Where Do I Fit In? Average and That's OK!

I think that I'll always consider myself the "fat girl."  Even at 165 lbs and 5'7", I still define myself that way. After a lifetime of others defining me that way, it's hard to shake that definition, that mindset. Six years out, I still have to work every day at treating myself better, and it's not always an easy task.  


When I look in the mirror, I see the remnants of a former me:  rolls of extra skin around my waistline that will never go away without plastic surgery (which I cannot get covered, nor can I afford out of pocket.) I see the cellulite on my 42 year old thighs, and the loose skin under my arms.  Shapewear helps a great with that, and once I'm dressed, I can often forget about those parts of my body that I dislike.

Read Also:  The Shape of Things to Come

What Size Do I Wear?

Still, I don't know how to define my body "type" anymore.  I wear a size 10 in pants, a size L or XL in a top to cover my poochy midsection.  (Note:  if that extra skin weren't there, I'd likely be a size medium).  In dresses, I can wear a size L if it is stretchy or knit material, but if it's fitted in any way, I wear a size XL or 14. I'm not thin, but I'm also not what's considered to be a true plus size.  So where does that leave me? 

Where Do I Shop?

It's leaves me smack dab in the middle of two sections of clothing in any store.  The good news is that I can shop almost anywhere now and find something that will look cute on me.  Still, I find myself always gravitating towards the plus size clothing.  I take things from the rack and try it on, knowing that it's too big for me, but also feeling comfort in being covered up by loose, hanging clothes.  It's the part of the "former" me that I can't let go of, even six years later.

What Type of Clothes Can I Wear?

There are things that I'll never be able to wear:  crop tops, blouses or tops tucked into my pants, short-shorts (although at 42, I probably shouldn't be wearing those anyhow).  But there's things that I can wear now that I never could (or would let myself) before:  spaghetti strap tops, dresses, high heels, lingerie.  

"Average is OK!"

I've worked pretty diligently on being positive about my body, and treating myself well despite the battle scars of a former morbidly-obese me.  I love fashion, but I also hate it - because it often reminds me of the shame I felt and still feel with a body that's not "perfect."  I'm not obese, but I'm not thin.  I guess that means that I am average.  And average is ok. Average is good.  Average is healthy.  Average is me.

Guest post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area."  

Also by Taunia:

Additions and Subtractions to Your Diet After Weight Loss Surgery

The "Unsolicited Advice" Syndrome - Thanks but NO Thanks!

What Would I Have Done Differently with My Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery?

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Divide Your Plate, Conquer Your Meals

People always seem to be looking for simple reminders on how to eat healthy and for good reason!

When things are easy to remember, they are convenient. When they are convenient they can become sustainable! That is what we are looking for; sustainable healthy eating habits!

One easy way to remember how to eat a well-balanced meal is to divide your plate according to the food groups you should eat.
Borrowing from the philosophy of Jonathan Bailor in his book the Calorie Myth,  divide your plate according to the foods people need to eat most.  For a well balanced meal, remember your plate should be proportioned like this:

•    50% non-starchy vegetables
•    30% nutrient dense protein
•    15% low fructose fruits 
•    5% whole food fats

Non-starchy Vegetables

As you will notice veggies are the majority (50%) of your meal.  Non-starchy basically means that you can eat them raw. For instance, you can’t eat corn on the cob raw, or potatoes raw but you can eat cucumbers raw, and carrots, celery, broccoli, and cauliflower to name a few more.

You want to be eating so many of these wonderful vegetables that you aren’t hungry for dessert and don't have room for eating junk food at all!

Nutrient Dense Protein

Around 30% of your plate should be nutrient dense proteins such as wild fish, grass fed beef, and other high-quality raised livestock. This will allow you to get a big dose of protein while staying away from antibiotics and hormones that can accompany lower quality proteins. These high quality proteins will allow you to meet your protein requirements without consuming a large amount of unhealthy fats as well.

Low Fructose Fruits

The next 15% or your plate should be low fructose fruits! This group is composed of fruits that are berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries...etc) and citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes…etc). 

Whole Food Fats

Lastly, the remainder of your plate should be made up of whole food fats. This will make up the majority of your actual caloric intake because they are so calorie dense. This includes foods like macadamia nuts, coconuts, avocados, and eggs. This small portion of your plate is where you will consume most of your calories and heart-healthy fats! SEE ALSO: Heart Healthy Grocery Shopping - Tips and Tricks

Jonathan Bailor had this to say in an Always Active Athletics interview regarding this divided plate, 
“The order of volume: non-starchy vegetables, then nutrient dense proteins, then whole food fats and low fructose fruits. Eat as much of those as you want in that order whenever you want, so that you are too full for starches and sweets…”

Having an easy way to remember what a well balanced meal looks like will allow you to hopefully make it a habit and start eating healthy all the time! When it comes to eating a healthy meal, divide your plate and thus conquer your meals. Happy eating!

For more fitness and nutrition information check out Josh at Always Active Athletics: Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness.

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How to Achieve Amazing Spring Fitness

Finally!  It's Spring!  

The sun is shining, birds are singing, and flowers are blooming... what a great time to add some spring to your fitness program. Call it spring, jump, bounce or sprint... I’m talking about cardio-interval training and it is a great way to wake up and shake up your body.  

Interval Training
Interval training involves timed bouts of higher intensity movement followed by timed bouts of lower intensity recovery movement.  Typically these bouts are done in a ratio of 1 to 2 (1:2), 1 to 3(1:3) or 1 to 4 (1:4).  That would mean that if you did high intensity movement for 30 seconds, you would follow that up with 1, 1.5 or 2 minutes of low intensity movements.  

So here is an example.  Do 30 seconds of jumping jacks (that would be about 20 jacks), then follow this with a march or walk in place for 1 minute (that would be about 120 steps in place), now repeat that same work/recovery interval four times over.  During the work bout, you can choose to do any move that makes you breathe heavy, or better yet, breathless in the 30 seconds.  That would be moves like jumping rope, running in place with high knees, lateral leaps, squat jumps, etc.  

You can also choose to do any light movement that helps get your heart rate and breathing back under control during the recovery bout.  That could be knee bends, walking around the room, heel presses forward, step touches, etc.  You can use the same two moves, or change them every bout.  

Get That Heart Rate Up!
The key is to get the heart rate up fast and then bring it back down gently.  Don’t start a new work-bout until you feel that your heart rate and breathing rate are back down to a low or moderate sensation of exercise exertion.  This type of training can help you break out of a training rut.  It burns a high level of calories.  It has also been shown to lift the metabolism for longer periods post training than traditional steady state training (training at a moderate intensity).  

Read also:  Spring Into Fitness - Are You Ready to HIIT Yourself Fit? Part One

Start Slowly
Keep in mind that the less fit or accustom you are to high intensity training movements the shorter you should make your work-bouts and the longer you should make your recoveries (for example 15 seconds work to 1 or 2 minutes of recovery).  On the other hand the more fit you are the longer you can make your work-bouts and the shorter the recovery (for example 1 minute all out movement followed by 1 to 2 minutes of recovery).  You will never want to exceed 90 seconds in all out effort and your ratio should not be less than a 1:1 or 1: 2 work to recovery ratio. 

Start off by adding 2 to 4 of these bouts to your regular cardio workout time.  After a few sessions you can slowly build up to 6 to 8 intervals. For every interval bout you do you can shave off about 5 minutes of your regular workout time. So if you do 4 bouts that would be 20 minutes off a 60-minute walk.
Don't forget to take your liquid supplements like calcium and glucosamine and chondroitin to help you keep doing the activities you love!

More great articles:
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The Shape of Things to Come

I had weight loss surgery six years ago, and I've done incredibly well with it.  I've maintained a loss of 150 lbs on my 5'7" frame, became a much healthier eater, have more options for clothes, and many other wonderful things that going along with losing the equivalent of a whole other person.  BUT, I've also never had plastic surgery.  I've never been covered by insurance either on the east coast in Boston (where I had my surgery) or here on the west coast at Kaiser.  When you lose a ton of weight, some of it just "evaporates" but most of it stays there, in a different form, as a constant reminder.

excess skin after weight loss surgery

I've been extremely fortunate because I didn't have a lot of extra skin on my legs and arms.  Even at 311 lbs, I was pretty active swing and latin dancing, so those parts of my body (that were smaller to begin with) stayed pretty toned throughout the whole process.  But my stomach?  Not so much.  I look like I've had the equivalent of a small children's choir living in my gut.  It's ridiculous.  And the (innocent, but uninformed) answer from people is usually, "Why don't you try exercise?"  "OMG!  Exercise?  Geesh, I hadn't thought of that!"  There are no numbers of crunches of push ups, of sits ups, of cross-training, kickboxing, zumba ANYTHING that will get rid of this gut.  For those of you who have had several children, you may be able to relate.  The only way this is going away is with some serious plastic surgery, which we have already discovered is not an option for me without insurance coverage.

If one of more person asks me "when I'm due," I may lose it and just start shopping strictly in the maternity department and start lying about when my beautiful, talented, genius of a children will be brought forth unto this world.

"But I've found options other than straight up insanity.  It's called shapewear."

Shapewear is daunting if you've never worn it before.  There are so many pieces to choose from, each helping with a different problem area, some working with all problem areas.  So what I've decided to do is give you the solutions and shapewear that I've found works best for me, with different types of outfits.  All are very affordable, but I consider shapewear an investment in my sanity. :)  It does take some getting used to - being stuffed into something like a sausage you can't eat anymore, but you'll become used to that too, and a lot of the restriction loosens up after a wash or two.  Here are my favorites:

DRESSES:  I live in dresses in the summer.  Because of this, I need a great shaper that works all-over, so I opt for the bodysuit shaper, which is almost like a bathing suit.  My absolute favorite is "Beauty by Bali" Smoothing Lace Shaping Bodysuit.  Not only is it an amazing piece of shapewear, but it is sexy as hell.  My husband LOVES these and thinks they look like amazing lingerie. You can also find these in most department store lingerie departments.  It's the ONLY piece of shape wear I wear with dresses.  It provides great midsection coverage and the girls look pretty damn good in it!

TOPS:  For tops of any kind, I always use the Self Expressions Cami Shaper from Maidenform. It comes in a range of sizes and colors, and could really be worn all on it's own as a top.  What I like about them is the the most shaping coverage is in the midsection (where I need it most) and it doesn't smoosh the girls.  Also, another bonus for tall upper torso girls like me is that it has adjustable straps and enough length to cover the pouchy midsection below the belly button.  I also really like Slimpressions Tanks A Little because it provides coverage for the mid section, but you can wear your own bra with it.  Plus, the material is SUPER comfortable.

BOTTOMS:  When it comes to bottoms, I'm fortunate enough that I don't need any coverage around the thigh or knee area.  I know lots of folks that do, though, so I thought I'd direct you to a few great companies for that:  Slimpressions, Spanx (which I find very expensive and very uncomfortable, but lots of ladies love them), and HERROOM has tons of great selections.  You can also do some searches on Ebay, Google Shopping, and Amazon.com for more items to choose from.

PANTIES:  I tend to wear lightweight shape wear panties or else I feel like I'm wearing a chastity belt.  I just need enough coverage to make sure the pooch doesn't get out of control.  I tend to like boy short cuts, and I can find a ton of different options at Bare Necessities.  If you sign up for their email you get access to a ton of discounts too, so I would definitely try that route.  I also love Slimpressions Full Cut Panty.  Really great coverage without sucking every ounce of air out of my body.  Seriously, though, they're very comfortable.

SUMMER TIPS:  As summer starts to roll around, we all start to freak out about SWIMSUITS.  Have no fear!  I have some helpful hints for that as well.  There is a great company called MiracleSuit that has some seriously rocking styles, but all have really great shaping coverage.  There's a reason "Miracle" is  in the name.  Here's the one I'm coveting for this summer: Tile Style Suit and Sarong.Diva Taunia with Tim Gunn

QUICK TIP:   Remember the Bali Bodysuit Shaper I mentioned at the top?  You can wear those under nearly any bathing suit to help you feel more shapely and confident.  I did that all last summer and it made me extremely comfortable to walk around in my suit.

Another tip?  Self-tanner.  I don't advocate tanning in the sun - it's bad for you!  But self-tanner can darken your skin a few shades and hide some of the extra cellulite and icky parts that we don't love so much.

Hopefully, you found this helpful.  Have any questions about where to shop or what types of shape wear to get?  Feel free to email me at info@divataunia.com.

Guest post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area." 

More Great Articles by Diva Taunia:

Additions and Subtractions to Your Diet After Weight Loss Surgery

Pizza on the Brain - Can I Ever Eat It Again?

The "Unsolicited Advice" Syndrome - Thanks but NO Thanks!

Pregnancy after Weight Loss Surgery

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Understanding Protein Options - Differences and Benefits

Proper Protein Consumption

Protein is probably the most commonly used nutritional supplement in the fitness industry, and for good reason too:

We all need plenty of protein (along with resistance training) in order to support lean muscle mass and prevent muscle degradation.  

You can usually get your daily protein needs from your diet, but many people still supplement in order to increase muscle growth. The most common form of protein supplementation is whey protein powder and collagen liquid protein (we won’t discuss casein protein). Let’s break down the difference between the two and figure out exactly how much protein you need to consume per day!  SEE ALSO: Top 3 Keys to Maintaining Muscle As You Age

Whey Protein

Easily the most common type of supplemented protein in the fitness industry; whey protein has also been extensively studied. Produced from the liquid resulting from cheese production, whey protein promotes muscle protein synthesis and lean muscle mass.

Although some studies refute the effectiveness of protein supplementation in general, one study found that the supplementation of whey protein increased the strength and lean muscle mass of men compared to no supplementation at all (Burke et al 2001). Some forms of whey protein can be hard to mix and result in clumpy shakes but this can be overcome with a good shaker bottle.

Collagen Protein

Usually called hydrolyzed collagen protein, collagen is the most abundant type of protein in the human body. This protein is very important for ligament, tendon, joint, and even muscle health. When offered as a supplement, collagen must first undergo an enzymatic process to break it down to easier to absorb molecules. After this process, tryptophan and asparagines (among other things) are added to make it a complete protein.

There is evidence that hydrolyzed collagen can support lean muscle mass but research is ongoing in this area! 

One of the best aspects of hydrolyzed collagen protein is that it is thoroughly absorbed by the body; at least 90% absorption. (Oesser et al 1999)

Daily Protein Recommendations

Whether you decide to take collagen or whey, it’s a good idea to know your daily recommendations! It turns out that the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends the average person consumes 0.36g protein/lb of bodyweight per day (0.8g protein/kg bodyweight). That means that a 150lb person should consume at least 54g protein per day (150lb * 0.36 = 54g).

For those of you that routinely workout or take part in intense sporting events and want to improve your lean muscle mass, it is recommended that you consume 1.2 - 1.7g or protein/kg bodyweight daily (ACSM, ADA, Dietitians of Canada). To convert bodyweight from pounds to kilograms multiply your bodyweight by 0.45. That means that a 150lb person who needs 1.7g/kg per day should consume 144.75g/day. ([150lb * 0.45] * 1.7g/kg = 114.75g/day).

Lastly, we all know that nutrition after an intense workout can be very important. To get the most out of your workouts it is recommended to consume protein post-exercise, but how much? Research tells us that immediately after a workout we need 0.2g - 0.4g protein per kilogram of body weight (150lb person needs = 13.5g to 27.2g protein) to sufficiently maximize gains (Levenhagen et al 2001).

For most people they can get their daily allotment of protein form their normal diet (vegetables, meats, eggs, dairy, nuts…etc) but for others they may want to supplement their protein intake with either collagen or whey protein. Make sure you are getting the protein you need in order to promote healthy muscle growth/maintenance!

If you want more at-home fitness and nutrition information check out Josh at Always Active Athletics: Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness.

photo credit: sldownard via photopin cc


Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Davison KS, Candow DG, Farthing J, Smith-Palmer T (2001) The effect of whey protein supplementation with and without creatine monohydrate combined with resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscle strength. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 11: 349-364.

Levenhagen DK, Gresham JD, Carlson MG, Maron DJ, Borel MJ, Flakoll PJ (2001) Postexercise nutrient intake timing in humans is critical to recovery of leg glucose and protein homeostasis. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism 280: 982-993.

Oesser S, Adam M, Babel W, Seifert J (1999) Oral administration of 14C labelled gelatine hydrolysate leads to an accumulation of radioactivity in cartilage of mice (C57/BL). Journal of Nutrition 129 (10): 1891–1895.

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Joint-Friendly Fitness Routines to Increase Mobility and Flexibility

The warmer weather creates a positive environment for many things, in particular increased joint mobility. And it's important to keep your joints healthy so you can continue doing the activities you love all summer long!

Stretching routine for joint health for mobility and flexibility

With that in mind it may be a great time for arthritis sufferers to re-evaluate their exercise program and get back on track with a few daily joint healthy exercises.  Daily stretching has been recommended in particular for those with compromised joints as a treatment for joint pain.  The Aerobic and Fitness Association of America lists flexibility as one of the first fitness components to be addressed when designing a functional fitness program for those with arthritic conditions  http://www.afaa.com .

The reason why is pretty simple.  If you can’t move with good range of motion it is pretty hard to do any exercise or daily activity with proper form and alignment.  Exercising with pore alignment is a major cause of joint stress and further joint damage, thus it is important to keep joints as mobile as possible, even when limitations exist.  

Stretching Guidelines

• Always increase your body core temperature prior to holding stretch position: performing a physical warm up including light cardiovascular or rhythmic movement can do this.  A physical warm up can be enhanced by taking a hot shower or bath prior to your session, scheduling your session toward the later and/or warmer part of the day, performing your stretches in a warm environment and/or while wearing clothing that keeps the body well insulated.

•  Ease into your stretch positions: Start at a point of very mild tension, take two or three deep breaths, then try to move into a deeper stretch position, increasing the stretching sensation to a higher degree of tension (or slight discomfort). This is very similar to yoga breathing practices. 

• Never stretch to the point of pain or high discomfort: Your muscles will actually reject the stretch and try to protect themselves by tensing up.

• Breath fluidly throughout all your stretches: at least 5 deep breaths per stretch.

• Repeat each stretch 2 to 3 times over.

The following includes an upper and lower body stretch series that should be done at least once every day:

The Upper Body Wall Stretch:

Stand facing a wall and gently position your hands a comfortable distance above your head. Work your arms up the wall, keep your abdominals tight and lean your torso towards the wall.  Next, turn around and place your backside to the wall with your arms in a ‘T’ position (elbows bent and upper arm parallel to the floor).  Try to press your head, spine and arms against the wall.  Hold both the front and back position for 3 to 5 deep breaths.

Read Also:  Stretching to the Limit for Muscle and Joint Pain

The Lower Body Chair Stretch: 

Start by standing behind a sturdy chair in a lunge position.  Gently work the back leg further away from the front leg until you feel a stretch down the hip, and then press the heel towards the floor until you feel a stretch in your lower leg/ calf muscle.  Follow this up by straightening the front leg and leaning forward with your torso until you feel a stretch down the back of the front leg (keep your spine straight as you lean forward).  Switch leg positions and repeat the series

More Joint Health Articles:

Exercises to Help Decrease Knee Pain

Soothing Exercise for Cranky Painful Joints

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Additions and Subtractions to Your Diet After Weight Loss Surgery

"What can you eat now?"  It's one of the first questions that I get asked by people.  

chinese food

At six years out from gastric bypass surgery, my answer is "almost anything."  It wasn't always that way, of course. The first few years, I couldn't eat things like ice cream, french fries, and other former staples in my diet. There would be immediate mutiny in my stomach if I even looked at those foods. So out of necessity, I just started eating a lot healthier and it soon became my "normal" way of eating. There are some things that I still cannot eat, but mostly there are things that I choose not to eat.

"Actually, the way lots of foods tasted was dramatically different."

I know many other weight loss surgery patients have said the same thing:  many of the foods in our former pre-op lives just taste awful now.  (There is actual scientific fact to back this up, such as this great article found here on Bariatric Times.) So I thought I'd create an addiction and subtraction list to get a glimpse into my post-op life eating.  Some of these foods are healthy, some are not.  Some of these foods I eat because I have to, some are because I want to.  Some of them are subtracted from my life for good for medical reasons. In all of these cases, it may be helpful to first get a glimpse at what I used to eat regularly first.

Before Weight Loss Surgery

Pre-op:  I lived alone in a large house and I taught music out of my home.  I barely left home, as a matter of fact.  My life consisted of take out food, ice cream, and ice cold glasses of Coke (which was my absolute favorite beverage in the world: several cubes in a nice glass - ahhh, heaven!).  My take out meals were almost always either pizza (of which I would eat approx 80% of the entire large pie) or chinese food takeout - enough for at least two large meals, which I would eat as one.)

When I had to go on the liquid diet for two weeks before surgery, I thought I.  was.  going.  to.  die. I literally thought I was going insane and that maybe I was making some horrible, horrible mistake.  I had 2-3 shakes a day and allowed myself two slices of low calorie toast with butter for the last meal of the evening.  I lost 14 lbs in two weeks, enough for the go-ahead for surgery.

I think I can probably skip the portion size and shakes description for the first few months after surgery. Most of you already know that. So, I'll jump straight to me six-years-out addition and subtraction lists with notes:

Six Years After Surgery


Soda:  any soda.  I cannot STAND the taste of it - whether it's diet or regular.  It all just tastes like a giant fuzzy glass of sugar and turns my stomach.  The only exception to this is ginger ale and I have the diet version ONLY when I have an upset stomach.

Chinese Food:  I never touch it any more, and if someone suggests we go to a chinese restaurant, I begrudgingly oblige.  The oily taste just completely turns my stomach.  (You might be happy to know, though, that pizza still remains a staple in my diet. More below.)

Also Read:  Pizza on the Brain - Can I Ever Eat It Again?

Ice Cream:  In my post-op days, I have become lactose intolerant.  I can have a couple bites, but that's it. Any more than that and World War III breaks out in my gut.

Rice and Pasta:  I can't have it - of any kind.  Once it's inside my pouch, it expands and the pain is excruciating.  I love both, but I love being NOT in pain even more. Foods that are high in calcium oxalate stones can wreak havoc on a post-op who is susceptible to kidney stones. Other healthy but hurtful foods include spinach, beets, rhubarb, nuts, and wheat.  It's the spinach one that kills me. I love me some spinach.  *Note:  have questions about this?  Be sure to check with your surgeon or nutritionist!


Cottage Cheese:  I know.  Some of you are rolling your eyes right now, but honestly, it's good stuff!  Knudsen offers cottage cheese doubles with amazing flavors like pineapple, peach, mango, and strawberry, and they're only 100 calories and completely fill me up in the morning with a cup of coffee.  Never in my life did I think cottage cheese would be a favorite of mine, but it is.  And speaking of cheese…

Cheese:  of all kinds, all varieties, I love, love, love it.  One of my absolute favorites is from Trader Joe's and it's called Unexpected Cheddar.  It's like cheese sent from the Gods.  It's a small square wrapped in cheese paper in the cheese section.  Buy it. You will thank me for it later.

Fruit:  my new sugar rush.  I love, love, love fruit.  In particular, I love pineapple, mango, red grapes, and bananas.  Any time I start getting a sweet tooth, I grab some good stuff.

Lean Cuisine:  I know it's a bit of a cop-out, but when I'm working at the school and need something quick to eat, this does the job. Usually the calorie count is pretty decent, and they have some great flavors like Turkey Dinner, Sesame Chicken (my favorite), steamed Asian dumplings, and even a great BBQ pizza.

Pizza:  This has never left my diet, I've only gotten more adventurous with the vegetable portions.  I love pretty much any veggie but a mushroom on my pizza.  And if it's well hidden, I'll even eat that.  I can only handle one piece of pizza on a good day, but believe me, I savor each bite.

Salad: Ok, so no dark greens like spinach, but I can create a pretty kick-ass salad with butter lettuce, romaine, or even regular iceberg.I think every salad should have veggies, cheese, egg, and some kind of small chopped meat.   And I usually add some tortilla strips for crunch.  And salad dressing?  I either make my own (lite vinaigrette) OR, I usually use a regular honey mustard as a dressing.  Trader Joe's make the BEST sweet and spicy honey mustard in the world.  Go buy it in vats.  You'll thank me later.

Vitamins and Supplements: It goes without saying that I'm a huge fan of Wellesse Liquid Supplements.  As someone who is Vitamin D deficient and also anemic, going without vitamins in my diet is NOT an options.  Check with your surgeon and dietician and make sure that you are including your vitamins as part of your new post-op world diet.

So that's about it.  I eat pretty normally now with a few exceptions.  I am by no means a nutritionist or dietician, I just go by the info they've given me and the research I've done.  Hope this helps you know what to expect.  At six years out I'm living and eating great!

Guest post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area."

Read More!

Importance of Working With Your Dietitian Before and After Weight Loss Surgery

After Weight Loss Surgery Success Tip - Check Your Dishwasher!

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A Healthy Cinnamon, Raisin Oatmeal Cookie Smoothie

This smoothie tastes just like eating an oatmeal cookie fresh out of the oven. This recipe is sugar free, which makes it perfect for breakfast.  I used Liquid Protein from the Wellesse line of vitamins to create a filling, healthy smoothie, but other Wellesse liquid supplements could also be added (the liquid Calcium with Vitamin D3 especially!). 

To prepare this smoothie, put your yogurt into ice trays and freeze the night before. This is a quick and easy recipe to throw together on a busy week day morning. 

Oatmeal Cookie Smoothie

•    6 Cubes of Frozen yogurt (dairy or nondairy)
•    ½ Cup Oats
•    ¼-1/2 Cup Raisins
•    2 tsp Cinnamon
•    ½ Milk (dairy or nondairy)
•    Tiny Pinch of Salt
•    ½ tsp Vanilla Extract 
•    2 TBSP Wellesse Liquid Protein Complete 
•    1 Frozen Banana
•    4 Regular ice cubes
•    Stevia to taste (or other liquid sugar of choice)

1.    Freeze dairy or nondairy yogurt of choice in ice cube trays
2.    Throw all ingredients into your blender and combine until desired consistency.
3.    Enjoy!

SEE ALSO:  Tips to Create Your Own Smoothie Recipe

Recipe by Brittany Angell of www.brittanyangell.com, expert allergen-free food blogger and author - see more and sign up for Club Angell at her website - like her on Facebook



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Preventing Injuries When Starting a New Exercise Program

If you are starting a new exercise program, whether it’s boxing, yoga, walking or running, your primary goals should include getting fit and having a great time. Therefore, it is important to prevent injuries so you can enjoy exercise instead of sitting on the sidelines in pain.

Here are the top things you must do to keep your body healthy and prevent injuries:

See a Strength Coach or Physical Therapist First.

A good strength coach or physical therapist should be able to evaluate your bio-mechanics (how you move your body) while also testing for muscle weakness and tightness. And, they can show you how to correct poor bio-mechanics, strengthen weak muscles and decrease muscle tightness. This is very important because many put excess stress on their knees, rotator cuff or other parts of their body due to weak hips, weak accessory muscles, poor bio-mechanics or muscle tightness. 

Warm Up.

Perform a light warm up by walking, jogging or performing active/dynamic warm-up exercises. Check out this article for a few great ideas.  

Start Slowly.

The weather may be warm and the sights around you beautiful, but take a step back and remember to start off slowly. If you haven’t walked in a while, setting out to an hour-long hike might not be the best idea. Even if you are conditioned and exercise regularly, any new form of exercise will work different muscles and tendons. So, how long should you go? 10 minutes is the rule of thumb for your first run (or first run in a while) and you can add 10% per week thereafter. Walking – start with a max of 20 minutes. Any other new sport – 10 – 20 minutes is a good guideline. 

In addition to starting slowly, make sure you take rest days so your body can recover and repair. 

Cross Train.

When you incorporate different types of exercise into each week you will not only prevent boredom but you will also work different muscles and therefore help prevent overuse injuries from doing the same repetitive motions constantly. 

Foam Roll & Trigger Point Therapy.

Foam rolling is the best way to give yourself a massage at home. Foam rolling will help loosen up tight muscles and make your body feel better. Trigger point therapy targets muscle knots – those hard lumps you get that feel like a dull pain and / or contribute to nerve pain by compressing on nerves.  I love the rumble roller because the ridges dig into the parts of my muscle that hurt. I also like TP therapy as well.

SEE ALSO:  How to stay in motion when you have joint pain and  Exercise for Healthy Bones


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Pizza on the Brain - Can I Ever Eat It Again?

Ah yes, the old "will I still be able to eat pizza???"  It's the most often-asked question, and I totally get it.

Veggie Pizza - see www.budgetbytes.com

Photo & recipe - www.budgetbytes.com 

This coping mechanism that you've been using for years - if not decades - is suddenly and quite dramatically being taken away from you.    Again, this is from my  own personal experience - others may have had different experiences, so always do your research!  

My first two years post-surgery were tough eating-wise. I was simultaneously battling a life-threatening kidney problem, so I was barely hungry, ever.  I drank a ton of shakes (some that I still really love and can suggest below**). But at about a year out, I was able to have three of the most delicious bites of pizza I have ever tasted. A lot of the things that I used to love tasted AWFUL to me now - like Coke, Chinese food, any sweet type of drink, bleck!  But pizza? To this day it remains a favorite (although it's harder to find good NY style pizza out here in SoCal!).  And I can eat exactly one slice with a small glass of wine.  That's it, but it makes me feel full and satisfied.  It's a usual Friday night staple for my husband and I:  veggie pizza, wine, and a Redbox movie.

"I don't diet, and I never will."

I'm kind of perplexed by the questions about what diets I am on.  I don't diet, and I never will.  For me, I rely solely on how I feel.  If my pants start feeling a snug around the waist, I change what I'm eating.  If I feel sluggish, I know I am not eating enough nutritious foods and probably eating things that are fast, but lack in nutritional value.  What I consider myself now is a "normal" person.  I still love food.  I love, love, love to cook.  But I absolutely refuse to be a slave to food, my weight , or the scale anymore.  It makes me crazy (crazier than before, lol).  

When my husband and I moved in together, he refused to let me have a scale in the house.  And this week after visiting my doctor and seeing a 3 lb gain, he wouldn't even listen to me talk about it.  "3 pounds?  Are you nuts?   You look exactly the same to me.  We're not talking about it."  That was the first time I gained in about a year and it also coincided with my time of the month (oh yeah, don't think you get out of that when you get into perimenopause - oh joy!).  I backed away and looked at it rationally.  

What I try to do now is just try to make reasonably healthy choices, move more, and enjoy this new life that I've been given.  That's the "diet" I am on now.  Maybe I'll go order a veggie pizza for dinner.  :)

Read More:  Eating More Fresh Produce – Why You Need It and How to Get It!

Guest post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area.  More information can be found at www.divataunia.com.  Read also by Taunia : The "Unsolicited Advice" Syndrome - Thanks but NO Thanks!

**Some of my favorite and tasty shakes:

•    Smoothies with my with Wellesse Liquid Supplements
•    Lean Dessert Chocolate Fudge Pudding
•    Big Train's Blended Ice Coffees

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A Friendly Breakfast Reminder....Eat It!

It’s been said so many times before, but needs to be repeated often and remembered well…breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day, without question.  

We all know how important it is to limit fat, cholesterol, sugar, calories and salt to lower our chances of getting high-risk diseases.  Fast food and junk food are usually found to be the biggest culprits, and with winter upon us, the urge to 'hybernate' is a huge challenge too.   But could you ever imagine, that a fast food breakfast sandwich could be better for your health than skipping breakfast altogether? 

Though a fast food breakfast sandwich is packed with extra fat, cholesterol, salt and calories, you could be doing more long term damage by not eating at all, if you consistently prefer your morning routine without any nourishment.   A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted:

Out of an amazing 29,000 men, over the course of 19 years, those who consistently did not eat breakfast had a 21% higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, which researchers believe can be linked to a morning meal helping to keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the day. 

 Research has also found that skipping breakfast contributes to a pretty low-performance day, including:

  • less energy,
  • worse moods and
  • poorer memory
  • a 450% more likely risk of obesity 

Obesity in its own right, raises the risk for a whole list of other serious health issues.  Alternately, 80% of participants in a National Weight Control Registry study who lost 30 or more pounds and kept it off for a year or longer, eat breakfast regularly.   

Lean protein, whole grains and lots of fiber (even supplemental fiber) are the best categories to stick to for healthy breakfasts, and doing so can help you consume an average of 100 less calories per day, which is the equivalent of 10 pounds per year!

So whether you want to or have time to or not, break out the yogurt, slice a banana,  peel an orange, pour some milk over whole grain, low sugar cereal, or cook an egg.  Whatever you choose to eat for breakfast, it doesn't have to be a lot, and you’ll be doing your body a great favor (and it will be easier to control those extra cravings later in the day)!  SEE ALSO: Is it Possible to Eat Healthy Fast Food?

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Thank An RD Today! Registered Dietitian Day, March 12th, 2014

If you've ever had a reason to consult with a registered dietitian, whether you've had bariatric surgery or other medical reason to have been under an RD's guidance, or had to find one to help with nutrient deficiencies brought on by celiac disease, or wanted to find out the best way to eat healthy for your body specifically, go say thank you today!

Registered dietitians fill a vital role in managing health and wellness.

  • - Nutritional education for public, school and professional groups, including nutrition program assessments.
  • - Nutritional counseling, food planning, and skills education for nutrient malabsorption issues, eating disorders, and a variety of other nutrition lifestyle change aspects.
  • -Sports performance enhancement - one-on-one nutrition planning for top athletes.
  • -Broad age and stage assistance - birth, motherhood, elder care.
  • Not just nutrition based education, but also practical, healthy shopping and cooking solutions.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is a great resource if you're looking for an accredited dietitian, or if you are looking for good information about nutrition and healthy eating. 

Maybe you're taking care of an elderly loved one and need help determining a meal plan that covers a range of health issues, or maybe you are a new mom struggling with vitamin deficiencies. RD's are on your side, ready with helpful nutrition, eating and lifestyle tips and tricks that will guide you to the healthiest choices.

If you haven't investigated how helpful a registered dietitian can be, maybe today is a good day to do it!

SEE ALSO:  Celiac Disease and a Gluten Free Diet - Watch for Nutrient Deficiencies in Both and  Importance of Working With Your Dietitian Before and After Weight Loss Surgery

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Get Physical For Free! Body Weight Exercises for Top Fitness

I’m all for exercising at-home; it is just flat-out more convenient then getting ready and driving to the gym. It can save you a good deal of time and money as well. That being said, many people don’t have any exercise equipment at their house which makes them think that exercising at-home is out of the question. There is a very simple alternative; body weight training.

Using your body weight to workout is not only ideal because it requires no equipment but its a highly effective way to build up your strength and exercise capacity.  Body weight training is perfect for improving your functional strength which is the strength you need to carry out day-to-day activities. 

SEE ALSO: Exercise Do’s and Don’ts … on a Joint-by-Joint Basis

Improving functional strength can really improve quality of life. The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America defines functional strength like this: 

,…the idea that muscles should be trained and developed in such a way as to make the performance of everyday activities easier, smoother, safer, and more efficient. (Yoke, 2010.)

Being functionally stronger makes it easier to take out the trash, carry in groceries, or pick up your infant… the list goes on and on.

Look around you, if you are like many of us you don’t have any real strength training equipment around your house until you look in the mirror. You are all the strength training equipment you need.

It doesn't matter if you weight 100 lb or 255 lb you can perform body weight training to get a great workout at-home. Don’t worry about how strong you are now; you can perform the modified versions while you build up your strength! Here’s a simple full body workout using this training method that you can do at-home!

Pushups (upper body) – Pushups are a great way to increase the strength of your chest, shoulders, and triceps. When performing the exercise lower yourself down in a slow, controlled motion and explode back up to the resting position. 

Modified: have your knees on the ground helping to support your weight during the entire exercise.

Squats (lower body) – This is one of the go-to exercises for the hamstrings, glutes, and quads! Start with your feet shoulder width apart and sit back on your heels/hips while keeping your chest stuck out. Explode back up to the resting position.

Modified: hold onto a supportive structure in front of you that can support some of your weight as you lower down into the squat.


Planks (core) – Planks are a great way to tighten up your core. Having a strong core can help with almost every aspect of life from posture to decreasing lower back pain. Keep your core engaged during the entire plank and perform it for a predetermined time (30 – 60 seconds). 

Modified: have your knees on the ground helping to support your weight.


Dips (upper body) – Dips provide a way to gauge your upper body strength. Dips work your triceps, chest, and shoulders. When performing the exercise, lower yourself down slowly in a controlled motion. Make sure the object you are leaning on is sturdy and won’t flip over.

Modified: have your feet closer to your body therefore allowing your legs to carry some of your weight.

Lunges (lower body) – This exercise works the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves! Start by standing straight up, step forward around two feet and lower your body down to where your forward leg is around a 90 degree angle. Make sure your knee doesn’t extend far past your forward toe, if so step out farther. Push off your forward foot and come back to the resting position. Start the process again with the other leg. 

Modified: lunges require a good deal of balance so it may be best to start in a stationary position holding onto a fixed object for balance which can also support some of your weight.

This may seem too simple and that’s because it is! That’s exactly what makes this workout convenient, sustainable, and effective. On the other hand, it may seem like it requires too much strength, but once again start with the modified versions and build up your strength! Perform each exercise in order for 8-10 repetitions. Repeat the enter process for a total of 3 sets. As you get stronger and stronger you can add in more repetitions or even sets.

Many people worry about their cardiovascular training like jogging and running but neglect their strength training; big mistake. Strength training when done at a high intensity not only increases your strength and gets your heart pumping and lungs burning (increasing your cardiovascular health) but it also can help speed up your metabolism (Elliot et al 1992). 

Use one of the biggest fitness assets in your house to perform a great strength building workout; use your weight to your advantage!  

SEE ALSO: Body Blaster Exercises for On The Go for similar and additional exercises.

GUEST BLOGGER: JOSH ANDERSON  Josh is a fitness professional who runs Always Active Athletics where he provides sustainable at-home fitness and nutritional tips to help you get in the best shape of your life!


Elliot DL, Goldberg L, Kuehl KS (1992) Effect of resistance training on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. J App Sport Sci Res 6: 77-81.

Yoke M (2010) AFAA Personal Fitness Trainer: Theory and Practice; Second Edition ed. Gladwin LA. California.



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Making Sense of Dietary Fats
























If you are confused about which fats are good for you, and which ones are not, you are not alone.  There is an acronym that relates to this topic SoFAS - Solid Fats, Added Sugars is what it stands for, and we will be talking about the Solid Fats section of it.  

We're always being told to get off our sofa and get healthy - and truly, its important! But the solid fats you eat and/or don't eat are just as critical as getting out of your living room to get some exercise.  Here's the skinny on fats!

Examples of solid fats (fats that are solid at room temperature) include:

  • saturated fat found in meat
  • coconut oil
  • whole fat dairy product and butter  
  • foods made with human-created trans- and interesterified fats found in partially and fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, shortenings and all of the baked goods/candies made using these kinds of fats  

Any label that notes 'saturated', 'trans' and/or 'interesterified' refers to the chemical structure of the fats in question.

So far in current media and common knowledge, the good vs. bad fats has been made simple.  Avoid solid fats and choose liquid fats, they're healthier.  Well, things have gotten complicated again, just when you thought you had it down.

Reports have been circulating recently about the potential benefits of certain foods with a considerable amount of saturated fat, primarily coconut oil and full-fat dairy products.

As a consumer, it is so hard to know whats established true science, what's controversial, and what to believe really is healthy for you.  The conflict stems, in part, from condensed media messages.  Media tries to convey complex nutritional messages in short, easy to understand blips people will remember, which in turn leaves out a lot of the important complexity and detail.  This is why dietitians and other health professionals are so key  - "stay away from solid fats" is an easy to follow direct message, and accurate for the most part.  But to be clear, dietitians and health professionals also know that there are a wide variety of saturated fatty acids, with some having a negative, artery clogging rise in LDL cholesterol, while others have no measurable effect on cholesterol and do have positive health benefits.  So if you don't have a direct line to a dietitian, here's a brief outline that may help you make educated decisions about which solid fats to allow, in moderation, into your diet.


EPA & DHA - Fatty fish (salmon, halibut, lake trout, sardines, mackerel, herring) contain the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which help decrease blood fats (triglycerides) and blood pressure, and increase good cholesterol (HDL).  EPA and DHA are important to cardiovascular health, so if you don't eat fish, consider an omega-3 supplement.  Feast on Fatty Fish - Its Best For Your Heart

ALA - Walnuts, ground flax seeds, soybeans and soybean,walnut and flax seed oil all contain omega-3 fatty acid ALA, which also may help improve some cardiovascular risk factors.

HEALTHY FATS - nuts, seeds avocados, olives, coconuts.  The healthy, plant-based compounds in these foods make them an excellent addition to your diet.

BETTERCanola oil, olive oil, corn oil, safflower, sesame and sunflower oil are all still better than most solid fats.

Probably not harmful, possibly even helpful: coconut oil, dairy fat.  Coconut oil hasn't been shown to increase heart disease risk or negatively affect cholesterol.  New research shows that dairy fat may actually help keep us lean and several studies have found dairy, including full-fat dairy, does not increase cardiovascular disease risk.


PROCESSED FOODS containing 'interesterified' fats, high stearate, stearic rich fats and vegetable oil.  Early studies show these fats may raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase fasting blood sugar.

FRIED FOODS AND PROCESSED ANIMAL PRODUCTS like bacon and sausage.  All of these contain artery clogging types of saturated fat.

ABSOLUTE WORST - Hydrogenated oils. Partially or fully hydrogenated oils raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good cholesterol (HDL) in your body, making them harmful to the health of your cardiovascular system.  Cholesterol 101 - Understanding the Basics

photo credit: Chiot's Run via photopin cc

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Got Fiber? Digestive and Heart Health Depend on It!

It may seem odd, and counter intuitive, but one of the healthiest things for your body is something you can't even digest!

Dietary fiber is actually a specific type of carbohydrate found only in plants, but plays a very critical role in keeping our bodies in good functioning order.  Eating high-fiber foods can help decrease constipation, instances of diverticulitis (inflammation of pouches in the digestive tract) and even helps avoid hemorrhoids.  (Beyond Fiber - Tips for Regularity) Fiber consumption is also linked directly to your overall heart health and can help reduce cholesterol.

There are two main types of fiber: 

SOLUBLE FIBER: Dissolves in water, forms a gel in your digestive tract which slows digestion.

Soluble fiber is found in many foods such as:

  • Oats
  • Beans
  • Oranges, Pears
  • Nuts
  • Flax Seeds
  • Celery, Carrots
  • Psyllium Fiber Supplements
  • Many, many other foods

INSOLUBLE FIBER: Does not dissolve in water, but does provide bulk moving through your digestive tract, therefore speeding up movement of food through your gut.

Insoluble fiber is found in foods like:

  • Whole Wheat
  • Nuts
  • Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
  • Brown Rice
  • Skins of Fruits and Vegetables

As you can see, some foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.   A recent study found that eating more total fiber (either type), and specifically more insoluble fiber from fruits and vegetables lowers a person's risk of developing plaque in their arteries and decreases the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and other cardiovascular issues.  

You do not need to know which type of fiber is in each food, but instead focus on increasing your total fiber intake and meeting your total fiber needs each day.

Adults under the age of 50 need 25 and 38 grams per day respectively for women and men.  Those over the age of 50 should consume at least 21(women) to 30 (men) grams per day.  Most Americans get only half of the amount of fiber needed daily for good health.

When you increase the amount of fiber in your diet too quickly, you may end up feeling gassy, bloated or crampy.  So, to ease your body into the fiber you need, start slowly and follow these steps:

Focus on Whole Grains - Make the switch from white bread and white flour based products to whole grain bread, 100% whole wheat products, whole grain pasta and brown rice.

Pick Produce - Adults should consume 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit each day.  Increase your fruit and vegetable intake by 1 cup at a time, per week, until you're up to where you should be. Beans, peas, squash and even potatoes count (no, not french fries) count as vegetables.  100% fruit juices do not count for your fiber intake, so best to eat the whole fruit instead.

Drink Up - Always drink plenty of fluids - A fiber rich diet requires ample fluids or else the fiber can actually increase constipation rather than decrease it.

Fiber Supplement - Consuming a diet naturally rich in both types of fiber is great, and should be top priority.  However, if you are having a hard time reaching the recommended amount per day, a fiber supplement can be helpful too.  Ask your doctor or registered dietitian if a fiber supplement is right for you before choosing.


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Staying Motivated: Four Tools to Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals

Whether you are an experienced gym-goer, just getting started, or even contemplating beginning an fitness program, motivation can be one of the biggest factors that determines if you achieve your goals.

No matter how great your exercise routine is, if you literally can’t find the motivation to drag yourself off the couch you are going to have a hard time achieving results! There are some simple tools out there that you can employ to really drive you to the finish line and achieve your goals. These tools include fitness tests, photographs, painted pictures, and social interactions. Even if you are in the middle of a program you can still employ these tactics because they will still provide motivation.


Fitness tests are a great way to give yourself a motivational boost. For example, if you could only do three push-ups before you started exercising but can do 10 push-ups after four weeks that provides instant motivation by showing you empirical evidence that you are getting stronger and the program is working.

Common strength tests that you can use to gauge your progress:

  • push-ups
  • crunches
  • pull-ups
  • squats
  • step-ups

Common endurance tests to show your progress:

  • Time it takes to run a mile
  • Number of miles you can run in a specific time
  • Your resting heart rate (which has been shown to be correlated with better overall cardiovascular health)

Before you begin a training program, or at whatever point you are starting to feel like challenging yourself, try this:

  1. Choose one or two fitness tests that are tangible to your goals.
  2. Perform the exercise for as many repetitions as possible until failure.
  3. The next time it doesn't feel like you are getting anywhere with your program, test yourself again  (I bet you will see significant improvements!) 

These improvements lead to getting the motivational ball rolling again!


This could quite easily be the most powerful of all the self-motivational tools.

Like with the fitness tests, take some photographs of yourself from the front and the side views before you begin your program. After four weeks take more photos and compare the two.

Photographs are great because they are a physical, tangible object you can hold in your hands that show the significant improvements you've made! I promise you that if you can see significant differences between the before and after photos you will have motivation to do almost anything, instantly! 


As you probably know almost all motivation is in the mind; it’s a brain game. The painted picture method is a concept I've borrowed from the business realm.

It basically involves taking 5-10 minutes to sit-down and visualize the person you want to be after you have achieved your goals.

  • What do you look like?

  • What do you feel like?

  • What’s your confidence level?

  • How much healthier are you?

Next visualize how you are going to achieve your goals.

  • What does it require to get there?

  • What are the time commitments?

  • What are the physical commitments?

Give each one of these questions a good deal of thought and write down your answers.

You are essentially creating a painted picture of who you envision yourself to be at the end of your exercise program. Print it off and have it close at-hand so on difficult days you can read what you want to be and how awesome it will be to achieve your goals. It will help you re-set your mind to your goals. This may sound a bit far fetched, but it really can provide an amazing amount of motivation when you are struggling and need a reminder of what you are trying to accomplish and why. 


This might be the biggest motivational tool of them all!

Teaming up with a fitness partner or hiring a personal trainer is the ultimate motivational tool (Vartanian & Shaprow 2008). Why?

Because we all know it is easy to let ourselves down and say we will just workout tomorrow, but it is a lot harder to let your fitness partner down especially when they are counting on you. When you are struggling they will hold you accountable, and likewise the other way around.  How to stay in motion when you have joint pain

Motivating others (such as your fitness partner) is a very powerful motivation tool in-and-of-itself. This Booker T Washington quote is quickly becoming one of my favorites:

If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

You lift each other up when you team up with someone else to achieve your fitness goals.

Putting It All Together

To me, there is no Holy Grail of motivational tools; it’s a combination of tools which will keep you on your path to smash your goals. Science even backs me on this one; a multifaceted approach to fitness and nutrition motivation is the best way to keep you on your path to goal dominance (Li 1998). How to Stay in Shape This Winter

Grab a friend and make them your fitness partner and achieve your goals together. If you like to fly solo, try a combination of the first three tools. The first three tools will literally take you 30 minutes to complete all of them. That 30 minutes of effort can be exactly what helps you crush your goals! Seems like a fair trade to me!

GUEST BLOGGER: Josh Anderson

Josh is a fitness professional who runs Always Active Athletics where he provides at-home and on-the-go fitness and nutritional advice to help you get in the best shape of your life!


Li F (1998) The exercise motivation scale: Its multifaceted structure and construct validity. J App Sport Psych 11:97-115.

Vartanian LR, Shaprow JG (2008) Effects of weight stigma on exercise motivation and behavior: A preliminary investigation among college-aged females. J Health Psych 13: 131-138.

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Heart Healthy Meals Start At The Grocery Store

Here are some grocery store rules of thumb to use, straight from the American Heart Association, to help you keep your cart full of heart-healthy foods.

Fruits and Vegetables – the majority of your cart should favor fruits and veggies.  When choosing them, remember these tips:

  • Color is king – vegetables that have deep, rich colors such as spinach, carrots, peaches and berries tend to have a higher vitamin and mineral content than plain and light colored fruits and vegetables like potatoes or corn.
  • Reach for Fiber – a wide variety of fruits and vegetables  provide a good source of fiber, including beans, peas, oranges, bananas strawberries and apples.
  • Fresh is best – but when fresh isn’t available, choose frozen or canned fruits and vegetables that are packed in water only, without added sugars or salt.           
  • Raw fruits and vegetables for snacks are a really healthy way to curb your appetite.  Make it easy to reach for carrot and celery sticks, cherry tomatoes and bite-sized cauliflower and broccoli florets

Dairy – milk, cheese, and yogurt can all be part of a heart healthy diet and add additional key nutrients to keep your heart healthy.

  • Always select fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk – avoid flavored milks such as vanilla, chocolate or strawberry since they usually have added sugars and calories.
  • Choose fat-free, low-fat or reduced-fat cheeses – cheese should be eaten in moderation, as it can be high in fat and calories.               
  • Fat-free yogurt is a good addition to your diet, and if you can find sugar free as well, even better.  Many brands now offer a high-protein Greek-style version that is a great substitute for higher fat items like butter and sour cream .

Meats  - Lean protein is an important part of any healthy diet, just watch portions, specific cuts of meat and try these tips:

  • Up your weekly fish intake - You should eat one serving of grilled or baked fish at least twice a week. (A serving is roughly the size of a checkbook.) Good examples of fish to buy include salmon, trout and herring.
  • Fried fish doesn’t count.  Stay away from pre-battered and choose lemon juice and spices to eat with fish rather than cream based sauces to keep your menu heart healthy.
  • Cuts of red meat and pork labeled “loin” and “round” are the best choices; they usually have the least fat.
  • Make your chicken naked – skinless is healthiest, and light meat has less fat than dark meat.                        
  • Substitute legumes in recipes to replace meat.  A 1-cup serving of beans, peas, lentils or tofu can replace 2 ounces of meat.
  • Channel your inner chipmunk – keep nuts and seeds, on hand which are good sources of protein and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats – but remember, they tend to be high in calories, so eat them in moderation.             

Bread and Grains – As carbohydrate conscious as we have become, its easy to forget the important nutrition whole grains can provide.

  • Go for whole-grain and high-fiber, always.  That means breads containing whole wheat, oats, oatmeal, whole rye, whole grain corn and buckwheat, listed as the first ingredient on the label.
  • Bake it yourself. Remember that most store-baked goods are made with egg yolks, saturated fats and/or trans fats. Its always better to make your own if you can, so you can substitute skim milk, egg whites and healthy fats when you bake.

The best way to make the right heart-healthy grocery store choices?

Read the Nutrition Facts label !  Its your guide to determining saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol content.  Even on the dietary supplements you purchase, make sure you’ve read the supplement facts panel to watch for unnecessary fillers, and to make sure that you have chosen the active ingredient at the right amount per dose for your needs.

A trip to the grocery store can contain all you and your family needs to stay heart-healthy for years to come just learning a few simple tricks and tips on where to steer your cart.  Eat a Heart Healthy Diet - More Heart Health Tips

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Winter Gingerbread Smoothie with a Kick of Vitamin D3

Gingerbread flavoring is popular in the winter months when the sun is no longer shining, which makes it so important to remember to take your vitamin D3. If you haven't already, go get your levels checked by your doctor, so you can know for sure if you are deficient, and correct it with a vitamin D3 supplement.  Liquid vitamin D3 goes into this and any smoothie so easily, you'll have no trouble remembering to take it daily!  Liquid Supplements Go Great in Smoothies!

To prepare for this smoothie, freeze yogurt and bananas the night before. For the bananas, peel and cut them into small pieces before freezing. The yogurt is easy to freeze in an ice cube tray.

Gingerbread Smoothie Recipe

·         1 Frozen Banana

·         ¾ tsp Powdered Ginger

·         ¾ tsp Cinnamon

·         6 Frozen cubes of yogurt (dairy or nondairy)

·         ½-3/4 Cup Milk (dairy or nondairy)

·         2-2 ½ TBSP Molasses

·         2 TBSP Wellesse Calcuim a& Vitmain D3

·         1 tsp Vanilla Extract

·         Tiny Pinch of Salt

·         Stevia to taste or another liquid sugar of your choice

·         Ice cubes may be added too!

1.      Freeze dairy or nondairy yogurt  of your choice in ice cube trays and banana chunks overnight

2.      Throw all ingredients into your blender the next day and combine until desired consistency.

3.      Enjoy!

GUEST POST by Blogger, Recipe Designer and Test Chef Brittany Angell.  Visit her at www.brittanyangell.com 

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Pregnancy after Weight Loss Surgery

Guest Post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area.  More information can be found at www.divataunia.com.
In my last blog What Would I Have Done Differently with My Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery? , I gave you a bit of a teaser in hopes that you'd come back and read my next entry.  If you're reading this, my sneaky plan has worked!  (Thanks for coming back, I appreciate it.)
I had mentioned that if I could change something about my surgery, it would have been when I had the surgery. I was 36 when I had the surgery and 38 by the time I had lost all the weight.  Besides being able to be much more physically active and really participate (fully) in things that I loved like swing and latin dancing, there was one major problem that I never anticipated ever being an issue for me:  fertility.
fertility after bariatric weight loss surgery
Anyone who knows me, has known that I was childless by choice.  I was a step parent in my previous marriage, which was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do.  The kids were great and I loved them, but when the marriage didn't work, I was happy to go back to being single and childless.  People thought I was crazy, and almost everyone I ran into said, "Oh, that's just how you feel now. You'll change your mind someday."    That comment always infuriated me, because I was completely happy being a non-parental unit.  Until...
Rewind to two years ago, when I got a random email from my college sweetheart, who I hadn't seen or heard from in 17 years.  He found out I was divorced and asked if I'd like to get together and catch up.  He lived in Southern California, so I didn't think anything of it.  I bet you can guess where this is going (if you don't already know).
We began seeing each other again, and eventually I decided that because I didn't have children I was looking forward to an exciting adventure and would move from Boston to the Los  Angeles area to be with him.  Months later, he proposed and we got married last April.  Neither of us had children.  Neither of us ever WANTED children.  Until...
Until we got married.  We were both back with the love of our lives and realized that the reason we never wanted children before was because we weren't with people we could even imagine  being a parent with.  We got married older:  I was 41 and he was 43.  We knew it would be tough, but decided that we needed to find out where we stood with fertility.  We also decided that we wouldn't take any extraordinary measures to get pregnant.  We just wanted to know what our chances were at this age.
I scheduled an appointment with my doctor to discuss my options.  She  told me to immediately start taking multivitamins, folic acid, and other supplemental nutrients to help prepare my body for possibly becoming pregnant. As a gastric bypass patient, she was very concerned that I began those things early to ensure that if I were to get pregnant I would be nutritionally sound.  She and several other doctors immediately said the same thing:  take pre-natal and multivitamins even when the thought of pregnancy was just that, a thought  They stressed the importance of that over and over again, I did what I was told. 
I went and had a fertility test done and found out that I was in the beginning of peri-menopause.  My chances of getting pregnant are 1%.  It's very unlikely and makes me incredibly sad that we had not found each other earlier.  I am sad that I spent so many years being morbidly obese with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and fertility issues.  I am sad that I had not decided to get the surgery when I was a bit younger so that I'd still have a chance.  I can't help but think if I had done this in my late twenties, that I may have been able to get pregnant.  But I also know I wasn't ready for that, and didn't want it then.
This is the first time I have ever spoken about this publicly, as it's still very difficult to wrap my head around.  But I feel like it's an important cautionary tale for anyone suffering from PCOS and morbid obesity who may want to someday become pregnant.   My life is incredible now.  I can do just about anything I want - except conceive.  It's a bitter pill to swallow, but one that we're learning to cope with. (Please note:  we know that there are other options that would help us conceive, but have decided those are not options that we want to explore.  We just want to be as healthy and joyful as we can with the life we've been given.)
Thankfully, my husband and I have an incredible relationship.  Children may not be in the cards for us, but it may be for someone else.   I hope that my experience may help someone struggling with a decision like this.

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Want To Run A 5K? You Can! Here's how...

Have you decided that you want to start exercising and maybe eventually run a 5k? Well good for you, you’ve already overcome one of the hardest parts of any training program; making the conscious effort to actually begin. 

Once you get started and fall into the groove of exercising, I guarantee you will achieve some amazing results. But where do you begin? Use some of these simple tips to get you started on your fitness journey.

Getting Started

One of the best ways to start increasing your exercise capacity and living a healthy lifestyle is to get up and start walking!

Briskly walking for 45 minutes daily or even 3-4 times a week (may take time to build up to this endurance) can have astronomical effects on your physical well-being by improving your cardiovascular system and increasing your stamina (Morris & Hardman 1997).

It’s best not to jump straight into the deep end of training by running 3 miles a day, but rather test the waters and start with a simple walking regime. Starting slow allows you to build up your exercise capacity over time, prevent you from getting injured, and prevent soreness (to a certain extent) which can lead to you dropping the program all together!

You probably think that it would be best to start with some light jogging because it’s probably better for you than walking. Although jogging can have some great cardiovascular effects, walking can help a beginner actually burn more calories!

Compared to jogging (< 5 mph) on a flat treadmill, walking on a fully incline treadmill (15%) at 2 mph will actually burn more calories per mile!

In a 150 lb individual, jogging on a flat treadmill burns 117 calories per mile while incline walking burns 224 calories per mile (HealthyLiving)!

This is great news for beginners or obese individuals who don’t have the exercise capacity yet to jog for extended periods of time. Walking allows you to burn a ton of calories and increase your exercise capacity until you are ready to take on a more arduous training routine!

If your joints can't handle running, it will still greatly build up your endurance and fitness level. As you start building up your exercise capacity you may eventually decide that you want to run a 5k and therefore need a more structured training routine (if you don’t that’s okay too at least you will be healthier).

Training For a 5k

While running, jogging, or walking for a mile can be a feat in itself, completing a 5k in a decent time (or at all) is a different beast. When it comes to getting in shape for running a 5k, quite honestly the easiest way is to use the fitness app called Couch to 5k (free in the app store also known as C25K). This free app is amazing and gives you a structured daily training routine with attainable goals to help you get ready for your 5k.

I have had countless clients and friends tell me that this app was the reason they ran their first 5k and what started them on their fitness journey in the first place! The beauty of this free app is that it literally takes you from a beginner to successfully running a 5k within 2 months! Even if you don’t want to run a 5k, it’s a great way to improve your health! Trust me; too many people have succeeded with app for it not to work for you!

The benefits of walking are really amazing when you think about something as simple, equipment free, natural, and relaxing as walking.

It can be the perfect way to start your fitness journey, get back into the groove of things, or get you more prepared for a 5k. Even if you don’t have a 5k in mind walking can help you get in shape before moving on to a more arduous exercise regime! Make sure to check out the next installment about how to keep your exercise routine going by using some motivational tips to blow your goals out of the water!

GUEST BLOGGER: Josh Anderson

Josh is a fitness professional who runs Always Active Athletics where he provides sustainable at-home and on-the-go workouts to help you get in the best shape of your life!  Starting An Exercise Routine at 50+


Morris JN, Hardman AE (1997) Walking to health. Sports Medicine 23: 306-332.

photo credit: Texas Military Forces via photopin cc

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