Tag Archives: holidays

Your Gut Health and Mood


We often feel a bit hungover when we return home from holiday travels after too many glasses of wine and a tad too much pie (let’s not kid ourselves, sample bites and partial pieces of pie add up to a whole slice). We wonder why the food coma haunts us for days, leaving us lethargic and foggy-headed, perhaps even coming down with a touch of a cold. As the holidays approach and we begin to daydream about those heaping piles of mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce, it’s important to remember that a lot of our health and immune function lies in the gut. When we mess with our gut health, we impact our hormones, immune system, nervous system and mood. Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

Today, I’m going to take a plain-language approach to gut health so that you can quickly and easily understand what hurts it and helps it, and why it should matter to you. Disclaimer: There’s just a liiiiitttttle bit of scientific jargon included because at the end of the day, I’m a nerd. 


Gut Health…The Bad News

Research over the last several decades has increasingly pointed to poor gut health as a major contributing factor in a variety of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, autism, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome and more. Chris Kresser, named by Greatist.com as one of the 100 most influential individuals in health and fitness for his leadership in nutrition, functional and integrative medicine, helps people understand what contributes to gut dysfunction and what they can do to restore good health.

Kresser claims that gut health comprises 75% of the immune system and can be broken down by the following lifestyle and health factors:

  • Antibiotics and other medications like birth control and NSAIDs
  • Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
  • Diets low in fermentable fibers
  • Dietary toxins like wheat and industrial seed oils that cause leaky gut
  • Chronic stress
  • Chronic infections                                                                 (Kresser, 2011)

While it’s easy to think that we may not have an issue with our gut health if our stomach and gastrointestinal function seems fine, an increase in bad gut flora and/or breakdown of the barrier of our gastrointestinal systems (i.e., leaky gut) can show up in all sorts of other forms. For example, gut health can be linked to depression, brain fog, eczema, psoriasis, diabetes, allergies, asthma, heart problems and more. Even simple things like falling victim to multiple colds, infections and/or inflammation in joints/muscles which leads to injuries can be linked back to what’s going on in the tummy. Holiday weekends packed with stressful travel, extra rich food and exposure to germs (gotta love when someone sneezes next to you on the airplane) can throw us off our game.


Gut Health…The Good News

Some things that stress our bodies aren’t fully under our control, so don’t guilt yourself if you feel less than optimal. There’s no telling exactly what the cause is or whose “fault” it is. The only thing we can do to feel better is remove things from our diet and environment which stress our bodies and add in positive foods and habits that will help us. In this way, we slowly allow our bodies to restore good gut health. This will allow us to have better immune function and hormonal balance. As we become less prone to feeling “blah,” we will find new energy and have an uplifted mood.

Kresser recommends the following for boosting gut health:

  • Remove all food toxins from your diet
  • Eat plenty of fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc.)
  • Eat fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kim chi, etc., and/or take a high-quality, multi-species probiotic
  • Treat any intestinal pathogens (such as parasites) that may be present
  • Take steps to manage your stress                                         (Kresser, 2011)

If you take simple steps like these to feel better before the holidays, your gut health won’t take such a big hit from the stress you experience and the food you consume. You will be able to enjoy a few indulgent meals without making yourself overly inflamed and sick. After the holidays, gently steer yourself back on track with healthy habits and you’re good to go. There’s no stopping someone who feels GREAT!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yours in health and wellness,




3 Elite Trainers’ Advice for the Holidays


It’s the holiday season and sharing is caring, right? Today, I’m hosting three awesome trainers on WellnessWinz. They are doing us the courtesy of sharing their go-to tips for the season (which we all know can be a challenge to juggle…both in terms of shopping and decorating agendas and figuring out how to approach the holiday buffet spread). Enjoy these three pros; they’re keepers.

Allison Blake 1

Alison Blake is a NASM Personal Trainer and an Arbonne International Independent Consultant. Alison has trained for bikini competitions and recently got married! One of her group exercise classes is a favorite of mine – she knows how to work the glutes, let me tell ya!

Alison’s Advice: Give to Yourself

“During the holiday season we spend a lot of our time with family and friends. We get to see relatives that may only come around a few times per year. Many of us travel to stay with relatives or host them for days at a time. Many great memories are shared, but it leaves us with very little alone time.

Waking up an hour early, maybe even before the others are awake, and using that time for exercising, stretching, meditation or prayer can make a big difference around the holidays. We can re-charge our batteries and give something good to ourselves, since most of the day will be spent giving to others.

By beginning the day with a healthy mindset, we help ourselves make healthy choices throughout the day (like resisting the urge for the second helping of mashed potatoes or pie). One example is to go for a walk or a run. If the weather keeps you indoors, try push-ups, squats, lunges and planks. The bit of effort that exercise takes can give us a greater appreciation for the moments we share with others. ‘Tis the season of giving,’ but we cannot forget to also give to ourselves.”


Kevin deadlift

Kevin Mullins is back, folks! Last year, Kevin was a guest on WellnessWinz, writing the very popular article: Men’s Health Next Top Trainer Weighs in on Women. Kevin offers fantastic content for fitness enthusiasts via his blog: Kevin Mullins Fitness. Oh yea, did I mention that Women’s Health recently named him one of America’s 10 Hottest Trainers? Get it, Kevin!

Kevin’s Advice: Choose What Matters

“During the holiday season our social calendars can burst at the seams with calorie-bombing events. Weekends become full of holiday parties, happy hours, and dinners and drinks with family and friends. This time of the year is beautiful for its ability to draw us closer to those we love, and for that reason, I often coach my clients to relax and enjoy the holiday spirit. This does not mean exerting a blatant disregard for their training and nutrition habits. I often ask my clients to point to the one or two holiday activities that mean the world to them and tell them to enjoy. Even I look forward to a couple good whiskeys with my father every Thanksgiving, and a few stocking-stuffer candies on Christmas. These are my ‘gives.’

For everything else, we should put it through the test: Is it worth setting us back from our goals? Is there a way to do it without going overboard? Can I train that day to help offset the calorie loads?

Overall, I recommend working out over the holidays and eating most meals as you normally would. You’ll be better prepared to say ‘no’ to deserts, another round of drinks, or a late evening with friends when you keep your habits consistent.

For the indulgences, choose what matters most to you and enjoy, but be sure to pick what actually matters. Don’t just say ‘yes’ to everything!”


Jessica B 1

Jessica is a former collegiate swimmer who knows a thing or two about hard effort in the pool – and the gym! Jessica is a Certified Personal Trainer who lives in Utah and enjoys a spectrum of outdoor activities (her Instagram pictures make this city girl very jealous). Also, Jessica recently started a blog: JBrauzFit.com where she offers lots of creative workouts and tips, especially for strength training. Fun fact: Her cat is named Pinot Noir. Yes, a trainer with a cat named after wine.

Jessica’s Advice: Hydrate – Move – Relax!

“As the holidays are approaching, many people are busy doing last minute shopping, decorating and tidying up before their loved ones come over for all of the festivities…But what are these people doing to prepare for their health?

Some people may be freaking out, cursing left and right, ‘ah, hell. I haven’t been eating well this past week so I might as well just let it go for the holiday parties too…’ It doesn’t have to be this way if you plan ahead. Proper planning will keep you from feeling out of control towards the year’s end.
Here are some tips that I have found helpful during the holiday season:

1-Drink water! I know, I know. We all want to indulge in some amazing holiday cocktails (and I do too!) but it won’t hurt to have a glass of water for every cocktail/wine you consume. Plus, your head will thank you the next morning. Quick tip: Stick with wine or light beers if you’re concerned about calories. These beverages won’t have as many as specialty cocktails and heavy brews.

2- Work it out with a 20-30 minute workout in the a.m.! I like to do more metabolic resistance-type training during the holiday season; combining strength and heart rate boosting to torch fat!;) Here is a MRT workout to try:

Barbell pyramid complex:
-Do the following reps for each exercise: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2. (ladies be mindful and start with the barbell if you have never done this before, or complete it with dumbbells)
-Exercises: Deadlifts, Bent Over Row, Front Squat, Military Press, Reverse Lunge
-For added intensity, complete burpees over the bar in between each set!

3- Don’t deprive yourself. If Grandma just made some amazing Christmas cookies, or your mom made her favorite peanut butter balls, enjoy and have a couple of bites! You don’t need to stuff yourself silly, but sampling at parties is just fine. Enjoy the holiday! Laugh with family and friends and don’t stress too hard if you slip up. It will be okay!”


HUGE thanks to Alison, Kevin and Jessica for taking the time to share their professional advice with WellnessWinz readers! You guys are awesome.
Yours in health and wellness,
wellnesswinz blue sea

To Face Unafraid (the plans we’ve made and more)

The holiday season is full of cheer, gift wrapping, hot cocoa, and a familiar playlist of Christmas carols. One such popular song, “Winter Wonderland,” was written in 1934 and has since been recorded by over 200 artists. The song mostly references winter’s charms like sleigh bells, snowmen, and the thrilling chill in the air. If you listen closely to the words of the holiday tune you will notice that one verse in particular feels a bit out of place. It stands out from the bubbly imagery of winter. It speaks to one of the biggest challenges of the holiday season and life at large:

To face unafraid / the plans that we’ve made” 

Even in the midst of the holidays we too have made numerous plans and overbooked ourselves to the extent that we might now be timid about our agendas. Or perhaps we have cleared our plates of responsibility and must find the resolve to enjoy down time without a whirring voice in the back of our minds telling us about all the things we ought to be doing instead of relaxing. Whatever your situation, finding the ability to thrive instead of survive can be tricky business.

One way that people commonly quell anxiety about the holidays and the upcoming new year is by setting a New Year’s resolution. I’m shocking you with this breaking news. About 50% of us will set a resolution. Unfortunately, research shows that 88% of all resolutions set on New Year’s fail. Ouch. The failure rate is so high because of the way people proclaim their goals. Lucky for you, success is within reach if you do the following…

WW Recommit to Goals

Instead of focusing on a big, lofty goal such as “I want to lose 20 lbs.,” commit yourself to a simple, concrete routine. For example: “I will do my best to go to the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays” or “I will attempt to better control my meal portions by substituting certain calorie dense foods with filling vegetables at lunch and dinner.”

Focus your energy on a routine instead of a goal. This will ensure that you take action rather than sit back and stress over a lack of progress or fear that you won’t be able to attain the high standards that you have set for your future self. As a fitness professional, I have seen time and time again that when people set large goals for themselves, without also creating healthy routines, they get lost in a spiral of frustration and fear. People miss personal training sessions, avoid the gym, and sometimes even gain weight, all because of anxiety over how to achieve their goals.

Fear not. Over time, routines become habitual. According to research it takes approximately 66 days on average for an action to become a habit. This really isn’t too terribly long. It’s worth committing yourself to. Your new healthy habit will become an anchor that keeps you on track. It provides the powerful root structure from which you can grow additional positive benefits and behaviors. The daily choice to engage in this action is the way you consistently recommit to your goals. Thanks to the power of habits we need not fear “all the plans that we’ve made.” This year, there will be no stopping us.

WW Open your eyes


Yours in health and wellness,


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Recovery Time is Forgotten

WW Happy Winter

Many women are aware that exercise and eating well are essential for good health. Many women also know that good work/life balance, as challenging as it is to achieve, can help them feel more satisfied. In spite of all the things we remember to work towards on a daily basis, there is one crucial thing women frequently forget to make time for. It’s often referred to as “the forgotten training variable” and it’s an important component of wellness. The forgotten variable of exercise and healthy living is recovery.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective, we don’t reap any benefits of exercise until we have recovered. Yes, it’s true. Exercise is a stress applied to our bodies and it’s only once we have recovered from this stress that our bodies becomes stronger and more capable.

Stress isn’t always a bad thing. Stress stimulates the body and helps it become resilient. An article about stress and recovery, The Making of a Corporate Athlete, written by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz for the Harvard Business Review, cites that stress is not the main thing that hinders professionals from reaching their peak performance. What does hinder professionals from reaching their “Ideal Performance State” is the absense of a purposeful recovery.

WW Recovery in Winter

Loehr and Schwartz explain in their work that “Sustained high achievement demands physical and emotional strength as well as a sharp intellect. To bring mind, body, and spirit to peak condition, executives need to learn what world-class athletes already know: recovering energy is as important as expending it.

Athletes and professionals must go through cycles of peak performance and subsequent recovery or “off-seasons” in order to rejuvenate and thereby successfully enter back into their demanding daily grind. Many professionals burn out and athletes get injured when they do not allow for proper recovery. What would happen if a CEO refused to take vacation for years on end and worked 80-100 hrs/week? What would happen if an elite runner trained at race speed every workout in between Olympic trials? Peak performance is something we briefly achieve, not something we maintain for long periods of time. In between moments of reaching “our best” we must work in cycles of effort/expenditure and recovery.

For the average person, a balanced training approach (not including nutrition) is four pronged and includes achieving the following: 1) cardiovascular health, 2) strength, 3) flexibility, and 4) RECOVERY.  ACE Fitness offers a great explanation for why this fourth prong, recovery, is so crucial:

“The best workout program in the world won’t create the effect you want if you don’t get the proper rest and allow the appropriate time for your body to recover from the exercise. In fact, training too hard, too often, with little recovery can actually be bad for you and lead to Overtraining Syndrome (OTS), which could cause weight gain, sleeplessness, poor immune system function and other physiological issues that can keep you from reaching your fitness goals.”

WW Sleep

I get it. This is a hard pill to swallow because American culture, and the many roles a woman plays in her life, make it very difficult to take a break. How many of you have multi-tasked on a much needed “sick day” answering work emails, doing the laundry, or running out of the house at lunch to do errands? Is that really recovery? How many of you have traded in sleep for extra hours of work? (Raising my hand!) 1/3 of Americans get less than the healthy amount of suggested sleep. They trade it in for work. This lack of rest could quite literally be killing a nation by adding to disease and issues with health.  Yikes!

You don’t have to forgo rest though – it’s okay to take a break! In fact, once you return to better health via rest then you will be in a better physical and mental place to take on the next great challenge in your life. Promotion?! Child #2?! Kickboxing class?! Organizing your closet?! Taking a break to relax, get enough sleep, or allow your body to recover from stressful exercise will both feel good and help you to do good. You will have more energy to share. This is truly a scenario where giving to yourself should be top priority. You have permission to think of yourself first and to be a little “greedy” with your time. Simply relax, lady. Recover. Oh, just enjoy! 

WW HH and Relax


Yours in health and wellness,


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Unselfie; The Joy of Stepping Back

Unselfie?! Does this mean being selfless during the holiday season or are we talking about literally quitting with the mobile driven selfie shots (aka turning your camera view inwards for a self-portrait)? Answer: both.

The holiday season is a time to enjoy being present so that others can receive one of the most precious gifts we are capable of giving: undivided attention.  Taking a break from being “selfie-centered” is rewarding on many levels and there’s scientific data to back that up…


It’s incredible how many guests at special events spend the entirety of their time with their faces buried in mobile devices. Most of us can admit to both casting disapproving glances at people who whip out their handhelds at delicate times and at one time or another, being guilty of doing the same. I can remember one wedding in particular when I looked at the bride and groom’s table, beautifully decorated with flowers and special place settings, and over half of their attendants (at the same table) were tapping away at their phones, heads down and detached.

The selfie picture taking phenomenon is popular at weddings, family gatherings, date nights, parties, and more. It seems just about every moment of our lives can be broadcast in the form of selfies via social media. If you’re not in a generation that takes endless mobile photos then no doubt you are at least related to another woman who does this. She will probably try to take a selfie with you over the holidays! Selfies have even become a means of checking out how we look, almost akin to looking at one’s reflection in the mirror.

There are a few problems that come with the selfie culture though…

1) Selfies are a highlight reel. Endless filters and photo editing techniques distort the images from reality and allow us to only display the “most beautiful” versions of ourselves. Ever looked at social media sites and the endless attractive pictures of friends and strangers and felt like you just don’t measure up?

2) According to MailOnline Pat Hagan’s article, Looking in the mirror DOES make you more anxious about your looks, ten minutes of looking at your own reflection every day can increase anxiety.

3) Ellen Vora, MD with One Medical writes in her article 5 Health Hazards of an “Always On” Lifestyle :

“As much as we love the convenience of video chatting and Skype to interact with friends and family members, it’s still just video on a screen. A Gallup study found that human beings need up to six hours of social interaction a day to achieve a sense of thriving emotional well-being—and quality matters. Unfortunately, substituting technological communication won’t cut it, and then we frequently disengage once we’re in social situations by fiddling with our phones.”

WW Frozen montage 2

4) Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing, says “Not all social time counts the same. In-person time counts more.

So there we have it! These are only a few of many reasons why opting for the “Unselfie” is going to be worth it! It might only be for a few hours, a single event, a day, several days – whatever you choose is great. It’s all about being present for those around us and yes, present for ourselves.

Caring about looks and trying to capture them in time is important to women and it starts at a young age. The recent Disney movie hit Frozen has made over $1 billion in the global box office. That’s not including the incredible amount of money made on Frozen paraphernalia. For example, the number of Elsa and Anna princess costumes that were sold in 2014. Can you guess how many? Wait for it…here it is…3 million! Wow-ee-wow! 

What strikes me the most about these princess costumes is that the majority of them are Elsa. She is the queen with magical ice-shooting powers who feels like an outcast. Her younger sister Anna is warm, self-confident, and always eager to boost her sister’s self-esteem. Anna’s outfit in the movie is rather plain when compared to Elsa’s long crystal-blue gown. Thus, it’s no surprise that millions of little girls wanted to dress up as the “prettier” princess for Halloween 2014. Check out this adorable picture of an elementary classroom full of Elsas on costume day: http://i.imgur.com/yTnbbAi.png  Makes me giggle every time. 

Now, let’s not find fault in these sweet little girls for running around saying “trick-or-treat” between lines of the famous Frozen song “Let it go.” Let’s also not find too much fault in ourselves for being concerned over our looks. The point is simply to say that caring beyond a certain point, fixating on our looks, can become unhealthy for us. It can also cause us to emphasize “you look pretty” lines to a tender, impressionable little girl versus empowering her to invest self-confidence in qualities she has more control over such as her intelligence, humor, or compassion.

This holiday season follow Elsa’s famous words and “let it go.” At least for a little while, let go of constant worry about your looks and let go of the fear that if you don’t post a selfie on social media that you aren’t validated.  You are validated.  You are you. 


Holiday medicine


Yours in health and wellness,


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