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We are officially into Week 3 of this Stress / Wellness Challenge. I hope you have already noticed some things regarding what causes or increases your stress, the ways you cope with that stress and, more importantly, I hope you have had the chance to identify some less healthy ways you cope with stress that you would like to change (and by change I mean replace with healthier coping habits).

Now it’s time to start taking action! This week we are talking all about Food & Nutrition. Yep! My favorite topic :) . This is for all of us “stress eaters” or “stress non-eaters” out there or those that may be eating in ways that increase stress and don’t even realize it! So, here we go, this week’s info on Managing Stress Through Nutrition…


  • Eating foods that specifically contain fat and sugar cause a release of hormones, like dopamine, that promote a feeling of well-being & satisfaction.

  • We turn to these foods because our brains know that they will produce these good feelings and combat the impact that the stress response has on our mood.

  • The release of cortisol can intensify emotions & motivation and, in turn, increase excitement and motivation or desire for these foods.


  • Norepinephrine and cortisol are involved in learning & memory, especially around negative emotional events.

  • When we eat certain “comfort foods” after these hormones are released in stressful events, our memory is set to remember this coupling in future stressful events.

  • We begin to associate feeling stressed & feeling better with eating these particular foods.

  • Stress begins to promote more habitual behaviors at the expense of cognitive, goal - directed actions (aka, we stop thinking about and then deciding to eat the food, we just do it).

  • We no longer consciously think about how to cope with the stressor.


  • Sugar, fat and salt combinations increase the response in the brain.

  • Dopamine may stay elevated the more multisensory a food is.

    • ice cream + hot fudge + crunchy peanuts = GIVE ME MORE, PLEASE!

  • In one study, participants ate more M&M’s if given 10 colors vs 7 colors (which equaled over 100 more calories)


  • Increase in blood sugars (plus decrease in insulin sensitivity that can be found with chronic stress)

  • Increased abdominal fat (visceral fat)

    • Puts us at greater risk for metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease

    • Remember, when stressed, our bodies tend to store fat / energy around our middles because this is where important organs are that allow us to convert stored energy to glucose to “fight” or “flight”.


  1. No skipping meals!

    • Skipping meals causes a roller coaster affect on our blood sugars that leaves us lethargic, less mentally sharp and less able to tackle projects and obstacles.

  2. Include salmon & tuna

    • The vitamin D in salmon is part of the serotonin - producing pathway and can help promote feelings of calm & well-being.

    • Both salmon & tuna contain omega 3’s, which promote brain health and help decrease inflammation in the body

  3. Include whole grain carbohydrates

    • The carbohydrates promote serotonin production to help calm you down

    • The protein and fiber in the whole grains help steady the blood sugars (so they don’t spike & drop like in refined cookies, chips and candies, putting further stress on the body)

  4. Include leafy greens, beans, oranges

    • These are all high in folate, which helps the body produce energy!

    • Also, in some studies low folate levels have been found in those with depression

  5. Snack on fresh fruit

    • The natural sugar can help satisfy a sweet tooth plus provide the body with tons of antioxidants, fiber and fluid to keep energy levels up!

    • There have been benefits found in dark chocolate so I’m totally not opposed to a little dark chocolate if you can watch portions. It just depends on the individual.

  6. Crunch on vegetables and whole grain crackers or popcorn

    • Did you know the actual act of crunching has been found to reduce stress? Crunch away stress and tension with these healthier options and also get a dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber and fluid!



  • How do I use food to cope? Do I use food to cope?

  • I could use food to help manage my stress in healthier ways by _____________.

  • Stress - fighting foods I already include or that I would like to start including are ________.

Happy Fueling & Take Care!



It’s officially Week 2 of this stress management / mindfulness challenge!

How have you been mindful this past week?

What did you learn about how your body responds to stress last week? Did you learn anything new about your sources of stress? Definitely hold on to those discoveries and keep them in mind as we move forward!

Today we are building off of last week by looking at what you intentionally, or unintentionally, do to cope with your stress. For some that could be exercising, not exercising, eating, not eating, smoking, drinking, avoiding, yelling and the list goes on. We are also going to really dive into SLEEP this week. Yep, many of us don’t realize the important role that sleep plays in our stress levels, our ability to manage our stress and in the decisions we make when we’re stressed. I’ll mention again at the end, but this week the focus is:

  1. Determine the ways (positive & negative) that you cope with stress.

  2. Look at your sleep patterns. How many hours do you get, on average, a night? How do you feel when you get less than what you know you need?

  3. Are there any ways you can adjust your schedule to allow for more and / or better sleep?

Ok, diving in!


  • Gives our bodies the time it needs to recharge

  • Allows for optimal memory, alertness, decision making and reaction time. (Important for everyone, especially when driving a car, and the young athletes who are practicing or playing their sports for hours each day AND taking tests and quizzes in school. And, absolutely those recovering from injuries!)

  • Allows our bodies to repair and build muscle (particularly important for my exercisers out there and the young athletes I see)


  • Initially, there is a rise in growth hormone which increases glucose in the blood and decreases insulin so that our blood sugars don’t drop while we are sleeping

  • In the morning, cortisol levels rise and our bodies begin to utilize the glucose


  • How much sleep we get can affect how stressed we are and how stressed we are can affect how much sleep we get!

  • Studies have found greater levels of morning cortisol in those reporting job and life stress. Remember, that some rise in cortisol is natural. It’s when it becomes too much and for too long that we start seeing the negative results (refer to Week 1 post)


  • Our bodies make hunger hormones called LEPTIN & GHRELIN

  • Our sleep cycle helps regulate these hunger and satiety hormones

  • Leptin tells the brain that we are full and to stop eating

    • we have decreased levels of leptin during periods of sleep deprivation

  • Ghrelin is secreted from the GI tract and tells the brain we are hungry

    • we have increased levels of ghrelin during periods of sleep deprivation

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  • Studies have found that when we don’t get inadequate sleep, not only do we tend to eat more, but we also tend to choose carbohydrate foods higher in fat and added sugar. (so I don’t mean grabbing a slice of whole grain bread or pasta. This is not saying carbs are “bad”. This is saying we grab the pie, the cookies, the cake, the bigger portion of fettuccine alfredo. And in moderation, these are not “bad”, it’s when we eat them consistently to cope and in larger portions, not being mindful, that it becomes a concern)

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  • May lead to weight gain (increased appetite + increased craving for higher energy foods that we may not be burning off)

  • May lead to weight loss (a decreased appetite also occurs in some. But eating too little can alter your metabolism so is not healthy either).

  • Can affect whether you lose muscle or fat in your weight loss.

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  1. Determine the ways (positive & negative) that you cope with stress.

  2. Look at your sleep patterns. How many hours do you get, on average a night? How do you feel when you get less than you know you need?

  3. Are there any ways you can adjust your schedule to allow for more and / or better sleep?


Also, a few resources that I thought provided some good information can be found here. Check it out and see what practices work for you!

An article by the National Sleep Foundation:

An article by dietitian Amber Massey from Food & Nutrition Magazine:

As always, comment with questions or let me know if you want my sources (there is a very lengthy list) and I’ll send over.

Take Care!


Stress Challenge Week 1: HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU'RE STRESSED?

Hi! I want to welcome you to WEEK ONE of this Stress Management / Mindfulness Challenge.

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As I said before, stress can take quite a toll on our health and well-being. Today I want to (1) share a few points with you telling you a little bit about what happens to our bodies when we are stressed and (2) then challenge you to carve out time in the next few days or week to notice how your body tells you it’s stressed and what are the things causing your stress, big or little. Hope you find this info helpful and are able to take some time each day to reflect on our weekly challenge.

Now, let’s dive in!


  • Stress is anything that acts as a challenge or threat to our well-being or normal routine.

  • Not only is it the “threat” but it is also the way that we respond to that threat.


  • Yes! Stress can be positive when it is short-term. This would be like before a test, a speech or a race. It makes us sharper, more efficient, and productive. Stress in this form is actually useful and can give a person a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of being in control


  • Stress becomes negative when it is prolonged (over 24 hours) or chronic.

  • In this form, stress stops being beneficial and our performance and efficiency start to decline (read further to understand why…)


  • Our body releases CORTISOL and through a chain of reactions we experience:

    • increased blood sugars (via a process called gluconeogenesis, which is making glucose from non-carbohydrate sources)

    • fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism

    • inhibition of insulin production (to try and prevent glucose from being stored b/c the body things it needs that for energy to fight the “threat”)

    • suppressed digestive system (hence stomach problems when stressed)

    • suppressed immune system (hence why we are more prone to getting sick during times of extreme stress)

  • Our bodies also release ADRENALINE, which leads to:

    • Increased heart rate & blood pressure

    • increased energy supply



So, there are our facts for today.


Now I want to challenge you over the next few days or week to notice the following:

  1. How does my body tell me I’m stressed? (How does stress manifest itself in my body)

  2. What are the things that cause my body to tell me I’m stressed (take note of the big and the small)? Examples could be anything from a situation at work to something popping up in your day that’s not on your calendar. Whatever they are, make a note)

Please feel free to DM me or comment on this post with questions or info you would like to share! And, as always, let me know if you would like to see any of my references. I’ll probably wait and post them at the end, but can always pass along if you want them.

Happy Fueling and Take Care!


A Six-Week Stress Management Program: Let's Go!


Hi!  If you’re reading this post then I’m guessing you’re interested in taking a more focused look at this idea of “stress management”.  If you follow along with me over these next six weeks, you will be taking some time to identify your stressors, figure out what your coping patterns are and start replacing any negative patterns with healthier ones.  As we go I’ll also be sharing science based information to help you understand the science behind stress and how it affects things like sleep, appetite and health goals AND give you any tools I (and my intern) have found to help out!

I know this is a little different from my usual recipe and sports nutrition posts, but I think this topic and practice is SO IMPORTANT no matter who you are or what you are trying to accomplish (I’ve done lots of research because this topic fascinates me!).  In my last seven years in Wellness not only have I read and researched the role stress plays in our health, but I have also seen the toll that stress can have on ones food choices, weight, drive to exercise, and overall health and well being.   I think it’s so important that I have started a program at the organization where I work.  Because I feel it’s so important, I also wanted to give you guys some of the science-based information and resources that I will be sharing.  

I don’t think everyone realizes what stress can really do to us.  It affects our cardiovascular health, our ability to maintain or build lean muscle, our ability to lose or maintain weight, our overall mood and so much more.  Therefore, this topic applies to athletes, young and older alike, exercise enthusiasts, moms, dads, aunts, uncles and those working away in the corporate world.

I’m going to give you one mini challenge each week but I’ll also be sharing my information, tools and resources with you to help out.  And, I’ll be doing it along with you!  So stay tuned in to my Instagram and Blog!  

SO, what are the details?

WHAT: A six-week challenge devoted to being mindful of your stressors, examining how you cope and building healthier coping habits to keep you on track with your health and fitness goals.

WHEN: I’ll be sharing a new post with new info and a new mini challenge each week. And I’ll point you to some resources that may be helpful!

WHY: To learn a bit about stress and how it affects our health AND to start building healthier stress coping habits

WHO: Anyone who is motivated and ready to make a few lifestyle changes. It’s up to you to make the changes. I’m just here to give you guidance, a structured program, and some resources along the way.

Happy fueling & take care!


Making Changes When We're Stressed and a Little Bit on Stress Management

Lately I have really felt the need / desire to implement a good stress-management program at the office.  Some people may not see the benefit here and ask "why?  How is that helpful?  What will your metrics be?  Why don't you do another fitness, nutrition or weight loss challenge?  To which I would reply, "Because how could we not?  How can we not even consider implementing a challenge or program that helps us cope with and be mindful of the very thing that usually makes us need those fitness & weight loss challenges to begin with?  It seems appropriate to me to create a challenge that targets the main reasons that we "stress eat", stop exercising and gain or have trouble losing weight to begin with. On top of that, whatever we are stressing over probably occupies the majority of our thoughts anyway and so why wouldn't we want to take a focused amount of time to tackle that so that we can fully turn and focus on our desired health goals?.

Often we look at weight, high blood pressure, and elevated blood sugars as the root problem.  Thus, we immediately turn to exercise, nutrition or medication to help us "get healthy".  For some, changing diet and adding exercise is easily incorporated and 100% the solution and that is excellent.  However, for many of us, we have to dig a little deeper because the "fix" 'we are searching for actually lies somewhere beneath overeating and under-exercising.  When I see individuals for nutrition coaching, an initial consult goes way beyond food and exercise.  We talk about work life, home life and any stressors associated with both.  We talk about sleep patterns and schedules and what is going on in life before ever diving into nutrition recommendations.  Why do I do this?  I do this because beginning a change during life's more stressful stages is setting yourself up for a frustrating road with higher chances of failure, which then leads to greater stress and self-frustration down the road.

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Many times (but certainly not always) I see the root cause of high blood pressure to be stress, often accompanied by limited physical activity, and the root of unintentional and unwanted weight gain, which can incorporate other health concerns like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, etc., to be stress-eating.  While some people decrease their intake and unintentionally lose weight when stressed, many others may begin to stress-eat and overeat. Not only might we overeat when we are stressed, avoiding our natural hunger and satiety cues, but when we eat out of stress we also choose foods that will calm us down such as those foods high in carbohydrates (but are also typically higher in calories and sometime simple sugar) or foods high in fat and sugar that blunt the "stress feelings" with "happy feelings" for the time-being.  On top of that, the fact that we are stressed causes us to store fat around our abdominal area, which increases our risk of heart disease.  

I'm certainly not trying to cause more stress in anyone reading this.  I'm only trying to call out the importance of managing our stress.  In sessions where I find that the client is under some serious stress...that's the first thing I address.  There may be a food / nutrition component to my recommendations, but nothing drastic in terms of diet, unless medically necessary, is recommended at this initial visit.  In the first weeks we talk about coping and recognizing stress and ways to respond without using food (of course if it's more serious stress or anxiety, I refer out to a certified counselor).  I also never mention food as good / bad.  Food is food - first let's deal with the stressor.  We'll start working on weight loss or other big diet changes and a structured exercise program once we can develop a few stress management practices to help during the stressful time.  Of course exercise is welcomed as a stress reducer, and I encourage it when appropriate.  However, I do not recommend initially if the thought of having to find a way to fit it in the schedule causes more stress in itself.  

So, with all of that to say, what is your stress level right now on a scale of 1 to 10?  Are you trying to make big diet and exercise changes during stressful times?  I encourage you to put those aside just for a short time and focus specifically on your tackling your stressors.  It could be a week, two weeks, or two months - you be the judge.  After that is when bigger diet modifications can come into play.

I know that this isn't easy.  When I'm stressed I still catch myself saying "tough it out", you'll get over it.  However, when I do this and don't stop to take a moment and incorporate some stress-reducing practices, I find it only makes things worse. 

People can show stress in different ways and it's important to know how stress manifests itself in you specifically.  For me I've realized that stress makes itself evident to me through:

  • headaches / migraines

  • stomach aches

  • feeling tired when nothing has changed in my schedule

  • I get short with people (I may not verbally express it, but mentally it's not good)

  • Small requests begin to feel like a burden

  • I have trouble focusing

  • My hunger and satiety cues get way off. For me I typically lose my hunger cues.

Days or weeks that I'm really stressed or anxious, my most helpful stress-management practices are:

  • carving out alone time - to read, to write, to process

  • carving out time to create - to brainstorm recipes, articles, and get-togethers with friends

  • calling a family member or friend who I know will listen and who can make me laugh

  • cooking and eating home-cooked meals

  • inviting close friends over for dinner

  • going on a walk or jog

  • reading my Bible and journaling

  • going to bed on time

  • and sometimes only dark chocolate will do the trick :)

Do you know when you're stressed?  What are your signs and symptoms?  Do you know that your stressed but at the same time you're working on major weight loss, diet, or lifestyle changes?  If you are, or even if you are not,  I encourage you to take a little time this month to take note of your emotions and any actions you find yourself habitually taking in response to those emotions.  Are those actions nurturing and life giving?  Are those actions something that can help reduce your stress and stress response long-term?  Or are they short-term fixes that can be harmful to your long-term health?  

Try making a self-care checklist for stressful times and stick to if for a month or so.  Feel the difference and feel confident in your coping before setting bigger weight-loss, fitness, or wellness goals.

And as always, share in the comments if you have practices that work for you!  We all learn best from each other.

Take Care!


Our Weekend in Chicago

Hello & happy Wednesday!  Today I want to share with you our trip to one of my favorite cities, Chicago.  I wasn't sure where to put this post so, because visits here always reenergize and inspire me, I decided to place it under "Wellness".  Chicago is where my husband lived when we first started dating.  Well, he actually lived in Evanston, a cute town about 45 minutes outside of the city.  On those initial visits we spent lots of time in Evanston but made regular trips into the city.  Then, after school he lived in Logan Square, which has its own unique vibe with restaurants, shops, running routes and a buzzing and vibrant Saturday Farmers Market.  I have always loved exploring the different parts of this fascinating, friendly, and historical city.  On this visit, the explorations continued as we explored another part of the city that I had never been to, went to sporting events, learned about the city's architecture, took a new form of transit and found a new fun place for a cocktail.  Of course we couldn't only do new things;  We had to throw in a couple of our favorites as well.  It was a fantastic weekend filled with new and old and today I am sharing with you some of my Chicago favorites from our trip and encouraging you to start planning a trip for your next summer vacay!




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Kyle has a good friend that lives in Chicago and so on this trip we got to stay with him at his apartment.  He lives in a part of Chicago called Old Town right next to Gold Coast.  I'm sure I have more of this area to see but I loved even the small part that I saw and experienced!  The neighborhoods were composed of apartments and town homes surrounded by trees and greenery that made you forget you were driving through a huge city.  Not only was the area pretty, but his apartment was a very short walking distance away from a main street lined with restaurants and shops, which is where we had breakfast on Sunday morning.  This may be one of my favorite neighborhoods in Chicago so far.



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Mmmmm, the food.  I am never disappointed by the Chicago cuisine.  I enjoy trying all the restaurants that everyone raves about, but I really love finding the hidden gems that fly under the radar.   We definitely found that in this Italian spot, Buona Terra, near Logan Square.  We actually discovered this cozy spot while Kyle was still living here.  You can go fairly casual or you can dress up.  It's owned by a family that works the restaurant (or at least they did when we were there about 2 years ago.  We stopped and chatted with them at the end of our meal) and I always feel welcomed the minute I walk through the door.  On this visit I ordered their Farfalle alla Dominic, a dish of ravioli stuffed with butternut squash in a browned butter and sage sauce, and holy cow - it's incredible.  You can never go wrong with sage in a pasta dish, in my personal opinion (see my Garlic Sage Garden Gnocchi I posted a while back).  The contrasting flavors of the mildly sweet squash, the tang and bite of the Parmesan, and the smooth and savory components of the sage are the perfect combination.  I can't rave about it enough.  Kyle got a pasta special with scallops and our friend got the Rotini di la Nona, a dish of ravioli stuffed with veal in a brandy cream sauce topped with fresh mozzarella.  Both were equally fantastic.  If you're around or up for a trip to Logan Square, I highly recommend this hidden gem.  



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The next night we went to Gino's East for pizza with a bunch of Kyle's business school friends.  I initially thought this place was local to Chicago and just discovered that this is a actually a touristy place with locations now in other states.  However, despite it not being a one-of-a-kind pizza joint, it was started in Chicago and I still really enjoy it!  Kyle and I stopped in here on our last visit because it was late and we needed a place that would be open long enough for us to grab a bite.  This pizza is unique in that it has a cornmeal crust and most of the crust is on the outside, not the bottom.  If the cornmeal thing is not your style, I would probably recommend somewhere else.  However, I like their unique crust and I love their vegetarian pizza, which is packed with layers of roasted eggplant, zucchini, red onion, mushrooms, and basil.  I think it's a perfect place to take a big group.  It's casual with lots of room, and we've always had excellent service.



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Sunday's favorite meal was at a little breakfast spot in Old Town called Kanela Breakfast Club.  I loved it!  It's a fairly small spot but they serve a variety of standard and unique dishes.  It had a little bit of a rustic vibe, but then as we moved towards the back, something about it made me feel like I was eating at my favorite neighborhood diner and was going to start seeing familiar faces.  I ordered a make-your-own scramble filled with all the veggies and some breakfast potatoes topped with sliced avocado plus a side of fruit.  My meal did not disappoint.  This establishment offered delicious food with a cozy atmosphere and friendly and attentive service.  I definitely recommend.  We went early on a Sunday before church so there was not a wait, but if you walk up later on a Saturday or Sunday, I would expect at least a 20 minute wait - maybe more.  



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This was my first Cubs game and my first trip to Wrigleyville.  The street is lined with bars and restaurants all leading up to the stadium.  Everyone's excited and the energy is high.  My husband got to be here the night the Cubs won the World Series and I can more vividly imagine the excitement and energy of that night having now walked through the streets.  



Cindy's is the rooftop bar on the very top of the Chicago Athletic Association.  This establishment is the one place I think Kyle and I have stopped in on every visit.  We usually grab a drink or a small bite on the second floor, which I think is called the drawing room.  It feels like you're in an old library as you pull up to big wooden tables or nestle down in large comfy chairs to rest and chat.  On previous trips it has either been too cold to go to the rooftop or the line has been too long (you can most likely expect a wait for the rooftop bar).  On this particular trip, however, we were able to go up to the top for a drink at Cindy's.  It has a fun atmosphere with exposed brick walls and an outdoor balcony that holds another bar and a beautiful view of Chicago.  I hope we can make it back on our next visit!



This is not an establishment.  These are bikes that you can rent to take around the city.  We rented them and took them all the way from The Loop to Old Town, following the lake.  It was a fun way to see the lake and get active on our weekend away.  I would have taken a picture but I haven't quite mastered the art of photographing while biking.... maybe next time!


 Carbide & Carbon Building

Carbide & Carbon Building


On Sunday we got to squeeze in the Historical Architecture Tour.  There are a bunch of architecture tours offered in the city but we did the Chicago Architecture: A Walk Through Time.  I really enjoyed it because I got a refresher on Chicago's history and it talks about the development and history of the city through the architecture of its buildings.  I think is is fascinating how each of the buildings can tell part of Chicago's story.  We did the architecture boat tour on my first trip to visit Kyle in Chicago and that is also a must!  Next on my list is their "Historic Treasures of the Golden Age" tour.  I have heard some great things about this tour as well.  I highly recommend these as a way to see and learn about the city! 


Oh, and after our last official stop on the tour Kyle and I veered off and took one last stop, grabbing a farewell drink on the patio of a restaurant at the bottom of Tribune Tower.  It was so pretty and peaceful and tucked away from the busy streets.  They seemed to have a fairly large beer list and a fun cocktail selection.  We sat, sipped and reflected on the weekend.  It was the perfect ending to our trip!

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Taking some time to travel is something that restores and rejuvenates me.  Travel may not be that for you, but whatever that thing is, I hope you got to take part in it before the school season began or that you're planning to squeeze it in before the hectic holiday season ramps up.  Even if it's just a day or two or even an hour or two, it can make such a difference!


Take care!


Start Where You Are

Start Where You Are:  Being a wellness leader, when I wasn't well, and how it has shaped my wellness perspective.

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I have contemplated the direction that I want to take this blog and, after lots and lots of thought, have decided that I want this to be a space where not only do I share my favorite recipes as well as wellness & pediatric sports nutrition info, but I want it to also be a place where I am real and share a little bit about myself and my own experiences as well.  I want to do this because deciding to study nutrition and focus on wellness and sports nutrition did not make me who I am today.  It was growing up, my experiences as a young athlete and who I am that made me and continue to propel me to study nutrition, focusing on wellness and sports today.  Understanding who I am may help you understand my love for this field and my commitment to providing the best, most current and science-based information that I can.  I'm going to share more with you and would, of course, be thrilled to have you share with me. 

So, I'm devoting today's post to Wellness.  I want to get a little deeper and talk to you about something that has been on my mind lately.  I want to share with you something I went through, a little bit about how I dealt with it, how I came out of it different than when I went in, and how this impacted my wellness mentality.


Let's look at this idea of "wellness".  We see "wellness leaders" all over social media.  They post fancy recipes, workout plans in super cute workout clothes and talk about how much water to drink and how much sleep to get at night.  I'm not putting them down in the slightest.  This is great and inspiring and, as a wellness leader in my community, I certainly have posted my fair share of recipes and articles on hydration and getting fruits & veggies & the importance of sleep (although not so much workouts in snazzy workout clothes b/c fashion isn't my forte :/ ).  However, what about when life gets tough?  Like, really tough?  When it throws you a curve ball so hard it smacks you in the face and knocks you flat?  What does wellness mean then?  How do we stay well at this point?  More importantly, how do we continue, as wellness leaders, to promote a culture of wellness to those around us?  This could mean in our workplace, in our community or in our home (I see this applying to moms and dads in charge of children in the home or leaders at work, church or the community as much as I see it applying specifically to defined "wellness" leaders).  I've found through my life experiences that, in these tough phases of life, wellness can start to look a little different.

Part of my story goes a little like this:

Almost 2 1/2 years ago, I woke up to a phone call from my dad, telling me that I needed to come home because my mom had passed away during the night.  There was absolutely no warning.  She wasn't sick and her physical a few months earlier had come back completely normal.  That morning as I stared blankly at my roommate in disbelief, tears welling up in my eyes, trying to get the words out to tell her what had happened, I was overwhelmed by the sudden realization that life had changed.   In one second I felt like my life had turned upside down.  I immediately flew home and took time off from work to help organize her funeral and spend time with family.  The Monday after her funeral was my 30th Birthday and the Sunday after that was Easter.  If felt like the punches kept coming.  However, the office doesn't take a time out and so two weeks after her funeral, the week after Easter, I was back at work where I found my wellness responsibilities waiting patiently for me, right where I had left them.  The thing about a wellness role is that it's not really a job you can hide behind your computer and feel sad, angry, confused, or whatever mood you are feeling that day, in that moment.  In my mind, I was supposed to be creative and inspiring, upbeat, smiling, mingling and actively encouraging others, looking to see how we can help employees and how we can continue to make Wellness programs better.  But, how do you pour into others when your tank is empty and, really, what you need is others pouring into you?  There were days after returning to work where I thought, "how the heck am I going to do this?"  Those past attitudes and actions that came so easily were suddenly so difficult.  I walked around smiling and encouraging when what I craved was to be alone, to process, to grasp this new life - a life without mom, a life without her laughter and a life without her weekly random but upbeat and always encouraging text messages.  Days were exhausting.  Not only was I drained from trying to push back feelings all day and being something I wasn't, but it threw me that what came so easily for me before, was now so difficult.  I felt guilt and frustration over what I told myself I should be doing in my job (based on what I was previously doing) and what my body and mind was telling me it needed.  This went on for a very exhausting year.

So, why am I writing about this?  Well, what I discovered through this is that wellness can mean different things and look differently at different times in our lives.  The most important wellness practices to me before my mom passed away were quite different from the most important wellness practices to me after she passed away.  Of course we still need plenty of water and sleep, fruits & veggies and exercise (sorry guys, that will never change :) ).  But what about alone time?  What about giving ourselves grace?  What about self-care?  My need to be with good friends or reading my Bible or talking to my dad on the phone trumped the need for having meals prepped for the week.  Being there for another friend who was going through something just as tragic far surpassed my need for a long run or exercise class.  During this phase of life I learned what self-care really meant for me and how crucial this practice is for our own personal wellness.  

During this time I learned  that:

  • I needed more sleep than normal (which was really hard for me b/c if you know me, you know I'm typically up with the birds and ready to go)
  • What stress can physically do to you.  My muscles were so knotted up from stress & tension I was getting a massage weekly b/c no amount of meditation or stretching was working them out.
  • I needed more time to journal and process.
  • I needed lots of 1-on-1 time with close friends, which fortunately they gave me without asking because I would have never admitted that I needed it :)
  • Some things aren't as important or "stressful" as I originally made them out to be.
  • Some days I just flat out wasn't ok.  I was sad or down or confused and there wasn't any getting myself out of it.  
  • I wasn't always energetic and enthusiastic but that didn't meant that I didn't care about my job and purpose of serving our employees.  I actually felt more compassion and more empathy in my job and my desire to help those around me was greater.  I was just expressing it differently.
  • Most importantly, I learned what it meant to give myself grace and what it looked like to practice that daily.
 I found this small journal (of course from Paper Source, one of my favorite stores) that I would take a minute each day and jot down where I was.  How I was feeling that day.  Now I keep it around b/c I love the statement on the front,  "Start Where You Are".  It reminds me that it's ok to feel / be wherever I am when I wake up each day and to move forward from there.

I found this small journal (of course from Paper Source, one of my favorite stores) that I would take a minute each day and jot down where I was.  How I was feeling that day.  Now I keep it around b/c I love the statement on the front, "Start Where You Are".  It reminds me that it's ok to feel / be wherever I am when I wake up each day and to move forward from there.

Not only did I learn these things about myself, but I also, more importantly, learned to be ok with them.  I told myself that it's ok I don't feel 100% today, or that, today, I can't find my "go get 'em" attitude.  It's okay that I need more sleep this week, and that I don't have the mental capacity to go to that huge group function tomorrow night.  As I practiced this, and stopped beating myself up for not feeling how I used to feel or how I thought I "should" feel my smile, my genuine laugh, my motivation and all of those other things previously familiar and natural to me started to come back.  And, today, while I'm not the same wellness leader I was three years ago, I feel stronger and just as confident, equipped with a slightly different mentality grounded in self-care.

I think many people, including myself 3 years ago, look at wellness as solely fitness, eating the right thing, and getting your yearly physical as a means to keeping your labs in normal range and feeling good.  While I still think and know these to be very important, I now also see the practice of self-care as one of the top wellness practices, if not THE top wellness practice, there is.  The thing is, I realized that I do not see it frequently focused on or talked about.  To me, self-care, which can kind of blur the line with stress management, is the root of so many of our wellness goals whether that's achieving a healthy weight, having more energy during the day, or getting our blood pressure and cholesterol to a healthy level.

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I want to challenge those of you reading this today to pick one month where self-care is your focus.  Maybe it's this month of August into September as school begins to start (if you have kids) and the holidays are approaching.  It requires listening to your body and determining what you need that day, that week or that month.  Now, I don't mean extra cocktails or skipping really important commitments or extreme emotional eating that leaves you feeling worse (some degree of emotional eating can be normal and natural though).  I'm asking you to do what will make your body and mind feel better long-term.

How did I lead a Wellness Program when I wasn’t well, myself?  I did it by learning about another side of wellness, the side that’s about self-care, self-compassion, and grace, and spending time in it.  I allowed myself to be where I was that day and not be hard on myself for it.  I acknowledged the fact that I still had the same end goal in my wellness programs and plan but that my means of helping others and carrying out my responsibilities and goals may have looked a little different on some days.  I now saw wellness in a new light, from a different angel, and wanted to achieve the same results in a slightly different way. 

Do you allow yourself grace and practice self-care during harder times?  It’s extremely freeing and, I believe, a key player in the realm of wellness.  It can rejuvenate you and get you back to yourself, which ultimately improves your health and the culture around you.  This month or one of the months to follow, figure out what self-care means for you.  Practice it.  How does it affect you?  How does it impact your health goals?  Comment if you would like.  I would love to hear feedback on this and learn what your form of self-care is.  We are always learning from each other!

Take Care!









My 3 Key Principles for Hosting Dinner Any Night of the Week

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For those of you new to the blog, I love cooking and I love hosting friends and family for any meal of the day.  I also love my work as a wellness director and sports medicine dietitian, my volunteer work in the Junior League of Dallas, evenings with my small group, and spending time with my friends and family, including an adorable niece and 2 nephews :)  With that said, whether it's just me and my husband or a house full of guests, I don't have tons of time to make complicated dishes.  This is why I was so excited to have discovered over my years of long days, night classes and evening meetings that dishes don't have to be complicated to be delicious.  I began to discover this years ago back in grad school and I continue to test and prove this theory each week that I prep and cook for myself, for my family and for others.  This is what you will find here at Taylored Nutrition or as you follow along with The Dining Dietitian;  You will find simple, fairly low-maintenance dishes full of flavor.  Plus, you will find a few wellness and sports nutrition facts and tips interspersed along the way :)

To clarify, this post is NOT about weekly meal prep.  This post is about preparing a meal for yourself, your family or your friends after work or on the weekend when you have NOT meal prepped.  This post is about how I prepare a meal after work or at the end of a busy Saturday that doesn't take tons of time and labor, allowing me to still enjoy our company. 

So, what is my thought process for evenings and meals like this?  What kinds of meals do I prepare and how do I plan so that the meal can be made in a timely manner without leaving me stressed and exhausted by the time we sit down to eat??  It comes down to my 3 main principles...


1.  Pick one "high maintenance" item.  

2.  Pick one to two "low maintenance" items.  

3.  Pick one "no-fuss" item:  

What exactly does this look like?  I'll give you an example from a while ago when Kyle and I had my previous Bible Study leader and her husband over for dinner.  When I have people over, I really like to have things already cooking and I like for whatever is left to be fairly simple b/c I'm really awful at genuinely engaging in conversation while I'm cooking.

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This particular evening we made some of my favorite dishes.  We made a Roasted Beef Tenderloin with a Rosemary Chocolate and Wine Sauce (thank you, Ellie Krieger!!  This dish is delicious and one of my favorites for special occasions and entertaining!), spinach and brown butter gnocchi, a mixed greens salad and Cinnamon Apple Tarts for dessert.  This might sound complicated but it fits perfectly with my Three Principles.  My "high-maintenance" item was the brown butter gnocchi because it requires pretty constant attention on the stove.  My two lower maintenance items were the roast tenderloin and the Cinnamon Apple Tarts.  The roast tenderloin requires a quick sear and then roasts in the oven while you whisk the sauce and tend to the gnocchi.  The Cinnamon Apple Tarts are made at the very end of dinner (click the recipe link for details).  My "no-fuss" item was the salad, which we made way in advance and had it in the fridge ready to go.  When time to serve we drizzled good olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar on top and were done!

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If this sounds too complicated, apply the same principle with the foods more comfortable for you.  For example:  Your "high maintenance" item could be grilled shrimp (outside or inside on a grill pan).  Your 2 low-maintenance foods could be (1) vegetables that roast in the oven while you grill the shrimp and (2) quinoa that cooks over the stove (very hands-off) while you tend to the other items.  Your "no-fuss" item could be a salad just like in my example above.  Another way to look at it could be to make your "no-fuss" item slices of hearty whole grain bread and your your salad could become your "low-maintenance" item that you throw together right before or right after you grill the shrimp.  I used to think every part of the meal had to be something spectacular.  Then I realized, no, really one item can be that and if the other items taste good and round out the meal then everyone is happy!

This was a quick overview but I hope this gives you somewhat of framework for choosing the menu when you're hosting friends and family in a pinch.  I hope that you can create delicious meals while still enjoying the evening and your guests.

Happy Fueling!



My Trip to Memphis: Cupcakes & BBQ

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Some of you may have seen my Instagram posts this last weekend and thought, "What?  Isn't she a sports and wellness dietitian?  How does this match up?  How is she talking about nutrition for sports and health but then her posts show pictures of eating BBQ mac & cheese and chocolate strawberry cupcakes?" 

I thought I would take this opportunity to write a non-recipe post because I do think this topic should be brought to light.  As a young or adult athlete, it's important to surround yourself with mostly nutrient-dense fueling foods to support your workouts and training.  However, it does not mean that you have to eat "perfectly" all the time.  What does "eating perfectly" really mean anyway?  A sports or fitness "diet" (and I use the word "diet" here to define a way of eating - not as a means of restriction) still makes room for food that you love that may provide nothing more than satisfaction and a smile.  

Like you have probably heard many other dietitians say, strict restriction, whether in the form of calories or of certain foods, only leads to eventual feelings of deprivation and then overeating those foods later on.  In the end that is counterproductive for the athlete or exerciser.  

As a young competitive athlete, I probably took this too seriously in the beginning, being overly rigid on when I allowed myself "treats" or those foods I really loved but didn't think were "good" foods for my sport.  Later on, after I had changed my food and meal mentality and was eating more, eating on a semi-structured schedule to support my training and allowing myself those favorite foods when I really wanted them, that is when I actually started seeing improvements in my performances.  No, I didn't eat french fries or chicken tenders before I went out on the ice, but I may have included them later on when it wouldn't be a pre-event meal.  I ate my favorite warm chocolate chip cookies when I really wanted one and loved grabbing fro yo with my friends.  I was incorporating some of my favorite foods into my regular balanced nutrient - dense meals & snacks and focusing more on the placement of these foods vs elimination. 

As athletes and exercisers, we need to remember that it's all about meal and snack timing.  When I go in and talk to high school athletes, I'm not telling them "oh, you can never eat a hamburger" or "yeah, you have to drop the ice cream for good".  No, I actually never talk about eliminating.  What I talk about is placement and what type of foods our bodies need for the best workouts and performances.  I talk about what those pre and post event meals and snacks should consist of to give us the most energy and the best recovery so performance can improve and injury can be prevented.  I have the same overall message for adult exercisers.  I ask them to think about and create their plan.  I ask them to write down their nutrition plan to support training and performance, which includes pre and post exercise meals and snacks.  This sets the base and then other foods that may not normally be in your plan can be added when the occasion arrives.

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So, back to Cupcakes and BBQ.  I love fresh, simple meals.  I think that's pretty clear from my Instagram account.  I have learned over the years what foods fuel great runs and workouts for me and what I need after to help my feel stronger for future sessions.  However, if I'm in a new city then I'm going to be curious and try new foods or, if I'm in an old familiar city like Memphis, I'm going to enjoy those foods that bring back memories.  When you go to Memphis, you've gotta have BBQ.  I have a goal of taking my husband to a different top BBQ place in Memphis on each visit, so this past trip was to The Commissary.  I'm not a huge sweets person, but when in Memphis, I have to take a trip to Muddy's.  It's the best cupcake shop local to Memphis and it was started by a girl who graduated from my high school.  It was a fun, relaxing and delicious trip to Memphis mixed with reading, running, resting and eating at all of my local favorites.  So, no, I don't eat a cupcake or big plate of BBQ before a long run and I certainly didn't eat them before an ice skating training session, but I will enjoy it on a trip home to Memphis where I want to soak up all of my familiar favorites.

Whether you are a competitive or elite athlete or a fitness enthusiast, remember that all foods can still fit into a sports nutrition plan at the right time.  Eat to fuel and recover most of the time, but allow yourself to still experience the joy of food and the joy of eating.

Happy Fueling!


My Top Ten Tips for a Fun & Fueling Holiday

I know what you're probably thinking - "ugh, the unavoidable 'just eat in moderation' holiday dietitian post" (insert eye roll).  Well, this may be a little of that (sorry, can't help it), but I'm hoping it still also encourages fun and freedom in food this season.  I'm a full believer that the holidays should be enjoyed and traditions should be celebrated, both food and non-food traditions alike.  However, I've also worked with enough people who come to me after the holidays saying, "oh my goodness, what did I do?! "  So much of what they worked for during the entire year was "undone" in one season.  My thoughts are that there has to be a happy medium - a place where food (or some might say the guilt around food) doesn't consume our thoughts, a place that allows us to enjoy the season and all that it brings, and, yet, a place that doesn't majorly move the needle on our health and wellness.  This is the sweet spot where I aim to live during this season and that's where I try to help clients live as well.

In the spirit of finding and living in this sweet spot, I'm sharing my Top 10 Tips that I try to incorporate into my holiday lifestyle. Whether you follow them all or you choose to simply follow one, my hope is that they help you have a happy, healthy, and guilt-free holiday season.

Happy Fueling!




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  1. LOCK AWAY THE GUILT.  Before you can move on to any of the other tips, make sure you get this tip down.  Enjoy those foods that only come around once a year.  Enjoy the Christmas or Hanukkah cookies that have become a family tradition, the stuffing that your aunt makes every Thanksgiving, and those little red and green m&m's that are suddenly in every glass bowl you pass.  If you decide to partake, please enjoy it and savor it - no looking back!  Well, unless, of course, it's to think about how deliciously wonderful it was :)
  2. UNLOCK YOUR TENNIS SHOES.  Same goes for your jacket, your gloves, and your warm hat.  Don't let the cold weather keep you from moving.  Stay active but don't hold yourself to a strict program like you may have done outside of this bustling holiday season.  In other words, give yourself a little break.  These weeks and months can be stressful and packed enough as they are without that added pressure of bumping up your workouts and logging all of the gym time!  Try planning active get-togethers with friends and other families as a way to stay active but still stay social.  Staying active is proven to help manage stress and improve mood, so try to keep it as a weekly priority as the calendar gets booked and stress levels start to rise.
  3. KEEP YOUR DAYS BALANCED.  If you know you're going to a party that night that will have lots of deliciously rich foods, get your veggies, fruits and lean proteins at your other meals that day.
  4. NO SKIPPING MEALS.  Don't skip meals during the day to "balance out" the party that night.  Most likely you will overeat at the party and may end up consuming more calories that day than if you had eaten breakfast and lunch!
  5. PLAN, THEN ACT.  Assess the spread and all that is offered.  Decide what you REALLY want and add that to your plate vs. the items you sort of want or know you can get at the next gathering.  Once you know what you want, then start making your selections.
  6. PLATE, DON'T GRAZE.  By putting food on a plate and then eating, you know how much you have had and you can keep portions in check.  Grazing at parties is sort of like eating out of the jumbo chip bag when you get home from work ravenous.  There is no "stop" signal in place...until you're at the very bottom of the bag.
  7. DON'T FORGET YOUR VEGGIES.  I say this because, yes, having veggies on your plate will help add fluid and fiber, which will help keep you full and help keep the calories in check, but I also say this because fall veggies (and fruits) are wonderful!  And there is this small window in which we can savor them.  Please don't forget these.  Try something new or try an old favorite in a new recipe.  Challenge yourself to include veggies in at least 2 of your meals a day this season.  Not sure what to pick in the fall and winter months?  Check out my FOODS OF FALL blog post from last year for ideas and inspiration.  
  8. LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.  There are so many sweets and treats and rich foods during this season.  However, do you really really love all of them?  Pick what you love, or, if you are cooking, cook what you love, and leave the other decadent items to someone else. 
  9. BRING STRATEGICALLY.  Not sure what kind of options will be offered at the party?  Make your dish something you know you will eat.  Be in charge of a hearty salad, the veggie side dish, a crudite appetizer, or a charcuterie platter filled with fresh winter fruits and nuts along with unique cheeses and meats.
  10. GET CREATIVE WITH DESSERTS. Think outside the box when it comes to desserts.  The holidays can be filled with rich decadent desserts, but have you tried warm baked apples or spiced pears with ice cream, homemade whipped cream or chocolate drizzles and toasted hazelnuts?  These can still be delicious and feel decadent while keeping your waistline happier.