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


13 thoughts on “BetterU – Welcome and Week 1 Information and Action Steps!

  1. I have a question. On Tuesday, Kirsten you mentioned healthy oils. I am curious about the recent buzz about coconut oil. When I was at Trader Joes I looked at the jar and it has a lot of saturated fat. What are your thoughts on coconut oil and what other healthy oils would you reccomend other than olive oil and their benefits? Thanks, Kristen

  2. Thank you for your comment Kristen! The AHA has a recommendation about tropical oils, here it is!

    I personally use coconut oil in limited amounts as it is a good oil for high heat cooking (olive oil gets “damaged” with high heat cooking) just as I still eat eggs with their saturated fat in limited amounts, red meat, etc. There is a lot of evidence showing eggs and coconut oil are actually very healthy for us even with the saturated fat, but as always in limited amounts with any fat. I personally prefer to keep to no more than 1 egg per day (or 6-7 per week) and limit coconut oil to no more than a couple of teaspoons per week. I like to use avocado oil for high heat cooking as an alternative unless the flavor of coconut compliments the dish~

    The recommendations touch on the fact that these oils are typically added to processed foods, which should be limited or eliminated all together. But, unrefined, virgin coconut oil is a natural product (like an egg) and unless your doctor has you completely eliminating saturated fat from your diet, should be fine in normal amounts. As always, consult your doctor. The information on this is often changing with evidence supporting both sides of the fence. I also recommending researching sound, legitimate, long-term studies to reach your own conclusion on what healthy oils/fats you choose! 🙂

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