Fad Diets: Fact vs. Fiction

Fad diets are quick fixes that promise drastic results in a short period of time. They may cause weight loss, but they almost certainly cause the person to gain weight back and do not result in long-term weight loss.  So what works? Moderation, attention to calories in and calories out, exercise, and balance.

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Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating doesn't mean eating slowly, eating very little, or even eating "healthy" things. It's about noticing what your body is telling you-what it needs, what it wants or doesn't want, how you feel, and what it smells/looks/tastes/sounds/feels like to you. Example: pepperoni pizza

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How Visualization Works

Last week we discussed how to cultivate your optimal health vision in order to discern your goals. The example I provided was for a female patient who was instructed by her doctor to lose 20 pounds in the next 6 months. Here I am writing to her and any person presenting to health coaching with a desire to lose weight.

Note: Make sure you speak to your doctor about your weight loss aspirations. We live in a society that glamorizes starvation and size 00 as a representation of beauty, especially for women. Please consult a mental health professional if you feel that your relationship with your body, food, or exercise is unhealthy. Although it’s not the most accurate tool (because muscle weighs more than fat), remember to use the BMI tool to see where you fall. As an eating disorder survivor myself, I know what I’m talking about!

Visualization, when it comes to weight loss, is a technique where you picture your ideal body. You imagine yourself (often) looking many pounds lighter and feeling free from your body image crisis. Using visualization for weight loss allows the time and space for your mind to work with your body in order for you to overcome any potential or unknown mental barriers on your weight loss journey.

Weight loss visualization helps create a subtle shift inside of your body. Sometimes this shift is craving healthy foods or wanting to eat less. But more often than not, this technique will help make your body slowly adjust to what you're visualizing in a more organic way, not forced. It can be applied to many other things aside from weight loss, but today I want to teach you how to use it specifically FOR weight loss.

I’m going to give you an amazing visualization technique that you can use each and every day (several times a day!) to start your weight loss journey using your mind, body, and soul. Please keep in mind that it won’t occur right away, so don’t expect to shed 50 pounds in a month. Instead, this technique is meant to help you continuously lose gradual weight so you don’t hinder your weight loss journey.

Step 1: Relaxation

This step is fairly simple. Well, most of the time at least.

For any visualizing you are trying to do, you need to be in a state of deep relaxation. One method to reach this state would be meditation. You could also take some time to yourself whenever you aren’t working and play your favorite music while eating some good nutritious food. I have even heard of some using this visualization technique while they were drifting off to sleep or taking a break while going to the bathroom. Your visualization, your way. Whatever works best for you!

Each step relies on you and what is comfortable for you. So once you find a good way to relax and calm your racing thoughts, then move on to the next step.

Step 2: Solidifying Your Goal

This is a very important step. It helps to set intention! During this stage, remain focused on the positives of why you want to lose weight. It can be hard, but being positive and positive reinforcement are the best motivators to function and to accomplish our goals. You are essentially creating a statement in your mind of what you would like to do.

Typically, the more explicit and exact your goal is, the better. But keep in mind that you should still be realistic. For example, saying “I want to lose 40 pounds by this time next year so I can walk the stairs without effort” is better than just “I want to lose 40 pounds.” It really solidifies what you are working to do and what you are working towards. Visualization is working to help counteract that urge to give up by promoting more internal motivation that is realistic and attainable.

Step 3: The Image

This third step is where the crux of visualizing begins. Once you are truly relaxed, then you should begin imagining a very vivid image of your ideal body. This can be anything from how you looked 2 years ago to just yourself in a leaner body.

There are two main things to think of during this step:

  • Does the image you have in mind match what you are aiming for?

  • How vivid is this image?

The first is fairly easy to answer. If you’re only trying to lose 20 pounds to start after being obese at 220 pounds, you won’t be there next month, assuming you are adhering to a healthy weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week.

The second is a bit more difficult to explain. So I will instead reference an article by Jon Gabriel, who wrote about his weight loss experience with the visualization technique. In “5 Tricks to Visualize (And Get) The Body You Want,” he writes about what exactly he pictured himself as: very thin and fit with a defined stomach and tighter skin. So picture the fine details of your future self:

  • Is your face thinner?

  • Do you have muscle definition?

  • Do you just want to feel firmer?

Step 4: The Ideal You in the Future

It’s time now to imagine yourself over the next few days and months. Picture you and your ideal body doing your typical day-to-day tasks. Picture your new self in your leaner body having conversations with friends. How does that make you feel? This helps cement the fact that you and your ideal body can, in fact, become a reality.

It also gives you an idea of how your weight loss should naturally progress. You can’t expect to be 200 pounds today and 125 pounds next week. There’s just no possible way for that to occur naturally and healthfully.

Step 5: Begin Working!

Once you have your visuals of your future self, it’s time to come out of that state of relaxation and visualization. It’s time to let that image motivate you. It can motivate you to eat better, work out more, or begin working on creating healthier habits if that is both achievable and makes you put some effort in. BUT the most important part of this technique is that you will have a visual and positive feeling about your goal. Not just a NEED to lose weight. These are two very different things.

What A Great Technique! I’m Going to Try It Out for Myself Now!

At least that’s what I hope you’re thinking now. As with everything in life, from weight loss to getting your to do list checked off, you need to put effort forward to see results. This technique, as I mentioned in the beginning, is only to help you on your weight loss journey and to give you inspiration to move forward without food and exercise as the main focal point.

Remember: relaxation, healthy habits, and motivation go a long way towards achieving what you have set out to do. It applies all the more when it comes to weight loss!

How do you visualize your body/mind/spirit in the next 6 months? 5-10 years? 50 years? I’d love to know or help you figure this out!




Optimal Health Vision and Values

When embarking on a new health venture, many people fall into the trap of setting a goal as step 1. Setting a goal is an important step in making a health behavior change, but before you articulate that goal, you need to know WHY it is important to you. In other words, you need determine your optimal health vision and values. Otherwise, you run the risk of setting a goal that is set by someone else, which is potentially setting yourself up for failure.

For example, say you go to the doctor for your annual checkup and are told that you are obese according your Body Mass Index (BMI)* and are pre-diabetic**. He tells you that you are at a higher risk of developing heart disease and having a stroke, and will likely develop full blown diabetes unless you lose weight, exercise, and overhaul your diet. This means cutting out all excess sugar and processed foods, exercising for 30 minutes a day, and losing at least 10% of your current body weight in the next 6 months.

For numbers sake, let’s say you are a 5’6” female weighing 200 pounds with a BMI of 32.3. 10% of 200 is 20, so your doctor is telling you to lose 20 pounds in the next 6 months (24 weeks). A healthy weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week. In order to do this, you need to lose about 1 pound a week. One pound is equal to 3,500 calories, so you need to reduce your net calories by 500 per day. Ideally, this would mean eating 300 fewer calories and burning 200 calories through exercise.

So....you leave the doctor’s office feeling overwhelmed. He’s given you some basic information about diet and exercise, and set some goals for you, but you aren’t sure how you’re going to fit these changes into your life. BUT….he never asked you if these changes were realistic for you, if it is important to you to improve your health, or if you are confident in your ability to make these changes.

Where do you start?

Step 1: Determine your optimal health vision

“How do I picture my best health?”
“How do I look and feel?”
“What choices or behaviors support my optimal health?”
“What behaviors would I need to let go of?”

Step 2: Figure out why you value your health

“What matters most in my life and health?”
“What brings me joy and satisfaction?”

Stay tuned to find out Step 3!

*Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on a person’s height and weight. Calculate your BMI here. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal. Underweight is anything below 18.5, overweight is 25-29.9, and obese is anything over 30.

**Prediabetes is a precursor to diabetes, where the body either does not make enough insulin to control blood glucose levels or the body is unable to produce insulin. A prediabetic person will have fasting blood glucose levels higher than normal (<100), but not high enough to be considered diabetic (>126). The prediabetic fasting glucose level range is between 100 and 125.


Most people have that one habit that shows up when boredom or anxiety hits as a way to deal with the discomfort. My culprit is nail biting / picking. It's an instant self soothe when my mind is racing from worry, I'm thinking about what I need to do, or I'm passing the time waiting in traffic or in line. It's not a cute habit to have. I either need to have stubby, painful, occasionally bleeding nail beds and cuticles or get acrylic nails at the salon (which is a health topic in itself). I've tried it all throughout the years- nasty tasting "no bite" nail polish, the bribe of getting a professional manicure, self promises of buying cute jewelry once my hands look somewhat decent, and more. Sure, it's great to investigate and try out methods like this to break the knee-jerk habit, but typically this only "works" for a short time.

Instead of beating myself up for inevitably biting my nails, what I could do is simply notice when it happens. It is at that point that "knee-jerk reaction" becomes choice.  This is called mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is all about training yourself to pay attention in a special way to things happening around you. It is about learning to focus on the present moment, letting the past be, and trying not to think about what may be coming up in the future. So much time is spent thinking about things that happened in the past and worrying about what might happen in the future. We forget the present moment is all we really have.

Mindfulness is a way of helping us to experience life as is happens. Mindfulness does not happen automatically. It is an ongoing training process of developing new thought patterns, but the benefits to your mental and physical health will be worth it.

What are the benefits that a state of mindfulness can bring?

Mindfulness has been scientifically examined, and has been found to be a key element in the state of happiness.  There is a lot of documented evidence on the many health benefits of mindfulness.

Here are just a few:

·         Relieves stress and helps you to relax your body and mind

·         Helps to ease digestive difficulties

·         Improves your memory, concentration, and learning abilities

·         Emotional stability

·         Increased self awareness and awareness of those around you

·         Improved sleep

·         Lower blood pressure

·         Reduction in chronic pain

How to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life.

There are many actions you can take to help yourself be more mindful. There are some things you can immediately incorporate into your daily life, while others may take more time and practice. Listed here are some good ways to get started.

·         Take time. Everything you do is an experience. Just take some time to really appreciate and feel anything you do, whether it be conversation, a walk, or just admiring a view. Pay attention to the details and be aware of the sounds, sights or just connecting with someone you may meet on your way.

·         Mindful eating. Eating is one of the greatest pleasures in life. If you eat slowly, focus on the taste and the smell, food suddenly becomes a lot more delicious. Another benefit is that if you eat more slowly, it is a good way to actually eat less.

·         Mindful breathing is something you can practice all the time. Just take a minute or two to focus on your breathing, feel your lungs expand and listen to the sound of your breath. You will find it very relaxing.

·         Daily quiet times when you can practise mindful meditation for calming effect on the busyness of life is beneficial.

·         Look at the world in a new way. Each day imagine that you are seeing things for the very first time. Pay attention to little things that you might normally notice and take note of the details, be it only how a tree branch moves in the wind, or the shape of a cloud in the sky.

When you achieve a state of focused relaxation, it allows the mind to refocus on the present moment, and you will be less likely to be caught up in concerns about the past, and what may happen in the future.

Mindfulness improves mental health.

Recent research has shown that mindfulness meditation plays an important part in the treatment of several psychological problems. It has been noted that psychologists, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists have included mindfulness therapy as part of the treatment in a number of emotional problems including:

·         Depression and anxiety about the present, past, and future

·         Substance abuse and alcohol dependence

·         Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating because of stress and worries

·         Obsessive-compulsive disorder which is linked to being unable to accept what is going on around you, and a constant need to change everything

The mental calmness afforded by mindfulness will help you deal objectively with negative emotional experiences, and put you in touch with the mental habits that give you a feeling of well-being, and which cause feelings of pain.

Learning to stay in the present.

Learning to live in the moment is something anyone can do. It does not require any form of rocket science. You can choose any task to practice mindfulness, whether you are eating, walking, showering, interacting with a partner, or perhaps playing with a child.

You need to breathe deeply, and engage your senses so that you notice every sight, touch, and sensation as you deliberately proceed with the task at hand. If you notice that your attention wanders, bring it back to the presence of the moment.

Being mindful will allow you to live life in the moment, and help you to cope when things are tough, without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

What mindfulness is not!

There is a lot of talk about slowness and acceptance, and living in the moment with regard to mindfulness. This might create an erroneous impression for some that everything has to be done in slow motion, which is definitely not the case.

Increasing your capacity for mindfulness supports attitudes that will lead to a more satisfying life, as you take life one step and one moment at a time, instead of being in a frenzy about the past and what could happen in the future. This is not acting in slow motion.

Remember that we really only have today...yesterday is gone – and tomorrow is only a dream! 

What step can you take to be mindful today?






Hello! Welcome to my wellness blog. Here I will be sharing some knowledge about health, disease prevention, and goal setting  and break it down so that it is easy to understand. Duke Integrative Medicine’s Wheel of Health will be the tool I will use as the basis for weekly topics.

I’ll start by introducing myself and why I became an integrative health coach.

You could say I was born into the health and wellness field- my dad is an ER physician and my mom is a nurse. From elementary to high school I would say I wanted to grow up to be a doctor. (I should also note that I was obsessed with Grey’s Anatomy in the later high school years.) In my house medical jargon was thrown around the dinner table in between “how was school today?” People would come over or call with medical questions or show mom or dad their twisted ankles or kitchen knife cuts and ask what to do. I also learned a lot about the endocrine system and nutrition at an earlier age than most because my mom is a type I diabetic. My mom has always taken excellent care of herself by monitoring her glucose levels, injecting insulin multiple times a day, and reading nutritional labels carefully. The invention of the continuous glucose monitor (pump) made it easier for her, but managing this disease is time consuming and hard. If someone as diligent and knowledgeable about the ramifications of poorly controlled diabetes gets frustrated with the daily process, it is easy to see why so many people with type II diabetes choose to eat what they want, pop an insulin pill, and call it a day.

The reality of studying to become a doctor became all too real when I went to college and was on a pre-med track. I had always been a good student, but the workload was intense, and I found myself constantly asking, “why am I doing this again?” The problem was that I liked science and learning about health, but I wasn’t sure what that meant in terms of a career. I knew that I wanted to have a family one day and didn’t want to have a schedule that would cause me to miss out of aspects of my future kids’ lives.

Fast forward a couple years when I transferred schools and graduated from St. Joseph’s University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Health Services. This broad major exposed to me a number of different health professions that I had not really considered, such as nursing, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. But the most important gem I got from this coursework was discovering the field of public health. Public health is different from other health professions because the focus is on communities and the emphasis is on prevention and intervention. This aligned more with my values and personality traits than any other career I had explored before.

After graduating I started working as an assessment worker at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, working mainly with the low-income elderly population in Philadelphia. I would go into people’s home or nursing facilities and assess the person’s health conditions, medications, and activities of daily living (ADLs). This job was completely out of my comfort zone- suburban, upper-middle class 22 year old going into the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in the city. It turned out that I was often sad, not fearful. It was humbling to see the conditions that so many people live in, and the toll that poverty and limited access to healthy foods has on a person’s health. I eventually left that job to pursue my Master of Public health full time at Drexel, but I still take that experience with me because it reminds me how much the field of health coaching is needed.

While at Drexel, my concentration was community health and prevention. I learned how to plan and evaluate health education programs, communicate health information effectively, and utilize prevention principles in community settings. I started working at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia after I graduated, but quickly came to realize that being part of a massive hospital system was not fulfilling.

By this point I was getting frustrated. I just wanted to work with people and educate them on health topics. That’s when I figured out I needed to go back to school. (I love school by the way.) I knew that I wanted to incorporate some holistic medicine into what I would teach, so I did some research and discovered integrative medicine. It was easy to decide to go to Duke Integrative Medicine’s Professional Training Program because they are world renowned in health coaching. At about the same time that I started at Duke, I enrolled in a teacher training in Classical Yoga and plan to use yoga within my health coaching practice.

So that is how I got here. It seems I’ve been working on the “Professional and Personal Development” aspect of the Wheel of Health for quite some time. I am beyond excited to start this new adventure and am grateful for all the support and encouragement. It’s scary to follow my dreams and leave the safety and comfort of the “known,” but I am pretty sure it will be worth it.

I’d love to know- what aspect of self care are you working on?