, 40g of protein.

1 slice of large Domino’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza has:

  • 310 calories
  • 13g of fat including 6g of saturated fat
  • 35g of carbohydrates
  • 14g of protein

So if I ate 4 slices of this pizza, I would’ve consumed 1,240 calories, 52g of fat (24g of saturated fat), 140g  of carbohydrates, 56g of protein.

I want us to be realistic.

I’m sure many of you are saying well that’s not a lot healthier than going out for pizza because I ate half the pie – but be honest with yourself. Will you stop at a slice or two? Will the ingredients you’re getting be fresh or lean or antibiotic free (if you’re into that kind of thing). I’m pro-greasy egg rolls, sometimes, but cooking at home provides you the advantage of choosing your ingredients and building your nutrition skillfully.

I could’ve stopped at two slices, but I also planned for this. I knew I would want more than two slices. Knowing we were having a later lunch with the football game around 1:30 pm and we ate more densely and didn’t eat dinner until about 7 pm, which was chicken breast and broccoli #balance.

We don’t always make loaded pizzas like this. Sometimes we do lean chicken breast and veggies. Sometimes we do individual pies so we can each have different toppings. We almost always put veggies on our pizzas so we can say we did so.

Both of the crust recipes can be used for calzones or personal sized pizzas if you want something more individual or have picky eaters. I think you get more volume by making it at home than you do out at a restaurant, but to each their own poison.

 

 

 


In 2016, I asked my friend Alicia to write about what it was like to be a college kid trying to be fit, and trying to figure out what health meant for her. She wrote three posts.

Her first post in her own series talked about her past and how she got to where she was. She discussed her own eating disorder, but that she didn’t even recognize the behavior as a problem. She mentions that even though she had been diagnosed, recovery had been brushed off by professionals and it was left up to her and her parents to determine the next steps without guidance.

Her second post talked about preparing for her junior year. Getting ready for the semester and how she was planning for it. She made some suggestions for others based on what worked for her.

In her third post, Alicia talked about mental health and school work and the transition of her boyfriend moving out of the state to head to graduate school while she was still in her undergraduate career. She talked about how even though she planned for the semester, she still found herself making new plans.

She says she’s not a great writer, but when we talk all I can think of is how her perspective is important, even when the conversation is all over the place. During a recent conversation I asked her to think about writing again. She’s a senior now and almost done with school. In the past year, the meaning of health has changed for her. Her thoughts about her career after school have changed. The way she talks about herself has changed.

Below is her fourth post.


I’m a busy person.

I am one of those people who cannot sit still, I have to keep myself busy, whether it is homework, lifting, cooking or working. I grew up in a family of workers. My mom works two jobs and my dad owns a business and works three part-time jobs.  I currently work three jobs and am a full-time undergraduate student. As you can see, I often barely have time to breathe. My mindset typically as a student is to do homework, go to work, get a workout in and strive to do the best that I can do.

When it comes time for a break from school, it is hard for me to deal with it. I do pick up more hours at my jobs, but I often come home and feel like I’m not being productive because I don’t have school work to do.

With having a month off of school for winter break, I found myself actually bored (I was shocked myself).  Realizing that I had so much time to do whatever I wanted was honestly very hard for me to grasp. I am a planner. I like to plan my days because it helps me not to feel rushed throughout the day especially if it is busy.  When I looked at my days and saw that I only had to work a 5 hour shift and nothing else, it was shocking. I never have time to myself, I don’t give myself even 10 minutes sometimes to sit down and reflect on the day, even though that is something that I like to do.

Shifting my mindset to not being busy is often very hard for me. I don’t go out much, I am very introverted, and that is one of the reasons that I work and stay busy with school work. While I was on my winter break I would  stay home typically with my dog #DogMomLife. I was able to give myself time to go to the gym because I had more than an hour. I didn’t have to worry about having to rush through a workout.

I had a week to myself where I worked a very little amount of hours and got to spend time with my boyfriend who was in from Connecticut.  For once, we got to enjoy time together and again, not feel rushed. There were days we got to spend the whole day together, not everyday because my work schedule, but it was still more than we’re used to.

Classes have just started and the realization that this is my last semester of my undergraduate career has finally set in and I’m having to shift my mindset again.

My mindset goes back to school comes first. I have to get back to being busy, to planning my days out in my planner, and trying not to be overwhelmed.  However, this semester – by planning my days out, I’ll make sure that I have at least a half hour to myself where I can go to the gym or just meditate.

Having a different mindset is not a bad thing, it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. Changing mindset to fit your current life can spark your motivation, push you forward and help you reassess the direction you want to take.

 


“Yes, the rum is gone.”

“Why is the rum gone?”

“One, because it is a vile drink that turns even the most respectable men into complete scoundrels. Two, that signal is over a thousand feet high. The entire Royal Navy is out looking for me. Do you really think that there is even the slightest chance that they won’t see it?”

“But why is the rum gone?

– Elizabeth Swann and Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Ok, so maybe not the best quote, but it’s almost fitting and I added all to the title of this post, but sometimes you need to say it’s all gone.

There are many things that I talk to all my clients about, but one of the biggest things is self-care. Losing weight and losing inches is what we can see from health, but if you mentally are suffering size doesn’t matter. Self-care can mean different things for different people. For one person, self-care may be the action of getting their nails done every few weeks. For another person, it could mean taking time each day to read. It doesn’t have to be physical like going to the gym, but it can be. While I encourage my clients to practice self-care that is more selfish – doing something that solely benefits them, it doesn’t have to.

In December, one of my clients explained that the month was going to be busy, but it’s how she liked it. She’s religious and her faith is important to her and one way she serves her church is by playing music for services, but also for various performances through the month of December. She explained working with colleges students is like herding cats, but when it all comes together there’s a sigh of relief and a feeling of being full. While the busy schedule going from work and the gym to music rehearsals is exhausting, it’s a good exhausting.

For her, playing music, performing and giving to her faith and community fills her cup.

The more her and I talked about the symbolic drinking glass, the more I started thinking about mine.  First, I like to imagine my glass is a stemless wine glass during the week and a highball glass on the weekends. Not necessarily the shot glasses needed for rum.

As a human, there are times when I feel like my cup is slightly low; however, the past three or four months, I haven’t felt like that. My brain has definitely felt like it was going explode a few times over the past semester, but I didn’t feel like I was giving away so much of me that I couldn’t replenish fast enough.

However, go back more months, go back years and there were times when I felt like I had given so much that I couldn’t give anymore or refill my cup fast enough. I find this happens with a lot of my clients.

I like working with parents. I like working with mom’s – and yes, probably because of the dysfunction of my own family, but also because I watched the behaviors of parents around me. I saw years of friend’s parents working hard so that their children – my friends – could have everything they wanted or needed without desire for more…even though as kids we were selfish and there’s always desire. While parents aren’t the only ones that deplete their cup, over the past year, I’ve seen them at least deplete it faster than others.

So, my cup? My glass? What keeps it full?

What keeps my cup full has changed over time and it should. I’m not the same person I was when I started this journey. Ideas I had about myself and others changed. Practices and beliefs I had have changed. So to me, it makes sense that the things I enjoy have changed.

FirstBeing active like with lifting, running, yoga still keep my cup full – even though there are times I lean towards one over . I find this time alone to be relaxing, especially when I’m running or going through a yoga flow because I find myself detaching and getting lost in the movement. I like numbers and that’s another reason why lifting and running keep my glass full. I can see progress through the numbers. Maybe it’s not through the immediate weight lifted, but the amount over time. Maybe I’ve increased distance or speed or time. This is something that is just for me.

SecondContinuous education and opportunity to learn like reading, writing and researching keep my glass full. As more studies are conducted and discoveries are made that challenge previously held thought, practices change. You must understand that you will always find research that supports your ideas, but you will also always find research that goes against them. Learning how to be more effective in analyzing research has made reading more fun because I can more easily determine the legitimacy of a study (where it could’ve been more effective or where there may be flaws in data). It has made the overall process of learning by being challenged in my ideas more enjoyable. We should be pushed and challenged to examine our own ideologies, and be open to understanding why others do what they do. You don’t have to agree with the beliefs of others, but as a wise communication professor of mine once said – you need to understand the argument of your opponent so you can develop your argument more thoughtfully.

When I started blogging and sharing my my journey, I felt by putting it on the screen I was being held more accountable to my goals and to myself. Not only can I be more effective in my own journey through what I’ve learned, being able to understand and talk about health concepts in a more detailed way helps me help others.

Third Directly helping others like with one-on-one coaching keeps my glass full. During the coaching process there are a few things that I believe make it rewarding: 1 a client saying they understand a concept that they didn’t before, 2 a client saying they feel like they are being successful in their goals – that they are moving in the direction they wish, seeing a client become empowered and fully participating in the process.  I want people to feel empowered and feel capable of taking control of their lives. I want them to feel unstoppable. Seeing changes in attitude toward self is amazingly powerful. It’s also when I start to recognize that they may not need my help anymore.

When a client and I finish working together, I always thank them to allowing me into their lives and sharing their journey with me. Yes, they paid me and I offered a service, but they also became vulnerable and put their trust and faith in me – that’s not something that’s easy to do. It’s because of this trust that I don’t share a lot of information or stories about my clients. Life and health coaching is different than personal training. It’s not just about losing weight, it’s about finding a new direction, building or working on current relationships, it’s about emotional and mental health just as much as it is about physical health. Everyone’s story is different, and that means how comfortable they are about connecting or sharing with others also varies.

Coaching is a way for me to impact change on the world around me. Maybe put more positivity into the world and help others start to see the greatness they have in them even if they can’t see it right away.

Fourth Being half of a live-in couple is teaching me more about interpersonal relationships. Trust is big, it’s hard to develop. I can be over trusting of some and under trusting of others. I can talk to strangers and share my story easily, but be guarded to those  close to me. It’s like public speaking – I can talk in front of a crowd of 100, but I hate standing up in front of class. JP and I have lived together since last September. Sixteen months today actually. He moved home just before I took medical leave last fall, so there were a lot of emotions going on, but not just on my side. He took a few months to adjust to being home, being in a new role and then deciding he needed another new job.

We are two separate people, with different interests, but the shift from long-distance to live-in took some adjusting. We went from scheduling our dates and time together, to being able to wing it. All of a sudden we didn’t have to do everything together because he wasn’t just visiting, we were waking up beside each other.

The past few months we’ve found a pretty good balance of doing things together and doing things separate. There are still times we have to remind each other that we can do things apart, but this part of life – this part of our relationship has been eye opening and taught me more about myself. I can trust this man and he will support me and my crazy ideas. He asks about coaching and how it’s going. He talks out ideas I have and challenges me to think differently. He has talks with me about school and has helped me through a few binomial problems too.

So what does this have to do with my cup? Together – make dinner, we take long walks through the wine aisle to find the perfect bottle, we run together (not always, but more lately), we sit on the floor and watch TV, we cuddle in bed with a heat pad at our feet watching movies. We go to museums and tap rooms where we share flights and finish off the beers the other doesn’t like, but was willing to try. We talk about everything from politics to podcasts.

Before – I would feel like I was missing something if I went to the gym when he was visiting, which is partially why I would schedule my workouts strictly. I love working out and for the goals I had it was necessary, but it also meant being more strict on my timing. I don’t feel that I have to be that strict anymore – not just because my goals are different, but because my relationship is different.

Surround yourself with good people, good drinks, good ideologies.

What fills your cup? What do you do when all the rum is gone?

❤ Cristina


For a long time there was a war on fat, like over 30 years long. I’ve talked a lot about the importance of reading labels and understanding what you’re consuming. Not necessarily saying no to the processed food, but understanding or knowing what is in it. Well, taking that a step further – we need to also understand that the guidelines that back those labels up are created by governing bodies that may or may not benefit by creating certain guidelines or encouraging certain studies.

I’m not saying that the FDA or USDA or other regulatory groups are bad, but I am saying that the information can be misleading or a generalization in some cases.

A good example: the nutrition label you see on your boxed and canned goods is based off of a 2,000 calorie diet. This means the percentage listed as daily value is based off of 2,000 calories, but you may not be eating 2,000 calories – you may be consuming more or less.

Another example: the most recent guidelines by the USDA have a caloric recommendation for individuals based on gender, age and activity level with all numbers being whole, round numbers. These numbers are only below 1,400 daily calories for children under the age of 6, sedentary males peak at 2,600 calories for a 19/20 year old with sedentary females peaking at 2,000 calories for ages 19-25 – individuals who are more active peaked calories up to 3,200 daily.  The guidelines state that the sample bodies used to determine were an average height and a “healthy” weight (page 77-78).

“For adults, the reference man is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 154 pounds. The reference woman is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 126 pounds.”

I’m 5’4″ and I weight about 138 pounds. I’m roughly 17% body fat, which is lean and considered athletic for a female. My measurements are small. I don’t fit the sample body. I also don’t know many “healthy” men that would fit this sample body either.

The first dietary guidelines were rolled out in the 1980s and at the time, the biggest concern was heart disease and heart attacks. Ultimately, the first guidelines recommended against all fat and foods that had cholesterol like red meat.  However, more research has shown that not all fats are created equal and that dietary fat is necessary for bodily function. In the most recent guidelines for 2015-2020, it’s stated that saturated fat consumption should be 10% or less of overall calories consumed (page 15 footnotes). It’s also recommended that you replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about fats. Have you ever heard about triglycerides? It’s possible that your doctor has mentioned this term before when discussing blood work and overall health. These are the most common dietary fat we eat. This is also the form that fat is stored in our bodies.

The science of triglycerides

Triglycerides are a molecule consisting of 3 fatty acids attached to a 3 carbon glycerol backbone (Thompson & Manore, 2015). They are classified by their chain length (how many carbons are attached), their level of saturation (how much hydrogen is attached to each carbon) and their shape.

The first way to classify – chain length. The first thing we learned in biology is that structure determines function – if you have a wheel it can move things forward, right? It can’t make things fly. There are three chain lengths: short (6 or fewer carbon), medium (6 to 12 carbon) and long (14 or more carbon). The lengths determine the method of fat digestion and absorption as well as how the fat works within your body. As you imagine, the shorter the chain, the faster the digestion and absorption (Thompson & Manore, 2015).

Now, saturation level. What’s the difference between these two kind of fats?

The simple answer – saturated fatty acids have closely packed molecules because they lack a double bond that would “space” them out. This means they can solidify at room temperature, example: a jar of coconut oil. unsaturated fatty acids do have a double bond, which prevent them from solidifying at room temperature, example: olive oil (Reece, Taylor, Simon, Dickey, & Hogan, 2015).

Lastly, shape – the carbon molecules impact the shape. The lack of the double bond in saturated fat allows the chain to be straight and pack tightly together. The double bond in unsaturated fat prevents the chain from being straight and actually adds kinks, which makes them liquid at room temperature.

But what about  bottles of coconut oil at the store, how are those liquids? Coconut oil that is liquid at room temperature is manipulated during manufacturing. The removal of natural fatty acids that solidify allow liquid coconut oil to be just that. Lauric acid, the fatty acid in coconut oil known for its health benefits like being a germ killer, is actually removed in this process. This is because it’s melting point is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. To read more about the production, safety and use of liquid coconut oil check out this article.

Coconut oil isn’t the only thing that is manipulated on the market. Unsaturated fats can also be manipulated by food manufacturing in a process called hydrogenation, which started in the early 1900s (Thompson & Manore, 2015). This process adds hydrogen molecules, which in unsaturated fats causes the double bonds to be partially or totally removed allowing the fat to become solid and store more easily for a longer period of time.

This is also where we get trans-fats, which actually is describing the double bonds in the molecule. This kind of fat is found mostly in foods that are manipulated, although a small amount of natural trans fatty acids are found in cow’s milk and meat.

Now that I’ve confused you, triglycerides do contain essential fatty acids that are important for health (Thompson & Manore, 2015). Essential fatty acids (EFA) are obtained from the foods we consume – our bodies cannot produce them. There are two groups of them: Omega-6 and Omega-3.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids have a double bond 6 carbons from the end (omega = end of the chain, 6 = number of bonds away from the end). Linoleic acid is an omega-6 that is essential for human health. This is found in vegetable and nut oils like peanut oil, sunflower oil, corn oil and soy.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids have a double bond 3 carbons from the end. Alpha-linolenic acid is the most common in our diets and primarily comes from plants like leafy greens, walnuts, flaxseeds.

Why are EFAs important?

They’re precursors to biological compounds found in every cell in the body that regulate cell function.

Why is fat in general important?Fat provides energy; it has 9 calories per gram, which makes it the most dense energy source. Our bodies use fat when we’re at rest and during physical activity.

  • Fat helps transport vitamins A, D, E and K throughout the body, which help regulate functions like calcium absorption and utilization, cell membrane protection, blood clotting, bone health and vision.
  • Fat regulates our hormone production and cell function. *
  • Fat contributes to satiety, which means we stop eating sooner and helps us feel full longer.

Fat Importance on Cell Function and Hormone Production

This is something I talk a lot about with my clients. Fat is important because of the reasons listed, but as someone who works predominately with women this is something I want to drive home with them. There’s no reason to fear dietary fat, but we do need to moderate it. Phospholipids are a major component of our cells (Reece, Taylor, Simon, Dickey, & Hogan, 2015). These are similar to fats, except they contain two fatty acids attached at the glycerol, not three. Steroids are hormones produced in the adrenal cortex, cortisol is an example of a steroid hormone, which regulates carbohydrate metabolism and provides an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.

Fat -loving and the Ketogenic Diet

As the war on fat has started to settle, the rise of high fat diets like the ketogenic diet have started to become increasingly popular for fat loss; however, this style diet isn’t for everyone and should be monitored because of other potential health outcomes.

So what is the ketogenic diet?In simple terms it’s a high fat, very low carbohydrate (~20g or less daily), moderate protein diet that has been utilized to help with refractory epilepsy since the 1920s (Gupta, et al., 2017). It’s especially helpful for children with epilepsy, but according to the Epilepsy Society, adults may also benefit from it. The ketogenic diet has also been found to assist with fat loss in individuals who are obese lose as well as help manage other disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome (Gupta, et al., 2017). However, be reminded that less extreme diets that moderate calories will also result in fat loss as long as the individual adheres to it and a diet that moderates carbohydrate intake may also assist with PCOS.

So how does the ketogenic diet work?

Our bodies utilize carbohydrates that have been broken down to glucose as a main source of energy (Thompson & Manore, 2015). While our bodies also use fat as fuel, glucose is favorited by red blood cells, some nervous tissue and our brains for energy.

When we don’t take in enough carbohydrates…. let me pause…enough carbohydrates doesn’t mean hundreds of grams daily. Enough carbohydrates could be 100g a day depending on the age, gender and activity levels of the person. Ok continuing…our bodies start looking for another fuel source. In the process of ketosis, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and creates ketone bodies or ketones that will be utilized as fuel. These ketones are a natural appetite suppressant that can help control nutritional intake (Thompson & Manore, 2015).

What about the keto diet is beneficial to different populations?

The effects on the “central nervous system, cellular metabolism and metabolic pathways, have shown promising results in a variety of neurological disorders, traumatic brain injury, acne, cancers, and metabolic disorders (Gupta, et al., 2017).” “The ketogenic diet alters the energy metabolism in the brain, therefore altering brain excitability,” which impacts  how cells communicate with each other and regulate the CNS (Lee, 2012).

Is there one way to practice keto?

This is a tricky question. The classical diet of keto that is utilized with epilepsy patients suggests strict ratios of fat, carbohydrates and protein at every meal. It also includes little protein and carbohydrate because of the body’s ability to be “knocked out” of ketosis by too many of either.

The medium chain triglyceride (MCT) diet allows for a little more carbohydrates and protein. This version provides some flexibility and allows MCT oil to be used a supplement. Nutrients are also calculated by the percentage of calories for each group, meaning it’s not a specific number of grams, but a percentage of overall calories.

If keto can be helpful, why shouldn’t everyone utilize it?

A true ketosis diet should be monitored because of higher risks for other health concerns like osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones), hyperlipidemia (abnormally high fat in the blood), nephrolithiasis (kidney stones). Some of these health concerns can onset as we age, but nutritional deficiencies can increase risk. This means that supplementation is necessarily because there is a lack of diversity by lowering carbohydrate intake. This would be a recommendation for many people seeking fat loss with any diet – supplement appropriately.

The use of carbohydrates in our diets isn’t just for daily function like walking, talking and sitting; they’re also used for fuel during prolonged period of activity and protect again the use of stored protein as a fuel source  i.e. muscle loss (Thompson & Manore, 2015). When our bodies don’t have enough carbohydrates our bodies continue to find fuel sources, and while in a perfect world we imagine the body will find stored fat to utilize, it will also find stored protein. Not only does this result in muscle mass loss, but it can weaken our immune systems and prevent optimal function. However, this kind of loss can be associated with too little calorie intake because a nutrient group has be drastically decreased or eliminated.  

If ketone levels are too high the blood can become very acidic and can lead to ketoacidosis. This actually prevents optimal body function and ultimately can lead to damaged tissue.

Why don’t I believe the ketogenic diet should be prescribed to everyone?

My personal belief is that the ketogenic diet should be utilized for clinical conditions like epilepsy and other cognitive or metabolic disorders. I do believe that some people feel better on lower carbohydrates, but lower is relative.

I had a client who recognized she felt physically better on higher fat, moderate carbohydrate and protein. Her macros were 75F/100C/147P or 1,663 calories. Her goal was fat loss and this was a deficit for her. On days that she would run long distances (over 4 miles) she would increase her carbohydrates between 20-40g because it helped in those runs.

Yes, I eat processed food and things with real and artificial sweeteners in them, but I also know that’s not for everyone. I know not everyone can moderate these foods and that’s completely ok. I do believe that one way to work towards creating a healthier food plan is to examine the carbohydrates that are you taking in and how they make you feel. I ask my clients to do this often by making a list or notes when they recognize they feel bloated, jittery, exhausted, fatigued, etc.

Carbohydrates breakdown to sugars like stated above so in many cases they feel these things because of 1. too much sugar (real or added) 2. too many overall carbohydrates 3. the kind of carbohydrates they’re consuming (simple versus complex). I don’t think extremes need to be implemented to see change or progress unless specified by a physician.

Mentally, I think elimination diets that pull full groups of foods can be harmful over time to the relationship that we have with food. Creating a balance lifestyle also means enjoying foods that tastes good, but isn’t necessarily the greatest for us, but understanding that moderation is key. Eating out, attending and participating in parties and functions is a part of life and experience. While many suffer from auto immune disorders or illnesses that force them to create alternative eating styles to manage their health, many don’t need extreme measures.

Health coaches, lifestyle coaches, personal trainers, wellness coaches, etc. people assisting others like I do, should be encouraging individuals to bring in all their resources to find what ultimately works for them in a reasonable and safe way.

We shouldn’t fear fat in our diet, but we also shouldn’t fear other nutritional groups either – we just need to better understand them.

References

Epilepsy Society. (2016, March). Ketogenic Diet. Retrieved from Epilepsy Society: https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/ketogenic-diet#.WkzL6TdG1PY

Gupta, L., Khandelwal, D., Kalra, S., Gupta, P., Dutta, D., & Aggarwal, S. (2017). Ketogenic diet in endocrine disorders: Current perspectives. Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, 242-251.

Lee, M. (2012). The use of ketogenic diet in special situations: expanding use in intractable epilepsy and other neurologic disorders. Korean Journal of Pediatrics, 316-321.

Reece, J. B., Taylor, M. R., Simon, E. J., Dickey, J. L., & Hogan, K. (2015). Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections. New York: Pearson Education.

Thompson, J., & Manore, M. (2015). Nutrition: An Applied Approach. San Francisco: Pearson Education.


Currently, there are 10 jars of nut butter sitting in my cabinet.

1. Cinnamon Raisin Swirl from Peanut Butter and Company

2. Mighty Maple from Peanut Butter and Company

3. Nutella – yes, that counts, hazelnuts!

4. Unsalted cashew butter, store brand

5. Pumpkin Spice from Peanut Butter and Company

6. Extra Crunchy Skippy

7. Smooth Jif

8. Brownie Batter from D’s Naturals

and now, chocolate protein walnut butter and plain walnut butter

It started with an email from The Peanut Principle telling me about their year of sale or coupon, regardless, I sighed because 1. I have a lot of jars in the cabinet and 2. I didn’t really need to spend the money on more right now. JP and I were getting dinner ready and I asked him if he thought we would have time to try to make our own this weekend.

He immediately turned to the cabinet and grabbed a full bag of whole shell walnuts and said “could we use this?” Yep. Yep, we could.

So I looked online so see if there was any magic to making nut butter and you know what, there’s not. So we played around and gave it a go.

Here’s What You’ll Need

  • Food processor
  • 1 to 2 cup of nuts, unsalted
  • optional – salt
  • optional – protein powder, we used Chocolate Cupcake from PEScience
  • optional – Hershey’s chocolate syrup
  • optional – vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Pick your nut! I know, I know, but you need to decide what butter you want. I chose walnuts.
  2. If your nuts are already shelled, you can add between 1 to 2 cups to your food processor. If they’re not shelled, shell them and make sure that all the piece of shell and inner skin are removed.
  3. Pulse your food processor on chop for a few minutes before switching to grind. If your food processor doesn’t have multiple settings or has numbered settings you will want to processor the nuts until they are smooth. Scraping the sides every now and then to ensure that all pieces of what may be meal now continue to be ground down.
  4. When ground to desired smoothness, pour into a jar and store in the fridge.

To make protein infused nut butter

  1. Make the recipe above and divide in half then add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  2. Once vanilla is blended in, add a scoop of protein of your choice slowly. We used chocolate frosted cupcake by PEScience, which will cause the nut butter to dry out slightly. I believe all powders would cause the nut butter to dry out though, not just the whey casein blend.
  3. To combat the dryness of added protein, add a little bit of water. I added 1/2 a tablespoon of water at a time up to about 2 tablespoons of water.
  4. To enhance the chocolatey-ness of the nut butter or because I wanted to add chocolate sauce… I added 1 tablespoon of Hershey’s syrup and blended.

Nutrition for a 28g serving of protein walnut butter using 100g of blended nut butter: 12.5F/3.6C/7.1P

*Notes*

I would wait until the next day to put add-ins into the nut butter because this gives the mix time for the oils to separate, which may help with mixing in the protein. Since it is naturally and minimally made, we have had to mix both butters before every use so that oils are mixed thoroughly.