The kids are back in school, the weather is cooling down, and all the stay-at-home parents let out a big sigh – some time! All to yourself! What to do with it?

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The start of school is a great time to start a new plan to improve your health. Create a new routine early on, and you’ll be on the straight and narrow to the healthy life you want. Here are 5 simple steps to help you get started.

1. Dream a little. If your life was exactly the way you imagine it to be – if you could be anything, feel any way, and do whatever you dreamed of, what would your life look like? Spend part of this time focusing specifically on your health and fitness. It doesn’t matter how unrealistic your dream may seem, you can address details later. This is time to think BIG.

 

2. Be honest. Now take some time to honestly and realistically assess the current state of affairs. What do your life, health, and fitness look like now? How much time do you devote to your health? Do you worry about your health or does your health limit the things you want to do? Take note of where things are at now. Compare your big dreams to your current reality. What’s different? Ask yourself what would need to change in order to gradually head you in the direction of your dream. Don’t anticipate that you will achieve the dream in weeks or months – the goal is to always be moving toward the dream.

3. Select your long-term goals. Choose some realistic goals (1-2 is usually a good number) to achieve in the next 3 months. Make sure these are designed to head you toward your dream. Give yourself a deadline to complete them! Note: If one of your goals is to lose weight, 1-2 pounds per week is a safe and realistic amount of weight to lose. Losing faster than that can cause some major long-term negative effects on your metabolism, and can cause you to lose muscle.

Examples of long-term goals:

Lose 20 lbs by December 15, 2017.

Play outside with my grandkids for 30 minutes without feeling fatigued by November 15, 2017.

Run 6 miles without stopping by January 1, 2018.

Lower morning blood sugars to less than 120 mg/dL 5 days out of 7 by December 31, 2017.

4. Break it down farther. Time to break the long-term goals into smaller, short-term goals (2-4 is a good number). These are the things that you will do on a daily or weekly basis that will inch you each day a step closer to your dream. Be very specific – instead of making a goal to “eat healthy,” say “eat 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day.” That specificity makes it easy to track and gives you a very clear target. Another key piece? Choose things that won’t make you miserable!IMG_3116

Examples of short-term goals:

Use a calorie tracker to eat 1600-1800 calories per day, 5 out of 7 days per week.

Begin walking 10 minutes per day, 3 days per week. Increase by 5 minutes per week to goal of 30 minutes per day.

Complete a Couch to 5K training plan.

Focus on limiting carbohydrate intake to 30-45 grams per meal.

5. Now go get your dream! Be diligent and faithful to complete your short-term goals. Share your goals with a couple of people close to you (or your 500 closest Facebook friends!) to help hold you accountable. If you need extra support, knowledge, or resources to create or meet your goals, find a Registered Dietitian, exercise physiologist, or personal trainer to assist you.

Once you’ve done these five things, lather, rinse, and repeat! The key is to continually create new goals – keep dreaming, keep setting goals, and keep smashing them. If you miss one, make a new one or try again. This is your one and only life and body – don’t give up on them!

Need some help? I’m having a back-to-school special! If you’re interested in getting started with a new healthy routine, call 360.358.3179 during the month of September and schedule an initial appointment, and receive a FREE body composition assessment!



Do you have a favorite family recipe that you’d like to improve on? Are you interested in learning how to be a more mindful and health-conscious cook? Use this list of cooking substitutions to improve the nutritional quality of your favorite recipe!

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Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Think of substitutions in cooking as “trial and error.” Sometimes they’ll work out great and other times they might flop, but it’s all part of the process. Every recipe is different – you’ll never know unless you try!
  • If you’re tweaking an old favorite recipe, try changing just 1-2 ingredients at a time. Then, if it doesn’t turn out, you’ll know which change didn’t work.

Happy cooking (and eating)!

If your recipe calls for… Try this instead… For this nutritional benefit…
Condensed milk or evaporated milk Evaporated skim milk
  • Fewer calories
  • Less saturated fat
Sour cream Nonfat plain Greek yogurt or (depending on the texture desired) nonfat cottage cheese
  • More protein
  • Less saturated fat (compared to whole sour cream)
Cream cheese Neufchâtel cheese (find it right next to the cream cheese in most grocery stores)
  • Fewer calories
  • Less saturated fat
Bacon Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, or lean prosciutto
  • Fewer calories
  • Less saturated fat
  • Less sodium
Mashed potatoes Steamed, pureéd cauliflower
  • Fewer carbohydrates
  • Fewer calories
  • More vitamins and minerals
Potatoes Sweet potatoes
  • More vitamins
White rice or pasta Whole grain pasta, brown rice, bulgur, couscous, barley
  • More fiber
  • More vitamins and minerals
  • More stable blood sugar response
No vegetables Add any vegetables you have around!
  • More fiber
  • More vitamins and minerals
  • Improved satisfaction after the meal with fewer calories eaten (veggies take up a lot of space!)
Butter Canola oil or avocado oil
  • More omega-3s and healthful monounsaturated fats
  • Less saturated fat
Salt Herbs (oregano, parsley, thyme, sage, basil, chives, garlic), spices (turmeric, cumin, curry, lemon pepper, black pepper), lemon juice, or use half the salt
  • Less sodium
  • More anti-inflammatory properties

The Parsons family got back a few days ago from a road trip that sort of resembled those you see on family comedies – you know, the ones where nothing goes exactly as planned? We had a great time though and thankfully everyone kept positive attitudes and was patient. The fiascos only led to fun stories and memories.

Since returning from vacation I have had a really hard time getting back into my routine and back to blogging, posting, and well…working. One of the major benefits/challenges of working for yourself I suppose. Anyway, I thought I’d ease myself back into it with a fun, goofy post.

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Recently, a friend of mine found this nutrition guide from the 1950s at an antique store and picked it up for me (thanks, Sandy!). I have had a blast poking through it and finding some doozies, as well as some common sense that still presides over balanced eating today. Today I’m going through the top 3 best (and silliest) pieces of nutrition advice from this little gem.

5 Best Pieces of 1950s Nutrition Advice

  1. “Do not skip meals.” This can help your body regulate its own blood sugar and prevent overeating later in the day. Often nighttime snacking binges are the result of an inadequate or absent breakfast.
  2. “Eat many kinds and all you can of low calorie vegetables.” I can not emphasize enough the importance of the inclusion of these super-healthy foods. Most of our bodies are dying for some natural vitamins and minerals! For most of my clients, if they changed nothing other than meeting their daily allotment of fruits and vegetables, they noticed a significant improvement in energy levels and any symptoms they had.

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3. “Your diet should be based on a personal understanding of the difference between hunger and appetite.” The book elaborates by describing hunger as a need for fuel, while appetite is a desire for something tasty. This is vital, especially today. We have so many tasty foods easily available to us that we have trained ourselves to feed both our appetites and our hunger. Noticing the difference, prioritizing and feeding hunger, and practicing other methods of addressing appetite can be a long-term game-changer for many in their quest to improve their health. Often, this requires help from a knowledgeable counselor (since “appetite” in the sense described here is very often fueled by negative emotions or depression) and Registered Dietitian.

 

3 Silliest Pieces of 1950s Nutrition Advice

  1. For women to know their height and weight, they must weigh while ordinarily dressed with 2″ high-heeled shoes. 😂 Men should weigh while ordinarily dressed but without their topcoat or hat.IMG_3013

 

2. “Do not drink large amounts of water at mealtime…nor one hour before or up to one hour afterward.” Why? Most of us are underhydrated and often mistake thirst for hunger. Drinking water at mealtimes can help digestion and prevent overeating. Drink up!

3. In order to “reduce,” you must alternate your intakes between about 700 and 1200 calories per day, depending on your weight. Yikes! Under absolutely no normal circumstances would I recommend an adult eating less than 1200 calories per day (unless you are less than 5 feet tall). Studies show that drastic reductions in intakes and weight have long-term negative consequences on metabolism. Plus, you feel awful!

Hope you enjoyed this fun dive into the past as much as I did! Have a good laugh and a healthful day!


Let food be thy medicine - Hippocrates

 

The short answer? Just about everybody. The average person is wandering around with more inflammation going on than is healthy.1 There are certain conditions, though, that can really see improvement by following an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. In fact, depending on the condition and severity, dietary changes have led to improvements greater or equal to those of medications. Here’s a list of conditions that are related to inflammation and can be improved by incorporating some anti-inflammatory changes to your diet and lifestyle:

  • Obesity – high levels of excess fat, especially fat around the waist, are associated with an increase in overall inflammation in the body, which can lead to insulin resistance (diabetes’ slightly less ugly cousin) and heart disease1
  • Diabetes – insulin resistance (mentioned above) is the precursor to diabetes, and is caused largely by inflammation1
  • Heart Disease – atherosclerosis is an inflammatory condition in the arteries that can lead to heart attack, stroke, or clots2, 3
  • Arthritis, Gout, and Chronic Pain – these conditions obviously lead to painful joints, and it’s not always true, but in this case, pain = inflammation4,5
  • Frequent Headaches – again, usually (but not always), pain = inflammation6
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and Celiac Disease – these conditions are all linked to inflammation in the gut, which then leads to, well…you don’t want to know
  • Dementia (prevention) – there are quite a few connections between chronic inflammation and the progression of dementia, unfortunately it seems we have to nip this one in the bud before it happens7
  • Endometriosis, PCOS, PMS/Cramps, and other Reproductive Health Issues – each of these has a different link to inflammation, but it typically boils down to either pain or, in the case of PCOS, insulin resistance.8 Not based on any research, I can say from personal experience that eating the anti-inflammatory diet made a significant decrease in my cramps (and I’ve seen this for several clients and friends as well).

If you have one of these conditions or just hope to be a happy, healthy human – click here to learn more about anti-inflammatory eating!

Disclaimer: To be clear, I do not recommend that you cease taking medications prescribed by your doctor without his or her approval. Dietary changes do not always replace medication, particularly in severe cases or with specific conditions. Discuss your goals with your doctor and find a Registered Dietitian to assist you in improving your overall health. If you live in Washington state, come see me!

  1. https://www.jci.org/articles/view/19451
  2. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/atherosclerosis
  3. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/105/9/1135
  4. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/anti-inflammatory/anti-inflammatory-diet.php
  5. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166432803004650
  6. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304395913003965
  7. Pawlak, L. The Hungry Brain. 2012. Biomed books.
  8. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028207002026

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Thanks for being patient with me as I navigate the land of the computer-less. I’m still on the hunt for a new Surface Pro.

Meanwhile, I finished my anti-inflammatory diet on Monday. I was telling my husband that this has to be in the top two for the most enjoyable eating style I’ve tried (tied with carb counting). You can still eat most anything, and it truly makes a difference for me to mentally focus on getting in good stuff rather than cutting out “forbidden” foods (like when I was on Paleo – miserable!).

I can’t say that I felt much different necessarily, with the exception of one noticeable thing. Plug your ears if it weirds you out guys, but when the natural disaster occurred this month, my normally 4-6 level cramps were easily only 1-3. I’ve noticed before that there is a connection between my hydration/diet and my cramps, but this was pretty dang sweet.

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet was mildly restrictive, but largely enjoyable. I didn’t mind adding chia seeds and avocado to stuff and including lots of spices – they add tons of flavor and keep food interesting! Overall, anti-inflammatory is one of my favorite eating styles to date. I will blog more soon about the specific types of conditions/people that can benefit from eating this way. In the meantime, enjoy your Father’s Day weekend!


Sorry for the delay in posting – I’ve been experiencing technical difficulties. And by “technical difficulties” I mean that my work tablet took a brief swim and is now resting in a pan of rice. 🙁 Pray for dry insides!

Anyhoo, as you may know, eating out and eating well can be a challenge. My favorite mantra for eating out:

You can make a “bad” choice just about everywhere, you can make a “good” choice pretty much anywhere, but you can always make the best choice for where you are.

Life happens. Food is a (wonderful!) part of life. By all means, eat out and enjoy it! Making choices when eating out depends a lot on how frequently you eat out. If you mostly cook at home and eat out once or twice a month or only on special occasions, ignore this post. Go out on your date night, anniversary, or family fun night and enjoy it. Don’t worry about this – it’s not a big enough portion of your whole eating picture to matter that much. I’m not advocating an all-out binge, but you should order what you want and move on.

On the other hand, if eating out is more frequent for you – maybe you travel or life is just busy – the story is different. You will have to tailor your eating out for your health goals if you ever hope to meet them. If you’re hoping to eat well with an eye towards decreasing inflammation, here are some tips from my experiences in the last few weeks:

Asian

We’ve eaten Asian food out twice since I started anti-inflammatory. Once we went to a new (to us) local Asian fusion restaurant that essentially offers a Subway-style, build-your-own sushi wrap, bowl, or salad. When eating out along these lines, choose foods without too much carbohydrate and get lots of veggies. Choose fish (especially salmon) – it’s high in anti-inflammatory omega-3s! If you’re up for spicy, add in brightly-colored spicy sauces, but go easy on those with sugar like teriyaki or sweet chili sauce. The seaweed in sushi is loaded with antioxidants too. I really wanted a sushi wrap so I asked for a light layer of rice, got miso soup on the side, and only ate half of the wrap.

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Another day we went to a Korean restaurant. This one was easy – I love bibimbap! If you aren’t familiar, it’s a crackly, delicious cauldron of rice, tons of veggies, a meat of your choice, and an egg. I chose chicken and added loads of the optional veggie add-ins at the table (especially kimchi, which not only has colorful spices but also contains probiotics). Again, I saved half for later.

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Italian

This one was tricky because (by far) my favorite type of Italian food is pasta, and most pasta dishes are just that – a giant plate of carbohydrates with a creamy, buttery inflammatory sauce. Hmph. I had to do a little finagling for this one. I decided I would still get pasta but choose a lean meat, an olive-oil based vinaigrette sauce, and lots of colorful vegetables. In this case, I picked a seafood pasta (to up the omega-3s) with tomatoes, onions, and asparagus. To prevent eating too many carbs I only ate half (are you noticing a pattern?). A vegetable-based sauce (like marinara) would have worked nicely too. Watch out for too much cheese or the absurd amount of delicious carbohydrates like breadsticks with pasta, pasta, and more pasta!

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If you weren’t so much a pasta person, a salad with Italian vinaigrette or a chicken breast with marinara sauce could be a less inflammatory choice.

Seafood

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A friend’s birthday dinner took us to a seafood restaurant. Seafood is anti-inflammatory as long as it’s not covered in butter or alfredo sauce (darn it), so you can choose a fillet of salmon or whitefish with veggies and a starch any time. I opted for a cioppino – basically seafood stewed in a tomato-based sauce with herbs and spices. High in antioxidants and omega-3s! It came with one slice of bread (plus in the spirit of full disclosure, I ate a slice of sourdough as an appetizer too). I skipped a drink and opted for water instead. Since my entree wasn’t inflammatory and it was delicious and reasonably portioned, I ate the whole thing!

Indian

We didn’t actually go out to an Indian restaurant in the last three weeks, but it could be a great place to go for an anti-inflammatory meal because of all of the beautiful spices they use! Keep your rice/naan portion reasonable, choose a sauce that is brightly-colored but not creamy, like curry, and get a brightly-colored veggie for a side (like palak paneer aka curried spinach with goat cheese). This is a great opportunity to go meatless and choose a lentil- or garbanzo-based dish as well!


As I’ve continued with anti-inflammatory eating, I’ve frequently found myself at BBQs – summer is starting! Depending on the context, anti-inflammatory eating can be tricky at BBQs because there may not be very many options, other people are bringing the foods, and sometimes the sides are just junk food. Tough anti-inflammatory noogies for Becki93DDDAA0-3BAE-435D-A4A1-BA8404525C5F.

So, I’ve had to be creative: eat small at the BBQ and fill in the gaps with fruits or veggies at home after or bring a fruit or veggie to the BBQ.

Fruit has become my go-to anti-inflammatory snack, and that is fine with me. I’m sprinkling chia seeds on nearly any edible object that will allow it, and using lots and lots of spices, which is so fun! I’ve really enjoyed the food I’ve been eating and it’s anything but bland. The anti-inflammatory diet definitely makes for colorful, visually pleasing, and delicious healthful eating.

Tune in later this week to learn about who can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet, and tips on eating out while on an anti-inflammatory diet.


Depending on who you ask, you might find anti-inflammatory recommendations that encourage complete elimination of sugar and carbohydrates to decrease inflammation. As is frequently the case, though, those recommendations are likely unnecessary extremes and everything is case-by-case. For one thing, you can probably achieve the anti-inflammatory benefits you’re looking for while still including well chosen, nutrient dense complex carbohydrates. Secondly, why over-restrict if we can still enjoy some tasty treats in moderation? That’s how we balance meeting health goals and living a life we love! So what does the research actually say about carbs and inflammation?

Multiple studies have linked consumption of concentrated sugar and simple carbohydrate consumption with increased levels of inflammation.1-2 A long time ago I talked in this post about what happens when we eat carbs and how we break them down into blood sugar to use as fuel. Those fuels are stuck in the blood until insulin comes around to let them in to our cells. High blood sugars, especially over the long term, correlate with inflammation in several types of tissue in the body, including fat cells.3

A strong link has been drawn between chronic inflammation and insulin resistance.4 This is a vicious cycle because (as you may remember from this post) insulin resistance means that blood sugars get stuck in the blood without a way out, causing fat storage and inflammation. Stored fat then produces inflammatory factors which make insulin resistance worse! Not fair.

So what can we do about it? Well, we can aim to cut inflammation off at the pass by changing parts of our lifestyle and the foods we eat to combat inflammation and give our cells a helping hand with that blood sugar. With regard to carbohydrates, we can do a couple of things specifically:

  1. Focus on eating more complex carbohydrates than simple carbohydrates like sugar. What does that mean? Well, complex carbohydrates are long chains of sugars that take much longer to digest, break down, and enter our blood, thus making our blood sugar much more stable (and preventing inflammation from blood sugar spikes). Simple carbohydrates are individual sugars or tiny chains of sugars that break down very quickly and enter the blood rapidly, causing a sharp spike in blood sugar that is inflammatory. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, and vegetables are connected with lower levels of inflammation.5 Same goes for high-fiber carbohydrates like fruit.

Photo from wearewhatweeat1.blogspot.com

 

2. Avoid eating too much carbohydrate at once. Just like with diabetes, the key to preventing carbohydrate-induced inflammation is keeping the blood sugar from going too high. Eating controlled amounts of carbohydrate throughout the day can help keep your energy up and your inflammation down.

  1. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/94/2/479.short
  2. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2013/509502/abs/
  3. http://www.jbc.org/content/280/6/4617.short
  4. https://www.jci.org/articles/view/19451
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17391554

Today marks the end of my first week following an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. I haven’t posted much this week because we were busy (or actually, quite un-busy) camping and relaxing with family this weekend! So far, anti-inflammatory is going pretty well and I’m enjoying the food I’m eating. It’s not really any more expensive than our food usually is.

What’s working well: Activity has been so easy with the beautiful weather! We spent the weekend (besides lounging and reading in hammocks and lawn chairs) kayaking and playing volleyball, badminton, and croquet. The other big key to easing anti-inflammatory eating is keeping my mindset focused on two things: 1) I focus on the importance of getting in anti-inflammatory foods – it’s not just about limitations and restrictions, and 2) thinking about the effect that all of the anti-inflammatory foods have on my body. It helped me to think about those consequences, then I still might decide the food was worth it to me to eat, but I had a balanced perspective and it was typically easier to avoid treats I really didn’t care about as much and limit my portions of those I did. Here are some photos of foods I ate throughout the week:

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Some struggles I’ve had: Choosing food this weekend was definitely tough! We assigned meals to different family members for camping so I didn’t have a ton of control over what was available at each meal. I chose as best I could by loading up on the veggie and fruit and limiting any entrees, sides, or desserts that were particularly high in sugar or saturated fat. Thankfully, my family is relatively health-conscious so there tended to be plenty of fruit or veggies available. My aunt made some lavender lemonade that was TO DIE FOR and we had a birthday party during the weekend as well, so I had tiny bits of treats spread out throughout the four days. I scraped the frosting off of a small piece of cake and chose only bites of the superb homemade ice cream my brother and sister-in-law made. The holiday weekend was definitely more “pro-inflammatory” than the rest of my week, but hey, that’s life! Check out the photos below to see some of the meals and snacks I ate this weekend.

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