BetterU – Week 3 Information & Action Steps

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

The topic this week for the BetterU challenge is “Sticking to your plan” focusing on “Physical fitness anywhere”. At the live get-together for the BetterU participants this week  Amy Kirk from the Lynnwood rec center (one of our gracious sponsors) came in to chat with us about her topic “Small changes to make a BIG difference.” She showed us how to incorporate some great body-weight (in other words you don’t need any special equipment, just using your body weight as resistance) exercises into our day-to-day lives.  Amy did a great job and I want to thank her for her knowledge!


This is the valuable information Amy shared with the group:


  • Walk. Beginning with a low impact activity is a great way to introduce your body to exercise. Walking is also one of the most accessible modes of physical fitness, just lace up and go! I love what Amy had to say about this: “Think about a plan but while you’re doing it, walk!” I love this! Seriously, just do it! Go for a walk whenever you can!
  • Change Intensity. Already moving, but nothing is changing? Exercising at an appropriate intensity is crucial to a good workout.
  • Try Something New. In the age of Groupon and Living Social, there is always an affordable opportunity to try something new.
  • Make A Plan. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Exercise doesn’t happen automatically, you must make a decision to move.
  • Set Goals. Give yourself the chance to strive toward something (maybe a local 5K race!) Fitness goals do not have to be in the shape of pounds or inches.
  • Find A Buddy. Exercising in groups or with a friend has proven that people exercise longer and harder when they have a sense of accountability.
  • Follow The 70/30 Rule. You cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet. 30% of weight loss is exercise 70% of the battle is won in the kitchen.


Need help to know how to do any of these exercises properly? Here is a link to WikiHow.  Just type in the exercise in the search field on the top of the page and you’ll get a lot of great feedback and visuals!

Here are 10 exercises you can do anytime, anywhere! 

  • Squats: use a chair as your guide, stand up, sit down, repeat!
  • Lunges: step out with one foot, lower body to achieve a 90 degree in both legs, stand tall and repeat.
  • Leg lifts: lift one leg out to the side balancing on the other, repeat 10-20 times then switch legs.
  • Calf raises: stand tall, lift heels off the floor on to tippy toes, lower and repeat.
  • Push-ups: from your toes, knees or even up against a wall. There is a push-up to fit everyone!
  • Arm circles: yes, just like in P.E. Circle one way for 30 seconds then change directions.
  • Triceps dips: put your hands on the edge of a bench or chair; lower and lift.
  • Inch worm: reach hands down to the floor, walk hands out until your body is flat, walk hands back in.
  • Jumping jacks: yep, the good old-fashioned kind.
  • Mountain climbers: hands on the floor, bring one knee to your chest and quickly switch legs.


  • Living a sedentary lifestyle is more dangerous to your health than smoking.
  • 20% of all deaths of people 35 and older were attributed to a lack of physical activity.
  • Lack of physical activity increased the risk of dying of cancer 45% for men and 25% for women.
  • Lack of physical activity increased the risk of dying from respiratory ailments increased 92% for men and 75% for women.

(Doesn’t this make you want to move your bum!?) 

You can download the BetterU Week 3 PDF file with great information about making better choices when eating out here.


Week 3 Action Items

Action items from the BetterU program book,  plus a couple of extra recommendations from me:

  • Track your success. Whether you use an app, a computer program or a good old-fashioned little notebook (my personal preference because I don’t make the time to sit down to log everything in, but is great to do to begin with to get an idea of calorie intake.) Just write it down. Write down your activity and your food intake. Get in this habit for accountability and to be able to look back to see where you may be having some slip-ups and identify why.
  • Focus on behaviors you want to change.
  • Make time to make your log and review it. I like to leave my notebook in the kitchen and I just jot everything down really quick!

Activity goals:

  • Set a goal of 150 minutes of moderate intensity (75 minutes for vigorous intensity) activity every week. Make it something fun, enjoyable and that you look forward to. Remember, this doesn’t have to be done in large chunks of time. Fit in 10 minutes here or there, wherever you can. It all adds up!
  • Do some of the activities listed above that you can do anywhere, anytime and try to make a habit of it. Drop to the floor right when you wake up and do 20 push-ups. Do leg lifts while you’re brushing your teeth. Calf raises while on the phone. Squats while you are cooking dinner and stirring the pan. It all adds up! (Participant Jennifer recommended doing the Tree Pose while warming tea or brushing your teeth – give it a try!)
  • If you’re not already setting a goal to get in more resistance training in addition to your walking/cardio can really help build lean muscle, burn more calories and really help to shape your body.
  • Do you work at a desk all day? Can you somehow incorporate activity into your day and get paid to get healthy? 🙂 Try a small pedal contraption below your desk, get a stand-up desk and a small elliptical to stand on while you’re at the computer, sit on a stability ball, lift hand weights while on the phone, fit in a walk on your 10 minute break, squat while on the phone are all some ways you can try to get a bit more physical activity into your day!
  • Celebrate your successes!

Nutrition goals:

  • Keep up the great work on what you’re already doing! Small changes can have a big impact on your numbers!
  • Add one new healthy thing you want to try this week (got water intake down? Try eating one more vegetarian meal this week; doing great getting the right servings of the right foods? Try looking for a few new recipes you’re excited to try that are within your skill level. The internet is FULL of ideas for everyone!)
  • See the great information in the book about making healthier choices when you are eating out. Sometimes eating out can’t be avoided, but it doesn’t mean you have to blow your health goals. There are usually healthy choices everywhere. See page 27 in the BetterU book or download the PDF linked above if you’re following along with us for great examples. Save those really great meals out for special occasions as a once-in-awhile treat without guilt! Tip: When eating out check the menu online before you go and look for healthy options. When you arrive don’t be tempted by looking at the menu, just give your waiter/waitress your order and enjoy your healthier choice!
  • Keep sitting down once a week to meal plan and schedule your activity. Again this is a HUGE KEY TO SUCCESS!

Week 3 Highlights

  • Such great feedback from our participants this week! Great strides every week, this will definitely add up to seeing a decrease in the numbers that REALLY count: blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar.
  • Real Food – the participants are getting this! I think it is integral to a healthier life with natural weight maintenance. Not only that, but a longer life as well!
  • Kirsten’s recipe of the week: Greek Quinoa Breakfast Scramble! We are getting a lot of requests for more quinoa recipes and interesting ways to use it, I hope this fits the bill!

Have a wonderful week and congratulations on Week 3 towards a BetterU!

Chef Kirsten Signature

Special thanks to our sponsors:

Verdant Health Commission

Lynnwood Rec center


BetterU – Week 2 Information and Action Steps!

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!

Heart Healthy Shopping. This week we spent most of the session learning how to shop for heart healthy eating…deliciously of course! The American Heart Association has some great tools to help you, which you can find here.  We went a bit further in depth with my own personal recommendations as well, plus some healthy shopping strategies! You can download the 34 page PDF file here.

BetterU Grocery cart

Week 2 Action Items

Action items from the BetterU program book,  plus a couple of extra recommendations from me:

  • List one or two physical activities you can add to your day this week if you aren’t already.
  • Write down a couple of your favorite recipes that you love and want to continue to enjoy, but may need some healthier swaps. Check out the website here for some great information!
  • Shopping – now that you have some help with how to shop easier and fill your basket with healthier options, create your shopping list this week. You can download a weekly menu planner here in case you didn’t save it last week. I recommend printing out several or saving to your computer and editing it and hopefully make this a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly habit!
  • While you’re at the store take some time to read ingredients and look for some healthier options.
  • Need to do a pantry clean out if you’ve learned something new this week? Maybe you learned something you thought was healthy, actually isn’t?
  • Last week the biggest, most important step was to write down your short term goals and a long term vision. If you haven’t, please take the time to do so. Without this, quite honestly, success at creating a healthier life or reaching your goals is lessened. The biggest variable between the 97% of people that fail at living a healthier life and achieving and maintaining a weight loss for over 5 years and the 3% that actually achieve this – goal setting and having a vision for their lives that they constantly are living for.

Week 2 Highlights

  • One of our participants shared how she had binding added to her BetterU book! She said you can have this done at FedEx Office for about $5! She also said she “invested in herself this week.” Wow, I love that! She purchased a NutriBullet as well to help her get more fresh fruits and vegetables into her daily diet, going for that at least 4 1/2 cup mark! PLUS she has lost 5 pounds this week! Great job!

This is the inspirational message she wrote on the cover of her book. THIS is inspiring!


  • Many participants share their personal goals for last week and how good they feel accomplishing them! Some great shares were more water, extra activity, goal setting and making better eating choices.
  • Manna natural foods market was brought up for great prices on good organic fruits and vegetables. Here is the link.
  • Farmers markets in the Lynnwood area – link here. Not in the Lynnwood area? Search for a farmers market in your area here!
  • – Thanks for this great link to trails in your area! Also available as a free app for the iPhone!
  • Get some great music for working out!  Here is the link for your computer, if you have Pandora on your phone search “AHA Fitness” and you’ll be taken to the station!
  • Kirsten’s recipe of the week: Healthified Chicken and Mushroom Piccata Saute – yum!

Chicken and mushroom piccata

Have a wonderful week and congratulations on Week 2 towards a BetterU!

Chef Kirsten Signature

Special thanks to our sponsors:

Verdant Health CommissionVerdant Health Commission

Lynnwood Recreation Center

Lynnwood Rec center

BetterU – Welcome and Week 1 Information and Action Steps!

Thank you for making a commitment to a BetterU!

Better U
About Chef Kirsten, your BetterU facilitator

chef kirsten 480 pixel (2)I would love to introduce myself to you before we get started! My name is Chef Kirsten Helle and I am honored to be the local facilitator of the 2013 BetterU program here in the Seattle/Lynnwood area. I am a personal chef, nutrition consultant and lifestyle and weight management specialist. I am the owner of Mesa de Vida…Table of Life and my passion is putting life-giving food on the table while bring more life TO the table!

My background is as a chef since 2005 and I have 3 years of study in nutrition and am a certified nutrition consultant, as well as 18 months study in a holistic health based lifestyle management program with a career diploma as a lifestyle and weight management specialist. In addition to this I research the dietary and lifestyle habits of the longest-living humans and those with the least amount of diet-related disease. In addition to being a personal chef I also specialize in nourishment consulting for families that are looking to create a new healthy family legacy of their own.

I lost over 100 pounds over 6 years ago after being overweight/obese most of my life. At 25 years old I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, was pre-diabetic and at a loss for how to change my lifestyle. I have a family history of heart disease and early death due to lifestyle-related choices. I was always on a diet of some sort, tried everything, but couldn’t create change in my body. I was frustrated, unhappy with myself and started to research gastric bypass surgery because I didn’t know what else to do.Before and after simple

One day I was sitting on the couch watching my 2-year-old daughter play. I hardly had the energy to even get down and play with her. It hit me right then and there that if I was to continue living and leading the lifestyle I was, she was likely to have the same health issues I was facing. I was unhappy and embarrassed of my weight as a teenager and withdrew myself from the fun activities my peers engaged in. I had such a bad self-image that my self-esteem was terrible and it was a large reason why I ended up being in an abusive relationship for many years. I was unhealthy because of the lifestyle choices I was making and was living half of my life from the couch. I wanted better for her, she deserved it. I wanted better for myself, I deserved it.

From that day forward I no longer focused on getting skinny or fitting into a certain size. My goal was to be healthy, every day, no matter what my weight was at the time. I focused on living a vibrant, healthy, long life and enjoying nutritious, delicious food and how it felt to move my body and exercise in ways I enjoyed. I stopped driving myself crazy by counting calories and points, and focusing on what I couldn’t have. I instead counted the servings of beautiful, life-giving food I GET to eat. I learned what is best for my body, what will help my family be healthy and live a long life, and how to prepare it in delicious, exciting ways. I learned what it felt like to feel GOOD, not just getting through.

I started feeling proud of how I nourished my daughter every single day. I knew I was helping her, not harming her, with the food I nourished her with. Within a little over 3 years (with the birth of my beautiful baby boy in between) I finally got on the scale to see what the number was. I hardly weighed myself during this transition because it didn’t really matter. I was more focused on how healthy I felt, my lab work showing “optimal” numbers for health and how my clothes fit. But, for the fun of it, I thought I’d see what the big number would be. 103 pounds gone. I certainly celebrated the number, it was a big accomplishment! But I didn’t celebrate the amount of weight lost, I celebrated the years I gained. Years to spend with my children, their children and other family. Years to enjoy them, not missing out on weddings and other celebrations. More years to experience life and the gift of every single day…truly living it, not witnessing it from a hospital bed.

I am passionate about helping to end the cycle of lifestyle-related disease, especially heart disease. I am on a mission to not only help end this cycle in my own family but I want to help others do the same as well. You can be a champion of this change right now by making this commitment to yourself. You can make it your mission as well!
I am honored to have the opportunity to watch these incredible transformations occur in all 50 of the participants here locally, plus I am hoping hundreds, if not thousands more, nationally!
Every week I will be blogging about the weekly program so you can follow along at home. I will be including weekly action steps and information for you to download. Even some yummy recipes!

The program

This is the opportunity to create small changes every day that can truly save your life. These changes will start on the inside and likely reflect on the outside. We’re not talking about a challenge to see who can lose the most weight. The natural weight loss/maintenance will be a wonderful side effect! We are focusing on creating change in two areas:

1.) The numbers that REALLY matter – your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels. The weight tends to come down when these other numbers come down too…isn’t that a nice side effect?
2.) Your mindset around your health and your body.

You will be gaining awareness and gaining education in how to take care of YOU, with action steps every week. This is not a diet program, you won’t be getting meal plans telling you what to eat and how to workout. You will be getting empowered to make better decisions for yourself and your family every single day that can improve your overall health.

How you can participate from home

1.) Follow along on the program with us! Make the commitment to your own health and let us know about your successes and challenges along the way! You can get your copy of the BetterU program book by clicking here.
2.) Follow along on the blog every week as we go through the program and include action steps and information along the way. Bookmark this page: . Share your successes and challenges in the blog comments to converse with the other folks from all over that can help support you on your journey.
3.) Like the Facebook page for the Puget Sound chapter of the American Heart Association Challenge and share your updates there if you wish. We’d love to share your success on your journey as well.
4.) Follow us on Twitter and share your journey! Use hashtag #BetterU so you can keep updated on everyone else following along.
5.) Share with a friend. Let them know how they can do the BetterU challenge with you!

Before you start

Step 1: Set an overall goal.

What behaviors do you want to change in the next 12 weeks? What do you want to gain from the BetterU? Write these goals down. Then, Take it one step further – create a VISION. Make it big. Write your new story. Without a vision the odds of success are lower. (Tip from Chef Kirsten: My vision was seeing myself as an elderly woman, fit and vibrant, swinging my great-grandchildren around in my backyard. I saw this in my mind and this is my goal every single day. I may have short-term goals or even longer-term goals, but my vision is always the same and is the ULTIMATE goal.)  What will yours be?

Step 2: Get your doctor’s OK, if necessary.

Moderate physical activity is safe for most women, but it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional before increasing your physical activity. This is a great time to visit for your free assessment! KNOW YOUR NUMBERS.

Step 3: Develop a plan to complete the weekly course.

Pick a day and time each week that you will take 30-60 minutes to review the course and set weekly goals. Write down your day and time.

Step 4: Determine additional tools you need to succeed.

Throughout the BetterU guide, you will be encouraged to make healthy food choices and be physically active. Because these are two huge factors for a healthy heart and longer life! If these behaviors are new for you, you may need to make a few small purchases to get prepared. For example, a vegetable brush or new set of knives for cutting fruits and vegetables are helpful. Or, you may need a new pair of comfortable shoes for walks around the block or work during your lunch hour. You don’t have to buy anything, but a new tool or piece of equipment can help add motivation. Determine what your barriers are: no time to cook, need new recipes, need to create time to workout, etc. Write these down and create an action plan for every barrier you have. Examples: I will buy some new cook books, I will find a great new website with recipes I’m excited to try, I will take a cooking lesson, I will get nutrition consulting, I will buy a new workout DVD I’m excited to try, I will get up 30 minutes earlier every day if I can’t fit my workout in during the day, etc.
I have also included a weekly menu planner which you can download here: Weekly menu planner to help you stay one step ahead of the game. You can save this on your computer and print it out every week. Pick the day and time you will sit down (15-20 minutes) to plan out your meals for the week and create your grocery shopping list.

Step 5: Get five of your female friends and family members to join BetterU

By recruiting others, you will not only help them prevent heart disease and stroke, but also help yourself by building a support team with similar goals. The support and encouragement of family and friends is key to success. Write down the names of your friends here that you will contact directly. You can also share the link to this page on your Facebook page and let others know how they can join in as well!

Week 1

Let’s get started by getting familiar with The Simple 7! You may not implement every single change this week, that is okay. Simply being aware is key and writing down your goal for this week in each area will help you be on your way to a BetterU!

Click on the picture below to download your copy of the Simple 7! Refer to this often, print it out if you wish! Every week we will delve deeper into each topic and give you even more education, awareness and tools to help you succeed.

Simple 7 Capture

Week 1 Action Items

  • Get the facts.

Click here —>  Wkly_Info_BetterU_Wk01 to download the facts about heart disease in women and to learn more.

  • Get on track.

Let’s start by assessing how you currently feel about making changes to two behaviors – physical activity and healthy eating – that play a big role in the health of your heart.

1. “I choose to walk, not drive.”

What do you see as barriers to becoming physically active? Many women state these reasons for not becoming more physically active:

  • No time
  • Too tired
  • I feel uncomfortable in a fitness center and can’t afford a fitness center membership

What about you? Write down your barriers.

What do you see as benefits of being physically active? Here are examples that some women give:

  • Lowers my risk for heart disease and certain cancers
  • Relieves stress and improves my mood and helps me sleep
  • Makes me feel more energetic and strong

Any others? Write them down.

2. “I choose to eat baked not fried”

What do you see as barriers to eating healthy? Many women state these reasons for not eating healthy foods:

  • No time and I’m too tired
  • Too expensive and my friends and family don’t like to eat healthy foods

What about you? Write down your barriers.

What do you see as benefits of eating healthy? Here are examples that some women give:

  • Lowers my risk for heart disease and certain cancers
  • Helps me reach and maintain a healthy weight
  • Gives me more energy
  • Reduces my need for blood pressure or cholesterol medications

While most women have things that get in their way of healthy behaviors, they are also aware of the advantages. When the benefits are equal to or greater than your barriers it is time to create a plan of action.

What about you? Write down your benefits of eating healthy.

  • Focus on your goals.

Research shows that women who set goals are far more successful in changing their physical activity and eating behaviors. Following the SMART principles of goal setting you can improve your chances of success even more.

Specific. Your goals should clearly state what you want to accomplish and by when.
Measurable. A SMART goal can be measured. “Two days this week I will ride my bike for 20 minutes.”
Make sure your goals are right for you. For example, if you are already exercising regularly, focus on decreasing saturated fats.
A goal that is not realistic will never be attained. So why set it? Select a goal that is realistic for you.
Time frame.
Short-term goals are the building blocks for long-term goals. Focus on the specific things you will work on each week. (Tip from Chef Kirsten: While focusing on your short term goals, always keep your VISION in mind as your long-term, ultimate goal!)

Think simple — and remember that lifestyle changes don’t have to be drastic. Then pair your short-term goals with a reward. For example:

Goal No. 1: This week, I’ll find 30 minutes in my day every day to be physically active. Reward: Go see a movie on Saturday with my best friend.

Goal No. 2: By the end of the week, I’ll read two new articles about the benefits of eating healthy. Reward: Treat myself to a new package of herbal bath salts and read a magazine while soaking in the tub.

Week 1 Highlights

  • Kirsten’s Recipe of the week – Healthified Any-Fruit Muffins! Click here for the recipe!
  • Week 1 tool – Online food journal. I recommend keeping a notepad to write down your food intake and how you feel, but if you want an online tool this is good one!
  • Week 1 mindset change – How do you talk to yourself? Do you tell yourself you are fat or overweight or a loser? Do you say in front of your children “Ugh, I need to go on a diet!” When you slip up on your eating, do you throw in the towel and tell yourself you have no will-power, you’re a failure and give up?

How you talk to and describe yourself can be a key component to success in life. Be mindful of how you talk to yourself. I like to ask the question: “Would you want your daughter talking to herself this way?” Hopefully the answer is no! Your mind should be a NO SHAME zone!

Focusing on the negative brings about MORE negative things for you to find. Turn this around and look for the positive. Example: When I made the decision to live a long, healthy life, instead of focusing on LOSING WEIGHT, this is when I had my breakthrough. I wasn’t trying to LOSE anything, I was trying to GAIN more years onto my life and health! Does this mean I never slipped up and ate an extra cookie? Absolutely not! But when I did this I didn’t beat myself up about it. I enjoyed the cookie and told myself that tomorrow is a new day, I will eat well tomorrow, or celebrated the fact that I ate a healthy dinner that night before the cookie. The shame I used to feel about eating that cookie was gone. Instead of feeling like a failure I felt HUMAN, we all make a decision that may not be the best, but you get right back up the next morning and strive for better. Every single day is another chance to live a healthier life.

When you catch yourself saying something negative about yourself (or even someone else!) catch it right away and write it down. Then write down how you can instead turn it around. Focus on the positives and praise yourself for all of the GOOD that you do! Example: “I am so disgusting, look at this fat around my stomach.” Maybe you even grab it and look in the mirror, focusing on the fat. Right then and there STOP that and instead focus on something great about you. Your eyes, your shoulders, your hair. YOUR HEART. You are a healthy person right now this very day…NOT just when you reach a certain weight or size of jeans. You made healthy choices today (went for a walk, wrote in your journal, ate a healthy breakfast, etc.) or maybe you are just going to wake up tomorrow and begin with a healthy breakfast, maybe you served your child a meal you are proud of that night. Whatever it is, focus on the good. Then, remember your vision. See it again in your mind and know that your vision is going to come true, every single day is another chance to work toward that ultimate goal.

Have a wonderful week and congratulations on Week 1 towards a BetterU!

Chef Kirsten Signature

Special thanks to our sponsors:

Verdant Health CommissionVerdant Health Commission

Lynnwood Recreation Center

Lynnwood Rec center