Awareness, Health, Inspiration

A 7-year old’s view on “How to Be Healthy”

One of my daughter’s favorite activity at her school is the ‘Creative Writer’s Workshop’.  Every week they go through a process where the students pick a topic they’re familiar with and write a book about it.  I had the pleasure of reading her books at the school’s Open House.  This particular one, How to be Healthy, caught my eye and made one mama proud.  Children are  incredibly observant and easily absorb information.  I am touched my passion resonated with her and wanted to write about it. 

Enjoy her candid writing!

Book Cover




Not a tomato fan, but she is at least willing to try it when I put tomatoes on her plate!


1 to 11 grams of sugar is OK.

12g to 10million grams is NOT OK!

Coincidentally, the recommended daily limit of added sugars for 4 to 8 yr old children is about 12g.  I asked her if she knew this to be a fact and she was impressed she guessed correctly.  For women, the American Heart Association sets the limit to 25g.

Unfortunately, the US population is consuming WAY TOO MUCH SUGAR!!!  I was part of this population until I started to have health issues as you may have already in a previous post about being ‘Skinny Fat’.




I’m not sure if her friends like it, but at lunchtime, she would take her friends’ juice and check the label to find out how much sugar is in it.  And I love how she’s realistic to mention that she can have these types of food SOMETIMES.




evoke_strong_HowtobeHealthy6  evoke_strong_HowtobeHealthy7



Ha!  I let her know ‘Calorie’ is not an ingredient but she had an idea it is somewhat related to energy.



I hope next time you’ll stop to remember that you can be healthy!”


What are your thoughts on sugar intake?  Do you know how much sugar you consume each day?


If you feel you’ve been consuming too much sugar lately, would you consider joining a challenge to shutdown sugar from your diet for 7 days?  My Facebook group Evoke Healthy Habits is starting the 7-day Summer Sugar Shutdown challenge this Friday, 1June.  This is all about small changes and building habits that will help you be more aware of the role sugar plays in your life.  Click on this link and request  to join:  Evoke Healthy Habits

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Awareness, Health, Inspiration

The skinny on Skinny Fat. Is this you?

When you hear the word “Skinny Fat”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Mine is an image of my late grandfather who had thin arms and legs but with a protruding belly as if he was 9 months pregnant!  Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away at the young age of 70 because of an aneurysm.  I’m certain the protruding belly had something to do with it (and you’ll see the reasons why after you finish reading this post).

skinny fat
Not my grandpa but somewhat resembles what he looked like as he got older. Photo img credit to

From childhood to adolescence and even to adulthood, I was always skinny. Skin and bones! I never considered skinny as being unhealthy until I learned about the condition “Skinny Fat”.

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Skinny Fat

TOFI (Thin Outside, Fat Inside)

Metabolically Obese, Normal Weight

All of these phrases describe a person with normal weight yet show signs of metabolic syndrome. What led me to discover this health condition? It would have been my fate if I ignored the abnormal results of my blood test and took the advice of my doctor who was the least bit concerned about these results.

My doctor’s reaction exactly fit the description of the current health care system, defined as sick care instead of health care.  Here’s an excerpt from an article posted in the Boston Globe,

The foundation of our current health care system is the treatment of illness and disease rather than the promotion of good health. If we created the conditions to make it possible for people to take better care of themselves, countless medical conditions such as type II diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease, and obesity could be prevented (1).

Because my results weren’t at the levels where I could be officially diagnosed as “Type 2 diabetic” or as someone with “High Triglycerides”, my doctor didn’t see it as an urgency.  Disappointed, I left the clinic with a sense of commitment to search for answers. This led me to find out more how a normal weight (‘Skinny’) doesn’t automatically equate to healthy.

Discover the risk factors of metabolic syndrome and see if you fit the description!

The two test results that got my attention were the Hemoglobin A1C test and Triglycerides from a lipid profile test.  These are two of the six factors listed below to keep an eye on.  As you continue to read, you will notice a common thread among these factors, namely insulin resistance.

1.  High Blood Sugar

Yikes, I couldn’t believe it when the Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) results showed my levels nearing prediabetic (at 5.6%*)! An HbA1C test indicates a person’s average glucose levels in the past two to three months.  If you’re in the orange, then it means your body is starting to show signs of insulin resistance.

In simple terms, insulin resistance is when the cells of our body is no longer responding to the insulin. Therefore, glucose is not absorbed adequately and more insulin is required to get the high levels of glucose into the cells and out of the bloodstream.

A1C Level chart from American Diabetes Association


2.  High Triglycerides

My levels were at 167*, indicated on the table below as Borderline High.  It jumped from 64 to 167!  In addition to glucose absorption, insulin’s role is also to allow for cells to absorb fatty acids such as triglycerides.  Again, if a person has insulin resistance, then the cells are less likely to take in the triglycerides from the bloodstream.

Img credit to

3.  Abdominal Fat Gain

This photo was taken in 2015 – the same year I found out about my abnormal blood test results.  As you can see, I was carrying a bit of weight around my waist.  No big deal right?!  I thought this was a consequence of having children. But something else was brewing inside my body that was causing it to hold on to fat. Particularly, insulin resistance.  I believe I was developing insulin resistance from chronic stress, lack of sleep, a break from exercise (mainly strength training), and poor nutrition.  Insulin resistance causes a rise of insulin in the body and as thoroughly explained by Dr. Jason Fung’s book The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss, apparently excessive insulin causes weight gain (2).

4.  Low muscle mass

Long distance running was my preferred form of exercise.  While I dabbled in resistance training, it was very inconsistent. When short on time, I’d run because it was the most convenient. Although my weight was normal (less than 110lbs), a higher percentage of this weight was due to fat mass.

Guess what?!  Insulin resistance is inversely related to muscle mass. Numerous studies show the lack of muscle mass is strongly associated with insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes.  In particular, a study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism revealed a 14.5% prevalence in diabetes with those who had low skeletal muscle mass compared with only a 5.3% prevalence with those who had higher levels of muscle mass (3).

5.  Low HDL cholesterol

HDL cholesterol is what we know as the ‘good cholesterol’ because it helps to take the bad cholesterol out of your system.  If your HDL is less than 40, then consider yourself a risk for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.  60 and above is heart-protective.  My HDL wasn’t low (at 58*), but the goal would be to reach a more optimal level.

6.  High blood pressure

The only factor I had in the normal range was my blood pressure.  If you haven’t heard of the new blood pressure guidelines which lowered the range for hypertension, check out the chart below!  These changes were made for early detection and advocating lifestyle changes to prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Blood pressure guidelines
The new blood pressure guidelines. Image credit to


Be Proactive with your Health

I am absolutely fascinated with the way our bodies are designed.  The body has the capacity to adapt to both internal and external environments.  Notice how you feel when you properly nurture your body with nutritious food, plenty of movement throughout the day, and enough hours of quality sleep.  This is what I had to do to normalize my levels and lose the extra fat around my waist.

no longer skinny fat
Six months after the necessary lifestyle changes to normalize levels

The choice is yours, of course.  But there’s no better time to start than TODAY.


Are you familiar with the term ‘skinny-fat’?   What are you doing today to work towards your best health?

If you’re interested in being a part of a community for women who want to build sustainable healthy habits, join our closed Facebook group, EVOKE HEALTHY HABITS

Evoke Healthy Habits is a community for women to receive support and guidance from one another while going on a journey of change towards a lifestyle of healthy habits. We have weekly challenges, recipes, workouts, and tips to help you establish healthy habits for the year!

Click on this link and request to join:

Note:  *The results (A1C, Triglycerides, HDL) were from a 2015 blood test as part of my regular check-up
(1) Menino, T.M. & Johnson, P. (2012).  Health care vs sick care:  Why prevention is essential to payment reform.  Boston Globe.  Retrieved from
(2) Fung, J. (2016).   The obesity code: Unlocking the secrets of weight loss.  Vancouver, BC:  Greystone Books.
(3)  Srikanthan, P. &  Karlamangla, A.S. (2011).   Relative muscle mass is inversely associated with insulin resistance and prediabetes.  The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 96 (9), 2898–2903.

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Awareness, Behavior Change, Health

Simplicity of Whole 30

I Did It!  I Finished the Whole 30 Reset!

Two and a half weeks ago I celebrated the end of my Whole 30 journey.  It coincided with the week of  Valentine’s Day and I decided to reintroduce dairy with ice-cream from Dairy Queen. I ordered a small cup of vanilla knowing immediately that the serving was too big (even for a small size).  Unfortunately even though I knew it was a little too much I decided to eat the entire cup anyway!  While I enjoyed this time with my family where I can actually have icecream instead of just sit there and stare at them, the aftermath of it was less than enjoyable.  My stomach hurt and I knew I made the wrong choice.

Image credit to Yelp

Thumbs Down for Dairy 🙁

When I initially read about the Whole 30, I thought ‘Whoa this is too restricted! No way I can make it through 30 days.’ If you’ve never heard of this elimination reset diet, it requires you to avoid a number of major food groups – dairy, grains, legumes as well as sugar, alcohol,and preservatives. It does sound tough especially if these are the main staples of what you’re used to eating.  But if you think about it, it actually makes meal prep more simple!

Less choices = More Simple

I was at a Super Bowl party and got into a conversation with someone who was wondering about Whole 30.  I know I should have initially addressed what I can eat instead of focusing of what I couldn’t, but that’s exactly what I did.  Her response which didn’t even occur to me beforehand was ‘Well, that sounds simple enough!‘  And she was right on point.  With Whole 30, you have less choices.  When mealtime came around, it’s usually plenty of vegetables, a protein, either chicken, fish, pork and the occasional steak cooked in some type of fat.  Do you agree when you have less options, it’s easier to take action?

Image credit to Breaking Fad

The Whole 30 also focuses on three meals a day so you won’t have to think about what to have for a mid-day snack.  I admit, this is what I struggled with the most.  As a runner, I needed to have something as a post-recovery snack.  However, it did have an exception to the rule with regards to more active individuals where it allowed snacks after the activity.  What I noticed was when I don’t eat enough during lunch, I definitely feel hungry for something a couple of hours before dinner.  A bad habit of mine I’m trying to break is I tend to multi-task when I eat lunch whether it’s reading or browsing websites and lately it’s been viewing presentations from the online graduate classes I’m taking.  When I don’t take the time to taste the food I’m eating, I tend to have cravings later in the day.

Food shopping is also less complicated.  I spent the most time shopping in the fruits and vegetables section, even sampling vegetables I’ve never had.  I’m not sure why I’ve never tried it before, but I discovered roasted spaghetti squash with marinara sauce is just as tasty as pasta with marinara sauce.  Ok the texture is different but I couldn’t really taste the difference!  Here’s a simple recipe I found on Food Network – Spaghetti Squash with Marinara recipe.

…Except when you Dine Out!

Then the Whole 30 becomes more challenging.

I learned the hard way when I forgot to ask if there was added sugar in the almond milk I requested for a latte at my local coffee shop.  The second I took a tiny sip, I immediately knew it contained sugar.  I had to ‘reset my reset’ back 5 days!  Lesson learned is to always ask for the specific ingredients which can become a hassle.

You also need to plan out in advance where to go so you can look at the menu beforehand and see if there’s anything Whole 30 compliant.  As a family we frequented a few Asian restaurants – which all served some type of rice-based dish.  I disappointed my kids when I suggested our usual spot (which had nothing for me to eat!)  and explained why, but reassured them it was only for 30 days.

To me, it felt like an inconvenience to the server when I had to make specific requests to suit my needs.  I had a recent interview on evoke STRONG live with a woman who had many food sensitivities where she talked about how she carries a card with a list of food she can’t eat.  Amazingly, many of the restaurants she visited were more than willing to cater to her preferences.  I guess all you have to do is ask!

The New Normal

Being on the Whole 30 made me realize how I didn’t miss the types of food I normally ate beforehand.  Like cheese for instance.  It used to be a snack staple but avoiding it for a month ascertained it’s not something I really needed in my diet.

Ok ok I admit, I did miss eating pizza.  When I finally had several slices of my favorite pizza, I wasn’t over the top excited about it.  And I didn’t feel too good afterwards either.  Again, I know it’s something I can live without.

Let’s be honest though.  I know there will be days when I won’t be eating as clean as I want.  At least now I know the consequences of my choices.  It’s about my choice of whether or not I want to feel good or not.  Not every decision will be the right one, but I’ll be fine with it.  On occasions, I will truly savor a sweet treat for pure enjoyment.  However, for the majority of the time I will eat for the sake of my health.

Image credit to

Less choices is more simple – agree or disagree?  Has your choice of food affected you in a positive or negative way?  Please share in the comments.

*If you’re interested in being a part of a community for women who want to build sustainable healthy habits, join our closed Facebook group, EVOKE HEALTHY HABITS

Evoke Healthy Habits is a community for women to receive support and guidance from one another while going on a journey of change towards a lifestyle of healthy habits. We have weekly challenges, recipes, workouts, and tips to help you establish healthy habits for the year!

Click on this link and request to join:




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Awareness, Behavior Change, Books, Inspiration

How to turn your I CAN’Ts to I CAN!

Have you ever been in situations where you felt the least bit motivated?  Where you find yourself saying “I can’t!” instead of “I CAN!” I think we all have these moments but what’s encouraging is what I learned from Charles Duhigg’s book, Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity about motivation. Being motivated is like a skill that we can practice. It’s something we could work on and improve!

Disclosure:  This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  For more info, visit the Disclaimer and Affiliate Disclosure page.

How do you improve motivation? Duhigg discusses two simple ways you can do it. But first let’s define the word Motivation. It is derived from the Latin root ‘mot’ which means ‘to move’. Basically Motivation is what moves us towards action. To further break it down, motivation is categorized as either extrinsic or intrinsic.

Img credit to

If I ask what drives you to exercise and you answer, my job offers a gift certificate to employees who logs at least 10000 steps everyday – that’s an example of extrinsic motivation.  They are external factors driving you to take action on a specific task. On the other hand, if you answered it leaves me feeling more energetic and less stressed, that would be an intrinsic motivator. The two key concepts discussed by Duhigg focuses on building your intrinsic or self motivation.

Chore into Choice

The bottom line of making a choice is to give us a sense of control.  As human beings, our natural inclination is to assert control.  Do you like it when people tell you what to do?  Do you respond better when given choices?

When people believe they are in control, they tend to work harder and push themselves more.  They are, on average, more confident and overcome setbacks faster.  People who believe they have authority over themselves often live longer than their peers. – Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better

Here’s how I’ve applied this concept when I lack the motivation to run –

I’m currently training for the Rock n Roll San Diego Marathon in June – my 7th marathon!  Being consistent with training is one of many factors that would help me achieve the goal of a BQ this year. (Yikes!  I still can’t believe I set this stretch goal!)  However I’ve had days where I want to sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing. Here’s where the power of choice comes in – I tell myself to put on my running shoes and go out there…but ONLY FOR 10 MINUTES.  When I do, I usually feel much better and before you know it, I’m out there for up to 30 min even to an hour!

Apparently it doesn’t even matter what type of choice you make.  It’s the amount of control you feel that matters most.  Try it out.  When you feel less enthused about a specific task, start making choices and see what happens.


Let’s say you’re involved in a challenging situation.  How do you keep going?  This is when you ask yourself why and find an answer that is most meaningful to you.  The why has to align with your values and bigger goals.

In my *Evoke Healthy Habits facebook group, I posted the question “What is your biggest frustration with your health right now?”  A couple women responded they lack the motivation.  I think when we connect physical activity or healthy eating with what we value the most, we’re more apt to prioritize it.  So think about it – are you struggling with motivation when it comes to your health?  Then ask yourself why a healthy lifestyle should matter to you.

Self motivation becomes easier when we see our choices as affirmations of our deeper values and goals.  –Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better

My recent Whole 30 experience has led me to ask Why a few times this past month.  The why definitely affirmed my desire to determine if the unusual symptoms I’ve had for the past several months is related to food sensitivities.  The re-introduction process starts this week so I’m interested in seeing if any food groups are sources of irritants in my body.  I admit the symptoms are less frequent and I’ve stayed healthy all month despite being in the midst of the cold and flu season.  Plus my skin finally cleared up!  Imagine having to deal with acne as a 41-yr old (cringe..) I’m definitely pleased with the results.

From I CAN’T to I CAN

It’s reassuring to know that we can improve our self-motivation with practice.  The most effective way in doing it is:

ASSERT CONTROL THROUGH CHOICES and connect your actions to DEEPER MEANING by asking WHY.

Please share what you do to keep yourself motivated to achieve your health and fitness goals.

Would you like a copy of Charles Duhigg’s book?  Click on the link below!

*If you’re interested in being a part of a community for women who want to build sustainable healthy habits, join our closed Facebook group, EVOKE HEALTHY HABITS

Evoke Healthy Habits is a community for women to receive support and guidance from one another while going on a journey of change towards a lifestyle of healthy habits. We have weekly challenges, recipes, workouts, and tips to help you establish healthy habits for the year!

Click on this link and request to join:

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Awareness, Health

Can We Solve the Obesity Epidemic?

Obesity is a hot topic in the health and wellness arena.  In my recent research for a class discussion, I found 100,000+ peer reviewed articles written on the subject just in the past decade.  It’s a well known fact obesity has become a significant crisis in the United States.  Take a quick look below at the growth of obesity rates in the past twenty years.  From less than 20% to approximately 36% of the nation is obese!!


Image credit to

Let’s not forget the children, our future.  The most current stats show 1 in 5 of children ages 6 to 19 yrs is obese! I find it disheartening to see kids who are overweight because they are at a higher risk for chronic diseases.1 However, while it still remains a major issue, there is positive progress. In the past several years, the percentage of children affected decreased.

Please help in continuing the decreasing trend!  Educate yourself and your community to help our children thrive!

Image from

Back to my class discussion.  This previous week was the first week of my spring semester as a graduate student to earn an MS degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotions with a concentration in Wellness Coaching.  I know very wordy but I’m excited to be on this path!  Our instructor posed the question “Share Why you think there is an Obesity Epidemic and Provide Original Ideas on how to reverse the situation.”

The first part of the question was easy enough to answer because of the thousands of research articles available to point as to what caused our nation to to be almost 36.5% obese.2  You can probably take a guess as well without having to look at the supporting evidence.

But before I present to you the two glaring reasons why we’re in this state of epidemic, let’s define the term OBESITY.  Obesity is defined as the measure of excessive body fat considered healthy relative to the height of the individual.  However since body fat is not simple to measure and can be costly, the next best measurement is the Body Mass Index or BMI.  BMI is 30 or greater for a person to be considered obese.

Why is there an Obesity Epidemic?

I’m sure the healthy practices for children above (which should also be applied to adults) gave you a clue of some of the causes of the obesity epidemic.   There are many causes of obesity from genetics to medications to psychological issues, as well as socioeconomic factors but the two major factors many have cited in their research as well as in my class discussion are –



Technological advances have created a population engaged in sedentary behaviors.  We spend more time now staring at a screen whether it’s a computer, smartphone or television rather than time outdoors for movement and play.  We rely more on transportation to shuttle us everywhere we go, even at a short distance.4  Here is the current statistic according to regarding physical activity:

Among American adults, 80 percent do not meet the government’s physical activity recommendations for aerobic and muscle strengthening and 60 percent are not sufficiently active to achieve health benefits.

On the other end is the unhealthy eating habits brought on by the Standard American Diet (SAD) composed of processed foods high in fat (the bad type as in fast foods) and sugar with only a small quantities of fruits and vegetables.  Only 11% of the US consumed the USDA recommended guidelines of 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables daily. 5  If you’re interested in knowing the state-by-state percentages of fruit and vegetable consumption, check out this page on State of Obesity: State Rates of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

How to Reverse this Crisis?

Coming up with an original idea was more complicated to answer.  A number of programs are already instituted to combat this epidemic. However, obesity remains high in the U.S.  We still have more work to do.

So here’s my OUTRAGEOUS proposition –

You know how every box of cigarette requires a warning label?

SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy. Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health.  Smoking By Pregnant Women May Result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, And Low Birth Weight.Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide.

As an experiment, how about including a Warning Label for Beverages containing High Amounts of Sugar?

WARNING:  Consuming high amounts of sugar contained in this beverage may cause insulin resistance and increase risk for Type 2 Diabetes. 5

I think the presence of a warning label increases AWARENESS and would make a person think twice about purchasing the beverage.  When you’re aware of the consequence of your action, you can make an intelligent decision whether or not you want to accept the consequence.  My current Whole 30 experience has instilled in me the habit of checking ingredient labels.  It’s comforting to know what I’m putting in my body is helping not hurting it.

Another idea that may work –

Start a television advertisement campaign to promote movement so instead of watching ads about McDonald’s bringing back the McRib, it would be an ad with a person encouraging you to stand up and perform a few exercises during the break.

30 to 50% of ads seen on television are about FOOD!  Of course, they’re not about consuming more fruits and vegetables.  Most of them are fast food with hardly any nutritional value.  I’m sure you’ve heard that exposure to food advertisements motivates many of us to eat.  In fact, a study was done that linked a positive connection with overweight and obese individual’s desire to eat more after watching food ads. 6

Would the same psychology work if there were more ads focused on taking a movement break in between shows?  Imagine your favorite actor or actress instructing you to get up and dance!  Will this persuade you to get up off the couch and try it?  Would it then spark up your motivation to do more?

Gif from

On a more personal level, I think it would help to be a part of a community who have the same ultimate goals which is to get healthy.

In a research conducted,  social networks and social support positively correlated to weight loss.  Those with support from a community lost more weight and followed through with the program.7  

If you’re interested in being a part of a community for women who want to build sustainable healthy habits, join our closed Facebook group, EVOKE HEALTHY HABITS

Evoke Healthy Habits is a community for women to receive support and guidance from one another while going on a journey of change towards a lifestyle of healthy habits. We have weekly challenges, recipes, workouts, and tips to help you establish healthy habits for the year!

Click on this link and request to join:


Is Axiom from Wall-E our Future?

I can’t help but think about the fictional obese characters in Wall-E.  The ones where they are in an automated setting staring at screens and sipping shakes.  Moreover, they are sitting in hovercrafts transporting them from one place to another without ever having the need to get up.  Is this where our world is heading?

I sure hope not!

It’s why this epidemic is such a hot topic. Many are invested in determining how best to solve it.  I think overall the mindset of our nation has to shift to truly investing in our health for our future to remain intact.

I would love to hear your thoughts!  Any original ideas on how to reverse the obesity epidemic?
3 The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America 2017
4 Clark, M.A., Lucett, S.C., McGill, E., Montel, I., Sutton, B. (Eds.). (2018).  NASM essentials of personal fitness training.  Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
5 Sonestedt, E., Cecilie Øverby, N., Laaksonen, D. E., & Eva Birgisdottir, B. (2012). Does high sugar consumption exacerbate cardiometabolic risk factors and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease?. Food & Nutrition Research, 561-19.
6 Kemps, E., Tiggemann, M., & Hollitt, S. (2014). Exposure to television food advertising primes food-related cognitions and triggers motivation to eat. Psychology & Health, 29(10), 1192-1205. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2014.918267
7 Knox-Kazimierczuk, F., & Shockly-Smith, M. (2017). African American Women and the Obesity Epidemic: A Systematic Review. Journal Of Pan African Studies, 10(1), 76-110.




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Awareness, Behavior Change, Health

Whole30 Setback

I finally had the chance to see the movie, The Last Jedi and this particular quote about failure resonated with me. Recently, I had an accidental slip with the Whole30 reset and while it was only a minor setback, to me it still was a failure because I needed to start over again.

Friday, I was on day five of the Whole30.  I waited until after we returned from our holiday vacation because I knew it was going to be challenging to find compliant meals on a road trip.  However, the past five days I didn’t find it too difficult to prep and cook three meals a day.  I actually enjoyed the process. Shopping for food felt like a fun scavenger hunt where I had to look for ingredients that didn’t include sugar or grains or additives and the list goes on… While it took more time I really like the awareness it gave me, knowing exactly what I was putting in my body. And by focusing more on wholesome food like fruits and vegetables, all types of meats, and nuts/seeds, the process to me got simpler.

Take a look at some of my meals from this past week:


Chicken sausage, pan-fried sweet potatoes in coconut oil, and greens mixed with a little bit of leftover cauliflower rice and mushrooms.


You probably would think this is the least appetizing food but I actually love it!  It’s sardines with cucumbers wrapped in seaweed.  I’ve eaten sardines since I was a kid so it brought back childhood memories of growing up in the Philippines (unfortunately, the brand of sardines we used to eat there had preservatives :().



Grilled steelhead, roasted sweet potatoes, bokchoy and mushrooms

Back to Friday, on Day 5 when I decided to go to my favorite coffee shop to finish my graduate course assignments for the week.  Usually, I would order a black coffee but I wanted to try a latte with almond milk.  Verifying it’s just coffee and milk without second thought the almond milk might contain sugar or other additives. The latte arrived at my table beautifully presented with a little note for an added personal touch.

I was ready to enjoy this latte as one of ‘the little things’,  but when I took a small sip I felt a sweet rush immediately!  This can’t be zero sugar?!  It’s way TOOO SWEEEET!!  I asked the barista if the almond milk contained sugar to which he responded, only the natural kind.  He proceeded to grab the box of almond milk to show me and there it was in the ingredient list.  I can’t even remember exactly how much sugar was in it, but I was a bit disappointed.  I ordered a black coffee instead and the barista was kind enough to give it to me free on his account.


The good news it’s only been five days so extending it five days isn’t much of a big deal.  Plus I really don’t mind eating the way I’m eating now.  A couple of years ago when I found out I was at risk for becoming a pre-diabetic I took action to avoid processed sugar so it’s not part of my diet anymore.  This time around I’m determined to reduce inflammation and hopefully get to the bottom of unusual symptoms I’ve experienced for the past several months.  Even if it takes me more than thirty days, I know it’s worthwhile in the end.  Eating well is a gain for me!

Have you tried the Whole30 or any type of reset?  What was your biggest challenge with it?

Interested in being a part of a community for women who want to build sustainable healthy habits?  Consider joining our closed Facebook group, Evoke Healthy Habits.  Evoke Healthy Habits is a community for women to receive support and guidance from one another while going on a journey of change towards a lifestyle of healthy habits.  We have weekly challenges, recipes, workouts, and tips to help you establish healthy habits for the year!  Click on this link and request to join:
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Awareness, Facebook Live, Featured Friday Conversations, Health, Inspiration

Zero Veggies and Fast Food take its toll on this Mom’s Health

Featured Friday Conversations is a series of interviews on Facebook Live featuring incredible women and their health transformation stories. It is our hope these stories will inspire you to take control of your health.

Featuring Denise Loufti

Denise Loufti @BzHealthyMama

I had the pleasure of meeting Denise virtually in a Facebook group called Mighty Mompreneurs and in person at a Sexy Mama Movement event. She has such a vibrant personality.  And I was excited to finally have the chance to chat with her.

Denise Loufti is a Mom of 2, a part-time speech therapist at her local school district, a health coach, and a student at the school of Applied Functional Medicine. As you can see, she is one busy mom and her personal brand as a health coach, BzHealthyMama perfectly fits her description!  Her journey towards better health led her to becoming a health coach and has helped other mothers and women start on their own health journey as well.

Zero Veggies and Fast Food Galore!

Denise was born and raised in Beirut.  Her mom and grandma cooked typical Lebanese food that consisted of rice, other grains, potatoes, beef and chicken.  However, vegetables were only occasionally served.  Both of Denise’s mom and grandma didn’t like vegetables, so naturally Denise grew up to dislike them as well.

At 17,  Denise moved to California and became quickly exposed to plenty of fast food options.  She went from eating home cooked meals to chips and candy from the vending machine as well as a variety of choices from all the fast food restaurants in close proximity to where she lived and worked.

Even though she suffered from constipation, acne and headaches, she initially thought and accepted them as a normal occurrence in her life.  Little did she know at this point how food may be the cause of these seemingly ‘harmless’ symptoms her body exhibited.

The Reason for Change

We always want the best for our children.  During her first pregnancy, Denise started to eat more vegetables to provide the nutrients her baby needed growing in her belly.  Unfortunately, after giving birth, she returned to her usual way of eating.  Gone were the servings of vegetables.

A few years passed when her second child was born.  Denise’s attention to her health became more prominent when her usual headaches turned into bothersome migraines. When she finally went to see a doctor, she was prescribed meds that caused extreme drowsiness.  She wasn’t functional and as a mother, she felt helpless and needed to find a way to get rid of the migraine without resorting to meds.

Being motivated to get to the bottom of her health issues, she used her resourcefulness to figure it out on her own.  This is when she determined what she put in her mouth greatly impacted her health.


Not one size fits all!  Every one of us reacts differently to particular types of food.  What might have worked for one person may not work for Denise.  But how would she know unless if she tried it?  Hence, Denise’s approach was to experiment with food – what to add, which ones to eliminate to improve her health.  However not everything she tried worked for her.  At one point, she even became an extreme raw vegan.  But it didn’t make her feel good so it was back to the drawing board.

Starting with small changes, her first step was to eliminate processed foods.  Therefore, no more Taco Bell!  Stop going to the vending machines!  Eat real food!

She learned about food sensitivities.  Typically, sensitivities can stem from consumption of dairy, gluten, and processed sugar.  Surely enough, when Denise eliminated dairy from her diet, her migraines subsided.  When she added organic  fruits and vegetables along with more water, her bowel movements became more frequent.  The problematic acne she had, amazingly started to clear up after she stopped consuming gluten, processed sugar, and dairy.

Don’t Wait

Denise’s advice to those who are contemplating change to better their health is –

Change Now before You are Forced To Change.”

I know at times it could be difficult to think of change unless we are under some type of force.  But if you have this thought in the back of your mind.  The realization that we can take charge of our health.  We don’t have to wait for a diagnosis from our doctor to change the way we eat, move, sleep, and handle stress.  These are all lifestyle choices we can make today so we don’t have to waste our time sitting in the doctor’s office to address the symptoms we’re experiencing.

Is your body exhibiting symptoms similar to Denise’s that you’ve dismissed as being normal to you?  Have you been forced to make a change due to current health issues?


Unfortunately, the interview was cut off so there are two parts to it with provided links below.

Part 1 –

Part 2 –

Denise Loufti is a health coach known as BzHealthyMama.  You can connect with her on Facebook, BzHealthyMama; Instagram, BzHealthyMama; and on her website

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Awareness, Behavior Change, Facebook Live, Featured Friday Conversations, Health, Inspiration

A Mom learns to Cook and Prep Meals for Health

evoke STRONG Live features the incredible health transformation stories of every day women to inspire others that a healthy and thriving well-being is within reach.

The first featured story was about Flossie Hall, a mother of 4, a Navy spouse and the CEO of Healthy Momma, a meal prep service in San Diego. Flossie never cooked but she had a strong drive to learn how to do it to improve her health as well as her family’s.  She mastered the art of meal preparation to the point where she started doing it for her friends. And thus Healthy Momma, her thriving business was born.

Pregnancy Weight Gain

As a young kid who grew up poor, the most convenient foods for Flossie and her family came from a box and was highly processed. Flossie didn’t have any issues with her weight growing up – in fact, she was actually a skinny kid. However, she did come from a family who was overweight due to lack of exercise and nutritious food. When she became pregnant at 15, she gained around 120 lbs in the span of nine months. Flossie wanted to lose weight but wasn’t exactly sure how to approach it so she tried the ‘gimmicky-type’ diets. These are the diets that offered bars and boxed foods which didn’t really work for her.  Years passed and the birth of her second baby. This time she gained an additional 40 lbs.

The Case for Health

Flossie went to school with aspirations to become a medical doctor.  She completed EMT school at the top of her class and was immediately hired.  But before she could start, she had to pass a Physical Readiness Test.  Due to lack of exercise, she failed and the instructor advised her to train for it. It was a crushing moment but at the same time, it made her realized that she needed to take action.  As someone who planned to work in a health-related field, she wanted to be the example and an influencer for healthy living.  However, she had to take care of herself first. And it started with purging her cupboards of unhealthy food items. One of her rules at home was ‘Toss two items and replace with healthier options’.  A big adjustment for her family but it eventually paid off!

Learn, Do and Share!

Determined to take back her health, Flossie read countless nutrition books to educate herself and also taught herself how to cook.  She learned how to create healthy dishes without sacrificing the rich flavor she preferred.  At the same time, she also started doing at-home exercise videos. With better nutrition and exercise, Flossie noticed changes in her body, from 210 lbs to around 160 lbs!  By the time she had her third and fourth child, she established better eating and exercise habits. Her lifestyle changes made it easier for her to lose the pregnancy weight. Due to her transformation, her friends wondered how she did it.  So Flossie started a Facebook Page and named it Healthy Momma, where she posted recipes, workouts and challenges, as well as her progress.

A resourceful mom, Flossie sought fitness inspiration on Instagram. This is where she got meal prep ideas.  Sundays was when she dedicated time to prepare meals for the week.  At first, it was a trial and error process.  But she enjoyed what she did so she learned how to perfect her recipes.  Eventually, a friend asked Flossie to prepare meals for her and offered to pay for her service.  When she posted about it, many others were interested in having her prepare their meals.  In one month, it grew from two people to upwards of thirty!  This was the birth of her meal prep business.

No longer about the Weight Loss

Laser focused on weight loss, Flossie reached her lowest number on the scale (127 lbs) after her fourth child was born.  While she was making better choices with food, she started to become more restrictive with it. It wasn’t a ‘healthy weight’ for her since she felt too thin and frail. Again her drive to continually improve her health led her to muscle building types of activities such as strength training and Crossfit.  Her weight increased because of muscle mass and she felt much stronger.  She no longer focused on the scale but rather on overall health and disease prevention by fueling her body with real food and hitting the gym to build on her strength. She also makes sure she gets enough sleep and meditates to relax and rejuvenate.

Flossie’s Journey of Change. Top left photo, at her heaviest 15 yrs ago.

One day at a time to Avoid Overwhelm

Flossie’s biggest advice for those who wants to go on a journey of change but feels stuck is to “Bite it off to small pieces…Think about, What am I going to do Today?” whether it’s going to the gym a couple of times a week or drinking more water or making better food choices.  Pick one or two things to tackle and once you get the hang of it, add one or two more until it becomes a part of your lifestyle.

To watch the Facebook Live interview with Flossie Hall, click on the link below:

Connect with Flossie Hall on Facebook, Healthy Momma; Instagram, Healthy Momma; and on her website,
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Awareness, Behavior Change, Health, Inspiration

Path towards Better Health: Stages of Behavior Change

You may already be familiar with my story to know the fuel that sparked my journey towards a lifestyle change.  It started with a long overdue blood test.  Isn’t it fascinating a small sample of blood can reveal so much information about our health?

When I first saw my results online, I felt throes of emotions.

Surprised.  Disappointed.  Scared.

These emotions escalated to make me realize something needed to CHANGE.

In my studies as a Behavior Change Specialist, I learned the formula for lasting change.  However, before you can start the process, you have to be mentally ready for it.

For CHANGE to happen, three factors must be met:


Was I motivated?  Absolutely!  The risk of diabetes was enough to fuel my motivation.

Was I capable?  Definitely.  I am disciplined by nature (could be why the Navy was a great first career choice for me) and resourceful enough to figure out the tools I needed to make the change.

Was the opportunity present to allow for change?  Fortunately, it happened at the time when the girls were older and more independent.  It was the perfect opportunity for me to focus more on self-care.

Credit image to USC – Click on the image for further inspiration on self-care


We go through seasons in our lives.  My season for change was  the implications of my blood test.  It was the trigger that set off my journey towards better health.

A journey of change goes through five different stages, otherwise known as the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of Behavior Change otherwise known as the Stages of Change Model. Understanding the stage you’re in can help progress you forward to the final stages of ‘Action’ and ‘Maintenance’.  In episode 2 of evoke STRONG live, I covered my progression through these stages in my own journey of health improvement.  If you’d like to view the replay,  this link will direct you to our Facebook Live page.

    1. Pre-contemplation

      The first stage is pre-contemplation.  This is someone who has no interest in change.  A person who is happy with the way things are.

      I’ll use myself as an example.  Before my blood test, I had a nightly habit of snacking.  It was something I did after I put the girls to bed where I enjoyed the quiet time mindlessly eating while I watched TV.  Sure, I noticed I was putting on a little extra belly fat.  But I couldn’t pull myself away from it, always using the excuse “I’ll run it off tomorrow.”

      – Sidebar 

      Resource: Harvard Health Publications

      If you realize you are in this stage with regards to your health, consider thinking about these following questions:

      • How will you know when it’s time to think about change?
      • What signals will tell you to start thinking about change?

      Ultimately you know what’s best for your health and you decide when you’re ready to change your behavior.

    2. Contemplation

      When you’re ready to change your behavior, but still contemplating whether or not to take action, you’ve reached the second stage:  CONTEMPLATION.  This person knows the reasons for changing but the obstacles prove it challenging so the current behavior remains.  Ambivalence is the identifying trait at this stage.  Caught in between two choices – change or no change?

      When I found out my A1C and triglyceride levels were higher than normal, it was the catalyst to change my eating habits.  The first thing that immediately came to mind was to let go of my nightly snacking habit.  I had to figure out why I felt the need to eat since it wasn’t due to physical hunger.  Was it something I could easily give up?

      Questions to ask when you’re in contemplation:

      • Why do you want to make this change?
      • What could be the positive results of changing now?
      • What are the major barriers for you to change?

      Usually this is where many of us get stuck when we contemplate about change.  Our thoughts go back and forth whether it’s worth the effort and the feelings of uncertainty arise.  This is when you must dig deep and identify a STRONG SPECIFIC WHY you need to change.  To me the risk of diabetes outweighed my unhealthy eating habits.  If I eliminated snacking at night, it meant reducing the amount of processed and sugar based food I consumed.

      Now it was a matter of commitment to the change that is a progression to the next stage.

    3. Preparation

      PREPARATION is when a person is ready to commit to change but has not taken action yet. She’s done the research about the benefits of a healthier lifestyle and feels confident that this is the path she wants to follow.

      It helps to write down SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound – goals.   More importantly, identify the obstacles along the way so you have an approach to manage through them.

      Back to my snacking problem. This might sound unusual to you but after I saw the lab results online, I went through every stage from pre-contemplation all the way to the start of the action stage in a couple of days.  I focused on One Thing  “No more snacks at night.”  At first I thought it would be a challenge.  But being a ‘health risk’ was enough to calibrate my mind and emotions.  The next night, I sat in front of the TV without a snack.  And I WAS OK with it!

    4. Action

      Finally in the stage of ACTION.  For three to six months, this person has taken the steps towards a healthier lifestyle. Every day is progress towards a specific SMART goal.  

      At this stage, the person is still dependent on willpower and there’s a possibility for relapse.  It would help to think about the questions in the Pre/Contemplation stages to remind you of the reasons WHY you started the process of change.  I am proud to admit I haven’t relapsed with my nighttime snacking.  In my case, foam rolling and journal writing replaced mindless snacking.

    5. Maintenance

      And onto the LAST stage:  MAINTENANCE.  Behavior change is sustained for 6+ months. The behavior is a lifestyle habit therefore less reliance on willpower.  To remain in this stage, it helps to set new goals, to always remember WHY you made the change and become a role model for others.

      Letting go of nighttime snacks was one of the many small steps I’ve taken since the start of my journey to improve my health.  I’ve maintained many of the small goals I’ve set but every now and then I have days when old habits appear.  These setbacks are expected and acceptable as long as it’s momentary and you have a plan in place to address the relapse.

Regarding blood tests, I am due for another one soon as my birthday approaches.  The table below shows the improvements I made within a year of making lifestyle changes.  With these improved results, there’s no question these are the healthy habits I need to maintain for a lifetime.

Behavior Change is a choice.  And the ability to take control of your health is within your grasp.  We are in the age of information where the resources are freely flowing.  Every person is different.  You must go on your own journey to see which path suits you best.

Where are you in the process of change?  How can you progress to take you to the final stage of maintenance where you’ve developed healthy habits you can sustain?

If you’d like to be inspired by stories of everyday women who chose to make lifestyle changes to take control of their health, please subscribe to our newsletter below and you will be notified when these shows go live.

Interested in a community of women where our goals are a lifestyle of healthy habits.  Join our growing FB group – Evoke Healthy Habits.


Resource: American Council on Exercise (2014) Coaching Behavior Change 
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Health News Too Good to be True? Be Critical!

As an American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified personal trainer and Behavior Change Specialist, I have the privilege of receiving monthly publications from IDEA Fitness.  They provide the latest health and fitness news, as well as advice and inspiration for fitness professionals.  One interesting article was the discussion of fact vs fiction when it comes to health news on the internet.

We are now in the age of information. Not a day passes without being bombarded by countless tips, techniques, and strategies on how to improve our health.  It could be a recently developed detox concoction to help you lose weight in one week.  Or a contraption sending electrical impulses to your legs that mimic running a marathon without actually running!  How about the viral headline from late last year about “Eating Icecream for Breakfast Makes you Smarter?”  With a few strokes on a keyboard, anyone with a creative idea can post on social media or build a stunning website to lead consumers to believe a particular idea will lead to incredible results.

So how can you tell real news from fake news? (#fakenews).  This is when critical thinking comes to play.  I also like using the ‘Trust, but Verify’ approach.


Let’s say, you’re a member of a facebook group where an article was shared that caught your attention.  You’ve been a member of this group for awhile now and trust the other members would deliver reliable information.

Pete McCall, MS, personal trainer, fitness educator and adjunct faculty in exercise science at Mesa College in San Diego, stated a great point in the article:
If I belong to an online community or follow a social media ‘expert’ it can be easy to become caught up in a cult of personality and take whatever he or she says as gospel.

This is when you have to check your biases and ask the question  “Do I trust this article?”  By being critical and asking a simple question, it makes you want to dig deeper for information.


How do you verify?  First, check to see where the source of information originated.  This is when you use the power of Google to do a quick research about the particular topic or find out more information about the author of the article.

One suggestion from IDEA is to confirm a social media account by looking for a blue verified badge that looks like a checkmark.  This is a way for a social media channel to verify you have a legitimate business or brand. However, I noticed that not all accounts have this blue badge yet even the ones I know are authentic brands.

So the next step is to further investigate.  Here are a few questions to ask as suggested in the article:

Do they have a vested interest, especially if monetary, in a particular outcome or message?
Do they have the appropriate background to have evaluated the claims they’re making – meaning, is there confidence they’ve actually read and understood the claim’s source?

Evidence-based and peer-reviewed research is a good way to check if these claims are valid.  If an article cites the research, it’s up to you to verify the research backs the claim.

Always be critical when presented with information especially on social media.


What’s your take on health news that sounds too good to be true?  Do you dig deeper for further information?  Let’s continue the discussion by providing a comment below. 

Reference:  Vogel, Amanda, MA.  2017.  Health News:  Fact or Fiction.  IDEA Fitness Journal , July-August 2017, 55-63.
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