Shipwrecked by Sugar

I’ve been clean for nine months (except for occasional bites). I’ve managed to walk past bowls of my past addiction without a second glance. The plates sitting on every table at church don’t even whisper my name anymore. And all the Sirens at the grocery store have silenced their enchanting songs to lure me into their islands. The shipwreck of sugar cravings finally got lost at sea, and I’m not headed back to find where it landed.

It’s not easy to own up to one’s destructive habits, especially if you have a career in health and wellness. Yet for that very reason, I knew it was imperative to find a solution so I could effectively coach others to find it themselves. And one week after Halloween, I’m happy to  report that we have only one Tupperware of chocolates in the house (primarily for potty training purposes), and of those, I’ve eaten maybe 3. And not out of cravings, mostly boredom.



So I want to tell you that breaking sugar cravings is possible.


But before I talk about solutions, let’s review why added sugar is a killer for any healthy diet, and why life is better without them. Let’s talk a few numbers and examine the typical American diet. Although the USDA recommended sugar intake is no more than 6-10% of the daily caloric consumption, most Americans consume 16-20% of their daily calories from added sugar.  What that means in real numbers is that while no more than 6-9 teaspoons, or less than 25g, should be consumed in a typical day (for a typical 2000 daily calorie diet) the typical American is consuming 32g of sugar EVERY day!



Along with that, added sugar consumption is linked to an increase in cardiovascular disease, increasing the risk 38% compared to those who follow low-sugar food plans.  It can also negatively impair memory, artificially increase appetite, decrease energy levels, lead to diabetes, increase body weight and cause joint inflammation.

Why? How does such a sweet tasting additive bring so much suffering to our lives? The answer lies in its metabolism process, and the fact that the ingredients find their way into the majority of packaged foods. In the body, sugar is metabolized in the liver, but when the liver is overloaded, it turns it into fat. This is where it leads to a myriad of problems as fat cells inhibit regular cell function.

Where?  If you think you are following a healthy diet, yet still raging against a constant sweet tooth, it may be time to take inventory of your food intake.  Consider that a typical “healthy” flavored Greek yogurt yields 20g of sugar by itself, and you start to see where part of the problem comes from.  Other common “healthy” food saboteurs include protein bars/shakes, cereal, sauces, applesauce, sweetened nut milks, beverages, breads, low-fat foods and condiments (ketchup, peanut butter, jams). The more obvious not-so-healthy products include creamers, pastries, sodas/sports drinks, candy, fruit snacks, ice cream and alcohol.

A great handout I use regularly for my clients gives an overview of typical sugar content in various foods. In it, you see that iced tea can have almost 10g per 16oz bottle, 20 oz soda almost the equivalent in g/oz at 19.25g, and some kids cereals coming in at 10g/serving! So imagine if you consumed one serving of each of these per day…you’d be already at almost 40g of sugar, and you haven’t even enjoyed your evening bowl of ice cream yet!

Help!  By now you may be realizing that your diet is leading you too for a major shipwreck, as it was doing to me.  Or you might be at that point already if you experience the myriad of maladies pointed out earlier. So it’s time to get to the solutions!

1-Nutrition Labels: If you haven’t picked up on in yet, the biggest habit you should start doing is READING LABELS!!! I can’t emphasize this enough, as this small rectangle on your package will literally tell you if what you hold in your hands will help or hinder your health. After looking at the calorie count per serving, scan to the sugar section. You might even notice an update from previous years, as many manufacturers are switching to the new mandate for 2018 to state the amount of added sugars in the product. This helps the consumer differentiate between natural occurring sugars (as in fruit) and all other sweeteners.

The next step is to check the Ingredients. If you see sugar as the first ingredient (unless of course, it IS sugar), PLEASE put it back on the shelf! This part of the label tells you everything you need to know about content, because sometimes certain ingredients (like trans fat) don’t have to be reported numerically if they fall under a certain percentage of the overall content. Knowing where sugar falls in the lineup will help you determine if the item is as “healthy” as it’s designed to be.

2-Drink More Water.  I’m sure you’ve heard this mantra a million times in your life, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Not only does drinking water curb your overall appetite, it can also keep you from consuming other sugar laden beverages that derail your best sugar-fasting intentions.



Natural Peanut Butter, only 2g/ 2T

3-Proper Diet…Keep it Simple: I doubt anyone really needed me to say this, but sometimes it’s hard to decipher what actually are healthy food choices on the store shelves, since manufacturers design products to make them seem nutritious. So follow a few guidelines: 1- buy A LOT of produce;  2-eat 100% whole grains (multi-grain, whole wheat, bran cereal), not refined grains (bleached flour); 3-Avoid Low-Fat foods (especially in the dairy section), as they typically hold more sugar to offset the lower fat content; 4-Avoid artificial sweeteners, although low in calories, they inhibit weight loss and the body does not metabolize them well, which leads to weight gain.




4-Exercise. Of course, I have to say that…it’s my job. But the reality is that in addition to curbing appetite, exercise can also increase your mitochondria metabolism, which means your body doesn’t have to work as hard to process sugar, especially when it becomes overloaded (hello Holiday season!).  Also on a diabetic note, walking after eating has been shown to decrease glucose levels. And realistically speaking, hopefully going for a walk will distract you from satisfying the sweet tooth!

5-Eliminate Pastries. Last but not least, the inevitable target of sugar fails starts either in the oven or on our grocery list. It doesn’t matter if the label or recipe says honey, agave, maple syrup, organic cane sugar or regular ol’ molasses…it’s all added sugar and the body digests it the same way.  So even as the holiday season begs us to celebrate with heaven’s buffet of pastries, I’m telling you it’s not in the best interest of your body, and your body does NOT take a holiday. In fact, I would argue you need your energy levels to be at its peak over these next two months for an enjoyable holiday season. So take a nibble if you must, or eat a small butter cookie, but leave the whipped cream desserts and banket for someone else.

And to weave a parenting note in all of this, your eating habits influence the little ones around you. It’s understandable that potty-training bribery plays a role in parenting, but the rest of the eating habits literally determine a child’s nutrient profile and can set them up for medical problems later if sugar intake isn’t controlled. And of course, as parents, we need all the energy we can get to keep up with those rascals, so don’t let sugar rob you of living the good life…including during the little years!




American Council on Exercise. “How Sugar Affects Your Body.” Oct. 28, 2014.

Asp, Karen. “Sugar Shock: Why Experts Say It’s Time to Get Serious About Taming That Sweet Tooth.” April 2014.

Halvorson, Ryan. “Why Those With Type 2 Diabetes Should Walk After Dinner.” Dec. 14, 2016.

Webster, Sandy Todd. “Nutrition Facts Panel Puts Spotlight on Added Sugars.” Aug. 19, 2016.

Webster, Sandy Todd. “When Sugar isn’t Sweet.” April 16, 2014.

“Sugar Facts & Fiction.” Aug. 15, 2008.

Keller, Joy and Judy Meyer. “What Added Sugar Looks Like.” Oct. 23, 2015.



Fun-tastic Fitness, Part 2. Indoor Fitness Fun

In my last post, I shared the grim statistics that most Americans are not getting enough daily physical activity to warrant health benefits, and also that most people see exercise as a chore, which decreases the likelihood that they will engage in it. In an encouraging light, research also confirms what we suspected was true… that “the health status of the parents is intricately linked to that of their children.” In other words, the health habits of children typically reflect the habits of the parents (with the exception of the bottomless intake of sugar a child can ingest, particularly after a parade).

The encouragement in this type of research reflects the power of influence that parents have over their children’s healthy habits.  Possibly more than education, income, zip code, peer influence and other factors, parents wield power to show children wellness by living it out for them to see on a daily basis.  Even if unhealthy habits are being practiced, the effect of seeing parents battle their habits and eventually win sends powerful and lasting messages to the child that individuals have control over their wellness.

So in light of that hopeful news, I want to continue to Part 2 of Fun-tastic Fitness Ideas. Last time I offered you some fun outdoor exercise ideas, and this time I want to highlight some indoor fitness ideas. These are some of my tried and true experiences with my kids and also with my siblings growing up. I would love to hear what other ideas parents, caregivers or babysitters have come up with!

  • Catch You: As mentioned in last post, this game works great inside also, often dispelling whiny toddler moods into giggles. Just use the cue words, “Catch You!” and start chasing the child. Once caught, tickle or toss the child onto the bed. This usually turns into the next activity…
  • Airplanes: Laying on a bed, have the child stand by your feet and you hold his hands and slowly lift him up, keeping your feet pressed up against his torso, til he is over you in the air, like a plane. Gently bring the plane down to either side for a landing. (Not a recommended activity shortly after eating!)
  • Dancing: Turn on some upbeat music and have a jam session. Actually even mellow music is fine too. I invented my own style of ballroom dance with my 2 year old to the tune of Pachelbel on our keyboard’s song list. Now he turns it on and dances on his own.
  • London Bridges: Classic game of London Bridge Falling Down…you rest your head, neck and shoulders on couch or stability ball while kids crawl under you as you hold the glute bridge position. When you finish the song, you drop (lightly) down on the unfortunate child caught underneath you. Variation: Do Marches in the bridge position.
  • Ping-Pongballoon
  • Balloon Volley-Wally-ball: Divide a room in half with pillows/blankets/scarves, and use an inflated balloon to play volleyball. All the rules of regular volleyball apply
    (except net rules, since there’s no net), in addition to playing the “ball” off of furniture & walls. Set one boundary in the back for service line and the out-of-bounds area. General rule of thumb, anything is a legit hit until it hits the floor!
  • Basket rides: Similar to weighted sled pushes for athletes, this variation puts the child (and likely stuffed animals) in a laundry basket and you push them around the house. Be prepared for tired hamstrings.
  • Jumping contests: Use a broom or yardstick to challenge children and adults alike to see how high they can jump over the stick. Another option is long jump contests..see who can jump the farthest.
  • Stability ball or Bosu bouncing and balancing: Bouncing—Place child on ball but hold it steady with your feet (if sitting) as you bounce them up and down. Balancing—Kneeling on the ball and using wall or couch for support as needed, compete to see who can kneel the longest without holding on or falling off (recommended for older kids).
  • Family Challenge Chart: Pick various exercises (squats, planks, pushups) and make a chart for daily or weekly challenges. Either on the honor policy or with a witness, record each performer to see how many he can do in a minute, or how long she can hold a plank.
  • Whippa!: A true home-spun game that will one day be patented…use two pieces of furniture (ideally couches) as the safe areas. One person is “it” wielding a winter scarf, and must be kneeling while she is it. Runners dash back and forth between couches trying to avoid getting “whipped” by the scarf. If tagged 3 times, the runner becomes it.



References: Vedanthan et al. April 12, 2016. Cardiovascular Health PromotionFamily-Based Approaches to Cardiovascular Health. promotion



Fun-tastic Fitness: Making Exercise Fun for the Whole Family (Part 1)

If you’re like many parents, a quiet house at the end of the day or for a few hours during nap time brings great delight that we can finally enjoy “me” time. That could mean a variety of things, such as checking in with social media or writing blogs, or catching up on the endless list of chores around the house. Rarely, this might be used as the time to get in an exercise routine.  But movin’ and groovin’ to our workout playlist might arouse the youngsters from their slumbers, and that’s not a risk most parents want to take.

Fortunately, for the many parents grieving the loss of their workout days, or for those wishing for extra time and energy to fit a routine into their day…hope exists. And even better news…for those who conjure up images of slow-motion minutes on the treadmill and weight-lifting boredom, exercising does not have to be a chore. Movement brings joy, and when you do it with kids, it usually brings some laughs too.

A recent article reminded me of how far we have strayed from this concept. “Embracing the Joy of Movement,” by fitness pro Ryan Halvorson (, brings many thoughts together about why the vast majority of Americans don’t get enough exercise. Indeed 80% of the Americans don’t meet the physical activity recommendations (21 min/day or 150 min/wk) and only 55% are active enough to make health improvements. The bottom line reason for inactivity is that individuals don’t find it fun. As Halvorson quotes from Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH fitness expert and author at University of Michigan, “The core issue is that in our society, our prescription/lecturing perspective has turned exercise into a chore…the vast majority of people don’t exercise, and the reason they don’t is because we [fitness industry] have alienated them by limiting its purpose in their lives.”

Sadly, much truth rings from those words. We often feel guilty about missing “workouts,” rather than valuing the amount of movement we already put into a day.  And we lament each day that passes without exercise, dreaming of a period where free time comes in abundance.

Another challenge, as Halvorson points out, by quoting another expert, Katy Bowman (biochemist and author), “Traditional training programs require exercise to occur outside of your house. They require extra money, special outfits and shoes, arrangements for someone to watch our children, and an instructor or trainer.” Of course I don’t want to downplay the importance of trainers and fitness professionals (hello, job security!); yet it’s important to recognize the barriers that keep inactive individuals from engaging in movement. In addition, I want to encourage parents, especially of young children, that you might already be more active than you realize. (There’s a reason we don’t get enough sleep!)

So if you’re looking for simple and fun ways to add or enhance your physical activity levels, and perhaps bring it up to the moderate-vigorous intensity to warrant health benefits, I want to provide you some ideas that I’ve used, some from growing up with my many siblings (9!), where we invented cheap forms of entertainment by necessity; and others with my own two children (2 and 7 months). Hopefully you find yourself inspired to create new activities…you are only limited by your imagination! In Part 1, I will share outdoor fun fitness activities. Next week I plan to share successful indoor fun fitness ideas!


IMG_20170421_164629499Monkey bars–adult favorites at the park!

  • Parks: The obvious outdoor movement choice. Familiarize yourself with your local parks, many of them provide challenges for adults too (think Monkey bars). Plus the added bonus of enjoying nature will give you an energy boost too.
  • Biking: one word, Hills
  • Tee-ball, catch, Softball 500 game in park or back yard: 500: batter self-pitches, outfielders battle for the ball, 100pts for fly ball, 75 for one bounce grounder, 50 for two bounces, 25 for three or more. First to 500 pts becomes the batter.
  • Running bases: Two people throw a ball back and forth between “safe” areas; runners run back and forth avoiding a tag from person with the ball. Three tags requires runner to switch with tagger.

    Creative park ideas—practice balance or jump over the bench.
  • Tag…so many variations of this game and the game is timelessly fun
  • Mother May I? “Mother” faces away from participants who start at a distance away. One at a time, each person asks “Mother may I [insert activity]? Options include run, skip, hop, etc. Mother approves or denies request (if denied, offers another option). Once approved, requester begins moving and Mother turns around at any moment to “catch” the person in movement. If caught, mover returns to start and next person makes a request. First person to reach Mother switches places.
  • Jump rope: Grab two ropes and make it a double-Dutch fun, or competitions of who can jump the most before snagging it with the foot. Use variations of two feet, single feet, backwards, boxer hop, eyes closed, double-jump and more!
  • Soccer/Kickball: Sprinting, kicking, chasing…heart’s racing in minutes!
  • Trampoline: Ok, I know it’s #1 on the pediatrician’s “Don’t get this Toy for Kids” list, but wow, we had a lot of fun on this as kids. And zero broken bones or serious injuries. Just a lot of good times. For
    Perhaps a little extreme…but the fun on the trampoline is simply endless.

    liability purposes, of course, I am not responsible for any injuries you may incur on this device (it’s 2017, after all…gotta cover all my bases)!

  • Ladder/Hopscotch: The agility ladder is a great tool that conditioning coaches use for athletes, especially for sports that require quick reflexes (basketball, tennis, etc). But you don’t need to buy a ladder to get the same results. All you need is some sidewalk chalk to draw boxes on the ground and use your imagination for creating ways to get quickly through the ladder during various things (hopping, running, shuffling). Or you can get some ideas from YouTube.
  • Racing: Anything! Kids, especially little kids, are naturally social, so they consider most interaction, including competition, fun. You can make a game of just about anything. Few examples: We have two toy lawn mowers and my son would frequently ask me to “mow” with him. This was not overly appealing to me since I had to hunch over to use it, and pretend mowing is well, pretend. So I instead invented a new game…race the lawn mowers down the driveway! He loved it andIMG_20161125_140356562 so did I (for awhile, anyway).  Another example is our “Catch you” Game (explained more in Inside Fun). But the main gist is the cue phrase “Catch you” turns whatever we are doing into a game of chase, and we have to catch him as he runs. This is a great tool for pokey bike riders and daydreaming walkers.
  • Forest Preserves/Nature Centers: Often overlooked and underused (in my opinion), a serene getaway and nature hike is often only minutes away. Although maybe more ideal for walking aged children, I’ve hiked with the baby carrier also, which adds additional benefit for resistance training.
Bundle up and pull in the laundry basket! 
  •  Winter activities: Sledding, Snowmen (and women), forts…in fact just getting all the winter gear on and sweating from it seems beneficial. And I seriously forgot until this past year how much a snowman’s torso weighs.

Hopefully you benefit from some of these ideas and even create your own ideas from what you see around you. Come back next week to check out Indoor Fitness Fun Ideas! In the meantime, I would love to know what other ideas people have for outdoor family fun!



Although my blog has officially been up for a year and a half, I’ve been lax over its upkeep, to say the very least.  My average posting rate is probably similar to a lot of people’s exercise routines…non-existent.  And my excuses are probably not much different…busy with life, work, family, church, volunteering, etc.  Unless it’s a fixture in my routine, and there’s an concerted effort on my part to make this succeed, my blog’s future will probably end up much like the martini shaker that my husband & I got for a wedding gift three years ago: it seemed like such a great idea to put it on the registry, never mind the fact that we hardly ever drink.


I’m guessing that I’m not alone in my struggle to start a new habit, and then fail.  It seems that a lot of people face that same conflict, especially seen around every New Year’s Day, when magazines, health clubs, and every business in America pounces on consumers to make new resolutions.  It seems there is a profound desire in every person to better themselves, and despite the adage that says “People don’t like change,” I tend to think that with the right motivation and achievable results, people actually do pursue change.  The problems come when motivation diminishes, and the results seem gargantuan.


Enter my new motivation for this blog.  Well, let’s first start with my first motivation, which was to provide an understandable, yet scientific site for individuals to embrace healthy lifestyles.  Since I possessed little knowledge of the blogosphere, I looked to my husband’s example. He writes on religion, Muslim evangelism, and current events.  He does a lot of research, and writes scholarly articles for Yahoo!.  He pores over articles and sometimes takes weeks to write a post for his blog.  Needless to say, that approach proved rather daunting to me; so daunting, in fact, that I entered a blogging paralysis.  I realized that while scientific articles offer great perspective, they also take a lot of time, which I tend to lose all the time.


So 583 days later, I had an epiphany where most great epiphanies take place…washing dishes.  I thought about the lifestyle changes I’ve made since entering the fitness career field, and how easy many of them have actually been.  Then I thought, why don’t I write about that for my blog?  Personal experience is way more motivating and fun to write about than research.  Although I haven’t completely given up on my first ambition, my new motivation is simply this…to write on a conglomeration of topics, from recipes to fitness gear to exercise studies…anything fitness or health related that I find interesting that I hope interests you as well.


I hope my newfound motivation speaks into your life as well, and that you will be challenged and encouraged by my posts to jumpstart your own ambitions.  And in the mean time, I hope you enjoy the posts to come!