I am a life-long learner. And my guess is, since you're on my website reading my blog, you are too. There's something so delicious about learning as a adult. We're no longer driven by grades or due dates. There's a deeper drive that fuels us. A human drive to Become More.
In my quest to Become More, I read, I listen to podcasts, I attend workshops and seminars in person and online. I belong to master mind groups and I hire coaches to hold me accountable, both in my business and my personal life.
As a result, I grow. And I have the joy of looking back at myself as a kindergartener in the Great School of Life and celebrating how far I have gone, since I now consider myself a 1st grader. A long way to go? Always. But that excited me! I have a love of learning at my core, and self-improvement as a result of any learning is definitely making the Honor Roll, even in 1st grade!
The Four Agreements
The Five Love Languages
When I first began coaching, I was approached by many friends and new clients to do a Pantry Clean-Out. Brilliant! Let’s get your kitchen ready for your new dietary practice (everything from vegan to paleo as the title suggests) and you will be well on your way to your new, healthy life!
Out goes the boxed cereal, breakfast pastries, drinkable desserts (Sorry, mocha caramel frappicchino.) and egg-mc-grossness. And depending on the Diet du Jour, raw cashew butter, farm eggs with free-range bacon, or steel cut oats are the replacements.
Fast forward to the next morning. Everything goes well. The excitement of being on a new plan gets you past the extra long prep time, completely different tastes and expensive price tag. That excitement might even get you past days three and four. Around day five when life happens and you just want your favorite damn bagel with some coffee, the drive-thru wins. Your steel cut oats begin to gather dust. That cashew butter or even the incredibly expensive bacon sit in the frig, waiting patiently for your excitement to return.
But it doesn’t.
When we take a huge leap into a new way of eating, a simple kitchen clean-out and a list of what we ‘should’ be eating (and sadly what we can no longer even think about), simply does not provide the support we need.
For those who have iron will, and can make a decision to do something and then just Nike right through, I am not talking to you. Bless you. I hope that ability rubs off on everyone around you. The rest of us need a bit more support. And definitely more than someone taking away your favorite foods and swapping them for some of that Jen Miller hippie chick stuff. (Always laugh at yourself! Taking yourself seriously is highly overrated.)
In order to adopt a new way of eating, whether it’s vegetarian, vegan, clean eating, zone, whole30, paleo or primal, we need to ease in. We need to change ONE THING at a time. We need to make small, sustainable changes that we can imagine are possible. I am all for making big goals. Heck, I recommend it! But when it comes to creating a healthier lifestyle with food, those goals need to be small and manageable. I like to call it ‘bumping up’ your food choices.
And that list of things you can’t eat…throw it out! Let’s focus instead on the healthy things that you are already eating and increase those! Still enjoying your drinkable dessert breakfast? IT’S OKAY! Sip it slowly and truly savor it while eating some fruit and quality protein. There is no such thing as perfect and you CAN have the things you enjoy sometimes.
What can you manage today? That is the million-dollar question!
Today might not be the day to make dinner from scratch but I bet you can order a salad instead of fries.
Stressful day? Your body will be craving simple carbs! Choose to have some hummus with those pretzels instead of fake cheese dip.
There is no finish line, my friends. Each and every day is an opportunity to make choices that are good for your body. Some days you won’t make that choice. And that’s okay! No judgment! That’s the neat thing about eating, you get to make another choice in just a few hours. Try to ‘bump up’ that choice in a small way. Small, consistent changes create habits that in time turn into the healthy lifestyle you are craving.
Have you ever taken the plunge? I mean really, truly given up 100% of the gluten in your life? We are talking every last thing, even the glue on the back of the stamps. Okay, that’s a myth. Stamp glue and envelope glue are in fact gluten-free. Breathe! You can correspond safely!
I took the plunge, right into the bottom of gluten-free living. I didn’t sign up for camp or anything, but I made a conscious decision to no longer put anything in my mouth or on my body that was obviously wheat, barley or rye. To answer your first question, no I don’t have to do this. I chose it. Why? Gluten makes my belly bloat, and I suspect much more than that. When I eat bread, pizza, pasta or any regular, red-blooded American food that is essentially empty carbs, I feel, well, essentially empty. I am never satisfied, but always bloated. Is that a good enough reason? Not for more than 20 years, but 18 days ago I reached the tipping point. To continue to eat gluten no longer felt better than the feeling of relief.
So, 16 days in and feeling good, I saw Pizza. At first, I just glanced. Then my glance turned a bit more prolonged and before you know it was lusting after the cheesy, greasy, gooey slice of heaven at the table next to mine. It wasn’t pretty. I think I may have even asked Pizza if it came there often. A shameful pick up line in any situation!
Day 17 went something like this:
Hmm, nothing in the kitchen I want to eat.
“Kids, get your shoes on. We’re running to the store.”
“Of course you can get a treat! We should have a pizza and movie night!”
And I did it. And I didn’t even do it well! I mean if I was going to eat pizza after 17 days, how about at my favorite pizza place with the almost Philadelphia quality pizza I had come to enjoy two Thursday a month after the kids’ activities. I dreamed about that pizza!
Nope. I bought an organic, frozen pizza. Really? Yes, really. Pretty pathetic. And very disappointing. Even as I devoured it, I thought that it wasn’t very good. And yet, I finished every bite.
I teach my clients to never be ashamed of their food choices. And to make mindful decisions about their food. I was mindful, and I was only ashamed that I wasted my jump off the wagon on such a pitiful pizza.
Three hours after I ate, pain in my right side. No big deal, but definitely not normal.
I woke up the morning feeling a bit disappointed in the world. Again, not a big deal. We all have days like that. For me, definitely not normal.
The day progressed and I found myself irritated, frustrated, and feeling like a hamster in a wheel. What the heck? Then I remembered, this was how I always felt when I ate my pizza (and bread and pasta) regularly. This was the gluten brain that I disliked so much!
Each and every person has a different genetic make-up, different life experience, different reaction to various foods. For me, gluten makes me grouchy, pessimistic, and seriously bloated. I’m sure if I spent some time on the research, I could explain in very boring detail why these reactions occur. The truth is, I don’t care! I just want to feel happy and clear! I want to feel like Me.
I called it a gluten-free fail, but I don’t really mean it. For me it was a huge success. I was clearly reminded of why I stay off of gluten. It was a day that plunged me back into the muck and mire of wheat brain and an Eeyore-like mindset. No thanks!
So will I eat pizza again? I’m sure I will. I don’t believe in the false religion of perfectionism. It promises everything and delivers only failure. Each and every day, I do my best. Some days that looks like two slices of pizza and a gluten hangover, other days it looks like a quinoa salad filled with fresh herbs and veggies.
Have you given up anything lately? Did you end up eating it again and feeling like a failure? If so, I offer you a perspective shift. How about instead of beating yourself up, you look at it as a lesson? And an experience? More proof of why things work or don’t work for your body. How about, for just this once, you practice self-love and acceptance. Maybe you were supposed to ‘fail’ so you could have more evidence for next time. Maybe you haven’t quite reached your tipping point. It’s all okay. Love yourself exactly where you are.
It’s always interesting when people ask me to talk about what I do. To give them my title, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, explains little so normally I begin by telling them that I help people change their relationship with food. My clients would read that statement and nod their head with agreement, but what does it mean to someone who has not had their experiences? Great question, if I do say so myself.
First let me begin with what I don’t do:
How? Simply with a conversation either weekly or every other week. We meet and then sit and talk for an hour. We talk about your wins, your goals, and as a team we plot a course to improve your life.
With my first few clients, I must admit that I doubted how something so simple could make an impact in someone’s life. After years of experience, over 30 clients, over 100 classes and thousands of conversations I can honestly tell you that it works. The successes of my clients are breath taking. It leaves me in awe to receive an email from my client saying, “It’s going really well. Something totally awesome is happening…I’m actually enjoying food again and finding recipes I’m excited about. Woo hoo!” This after years of frustration and unsuccessful attempts. She has been with me for two months now, and her family is also reaping the benefits of this increasing happy and calm mom!
So how does one begin this journey as a client? It’s simple. All you do is fill out a confidential Health History to give me some background on your current goals, past and present eating habits and known family history. You can leave anything blank that feels uncomfortable for you. And then we make a day and time for your first appointment. Then the fun begins! Some clients have told me that they were nervous for that first meeting, but relaxed quickly when they realized that I was there to support and help them, not judge or restrict them.
Group coaching begins a little differently. You still complete a health history but instead of one-on-one meetings, we meet as a group with a predetermined topic. This insures that everyone walks away with the basic level of knowledge and know-how once the group coaching program is complete. I always leave time for a Q & A at the end of class and we almost always cook together. Often my group coaching clients go on to sign up for a three or six month private program with me to work towards achieving more individual goals. It works really well that way because by then, they have all the basics down and we can have a laser focus on their goals.
One of my clients completed her first six month program only two weeks ago and sent me a beautiful testimonial. I wanted to share her words with you with her permission to give you a sense of what it’s like to be coached. I blush a bit to share it with you, but her words truly touched me so here goes!
‘I can’t say enough positive things about Jen. Jen is extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about helping people. Her genuine interest is beyond apparent. She has wonderful ideas about food prep, different recipes to try, and ways to relieve stress. I’m an extremely private person but Jen always made me feel at ease (even when discussing very personal things). She validated my feelings and was never judgmental. Jen really has the ability to point out the positives and lessons learn from situations. Many times, she suggested simple changes that I could implement in various situations so that I could see immediate positive results. Lastly, Jen is extremely encouraging-she understands that lifestyle changes can be scary and that they need to be implemented slowly, so that people can actually stick with them. I would recommend Jen to anyone who is looking to make positive changes in their life. If you are ready to do the work, Jen will give you the tools to reach your goals.’
Now if you will excuse me now, I have a new butternut squash slow cooker recipe to create! And yes, I’ll share it with you as soon as it’s perfect!
Don’t forget, group coaching starts soon and private coaching is always available for YOU!
I’m not sure when the phrase, ‘Do what you love and the money will follow’ became part of my vocabulary and belief system, but it feels like I have always known it to be true. What I love is to watch the inspired growth of people I care about. And what I also love is the beauty of food. In 2014, I was following a yet to be determined path from stay-at-home mom to personal trainer. After that certification and immediate disappointment with the lack of nutrition education (Abs are made in the kitchen!), a mentor of mine recommended more education and focus on the nutrition side of the house in the form of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. As I began the course work, that phrase continued to repeat in my head. I shared it with others, I taught it to my children as if it were an academic subject, and I believed it with all my heart. I reinforced it with movies like The Secret and books like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I followed spiritual teachers that taught me how to release limiting beliefs, and allow my plans for the future to grow bigger and brighter. I hired a life coach who showed me how to experience my own inspired growth.
And yet, I was still not seeing the results in my bank account. The voice of the Jester of Doubt in my brain who loves to whisper words of failure and the need to get a real job became very, very loud. That jester happens to rule the Land of Insecurity in my head so he tends to get a bit domineering when external appearances provide an opportunity to practice faith when the proof is yet to be seen. And boy oh by did he whisper. In fact, he spent years shouting that I needed to grow up, be realistic and stop dreaming. Fortunately, he did not win. At least not for more than a few days at a time and in the end, I banished him and can now speak in a confident voice about my Real Job as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. It took practice to ignore him, to assure him that everything was fine, that things would improve as they always do. He is banished but I know that he has the ability to return if I am not diligent. Keeping focus and having faith in yourself and your path is a practice. It isn’t always an easy practice and often I feel that I am telling myself of some truth for the thousandth time like a toddler, but it’s always worth the effort. It’s an act of self love to refuse to accept the words of that sneaky Jester. It’s a genuine and loyal commitment to dream and then to become that dream.
And when you wake up on day and realize that your faith and never ending watch have paid off and you are that thing, or even a small part of that thing that you saw in the distance, you realize that you were in fact always that thing. Haven’t I always coached? Haven’t I always loved food? When I truly look at my life, I can recognize that helping people change their relationship with food is not new for me. Supporting people who I care about to accomplish their goals is just who I am, and the training and experience brought it out into the beautiful sunlight to be shared and nurtured.
So who have you always been? Does your vision, your dream match who you are? Can you see that future you inside yourself at this moment?
Heavy food to digest, I know. But deeply nourishing and life-giving as well so give it a try, please. See where it lands for you. It might be frightening to admit that you always wanted to be a farmer. Or maybe a teacher. I know all too well that the words of the Jester can sneak in to throw you from your path, but just this once ignore him. Take this opportunity to spend five minutes seeing that life that you dare not dream. Bring it out into the light for just a moment. Be audacious enough to consider it. To see yourself in it. To be Your Dream.
In my social media breakfast this morning, I was offered a chance to Be Thin, Be Strong, Lose Weight, Gain Muscle, Detoxify my Cells, Eliminate my Annoying Spare Tire, and De-clutter my Closet. Yes, really.
Knowing that social media simply reflects back to me the things I search for, I began to wonder what clues I was leaving to encourage these ads. As I thought about it, I realized that if I search for healthy recipes, then I must be trying to lose weight. If I search for healthy dinners in 20 minutes, or clean crockpot meals, then that must mean I have a serious spare tire to shed. None of this is true, but why does the advertising industry think that we will be pulled in by these offers?
Because we are! The idea of a quick fix is so delicious, excuse the pun. In a fantasy world, we can take a pill or start a new workout video and Abracadabra, we are thin, strong, muscular, detoxified, without a spare tire, and our closets are spotless. (Had to throw that in there!)
In reality, it’s not about the exercise program, or the cleanse, or even the food. Let me repeat that.
It’s not about the food.
It’s about a decision to feel better. It’s about getting to the point that you are no longer willing to feel tired, achy, bloated, and discouraged. It’s about a Tipping Point.
I was fortunate enough to find a tribe that supports me in exercising regularly. Thanks to that tribe, I usually make time to work out in a balanced way a few times a week. Three weeks ago, my schedule changed and I found that I wasn’t able to attend the regular meetings with my team. I knew the change was coming, and had faith that I would simply exercise on my own during different hours. It turned out to be a bit overconfident on my part. I’ve spent the last two weeks feeling progressively more slug-like, and missing my tribe.
Two nights ago, though, I reached my Tipping Point. My body and mind missed the fresh air and exercise. And I missed the comradery. Was it so easy to fail after being faithful for so long? The answer unfortunately, was yes.
But with the clarity of the truth also comes the ability to make a different choice.
So yesterday I got my favorite mid-foot running shoes on and I ran.
Today I am sore. And happy. And proud.
Will it stick? I’ve decided that it will. I know I feel better when I do what works for my body. I know that if I can just put the shoes on and walk outside, or agree to just run once around the block, my body will take over and I will get what I need.
Now I am hoping that I can reach my Tipping Point on my cluttered closet. Maybe my social media feed was right about that part after all.
An unexpected rainy day afforded me the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen all afternoon much to the chagrin of my kids, or should I say my guinea pigs (insert evil laugh here).
I was given the suggestion by a smart friend of mine to go with tomato soup and grill cheese on this cool and rainy afternoon. It sounded like a perfect idea and I decided to go with it. Being the food nerd that I am, I couldn’t merely pop open a can of soup (that starts with a 'c') and throw some butter coated bread with good old American into a fry pan…noooo…I had to experiment.
I found a recipe for tomato soup (hush, I know it is not called that but I am not calling my kids to the table for Tuscan White Bean and Spinach Soup!), and off I went. I used canned tomatoes, canned beans and chicken stock from my farmer. I skipped the pasta because wheat is not my friend. It was a goopy mess but I was determined to use my newly acquired ‘kitchen legs’ (as opposed to sea legs…you knew what I meant) and follow it to the hopefully not bitter end. I tasted…yay me…and added more basil. Feeling brave and confident of my children’s disgust for floating parts, I dumped it all in the blender and made creamy tomato soup. Yep, I called it that. “Come on kids, come eat. I made tomato soup and it’s creamy!” I have no shame. I’ll admit it. I knew I needed to take the plunge before them (so I could decide if I would make them eat it) and threw some fresh baby spinach in my bowl followed by the creamy tomato soup.
Never one to jump into the deep end of a freezing pool, I tasted daintily.
Shut up! This is actually good! Alright…call in the guinea pigs. “Oh kids…come eat!” What? Yours come the first time you call them? This is so not a parenting article, cut me a little slack. My son raised his eyebrows when he looked in my bowl, spinach stems peeking out of the top. He asked me if I was sure about the spinach just in there like that. Oh ye of little faith, just eat it! I smiled, all powerful being (in my house) that I am and confidently told him that it was really good like this. I was not lying (or even stretching the truth!) and he could see it. I pretended not to count spinach leaves as he put them in his bowl (four) and ladles full (2) and I really looked busy when he was tasting that first bite.
“Mama, this is good!” I believe I may have shed a tear in my creamy tomato soup. I did notice that the crushed red pepper may have been used a bit too liberally and I warned my daughter, my I-don’t-eat-spicy-food girl. She tasted it and then added some almond milk to cool the spice down. She doubted the spinach idea as well but seeing that her brother did it, she gave it a try. She ate about half a bowl and decided that it was too spicy and gave her a belly ache (think it was the half a bowl of sugar milk you poured in there, Lambchop!?!). She shrugged her shoulders as she poured it down the garbage disposal and said, “At least I tried it, right Mama? So what else did you make?”
Yeah, I was speechless too. My son, my super “selective” child, ate three bowls. Focus on your successes, right?
I often use the early morning to organize my thoughts into paragraphs. And sometimes into recipes.