Why I Don't Exercise {Confessions of a Health Coach Part 2}

Well, I’m glad you’re here again, my friend, because I’ve got some more confessions to get off my chest! In the first post in this series, I got pretty personal with you, sharing that I struggle with this healthy lifestyle thing too, and that I really don’t care what you’re making for dinner tonight.  ;)

Today, I’m digging even deeper - you ready to hear it? I’m ready to spill! Let’s go...

Confession #5: I CARE DEEPLY about your health, but not much else

(meaning: I’m not criticizing your choices, weight, beliefs, fads, or anything else in your life!)

Just as I said in the first post in this series - I care SO MUCH about YOU, but not much about your choices! I don’t see you as “overweight” or “weak” or “sick” or “crazy” or anything else!

I just see YOU...beautiful, unique, wonderful YOU!

So I don’t care what eating plan you are following, drinks you are drinking, whether or not you are exercising, what habits you are keeping. I really don’t.

I DO care, though, about how you FEEL everyday, and about your HEALTH and WHOLENESS! (God put this calling on my heart when I was a wee thing, so it’s cool that I am actually able to have a career now in a calling that has been on my life since childhood.)

I have realized over my adult life that “ain’t nobody got time” to be trying to convince, control or criticize others in their FREEDOM OF CHOICE! (God gives us freedom of choice for a reason, who do we think we are to try and remove that same freedom from others?)

Here’s what we’re missing though…

Our choices are free for us to make, but the consequences of those choices are NOT free!

They cost us.

They cost our loved ones (think about how it affects the kids, grandkids, etc when someone in the family grows ill - there is a burden - financially, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically.)

The consequences to our choices COST EVERYONE we love and are surrounded by!

Heck, they even cost our community and our country - our medical system and personnel are under a tremendous burden - one they almost cannot continue to carry. And it is directly due to a nation of people leading a lifestyle and making lifestyle choices that have led to innumerable amounts of completely preventable (and reversible, many of them) diseases and conditions.

And the statistics say (based on our current way of eating, moving, living, etc as a country) that this situation is GRAVE and getting worse and must be considered seriously (though there isn’t much being done about it on a national level)...meanwhile the numbers for the upcoming diagnosis of obesity-related illnesses, cancer, diabetes Type 2, autoimmune diseases and mental illness are looming over us like a death sentence!

So what to do about all this? Well, that brings me to confession #6...

Confession #6: I’m overwhelmed too (by the over information + fundamental lifestyles & diets + judgy people)

It’s true! When I talk to people who are in discouraging situations with their health or I read new articles or stories of “how bad it’s getting” - I start to feel overwhelmed. And don’t even get me started on the conflicting studies and information being shared! One day, “this oil” is good for us - the next, it’s bad for us. One day, you SHOULD eat eggs, the next day, you shouldn’t. It’s CRAZY!

When people argue (online is where I see/hear this the most) about what supplement is best or what oil to use or whether bread is killing us or not, I RUN. I can’t do it. So my heart gets even bigger for you! Because if I feel this way, and this is what I DO and AM PASSIONATE about it - I can’t even imagine how overwhelming or discouraging it is for you to see the banter and debates. (Especially if you are genuinely looking for practical guidance or help on something!)

And let’s not even get into the fundamental lifestyles being taught/followed out there - I have always and will continue to believe one thing about a fundamental lifestyle - it is NOT sustainable for the long term, whole-family-friendly or even affordable for most of us! (Think $120 monthly supplement or powders or shakes PER PERSON - what family can sustain that? Not mine.)

But even if there is no supplement or other product purchase involved - who can sustain a “do NOT eat this, that, that, that or that or even TOUCH that or you’ll be sick or fat or dead!” (Of course I’m taking some liberty here on my dramatic storytelling - but you get the point I’m making, right?!)

How about this study for ya. It’s actually been proven that out of 1000 people of the population, only ONE has the personality or fortitude to stick with a fundamental lifestyle for their health long-term. ONE out of ONE THOUSAND. And I can tell you right now, I’m NOT that one! (It IS confession time, so, there ya go!)

OK and what about “judgy people?” And all the “advice” they so eagerly give? Before I get into this one too deep, I need you to know in full disclosure, that I WAS THAT JUDGY PERSON once upon a time!

Only after some humbling circumstances I endured (and terrible choices I made) over the years did I find freedom from operating in judgy-person mode...and I’m SO thankful too! Because I could NEVER be a health coach today or have built the FRESH Start movement from a place of pride or judgement.

So I’m not judging the judgy people with this post - I’m just letting you know that I “hear them too” and you and me, we’ve got to #1 make sure we’re not one of them and #2 let the words they speak and looks they give stream on down off our backs, like water off a duck’s back, as my mama would say.

So I hope that YOU discover exactly what I have found - that YOU are the BEST health coach and adviser for YOUR life and lifestyle choices!
— Coach Bess

Really, YOU ARE! You already have most of the answers you need either inside you or at a quick prayer’s notice - God gave us our gift of instinct for a reason.

If you know that you “feel better” when you eat eggs - EAT THEM and enjoy them. If you enjoy “this oil” over “that oil” and you are using less and less of it anyway (which, on a side note, should be the general goal here anyway - using less of the stuff!) then USE IT! If you feel better eating some meat rather than none or a slice of toast with your coffee in the morning (gasp!) then ENJOY IT.

YOU are the boss of you.

God made YOU TO BE! Yes! He gives free choice, but He also leads us - and He’ll let you know what to eat, what not to eat - just listen to that powerful small voice inside you that was saying all along that eating eggs felt good to you or cutting back on meats was a great improvement or dropping the extra sugars felt real FRESH.

Just LISTEN to YOUR voice and His voice, and try to tune out anything that brings overwhelm, stress, panic, confusion or discouragement!
— Coach Bess

Confession #7: I don’t “exercise”

I know, terrible thing for a health coach to confess to, right? Let me explain, though. It’s better than it sounds!

So I’ve been to fitness classes, taken online classes, followed Youtube videos or DVD’s and joined gyms. I’ve even had the “three free sessions” with a personal trainer when I first signed up at the gym. And I HATED IT. DREADED IT, actually!

But I found over the years that when I walk for miles a day or do a little meditation/yoga-type stretching or swim or hike in our gorgeous “back country” out here in the mountains, THAT I ENJOY IT IMMENSELY! Figuring this out has been a lifesaver and now I almost can’t even stand to let a day go by without my walk or a short hike.

It doesn’t feel like “working out” but it does get my heart pumping, my legs and glutes and core feeling the burn, and my gams toned! It DOES get me moving to do this, but it’s NOT a “workout” per se. And that’s exactly my point...why not FIND SOMETHING that brings you joy that also gets you moving intentionally and DAILY?

So as a health coach, my goal has been to help my precious clients (who I become quite protective of, think mama bear! haha) find a way to get moving more and get that good, heart-pumping purposeful daily movement in - but in a way that feels more like play or therapy or joy-giving than “join a gym” or “hire a trainer.”

Do you like to play tennis? THAT is a workout! Do you feel at home in the water? Start with 10 minutes or 2 laps! Do you enjoy nature? Walk, hike or climb hills and mountains...won’t feel like a workout AT ALL!

Oh and the more we can do our activity OUTSIDE the better that is for us! We kill like 5 birds with that stone (another saying from my good ol mama!)

Here’s what you’ll get from outside fitness:

  • Vitamin D for pain relief and healing benefits from the sun

  • Lungfuls of fresh air, clearing away brain fog

  • Mental clarity from being AWAY from technology and stresses of home

  • Benefits of the exercise itself to your brain, heart, blood and muscles

  • Social interaction, it’s so good for your spirit

  • Meditation moments with God and His gift of nature, lifting your soul

Now for full disclosure, I am NOT against gyms, trainers, classes or DVD’s - in fact I’m about to up my own fitness game this fall by joining my colleague and dear friend Trisch’s upcoming online class (she’s a Master T-Tapp Trainer and SO gracious as a teacher - I’m excited about this!) I’ve got personal friends who are trainers and have seen many people benefit from hiring them…

I just don’t think these “traditional” methods are the ONLY WAY or everyone’s way to create a lifestyle of fitness.
— Coach Bess

That is my goal...to help you find what kind of “exercise” BRINGS YOU JOY so that you’ll want to keep doing it, day after day and it won’t be such a dreaded chore.


NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!

Which of these confessions of mine have you experienced or can relate to? I’d love to hear your input in the comments below or in our free online community on Facebook.

And join me back here on the blog SOON - I’ll be posting my next few confessions to finish up this series next week!

Confessions of a Health Coach {Part One}

Can I get real with ya’ll for a minute?

Yes, I’m a Health Coach. NO, I’m not watching you through green-smoothie-colored glasses!

I’ve been a health coach for over 6 years now, and in this time, I have experienced a phenomenon. Sometimes, when people find out I’m a health coach, the interaction between us can become awkward with anything to do with food or exercise or anything “health.” I’m thinking it’s due to what is quite possibly preconceived notions - about what I actually care about in their life!

And I want to take a few minutes to clear this up! This will be fun...from my well-meaning heart to yours.

Confession #1: I'm NOT looking in your shopping cart! Or judging you for what’s in it.

Yes, that’s right! I actually DO NOT care what you’re putting in your cart.

And I'm certainly not criticizing what you do or do not provide for mealtime at your house!

I'm of the simple belief that we are all doing the best we can with what we know right now. And even if you're not, I'm not your mama and I'm pretty sure you're already aware of what you can do better (we're all adults here!) I'm only interested in holding myself accountable to my own goals and standards. Oh and of course, THOSE WHO HIRE ME to, I’ll keep them accountable too!

Full disclosure: I DO care (and deeply!) how you FEEL from what you eat every day - which is why I work so hard daily to do what I do. If this sounds contradictory, let me explain - I’m NOT interested in judging your choices, only in helping those who are ready with guidance in better eating! It’s WHY I spend hours researching natural healing, recipe testing, and creating resources and challenges and meal plans and programs to help those who are READY and want to make changes for the better in their eating.

Confession #2: I struggle too (with changing habits & making healthy lifestyle choices)

This is a lifelong struggle in a lot of ways for ALL OF US! I’d be lying if I acted like living like this (or teaching this lifestyle, for that matter!) is easy for anyone (especially when picky eaters, stubborn spouses, and multiple kids are in the mix!) I have noticed though, some things do get easier with time - and that’s a relief.

I struggle with the daily grind of the “extra work” that making better choices entails

 

I struggle with my weight within a 10-15 pound range (up and down, up and down UGH)

 

I struggle with OCD/anxiety tendencies - and all the “mind stuff” that it involves

 

I struggle with wondering if I’m being a “good enough” mom/wife/friend/daughter/caregiver/coach/sister/entrepreneur/Christian - can anyone relate? LOL

 

I struggle with LOVING sugar and anything made with sugar and anything you can add sugar to

 

I struggle with chronic pain (daily)

 

So yeah. I struggle too!

And if I’ve learned ANYTHING in my 6.5 years as a health coach - it’s that WE ARE ALL JUST DOING WHAT WE CAN. And we need to give OURSELVES and EACH OTHER waaaayyyy more grace than we do (I struggle with this too! haha)

Full disclosure: Some of my greatest personal struggles have been addictive behaviors.

I used to smoke cigarettes (been smoke-free since July 2009, praise God!) and was also addicted to the energy drinks and diet sodas that accompanied that habit.

I carried shame around that habit for the longest time...please find a way to dump that worthless shame if you are in the same cycle - it’s such a wasted a emotion (though a POWERFUL one!) and I wish someone would have said to me in 2009 what I’m saying to you now!

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

No matter what you are struggling with, leave those worthless emotions of guilt and shame behind and join me in the land of the redeemed and forgiven (Christ gives it freely, we just have to RECEIVE it!) You only get one life, let's make it AWESOME!

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Confession #3: I don’t care what you’re making or picking up for dinner

Yes, this is similar to confession #1. But different, so I want to specifically discuss the “dinner dilemma” - because it’s a REAL thing for us! (Any moms out there with me on this?) By end of day, we’re DONE. Tired. Over it.

Last thing we want to do is spend ANOTHER 45 minutes on our hurting and tired feet cooking, then watch the family inhale in 5 minutes our loving gift that was created with expensive ingredients, and designed with the last bit of sanity that’s clinging to our frazzled brains! Then get right back up and spend the next 20-30 minutes cleaning up the mess everyone leaves behind...Seriously?

So. I. GET. IT.

And exactly why I don’t judge! If tonight is a drive-through-sanity-keeper-choice - then mama, YOU DO YOU and I got absolutely no malice for ya!

Full disclosure: All I care about when it comes to your dinner choices is that YOU are happy with them!

This is seriously what I care about - that YOU feel happy with your choices - and I want to help you change that in a REALISTIC, practical way if it’s something you are ready to tackle! The meal planning/shopping/chopping/cooking part of what I do is my FAVE because I’ve committed these last 6 + years to developing a system for keeping dinner HEALTHY and SIMPLE and that WORKS for the busy family/working mama/budget buyer!

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Confession #4: My kids eat and drink junk food (and I do too)

Yup. We do.

Now, before you get too excited - let me explain. We eat a clean, veggie-based, lean meats, unprocessed, small-portioned type diet about 85% of the time. We drink a LOT of water. We drink homemade smoothies with veggies in them every day.

HOWEVER, we DO enjoy “junk food” like commercial, sugary coffee drinks or a small bowl of ice cream on our “treat day” every weekend. We enjoy candy or desserts during holidays, cake on birthdays and Abuelita’s amazing fried tacos and other traditional food when we visit her in Mexico. (We’re Mexican, ya’ll! Food is LIFE!) We enjoy a pastry or a bag of chips on occasion, too!

We believe in balance, and enjoying this life, and making merry with small servings, instead of overeating on the fun stuff! But we don’t believe in deprivation (we tried it and it didn’t work anyway) or a lot of NO NO NO’s. We believe in adding in the good stuff to squeeze out the not-so-good most of the time. And being ok with splurging the other times. It seems to be working, so it’s probably how we’ll continue this healthy living thing.


What about you, my friend? Do you see yourself in any of these confessions?

My heart as a health coach is to see you at peace with your choices, free of shame or guilt in them and making the BEST ONES YOU CAN with what you can afford/do/handle right now!

So I hope you let yourself off the hook of “attempted perfection” in this lifestyle, do what you can today (and celebrate that you did THAT!) and keep pursuing the BEST God has for you in your habits and choices and future! Because YOU DESERVE IT!

Come back to the blog Thursday, I’m publishing the second part of this fun post series! I’ll be confessing “why I don’t exercise” and “why I’m overwhelmed in this lifestyle too!” (gasp!)

Renewing Our Minds to Renew Our Bodies

Have you ever noticed that when you "change your mind" about something limiting or negative in your life, that it paves the way for your body and health to reflect that?

That's what I'm going to be sharing with you over the next couple of upcoming weeks here on the FRESH Start principle of Renewing Our Minds to Renew Our Bodies!

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So many of us have discovered {just as many authorities and professionals in the medical field have proven recently} that the roots of our healthy or unhealthy habits truly begin in the mind.

Is renewing our minds really important?

This month I’m sharing what has worked for me and for dozens of readers who’ve taken my workbook Fresh Start for Health to heart. Small groups across the United States are meeting together, some in Churches, some in community groups, working through each page and forming new healthy lifestyles as a result.

These principles may be ones you’ve heard in other places before but so many of you have shared that you hadn’t thought of applying them to your health!

The truth is that the power of the Holy Spirit combined with the promises of God’s Word in our lives is tremendous! We have the need for God to transform our lives right from the heart and then outward into the rest of our lives and habits.

This principle is the way to unleash the power of God in our lives & minds and as a result, see real change take place in our habits!
— Coach Bess

Watch this short video, where I’m sharing from my heart on this principle, as well as about my own experience of breaking free from old ways of thinking. 

Today…STEP ONE on the pathway to Renewing our Minds

As we delve into this topic it’s important to me that we recognize the basis for our ever renewing pathway to change. After a twisting-turning journey through recovering from a rough past including childhood abuse, healing from a limiting fundamentalist religious perspective, and then through serious health conditions, I’ve found that pure truth based on God’s Word is the only effective foundation.

Step One is to start here, with Ephesians 4:22-24. The entire passage is powerful. But the key point is this: “Strip yourselves of your former nature …be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind! Put on the NEW nature, the regenerated self!”

And Psalm 51:10 expands on that when David asks God for a new heart! Think of that! The ability of the God of the Universe to implant in us a new, pure, right-thinking-and-feeling heart!

We should start renewing our minds in our brokenness!

The bottom line is that God can begin to renew our mind when we come to him aware of our brokenness, lack of balance and great need for His power! Even after we’ve been walking in freedom and healing, sometimes we still find ourselves calling on Him to heal us.

This renewing process is a lifelong process of giving over our own thinking and accepting His Scriptural truth in its place.

My heart for you is that you’ll find renewed hope and deep healing in a new way.

And a boost on your own individual path to an ever-deeper walk with Christ…one in which you are free from past hurtful and harmful thinking patterns. Join us here on the blog in the upcoming weeks for new installments in our RENEWING YOUR MIND vlogging series! 

It is only as we allow our thinking and feeling to be totally transformed that the changes we make in our behavior—our eating, moving and other healthy habits—will begin to stick and become true lifestyle changes!
— Coach Bess

I’m so excited that you’re here… and hungry for deeper, long-lasting change. Come share your journey with me on my FRESH Start for Health FB Page or in our free Fresh Start Online Community group. It's a warm, loving group and we'd love to have you share about your own victories and struggles with renewing your mind. I’d love to share encouragement and hope with you personally!

Resources & Healthy Living Tools

As I share deeply this month on renewing our minds from my experience & research shared in the Fresh Start for Health workbook, I wanted to be sure that you knew how to get your own copy. Get your very own copy of the workbook on our Fresh Start STORE page…where you can purchase an e-book version for instant access or order a printed version to be mailed to your home! There are worksheets in each chapter that are perfect for individual study or small group discussion as well!

Please Contact us here at Fresh Start if you have any questions about the workbook, our coaching services or bringing these powerful principles to a church or community group near you!

Smash Your Excuses!

Hey y'all! Coach Bess here...earlier today, I shared a powerful preview on FB LIVE in our free online community of what I'll be bringing to our next FRESH Start 14 Day Challenge, called "Smash Your Excuses!" Ooohhhh it's gonna be a good one, y'all! (BTW, we'd love it if you joined us in that group where you can view the LIVEcast recording!)

We're dealing with the mindset stuff in this challenge...no worries, we'll still be eating FRESH and moving in FRESH ways through the experience, but we're going to zone in on WHAT STOPS US from seeing results and finding LASTING breakthrough in this part of our lives!

You can find out much more about this exciting online experience and even grab YOUR SPOT RIGHT HERE!

Here's some of what I shared earlier...

See the TARGET?

When I was a little girl, my dad taught me to use a bow and arrow - this is one of my fondest memories of my childhood on the farm in the mid-west! I still remember the smell of the sweet hay as he stacked 3 bales on top of each other, then placed a paper target on them for us kids to use for practice. Little did I know that learning to "target-shoot" with a bow and arrow in our farm's gigantic front yard would place powerful lifelong lessons on the inside of me!

And of all the things I learned from that activity with my dad, was his words "Keep your eye on the BULLSEYE!" 

What is your personal BULLSEYE in your healthy-lifestyle journey, my friend?

This is a good a time as any to revisit and renew your "TARGET" in this journey - for some, it's a goal to live free of side-effect causing medications or delivered from an addiction to food or some other substance. Maybe it's a weight loss goal - to look and feel your best! It could be that you are sick and tired of how you FEEL everyday - maybe you struggle with chronic pain, illness or fatigue.

Maybe it's all of the above! Either way, your personal goal to improve your life IS a GOOD TARGET and you are NOT alone in this desire to create change! You're also not alone in the common experience of starting new choices, then stopping. Or even of giving up before you hit the TARGET!

FOCUS ON THE BULLSEYE!

Yes, but HOW?

We've got ya! We're going to cover several winning keys during this Challenge! Ways that you can not only "Watch the BULLSEYE" in your healthy-living journey, but also breaking down the HOW behind this! 

If you are READY to experience BREAKTHROUGH in areas that have stopped your progress in the past around your daily choices for your healthier life...then JOIN US! You'll be so glad you did!

To find out much more about the "Smash Your Excuses" Challenge - visit HERE!

Fitness Made Easy for the Busy Woman {with Trainer Trisch!}

Our guest expert on this post is our own FRESH Start Coach Trisch Richardson, writing from her hobby farm in rural Indiana! Mom of nine kids (yes they're all hers!) and wife to husband Dallas, she is a busy woman herself - so this helpful article comes right from the horses' mouth! (pardon the pun LOL) Here's a little bit about her and the fitness method she has found WORKS for woman of all abilities, ages, and speed of life!

Whether you're a busy mom with little ones or a CEO, whether you're super active or unable to do much due to health issues, there is one thing we all have in common - we know we need to get moving to get healthy and fit.

Then you read an article that says to maintain your current size and fitness level, you need to work out an hour a day. If you want to lose weight/sizes/inches, you have to work out one and a half hours each day! (What???)

The tension comes when we can't fit in workouts, we don't have space for special equipment (or the kids keep running off with your hand and ankle weights!) or we hardly have enough energy to get dressed, let alone work out for an hour? 

That's where I found myself 10 years ago, the largest (and unhealthiest) I had ever been in my life.  

I was a size 22W, as close as I could tell, wearing mostly loose fitting maternity jumpers because nothing else fit. My baby was 3 ½ months old! I had been working out an hour a day, five days per week, and I had lost absolutely nothing. AND I was getting more and more tired, needing an hour nap about 1 ½ hours after working out. I was a busy homeschooling mama—I didn't have time for that!

I found the T-Tapp workout and that changed everything! Instead of an hour each day I was spending 15-20 minutes. Instead of needing a nap 1 ½ hours later, I not only didn't need the nap—I had more energy! Best part of all—I started losing inches!

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But what in the world is T-Tapp?!

It's a method of movement that uses 5-7 muscles in each move, activating the muscle from both ends resulting in long, lean muscles - as well as efficient and optimal lymphatic pumping! The founder, Teresa Tapp, first created these moves to help women who were undergoing cancer treatments to better tolerate the treatments and minimize getting ill because of them. She also worked in the modeling industry for 20 years as a face developer, so she was able to “perfect” her method of movement to help our bodies—inside and out!

T-Tapp focuses more on inch loss, size loss and health and energy improvements than the scales.

My own story is a “weight doesn't tell the whole story” one! I lost 8 sizes - that's right! From a 22W to an 8, started healing my adrenals, my thyroid levels optimized - I do take a compounded thyroid but haven't had to increase my dosage since starting T-Tapp. My body has reshaped in amazing ways after birthing 10 BIG babies (biggest was 11 lbs 4 oz!) and even now at the edge of menopause, the hormonal fluff has caused me to gain only 1 size back. YET - I've only lost 30 lbs. Muscle density rocks!

As a busy woman with little time to exercise as well as being hypothyroid and adrenal challenged, I have a special place in my heart for those who, like me, are struggling to find the time and/or energy to get moving.

I joke that I am the Queen of Superslow and the Queen of Splitting Workouts! I often only do 10 minutes daily of some of the workouts because I've learned to listen to my body and there are some days that I need movement, but I know I can't push myself. T-Tapp even has a few seated workouts that are excellent for those “not much energy” days or when my hip used to bother me.

Trisch & Her Beautiful Family

Trisch & Her Beautiful Family

I had a beautiful client who had a lot of stress she could do little about. She was gaining in spite of being gluten and casein free. She felt she had to do 15 minutes daily, but based on my own experience, I encouraged her to try just 3 moves daily. She was worried she wouldn't see inch loss, but as I explained to her, if your body is stressed - and yes, over-exercising can stress it - you won't see inch loss. At other times the body takes our new habits and efforts to get healthy and focuses on internal healing first - then it shows on the outside!

My client was able to do 3 moves on average of 4-5 days per week. The other days I had her focus on curling her core as she drove her boys to their therapy appointments or sat at her desk for her home business. In one month she lost 2 ½ inches off her waist alone! Over the next 6 months, doing no more than those 3 moves and curling the core, she lost 4 sizes!

No jumping around, no special equipment, easy on joints, no more than 10 to 20 minutes a day, and yes—you can get results even in a chair! Less really IS more with T-Tapp!  

You can find Trisch at http://beyouthfulnfit.com/ and on Facebook at Be Youthful N Fit

When Someone You Know is Grieving

Lately, so many precious hearts in my circle have been dealt painful, hard blows from life.

Whether it be fate, God's will, or pure chance matters not. The hardship, the loss exists. The grief, the heartache over it... the questions of why or how could this happen...the recovery (ooohhh how HARD is that word?!) as life must go on...yes, life does go on.

Whether it be death, illness, tremendous loss, betrayal, or heartbreak that has occurred...these precious hearts have to keep living.

And then, due to the intimacy that Facebook and other social media has created...due to the inevitable "touching" of our souls through the internet's waves...we are faced with the choice of reaching out, of saying something (but what to say? are words even GOOD enough?) and the choice of shrinking back behind the screen, in shock and horror of the levity of the blow they have been dealt! We are faced with the terrible situation of observing their experience from across the miles … and now, touching their pain.

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What have you done when this has happened? Do you find yourself in the same dilemma I have over and over?

Do I reach out and say something (though it could sound horribly trite!) and express the tears welling up in my eyes even as I read of their painful event? Do I quickly scroll past their post...reading on again to help avoid it and soften it and cover the initial shock with cute cat pics and funny FB memes?

This post is NOT a condemnation if you have scrolled past, neither a how-to for those of us still struggling over how to be a "friend" to those in hurt...

This is merely a post of my heart's grieving whisper out loud. I was pondering on this as a dear friend expressed earlier that today was her son's one-year anniversary of his passing...her beloved, adult, ONLY son. And as she expressed herself so authentically, so honestly she exposed her pain and grief, I was moved to tears - shaking, cleansing tears.

Because I cannot even imagine loss like that.

Then, I was moved to post a "hopefully comforting comment"  on her post...but that same, negative, nagging voice whispered...but what if you say the "wrong thing" to her...what if you comment and it only causes more pain? Or you sound stupid? Yada yada...the doubts went on.

Then I remembered a day in late June of 2000 - a hot and sticky summer day, when Juan and I were trembling and tears were streaming down our faces...we kissed her soft, fuzzy head and nuzzled her cheeks for the first and the last time...we tried to memorize the way her hands looked, so tiny yet so perfectly formed....we held her, even after her first squeak and last breath...and then, with gently nudging from the wise nurses, we reluctantly passed her wrapped, still body to them to be taken away.

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I had just birthed, and then we held her while she died, our first daughter, Sela. And then we went home. Home alone. The still, too quiet house where we laid in bed and I sobbed while he held me and stroked my hair. Home, where I was supposed to bring her. Home, to cook and clean and live like my baby, my daughter wasn't lying still and cold in the morgue. Home, where my milk came in and my breasts swelled and I couldn't suckle the baby my body was trying to feed.

And people said things.

Some said kind, thoughtful things. Some just cried with me and couldn't find "words" but spoke anyway. Some said thoughtless, sharp things better left unsaid, no matter the good intentions.

But I remember feeling that those who "said something" were still welcomed by my grieving heart...and that it made us human together. That they were trying (feebly though it may have been at times!) to feel with Juan and I...to be there.

They were sharing in our grief by entering it with us.

So this post is to encourage you...that when someone in your life is hurting, grieving, in pain...enter their space. Yes, it may feel awful or be awkward (especially at first!) and you may have nagging doubts about whether or not your "words" are helpful or comforting. But, from a mom who experienced loss and grief all those years ago...I am assuring you, that when you say something from a heart of kindness and a place of grace, your words will matter. Your heart will matter.

Juan and Bess in happier moments in 2010 - a Testimony of Healing Through Loss

Juan and Bess in happier moments in 2010 - a Testimony of Healing Through Loss

If you have been struggling through something hard or have experienced loss, we want you to know that you are not alone. We support, love on and pray for each other in our FRESH Start community group (it's free) and we'd love to welcome you there. 

Books for Healthy Living (Coach Bess' Top Recommendations)

Sometimes digging into a good book resource on healthy living can be exactly what the doctor ordered!

Looking for natural answers to a chronic illness or condition? Open up ANY of Dr Mark Hyman's books, like The UltraSimple Diet or Ultraprevention or Ultrametabolism!

Need meal planning help to get the whole family on board with your healthy eating? Pick up a copy of Amy Hendel's book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families.

Trying to break out of an eating disorder, food addiction, or shame around your weight? Grab a copy of Lose It For Life by Dr Linda Mintle & Stephen Arterburn or pick up Lysa Terkeurst's Made to Crave or Lisa Bevere's You Are Not Your Weight.

With all there is to learn on this healthy living journey, ONE book is not enough! 

Choose from the multiple books out there and available to help you add healthy living tools and strategies to your toolbox! Or to help you overcome a mental block that may be holding you back from transformation.

books for healthy living

Some more of my personal favorites are:

NUTRITION

ANY books by Joy Bauer - like...

Idiot's Guide to Total Nutrition
Food Cures

Food Bible by Judith Wills

Get the Sugar Out by Ann Louise Gittleman

FAITH/HEALTH CONNECTION

Your Whole Life by Carole Showalter

What the Bible Says About Healthy Living
by Rex Russel

And of course, our book, the FRESH Start for Health Workbook, by yours truly, Bess Blanco, is a fabulous combination of lifestyle change help on faith, beginning fitness, food and our mindset! You can find it here on this website or by clicking HERE.

Now, remember you can add these resources to your personal library little by little or even with a visit to your local library! I've found MANY of my awesome books (and this is only the smallest sampling) at yard sales, thrift stores and on discount websites online, gently used! 

What are YOUR favorite books on healthy living? We'd love to hear your recommendations in the comments below, or share them with us in our FRESH Start Online Community on Facebook! 

Every other Tuesday, we have a LIVE chat called #LetsTalkAboutitTuesday in our free healthy living support group on Facebook, and this video above was today's chat! You should join us to catch the next one!

Enjoy this helpful video, and be sure to subscribe to the FRESH Start for Health channel on Youtube to continue getting our healthy living tips and encouragement! 

Healthy hugs and belief in YOU ~ Coach Bess

”BooksForHealthyLiving”

Fast & Fresh Ways to Cook Healthy for Your Family

These are fast, fresh ways to make life a little easier for you as you prepare healthy family meals – and still stay on the right track with clean eating!

  1. Bake-fry your chicken or fish for an old-time favorite without all the added fat!  Use panko for crunchy, evenly baked crispness!  Dip chicken breast or fish in egg, soy milk, or greek yogurt, then roll in the crumbs to evenly coat.  Bake anywhere from 20-30 minutes (depending on thickness of filet) on a lightly sprayed pan in a 375 degree oven.
     
  2. Salsas make a great addition whether during cooking, or afterwards as a dip or garnish.  Heat it up with salsa verde, picante, freshly made pico, or fun fruity salsas!  (See our Healthy Recipes for fun salsa ideas!)
     
  3. Turn that salad into a filling dinner by loading it up with boiled eggs, avocado, quinoa. Try adding in a high-fiber food like beans or legumes, and high-protein choice, like grilled chicken or salmon! You can also "beef it up" by placing the salad into a wrap made with whole grain tortilla or into a whole grain pita!  
     
  4. Canned beans are just about as healthy as fresh-cooked, as long as they are rinsed thoroughly!  For a delicious quick treat, open a can of cannellini beans and add it to ½ cup chopped onions sautéed in 1-2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and fresh rosemary.  Season with a pinch of sea salt…all ingredients are wholesome, and this dish is easy and filling!
     
  5. Love chips and dip?  Try hummus and toasted pita or seed crackers, whole wheat crackers and salmon/whipped cream cheese spread, guacamole and whole wheat corn chips, or vegetable chips with Tzatziki sauce (made from Greek Yogurt) instead of chips.   You and your family can still get your crunch on, but be putting whole ingredients into your body! If you just can't get away from the chips, try to stay with whole grain versions, ones that are made with few ingredients (our family fave is On The Border Tortilla chips with my homemade pico salsa)
fast and fresh ways to cook healthy family

It is possible to cook quick and fun dishes while keeping your family's diet in balance!  It just takes a little creativity and experimentation.  These tips should help you as you cook your way to better health – with your family!

How to Make Your Fresh Foods Safer TO EAT

We are told to eat more fruits and veggies to be healthy, and for the most part, this information is right on!  

The problem with today’s produce is that it is mass-produced with the help of all kinds of stimulants and pesticides, and then put through a several-day process: picking, then sprayed with a ripening-stunting chemical, then delivery (1-3 days), then sprayed again with a ripening-stimulating chemical…it’s not a pretty picture.  (And that was the short version!)  You may even be thinking about this entire topic, “Why even bother trying to eat FRESH foods, then?”

Well, I am a cup-half full kinda gal, and I started asking, “What CAN we do about this problem for ourselves and our families?”  Well, as answers usually go, there is always usually at least one, it just has to be found! 

There is more than one solution!

I’ve outlined a few of these simple-to-do ideas below - YOU CAN pursue healthier FRESH foods for you and your family! 


1. Grow your own - This isn’t for everyone, but it could be an answer for more families than you previously thought.  It has become easier to grow healthy vegetables and fruits for ourselves than ever before, with ideas like topsy turvys, pot gardening, herb pot gardens, community and neighborhood gardens, backyard gardens, and rooftop gardens. 

One of my favorite sayings is “Where there is a will, there is a way!”  So true than in this case – with a little work, a lot of heart, and some seeds, soil, and water, you can have better health at your family dinner table.
 

2. Buy from the small farmer, especially organic farmers – They are about the only source of “pure” produce left in our country, and they are rapidly becoming extinct.  It is heartbreaking, but something can be done – we can choose to support them at our local farmer’s market, directly from them (pick your own), and look for the signs in your grocery market that say “locally grown produce.”  I personally loved living in Texas (and now Arizona) for this reason, so much of the local produce here in the grocery stores is grown and then distributed locally.  Believe me, you can see and taste the difference!
 

3. Wash and disinfect your fresh produce – Whether organic or commercially grown, there is something simple you can do to remove pesticides, chemicals, and bacteria from your fruits and veggies before your family consumes them. 

Here are 3 easy ways to wash your fresh foods:

  • Place produce in a container or sink with vinegar (white or cider) water and hydrogen peroxide (also, just vinegar works) – ¼ cup vinegar, 1-2 tablespoons of peroxide with a gallon of water.  For leafy greens, only two minutes or a quick rinse in a strainer with the concoction is necessary, berries only need 1-2 minutes soak.  Most everything else can handle up to ten minutes of soaking.
  • Make a mix of 3 Tablespoons baking soda and a quart of water – soak or rinse fruit and veggies with it, following above guidelines.
  • Take ½ fresh lemon squeezed into 2 gallons of water and mixed with 4 tablespoons sea salt, this also makes a good natural cleaner – follow the same soaking guidelines as above.

Follow these simple steps and your family will be eating healthier while preventing the harmful effects of chemicals and pesticides in our food!

Is Fat Healthy or Not? 5 Fast Facts to Clear it Up

Here are 5 facts about fat in our diet –

Clearing up some common misunderstandings about healthy vs. unhealthy fats, how much is enough, and methods to combat unhealthy fat build-up in our bodies:

1. Healthy fats are saturated fats, or monosaturated & polyunsaturated – they are commonly found in foods like these: avocado, nuts and seeds, olive, canola, coconut & sunflower oils, seafood, like salmon – and they work to lower the risk of disease. How? Wellness Mama breaks it down on her website in a really understandable way here.

5 facts about healthy fats

2. Unhealthy fats are trans, and saturated fats – they can be found in red meat, dairy, processed and prepackaged foods, and fast food. Just another reason to keep the red meat amounts we eat LOW and the junk, fried, and fast foods to a BARE minimum!

3. “Low-fat” options aren’t the best for many reasons, especially because it is usually an item that should be eliminated from a healthy dietary lifestyle anyway. Food for thought: Have you ever seen an avocado labeled “low-fat avocado?”  {Of course not, because it’s a healthy, whole item to begin with, and needs no adjustment to make it “healthier!”  Use this rule when making healthier dietary fat choices, and you’ll make progress.}

4. Something to consider as you peruse the food choices out there and weigh "good and bad fats" – even if something is good for you, like healthy fats, always remember the “moderation” rule.  My mom always taught us growing up, “Nothing is good for you in excess – always use moderation in everything.” 

This wise gem will go a long way in your pursuit of healthier choices if you apply it to ALL choices! But ESPECIALLY with healthy fats - these can EASILY become "too much of a good thing" for many who eat high-fat diets. (Even high-GOOD-fat can be TOO high-fat!)

healthy fats

5. How MUCH healthy fat IS enough? Many authorities recommend following a general rule that looks like this: 40% carbohydrates (whole, FRESH carbs are best!) 30% lean protein, and 30% healthy fats. It could look like this: 1 ounce or 1 Tbsp of healthy fat PER MEAL + one snack = daily quota.

If you cook with any oils, for instance, measuring them out by the Tbsp is the way to go to stay on target and not go over on your healthy fats intake. If you are eating eggs, salmon or avocado - ONE SERVING of any of these = that "meal portion."

These "servings" would look like this:

Tbsp nut butter or a handful of nuts
1/2 a small avocado
1-2 eggs
1 Tbsp oil
3-4 ounces salmon
1.5 ounces cheese

Another EASY way to get enough GOOD fats in your diet:

  • Add  1 Tbsp of organic flax oil or ground flaxseed (which is even BETTER!) into your food daily to supplement the body’s need for healthy fat. This is quite easy to add into your morning smoothie! Try the Berry  Nutty Smoothie for a refreshing powerhouse of nutrients, including healthy fats!

What has been your approach to healthy fats in your eating plan up to now? Do you already enjoy these kinds of foods?

We would love to hear your experience right here in the comments or LIVE in our Online Community on Facebook!

How to Make Steel Cut Oats {Cook Once and Eat All Week Long!}

How do you make or eat healthy breakfasts like Steel Cut Oats when you're busy during the week? Cook them once before the week gets busy and they'll be ready for a quick and satisfying weekday breakfast!

How to make Steel Cut Oats

Breakfast can be one of those tough meals to get into our day - we're going, going from the minute we get up most days - and breakfast can sometimes be an afterthought. But our bodies and brains need a good breakfast, daily! We need to be eating healthy fats, proteins, and whole grains (for brain power!) - but how to get all that into our diet when we're in a rush, as mornings often are? 

PRE-COOKING and meal prep are the answer to this dilemma! Taking a few minutes on the weekend to pre-cook a few servings of Steel Cut Oats and enjoy all week long! 

Here's how...

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Steel Cut Oats
  • 4 cups water
  • Topping of choice (nuts, seeds, raisins, maple syrup, cinnamon, FRESH berries etc)
     

 Instructions:

1.     Bring water to boiling over high heat in a medium saucepan.

2.     Add oats to boiling water, and immediately lower heat to LOW.

3.     Cover pan, simmer oats in water for 20 minutes, stirring gently every 4-5 minutes or so.

how to make steel cut oats
how to make steel cut oats

4.     Turn the heat off, remove pan, cover and let it sit for about 20 minutes.

5.     Scoop pre-measured amounts (ie 1/2 cup) into small storage containers to refrigerate to use and re heat later.

...then, later in the week, for easy go-to breakfasts that will fill you, keep you feeling full and are no trouble to fix...

 

 

Reheating Instructions:

1.     Place refrigerated oats in a bowl, add ½ cup or so unsweetened almond milk or water.

2.     Microwave on high for about 1 minute or so.

3.     Stir, blending oats and milk or water, add toppings of choice.

4.     Enjoy!

6 Simple Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Why eat breakfast everyday? One good reason is, research has shown that regularly eating a healthy breakfast reduces the risk of obesity by 450%!  That's not a small improvement!

Even knowing this, many of us struggle to start the day off right.  How would you like to get in the habit of regularly consuming protein and fiber packed meals first thing in your day?!  Then this post is for you!

We're bringing you 6 choices for simple healthy breakfast ideas. 

1.  Oatmeal or Steel Cut Oats – Per half cup serving (dry) – there's FOUR grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein!  Add stevia, a drizzle of maple syrup or honey if you need a sweet boost.  Or try nutmeg or cinnamon sprinkled over it for a sugarless, though a naturally sweet taste.

Here's how to make Steel Cut Oats for a hearty, re-heatable breakfast recipe!

2.  Whole wheat toast with banana slices and nut butter – Make sure to read the label, buy only whole wheat, whole ground, or whole grain flours (will be first item on label) – if it says “enriched,” it will have no nutritional value.  This breakfast is simple to make and holds fiber, healthy fat and protein for a great start to your day!

3.  Smoothies and shakes These can become UNhealthy options if you aren't careful.  Ordered commercially, they are full of preservatives, additives and sugar – try homemade instead for a much healthier option.  My favorite smoothie recipe has greek yogurt, nut butter, ground flaxseed, frozen blueberries or strawberries, Non-GMO unsweetened almond milk, handful spinach, and half a banana all swirled into creamy deliciousness!  Packed with energy, natural flavor, and smooth to the taste, you can’t beat it!  Just make sure to add foods with protein, and little to no added sugar in your smoothies, but experiment with what makes you sip-happy! 

4.  FiberOne Honey Clusters Cereal – There are VERY few cereals I recommend at all, due to intense label-reading and discovering that most are packed with sugar and additives, and have very little nutrition in them at all.  This gem is “my kids-approved,” has only 6g of sugar in a FULL cup serving, but manages to include 13g fiber and 3g protein!  Pretty good, for a normally “less healthy” breakfast choice!

5.  FRESH Fruit – Have a banana, bowl of berries or orange for breakfast and don’t worry about the sugar grams, IF you limit your morning sugar intake to natural sugar alone!  Better for your body to ingest the natural, easily processed sugar along with fiber and the nutrients and vitamins that fruit nourishes your body with, then that muffin and commercial coffee!

6 simple healthy breakfast ideas

6.  Eggs – Scrambled, poached, over easy – we all have our preferences to the way our eggs are cooked.  Poor eggs, they have been on again, off again as nutritional additions to our diets.  Are they high in cholesterol?  Yes, but it's the kind that is good for your body, and only a problem when overindulged in. We also have to remember that when we consume packaged foods, they oftentimes include eggs in the ingredients.  As we cut down and eventually eliminate the consumption of these processed, prepackaged foods, we alleviate the problem of "too many eggs."

6 simple healthy breakfast ideas

If a person has high cholesterol, they should only be consuming 1-3 eggs per week.  If they have normal levels, the recommendation is 4 whole eggs per week.  A good trick is to eat one whole egg with 1-2 eggs whites added in.  More protein, less cholesterol.

It is easier to eat healthy (even at breakfast!) than we think - try any of these ideas and let me know - do you stay full longer when you eat one of these choices?

5 Simple Ways to Cut Sugar Out of Your Family's Diet

Here are 5 easy ways to cut sugar immediately from your family's diet.

The positive effects of trying these ideas will be felt immediately, and the long-term payoff will be worth it!

1.  Reduce or replace sodas, alcohol, commercial coffees, and other sugar-rich drinks in your choices. As obvious a solution that this one can be, it can often be painful to hear.  If you have been indulging in to many of these addictive drinks over a long period of time, the thought of discontinuing them is discouraging.  I promise you though, you will feel the benefit of helping your body get rid of the up-and-down mood and energy swings that these sugary drinks cause. 

Your energy level will increase tremendously with just this one change in your diet!

Exciting, right?

Beware of the initial slump if you've been enjoying too much of these drinks lately - you may want to set up some "guard rails" to help you get through the detoxing time. For instance, gather ingredients and recipes for some quick, energy-giving smoothies you can make in place of them.  {One you could try is our Berry Nutty Smoothie recipe!} This will both give you a tasty alternative AND help your body re-learn how to make energy from what you give it! 

2.  Cut back on sweets, breads, and processed foods.  This one can be just as hard, but the payoff is instant.  Once the processed flours and sugars are diminished, the body can begin to digest properly, which allows for regeneration. 

Energy returns, mood elevates, and fat begins to burn away. 

How much you cut back on should be directly related to how quickly you want to feel better! More processed foods eliminated = more health, more weight loss.  

3.  Start adding healthy options immediately. It is important to begin adding in to your diet healthy, robust foods as soon as you start cutting anything out. (or even, before you start cutting anything out!)  If not, the body enters starvation mode and panics, holding onto fat deposits for this emergency.  For example, if you previously ate pastries, sweetened cereal, or other sugary breakfasts, replace them immediately with steel cut oats with nuts or seeds, whole grain toast with nut butter, or eggs.  The body will adjust easier, and you will be less likely to crash and burn from hunger or that familiar "deprived feeling!"

4. Start reading nutrition labels thoroughly. Begin a new education for yourself and your family.  Start reading labels, articles, and books on sugar and ways to cut it out.  Look for new recipe ideas that are low in processed carbohydrates and sugar.  Discover new ways to add in more fiber, which enhances digestion and breaks down sugar easier.  Just by absorbing the concept that sugar is harmful, and looking for little ways to edge it out of your family’s consumption, you will make tremendous progress in improving your family’s health.

5.  Drink more water.  I know, I know, you’ve heard this one before!  Drinking 8 servings of 8 ounces minimum per day reduces waste deposits in the body, keeps your stomach feeling full, and helps with healthy digestion.  How does this help eliminate sugar?  By paving the way for a cleaner system and easing the constant “crave” you may feel for a while after cutting the bad stuff.  Eight ounces is only one measuring cup of water – simple to “eyeball” and drink!

Of these 5 ways to cut sugar out of your family's diet, which one(s) do you already do? How has it helped you and your loved ones feel? Share your experience in the comments right here on the blog! 

Lower Blood Pressure Naturally, Break up with Salt!

It's time to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally, and Break up with Salt!

In my years as a health coach, I've heard from many clients about the battle to reduce their salt intake. Many times, they realize they have to do something about their sodium levels after the doctor has told them their blood pressure is beginning to reach the danger zone. If YOU struggle with high sodium or high blood pressure, be encouraged, it's surprisingly simple to lower your blood pressure naturally if you follow some simple guidelines.

"Can't we just get rid of salt altogether?"

Many of my health coaching clients have asked me this. Seems like we could just get rid of salt, right? Since too much of it causes high blood pressure, then why not? Believe it or not, our bodies actually NEED a daily amount of sodium to be healthy! However, 2300 milligrams of sodium daily is ALL our bodies need to function healthily. And remember, this is just 1 TEASPOON, so it adds up QUICK through our foods and drinks!

Watch my quick video below for some easy guidelines breaking up with the salt in our diets! Learn more about the role sodium plays in creating high blood pressure and exactly where it’s sneaking into our daily food intake!

Salt REALITY CHECK

The typical American diet includes upwards of 1 ½ - 2 teaspoons of salt each day which adds up to between 3500-4000 mg each day. This is almost twice as much as our body needs!

High blood pressure adds another complication to this picture. Here's a quick breakdown of the numbers:

Normal blood pressure is 120/80 and pre-hypertension 139/89.

Stage I High Blood Pressure is 159/99 or above. Anything over 160/100 is dangerous - and considered moderate to severe blood pressure.

Though there are of course OTHER LIFESTYLE FACTORS that contribute to the condition of hypertension, like chronic daily stress and smoking, to name just two, we know that too much sodium intake is very closely related to high blood pressure. In fact, it is so closely related that reducing our intake of it can reduce our blood pressure (if it is high) in as quickly as a few days! Good news, right?

Here’s a quick self-diagnosis method: if your ankles swell up or you end your day with those indentations showing from your socks and shoes it’s a good bet that you’re battling some water retention as a result of higher-than-needed salt intake in your day!

The incredibly good news about all of this is that it isn't too complicated to reduce our salt intake and to support a healthy heart!

So where is sodium & salt hiding in our diets?

Look for salt hiding in these foods:

  • Breads and cereals are storehouses of sodium
  • Sauces, such as spaghetti sauce, gravy, and canned cheese sauce
  • (Spaghetti Sauce RECIPE link HERE!) Click HERE for our easy and delicious homemade spaghetti sauce recipe to use as an alternative to canned, high-in-sodium AND sugar varieties!
  • Most commercially prepared SPICE MIXES include extra salt as well! Watch out for items like Fajita seasoning, Taco seasonings etc.
  • Marinades and salad dressings are often high in sodium.
  • Canned vegetables and canned beans! Steer clear of canned veggies. You can use canned beans in a fresh and healthy eating plan, just look for low sodium varieties and make a practice of RINSING all canned beans!!
  • Canned soups and prepared pastas are all very high in sodium

Bottom line: ANY and ALL pre-made, boxed, canned, and packaged items are usually super high in sodium and contribute to high blood pressure. Fast foods and many restaurant foods are as well.

(Remember that in foods with a long shelf-life, food-like items meant to last a long time without refrigeration, salt is used as a preservative!)

"So, what can we do to reduce our salt intake and lower high blood pressure naturally?"

To lower blood pressure naturally to support a healthy heart is simple. Changing our eating habits isn't an overnight process BUT these simple steps will get you off and running in the right direction:

  1. Go back to natural, whole, healthy FRESH foods in the produce isle! Make more of your own dishes, as you can control the amount of additives and salt that you add.
  2. Stay away from take-out! If it comes in a drive through it’s super high in preservatives and sodium.
  3. Avoid all pre-prepared foods –canned or packaged soups, pre-made entrees (frozen, canned, packaged)…if you’re opening a package, at the very least READ THE LABEL and RINSE!

The cure for most of our over-indulgences or unbalanced food intake is truly a return to the “old-school way” - eating whole foods and cook meals at home. Just this one change will make a HUGE difference in your sodium intake!

Quick sodium-detox solution!

One of the reasons we include an Eat FRESH * Move FRESH * and Think FRESH action steps in our signature FRESH Start Program is because our bodies were designed by our Creator to operate fully and in wholeness if we’re moving, hydrating and purposefully thinking about our lifestyle choices DAILY!

Making a habit of balanced exercise every day, hydrating enough with water daily, and eating FRESH choices all contribute to our overall health. This way you are supporting your body’s natural ability to flush through any extra sodium you’re taking in! This also flushes through environmental toxins we’re unaware we are taking into our bodies each day.

A personal invitation...Join our FRESH Living movement!

The FRESH Living movement that began six years ago is now a vibrant community of beautiful individuals around the world, supporting each other, taking simple action steps and achieving remarkable changes in their lives!

Please let me know how we can support your healthy-living journey in any way! We have an interactive community on Facebook where we support and encourage each other daily through challenges, posts and prayers…go here to join our free online community!


Encouragement for ROUGH Days

This post is from my personal archives...I'm sharing it as an encouragement for rough days - for those days when you JUST DO NOT feel good! Here's what I posted...

So many times, when we wake up feeling ugh, it can be a major factor in how our day goes…even though we KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE that the day is fluid and our feelings are fluid and we can SO MANY TIMES change the way we feel. Or just change the way we handle how we feel! We have to find encouragement for those rough days, even when it means encouraging ourselves!

Today was one of those days for me. I woke up in utter and complete full-body pain, and I didn’t want to climb out of bed – this is day 5 in a string of really super-painful days. So I laid there, talking to myself like I so often do {giggle} and I told myself, “Bess – get up, get dressed and get going – but just move a little slower and have patience with yourself. You can do this, girl!”

Then I prayed and asked God to bring relief, to bring healing to my poor little hurtin’ body.

And then I got up.

And I got dressed.

And I’m moving a little slower and *trying* to have patience with myself {and my kiddos!}

Then I realized, ok that wasn’t a bad start, but this day has a looooonnnggg way to go!

I realized that I have to speak positive, life-breathing words to myself all day to get through…
— Coach Bess

...so these are the conversations I will be having and I’m sharing them in case you know exactly what I’m talking about and could use some good comebacks to say to yourself on those days you just don’t feel good…

When you want to say, “I feel like total crap today.” Say instead “Yes, but it is only gonna get better as the day goes on – God says I am healed and whole and I WILL FEEL GREAT TODAY!”

When your mind tells you “I am STILL. SO. DANG. TIRED.” Tell it, “After I have that smoothie and get moving a little, I will wake up more and begin to FEEL REALLY GREAT TODAY!”

On the days you just feel “The pain is out of hand and I just want to cry and give up,” tell your tricky but powerful mind, “Yes, but God gives me supernatural strength JUST FOR DAYS LIKE THIS! And I can, and I will, get through it, thanks to Him and His FRESH dose of can-do! And by the time I am up and around, this will all look a little different and I will begin to FEEL REALLY GREAT TODAY!”

And for those days that are JUST. TOO. MUCH {like my day today!} and you want to believe that you just can’t do it anymore, tell yourself, “I can DO ALL THINGS through Christ Who strengthens me!” and then SHOW YOURSELF that you and God TOGETHER have got what it takes – by getting up, getting dressed and getting moving {even if it IS a little slower than normal!}

These are NOT THE DAYS to overachieve, stretch yourself or run, run, run. These are the days to maybe work a LITTLE, but REST A LOT. These are the days to linger over your coffee or tea and Scriptures that LIFT YOU UP (not the day for 1 Kings or Genesis studies ok?! LOL} and cuddles with your loves. It’s a day to do a little less laundry and a lot more giggling in bed or on the couch. It’s a day to play soft “coffeehouse style” music and watch sappy movies that leave you dreaming.

Our “ugghh” days are a sometimes-normal for many of us, living in these broken bodies that are attached to a healed promise, yet often in a “yet-to-manifest” current reality.
— Coach Bess

BUT that isn’t the end of our story! This isn’t the final chapter!

THIS IS JUST OUR “NOW.” And God’s strength is enough. Even if it doesn’t always “feel” that way! But we’ve got to remind our narrow minds that He is there, His strength is enough, and this is not the end.

I would love to hear your heart, your experience! What have you found helps you get out of bed and turn the day around on your tough days?

”ENCOURAGEMENT

FRESH & Healthy Thanksgiving Day Menu

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because of what it means – a time to rest, relax and celebrate our blessings. A time for family and friends, gathering together for fellowship and feasting!  

And this FRESH n' Healthy Thanksgiving Day Menu is the perfect way to do that!

Traditionally, here at the Blanco house, we open our home and Thanksgiving table to others, not always just family or friends, but people God puts in our path to bless! {Shhh, don't tell anyone, but this year, I'm taking the day off and we're going out for dinner with visiting family...but this is my first year ever not cooking! Hubby Juan is joking that he's afraid I may like taking it off too much, too! LOL}

Still baking the homemade Sweet Potato Pie, though! It doesn't feel like Thanksgiving without it!

Coach Bess' Thanksgiving Day Menu

  • Appetizer/Veggie Tray
  • Herb Stuffed Turkey Breast
  • Mashed Cauliflower & Potatoes
  • Green Beans & Sweet Onion Slivers sautéed in olive oil w sliced almonds
  • Greens
  • Coach Bess’s Stuffing with green apples, sausage & pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • Cranberry, Apple & Orange Relish
  • Sweet Potato Pie

Prep-Instructions for every delicious Thanksgiving menu item!

FRESH appetizers - veggie tray – I serve raw FRESH veggies with guacamole or dill dip, along with pickles, olives and other FRESH finger foods while I am cooking. This year I’ll put out sweet potato chips and seed crackers with small bowls of hummus & tabouli, to give us a protein boost while we wait!

Herb-Stuffed Turkey Breast – Stuff handfuls of poultry herbs, 2-3 mashed garlic cloves and a few pats of butter under the skin of the turkey breast, then place the skin back over the breast meat. Bake as normal (though using only a turkey breast bakes rapidly compared to a full bird.)

Mashed Cauliflower & Potatoes – Steam a full head of cauliflower florets while boiling 2-3 medium to large diced potatoes. Then mash (either by hand with a masher or in the mixer) potatoes and cauliflower together with 1/3 cup chicken broth, drizzle of olive oil, chopped herbs, 3-4 mashed garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp salt, cracked black pepper.

Green Beans & Sweet Onion Slivers sautéed in olive oil with sliced almonds – Use fresh or frozen green beans, rinse in a colander. Set a large fry pan to medium heat, drizzle olive oil and add the slivers of sweet onion. Saute the onions about 5 minutes, stirring to cook evenly. Add the green beans in with the onions and sauté about 3-4 minutes longer, then sprinkle in a few sliced almonds and remove from heat. (The sweet onions and olive oil create a sweet, savory flavor that permeates the beans!)

Greens - Try making them with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice for a tangy take on the flavor as they cook down. Greens actually only need about 10 minutes of cooking on medium heat (add in some diced sweet onion and minced fresh garlic for flavor!) Delish!

Coach Bess’ Stuffing with green apples, sausage & pumpkin seeds (pepitas) – I use whole wheat bread mix for stuffing from the store, (just make sure that there aren’t any additives, like flavoring packets. They contain too much sodium!)

Saute 1/2 pound of ground sausage in a pan, drain and set aside. Meanwhile, saute ½ cup each of diced sweet onion and celery in a pat of butter mixed with olive oil until softened. While those are cooking, peel and dice the apple into fingernail-sized chunks. Once the onion and celery cools, mix it together with the sausage, bread mix, and apples. Add chicken broth to the mixture, 1/2 cup first, then 1/4 cup at a time, to get to the desired texture.

If you prefer a soft, moist-textured stuffing, then bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. If you prefer dry, crunchy texture, serve and eat the stuffing immediately after mixing ingredients together. Either way, add 1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds) to the stuffing immediately before serving.

Cranberry, Apple & Orange Relish – Instead of sugar-laden cans or commercially prepared sauce, try using a food-processer to chop 1 cup fresh cranberries, 1 sweet apple, 1 orange, and ½ cup walnuts together into minced pieces. Mix hot water with 1 package of sugar-free red jello mix (as if you’re making jello!), then pour over the minced fruit and nuts in a bowl and chill in fridge for at least a couple hours, if not overnight. Serve in dessert dishes with a squirt of canned whipped cream (which is LOW sugar!) for a delicious alternative!

 

Sweet Potato Pie – Find the recipe here -->Healthy Sweet Potato Pie <-- for a simple and healthy addition to the holiday sweets selection! Rich in nutrients, this pie is hubby Juan’s special request every year.

And my BIG DAY prep timeline (what I make and when!), to save time and hassle

Day before:

• Sweet Potato Pie (taste better cold, and after chilling for a few hours anyway!)

• Cranberry Relish (Can chill for up to a day!)

• All chopping & dicing (Cauliflower for side dish, all FRESH veggies for the relish tray, celery & sweet onions and onion slivers for the green beans)

Thanksgiving Day:

  1. Put the stuffed turkey breast in the oven in enough time to cook, and leave an additional 30 minutes for it to set before slicing and serving!
  2. Begin the process to boil the potatoes, steam the cauliflower about an hour before serving, to leave enough time to prepare, but not too much as these are best served right after beating and adding ingredients!
  3. Leave at LEAST an hour prep time for stuffing (more like 90 minutes if you are baking it)…
  4. Greens and Green Bean dish can be prepared immediately before serving the dinner (about 20 minutes prior, begin preparing them).

I hope this menu has inspired you to be well-prepared and think ahead for your own Thanksgiving Day feast! There are so many ways to keep this meal healthy, fulfilling and special to your family members. Finding simple ways to add veggies and fiber, cut down on cream and sugar and butter yet keep FLAVOR in your memorable dishes is very possible, even on this biggest-eating-days of the year!

Join in the community Thanksgiving fun!

All week long in our free online community we'll be sharing FRESH tips to get us all ready for a healthier Thanksgiving! On Thanksgiving Day we’ll share our family feast pictures and we’d LOVE for you to come by and share your pics too! Stay in touch during this amazing time of year and we’ll sail through strong together!

Cook FRESH this Thanksgiving, and from my family kitchen to yours, I send you blessings of the season!

~ Coach Bess

”Fresh

Natural Thyroid Treatments {How to Detox Your Everyday for Thyroid Health!}

We're sharing today's post from our friend and Mentor Coach here at FRESH Start, Heidi Hovde from Salisbury, Massachusetts!

She is a Certified Holistic Nutritional Health Coach, mama of 4, wife to Aaron and recently our guest on the FRESH Living Talk Radio show about Detoxing our Everyday for Thyroid Health. She shared life-changing information for all of us to use in natural thyroid treatments! You will be GLAD to read this incredible article and if you haven't heard the show yet, you can listen to it HERE.

Here's Heidi...

I am honored today to share with you some exciting and rockin’ news about detoxing your everyday for natural thyroid treatments. I have so much information to share with you (due to my own personal story and years of research!)

Here's my “message in my bottle” - I will do my best to summarize; and at least get you started, thinking about what you can do to make small gradual changes in YOUR everyday life for a healthier thyroid!

Your thyroid gland is part of your endocrine system. It is the little butterfly-shaped organ in your throat area. When you have thyroid disease, you have what is called an autoimmune disease/disorder. I personally have Hashimotos, but others who are affected by thyroid imbalance have Grave’s Disease, hypothyroid or hyperthyroid disorder, or a goiter. All of these conditions affect the same gland, the thyroid. This organ governs so many of the functions in our bodies. Having a thyroid imbalance can cause a lot of implications because of this “lil butterfly in our throat.”

The thyroid regulates these body functions:

  • Heart Rate
  • Mental Clarity
  • Emotional Balance
  • Organ Function
  • & Stress Hormone Response
  • Inflammation Response

Foods to Avoid while trying to detox and create better thyroid health:

  • Gluten
  • Sugar - including artificial or sugar substitutes
  • Processed foods, dyes, and additives
  • Caffeine and alcohol in excess
  • Sugar-free/diet products
  • Soy

Most importantly, something my Medical DOCTOR never told me, until I saw a Naturopath MD…

Avoid: Raw GOITROGENIC foods (otherwise known as cruciferous foods) plants of the cabbage family, broccoli, collard greens and kale. Unless you prepare them steamed, baked, or sauté! In raw form, these normally-healthy foods create inflammation in the body. Strawberries are included in this group of foods!

Green smoothie lovers make sure you steam your goitrogenic foods at the beginning of the week and freeze them so you can still add them to your smoothies.

Foods to ADD IN for DETOX & thyroid health:

  • Drink WATER!
  • Sea salt, sea vegetables such as kelp, nori, (seaweed snacks) I like to add them to soups for ease.
  • Brazil nuts for selenium
  • Whole foods such as greens, veggies, fruits, fish, seafood, grass-fed organic beef, and chicken.
  • Coconut oil helps restore thyroid function and actually increases the metabolic rate leading to weight loss.
  • Properly prepared/soaked gluten free grains (rice, quinoa, and gluten free oats)
  • Burdock root
  • Superfoods such as Acai, Goji berries, Cacao, Turmeric, ginger, and green tea to name a few

Detoxing our Personal care products is key to maintain healthy thyroid function:

Our skin is our largest organ, what you put on it enters directly into your blood stream within minutes. Did you know that Europe has BANNED over 1300 harmful chemicals from personal care products and the USA only bans 11! Oh my word no wonder we have such a toxin problem and the rise in autoimmune disorders in the USA continues to climb! These chemical are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors! The word FRAGRANCE on a product actually means the maker is hiding any amount of over a 1000 known toxins!

Our day begins and we brush our teeth with Flouride toothpaste (fluoride is an endocrine disruptor.) We slather on shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, skin-care products, makeup, lotion, and perfume. We have literally slathered ourselves with parabens, triclosans, and oxybenzones, just to name a few endocrine disruptors! (Don’t panic, there are hundreds of non-toxic options we CAN use!) Little by little, one step at a time, we can make better toxin free choices. Contact me HERE if you'd like to explore the options I use and love!

Another important product to look at: women’s feminine products such as tampons and pads!  They contain bleached cotton and the toxin glyphosate. There are organic or toxin-free options available, do your research and swap them out!

Detoxing our cleaning and household products:

Dish soap, floor cleaners, dryer sheets, laundry cleaners, all-purpose cleaners are made up of mostly toxic chemicals. Start using more natural products like baking soda, vinegar, lemon, and essential oils, just to name a few natural options. If you don’t want to make your own, check with me HERE, this is great resource for non-toxic laundry, dish cleaning, and all-purpose cleaners.

Plug-in air fresheners and sprays are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors as well. If you need something to smell wonderful in your house, seek out essential oils and fresh fruits that can make your space smell amazing and also calm your nerves. Double POW!

Environmental toxins & other exposures to avoid:

  • BPA plastics in our kitchen containers, water bottles, etc ( a better option is glass or stainless steel containers and water bottles)
  • Shower curtains containing PVC
  • Mercury filings/Dental work leach neurotoxins into our bloodstream. Heavy metals can alter our immune system as well (Dr. Mercola is a great resource re: dental do’s and don’ts)
  • Microwaves: Avoid cooking in microwave ovens. Reheat foods on the stove top.
  • Cellphones: Avoid prolonged use of and storing your phone on your body. If you need to be on long calls or use your phone often try using an ear piece or bluetooth device. These EMT’s (Electromagnetic transmissions) directly affect your thyroid gland.

Supplementation for any deficiencies in the thyroid:

  • Good quality multi-vitamin
  • Toxin free fish oil
  • B vitamins
  • Co-enzyme Q10
  • Vitamin D
  • Probiotic - digestive enzymes is a must!

Decrease “Toxic Stress” in your life:

Learn the power of the word” NO!” You can’t be everything to everyone. You can’t be at every event and party. Nourish the relationships that bring you peace and joy. Eliminate the drama and “Toxic Relationships” in your life.
— Heidi Hovde, Certified Health Coach

 

Get appropriate sleep:

  • Keep the cell phone outside of your bedroom.
  • Shoot for at least 8 hours of sleep
  • If you are tired during the day, allow yourself a nap and rest.

Relaxation techniques:

  • Yes BREATHE; breathing exercises are amazing to increase energy and decrease stress.
  • Color!
  • Do yoga
  • Pray and meditate
  • Get outside in nature and get some good old-fashioned fresh air and sunlight

One more thing I wanted to mention is that we also have something called "chakras" in our physical being.

The chakra in the throat area is the on related to the thyroid. These energy centers of our body can get blocked, or sluggish. We need to keep these open and not restrict them with negative self-talk. Negative self-talk directly effects our thyroid gland. So the moment you get that “I am not good enough” thought, or “I am not doing enough” thought in your head, let it go! Don’t let it make it off the tip of your tongue and out of your lips. You are good enough. Give it to God and he will handle it. Pray and Praise yourself daily.

Remember, detoxing your lifestyle as you know it is a gradual process. Start small in one area of your life and work on that. Then, little by little, you can make huge progress in decreasing your toxic load for better overall and thyroid function!

Be well,
Heidi

Dealing with Stress and Hormone Imbalance Naturally

Enjoy this guest post today from our friend, Dr Daisy Sutherland, founder of Wholistic Fit Living! She was recently our guest on the FRESH Living Talk Radio Show and taught us more about dealing with stress and hormone imbalance naturally - by making simple, natural changes to get back in balance!

 

Stress. It has many meanings to different people.

It’s not a new concept, yet both male and female can’t seem to control their stress. If you don’t control your stress or at least learn to manage it, stress will kill you! Yes, you read that correctly. Stress kills and unfortunately many people in particularly women feel that stress is simply part of their genetics.

Many women will say that stress is part of their ‘make-up’ and without it they could not function. Although that may be true in a sense, stress is something that can be managed and even more so if we are aware of what may be causing it.

Hear more about what Dr Daisy shares about stress, hormones and balance in this informative and helpful episode of FRESH Living Talk Radio Show!

There is this interesting hormone in our bodies called cortisol and when we are stressed it tends to rise.

When it rises, we will naturally feel our blood pressure rise, our hair stands on end and our breathing become labored. Some have claimed it felt as if they were having a heart attack when it was merely cortisol levels that increased and sent the entire body into a crazed frenzy. Before you give in to the notion that a stressed life is what you must lead and there is no hope, understand that you are in ultimate control of your body and many times what you stress over are things that are out of your control. If you can’t control it why worry, right? Easier said than done but it is quite necessary to do.

Now that you know that cortisol plays a huge part in your body when it comes to stress, what can you do? There are many techniques, such as taking cleansing breathes (my favorite), aromatherapy, physical exercise (another of my favorites), and quiet time. Cortisol levels rising and falling are considered imbalances. The cortisol levels will rise, causing your body to go into the ‘flight or fight’, where your blood pressure rises and your breathing is erratic and you simply can’t focus. Or the opposite will occur, where the cortisol levels will fall and you are suddenly exhausted, can’t focus and simply want to crawl under the covers.

Were you aware that there are foods you can eat that will help with this hormone imbalance?  Some foods that you want to include into your daily diet to combat hormonal imbalances (especially cortisol imbalance) are dark greens such as kale, spinach, and collard greens. Citrus fruits also bring balance, so try adding oranges, limes and lemons to your diet. Ginseng and herbal teas help to reduce stress as well. Ginseng and other herbal teas contain adaptogen, which can help the body manage stress and normalize bodily functions.

Below is a recipe I'm sharing with you today!

Easy Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe with Olives and Roasted Red Peppers

Ingredients

12 oz. whole wheat Rotini pasta 1 can black olives, drained well, then cut in half 12 oz. jar roasted red bell pepper, drained well and diced 1/3 cup vinaigrette dressing 1/3 cup pesto 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. Fill a medium-sized pot half full of water, add a generous amount of salt and bring to a boil. Add pasta, and cook 9 minutes (or check package for cooking time if you're using whole wheat pasta.) Drain pasta well, and let cool for 10 minutes while you prep other ingredients.

2. Pour olives into a colander, drain well, then cut olives in half.

3. Pour red bell peppers into colander, drain well, and dice into small pieces.

4. Combine vinaigrette dressing and pesto, whisking together.

5. When pasta is cool, stir in enough dressing to coat the pasta. (You may not need all the dressing, but save it to add if needed after the salad has chilled.)

6. Add olives and roasted red pepper, and stir gently to combine.

7. Cover salad with plastic wrap or a lid, and refrigerate for 1-3 hours.

To serve, remove salad from refrigerator and stir in 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more dressing if needed to moisten salad. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Other things you could use in this salad to change it up: -diced marinated artichoke hearts -marinated mushrooms, cut in half -cooked turkey Italian sausage, cut into small pieces -turkey pepperoni, chopped -grilled vegetables of any type such as zucchini, mushrooms, onions, or summer squash -cubed fresh mozzarella cheese.

My Purpose is Bigger Than My Plate {Losing Weight Naturally - 141 Pounds Down!}

Rhonda's Story - Losing Weight Naturally CAN BE DONE! 

Read on to find out how Rhonda (now a Certified FRESH Start Coach!) lost over 140 pounds without shakes, pills or surgery...she is a passionate woman living on purpose to now serve others who struggle with weight loss! You will be highly encouraged as you read her amazing story...

Seven years ago on a chilly February afternoon, I decided to bring my friends together to my home for a special Valentine's Day celebration. Most of them were single during the season so celebrating how much they were appreciated and loved was  significant.  I will never forget that day: it was also the day I discovered my internal mantra and message that I would go on to live by and spread as my mission: "I Simply Love Her." I've always had a passion to help others to both recognize and acknowledge their worth and purpose.  In 2009, I even started to host vision board workshops to help women create visuals that represented their self-love and purpose meeting their destiny.

Interestingly enough, I had a bit of problem conveying the message of loving self because I walked around, weighing in at 329 pounds.
— Rhonda Ferebee-Hammond

 

One life changing day three years ago, I asked a co-worker: "If you came to one of my workshops, would you be able to receive this message of vision from me while I carry this weight?"  Her honest response was: "Please don't get offended by my honesty, but I find it repulsive when people carry around that amount of weight." Repulsive...it cut like a knife, but I was determined to take those words as fuel to begin the quest of my life. I was determined to face the fight that I had been running from for years. I ultimately faced my most difficult challenger: myself.

People around me always assumed that I was happy because I always greeted them with an infectious bubbly smile. Nevertheless, inside I constantly struggled with the demon of self control and discipline, earnestly seeking to find the right plan that would finally help me to shed my unwanted weight.
— Rhonda Ferebee-Hammond

In the wee hours of morning faced with desperation and a spirit of willingness, I fervently prayed and resolved that something had to be done; after talking with my husband, we agreed that I would get weight loss surgery.

In June 2012, we embraced the surgery process and started all the testing, awaiting a surgery date. All was going according to plan, until my life was interrupted on August 28,  2012; I lost my job leaving me without health insurance.

Weight-loss surgery was no longer an option for me.

In despair, I attempted once again to lose the weight. I began to take daily walks and boy, was it challenging; I did not realize that I had put on so much weight, that my back would scream in excruciating pain with every morning walk.  Still, I did not give up and began to have faith that an answer would soon come.

One day while watching a commercial on television, a familiar face introduced a woman who shared her stirring, weight loss journey and triumph, encouraging her listening audience to call, to which I heeded.

I heard many a success story of people who lost hundreds of pounds and were able to maintain their target weight without surgery, pills or shakes.

However, plans involving this level of success, usually required a significant monetary investment and since money was tight I decided those types of programs were not for me.  I was referred to a program that required no pills or shakes and just required me to make more deliberate healthy choices at the grocery store.

On January 4, 2013, I started my journey and with the help of Skype I talked to a lady in Africa that began to walk me through the plan.

Since then, I have shed 141 pounds and  I feel amazing.  I have a new look on life; my marriage is renewed because we do so many more things together.
— Rhonda Ferebee-Hammond

 

My family structure has changed because I'm not in my room loathing over an empty life filled with shame, guilt and depression.  Finally, I look forward to eating healthy, living and sharing recipes with others.

With much excitement and hard work, I started to train in May 2014 for my first obstacle course with a team of ladies from our group, "Team Burn It Up Onpurpose." Since l started my weight loss journey, I knew there would be others that needed the support and accountability of a group to encourage, empower and motivate them through our weight loss journey.

It is personally amazing to hear and see the achievements of others; it gives me the motivation to keep on going and I love it.

As a wife, mother, leader and speaker, I'm constantly reminded of the daily tasks and full schedule I have. However, what I keep in the forefront of my everyday commitments is me, making self-love a priority.  Clean eating and meditation with God is part of my lifestyle, in addition to continually remembering that I need to have a fitness slot on my calendar to keep moving. Fitness is key in maintaining continued success.

My plan follows a 12-step motto and was a bit challenging at first, but it continues to give me discipline, support and the accountability I need. 

Its been over two years and I still have thirteen pounds left to lose to reach my goal of losing 154 lbs; there is no doubt with continued focus and hard work, I will succeed.

This journey has been more than awesome, it's been indescribable and I would not take away one moment.  Most of all I am grateful; before it was hard for me to walk in the message of loving self after a life of failed yo- yo diets, many obstacles,  the death of my mother and living in constant fear.  However, I now have the tools I need to succeed and maintain my success. Some days are up and some are not so up, but  I can truly say there is a new-found fight in me to make wellness part of my story. I now "Simply Love Myself" for making this decision!

To get in touch with Coach Rhonda and learn more about her story, visit her at www.rhondahammond.com or on Facebook at www.fb.com/rhonda.ferebeehammond!

Spring Clean Your Pantry With FRESH Foods {FREE Printable!}

It’s that time of year again, isn’t it? Spring cleaning time for your kitchen! Cleaning, organizing and arranging our homes and habits to do away with the old and make room for the new! Let’s start with that dreaded corner of the kitchen that is SO vital to have in place for our FRESH family meal plan, but NOT always the most fun to clean out and organize - the PANTRY! Here's what my pantry looked like BEFORE I cleaned it up for the health coaching video you can watch below!

For myself, to have the BEST options for my family meals and snacks at our fingertips, a thorough spring cleaning of our pantry was in order! So I’m sharing with you what we stock on a regular basis—our family’s main stay healthy choice options so that I can put together the FRESHest dinners or snacks quickly and easily.

Watch the video below to see what I stock my pantry with every week!

Here’s what you will almost ALWAYS find in my kitchen pantry:

#1. Keep a bowl of FRESH fruit for the family on the counter.

Choose fruits that are on sale and in season to help you stay in budget. - These items stay fresh longer when they are left out in the open, on the counter

#2.  Breakfast items: cereal, ready-to-make oatmeal – try to use only the types that are low sugar

  • We do use low sugar instant oatmeal occasionally, but the best is old-fashioned oats. (Just cook with water, a bit of cinnamon and a bit of brown sugar for a delicious breakfast!)
  • Nature Valley protein bars—high in protein, low in sugar!
  • Low or NO sugar Greek Yogurt parfaits with FRESH fruit and homemade granola are another fave around here!

This is just a short sneak peek of our breakfast items. We do LOTS of smoothies and eggs are OFTEN on our go-to list for breakfast.

#3.  Dinner prep – canned beans and healthy whole grains

  • Black Beans
  • Cannellini Beans
  • Brown rice pasta (Though we usually only eat pasta once a week or so)
  • Quinoa (red and white!) and brown or wild rice mix

#4. Vinegars and cooking wine and sauces – to keep the flavor intact without commercial seasonings!

  • Rice vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar (in homemade salad dressings, with sautéed greens)
  • Red wine vinegar (in crock pot meals and roasts)
  • Balsalmic vinegar (use with roasted veggies or over fresh tomato, mozzarella & basil salad)
  • Low sodium soy sauce OR Bragg's Liquid Aminos in place of soy sauce (use often in stir-fries!)

#5 Sweeteners

  • True, pure sugar or brown sugar (use VERY LITTLE!)
  • Light syrup or sugar-free syrup (Mrs. Butterworth’s Light for pancakes)
  • A bit of stevia for sugar-free lemonade and limeade and coffee or tea

These two are the ONLY pure and natural found-in-nature sweeteners (and MOST of what I use!):

  • Pure maple syrup
  • Honey

#6. Pantry FRESH veggies

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes

#7. Nut butters

Ideally, low-sugar varieties of almond butter, peanut butter or other nut butters

#8. Reduced sugar ketchup & other condiments

 #9. Raw nuts (though I often keep them in the freezer for BEST freshness)

#10. Oils I use:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Canola, Sunflower, Avocado & Other Plant Oils (SOME Coconut Oil, VERY little)

#11. Snacks

  • Seaweed Snacks
  • Drink Mix – Crystal Light Pure (has Truvia instead of aspartame)
  • Nesquick - 25% less sugar chocolate drink mix

Bottom Line for Spring Cleaning YOUR Pantry:

STICK with YOUR personal tastes and mainstays – you are the cook in your own kitchen, you know what works for you! Wean out super-processed and packaged snack foods…anything with “fake” food-like ingredients. Stick to whole, pure & FRESH foods as much as possible. (Good rule of thumb is to follow the 80/20 rule…80% FRESH and whole foods, 20% “other” or treat foods!)

To make keeping your pantry stocked with healthy items easier, we've put together a couple of free printables for you!

Click on the image{s} below to download and print these helpful sheets for your kitchen!

Coach Bess' Must-Have Pantry Staples Inventory Printable

We'd love to hear from YOU!

What are the top 5 must-have staples that can be found in your pantry? Share with us in the comments section below!