Wondering about weight loss?

The quality of the rest of your life starts with the decisions you make right now. That’s quite a statement and one you may not think about that often.  Sure we all try to make healthy choices and decisions, but before you act on them, do you think about how they will effect the overall quality of your life?

Our usual emphasis on strength, energy and overall health & well-being is still paramount.  Though our goal is never to solely focus on weight and the numbers on the scale, we know that weight loss is an important step on the path towards optimum health. This spring, Susanna and I have put together a weight loss challenge and it is one  in which  you can  lose weight AND  gain strength and cardiovascular benefits as well. You may even learn something about nutrition you hadn’t thought of before. It will be a challenge that will provide an opportunity to learn and focus on getting stronger and leaner.

All the tasks you have been completing and will continue to complete each week will lead up to our challenge starting  on April 28th. By now you should be  focused on getting 7 hours of sleep, drinking 1/2 your body weight of water in ounces (i.e. 100 lb individual would drink 50 ounces of water), eliminating hydrogenated oils and HFCS, getting more vegetables in, writing in a food journal, and focusing on strength training and HITT intervals.

This post will address some common issues that lead to weight gain or prevent weight loss. Some may seem obvious, and others you may not have suspected. It’s important to understand that weight loss isn’t just about exercising more and eating less. It can be a complicated issue that has many different dimensions. Susanna will tackle some of the issues in this post and other issues will be addressed in our weight loss challenge. As always, if you have any questions or concerns don’t hesitate to email me or Susanna!

Some of the issues that impact weight that are not always discussed are:

1. Sleep: Did you also know that many  hormones including leptin (the hormone that tells you you are full) and grehlin (the hormone that stimulates hunger) are affected by the amount of sleep you get? When you don’t get enough sleep,  levels of the hormone leptin decrease, which means you don’t feel as satisfied after you Ghrelin, in turn rises, which means your appetite is stimulated, so you want more food. The two combined can set the stage for overeating, which may lead to weight gain.  Lack of sleep also impacts insulin, glucagon, cortisol and growth hormone levels, causing us to store rather than burn fat.

2. Liquid Calories: The calories/sugar content in juice, alcohol, soda & coffee drinks really do add up! They taste good and are not really filling, which makes it easy to drink more than one in no time flat! Be aware of how many calories you consume in liquids and try to replace juice with a piece of fruit; limit alcohol to a few drinks a week and replace soda with seltzer water if you need the fizz!

3. Hydration: We know that every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to function correctly, but did you know that the sensation of thirst is often confused with hunger? When you’re feeling hungry, try drinking water.  Often we may find that we are really thirsty; true hunger will not be satisfied by water.

4. Stress: Chronic stress sets off a chain reaction of hormones.  Think about our cave-dwelling ancestors! During times of famine/stress they needed to store calories & fat since food was pretty scarce! To this day, our bodies are still very efficient at storing those calories  only our stressors today are no longer wild animals, they are every-day occurrences, often self-induced. Cortisol is our primary stress hormone; when it is released we may be less receptive to the hormone leptin (the hormone that tells your brain you are full), causing you to seek out sugar and fat (again, think of our ancestors) and in our case, since we are likely not in grave danger, overeat.

5. Skipping exercise:Along with burning calories, the mood-boosting and stress –relieving properties of exercise alone are worth it (never mind keeping your heart healthy and your weight in-check)!

6. False Fuels: Stimulants (caffeine, sugar, etc.) may seem to give an energy boost, but they actually deplete our bodies, drawing out minerals and nutrients. These substances are also highly inflammatory and addictive. When we are feeling tired & low in energy, we often reach for these fuels which can trigger unwanted side-effects such as sugar cravings and inflammation, which may lead to weight gain.

7. Unidentified Food Allergies or Intolerances: Undiagnosed food allergies (potentially life-threatening) and intolerances (non life-threatening) can cause inflammation, which leads to weight gain, which causes inflammation, creating a vicious cycle.  Eating foods to which you are allergic causes inflammation producing hormones which cause insulin resistance. Insulin is your fat-regulating hormone, resistance to insulin causes your body to hold on to  fat instead of burning it. The most common food sensitivities are wheat, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, & peanuts. 

8. Medications: can interfere with sugar metabolism, cause inflammation and wreak havoc on healthy gut bacteria which influence immunity, hormone regulation and keep all of our digestive processes working efficiently.  Certain medications can also stimulate appetite, increasing the chance of weight gain.

9. Portion Distortion: Knowing how much you are/should be eating is critical and often difficult in a society where portion sizes have gotten out of control.

10. Lack of (Healthy) Fats: Healthy fats like Omega-3′s (found in wild, fatty fish and some nuts & seeds) monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, avocado, nuts & seeds) and some saturated fats (coconut oil, coconut milk) are absorbed slowly which not only helps you feel satisfied and full for a longer duration of time but combats inflammation and may actually help activate fat-burning genes.  Keep saturated fat intake low and avoid all trans-fats.

11. Lack of Planning: Having meal/snack planning strategies in place and carving out time to organize and prepare is vital.  Preparing your own meals is hands-down the biggest thing you can do for yourself to promote good health. You are worth the time and energy it takes to prepare healthy, nourishing, fueling food!

12. Confusing Nutrition information/Health Halo: Not knowing what we are really eating is a sure fire way to inadvertently gain weight.   Nutrition information is often confusing and always changing. To boot, companies, restaurants, etc. often make products appear healthier than they really are; we call this the “Health Halo”.  Is that flax meal muffin loaded with sugar?  Or that green tea drink?  How about that “healthy” Greek yogurt?  Our goal is to demystify some of these confusing claims and get you on your way!

13. Unsupportive friends/family: More than likely you will encounter at least one person who is a little uncomfortable with your new goals and the changes you are making toward a healthier lifestyle.  Perhaps you may even have some ‘saboteurs’ in your mix pushing sweets (or a cocktail) when you know it may take you down a slippery slope.  There are many reasons friends/family may not be supportive, but the bottom line is you are making these changes for you, not for anyone else.  Yes, it is difficult when the people around you are not supportive, so find a tribe of people who are and do not let anyone stop you from your own, personal journey!

14. Emotional Eating: This happens to all of us for a variety of reasons.  Check in with yourself.  Is it a habit?  Are you really hungry?  Will eating ____fuel you?  Physical hunger comes on more gradually, you are usually open to more options and does not produce feelings of guilt.  Emotional eating comes on suddenly, you crave a specific food, and usually produces feelings of guilt. 

15. Hormones: We mentioned cortisol, leptin and grehlin, and of course, insulin, but there are many, many hormones (think thyroid, growth, testosterone) that are impacted by our lifestyle and in turn, may impact our weight.  How we eat, sleep, move and manage stress are critical factors in hormone regulation.  Losing growth hormone as we age, which is a fat-burning hormone, may also contribute to weight gain.

Take a look at some of the items on this list–are there areas you want to investigate?  Improve?  Take a look at your food journal.  Are there any patterns you can see?  Keeping track of what you eat and how you feel is an important tool and empowers you to make the changes necessary to meet your health and fitness goals.  We will have a great support team to help you on your way!

M & S












Eat Your Veggies

Fill half your plate with these yummy vegetable recipes or eat them as a healthy snack!

Roasted Broccoli (Snack-girl.com)



2 pounds broccoli (cut into pieces)

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

ground black pepper (optional)

Place all ingredients in a Ziploc bag and shake to coat. Preheat oven to 500 and place broccoli on baking sheet. Roast for about 10-15 min or until broccoli is browned.


Smoked Cauliflower (snack-girl.com)

1 large head cauliflower (cut into pieces)

1 T olive oil

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp salt

Pre heat oven to 450. Place all ingredients in a Ziploc bag and shake to coat. Place cauliflower on baking sheet and roast for 15 min or until lightly browned.



Italian Roasted Cauliflower (Everyday Maven)


1  large head cauliflower (cut into pieces)

2 T olive oil

1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

1 cup marinara of your choice

Preheat oven to 450. Place cauliflower, olive oil and seasonings in a Ziploc bag and shake to coat. Roast cauliflower for about 15 min or until browned. Serve with warmed marinara for dipping. This makes a great appetizer!

Roasted Cauliflower

1  head cauliflower

2-3 cloves garlic

lemon juice from 1/2 lemon

olive oil


parmesan cheese

Pre heat oven to 450. Cut cauliflower into florets and place in ziploc bag. Add garlic, lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper. Shake bag to coat. Place cauliflower on baking sheet and cook for about 20 min or until cauliflower is light brown. Reove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese to your taste.

Freekeh’n Awesome!

Susanna DeRocco

Healthy Bodies, Happy Minds

Cooked Freekeh with garlicky sauteed greens makes a great lunch!

We eat our fair share of whole grains in my house.  Brown rice, oats, quinoa.  Quinoa was a big hit.  So what did I do? I did what every time-pressed mom does, I made it again and again.  It’s fair to say that after years of serving this grain (seed, really), in a variety of different forms, our family has become, to put it mildly, a little “Quinoa-d out.”  Lucky for us there are many types of whole grains that have made a resurgence in the past few years.  For some of us, they have been part of our heritage and our family table since we can remember. In fact, many of these grains are ancient and have never really disappeared–we just happen to be discovering them now! Yay, us!

True, in-tact whole grains like oats, bulgur, wheat berries, quinoa, teff, millet, amaranth, farro, freekeh and brown rice–are great forms of protein and are rich in B-vitamins, minerals and fiber.  They help slow digestion and manage blood sugar levels, and some are even forms of  ‘resistant starch’, which have been found to act like a prebiotic and increase the healthy bacteria in our gut.

For most of us, these are grains we may or may not have heard of before.    Served alone, these grains may not have much of a ‘wow’ factor.  But consider these grains and seeds as your blank canvas.  You are the artist and you can mix, chop,  & combine whatever you like to make your own statement.  Even better, they cook quickly and you can customize them easily so that your family of artists can make individual ‘statements’ of their own.   They can be served either sweet or savory, hot or cold.  They can stand alone as a side dish or be incorporated into soups, stews & salads.  They even make a great breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack! Now we’re talkin’, right?

Ready for a change?  Here are a few grains to try and incorporate; particularly if you feel like you are cooking the same ol’ quinoa and brown rice every week.   We use chicken or vegetable stock when cooking savory dishes, but you could use water.  If you have Celiac or an intolerance to gluten or just plain old feel better avoiding wheat, you will, of course, avoid the types of wheat mentioned here: freekeh, farro and bulgur.  If you are worried about grains and digestion, soaking them may ease digestive issues.  I always recommend rinsing your grains to get rid of any debris; particularly with quinoa (which is not listed here) since the seeds contain saponins–a soap-like chemical compound found in some plants that can make them taste very bitter.  Soaking and cooking grains also reduces the phytates or phytic acid found in grains–a compound that may attach to certain nutrients like calcium and prevent absorption. Keeping portions in mind (one half cup should do it),  get ready to try something new!

Freekeh (pronounced free-kah): Is a form of wheat harvested while it is still green and then toasted/roasted and

Freekeh is so easy to customize; add the grilled or roasted vegetables you like,(red onion, green beans and mushrooms are pictured). Or add the flavors that you like (tamari, Sriracha, olive oil, salt and lemon juice are all flavor combinations we like--just not at the same time!)

often cracked.  This ancient grain has been eaten for centuries in countries like Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.  My kids like this because it has a nuttier flavor and a toothier, chewier texture and reminds them of risotto, though it has more protein and fiber than brown rice.

Farro: Farro can be a bit confusing.  It can be one of three types of wheat (einkorn, emmer or spelt) and comes in perlato (or pearled), which requires overnight soaking and semi perlatto (or semi-pearled) which cooks more quickly.  You get more of the whole grain with the pearled variety, but less time spent planning and soaking with the semi-pearled. I have purchased the 10 minute variety from Trader Joe’s which has been pre-cooked and that works well for time-constrained households.  We have made this and added spinach, mushrooms and parmesan cheese, much like Melanie’s quinoa recipe here.

Quick cooking farro: In a pot, cover 1 cup farro with water and soak in refrigerator overnight. Drain; add farro and enough water/stock to cover farro.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, simmer 10 minutes. Drain excess water.

Tuscan Soup (courtesy of Laura B. Weiss for NPR)

Tuscan Soup

Makes 4 servings

3/4 cup farro

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling, if desired

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 medium-size carrot, chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

5 cups vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups or one 15-ounce can cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, salt and pepper. Sautee over medium heat until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf and oregano. Add the stock and bring to a boil.

Add the farro and bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer the soup for 20 to 30 minutes or until the farro is almost tender (you don’t want the grains completely cooked since the soup will cook for additional time and the vegetables are cooked). Add more water if the soup becomes too thick.

Add the beans and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Bulgur: Bulgur is basically a cooked wheat berry.   The wheat kernel is boiled, cracked and dried which allows for quick cooking for you and me. If you have eaten tabbouleh, chances are you have eaten bulgur wheat!

Basic bulgur: Rinse bulgur. Boil 4 cups of water/stock in a saucepan; add 2 cups bulgur and a pinch of salt. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. You can also access a summer recipe I like here!

Leftover kale salad, leftover roasted mushrooms & leftover bulgur combined together to make a tasty salad for lunch or dinner!

Teff: Teff is completely gluten-free. It is found largely in Ethiopian cuisines and comes in an array of colors including ivory, purple and brown.

About the size of a poppy seed, this tiny seed packs a large nutritional punch: its small size means that it is hard to process and separate the germ and bran– the most nutrient-dense layers. Since these layers make up most of the seed, we get the benefit of eating a boatload of nutrition in each bite.

Teff Porridge with Apples, Dates & Pecans (courtesy of Aube Giroux of Kitchen Vignettes blog)


2 servings


1/2 cup teff

1 1/2 cup water

1 tbsp butter or coconut oil (optional)

6 mejdool dates, pitted and chopped

1 apple, cubed small

One small handful of pecans, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup cream or milk of choice


Place a small heavy saucepan on medium-low heat, and add the teff.

Toast it, stirring frequently to avoid burning. After about 5 to 10 minutes, the grains will make little crackling sounds as they start to pop..

Add the water, butter, cinnamon, half of the dates and stir well.

Bring to a gentle boil, cover, and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. If the porridge becomes too thick, you can add a little water.

Once the porridge is thickened to your liking and the grains are soft (about 15 to 20 minutes), remove from heat. Stir in the cream or milk, ladle into bowls and top with chopped apple, pecans, and remaining chopped dates.

Sweeten with honey or maple syrup if you wish, though the dates already lend a sweetness.

Dust with a little cinnamon and serve.

Amaranth: Amaranth is an especially high-quality source of plant protein and is also packed with iron and calcium. Its fiber content is triple that of wheat and like quinoa, teff, and brown rice, it is completely gluten-free.

Toasted Grain Pilaf (courtesy of Dr. Andrew Weil)


2 cups millet, quinoa, amaranth or a combination
1/8 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
4 cups chicken stock vegetable stock (more, as needed)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (dried in a package, not in oil)
1/2 cup boiling purified water
1/2 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup shredded yellow summer squash
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped scallions or green onions
Salt to taste



Toast the millet (or other grains) in a large saucepan set over low heat, stirring constantly

until light brown in color, less than 1 minute.

Stir in the curry powder until it is blended in. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, cover, and simmer. Check after 20 minutes. If the stock has boiled away, add a little more.

Cook until the millet has absorbed all the liquid, about 25 minutes in all.

Meanwhile, soak the dried tomatoes in the boiling water for 15 minutes.

Drain them in a colander set over a bowl to reserve the liquid, then chop them.

Mix the tomatoes, reserved liquid, zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, and scallions or green onions

together in a small skillet set over low heat and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Pour into the cooked grain and toss until everything is completely mixed together.

Taste and add salt if you think it is needed. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Do you have some new grains and dishes that you have tried and liked?  Let us know!  We would love to share them!



“What’s your ‘Why’?”

Susanna DeRocco

Healthy Bodies, Happy Minds

We’ve been talking a lot about our goals lately.  Some of us have even written them down.  If you are still in the process of setting goals for yourself (and writing them down) and even if you have some solid ones down on paper, take a moment to look at your “why.”

The “why” is where it’s at.  The ‘why’ is what motivates us and propels us forward. It defines what is important to us. The ‘why’ is our reason behind our goals–it gives us purpose! The ‘why’ is our purpose!

The Japanese word for purpose is ikigai, or “that which I wake up for”. What matters to you?  When your purpose is not clear, it is much easier to get distracted and side-tracked. Sure, we all get off track here and there, but without a solid “why”, you may find it more difficult to get back on track. Think about a goal that you set where you were easily distracted and side-tracked, perhaps one that you never achieved.  Did you have a strong purpose behind your goal?  Was your goal what got you up in the morning?  Now think about one that you achieved.  What was the difference?

Once you have determined your  ‘why’, your goals will be aligned with what motivates you to achieve them. Having that alignment is critical to the the overall outcome of your goal.

For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds in order to fit into a pair of old jeans because life was better then and you lose your 10 pounds (and are rockin’ the old jeans) but your life has not improved, what does that mean?  It means the ‘what’ (weight loss) and the ‘why’ (life will be better) were misaligned. When we think achieving our goals–whatever they may be– new job, new car, having children, losing weight–will magically make us happy, peaceful, etc., we need to dig deeper.  What is it we really want?

So often I hear people comment about the Fit Mom classes– not only do the classes offer an excellent workout, but people feel strongly connected to this group of women.  Is it connection you are after?  Is it improved health?  Maybe heart disease runs in your family and you are determined to prevent it?  Maybe you want to be able to play with your children?  Maybe you just want to be able to feel like carrying a laundry basket up the steps is not an Olympic event?  Whatever it is, make sure your purpose is in alignment with your goal.

So, what fuels you?  What are the reasons’ behind your goals?  Here are some questions to keep in mind while you are creating goals for yourself and reflecting on your reasons behind creating them:

1. Why do I want to accomplish this? What’s your big why? What will you get out of this?
2. What does this mean to me? Why is it important to me that I achieve this?
3, How will this make me feel? – See more at: http://puttylike.com/a-writing-prompt-to-help-you-achieve-your-goals/#sthash.c5r48mnN.dpuf

Why do I want to accomplish this? Is it something I want or someone else wants?  Am I being true to myself or is this what people expect of me?  Is it really about fitting into the old jeans or more about feeling more confident and connected?

What does this mean to me? A longer life?  Less pay but less stress?  A healthier family?

Is this what I want or what I think I want? Not to go all Oprah on you, but sometimes what we think we want  and what we really want or need are not the same things at all.  For example, my goal to “post one article/week on my professional FB page” has several different implications. The recipes, links, and articles I  post may be helpful to people. Helping people learn to help themselves is extremely rewarding to me.   On the other hand, writing articles is also extremely time consuming. This could take valuable time away from my clients and family or it may cause me to stay up too late and compromise other goals I have (going to bed earlier, waking up early to work-out).  Ultimately, I find it more rewarding to work with people than on my computer.  Was my goal in alignment with my purpose? Personally, I would rather be out and about helping people.  I know many people would rather reach people via social media.  So, that is one goal I had to re-examine and reset.

Is my “why” keeping me accountable? Can you keep yourself on track with your  goal by checking in with your ‘why’?  If not, you may need to reevaluate.

Am I giving myself visual cues and reminders to help with my goal? Affirmations, a quote on your mirror, your daily mantra–these reminders bring your ‘why’ into the real world!

Can I break down my overall goal into smaller, achievable pieces? This will help keep you motivated and on the road to success.

We all have a time where we struggle with our goals. Having a solid ‘why’ behind your goals helps you continue to be motivated during these times of struggle.  When you are confident in your purpose, you are more likely to achieve your goals!

What is your ikigai?  We’d love to know so that we can support you along the way!


Make Ahead Meals

Breakfast: Multi- Grain Overnight Cereal

1/3 cup steel cut oats

1/3 cup quinoa

1/3 cup millet (if don’t have, use another 1/3 cup steel cut oats)

1 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/2 cup low fat milk

1 apple grated

1/4 cup ground flaxseed or chia seeds

2 T pure maple syrup or honey

1/3 cup chopped almonds

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut (optional0

1. In a medium saucepan bring the first 5 ingredients and 3 cup water to a boil. Immediately remove from heat, cover and let sit overnight. In the morning, stir in milk, apple, flax or chia, and maple syrup or honey. Heat over med low heat or in microwave until warmed through. Serve with almonds and or coconut.

Lunch: Sun dried tomato tuna sandwich

1 can albacore tuna packed in water

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil- chopped (pour 1T oil in tuna mixture)

3 T lemon juice

3 scallions chopped

1/2 pita or Ezekial bread

Mix tuna with above ingredients and serve on pita or Ezekial with lettuce and tomato

Dinner: Balsamic Chicken

4-6 chicken breasts

2- 14.5 oz diced tomatoes

1 medium sweet onion sliced (chopped kale and mushrooms optional)

3 t garlic chopped

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 T olive oil

1 tsp each- oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary

salt and pepper to taste

Pour the olive oil on bottom of slow cooker. Add chicken breasts, salt and pepper to each breast. Place sliced onion,  dried herbs and garlic on top of chicken. Pour in vinegar and top with tomatoes. Cook on high 4 hours or low 6 to 8 hours. Serve over brown rice.

Dessert: Banana chocolate chip cookies

1 ripe banana

1/2cup quick oats

2T mini chip chips

Preheat oven to 350. Mix ingredients together and drop cookies on cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 min



Make Today the Best Day of Your Life!

Why not make today the best day of your life? By best day, I mean one where you feel great physically, mentally and emotionally. A day where you feel energetic, lean, focused and confident. What would it take to feel like this?

To start it would take some thought on what it is that makes you feel good. Think back to a time when you felt rested and calm or think about a time when you felt strong and confident.  What actions can you take to make you feel like that every day? When I think about feeling my best, the short list of actions I take includes getting 7-8 hours of sleep, eating limited sugar, participating in vigorous exercise, and allowing myself some extra self care (a massage, manicure, facial, long shower, lunch with a friend). Unfortunatley, life  can get busy and we (as women) tend to put ourselves behind everyone elses needs…especially when it comes to our families. Example….I’ll stay up late washing uniforms for a game the next day or not take a shower until 9pm b/c I choose to grocery shop, cook and help kids with homework before I take the time for myself.

Some things we have to do, and will involve taking up a good amount of our time…but what if we wrote down a list of the top three things we could do that would make us feel great each day..no compromises. What if we wrote our workout down in the calendar and scheduled other events ( dr appts, meetings, appliance appts) around our time. What if we decided we would go to bed no later than 10pm and leave the laundry, emails, facebook for the next day? What if we had a family talk and discussed reducing the amount of sugar we all ate and compromised on one or two desserts a week? What if we scheduled a date with our husband once or twice a month and allowed ourselves some self care? Wouldn’t we all feel less stressed and more taken care of? Now you have an idea of what would be on my list :)

We always hear “life is short”, seize the moment….day…. each experience, but it’s hard to do that if we don’t recognize and honor the need to take care of ourselves. It’s almost selfish to our families NOT to take care of ourselves. On the days I don’t exercise, get enough sleep,  eat well, or at least get a hot shower before dark, I’m irritable and not in a good place to take good care of my family. On a more serious note,  letting self care go too long, possibly leading to illness  due to neglect of our own health and well being…. is much more selfish and stressful for the family. Take the time now to covet your body and appreciate all it can do when you take care of it.

Your homework this week is to write down three things you can do this month on a regular basis (shoot for everyday)that will improve your life and make you feel great! My list is

1. say an affirmation every morning when I get out of bed and do pushups while coffee brews to increase my energy and focus for each early morning class I teach

2. go to bed no later than 9:45pm to get at least 7 hours sleep so I feel energetic and productive at work, during my workouts and with my family

3. set aside 10-15 min a night to talk alone with my husband and catch up on our day-

What  are your top three? Write them down and  make sure at least one or two of them can be done daily so you feel great right away. This should take you no more than 5 minutes….we all know what we need to do to feel great, it’s just a matter of doing it consistently. Email me your top three and I will check in with you to see how you’re feeling!! Taking note of how you feel when you make small changes, is very motivating! We all have a motive in our actions, lets make it a positive one each day!!

Are you an All or Nothing Gal?

I’m not perfect….I don’t have the perfect body or a perfect diet. I like wine and have been known to drink too much from time to time. I even have my lazy days when I don’t find the motivation to workout.  But, I can tell you, I am the strongest and healthiest I’ve been in my life and there are two things that help me remain successful. The first is, letting go of the “all or nothing” mindset, and the second is goal setting.

The reason I dislike New Year resolutions is that they encourage that all or nothing mentality…they are resolute! You either achieve them or you don’t and  most of the population (88%) doesn’t. Letting go of an “all or nothing mentality” means, understanding life isn’t perfect and each day won’t always go as planned. The key is not to get discouraged or quit, but to keep your focus on the goals you have set. If you are unable to get to the gym one day, or you eat a dozen cookies in one day, let it go and get right back on your plan the next meal, or next day. Just because you eat a piece of pie one morning for breakfast, doesn’t mean your whole day is shot. Many of us suffer from this mentality and that’s where we get in trouble. One bad day or event can spiral into another if you only focus on what you have done wrong, or what did not go  according to your plan. Life will always be unpredictable at times, the key is to stay focused on your goals and let slip ups go, let go of guilt and celebrate all that you do well.

We will be setting goals in the next two weeks…I purposefully wait until after January 1st, to pull you away from the resolve to get fit starting on January 1st. You can get healthy and fit anytime of the year, starting today. The way to really achieve a goal is to do something everyday that will bring you closer  to your goal. Before you make each and every decision in your day, think “Will this decision bring me closer to, or further from my goal?” If the answer is further, well, you know what to do. Each month, I set goals or adjust former ones I’ve made in the areas of the mind, body and soul.  I wake up each morning with a plan to  do something to bring me closer to each one. For example, my goal for the mind is to increase my knowledge and skills as a fitness professional by taking continuing ed classes and/or by reading 30 minutes of a fitness related non fictional book. My goal is to read everyday and to take one course every 6 months. My days aren’t always perfect and I don’t always get to read, but that doesn’t make me any less of a good trainer. I know what my goals are, they are always on my mind and that’s what keeps me shooting high and giving my best. My point is, even if you slip up from time to time or have a less than perfect day, you can still be successful in reaching your goals. Have them visible and in the forefront of your mind so you will have the motivation to make healthy decisions most of them time!

Susanna and I will be leading a workshop on Thursday, January 16th @ 6:30pm to teach how to set attainable, specific (S.M.A.R.T)goals. We will be talking about common obstacles that can prevent success and we will provide strategies that promote success. You will leave the workshop with one well written goal and a template to write 2 more within the scope of your mind, body and soul. You will also receive the support and accountability you need to achieve the goals you set. Without a written plan, a road map of sorts,  you will eventually get lost and lose sight of where you are going. The only way to find success, stay on track  and achieve what you want out of life,  is by writing down clear and realistic  goals. If you would like help in doing this, as well as a  take away guide of strategies for staying on track and staying positive,  email me to reserve a spot in the workshop- melmthomas@verizon.net

Healthy Ways to Celebrate and Stay Fit Through the Holidays…and all Year!

Lets face it, life can be busy. So busy in fact, that if you were asked what you did the day before, you may have to think hard to recall the events.  On your busiest day you may not have time to cook dinner, get 8 hours of sleep or workout for 45 minutes. Not all your days will be “perfect” or go the way you would have liked…and that’s ok! It’s life! Do the best you can each day, forgive yourself for not being perfect and just be mindful of the connection between healthy behaviors and feeling great. Rather than beat yourself up for splurging at a party, get back on track your next meal. Rather than push yourself to keep working well into the night, allow yourself to go to bed 15 min earlier to feel more rested and productive in the morning. Don’t have time to take a 45 min class?, increase your energy and metabolism with a 10 minute Tabata workout. Do at least one thing each day that makesk you feel good and contributes to your health and well being. It could be as small as taking a few deep breaths, or waking up 5 min early to have some quiet time. It’s about taking ownership of your well being and happiness. Love yourself…no one else can do that for you.

The additional ideas below are just ways you can plan ahead to stay on track with living a healthy lifestyle. We all want to look and feel our best each day so why not try a few tips that could possibly help you do just that. As always, please feel free to add anything that you find helpful in your quest to live a peaceful, happy and healthy life.

*Bank some healthy meals in the freezer. Prepare a pot of healthy veggie soup or bean chili and freeze to take out on nights you get home too late to cook. This is a great way to avoid ordering high fat, heavily salted carry out.

*Don’t skip meals to “save” calories for holiday dinners and parties. Eat well throughout the day and arrive at celebration feelings good and on track with your calories.

*If you’re baking gifts for friends and family, box them up and put out of sight or store extras in the freezer (out of sight, out of mind)

*If going to a holiday potluck party, bring a healthy dish to share. Also, experiment with healthy sides for your holiday dinners with family.

*Focus on the festivities and good friends and family during the holidays, not the endless feasts.

*Stay active during the holiday rush. Typically workouts drop off and get lost in the hustle and bustle of shopping and gathering. Put your workout in your calendar along with your other obligations and get it done.

*Drop in on a 30 minute fat burning cardio and core class on Tues or Thursday or complete the at home Tabatas I posted last week!

*Don’t give in to an “all or nothing” mindset. If you overeat at one meal or at a cocktail party on Friday, your whole weekend is not shot! Let the slip up go, be kind to yourself, and get back on track with your next meal.

*Know yourself! Know your limitations. If you know you can’t stop at one salted caramel (me), don’t keep them in the house. If opening a bag of cookies leads to a binge, buy a single pack serving or buy one cookie at a bakery. If you can’t stop at one glass of wine, only open a bottle occasionally or wait and share one with friends.

*Know the time you need to go to bed in order to feel rested in the morning. Try turning the tv off and reading at least 15 minutes before you need lights out. You will sleep better and wake up with a clearer head.

On the days you feel really great, remember what actions you took to get you there. As Dr Phil would say, ”the best predictor of future behavior…is past behavior.”  If you are aware of what behaviors make you feel good (energetic, strong, happy), you are more likely to repeat that behavior. Take a minute to be mindful of healthy behavior….you are so worth the time. :)

Knock a few back and still stay on track!

Susanna DeRocco

Healthy Bodies, Happy Minds

Ah, the holiday season!  It seems you cannot go anywhere without being offered some sort of libation.  If you like to enjoy a cocktail/beer/glass of wine or champagne, there are some ways to do to that without sabotaging your health goals.  Of course, there are many festive ways to celebrate the season without alcohol, which goes without saying!

First, a little shop-talk concerning alcohol:

Alcohol cannot be stored in our bodies and therefore does not need to be broken down like the macro nutrients protein, carbohydrates and fat.  In fact, alcohol takes priority over other these nutrients in our system that need to be broken down before being absorbed . When we have that beer, glass of wine, cocktail, our metabolic system must stop what it’s doing and focus on ‘getting our drink out’. Simply put,the booze takes priority with regards to metabolism thereby postponing the fat-burning process.

Alcohol impedes the way our bodies process and store nutrients. Your body must burn the alcohol first before it can move on to food. It also interferes with your judgement and inhibition, not only do we eat more, we eat things we would not normally consider eating. A gem of an example can be found in this conversation, which one may or may not have overheard at a recent Halloween party (please note, Frito’s were the only option left on the buffet table…):

Friend: ” I love it! Susanna is eating Frito’s!”

My husband: “Wow. I have never seen Susanna eat Frito’s.”

Me: “I don’t even like Frito’s!” (I may or may not have screamed this while laughing and shoving a few in my face).

What is happening here is really a quadruple-whammy:

Alcohol inhibits the breakdown of nutrients and the absorption of vitamins and minerals we need. The nutrients in your system (protein, carbohydrates & fat)  take a back seat and wind up being  stored as fat.

Alcohol stimulates appetite and offers nothing of nutritional value.  To top it off, our food portion control tends to go out the window and the next thing you know you are eating Frito’s. After time in the stomach and small intestine, food (nutrients) head to the liver. The liver prepares nutrients either for immediate use or storage for future use.  Since the liver is busy eliminating the alcohol, the other nutrients are stored.  How you ask?  Yes, as fat. When you take in more calories than you burn (remember, your liver is busy ‘burning’ alcohol), the excess calories are stored as fat.

Alcohol= concentrated calories:  When calories are condensed into liquid form, it is much easier to take in more than we realize.

Alcohol impacts sleep: When we consume too much alcohol we tend not to hit our REM sleep which often means we are not catching some z’s, but rather chasing them.  Our sleep is disrupted and we are more likely to wake up through the night. Alcohol is a diuretic, which gives you the added bonus of getting up to use the bathroom!  When we do not get enough sleep, our hormones, specifically leptin, (the hormone that lets you know you’re full) and grehlin (the hormone that stimulates hunger) are impacted. Lack of sleep drives levels of leptin down (meaning you don’t feel as satisfied after eating) while also causing the hormone grehlin to rise, (meaning your appetite is stimulated), so you want to put more in the tank. The two combined can set the stage for another unwanted side effect: overeating.

Here’s what you can do:

Celebrate without alcohol! Mark all of the events you will be attending on a calendar (or in an electronic calendar) and decide which events are worth the indulgence.  You can even set a reminder on your smart phone if that is your thing.  Do you really want a glass of wine at your holiday work luncheon?  Maybe you do, in which case maybe you take a pass during the neighborhood cookie exchange.

Set your limit in advance: When you do decide to celebrate (with cocktails), plan the number of drinks you will have prior to your event (i.e.-allow yourself one drink for a special holiday party especially if you know you will likely have two cocktails with the girls  later in the week).

Eat something before libating: Having a small meal that contains protein, fiber and a healthy fat is going to help us in the long run.  Nothing new here, right?  Having something like this in your tank slows down the metabolism of the alcohol, keeps you feeling full for a longer duration of time (perhaps slowing your alcohol intake) and gives you the nutrients you need to feel satisfied.  Eating something like this along with a glass of water before bed may help fend off cravings the next morning, as well. Eating nothing at all in order to “make-up” for the calories in the alcohol will likely cause blood sugar levels to soar and later crash, leaving you ravenous and likely to eat what is in front of you, even if it is not the best choice.

Keep healthy foods on hand so you do not compromise your nutritional goals on top of the extra calories contained in your drinks!  See Frito’s story above for example of what not to do!

Keep drinks simple: When you add more  to your drinks (cream, mixers, soda, juice, tonic, etc.) you are drinking more than the 7 calories per gram of alcohol. Stick with controlled portions of beer, wine, champagne or spirits like vodka with club soda and lime.  Though I do not care for the term ‘diet’ (as in “I am on a diet”) here is a good list from SparkPeople. You can also check out their site for more nutritional information on some of the more popular drinks.

Watch portions:  Think you are only having two glasses of wine at @ 100 calories each? Watch this:

Drink a glass of water in-between each alcoholic beverage and drink one more before bed: Alcohol is a diuretic.  Drinking too much without adding that water can leave us dehydrated.   Drinking water will keep you hydrated and also increase your feeling of fullness; keeping you from that ‘extra’ drink that put you over the edge! Don’t forget that hunger is often a sign of dehydration –this cycle often continues into the ‘day after’ leading to more cravings of salt/sugar/fat and possibly abandoning your nutritional goals for a greasy plate of hash browns and a coke. Break the cycle!

Sip slowly: Not only for your health goals, but for your safety.  Your body can only metabolize so much alcohol per hour.  This is based on many variables including your sex, weight, body type, mood, any medications present, the type of alcohol you consume, the rate at which you are drinking and how much you have eaten beforehand.  This is especially important for those who can legally drink alcohol but may not be familiar with their limits.  Nobody wants a special night to end in tragedy. Most importantly, if you choose alcohol as part of your celebration enjoy yourself but please drink responsibly; have a designated driver or take a cab to your final destination.  Enjoy your celebrations fully and have a safe holiday season!

Are there strategies that help you manage your alcohol intake this time of year? We would love for you to share!


10-15 minute exercise series for home!



Regular exercise strengthens muscles, increases life expectancy,  increases endurance,energy and mental well being, as well as reduces risk of some diseases. The more exercise the better as far as I’m concerned (fitness guidelines recommend adults get at least 30 min of moderate exercise daily), but research is also finding that individuals can still reap the benefits above by exercising 15 min a day. So if you don’t have the time or the willpower to exercise 30 to 45 minutes, try a few of the exercises below and feel positive knowing you did your body good!

Pyramid Pushups

complete 10 butterfly crunches (lift upper and lower body-soles of feet together, to bring elbows to knees)

then complete one full pushup

Complete 10 butterfly crunches

then complete 2 full pushups

(continue alternating 10 crunches and add another pushup until your reach 10 and 10)


Try completing 2 or 3 sets of  full body Tabatas for a 10 to 15 min high intensity workout! Make sure to use a Tabata timer or Tabata app on phone to keep exact time!

*squat jumps

*mountain climbers


*high knees


Stability Ball Core Exercises- try the 5 below for a minute each and repeat 2 to 3x

Double crunch- ball between knees, hands behind head- crunch (think hips to ribs and lift glutes off floor in a reverse curl) Watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmMHVLWfm6s

Hand to Foot Pass- lay on back with ball between shins and hands overhead. Contract your core and lift legs and arms to pass the ball from legs to hands and take ball overhead (dropping legs to hover floor) Repeat and pass ball back to legs. Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bj6Ztf2c6c8

Bridge with roll in- lay on back with heels on ball, palms down on floor. Engage core, lift hips and roll ball in towards glutes. Extend legs and lower hips to ground. Repeat.

Twist- In seated position, legs bent, sitting back on tailbone with abs engaged, rotate ball left and right over the knees to the floor by each hip. Continue for minute.

Twist on ball-(advanced) lay on ball so it is centered between your shoulder blades. With arms extended over chest, hands clasped together, rotate to one side so arms are parallel to the ground- hold for 3 counts and rotate slowly to the other side. Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_wIr-7QyWk