Making Exercise and Diet a Top Priority


People often ask me how I keep myself healthy?  How do I eat well 95% of the time and exercise most days of the week.  My simple answer is “It’s what I like to do.”  I value my health.  I value how I feel:  my energy, my vitality.  I believe it is human nature do things because we place value on them.  Sure, a little extra “will power” doesn’t hurt, but in essence it is passion and value that drive our lifestyle habits.  In my health coaching program I focus a great deal on values and why they are so important.  Values play a key role in my clients overall health vision.  When you value something you will commit your time, your energy, and the heart of your being.   Once you determine what is truly valuable to you, doing what is meaningful becomes less strenuous.  Saying no to things that don’t fit into your life becomes much easier too!  It’s all about finding that balance that works well for you.
Try answering the following questions regarding the vision you have for your well-being.   Your answers may surprise you!
What is your Optimal Health Vision?
What is most important to you as you think about your Optimal Health Vision?
What values does your vision represent?

Exercise and Chronic Inflammation

6792472882_6f45c4564f_mMost of us like to think the more exercise the better.  However, this is not always the case as exercise can cause chronic tissue inflammation if done at a high intensity over several days in a row. Inflammation occurs during exercise due to the bodies response to stress and the breaking down and rebuilding of tissues.  If you are exercising often, it’s beneficial to exercise at a high intensity for 30 minutes or less or a lower intensity for 75 minutes or less.  Anything more could put you at risk for chronic inflammation.  When the body is constantly inflammed, it’s hard to rebuild tissues properly or increase immunity.  We all know what chronic stress can do to our bodies and minds.  So what does all this mean?  Research shows that moderate exercise (for up to 60 minutes) at a lower intensity can actually reduce inflammation and stimulate a healthy immune response.  The key to understanding inflammation in your own body is to keep an exercise log noting type and time.  It is also a good idea to note how you feel within hours and even days of the workout.  Remember-the body is always striving for balance so too much of anything isn’t always best.  Rest is good!

Mindful Eating & Digestion

IMG_5451-2Have you ever thought about how stress can affect your ability to digest foods properly?  How many people suffer from chronic heartburn, IBS, Crohn’s, and other digestive disorders.  Our brain and stomach are in constant contact by way of the vagus nerve.  Ever had butterflies before a speech or interview?  That’s your brain sending signals to the rest of your body…”I’m nervous!”  A little stress is normal, but when we live with constant stressors, our brain can send out signals that slow digestion which creates major problems throughout our bodies.  If you don’t digest, nutrients are lost and then disease may follow.  When we are stressed, the sympathetic nervous system is triggered and many normal functions such as digestion slow down.  Basically, your brain is telling your body to stop doing the things that aren’t necessary until you deal with the stressor.  It’s like being chased by a lion, you probably aren’t thinking about eating.  So how can you help your digestion by making small changes in your life?  You may not be able to reduce your stressors, but you can take action to keep your mind more serene.  Mindfulness is a great place to start. Being mindful is being present and in the moment. Mindfulness is paying attention to our bodies and recognizes our own needs.  It is a self-care tool which we all could use a little more of!  Mindfulness can also be helpful with our eating patterns.  Eating to much? Eating the wrong foods for your body?  Try paying attention to feelings of fullness, and how foods affect your moods and overall energy and health.  Stress reduction can also occur through mindfulness based exercise programs such as yoga, Pilates, and Tai chi.  Try incorporating some of these techniques into your life.  You may improve your mood and your digestion!


What is Your Story?

storiesHave you ever heard someone speaking about a particular event and thought “that’s not the way I remember it”, or ” they have a totally different story then I do”.  The stories we hear from others and often from our own minds can be different from what is factual and real!  Often times it’s the stories we tell ourselves that hinder our movement toward changing a behavior.  Stories can be comforting and also create unneccessary suffering.  I can sometimes find myself locked in my own stories, and I have to consciously choose to change it!  I guess you could say, I find a new perspective.   Shifting our stories is like exercising different muscles in a workout.  It can be challenging, but it is also very rewarding.  What are some of the stories you have created about yourself and others?  Can you state the facts and change your own stories and judgements about yourself and others?  Can you hear your stories of pain and suffering and move toward a different story that creates positive and empowering energy in your life?

From Louise Hayes (one of my favorites)- “The quickest road to health is to fill my mind with only pleasant thoughts.”

Happiness Is An Inside Job


That’s the title of a book I just read-and Happiness really is an inside job.  I don’t know about you, but I have spent many hours thinking about what exactly will make me happy?  Positive Psychologists believe that most people have a range of happiness.  Even when something very exciting occurs, most people will eventually go back to their original measure of happiness.  I suppose it’s kind of like a genetic code for how happy we are destined to be.  I have often felt as if something “out there” must be able to make me happier than I already am.  Is something missing?  It’s a hard thought to shake, particularly in this culture of always searching for more and better.  I find solace in noticing that my happiness does not come from a person, place, or thing but in living in the moment and noticing life in general.  It’s easy to get side tracked with my past and future worries, and staying in the moment is challenging.  Happiness is already here, it’s where you are.  Happiness is seeing things differently.  Make goals, reach for those goals, but always remember to make this moment the best moment.  If you do this, you will find the silver lining in any situation.

Clean Fifteen & The Dirty Dozen (Plus Two)

The Environmental Working Group has recently updated and released new information regarding the best and worst fruits and veggies.  And by best and worst I mean which fruits and veggies are typically laden with pesticides residues and which ones are not.  There has been a huge movement towards organically grown food, which I am all for.  However, I am not so inclined to pay 2 or 3 times as much when it really doesn’t make any health difference.  In today’s economy most people are much more inclined to look at the amount of money in their wallets rather than the amount of pesticides on their food.  EWG gives a general overview of which foods you should consider buying the organic equivalent.  Next time your shopping make sure to keep the following list in mind:

Dirty Dozen Plus Two 
Sweet Bell Peppers
Nectarines, Imported
Blueberries, Domestic
Green Beans
Kale/Collards Greens

Clean Fifteen
Sweet Corn
Sweet Peas
Cantaloupe, Domestic
Sweet Potatoes

Mindful You

Wherever you go, there you areBeing Mindful…..

~Paying attention to what you are doing while you are doing it.

~Noticing the ordinary and the extraordinary.

~Awareness of your feelings, your thoughts, and your very state of being.

~ In essence, staying in the moment.
Have you ever stopped to notice a bird chirping in a tree, a cloud passing slowly overhead, or even your own breath?  So often we miss out on the simplest pleasures of life because we are caught up in the business of our day to day routine.  Instead of practicing mindfulness, we practice mindlessness.  What would happen if we were to pay attention throughout our day?

There has been much research around the benefits of mindful meditation.  Just taking a few minutes during the day to “tune-in” can affect stress levels, lessen disease, lower blood pressure, and promote optimal well-being.    Take a few moments to notice what you are experiencing right now.  Are you comfortable, are you anxious, peaceful.  What sounds do you hear?  How do you clothes feel on your skin?  Without judgment, just noticing.  Mindful meditation can be done anywhere, and ultimately increases your overall well being.

“The next message you need is always right where you are.”    ~Ram Dass

Check out Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book “Wherever you go there you are” for a more information about becoming mindful!

Making Changes for the Better


It is human nature to want things to change, but to also become very comfortable with the way things are.  Fear of change and staying stuck is common for anyone who is trying something new or making a commitment to live differently.  When I started the Duke Health Coach program, I was very excited but had some fears about learning new skills and building a business around those skills.  Would I be successful?  Would I be able to help others make changes in their lives?   In spite of my fears, I charged forward relying on my skills, the help of other entrepreneurs, and the business tools I had learned at Duke.  I spent a year learning and developing my first business-Seek Health, LLC which focuses on Women’s Wellness.  It was a journey, but I did it, step by step.  This past month, I had the privilege of mentoring for the Duke Health Coach program.  I found myself amazed by how much I had grown.  I was once sitting in the students chairs learning and wondering how this was going to work in my life.  A year later I am running my own business!  It was a great reminder to keep going and stay in the moment even when the end seems so far away.

Sometimes goals seem larger than life!  What small step will you take today in order to achieve your future goals?

“Remind me each day that the race is not always to the swift; that there is more to life than increasing its speed.  Let me look upward into the towering oak and know that it grew great and strong because it grew slowly and well.” ~Orin L. Crain

Eating Local

I recently finished an excellent book titled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle written by Barbara Kingsolver.  The book focuses on the authors journey through a year of not only eating locally but growing most of her own food.  Through her experiences with food she uncovers the relationship between food and the human spirit, food and the environment, and ultimately how food affects all of us on a very personal level.  I related to this book in so many ways.  Last year I signed up for my first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) with Frog Bottom Farm.  After moving to Lynchburg, I found myself more and more interested in learning about where my food comes from and what social and environmental impacts occur because of my eating habits.  Every week I picked up my bag of fresh goodies and inevitably found myself cooking up some new and exciting dishes.  Not only was the food absolutely wonderful, but I felt connected to what I was eating and people who produced it.  I was not only supporting my body, but supporting farmers who practiced sustainable growing and harvesting not to mention that the food wasn’t trucked from a “million miles away” to end up on a local grocery store shelf.  Through my experience with the CSA, I have become mindful about my own connections with the earth and food in general.  I am certainly going to continue to support local agriculture through CSA’s and farmers markets….and perhaps even grow my own garden!  I hope to inspire others to also support local food production and eat healthy, fresh foods.  Other great farms and markets to check out…… Auburnlea Farm, Community Market, Lynchburg Grows

Healthy People, Healthy Business

With anticipation and excitement, I recently visited a nuclear manufacturing facility near Lynchburg , Virginia.  As I pulled up to the massive compound, I couldn’t help but notice the layers upon layers of fence interlaced with at least ten feet of rolled barbed wire, not to mention the watch tower with armed guardsmen.  This is a serious business, I thought to myself.   I wasn’t there to visit the actual facility but to meet the collective group of health and wellness experts who operated an onsite fitness facility.  The fitness facility is offered to all employees and their immediate families.  It includes access to personal trainers, dieticians, health coaches, and physical therapists:  All at minimal cost to the employee.  In addition to the onsite facility the company has contracted with a local clinic in Lynchburg to provide services such as routine check-ups, smoking cessation, health coaching, and general wellness.  I was completely inspired and amazed to see worksite wellness in operation.

With preventable chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancers on the rise and health care costs expected to inflate, it has never been more important for businesses to incorporate health and wellness facilities at low or no cost to the employee. There are numerous  reasons for companies to invest and  implement worksite wellness programs.  Not only does it keep employees healthy and reduce absenteeism, investing in worksite wellness is simply a great business strategy.  Not only are business investing in their workers, they are investing in their companies’ ability to produce and stay competitive.   Businesses that implement worksite wellness often save money in the long run and help workers get healthy.  It is true, Healthy People produce Healthy Businesses!

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