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

Author Archives: runsweateatrepeat

As warmer weather is approaching, we’re shifting how often we use the oven. It doesn’t matter if you have air conditioning, the oven turned on in the late spring and summer makes for a really warm kitchen. We cook a lot of things stove top, use our George Foreman or go outside and grill.

For this recipe, all you need is pots and pans and some tongs.

As we’re getting back into our routine of having dinner together again since the semester is over, I’ve been trying to incorporate meals that take a little longer or utilize entrees that may have a little assembly. I don’t need to rush dinner or have it in a Tupperware anymore, so this is a perfect opportunity to use corn tortillas.

I’ve made BBQ chicken tostadas before and since I had shaved steak I looked to see if there was a recipe that would be similar that I could check out.

Here’s what my Pinterest search looked like.

Pinterest steak tostada

So I skimmed through a few recipes and then decided to throw my own thing together.

What You’ll Need

  • Vegetables to saute (whatever you like, onions and peppers are perfect with this)
    • Red onion
    • White onion
    • Tomatoes
    • Bell Pepper
    • Mushrooms
  • 8 ounces shaved steak (I used Trader Joe’s because it’s lean and reasonably priced)
  • Jerk seasoning
  • 4 corn tortillas (I used Goya)
  • ~1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • ~2T Mozzarella cheese
  • Cooking spray

Directions

1. Wash and chop vegetables into small pieces. They don’t need to be minced, but should be close to bite size.

2. Spray a medium sized pot with cooking spray and add vegetables. Put on medium heat. Stir occasionally as vegetables sweat.

3. In a separate pan, add shaved steak and seasoning blend. I used Jerk seasoning, but you could use something smokey or spicy for this recipe. Put on medium heat so you don’t burn the meat.

4. In a small pan, spray cooking spray or use a little bit of olive oil (with a paper towel) to lightly coat the bottom. Put on high heat to get pan to temperature, then decrease heat to medium/medium-high. Place a corn tortilla until you see air pockets form and the bottom side of the tortilla is browned. This should take a few minutes if the pan isn’t warmed up yet, then flip and let second side to brown. Repeat this for all corn tortillas. You may need to spray or wipe olive oil in between tortillas.

5. For plating, place a corn tortilla on a plate and spread plain Greek yogurt, I used a spoonful. Since this recipe makes two, I used half the steak for both tortillas, then added vegetables followed by shredded mozzarella cheese. Many recipes called for mozzarella, but you could use cheddar or a blend – whatever you prefer.

Nutritional estimates: ~350 calories, 11F/36C/32P

As always, nutrition will change based on brands and cuts of meat. If you use a different cut of meat, it may has more fat and therefore more calories. If you use more or less vegetables, etc.

If you want to check out the recipe that had inspired my BBQ chicken tostadas a while back, here it is!

❤ Cristina

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When you hear the word supplements what do you think of first? Do you think of fish oil? Do you think of a multi-vitamin? Do think of protein powder? Do you think of steroids?

For the beginning few months of last year when I went back to school, I worked at Vitamin Shoppe. This gave me the opportunity to be around everything from apple cider vinegar to protein powder to BCAAs to fish oil to probiotics. Vitamin Shoppe is a really well rounded store if you’re looking for something to help fill in the gaps.

The store is divided into two sections.

When you walk through the front door, the left hand side was what you could consider lifestyle health. It had all of the vitamins and minerals, it had digestive aids like probiotics and enzymes. It also had greens powders and gender-specific care.

On the right hand side was where the sports nutrition lived. It was protein powder, fat burners, energy drinks, BCAAs, pre-workout products.

The middle of the store is where the tea, protein bars, beauty products lived.

While it was retail, Vitamin Shoppe doesn’t provide commission, so you can have an authentic conversion with customers about what their goals are and what they’re looking to buy to match those goals. They provided us with a lot of education about the products we were selling including information from studies published from the NIH for additional research. At the same time, I was just starting my health science courses and was reading everything I could about vitamins and minerals and how they cause specific functions in the body to occur. Timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

You could see the wheels turning as a customer decided which side of the store they needed. In some cases, we would have to introduce them to the other side of the store.

For many who trained hard, they typically went to the right, but every now and then we would get them to go to the left.

For a better conversation, there will be a few posts about supplementation.

We’re going to start with the left side of the store with vitamins.

First, there are 13 vitamins considered essential, just like essential amino acids, this means that the body must consume these through diet because it can only make a small amount of none at all (Thompson & Manore, 2015). If you have variety in your diet and have healthy functioning organ systems, you’re probably consuming enough of all of these vitamins through dietary means.

Individuals that have malabsorption disorders such as celiac disease are more likely to have deficiencies because of ability to absorb dietary fat. Individuals who also consume too little fat could be at risk as well. For better assistance to determine deficiencies, talk to you doctor and have a conversation about getting blood work done.

There are two kinds of vitamins:

  1. Fat soluble
    1. Vitamins A, D, E and K
  2. Water soluble
    1. Vitamin C and all B-vitamins

These two categories determines how a vitamin is absorbed, stored and then removed from the body.

Fat soluble vitamins need dietary fat to assist with transport and absorption (Thompson & Manore, 2015). They are also stored in adipose tissue (fat tissue), which means we don’t need to consume these every day. Since they can be stored in the body, consuming more than what is utilized can lead to toxicity. This occurs much more often when utilizing supplements, food rarely leads to toxic levels of fat soluble vitamins.

Toxicity of fat soluble vitamins can lead to a number of symptoms. The symptoms below don’t occur as a reaction for every fat soluble vitamin, but is a list of symptoms of all fat soluble vitamins.

  • fatigue
  • bone and joint pain
  • birth defects
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • liver damage
  • blurred vision
  • hair loss
  • skin disorders
  • hypercalcemia

Deficiency of fat soluble vitamins can lead to a number of symptoms. The symptoms below don’t occur as a reaction for every fat soluble vitamin, but is a list of symptoms of all fat soluble vitamins.

  • night blindness
  • impaired growth
  • impaired immunity
  • impaired reproductive function
  • osteomalacia or osteoporosis in adults
  • rickets in children
  • impairment of nerve, muscle and immune function
  • impaired blood clotting

Water soluble vitamins can be found in a larger variety of foods than fat soluble vitamins and are easily absorbed through the intestinal tract directly into the blood stream (Thompson & Manore, 2015). Our bodies don’t store water soluble vitamins, any excess is excreted in our urine after filtration from the kidneys. Since water soluble vitamins are removed through urine output it can be difficult to reach toxicity levels. It’s not impossible, but it’s not likely – at least through dietary consumption.

Toxicity of water soluble vitamins can lead to a number of symptoms. The symptoms below don’t occur as a reaction for every water soluble vitamin, but is a list of symptoms of all water soluble vitamins.

  • flushing
  • liver damage
  • blurred vision
  • glucose intolerance
  • nerve damage
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • nosebleeds
  • increased kidney stone formation

Deficiency of water soluble vitamins can lead to a number of symptoms. The symptoms below don’t occur as a reaction for every water soluble vitamin, but is a list of symptoms of all water soluble vitamins.

  • fatigue
  • decreased memory
  • confusion
  • muscle weakness
  • anemia
  • swollen mouth and/or throat
  • pellagra
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • tingling and numbness of extremities
  • neural tube defects in a developing fetus
  • depression
  • fractures and bone pain
  • nerve damage

Some of the symptoms for both fat soluble and water soluble vitamins could be mistaken for other illnesses, but again to determine toxicity or deficiency for you as an individual, talk to your doctor.

This post is about fat soluble vitamins. We’ll get to water soluble a bit later, but now you know that there are two kinds of vitamins and what vitamins are categorized where.

fat soluble

So we have an idea of what fat soluble means, what is their purpose?

Fat soluble vitamins play an important role in specialized functions in the body by assisting complex systems.

Vitamin A is has multiple uses in the body, but Vitamin A isn’t just one compound. You may have heard of retinol, retinal or retinoic acid – these are different forms of it.

It’s required for eye functions. It assists our eyes in the ability to adjust to light changes, it also protects color vision.

During cellular development Vitamin A helps with cell differentiation, meaning it helps cells change their composition so they can each have different functions like hair growth or body growth.

In the reproductive system, Vitamin A helps with the production of sperm in men and fertilization in women as well as fetal development during pregnancy.

Vitamin A is important to the immune system (Stephensen, 2001). It assists innate immunity (the kind your born with) by allowing for the development of mucosal barriers and allow cells to work properly. In adaptive immunity it plays a role in developing T helper cells and B cell. A example of adaptive immunity would be developing antibodies after chicken pox exposure – you weren’t born with the chicken pox or the immune cells, but you adapted to the infection and developed them.

Vitamin D is best known for assisting with calcium absorption and helping keep bones strong. It also assists calcium with muscle contraction by allowing calcium to flow into muscle cells. If calcium levels are too low, normal contraction and relaxation can be inhibited with can lead to both skeletal muscle and cardiac muscle issues (Thompson & Manore, 2015). Vitamin D can help with the reduction of inflammation.

We can obtain Vitamin D when sunlight triggers synthesis in our skin (Office of Dietary Supplements, 2018). Individuals who live in regions that experience more darkness may not obtain enough through sunlight, but can obtain Vitamin D through food and if necessary through supplementation – but we’ll get to supplementation later.

Vitamin E is a name for a group of compounds with antioxidant properties.  Antioxidants protect cells from the effects of free radicals, which can lead to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer (Office of Dietary Supplements, 2018). A free radical is an uncharged molecule and is highly reactive (Timberlake, 2018). Free radicals can be introduced to the body from the environment such as air pollution or ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Vitamin E also works in the immune system and impacts T helper cells.

Vitamin K is less known, but not any less important. Similar to Vitamin E, Vitamin K is a name for a group of compounds that assist the body with blood clotting and bone metabolism (bone remodeling and growth). Healthy functioning individuals don’t typically need to worry about Vitamin K. However, individuals who take anticoagulants or have bleeding disorders will have Vitamin K levels assessed regularly to determine the need for supplementation.

The amount of Vitamin K recommended is so small that most diets in the United States meet minimum needs through diet (Office of Dietary Supplements, 2018). Vitamin K isn’t typically used in supplement form like other vitamins because the need is so small. In the case of individuals who have disorders that prevent proper absorption, a doctor may recommend a specific dosage.

Supplementation?

So, while deficiency and toxicity aren’t common, they can happen.

Toxicity is most common through supplementation, which is why it’s important to be careful when deciding to add a fat soluble supplement to your routine. While it may seem silly to consult your doctor on something of this nature, a quick phone call could assist with preliminary direction. Proper blood work will be able to assist in guiding the conversation.

A study published in 2015 examining adverse effects of supplementation found that supplements in general were the cause of over 23,000 emergency room visits per year (Geller, Shehab et al). The study was conducted over a 10-year period and researchers “defined “dietary supplements” as herbal or complementary products, and vitamin or amino acid micronutrients.”

A large concern with supplementation is toxicity, but quality of product and claims should also be on your radar.

Poor quality could lead to adverse effects and false claims can encourage individuals take products they don’t actually need. Supplements also are more likely to have a higher chance to interacting with prescription medications.

You will notice that labels on supplements ranging from vitamins and minerals to protein will say “these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.” At the top of the latest consumer report on dietary supplements from the FDA, you will find the statement “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have the authority to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed.”

I think this approach protects the FDA and doesn’t fully look out for the consumer. They do have marketing regulations, which sets a baseline, but it also shows the holes and what companies are able to get away with too.

According to the NIH, it is the responsibility of manufacturers to have evidence of label claims, but they don’t need to provide them to the FDA prior to products going to market. Once on the market, these products will be monitored. A good example of product monitoring, while not vitamins – the protein claims for the Lenny and Larry Complete Cookies were found to be false. The cookies had varied amounts of protein, mostly under the claims. This led to the reformulation of the cookies. While this is an example of a food item, it’s also used for protein supplementation and can be found in health stores.

What foods can they be found in?

All of the these vitamins can be found through a diverse diet and since they can be stored in fatty tissue they don’t necessarily need to be consumed daily. Below are a few examples of foods that have these vitamins – it’s possible that you’re getting enough of them already.

fat vitamins

But what if my app tells me to?

Something to be mindful of – tracking applications. For those who track their food with a phone application like My Fitness Pal, be mindful of the information those applications report to you. The daily values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet and don’t always self-adjust to the calorie goals for individuals. Since there can be variance in the foods found in the database, they might not be 100% accurate. Lastly, deficiency and toxicity may happen over time, so if you believe you’re low or high with consumption of a vitamin one day, you may balance it out another day. Don’t supplement just because “My Fitness Pal told you to.” It’s a helpful tool for macronutrients, fiber and sodium, but I don’t believe the vitamin and other mineral amounts need to be monitored with it unless stated by a doctor.

While vitamins don’t work to provide you energy, they assist in the hundreds of reactions to keep you going allowing macronutrients to be broken down and utilized effectively.

Next time, we’ll talk about water soluble vitamins, what they do and where they can be found.

 

❤ Cristina

 

References

Geller, M.D., A. I., Shehab, Pharm D., MPH, N., Weidle, Pharm. D., N. J., & Lovegrove, MPH, M. C. (2015). Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Events Related to Dietary Supplements. The New England Journal of Medicine, 373:1531-1540.

Office of Dietary Supplements. (2018, March 2). Strengthening Knowledge and Understanding of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from Naational Institutes of Health: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminK-HealthProfessional/

Office of Dietary Supplements. (2018, March 2). Strengthening Knowledge and Understanding of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from National Institues of Health: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

Office of Dietary Supplements. (2018, March 2). Strengthening Knowledge and Understanding of Dietary Supplments. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/#h7

Stephensen, C. (2001). Vitamin A, infection, and immune function. Annual Review of Nutrition, 21:167-92.

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

Timberlake, Karen. (2018). Chemistry: An introduction to general, organic and biological chemistry. New York: Pearson.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2017). Dietary Supplements. Washington, DC: FDA.


I’m starting this on Day 132.

I’m also watching TV shows and movies that JP doesn’t enjoy as much as me, like Sex and the City. I’ve seen every episode at least twice. I own the movies. I have the books – yes, they’re books too, that’s how the show started. This is my idea of relaxing on a Saturday night.

big_goif_douche

So this year… So far, we’ve celebrated his birthday, my birthday. I’ve made it through the spring semester and finals. I’ve logged about 160 hours of fieldwork. I’ve interviewed for jobs. I’ve napped less than I wanted to and had more late nights than I’ve had in years.

On Day 1 I apologized for Monday’s being held to a high standard and I wrote about my hopes for the year.  I quoted Titanic and recapped 2017. I put my foot forward by saying what I wanted to happen in 2018.

Now this list is really a list of reactions I hoped would occur because of my behaviors.

There are some things that have happened, but not how I planned like my activity level. I said I wanted to be consistent with my activity because I knew I would be sitting more this semester. I was consistent by doing something mobile like going for a walk most days and attempting to plan out some lifting. I fit yoga in where it made sense and as of Day 132, I’ve had a new gym membership for two full weeks in which I’ve gone five times each week. However, I thought I would’ve done more towards my strength,  but really that’s a goal that has no timeline and I’m getting the opportunity to work on it now.

I wanted to keep up with my running, but it didn’t happen, not even one bit. I felt that I didn’t have the time. However, there’s a lot of year left and we have been talking about running another organized race this summer, so I do know that I will get my butt in gear and get some miles in soon.

Together, we’ve enjoyed more than just Mules, but maybe a little more than we should’ve.

I’ve said yes a lot more than I have in a long time, my writing is becoming more consistent since I don’t have papers to write, and I’m trying new things like golfing – JP wants to teach me proper form.

I’ve learned so much this semester and so much in 132 days. I never thought I would love microbiology or that I would be actually be good at it. Chemistry reinforced my belief that the body is super weird and interesting. I’ve worked on a grant, edited video footage and learned how to write a subtitle file – not as hard as I thought it would be. I’ve learned to analyze research more effectively including determining what makes a study valid or thorough.

On Day 131, final grades were posted and I’m proud to say that while I have one class left, I am graduating on Day 138 with highest honors. Some classes are hard regardless of where you go and what I accomplished in my health science courses is exactly what I sought out to do last January – obtain more knowledge in the health sciences to be better at research and to assist many populations of client I could meet.

I want to help as many people as I can, but it has to make sense. I need to meet them where they are and help them grow.

The work I did in my public health courses broadened my view of health and while I started the program with the objective to be a better health coach, I’m leaving the program with a new path to serve my community in a macro-way.

It’s Day 133 and I’ve gotten so much done today. I feel like I can take on anything this week.

I will say that it has been so weird without classes and homework the past few days. It’s almost as though I don’t know what to do with my time…until I remember the projects I’m working on and other things around the apartment I’ve neglected from finals week. Maybe it’s just weird having time to do things I believe are fun like write and read books that aren’t assigned.

While I’m eager to take on a new career in public health, I’m not leaving coaching anytime soon. I’m excited to have more time to work one-on-one and help others see their potential.

I’ve partnered with a former client on a new goal. We’re taking a year to prepare for her first bikini competition next April. She’s 55 and a powerhouse. She’s feisty and ready to take it up a notch. We’re starting slow because then time is on her side. We can make small changes that will lead to bigger ones. We can focus on strength and developing muscle before becoming concerned about fat loss. There’s a year for changes to be made.

Hearing and seeing a change like this in a client fires me up. It fires me up because she is saying she can do more, she can push harder, she can allow herself to do something few do.

When my clients declare their goals such as “be more active in other ways like biking, hiking and walking” or “maintain the level of health and wellness that makes me feel great while teaching my kids to do the same” I can’t do anything, but cheer. Their declarations are about the life THEY want to lead. While some goals may be similar, motivations are so different.

I can’t wait to see more people take the first steps towards goals they never thought they deserved to think about. The more I see them taking steps forward, the more it encourages me to continue my journey too, where it may take me.

The next few weeks are going to fly by and I really hope I can hold onto them.

Graduation is on Day 138.

JP and I have a date morning on Day 139, followed by an end-of-spring celebration with some of my friends from school.

Day 140 we have a birthday party for a friend at a winery, some time after that we have a friend moving home back to our state.

There’s work and fieldwork and interviews and Memorial Day and a conference.

There’s 18 days left in May and I’m sitting here like I wanted to graduate, but holy crap that was fast!

As I’m thinking back to what I wrote on Day 1 and what hasn’t been accomplished yet this year, it has me thinking I should start planning our first hike of warm weather season and we need to pick a date for our next run so we can train a little bit. So these two things I would like to accomplish soon or at least have a plan in place to do so.

I’m excited and relieved to be back in the gym working out the way that I enjoy. While I loved what I learned in school, it was a huge culture shock and I believe that I finally will have “my life back” so that I can be as active as I enjoy and can lead the best life I can.

We keep joking that I get to be an adult again. That’s how it feels.

I am a work in progress and I hope that never stops. I’m cheers-ing to the new work week.

To graduation.

To always learning.

To always encouraging others to do the same.

❤ Cristina

 

 

 


We’ve talked about fats and carbohydrates (part 1 and part 2) already, but what about protein?

Like the other macronutrients, protein can be misunderstood.

Like dietary fat, I’ve heard from people including trainers that protein can make you fat if you consume too much. Let’s be clear – too many calories can lead to fat gain, not necessarily any one specific macronutrient. However, with that in mind, we need to be thoughtful about what is paired together with protein as well as how protein is utilized in the body. Is eating a whole egg really a problem, or is it that many people won’t just eat one or two yolks, but will pair the meal with buttered toast, multiple pieces of fatty bacon and top it all with salt? While these components may not always be the “healthiest” choice, individually they can be fine in moderation, but together – it’s like a league of villains, or can be if they are consumed too often.

Ok, so what is protein?

Chemically, protein is a polypeptide of 50 or more amino acids that have biological activity. Protein is found in our DNA, which means it is found in our muscle mass, blood, bones and skin. “They function in metabolism, immunity, fluid balance, and nutrient transport, and in certain circumstance they can provide energy (Timberlake, Karen, 2018).”

Nutritionally, we know that one gram of protein has four calories associated with it. We know that protein needs are lower in comparison to carbohydrates and fats because the body utilizes carbohydrates as a first line of energy followed by fat (Thompson & Manore, 2015). This doesn’t mean that protein isn’t important. Dietary protein helps us conduct daily business. It helps the body to function without depleting protein found in the body (i.e. muscle mass).

But, you can consume too much protein and we will get to that, but first some background.

In chemistry, protein is called a polypeptide, which a chain of amino acids.

Amino acids are called building blocks because they are single units that bond together to make protein.

There are 20 amino acids found in our bodies (Timberlake, Karen, 2018). We can make 11 of them, but there’s another nine that we need to get with our diet. Amino acids that must be consumed are called essential amino acids. They’re essential because without them our bodies can’t make other proteins for other body functions like neurotransmitters. The 11 amino acids we can make are called nonessential amino acids.

  1. Alanine
  2. Arginine
  3. Asparagine
  4. Aspartate
  5. Cysteine
  6. Glutamate
  7. Glutamine
  8. Glycine
  9. Histidine*
  10. Isoleucine*
  11. Leucine*
  12. Lysine*
  13. Methionine*
  14. Phenylalanine*
  15. Proline
  16. Serine
  17. Threonine*
  18. Tryptophan*
  19. Tyrosine
  20. Valine*

*essential amino acids

I’m sure many of you have heard of BCAA’s or branched chain amino acids. You’ve probably seen them in the store in a pill or powdered form. Simply, these are specific amino acids that have a branch. They can assist in decreasing protein synthesis, which means they can help prevent muscle breakdown and losses, however, there isn’t much research the proves this to be true or consistent (Wolfe, 2017). There are three BCAA’s out of the nine essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine.

I’ve heard people say that amino acids are inferior to protein. You can’t confused BCAA’s with all amino acids. I would say that drinking or consuming a BCAA if you recognize deficits or holes in your nutrition can be helpful, however, I would recommend that you eat a complete protein rather than drink amino acids or a protein shake. But – remember, it’s also about preference too – drinking BCAA’s won’t hurt you and some people just like protein shakes. I’ve tried BCAA’s, but I never noticed a difference and that could be because of dietary diversity even when in a caloric deficit.

Moving on.

So an amino acid is equal to a single unit, protein is equal to many units of amino acids. As you can imagine, there are many combinations of amino acids and the combination determines the function of the protein in our bodies.

Here are some things in our bodies made up of amino acids:

  • endorphins
  • hemoglobin
  • collagen
  • insulin
  • enzymes
  • muscle

Above, I mentioned complete protein. A complete protein has all of the essential amino acids in it.

Examples of complete proteins:

  • egg whites
  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • milk

An incomplete protein lacks one or more essential amino acids.

Examples of incomplete proteins:

  • corn – missing lysine and tryptophan
  • beans – missing methionine and tryptophan
  • almonds and walnuts – missing lysine and tryptophan
  • peas and peanuts – missing methionine
  •  wheat, rice and oats – missing lysine

Dietary protein helps us build our bodies (Thompson & Manore, 2015). Our bodies are resilient and function smartly. When protein is broken down in the body, the amino acids are recycled into new proteins. Like mentioned above, protein helps with hormone balance, fluid and electrolyte balance, repairs our bodies and helps us grow, but as an energy source our needs are pretty low. This is due in part because we recycle amino acids because our bodies don’t have a “specialized storage form” of protein.

So how much should you eat?

At one point, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) suggested .8g per kilogram body weight per day for both inactive and active individuals. However, more research has shown that individuals who are active may need more. The ranges should vary based on a number of factors such as gender, age, size, but also the kind of activity you do, which is where I slightly disagree with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A 2009 review of these guidelines determined the following concepts:

  1. protein is a critical part of the adult diet
  2. protein needs are proportional to body weight; NOT energy intake
  3. adult protein utilization is a function of intake at individual meals
  4. most adults benefit from protein intakes above the minimum RDA

They examined current perceptions about protein as well as benefits to treat and prevent obesity since 35.7% of U.S. adults were considered obese and 16.9% of U.S. children and adolescents were obese at the time of the review. The most recent NHANES data from 2013-2014 shows that 38% of adults are obese with 19% of children and adolescents being obese. A major flaw pointed out by this review highlighted the proportion of protein to carbohydrates and fats may be adequate with high energy consumption, but that as “total daily energy intake is often below 1400 kcal/day” when individuals seek to lose weight it could be potentially harmful to limit protein needs to the RDA as a loss in lean muscle mass could result (Layman, 2009).

In 2011, a study looking at required and optimal amounts of dietary protein for athletes found that while the RDA was .8g per kilogram, it was would be appropriate for athletes, both endurance (distance runners) and strength (bodybuilding and weightlifting) to consume between 1.6 to 2.25 times the RDA or 1.2g to 1.8g per kilogram (Phillips & Van Loon, 2011). The study also suggested that protein consumption between 1.8 to 2.0 per kilogram could be helpful depending on caloric deficit for the preservation of lean muscle mass.

Now, remember this study looked at protein consumption for very active people.

If you’re sedentary, there’s no reason to consume as much as an athlete. If you are active, you may also need to consider how much potential lean muscle mass you have. If you’re overweight or obese, your protein needs may be less.

I formerly had a client who was consuming 1g per pound she weighed and it was over 200g of protein because a former coach had recommended it. She had an equal amount of protein to carbohydrates, which is a common calculation, but necessary.

A 1:1 ratio of protein to weight in pounds is a common suggestion and it’s one that I utilized when I first started tracking macros, but as I started looking at my specific goals and needs, I realized what I was consuming wasn’t helping me and I redistributed my nutrient goals.

While this client was very active and participated in weightlifting multiple times a week this 1:1 ratio of protein was inappropriate for her because it wasn’t taking into consideration lean mass, but instead overall mass. It also left her feeling bloated, hungry and often with disproportionate nutrients to be satisfied.

So what can happen if you consume too much protein?

There are a few health conditions that have raised concerns, but they may not impact everyone – there’s also some contradictory research and you need to figure out what side of the fence you’re on.

Concerns around heart disease and high protein consumption also involve high amounts of saturated fat found in animal products (Thompson & Manore, 2015).”. High saturated fat levels have been know to increase blood cholesterol levels and increase risk for heart disease. However, a moderate protein diet that is low in saturated fat can be good for the heart. Again, this is correlation, not necessarily causation.

Another concern is that excess protein found in the urine due to kidney impairment. “As a consequence, eating too much protein results in the removal and excretion of the nitrogen in the urine and the use of the remaining components for energy (Thompson & Manore, 2015).”

When protein is found in the urine it’s called proteinuria. As part of the body’s fitration system, kidneys remove waste from your blood, but allow nutrients like protein to return to the bloodstream to be recycled through the body. Protein in your urine can be a sign of impaired kidney function. It’s important to note there is no evidence that more protein causes kidney disease in healthy people that aren’t susceptible to the disease, however, more water should be consumed to flush out the kidneys because of protein metabolism (Thompson & Manore, 2015).

Bloating is also possible if “too much” protein is consumed in one meal and your body doesn’t produce enough enzymes to assist in digestion. Chemical protein digestion occurs in the small intestine as a result from the enzyme pepsin. “Too much” is relative. I get bloated if I have more than 40g of protein in a meal. Depending on planning I can prevent too much consumption, but that’s not always the case.

Like mentioned above, athlete and highly active individuals may need more than the RDA, but the average person may not need as much. Much recent research I found that examines the impacts of high protein consumption utilizes athletic bodies in high resistance training settings, which isn’t necessarily a sample that will provide data that can be used for recommendations for an inactive or lightly active person.

resistence training and protein

The data is still interesting, but may not be helpful to the average person.

When I did find research articles discussing higher protein needs in obese individuals, I found many studies designed diet plans for participants with sub-1000 kcal/day. This is an extreme diet that may not typically be suggested for one to conduct without being monitored. An example of this extreme design is a study published in 2015 that examined normal protein intake versus high protein intake as well as carbohydrate reduction to determine success in weight loss and maintenance. Researchers assigned adult participants to 800 kcal/day for eight weeks and once participants had an 11 kg loss they randomly assigned them to a new plan with varying protein intake for six months. They found that individuals with higher protein intake were able to adhere to the plan, which not only resulted body fat losses, less inflammation and better blood lipid panels, but also were capable of maintaining losses. Researchers also suggested that less restrictive approaches also lead to higher adherence (Astrup, Raben, & Geiker, 2015).

Again, interesting, but this is an extreme that hopefully many won’t use or need.

What about if you eat too little?

While we don’t need as much protein for energy as many believe, we do need dietary protein to assist in building our bodies like mentioned above. Without dietary protein, our bodies breakdown stored protein i.e. muscle to be utilized to assist in daily functions such as creating amino acids. A true deficit of protein can result in a greater number of infections if the body is unable to produce enough antibodies. A true deficit occurs over time and in extreme circumstances; however, can be more likely if an individual is in a large caloric deficit.

So, easy question-  what food sources have protein in them?

 

Obviously meat is an excellent protein source, but there’s more than meat. Legumes like lentils, black beans and green peas as well as nuts have protein in them too. While oatmeal is a well-known grain, it also has about 5g of protein per half cup serving. Dairy, while also another carbohydrate source, is also an excellent source of protein and the mineral calcium – if you’re not lactose intolerant!

Vegetables that have protein in them that I recommend to clients who are trying to balance out density and volume in their eating include broccoli, Brussels sprouts and asparagus.

Like the other macronutrients, protein can be flexible within reason. Considering multiple factors to determine a specific plan for you will be key. It might take trial and error, it may also take some adjustments, but give yourself time.

Your nutrition should be specific to you and your goals. It should take all of you into consideration like have you approached menopause or had a hysterectomy? Hormones play a huge role in overall nutritional needs. What’s your sleep like? Are you on medications? What’s your stress like? Are you sitting more or less than before?

I know many of these questions can seem silly when posed, but they are important.

The body is a weird organism, just when we think we have it figured it out, it changes on us.

References:

Layman, D. K. (2009). Dietary Guidelines should reflect new understandings about adult protein needs. Nutrition and Metabolism, 6-12.

Phillips, S., & Van Loon, L. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of Sports Science, 29-38.

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

Timberlake, Karen. (2018). Amino Acids, Proteins and Enzymes. In K. Timberlake, Chemistry: An introduction to general, organic, and biological chemistry (pp. 548-583). New York: Pearson.

Wolfe, R. R. (2017). Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14-30.


Where we’re going, we don’t need roads. – Dr. Emmett Brown

Last week I got to the campus gym and lifted twice. I was able to lift heavier the second session because I was able to better gauge how my body was feeling after the first lift.

On Saturday, I went to a new gym, tried out the equipment, bought a membership and came back on today for a second workout.

I’m pretty proud of myself.

I know that sounds weird because I constantly talk about finding what works for your schedule and for your goals.

But for those who have been around for a while, you know this is a big deal. For those of you who are newish let me explain why.

Today is one year since I last competed. The week leading up to the show, which was the final show of my season I had broke down emotionally, which led to half-ass workouts and binging. I gained nine pounds my peak week, partially water and partially real fat gain. You could see it in my legs. You could see if in my abdominals. You could see it in my face.

I could feel it everywhere.

I also lost my voice on show day and two days later was diagnosed with pneumonia leaving my PCP’s office with antibiotics and an order for a chest xray to confirm, which it did.

Finals soon followed. I slept a lot. Backed off my work outs even though every ounce of me wanted to find motivation.

I feel I can finally let go.

Next month marks one year Instagram free. The account was my personal account that shared my day and my passions – mostly revolving around fitness, food and my boyfriend also periodically showed me traveling in my previous career as well as my day-to-day. I’ve been writing for almost six years, and I had Instagram for almost four. It evolved as I did. However, so did the users.

I have screen shots of private messages, emails and comments from people saying things that you know would never be said in real life. But we are all brave behind a screen. Even me.

This blog. Facebook. Texting. These platforms help build confidence and for me that confidence has spilled into my reality.

People say competing is hard, but it’s not. It’s all of the other things that you juggle while competing that are hard. School was pretty easy, school was an outlet – like running away in a good book. Coaching was the same way. I was able to dive into work and escape. I was able to help analyze other people’s goals and problems, which made me face my own. I was honest with my clients and continue to be. It is because of our own trials that we are able to empathize and assist others.

In June I was diagnosed with chronic stress, which resulted in elevated adrenal hormones: DHEA and cortisol. I had hormone testing because my PCP thought there might be something else going on. Thankfully, after seeing an endocrinologist in August and having a more comprehensive panel done, there was confirmation that I was just experiencing high levels of stress. My weight peaked high 140s, which was the highest I’ve been since hitting my weightloss and fat loss goals.

I was physically uncomfortable and emotionally battling with myself about it.

If you look back, I’ve written posts about and loosely talked about what I was doing to essentially “get my shit together”, but more over, what goals I had for myself to get back to a more normal lifestyle.

I love lifting, but I needed a break. I started doing yoga, I got back to running. I started doing more accessory work instead of big lifts. I canceled my gym membership and utilized the gym on campus when I could. I use the fitness center at my complex too. I looked to be more mobile on a daily basis. I sit a lot and I wanted to strive to hit a moderate and reasonable step goal. I started looking at my goals from an emotional point-of-view. Yes, I wanted to lose some weight, but I wanted to feel good and I thought if I could feel good in my workouts, do things that were fulfilling, then in time, the fat would come off and I would feel good in my skin again. I just needed time.

The new year brought consistency – keep moving, get strong. I wanted to say yes more, which I’ve been doing, but also being reasonable with my yeses. We can’t have dessert for every meal.

A few weeks ago, I woke up and everything felt different.

I woke up and felt ready to move forward in a big way.

I wrote a letter, well it’s 2018 so really, I wrote an email.

When I took medical leave, while I was open about it here, I knew there were some who didn’t understand. When I left my job it appeared abrupt even though it wasn’t – I knew people wouldn’t understand. I wasn’t ready to make them understand 19 months ago, 16 months ago.

This email started with “I never thought I would feel capable of writing this…” In the middle was something about understanding that not everyone understands, but emotionally I wasn’t ready to help someone else understand. The end concluded with I hope there’s an opportunity to talk in the future, but I understand if that idea isn’t welcome.

These words took the elephant off my chest. Five minutes after writing it I had a response thanking me for the email, for the outreach. Saying they weren’t ready yet, but that in time, maybe.

Even if that conversation never happens knowing I’m ready is enough. Knowing the olive branch has been extended is enough.

Since I sent that email, I’ve felt different. I’ve also had the conversation with JP and with my therapist that going back to school for my degree in public health was also about finding myself and reigniting passion in my heart. In a way, it was an extension of medical leave. It allowed me time to learn something similar and something new. It allowed me to challenge myself and grow. It allowed me the time I needed to figure out how I can make my mark on the world because I really do believe that we are all meant to do something great, we just need to define that for ourselves.

I’ve been feeling more capable than I have been in a while.

As far as coaching and writing – I’m making headway on the workbook I’m writing, and I’m working with someone to do the design work. I’m taking on new clients and working towards a full client load since I have more flexibility in my schedule after school is done.

As far as school – I’m ready for finals. I’m ready for my last class.

Adult life? I’m ready for job applications. I didn’t think I would be ready for interviews, but they’re going well and getting easier.

Physical health-wise: I’m feeling good with the progress I’m seeing. It’s slow and that’s just the way I wanted it. Like I’ve talked about on Facebook, for vanity reasons, I’d like my hips to lean out a little bit. I’d like them to be where they were before – about an inch smaller. That’s not the smallest they’ve been, but that’s where I’m comfortable. I’m hitting my nutrition goals just fine, and workouts have been pretty good, however, anyone in a FitBit challenge will tell you they kick my ass left and right.

I’m ready for the next step.

I’m ready to see what I can do with this degree.

I’m ready to see the impact I can make on the world around me with this new knowledge of health.

I’m ready to get back the kind of normal grind.

I’m ready to continue to pave my own path.

 

❤ Cristina

 

 

 

 

 


I love food and as someone who was formerly obese, I do understand what that love can do physically. However, emotionally, I also know what it can mean for someone to completely change their lifestyle and make extreme changes. I used to believe that you had to always say ‘no’ to see change. When I started competing and “macro counting” I learned that it didn’t have to be that way.

I know that sounds weird, since many competitors follow strict meals plans and often say no more than yes during season. But through macro counting I learned that balance could be created if I paid attention to what I was eating versus eliminating food groups. Emotionally I felt like I could participate with this approach over other eating styles and approaches.

There are foods that do absolutely nothing for you nutritionally, like soda and potato chips. I don’t care if it’s “organic cane sugar” in your soda, it’s not helping. But a huge aspect of food is enjoyment. I enjoy alcohol every now and then. I enjoy donuts and sweets, but I try to enjoy them in moderation. I’m not always perfect, but in this moment, that’s ok.

Cheesecake was a dessert that I always thought of as luxurious and difficult to make. When I was in college I made the mistake of not incorporating dairy into my daily diet like it had been while I was growing up. My consumption went from a gallon of milk a week to maybe a glass a week, if ever. I still ate cheese, but not as much as I had previously. My junior year I developed a lactose intolerance and a lot of foods went out the window including soft ice cream, sour cream, homemade whipped cream and cheesecake.

Some things were worth the stomach ache, but other things  – not so much.

Over the past few years, I’ve incorporated a digestive enzyme into my routine to help with digestion. I’ve also slowly added some dairy back into my diet and I know my threshold – cheesecake will probably never been something I will get to enjoy sickness free. This is not to say that adding foods into your diet will cure allergies, an allergy is an immune response, which is different than an intolerance. Everyone is different and adding small amounts to your daily consumption may be harmful. Talk to your doctor if you’re really seeking to make changes of this nature.

So recently when my sweet tooth was kicking in and I knew I needed protein because dinner plans later were going to be carbohydrate heavy, I turned to one thing that never disappoints – pro-yo. Better than drinking my shake is eating it.

For me, pro-yo is plain yogurt with protein powder mixed in. It’s just adding to the protein content the yogurt naturally has, but gives it some flavor too. I wanted something a little more, but I didn’t want to make it complicated. I’ve made no bake and baked protein cheesecake before, so I knew I had simple ingredients so I figured I could play around and see where I end up.

Frozen Pro-Yo Squares for 2

What You’ll Need

  • 3 Graham crackers (any flavor)
  • 150g Plain Greek yogurt (I used 2% Fage)
  • 20g of whey casein blend protein (I used Quest Salted Caramel)
  • water

Directions

  1. In a baking pan or tray, lay out 3 sheets of graham crackers. I used a brownie pan, but anything with side would work.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine Greek yogurt and protein powder with 1 tablespoon of water until smooth. You can use any fat percentage of yogurt, it’s based on preference. The protein powder should be a blend of whey and casein because it’s thicker than whey isolate and will set differently.
  3. Pour and spread yogurt mixture on top of graham crackers as evenly as possible. I used tapped the pan on the counter so it would level out a little bit, but it doesn’t need to be perfect.
  4. Optional: sprinkle mini chocolate chips or nuts on top.
  5. Place in freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes and then serve. If you leave in the freezer for more than an hour these will be rock hard and that is the down fall.

Optional if you don’t want in a bar form:

  1. Skip original step 1 and go straight to step 2 – Mix Pro-Yo in a bowl.
  2. Top with your favorite toppings – crushed graham crackers, mini chocolate chips, pretzels, etc.
  3. Place in freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to set like frozen yogurt.

Estimated nutrition for half a pan of Frozen Pro-Yo Squares without toppings: ~4F/22C/18P

 

 


I owe you this recipe. A few weeks ago I went on a chicken salad kick, mostly because I love dill and this was an easy way to get in some protein without a ton of carbohydrates. I don’t like to put food into categories – I want to eat what I want when I want it, so chicken salad and tuna salad are often snacks in this house.

Like most of you, the weekends are for grocery shopping and meals are a moshposh until that happens. So we were looking at all the parts that we had in the fridge and tried to figure out what we could do with them – that’s where the cinnamon raisin bread in this recipe came into play.

Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad for Two

What You’ll Need

  • 8 ounces of cooked chicken breast, cubed
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used 2% Fage)
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts
  • 1/3 cup grapes, chopped
  • 4 slices of bread (I used Pepperidge Farm cinnamon raisin)
  • 1 teaspoon of dill weed
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Oven or toaster oven

Directions

1.In a medium sized mixing bowl mix cooked, cubed chicken, Greek yogurt and dill weed. I had seasoned my chicken when I baked it, but it can be plain as well. Mix thoroughly.

 

2.Mix in chopped grapes. I quartered our grapes because they were large, but whatever size you prefer. Depending on the size of the bread or if you choose a wrap may not need to quarter them.

 

3.Mix in walnut pieces. I put my walnuts in a bag and used a meat tenderizer to break them into smaller pieces. I’ve found that using a knife can be a long process and dangerous if your knife isn’t sharp enough. If you have walnut or pecan pieces already you can skip this step.

IMG_0574

4.(Optional) Toast your bread! For a hearty sandwich, I find that they can fall apart if there’s a lot in the middle, so toasting helps prevent this. I put my toast in the toaster oven for 2 minutes at 300 degrees. You may not need to toast for this long, again, it’s preference.

5.Add half of the mixture onto your toast and serve!

Nutrition for 1 serving: 372 calories, 10F/39.5C/37P

  • Fats decrease without or with less nuts
  • Carbohydrates change depending on bread/grain type
  • Protein changes depending on amount of chicken


Mr. Ping: The secret ingredient is… nothing!

Po: Huh?

Mr. Ping: You heard me. Nothing! There is no secret ingredient.

Po: Wait, wait… it’s just plain old noodle soup? You don’t add some kind of special sauce or something?

Mr. Ping: Don’t have to. To make something special you just have to believe it’s special.

[Po looks at the scroll again, and sees his reflection in it]

Po: There is no secret ingredient…

Capability.

Imposture syndrome.

Being enough.

These are things I’ve talked about a lot before, but as the semester winds down, these words and phrases keep creeping in. I know there are a lot of other students getting ready to graduate – all different ages that are feeling this way. I know there are people out there looking to change jobs that also feel this way.

New is scary, but new is necessary.

I started looking for jobs in February and started applying at the beginning of March, but this past week as I’ve been looking through descriptions, reading through organizational missions and sending applications and emails into cyberspace, I find myself questioning myself all over again.

While I have no issues blogging or talking on Facebook live, it’s a different ballgame writing cover letters and interviewing.

I fear that I’m not doing enough.

I fear that what I am capable of isn’t enough.

I fear that I’m in a gray area with my professional experience as a manager, a fundraiser, a strategic planner and my education. I am qualified for many jobs I’m looking at, but that doesn’t make cross-referencing my experience with descriptions less nerve-racking.

Can other job seekers raise their hands?

It’s when these phrases get into my head that I get worked up and frustrated. It’s here when I have to force myself to step back and think of everything that has happened the past decade – fieldwork, jobs, volunteering and conference presentations… relationships, scholarships created, programs designed and implemented and then evaluated. There’s a lot and I forget it all the time.

Undergrad seems so far away, my master’s seems like yesterday and I’m excited to be here, but I’m in awe of how I arrived here and how fast.

There’s no magic pill or special directions to follow.We create opportunities each day. We do what we can with what we have.

We are the magic. We just need to believe it. If we believe then others will too.

So for the next few weeks, along side my physical health goals, I’m planning time to sit down and journal at the end of the week to reflect on everything that I’ve accomplished and how I feel about progress.

I ask my clients to reflect about the good and the bad and everything in between, but I need to take my own advice and get it down on paper. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the feeling of incapability, but I’m working on it.

Acknowledging it and talking it out helps even if it’s just with myself. I have a few pages left in my journal before I need to find a new one so I might as well fill those pages before starting a new part of my life.

Then the hunt for a fresh journal will start.

So for today, I’m doing what I can with what I have with the time given. Things will fall into place when the timing is right.

❤ Cristina

 

 

 

 

Image result for kung fu panda


“We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as your proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Or perhaps we’ve just forgotten that we are still pioneers. And we’have barely begun. And that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, because our destiny lies above us.” – Interstellar

 

It’s Monday.

I just registered for my last class of my program. It’s United States Government. Perfect timing given the state of affairs we’re in. Public health officials affect change on policy – you need to know the laws and process before you try to break them or change them.

I have no idea where the last 18 months went. This is what I will say in June when I wrap up my final course.

There are many aspects to my health journey.

There was the day I got started. I don’t remember it, it’s not crystal clear. I know I refused to weigh myself initially because I knew it was bad. I went based on my clothes. I didn’t even track my food – I just ate less, but even that amount was still more than most people when they start. I saw weight loss and fat loss. My clothes got big, my body got small and I looked at my wallet thinking where will the money for new clothes come from.

There was day I started running. There was the day I started paleo – the day I stopped paleo. There was the day I decided I wanted to be a competitor and I started lifting, macro counting and clean eating. There was the day I decided clean eating wasn’t for me.

There’s been personal bests. There’s been solo 5Ks. There’s been a handful of competitions. There’s been a skin removal surgery. There’s been maintaining and gaining and loss. There’s been a fluctuating amount of weight loss, but size has been pretty much maintained…except these damn hips.

There’s the mental aspect of the journey. Deciding that health is more important than a bag chips or the dollar menu. Deciding that while there may not be motivation every day, effort should be made more often than not.

There’s been MANY conversations with myself. There’s been:

Girl, you look great! You’re crushing it. You can do this. You can’t do this. What did you get yourself into? Just another rep. Another five pounds is nothing, pick up the bar. Bed early, up early. If you don’t care about you, then who will? You shouldn’t eat that. You definitely should eat that. Stay on the floor a little longer, then pick yourself up. If you can get into the shower the morning will feel better. If you can get out of the shower you can make today good. Set a timer so you can study for your test. If you don’t study you won’t understand this. If you study too long you’re going to overload yourself. It’s ok that you didn’t get to the gym today, look at everything else you accomplished! Well, this plan was better on paper.

It’s no surprise, or it shouldn’t be at least – that there’s a mental or emotional connection with the physical manifestation of health, fat loss, weight loss – whatever label you give your journey.

I’ve said some uplifting things to myself. I’ve said some terrible things to myself. Sometimes I think about why I’m not as supportive of myself like I am my clients.

It’s not that there aren’t standards for them, but everyone has a different life.

Today is the last day of being 28 and I don’t know everything about myself.

I’m still learning about my capabilities. I’m still learning when to back off and when to push harder.

The past 18 months have had some ups and downs. There’s been some sitting on the kitchen floor moments – a lot less though when I think back.

The past 18 months have been a very different environment. Going to school for my bachelor’s was easy and I don’t remember struggling to adapt to a different schedule every semester.

In the past 18 months, I’ve taken 12 classes, five were lab intensive. I have one more course like I mentioned above. I’m also finishing up fieldwork into the summer. I need 300 hours minimum of unpaid public health related work.

In the first month, I launched my health and lifestyle coaching business.

I hate calling myself a health coach, I hate saying lifestyle coach too. Health coach has become synonymous with scheme or product pusher. Health and lifestyle coaching, for me at least, is so much more than fat loss. It’s analyzing the role our environments play in our lives and developing a plan that allows for flexibility that is unique to the client. It’s about long-term behavior change. It’s about making connections and finding what works for the individual.

Wanting to help people in this way pushed me to go back to school.

 

While coaching others, I share my experiences too while connecting them to theories and research. I share even my darkest moments with them because we are human, an we can persevere. They need to see that we can persevere – that they can persevere too.

By the end of the month eight in school I came to realize that health is bigger than I thought. Public health was a natural choice for me because it mixed what I believe health to be: emotional and mental and physical. I had been sharing on social media how my mental health impacted my choices and impacted my health.

However, I hadn’t been considering other external barriers.

Simply, if you don’t have healthy food in your home you won’t eat healthy food. When creating a healthy, balanced meal plan you want to look at foods that support you and those that hinder you. If you believe elimination of certain foods is important because of temptation then by all means remove them and work through the larger issue of why food controls you. This is a simple idea.

This is a barrier that can be easily removed. But what about those who can’t afford it.

If you don’t have an apple in the kitchen then you can’t choose an apple as a snack. But what if you’re at the grocery store and you can’t purchase the apple because $2.99/pound outweighs the cost of buying a bag of rice to feed a family?

I want to empower people. I want people to feel confident in their decisions. I want them to consider all the roles they play in their life. I want them to think about what impacts their choices and the process they go through when deciding.

I tell my clients there are some things you can’t control. I tell myself that too. When life gets hard we talk about it from two angles: what we control and what we don’t.

You can argue that people could spend their money more wisely to afford fruits and vegetables. You can also argue that they may not see the long-term effects of that and may only be able to see the short-term implications of making their dollar go further.

In the past 18 months, I’ve worked with about 60 people on various health and lifestyle goals and there are many similarities including internal barriers they create for themselves. The bigger question I started asking myself while going through course literature was “what about the external barriers that cyclically divide who should be healthy and who shouldn’t be?”

At nine months into my program, I started thinking bigger. I started thinking about my community. I started thinking about affecting change so that being healthy isn’t just for those who can afford it.

By month 10, I decided I wanted to create access. Not only do I want people to be able to make healthy choices, but before they can even consider a healthy choice, they need opportunities and access to choices.

Month 12, I had been reading even more outside the classroom than I already had been. I was going through legislation and interviewing for my fieldwork placement. I also decided I need to do more writing in the New Year. I work to educate my clients so that they can make informed choices, but I wasn’t sharing this aspect of me here. That’s where Wellness Refocused Education posts came from. I’ve been slower to write than I want to, but guys – this semester is kicking my butt.

These educational posts are meant to get people thinking, provide resources for them to continue to research on their own and more importantly help those who don’t want the help of a coach for whatever reason, but want to be more knowledgeable.

I started fieldwork in month 13 and that’s when I realized if I want to create more access, I want to get involved in policy. I want to get involved in program creation and implementation. I want to start at zero.

Last month, in month 14, as I was researching for fieldwork, I saw how environment dictates priority. I saw how the interpretation of standards influences if someone will go above and beyond or do the minimal requirements. I saw the conflict between these two.

I joked the other day at the office and said I want to solve hunger. A woman I was speaking with looked at me with all seriousness and said, “we need to talk the next time I come in. I’m working on a project that we should talk about.”

I never knew that when I said I wanted to help empower people to make healthy choices and feel confident in their choices, I really meant that I want to affect change so that there are choices and opportunities for individuals to create healthy lives for themselves without or with minimal barriers.

I wasn’t thinking big enough in the beginning.

I love coaching, but I also love the idea of making an impact in this way too.

I’m getting involved in my community. I’m currently running a book collection for kids for a local organization that focuses on victims and survivors of domestic violence. I’m raising money to support an organization that provides programming for food access (see below). I’m trying to see the larger picture and the connections.

This morning, in month 15 – I was told that invitations for a leadership and goal setting workshop I created and will be running at the end of April will be sent out soon to about 400 members of the honor society I’m in. I get to do what I love with a group of people in an academic and professional setting.

I’m a small person. I’ve actually shrunk. I’m 5’3.5″, I used to be 5’4″. But I need to keep dreaming. I need to keep thinking big.

By June classes will be completed. By August I’ll have an official diploma in hand.

I’ve already started looking and applying for jobs.

I don’t know how these months have gone by so fast, but I know the moments in which something in my perspective changed.

This health journey is so much more than my weight loss. It’s so much more than a competitor’s heart or coping with mental health.

I guess I’m interested to see what happens to my corner of the world if I can move the needle a little bit.

I say all the time, I never thought I would be here.

I thought I would look older, feel older. I thought my career would be different. I thought I would comfortable, but I’ve never been good at siting still and getting comfortable.

❤ Cristina

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“Most people live life on the path we set for them. Too afraid to explore any other. But once in a while people like you come along and knock down all the obstacles we put in your way.” The Adjustment Bureau

I’ve been thinking about this post all weekend.

This weekend I got to relax. I didn’t have to do homework or reading immediately because I have break this week, but I will get back to it soon so I can stay on top of it.

Instead, we had friends over on Saturday night for food and drinks. We laughed a lot. We stayed up late. We made brunch on Sunday, and disconnected a bit.

But in the back of my head, I thought about a check-in I had with a client on Friday afternoon. It was our last check-in for this block of eight weeks and she has grown so much.

Periodically throughout the weeks of a coaching block, I’ll ask a client how they feel about progress so far based on their hopes and expectations from the start of coaching. I will also ask them to think back a few months or a year and compare progress. Sometimes I’ll ask “thinking back, did you ever think you would get here? Did you ever think this could be reality?” I also take notes during check-ins so I can look back and make comparisons and ask better questions.

In the screening process and during the first call as we’re getting started, I will tell every single client that it’s possible that goals will either shift a bit or completely change. That it’s possible that as we’re working on something, another thing may pop up that was unexpected that may have more importance in the moment. It’s not that we’ll stop working on the initial goal completely, but it will be worked on in a different way.

So Friday’s client is a mom. I’ve said it before that mom’s are my favorite population to work with. They don’t see their magic the way I do. It could be because my mom wasn’t the greatest, while she tried in her own way to be. I guess I think of mom’s as unicorns. Something I never really had, but something I know exists out there, somewhere.

So this client, this mom. She’s like other mom’s I’ve worked with. She’s got ideas and she’s got heart – a huge one. She wants the best for her kids and her family. However, she struggled to see how her environment impacted her.

By day, she’s a corporate employee who’s worked her way up. By night, she’s a small business owner, a leader, a chef, a chauffeur, a study-partner, a companion and so much more. I’m sure this sounds familiar to a lot of you. We don’t wear the same roles or hats, but we all wear many.

In the beginning of coaching, her short-term goals included wanting to get back in the gym and having a plan, she wanted to better understand how to balance her nutrition, she wanted to build her business; her long-term goals included becoming a certified dyslexia specialist and tutor, having a successful business so she could leave her job and maintain a level of health and wellness that made her feel good and confident to teach her kids how to be healthy too.

So in the beginning, we were focused on figuring out an eating style that worked for her. This was the first step. She understood macronutrients, but had never been a part of the diet discussion. We tried macro-counting  and then realized that with her schedule – in and out of the house, it wasn’t realistic and attainable. She suggested intermittent fasting because she had been doing some research and thought based on what she had read it may be beneficial. We talked about its benefits, we talked about its clinical purposes, we talked about how it would fit and work with her life. She said it would help alleviate stress from the evening rush with her children and tutoring.

I recommended trying it for a week so she had time to adjust to a more structured time shift and eating window. We also made a macronutrient shift because she recognized that she was eating more fruits and vegetables, less grains, but more fats like olive oil, avocado and nuts and we wanted to make sure that she was capable of eating in a shorter window and enjoying what she was eating.

Physical activity was discussed. We spoke about her workouts and what her goals were. Initially, she needed to get to the gym and see where her strength was because it had been a while she since had been consistent in the gym. We talked about tracking workouts so that she could see where she was starting over at and then could build from there. We talked about what she liked about the gym. She likes to do the classes at her gym sometimes, but she also likes to work out with her husband. Realistically, for her schedule, classes aren’t always able to be fit in. And with kids – her and her husband have to alternate who’s going to the gym and who’s driving them around. So we talked about workouts a week at a time – how many days do you want to be there and how many days are realistic. She just needed some consistency to start with. So three days, that’s baseline.

During our eight weeks, she had multiple regional business trips that put her seated in a car and in meetings for hours. She had a trip or two where she flew out of her time zone for a few days. There were days she was completely in control of the agenda and days she wasn’t.

Life popped up and added surprises.

At the very beginning of coaching, and possibly just before, she and her husband had learned that both of her children were dyslexic. It provided explanation for a lot of things, but that also meant changes to their family dynamic. One child also has ADHD, which is often associated with dyslexia and it meant adjusting their diet. While science is still looking for answers, there are associations with Red Dye 40 and hyperactivity. There could be better research, but this is a start, so it’s where they started.

This was something that they didn’t expect to happen, however, if you ask her how the elimination of a foods with Red Dye 40 is going, she’ll tell you that her kids point out it on the labels, they ask questions about foods they’re eating and they’re not really missing foods that have been eliminated.

With the diagnosis, it also meant needing more opportunity to go over school work in an environment that helped them thrive rather than made them feel as though they would never understand. Evenings now consisted of tutoring, which meant dinner wasn’t together – someone had to drive; the gym wasn’t priority and days felt a little bit longer. However, she saw the magic of having someone who could help her children. It ultimately showed her how she could help them too.

Check-ins frequently consisted of talking about tutoring and how household changes were going. We would go over measurements and discuss workouts, but we also talked about work and her own business. We talked about her business plans and how she was balancing everything.

There were emails that would reflect her own disappointment because she couldn’t see that progress still occurred even though it was slow. It may not have been as fast as desired, but still moving in the right direction despite everything else that was happening around her. However, there were also text messages saying clothes were fitting better and that through her business she believes that she’s finding purpose in other areas of her life.

During our last check-in, she told me the day she’s resigning from her corporate job, which is happening faster than she thought it would. She said, it’ll give her the opportunity to finish her certification so she can teach her children at home next school year because they aren’t able to get what they need where they are now even though the school has been informed – the resources just aren’t there.

She said leaving her job will give her time to work on her business a little bit more and that will allow flexibility as a family. Easier to plan vacations. Easier to say yes to activities like sports for her children who spend more time studying than playing.

She may be able to shift her eating structure because there will be more time and the family can sit down for dinner together again. She said, she’s actually excited about cooking.

She’ll be able to have more routine with her workouts. She’ll be able to fill her cup up more often so that she can fill the cups of others too.

Figuring out the next steps for her children, pushed her to think about what she really wanted out of her own future and career. On Friday, she seemed to talk with a happier voice that was relieved and ready to take on the future.

Looking back, in eight weeks, she accomplished a lot. There were some obvious things and some things that weren’t so easily visible. Some things that weren’t intended, but life wasn’t perfect the past eight weeks either.

  • lost 6 pounds
  • lost 11.875 inches
  • found a balance with her activity and nutrition that worked for her in the moment while examining external factors
  • tried new things
  • trusted someone else
  • was capable of creating an environment of open and collaborative communication
  • trusted herself enough to take a leap of faith without perfect timing
  • decided to home school her children regardless of the thoughts of others
  • redesigned her business model

So when I asked her that question about what she’s accomplished with coaching, how this experience has been for her, where she started and where she was a long time ago, she said she had always wanted to leave her career, but never thought she would be able to.

Two things she said to me that will always stick with me:

“I always thought really small.”

“I couldn’t see possibility passed what I already had.”

When she said these words, she looked up at the ceiling, I knew that it didn’t matter if she crossed off everything she had listed in the beginning perfectly, because it was clear that progress was made and that she knew it.

There is something bigger inside us that takes a while to uncover.

When we trust ourselves, when we trust our hearts – we’re more capable than we could’ve ever imagined.

We all can be unicorns.

❤ Cristina