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”.

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

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, 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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Behavior Change, Books, Health

Time for a Reset! Inspired by Food Freedom Forever

I never thought I would ever try a food RESET.  It’s been in the back of my mind as I’ve read articles about it, but I was always hesitant in trying one.  After reading Food Freedom Forever by Melissa Hartwig, I realized a reset was the next step to optimize my health.

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

What is a RESET and why is this important to me?

You may or may not be familiar with Melissa Hartwig’s Whole30 program.  It is designed to eliminate foods that impact your cravings, metabolism, digestion and immune system for 30 days.

During the 30 days of elimination, the focus is to pay close attention to these following areas and see if there are any improvements – “Energy, Sleep, Digestion, Mood, Attention Span, Self-Confidence, Cravings, Chronic Pain or Fatigue, Athletic Performance, and Recovery and any number of other symptoms or medical conditions”.  Once 30 days are up, the foods eliminated are re-introduced in a systematic way to determine which ones are problematic.  With the knowledge which food has a negative impact, it’s up to the individual to decide whether or not it’s worthwhile to eat the ‘unhealthy’ foods given the consequences without the guilt.

The Whole30 is one example of a reset program.  Other types of reset are further discussed in Food Freedom Forever.  It’s up to you to select what type of reset that will work for you best.  What attracted me to a reset is because for the past several months, I’ve been feeling something is off with my body.  It could also be relegated to stress (which is another topic for a future post) but if I can optimize the way my body responds through proper nutrition, then why not give it a try?!  It’s only for 30 days.

I made changes to the way I ate a couple of years ago when I surprisingly found out I was borderline pre-diabetic. You can read more about it in My Journey of Change. But I’ve never done a complete elimination reset so it should be interesting to see the results.

Benefits of a Reset

If you’ve contemplated a reset before, there is a myriad of benefits that might convince you to try it. And none of them have to do with weight loss at all.

During the 30 day reset, the scale is off limits! The emphasis is on what is termed as ‘non-scale victories’. There is a downloadable list of 100 non-scale victories on the Whole 30 website found here  After looking at the list, it’s no wonder so many people have gone through this reset.

One problem I’d like to resolve is knowing if a certain type of food is causing adult-onset acne.  (Yes, I can’t believe at age 41 I would be dealing with acne like I did back in high school). Other benefits I’d like to gain from the reset revolves around Mood, Emotion, Psychology – handle stress better, less anxious – as well as the Inner Physical functions -less fatigue, less lower back pain to name a few.

The Reset Plan

I decided I will follow The Whole30 reset with a few add-ons.  Here is the list of ingredients I would need to avoid as part of the program:

  • LEGUMES (including peanuts and soy)
  • NO BAKED GOODS, JUNK FOODS or TREATS with the approved ingredients

I’m adding nuts to this list because I think I may have developed an allergy to certain types of nuts like cashews and possibly pecans.  So I will also be nut-free for 30 days.

The most challenging for me would be to avoid grains (and nuts) but the rest seems doable since I rarely consume them nowadays.

Create Healthy Habits

Melissa Hartwig specifically wrote the book Food Freedom Forever to those who have a difficult time adjusting to the aftermath of the Whole30 program.  It’s about having a strategy so you’re in a place where you feel in control of your decisions of what you put in your mouth.

This is how Melissa defined Food Freedom: means finally feeling in control of food, instead of food controlling you.  It means indulging when you decide it’s worth it, savoring the experience without guilt or shame, and then returning to your regularly scheduled healthy habits.  That’s real food freedom.

Are you ready to set your own food freedom?  Have you tried a reset before?    

My reset starts on Monday 9Jan and ends on Tuesday 7Feb (elimination portion).  The reintroduction phase may take a couple of weeks.  By the end of February, I should know which types of food aren’t the best for my body.  If you’d like to do a reset with me, leave a comment below or request to join the Evoke Healthy Habits Facebook group.
Whole 30 Resources:
The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom
The Whole30 Day by Day: Your Daily Guide to Whole30 Success
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Behavior Change, Facebook Live, Featured Friday Conversations, Health, Inspiration

Soar High and Never Give Up – A Weight Loss Journey

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 action towards improving your health.

What’s the most challenging part of doing a live interview?  The unexpected technical issues!  I interviewed Jaycie twice on the show because after I reviewed the video, the audio quality was horrible.  So we did a take 2!  I’m grateful she took time out of her day to do it again. Jaycie was eager to share her compelling story of health transformation, even if it had to be repeated.

Featuring Jaycie Sullivan

Jaycie Sullivan is the mind behind The Soaring Swine.   She created The Soaring Swine for those who also face or are currently facing the same health and wellness struggles she once did by offering healthy recipes, providing perspective and motivation to those either just starting out or simply trying to move past their current fitness plateau.

Jaycie is also an administrative assistant at a local community college.  She loves to dabble in kitchen art and quite the craft enthusiast (she loves Pinterest)! She is also an avid gym-rat and had to find and cultivate fitness motivation for herself as well as others.

Before the ‘Before Photo’

Photo credit: Jaycie Sullivan of The Soaring Swine

Jaycie’s story focuses on her weight loss journey that began in 2013.   Weighing in at 265 lbs, Jaycie was a bit rattled when she saw a photo of herself cooking dinner for her boyfriend .  It wasn’t the image she pictured in her head of who she was.  This photograph became the turning point that made her want to start making changes in her life.

As a college student, Jaycie recalled working at Starbucks where she’d take home the day’s unsold pastries and sandwiches.  This is what her meals consisted of, since it was free and accessible.  Slowly she started to put on weight.  Part of her weight gain also stemmed from spending time with a friend whose cooking was simply irresistible for her to avoid overeating.  From high school through college she ended up gaining 60 to 65 lbs.

Setting Goals and Never Giving Up

“Nothing worth having comes easy”, Jaycie pointed out when we talked about the long and arduous process of weight loss.  Initially she joined Weight Watchers where she learned about portion control with assigned points for various types of food.  However, the portion control didn’t stop her from choosing ‘unhealthy’ types of food.  And in her journey, she had to learn about the importance of selecting more nutrient dense food to fuel her body.  One of her sources of inspiration and motivation was seeing her friend at a wedding who lost a significant amount of weight mostly due to healthy food choices.

What else drove Jaycie to keep going when the process of losing weight was S-L-O-W?  First she needed to stop looking at the scale!  I can see how we can get caught up with the number on the scale and when it doesn’t budge, it becomes discouraging.  With Jaycie, she was actually gaining muscle and losing inches.  She worked with a trainer who taught her how to train with heavier weights to build muscle and lose fat.  Slowly but surely the number of inches off her body began to increase.

Another source of motivation for Jaycie were Pinterest memes!  One that she connected with her the most is “WHAT’S YOUR WHY?” When you read the About page on her blog The Soaring Swine, she wrote about how she no longer wanted to walk up a flight of stairs feeling winded.  This was one of Jaycie’s initial Whys.  And she also talked about how your WHY changes along your journey.

Photo credit: Jaycie Sullivan of The Soaring Swine

Above is a photo of one of her other ‘Whys’.  I like how Jaycie hung a bikini she purchased back when she was 15 years old on her refrigerator which served as a reminder of her goals.  She wanted to wear this bikini in the summer.  Again, it didn’t happen immediately.  It took her close to a year but her after-photo proves that it can be done!

Never compare your journey

Jaycie pointed out how important it is to never compare your journey with others.  Decide to go on a journey of change for yourself but first determine why you want to do it.  Again, the WHY is what will motivate to keep you moving forward.

Share with us ‘What’s the WHY’ that will compel or has compelled you to make lifestyle changes to improve your health?


Click on this link:  Jaycie Sullivan Interview

You can connect with Jaycie Sullivan on Facebook, The Soaring Swine; Instagram, The Soaring Swine and on her website

To view other past interviews, go to the Be Inspired page and click on Facebook Live Show.

Are you ready to start your journey to better health?  I have a free e-book for you to download full of tips that are small steps to include in your daily routine to improve on what I believe are the five main elements of Healthy Living – Nutrition, Movement, Sleep, Stress, and Community.

Please visit link below to download book today!


If you’re ready to start a lifestyle of healthy habits, please consider joining our community of women whose goals are to build sustainable healthy habits.  Short steps go a LONG way!  Click on this link and request to join!  Evoke Healthy Habits

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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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Books, Health, Inspiration

How are We Wired to Eat? Let Robb Wolf Explain.

Have you struggled with an uncontrollable desire to eat and asked yourself, “Why? Why can’t I stop doing this to myself?”  Don’t blame yourself.  As Robb Wolf states in his book, Wired To Eat:  IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT!

Wired to Eat
Img credit to

If you live in a modern Westernized society of relative leisure and abundance but are not fat, sick, and diabetic, you are, from a biological perspective, “screwing up.” Really.  Our species is here today because our genes are wired to eat damn near everything that is not nailed down….we are genetically wired to eat simple, unprocessed foods, and to expend a fair amount of energy in that process…But modern life affords us the opportunity to move hardly at all, while finding ourselves surrounded by the most varied assortment of delectable food imaginable.”

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

What an interesting and logical concept.  We are no longer in an era where we have to actively forage for our survival.  All we have to do is connect online for someone to knock on our door and deliver food for us.  In fact, I recently saw a billboard ad of McDonald’s now available on Ubereats!

Before I further dive in to details of why processed foods are hard to resist, I’d like to briefly share Robb Wolf’s health transformation story.

Robb Wolf’s Lifestyle Change that Saved Him

Robb Wolf’s passion for transforming the health of thousands of people stemmed from his own personal transformation.  His health issues started early during his childhood years.  In his twenties, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.  If you’re not familiar with what ulcerative colitis is (because I wasn’t), it’s an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and sores in the digestive tract.  With his health in decline, he was in the midst of depression and he mentioned in the book,

“I thought I was going to die, and the idea was pretty appealing, considering how much my life and health sucked.”

Robb Wolf’s mother also had a host of health issues and a test revealed she was allergic to grains, legumes, and dairy. Robb thought about the types of food before grains, legumes, and dairy were produced.  And it led him to the path of discovering the Paleo way of eating.  Once he tried it, his health significantly improved where his issues disappeared.  The Paleo diet essentially saved his life.  This started his journey of transforming others through the Crossfit affiliate gyms he opened, published posts on his blog, The Paleo Solution podcast and his first book and New York Times bestseller, The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet.

Our Environment has Evolved but our Genes are still Catching Up

Let’s look at how our ancestors lived back in the pre-historic times compared to how we are living today.  Before technological advances, our bodies were doing exactly what they were designed for – whole foods for nourishment, plenty of physical activity,  the right amount and quality of sleep, enough time spent under the sun and love from a strong, supportive community.  Our lifestyle today is the OPPOSITE!  And our genes haven’t adjusted.

…Our bodies haven’t caught up to these changes.  Ten thousand years might seem like a very long time, but in the context of our genes, it’s more like a meteoric environmental change than that slow-moving bulldozer. – Wired to Eat

Our lifestyle today, in disagreement with the design of our bodies, have resulted to a gamut of Western degenerative diseases.  Obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and a number of other conditions have been on the rise for the past decades.


“Bet You Can’t Just Eat One”

The popular slogan from Lay’s Potato Chips holds true.  For me, it’s tortilla chips.  Put a bag in front of me and game on.  It’s why you won’t find a bag of tortilla chips in our cupboard.  There’s a term used in the book to describe the type of food difficult for us to refuse – hyperpalatability.  Palatable is defined as something tasty and flavorful.  The term hyperpalatibility is referred to the types of food combining sugar, salt, and fat to stimulate your taste buds and activates the reward centers of our brain.

Robb Wolf pointed out an interesting connection between food and sex (mainly pornography) and its effect on the brain.  Both impact the reward centers of the brain otherwise known as the hedonic system where pleasure is derived.  Dopamine plays a main role as a pleasure-seeking neurotransmitter.  “Stimulating the dopamine centers of the brain creates a positive feedback loop in which one desires more of the substance or activity that elicited the initial good feelings.”

The bad news is whether it’s porn or food, the amount of exposure that made us feel good before doesn’t have the same effect the next time.  We tend to want more or something a little different to have the same effect.  Therefore, it explains why tortilla chips with my favorite salsa is even more enticing!

The problem today is that we have a near infinite variety of foods that completely bypass our neuroregulation of appetite.  These foods produce a degree of stimulation in the brain that leaves normal food looking (and tasting) awful.

Rewire your Brain to Restore your Health

This book is divided into two sections.  The first part was to understand how we are wired to eat and the second is an action plan to rewire and reset for weight loss and health.

Phase one is a 30-Day Reset to find out where you’re at on the ‘insulin resistance spectrum’.  Robb Wolf makes a case that in addition to diet, we also have to consider improvements to sleep, stress, and exercise for proper neuroregulation of appetite.

Phase two is a 7-Day Carb Test plan.  It’s purpose is to build a personalized nutrition plan for the type and quantity of carbs a person can tolerate.  This was based on a paper published in the journal Cell titled “Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Response”.  It’s an interesting study that showed every individual has a different response to the types of food consumed.  Some did better on lower-carb, higher-fat diets, while others responded well on quite the opposite, higher-carbs and lower-fat.  You can make great strides with your health by simply being aware of the type of foods that mesh well with your body.

For Sustainable Change, have a Strong ‘WHY’

How do we keep going, when the going gets tough?  Usually, a definitive why pushes us to reach our goals.  Robb Wolf’s advice to strengthen your motivation calls for a strong WHY.

You need a reason to make these changes and just keep doing them, even when your motivation is in the toilet.  That may sound daunting, but it’s not.  We are talking about one meal at at time, one day at a time.  Instead of fixating on your whole life, just focus on getting the next meal right.  You don’t need a motivational speech to take your next breath, because it’s automatic.  If you make this new way of eating and living automatic, it will be as effortless as taking your next breath.

What’s your take on the approach of personalized nutrition?  Does your appetite need rewiring?

Check out Robb Wolf’s Wired to Eat from your local library, bookstore or click the link to take you to Amazon – 

Wired to Eat: Turn Off Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods That Work for You


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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, 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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