BetterU 2014 – Week 4

Welcome to week 4 of the BetterU Challenge! (New here or want to find out more about this program? Jump back to the week 1 information here!)

Week 4

Week 4 already, can you believe it!? They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit that you will likely stick to. So for many of us we hopefully have formed some healthy new habits that will help us be a Better US for life, not just the 12 weeks of this program. Drinking more water? Making movement a part of your life, aiming for 150 minutes per week? Choosing more unprocessed foods than before? Lifting some weights or doing some stomach exercises while you watch tv? All of these small changes add up to lowering your risk for heart disease and you will be adding years to your life!

Of course its nice to feel healthier and look healthier on the outside too. Some of you are losing pounds, others are not seeing the scale budge but are feeling like their clothes are fitting better, still some are not seeing any difference at all yet. The important thing to know is that the REAL change is going on inside of your body and will eventually transpire on the outside. Don’t focus on a number on the scale or what you look like on the outside. Respect and love your body as it is, keep honoring your life by taking care of your body. Change will take place on the outside…believe me!

When I was over 100 pounds overweight I stopped worrying about the numbers on the scale and instead focused on keeping my heart healthy and loving my body enough to care for it, to live a long, vibrant life, no matter what size pants I was wearing, I eventually stepped onto that scale and saw the numbers going down and got to buy new clothes as the old ones started literally falling off of me. It was a nice side effect, believe me. Going shopping for the first time NOT in the plus size department, being able to throw on a dress and feel confident, seeing my true shape come forward…I have to admit, it was fun!

BetterU heartBut the real deal for me was going to the doctor for the first time after losing about 40 pounds. The last time I had been to the doctor I was pre-diabetic, had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglycerides. I was 25 years old and was told by the doctor that I would be needing medication to control these issues very soon if I didn’t do something about it. This time I had my blood work done and anxiously awaited the results in the mail. I got my first good news immediately as I stepped on the scale and saw that my weight was 40 pounds less than the year prior. My doctor told me that I was now out of the obese category on the BMI charts and was now in the middle of the overweight category. I was so excited! Not necessarily about the weight loss, although I was shocked because I hadn’t been trying to lose weight, I was just living for a healthy future. Mainly because I knew the health risks drop drastically as you shift out of the obese category. Now I just had to wait for my lab work. The day came and I opened the letter apprehensively. The first thing I noticed was a smiley face. I looked at my results and ran to the computer to look up the optimal numbers…..all of my lab results were in the optimal range. Yes I was still considered overweight at about 190 pounds, but my heart was healthier. Not only my heart but my entire body was being treated right and it was showing. This was the motivation I needed to continue living this lifestyle.

Now I continue not only to continue striving for my ultimate goal, my vision of being an elderly woman who is fit and active and swinging my grandchildren around, but also because I FEEL so good. This is the way my body is meant to be treated and I am honoring it every day through the choices I make. Delicious foods that are good for my body. Getting movement in several times a week and just being generally more active. Sleeping well. Not experiencing intestinal distress all of the time like I used to. Less illness. Why would I not continue? This is a lifestyle, not a diet. This is the way we are meant to treat our bodies.

My point to all of this is that in my first 21 days I created the majority of the habits that led to my over 100 pound weightloss and heart-healthy lifestyle. Then I just continued on and added a few more healthy habits here and there. Not an overnight complete lifestyle flip, just small changes everyday. Here we are just past the 21 day mark and you have likely made changes that will lead to a longer, healthier life yourself. If not, lets get started now. :)

You can download the BetterU Week 4 PDF file here.

BetterU team handsWeek 4 focus: Surround yourself with support

As you will see in the BetterU program book (which you are hopefully making time to sit down and explore and fill out weekly) this week we are talking about building TeamU – your support system. Not just for the duration of this program, but for life.

For those in a marriage/relationship/partnership/family it is wonderful to get the whole family on board so you are all in the same mindset and living a healthy life together. This is really helpful and hopefully seeing the changes you are making will make everyone eventually want to get on board. If this isn’t your situation then grabbing a friend, co-worker, online accountability partner, sister, mother, brother, family member…ANYONE that helps support YOU is a great thing to do.

You will likely need several kinds of support. Who in your life qualifies to fill these rolls?

  • Informational - Provides helpful information and suggestions on health, nutrition and physical activity. Who in your life fills this roll? Chef Kirsten’s tips for resources: Great educational and research-based health websites you read often, nutrition consultant, health magazines, books, etc.
  • Emotional - Motivate and encourage you to keep going on the road to heart health. Who in your life fills this roll?
  • Participant - Performs activities with you. A workout buddy or accountability partner. Who in your life fills this roll? Chef Kirsten’s tip: Be this person for someone else too, it helps YOU stay accountable as well when you know someone is counting on you and looking up to you! For me this is my roll everyday as a mother.
  • Logistics - Handle practical assistance like child care, transportation and other tasks so you can make time for yourself. Who in your life fills this roll?

Choosing to change is wonderful…now we need to actually MAKE the change! Every step in the right direction is huge. Here are some tips:

  • Build on past success. What motivated you to make the change? How did you feel when you reached your goal?
  • Keep your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Appropriate and Realistic) with a time frame. How are your goals? Maybe you are doing great or maybe you need to reassess your goals from week 1. That is okay! Go ahead and do that.
  • Count on TeamU. How are your supporters helping you? Do you need to find more support? Who can YOU support? Go Red Heart Match program is a great way to find online support from women just like you! Click here to be matched with an online or local person to help you if you need additional support!
  • Commit to change. How can you make YOU a priority?

Healthy activities can be more fun if you do them WITH your support team.


This week in the class we are so grateful that Melissa Wohlhueter, MA, LMHC and Chris Jackson, MS, LMHC from Crave Health, a private nutrition practice in Kirkland, Washington, took the time to come and talk to us all about healthy mindset, information about food disorders and the bio-chemical triggers for food cravings. They were incredible, I learned so much from them and I know the participants did too! They were full of questions for Melissa and Chris and were very honest about their stories. We all learned from each other and Melissa and Chris were beyond helpful in facilitating the discussion to help the ladies each learn something about what they are currently going through.

How are you feeling supported? Do you need help finding a supportive environment? Not everyone has a support team at home. Here are some ideas to find some support:

  • Get a walking partner or start a walking club in your neighborhood or workplace
  • Play active games or go on a bike ride with family or friends
  • Walk your dog (a furry friend can offer support too!)
  • Participate in local charity walks, such as the American Heart Association’s Start! Heart Walk
  • Organize a heart-healthy potluck lunch or dinner party
  • Go to a farmer’s market with a friend to find local fruits and vegetables in season

Emotional and motivational support is also important. As many of us found out in class this week, not every one of us has the benefit of a supportive family or friends currently, but they’re not letting that stop them from being a BetterU! Many of the ladies are reaching out to each other to support one another through this program and beyond, it is wonderful to see them opening up to each other.

I also find that I need a good flow of “good” throughout the day to keep me motivated and emotionally “up”. I do this through health and fitness magazines as well as subscribing to several motivational websites that send out free emails. It is nice to have a visual picker-upper thoughout the day!

What keeps you motivated? As Chris from Crave shared, it is helpful to have a go-to memory or visualization that keeps you on track when the cookie tray passes or when you’re just not feeling great. Having a visual that helps you remember that you want to keep a healthy, strong body to keep you humming through this beautiful life as long as possible! What is yours? I shared that my “aha” visual that was the catalyst for my lifestyle change, and is still what I visualize when I am not feeling that wonderful or like I don’t want to get my exercise in is this: I see myself at 90-100 years old, fit, healthy and happy. My family is all around and I’m swinging my great grandchildren around. I can picture the yard, what I’m wearing, every detail. Chris said this is important – it needs to be crystal clear. He also mentioned that some people are motivated by negative visualization, but it is more rare and some are discouraged by it. That is for you to know about yourself. He said he pictures himself when he was heavier and unhealthy to keep him on goal. What works for you? Write it down in your book!

Have a wonderful week and congratulations on Week 4 towards a BetterU!

Chef Kirsten Signature

Special thanks to our sponsors:

Verdant Health Commission

Lynnwood Rec center


BetterU 2014 – Week 3

Thank you for making a commitment to a BetterU!

Better U

Welcome to week 3 of the BetterU Challenge! (New here or want to find out more about this program? Jump back to the week 1 information here!)

Week 3

This week we took a virtual tour of the grocery store, one of my favorite sessions! I remember learning so many things when I set out on my nutrition education, it was mind boggling! Lot’s of myth-busting that’s for sure, there is a lot of mis-information out there, as well as old habits (remember when the old standard margarine was supposed to be good for us – like I said, it is one molecule away from being plastic, it was developed to quickly fatten up turkeys for slaughter. Not for us.) I hope I brought some awareness of some of the wonderful healthy products at the store you may have never noticed, plus some of my favorite budget friendly items as well. If you would like to access my PDF version of the talk, click here and enjoy!

For those of you following along at home you can access tons of information from the American Heart Association about making your shopping trips healthier and stocking your home with delicious foods that will help you live heart-healthier! Click here to be taken to the American Heart Association page focusing on Heart Healthy Grocery Shopping tips. To learn more about reading labels click here.

The week 3 handout is also available for download here.

In class the participants are sharing some of their new found workouts, recipes and workout buddies! They are continuing to log their food choices (healthy or not), exercise and any feelings they are having. Each week the goal is to implement one new healthy change. Hopefully this week with the healthy shopping information you can implement more than 1!

Happy  Shopping! 


Chef Kirsten Signature

Special thanks to our sponsors:

Verdant Health Commission

Verdant Health Commission




Lynnwood Recreation Center

Lynnwood Rec center




BetterU 2014 – Week 2

Thank you for making a commitment to a BetterU!

Better U

Welcome to week 2 of the BetterU Challenge! (New here or want to find out more about this program? Jump back to the week 1 information here!)

Week 2

Reducing your risk factors. Last week here at the live presentation of the BetterU Challenge in the Lynnwood area, the 50 participants all had biometric health screenings to determine their risk factors for heart disease. If you are following along at home consider getting your numbers (blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, weight) checked to see where you personally can improve your heart health. At the very least you can get your blood pressure tested for free at many pharmacies and fire stations. Once you have your numbers you can plug them in at the Go Red Heart Checkup online tool and get a personalized action plan.

“it’s never too late to change a few things and start living healthy.”

Now that we have the results, everyone knows where they personally can improve. Every day choices can greatly improve these numbers and reduce your risk for heart disease and other lifestyle-related diseases. Our focus during this program is to improve these numbers over the remaining 10 weeks and learn how to make continual small improvements in our lives to live for a healthier future and slash our risk of heart disease and stroke.

You can download the BetterU Week 2 PDF file here to learn more about risk factors we can and can’t control, questions to ask your doctor, (did you know that studies show many doctors don’t talk to their female patients about heart disease, yet it is the #1 killer of women?) some small daily changes that can add up to improved numbers and some great recipes and healthy cooking tips!


This week during the class Dr. Siecke delivered a wonderful presentation about heart disease, from a doctor’s point of view. He helped us see what is happening in the body when blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar numbers are not in the normal range. I know for me, seeing this has really helped me make better choices.

According to the AHA for some people, lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough to reach healthy cholesterol levels. Your doctor may prescribe medication. It takes a team to develop and maintain a successful health program. You and your healthcare professionals each play an important role in maintaining and improving your heart health. Know how to talk with your doctor about your cholesterol levels and be sure you understand all instructions. Follow your plan carefully, especially when it comes to medication — it won’t work if you don’t take it as directed. And learn how to make diet and lifestyle changes easy and lasting.

Dr. Siecke emphasized how excess fat is a large factor in elevated cholesterol. Fat is not just a “dead” substance, or just aesthetically unappealing. Fat cells (especially fat around the abdomen) create inflammation and hormones that are very damaging. Achieving a healthy weight through a healthy lifestyle is crucial to keeping your heart healthy. That doesn’t mean you have to go on a strict diet. Living a healthy lifestyle while focusing on your health, not your weight, is the best way to shed excess pounds and keep them off for good. A diet is something you go on, then go off. Living a healthy lifestyle is forever, not just until you shed excess fat.

Cholesterol is not just a middle-age problem anymore.

 Dr. Siecke talked to us about how 8, 9, 10 year old children are showing signs of high cholesterol due to poor lifestyle choices. He referenced research done on deceased 18 year olds from the Vietnam war that showed no signs of high cholesterol. Times sure have changed over the past couple of decades! We need to help our children live healthier lives NOW to help keep them healthy later. Once built up in the arteries, the plaque that causes Atherosclerosis and can lead to stroke and heart attack doesn’t disappear. The good news is just like adults, you can help keep your children’s cholesterol levels healthy (in addition to reducing the risk factors of developing Type 2 Diabetes and other highly preventable health problems) by having our children lead the same healthy lifestyle listed above and hopefully modeling that lifestyle ourselves.

Dr. Seicke recommended the Mediterranean lifestyle as a great example of a heart-healthy lifestyle. (I sure agree!) The Mediterranean lifestyle entails:

· Enjoying an abundance of vegetables and fruits

· Enjoying healthy fats such as olive oil

· Enjoying healthy nuts such as almonds

· Eating a limited amount of meat

· Eating several servings of fish and seafood every week

· Enjoying healthy carbohydrate choices such as legumes and whole grains (which happen to be gluten free)

· Enjoying red wine in moderation

· Enjoying meals slowly, surrounded by family and friends

· Walking often

For more information head on over to the AHA website!

A very special thanks and much gratitude to Dr. Siecke for taking the time to come and meet with us and deliver such a wonderful, impacting message about our heart health.


Chef Kirsten Signature

Special thanks to our sponsors:

Verdant Health Commission

Verdant Health Commission




Lynnwood Recreation Center

Lynnwood Rec center