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, 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:

Please follow and like us:
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


*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, 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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Books, Inspiration

Win the Day with Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning

I’m not sure who coined this phrase, ‘If you Win the Morning, you Win the Day’. The first time I heard it said was by Tim Ferris.  On The Tim Ferris Show podcast, Tim asks his guests what their first hour of the day looks like. This question made me reflect on how I spend my first hour of the day and how to improve it.

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

In my quest to set up an ideal morning to win the day, I discovered Hal Elrod’s book, The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)

Hal Elrod Miracle Morning book
Image credit

Hal Elrod’s Transformation Story

What I found fascinating in the book besides the strategies to ‘transform your life before 8 am’ was Hal Elrod’s miraculous transformation after a devastating car accident.  Hal was involved in a 3-car collision when he was 20 yrs old.  One that approached his car head-on and the other smashing into the driver side door.  The following is a narrative about the injuries he suffered at the point of impact.

The door collapsed into the left side of my body.  The frame of the metal roof caved in on my head, slicing open my skull and nearly severing my left ear.  The bones of my left eye socket were crushed, leaving my left eyeball dangerously unsupported.  My left arm broke, severing the radial nerve in my forearm and shattering my elbow, while my fractured humerus bone pierced the skin behind my bicep…

Hal Elrod was clinically dead for six minutes, but the paramedics was able to revive him.  He spent six days in a coma. And after he woke up his doctor told him he may never be able to walk again. However, his unrelenting spirit and determination to press forward affected his body in a manner where he started to heal. And after seven weeks of rehab in the hospital, he learned to walk again.  What ultimately helped him to full recovery?  His positive mindset and practice of gratitude.

I stopped putting energy into wishing my life were any different-into wishing bad things didn’t happen to me-and instead focused 100% on making the best of what I had.

Such a powerful message!  In the following years after his accident, he succeeded in many of his endeavors. As a sales manager, he had the highest earning sales; he finished writing a book  (not this one – this book is a product of his next downfall even more painful to him than death itself!); and became a life/business Success Coach sharing the success he had after his car accident.

Clarity on the Run

But for Hal Elrod, the worst is yet to come.  For him, it was the financial fall-out of 2007 that crushed his life even more than the six minute death and the six day coma he experienced.  After he revealed to a friend his devastating financial loss and how his life was in shambles, his friend’s simple question of ‘Are you exercising?’ caused a series of events that led him to the eureka moment from which the book Miracle Morning was born.

It was one morning when Hal decided to take his friend’s advice, laced up his ‘non-running’ shoes (because he’s not a runner) and went for a run.  While listening to a personal development audio by Jim Rohn, one phrase struck him.  This quote was the driving force of digging himself out of a deep turmoil and became the concept of the book ‘The Miracle Morning’.

Morning Life S.A.V.E.R.S

Everyone can benefit from including any one of these strategies as part of your morning routine. He used the acronym SAVERS as in ‘lifesavers’ because this approach was what brought him back to life.

S – Silence

Isn’t the morning the most ideal time to spend in silence? You’d only agree with me if you wake up earlier than anyone else in the house! Silence is synonymous to meditation, prayer, breath. Whatever it is that puts you in touch with your spiritual being.

When my girls finally slept through the night, I started a meditation practice right after I awakened.  I use the Calm app on my phone and try to focus on my breath for five minutes.  To me, five minutes is a long time to focus when my mind constantly wanders.  The beauty of a guided meditation is it reminds you to come back to the breath after you acknowledge your current thought.  I think it helps me maintain my focus and use the power of breath when stressful situations arise during the day.

A – Affirmation

Who believes in the ability of affirmations to instill confidence to propel you towards success?  It’s what Hal Elrod learned from reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  It’s a book I’m also currently reading as I continue to improve my personal development.  I understand how our minds powerfully influence our beliefs.  If we implant a positive affirmation in our mind, we start to believe in it and eventually we become it.  Affirmations have never crossed my mind until recently, after reading this book as well as Napoleon Hill’s.

You can use affirmations to start programming yourself to be confident and successful in everything you do, simply by repeatedly telling yourself who you want to be, what you want to accomplish and how you are doing to accomplish it.  With enough repetition, your sub-conscious mind will begin to believe what you tell it, act upon it, and eventually manifest in your reality.

V – Visualization

A week before a race (half or full marathon), I spend time to visualize running on specific parts of the course.  How I would approach a hill.  Or what my posture will look during the last few miles of the race.  Even what my finish line photo would look like!

Honestly, this is the one approach I don’t do first thing in the morning.  I don’t think about it usually, but I can see how effective it could be paired with the affirmation.  To see yourself achieve goals and conquer adversity in different areas of your life.  Like affirmations, it’s a great enforcer of belief.

E – Exercise

My favorite!  Lately, with Chicago Marathon a couple of weeks away, I’ve spent the first hour of the morning either running on the treadmill or in the pool running.  The days when I don’t I usually do at least 10 minutes of  movement, targeting the five functional movements – push (push-ups), pulls (rows), bend and lift (squats, deadlifts), single leg (lunges), rotational (med ball chops).

Any type of movement helps to improve your cognitive function with more glucose and oxygen to your brain.  It literally wakes up your brain!  Movement also immediately enhances your energy and sets you up for a productive day.

R – Reading

Reading is the fast track to transforming any area of your life.  It is one of the most immediate methods for acquiring the knowledge, ideas, and strategies to achieve Level 10 success in any area of your life.

Couldn’t agree more!  I think reading is the most inexpensive and best investment to success.  I loved to read ever since I was a kid.  When I lived in the Philippines, my mom purchased two sets of encyclopedias.  One was particularly for kids, Disney’s Wonderful World of Knowledge.  How I loved paging through those books.

Photo credit to My favorite was The Human Body. There’s an illustration of what happens to food after swallow it!

However, I can’t get into the habit of reading in the morning.  I usually set aside time for it during the day or before bed.  I can see the advantage of reading in the morning, in case you have a busy day ahead, then it’s something you’ve already done.

S – Scribe

Finally, the last one is Scribing or Writing.  This could take the form of journaling, jot down ideas or even write your first book!  I’m big on journaling.  In fact, I have a journal dating back to 1989.  Now I like to divide my journal into three sections – Health, Wealth, Wise on the front page and a Gratitude + Affirmations on the back page. For example in the Health section, I like to track my hours of sleep, movement (types of exercise, # of steps, # miles ran), if and how long I meditated and the type of meals I eat throughout the day.

I finish my journal entry before I go to bed.  So what I write in the morning is my affirmation.  Sometimes I’d write under the Wealth section one to three things I truly want to focus on that will contribute to my success.

It’s Your Turn

Do you think it’s possible for you to do all of the Life S.A.V.E.R.S in the time you have in the morning?  If not, Hal Elrod even devised a way for you to complete all of them in six minutes!  One minute for each activity and they can be in any order you want.

Of course, you can design your morning any way you prefer to include one or more of these approaches.  Currently my morning looks like this-

5a – alarm goes off – I spend the first couple of minutes singing in my head ‘This is the Day the Lord has made, I will Rejoice and Be Glad in it.”
510 – dressed for a pool run – quick coffee drink
520 – drive to YMCA
530 – 615 – pool run
615 – 630 shower and dressed
630 – breakfast for kids and myself (pack kids lunches)
645 – eat breakfast and read
0700 – wake up girls

As you can see with this type of schedule, I don’t have time to meditate so I move it to before bedtime which sometimes I even forget or fail to do so because I just need to go to bed.  Nor do I have time to journal so that is also moved to the ‘nighttime routine’  However, there are days when I don’t go to the gym so I have to do most of the SAVERS.

Nevertheless, when I make time for myself first thing in the morning and start on a positive note, it sharpens my mental and physical capacity so I can handle whatever the day throws at me.  I truly believe when YOU WIN THE MORNING, YOU WIN THE DAY.

Do you feel it’s important to have a morning routine similar to Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning?  Which one of the SAVERS do you think will make a big difference to you?

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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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