Category Archives: Nutrition

What can you learn from your post-vacation body?

So, you are back from summer vacation. The kids have started school, all your colleagues are in the office, and it feels like life is suddenly on overdrive.

What the H@!# Happened?

Just a few days ago you were feeling super relaxed. When you were on vacation your tension just melted away.

During re-entry, you started to hear all kinds of unexpected compliments: You look great. Did you lose weight?

And perhaps you were even a little befuddled. After all, you really let yourself go while you were away.

You didn’t go to the gym, or work out nearly as much as you usually do. You drank a lot more wine and to top it all off, you ate a lot. The scale even affirms that you gained weight. Clearly it is time to get serious about getting back to your usual fitness routine and diet.

Hold on just a minute!!

The scale is just a small measurement of overall health. A weight gain can be indicative of so many things, and if your body looks better and you feel better, perhaps there is a little assessing to do before getting back to “normal”.

I see this happen all the time with my clients when we start working together again in the fall after they’ve left town for a few weeks or a few months. While they’re seriously distressed about weight gain and “poor” eating habits, it visibly appears as though they’ve lost years from their life in a matter of weeks. Shoulder tension, bad posture, and even chronic pain seems to have dramatically gone away.

Getting back to business rarely if ever seems to build on the benefit from an extended break from daily stress and that is a big failing on our parts should we choose to ignore it.

The biggest cause of aging is our stress and the number one thing we can do to maximize on the benefits we’ve gained from our vacations is to measure acceptable stress and stress management through the lens of how we feel in the days following a good break.

So, how can you change the way you handle eating, exercising and other everyday tasks to maintain that lowered stress level you returned with?

That’s impossible!!

Well before you allow that thought to take over, consider this: If you do everything in your life EXACTLY how it’s been done before, you are correct, that is indeed impossible. But if you employ a different strategy, not only is a different result possible, it becomes highly probable.

Let’s take a closer look at the “faulty” health and fitness strategy you employed on vacation:

1) You had a lot of leisure time. You weren’t constantly in planning mode, trying to finish last minute work on projects, and working every second of every day.

2) You exercised for the joy of moving. Maybe you walked, swam, did a little stretching, but it was more a part of your daily lifestyle. Something you did to relax, start your day, or cap it off. Not something you did because you were supposed to do it or something that was part of beating yourself up in any way.

3) You rested when you were tired. You went to bed earlier, slept later, and took breaks from exercise when you needed it.

4) You ate what you enjoy and you enjoyed what you ate. It is totally appropriate to eat according to desire. You are actually more likely to overeat when you deprive yourself day after day. The more forbidden the fruit, the better it tastes. If you consistently tell yourself no, your inner child only wants it more and will eat more (often without even tasting and enjoying it) when the opportunity finally presents itself. If you allow indulgence from time to time, you will naturally gravitate towards healthier more nutrient foods most of the time (I know I do).

5) You connected regularly with friends and family. Having strong relationships is satisfying. It helps us process stress more easily and provides an amazing support network for us. If we are supported, we don’t indulge in unhealthy behaviors that often come from feeling lonely or not good enough.

6) You spent time on yourself. Whether it was through reading a book, a magazine, meditation, or a nap, you gave yourself space to rejuvenate without a specific purpose or end in mind. Leisure time is so important. We can’t work on our goals every moment of every day without burning out!

7) You lived in the present. Much easier when you don’t have such a lengthy to-do list, or a house to clean, I know. But we all can choose to live each moment of everyday in the present. Children do it naturally and the more we select how we will focus our time, and avoid overworking and multi-tasking, the easier it becomes to do this.

All of these strategies result in an overall reduced state of stress which is vital for us to function at an optimum level, lose weight, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Perhaps you shouldn’t eat quite as much as you ate, or exercise quite as little as you did, but in the quest to “fix” that, let’s not erase all of the benefits you gained by taking the pressure off yourself to be perfect.

Just think, how different would you be if you integrated just one of these ideas into your life on a regular basis?

Now it’s time to take action.

In the comments below, share your insights with me and the Leap Ahead Fitness community.

How is your body different post-vacation? What is one thing you did on vacation that you could continue to do in your everyday life to maintain lower stress and better health and fitness?

Me? I’m going to continue to enjoy wine on a daily basis. What the H@!#! You only live once!!

Health and Happiness,


Can Plant Based Eating provide sufficient Protein?

Guest post by Carla Golden

Are you curious about plant based eating but are worried you won’t be able to get enough protein or maintain your muscle mass?

Nearly 99% of the time when a person learns that I eat mostly a plant based diet, their first question is “But where do you get your protein?” There are many plant sources for protein, but first let me break down how I have figured out how much protein an average person like me really needs. recommends a minimum of 10% of daily calories from dietary protein with a maximum set at 35%. A researched article on suggests athletes should consume between 10-15% of their daily calories from protein. Dr. Douglas Graham, athletic trainer and author of The 80/10/10 Diet, recommends a maximum of 10% of daily calories from protein.

So who is right and which advice should be followed? Let’s first realize that chances are slim that we’ve ever met anyone with a protein deficiency. In fact, there is no medical term in America for such a condition. A person would have to eat a diet strictly of oil (isolated fat) and table sugar (isolated carbohydrate) over a significant period of time to develop a true protein deficiency. So it’s safe to say that without paying close attention to it, most Americans like you and me are eating enough protein whether it be high quality, low quality, animal or plant-based protein.

Animal protein is found in meat (not just red beef meat, but any animal flesh), dairy and eggs. Plant protein can be found in grains, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), nuts, seeds, fruit & vegetables. Across the globe plant protein accounts for 60% of dietary protein while in America animal protein accounts for a whopping 70% of protein sources.

Protein is a nutrient which is required by humans for growth and maintenance, but not for fuel. The basic units of protein, called amino acids, are used for building and repairing new tissue and muscle. All consumed animal and plant protein must be broken down into the basic single amino acid building blocks during digestion before being available for utilization in the body. The body “pools” the assorted single amino acids and re-assembles them as needed for protein demands of the body.

While protein deficiency is rare, interestingly there is ample evidence in America of animal protein over-consumption. The formation of kidney stones, gout, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome are all related to urate crystals forming when uric acid is not metabolized during purine (animal protein) digestion. Animal proteins are very acidic in nature and lead to inflammation in the internal body environment.

Calcium urate crystals can form when the body pulls calcium from bones & teeth to neutralize the acidity of animal protein digestion which then can give rise to arthritis, rheumatism, bursitis, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and varicose veins.

In order to avoid these common maladies, it would be wise to be mindful of how much animal protein is being consumed. If protein measures 4 calories per gram whether from animal or plant, a person consuming 1,700 calories a day (adequate for a moderately active female adult like me) could consume 42.5 grams of protein per day if aiming for 10% of daily calories from protein.

One Arby’s Roast Turkey & Swiss Wrap has 34 grams of protein. Eight to nine more grams of daily protein could be easily obtained from an assortment of fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds and legumes. Anyone wishing to avoid animal derived protein can smartly consume enough high protein plant foods to meet daily requirements. A useful chart like this one helps break down the protein, fat and carbohydrates in plant foods. For example 1 cup of green peas has 14.5 grams of carbohydrates, 5.4 grams of protein and 0.4 grams of fat.

If any of the typical protein over-consumption ailments develop in your body, scale back on the animal protein and increase your intake of plant protein. There are no studies that show disease developing from an over-consumption of plant based protein which are mostly alkaline in nature. The trick here is to stack up your plate with quality plant protein while keeping fat content in check as the two are usually packaged together (think avocado, olives, seeds, nuts, coconut).

Raw protein is generally a cleaner and more bioavailable form of dietary protein because the molecular structure has not been altered by heat. Raw animal protein can be explored through sushi (raw fish), raw milk  and raw eggs. Do your research and be careful to source your raw foods from high-quality providers to avoid toxic microorganisms. Raw plant protein can easily be found in greens, nuts, fruit and seeds. The key to protein consumption is to eat a variety of protein sources in order to “pool” an assortment of all the necessary essential and nonessential amino acids. You can read in detail more about essential (can not be created by the body) and nonessential amino acids (can be created by the body) here.

I personally enjoy eating Dr. Graham’s 80/10/10 way approximately 80% of the time. Over the years I have detached from labels (vegan, raw vegan, pescetarian, etc.) which I find too restrictive and have developed a way of eating that pleases me and keeps me well nourished. I eat a lot of raw fruit and salads during the week and between Friday night and Saturday night you might catch me at the sushi bar or enjoying a cooked veggie, bean and rice burrito with ample guacamole. This format helps my food weekends feel different and special from my food week and I can easily be social with friends at restaurants during this “20%” time.

Arriving at this unique way of eating has been the result of studying food casually and formally, listening to my body and leading my life from my heart. I enjoy the clean fuel & nutrition that raw plants provide and I supplement my mostly vegan diet with fish & eggs rather than omega-3 and B12 capsules. My diet allows me to stay active (walk, swim and jog occasionally), work hard, sleep well, feel happy, maintain a slim body size (5’7”, size 6) and feel great in my skin. I have noticed that since I started eating this way that my oxygen utilization is more efficient so I feel in better cardiovascular shape with less training. Also by focusing more on my quality of food, my fitness and body size are easier to maintain. I eat a lot of plants, never feel hungry and effortlessly keep my body fat in check. My online food diary is here if you’d like to take a peek.

You can, with understanding and knowledge, get enough protein to support your fitness goals and avoid common excessive animal protein ailments by intaking more plant proteins. You might be surprised how little you need and how great you feel shifting to more alkaline and oxygen-rich plant based protein options.

Carla Golden is the owner of As a licensed massage therapist in private practice specializing in therapeutic essential oils, she is also the owner of, an online holistic healthcare directory, and a PhD student at the University & College of Natural Health. More importantly she is the wife of Chad and the daughter of 11 year old Bella, her moon and sun.

Carve Your Pumpkin and Eat It Too!

Guest post by Amanda Daley

If there’s one vegetable that my husband and I can not agree on it’s pumpkin. It is my absolute favorite vegetable – it tastes so good and can be used in so many different ways – while the only thing left on his plate will always be the pumpkin.

Having lived my whole life in New Zealand and Australia, the phenomenon of Pumpkin Pie and Jack-o-Lanterns has been a tradition I have viewed from afar. Having the good fortune of staying in the US this year as Fall arrives, I have watched the pumpkins pop up at such a rapid rate. Pumpkins are literally everywhere – overflowing at the stores and market, in shop window displays, on the glossy pages of the magazines and out front of every second home as a key decoration in the lead up to Halloween.

While the bright orange skins signal to the nation that festivities are ahead, it’s what is inside them that has me most excited.

Both pumpkin seeds and the flesh are packed full of health-boosting benefits, loaded with vitamins, minerals and a host of other goodies.

Warm Pumpkin Spice Smoothie


1 avocado
1 cup of raw pumpkin, peeled and cubed (or canned pumpkin)
½ cup of hot water (or chai tea for extra spice)
Heaped tablespoon Almond Butter
Stevia to taste
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ginger
A pinch ground cardamom
A pinch allspice
A pinch nutmeg
A pinch cloves


Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth – adding more liquid as you go if needed.

Taste the smoothie and adjust the stevia and spices to your liking.

I like to serve mine in a mug or bowl and eat it with a spoon like a warm pudding – perfect as the weather starts to cool. In summer, use cold water and ice instead of the tea.

Pumpkins are sweet AND have a grounding effect on the body – bringing you down to earth when sugar has sent you sky high. They are a highly favored ingredient to balance the body in a Macrobiotic diet. In my practice as a holistic health coach, pumpkin is my secret ingredient in helping women eliminate sugar from their diets and remove cravings.

Pumpkin is low in fat and calories and rich in disease-fighting nutrients such as:

  • Alpha-carotene
  • Beta-carotene
  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • Essential Fatty Acids
  • Vitamins A, C and E
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Pantothenic acid

Here are some of the many health benefits of pumpkin and how you can start incorporating them into your life:

  • The beta-carotene present in both the flesh and the seeds has a very high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. Consumption of pumpkin has been known to reduce inflammation rapidly, and can also protect from joint inflammation and arthritis.
  • Having a cup of pumpkin seeds a day as a snack can prevent wrinkles and leave your skin hydrated and nourished due to the high levels of vitamins A, C, E and Zinc.
  • The vitamin E also helps protect the body from sun damage and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers.
  • The protective ‘phytosterols’ present in pumpkin can lower the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Pumpkin flesh contains L-tryptophan, a chemical compound that triggers feelings of well-being and happiness. Having pumpkin as a part of your daily diet can keep your spirits high and prevent depression.
  • In various cultures especially China, pumpkins are used to treat infections caused by tapeworms and other parasites.
  • Pumpkins are natural diuretics. These help in flushing out the toxins and unwanted waste material from the body, leaving you refreshed and healthy.
  • The vitamin C in pumpkin boosts immunity, reduces the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, and regulates cholesterol levels.
  • The potassium found in pumpkin aids in balancing fluid levels in the body, promotes strong bones, is necessary for energy production, and helps to control blood pressure.
  • Pumpkin is also rich in magnesium, which aids the body in hundreds of functions, including promoting a healthy immune system, contributing to bone strength, and normalizing heart function. Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5 is also found in pumpkin.

To top it all off, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin flesh offer an abundance of uses in cooking; from muffins to pies to smoothies.

So when you finish carving up your pumpkins for Halloween over the coming weeks, be sure to keep the seeds and flesh and get creative in the kitchen to reap the health benefits of pumpkin.


About Amanda Daley: Experiencing Adrenal Fatigue after 13 years in the corporate world of advertising, Amanda surrendered from the fast-paced life and followed her passion instead. A myriad of health conditions fell away as soon as stress was eliminated and a renewed sense of purpose sprung forth. She now works as a Holistic Health Coach, helping busy women fuel their lives with health, passion and joy. Connect with her at, on Facebook and Twitter.