BetterU 2014 – Week 6

Welcome to week 6 of the BetterU Challenge! (New here or want to find out more about this program? Jump back to the week 1 information here!)

Special thanks to Marni Hughes and Q13 Fox News – they are helping spread the word about the Go Red BetterU program! We are looking to help YOU participate right along with us. Are you going to join in on the BetterU program with us? If so we are honored to have you here! Leave messages below to say Hi, ask questions and shout it out that you’re doing the #GoRedBetterU program on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine and more!

Here  is the link to the segment on Q13 news with from April 29, 2014. Chef Kirsten talks about breaking barriers and her 5 favorite healthy convenience foods. Catch up with Shirley and Kristi this week as well! Here are some clips from their video diaries. Here is the delicious healthy chicken chili recipe too!

Week 6

This week is focused on breaking barriers. We all have them, sometimes we create them to avoid facing difficult situations, or to avoid change. Many of us allow these barriers to create permanent “hang-ups” though, keeping us from creating positive change in our lives. When we face the barrier it is easy to throw our hands up and just go back to our old ways.

Barriers Require Solutions.

Work through obstacles that get in your way:

  1. Identify the problem. Sometimes the real barrier is not obvious.
  2. Brainstorm solutions. Think of any way around the problem. Don’t dismiss any idea yet. Just let the ideas flow.
  3. Pick a solution. Select what you feel is the best solution for you.
  4. Try the solution. Put your plan into action. If it doesn’t work, revise and try again.

Here are some examples of common barriers I hear, and some ideas for how to work through them. 

  • “I don’t like working out, it’s boring.”  Have a friend who works out in the morning call you to wake you up and encourage you to get up. Create a vision board or go back to your journal entries when you initially started this program, or your healthy lifestyle. Remember WHY you are a healthy, active person who lives a healthy lifestyle: You want a long, healthy life, you want to take care of your heart. Find an exercise partner or exercise class to help you stay interested.
  • “I never find time to workout.” Look over your schedule to see where you can find time, even if it’s 10 minutes, to do some sort of exercise.
  • “I get hungry between meals and end up buying unhealthy snacks.” Always keep low-calorie heart-healthy foods around. Use a shopping list, and don’t shop when you’re hungry. Are you dealing with cravings? See below.
  • “If I go to a buffet, I just can’t control how much I eat.” Take one minute at a time while you are in front of the buffet table and remind yourself that YOU are a healthy person and you live a healthy lifestyle. Put a small portion of healthy options first on your plate, enjoy one dessert or something else not necessarily healthy that is totally worth it to you, and don’t go back for seconds. Believe that you can do it and you will!
  • “I usually grab something on the way home from work because I am so tired, I don’t feel like/don’t enjoy cooking, or don’t know how.” Plan your meals a week at a time over the weekends and cook partial meals then so that you have most of your meal prepared and only need to heat it up and add finishing touches. Buy a new healthy cook book you’re excited to use, take a healthy cooking class or hire a personal chef.
  • “I can’t seem to resist my cravings for sweets and salty foods.”
    When you start having a craving, drink a tall glass of water. Fooling your stomach into thinking it’s full can guide you past the craving. JOURNAL your feelings and how you will feel if you were to give in to the craving and how you will feel when you resist the craving.

More on cravings, from Chef Kirsten

Here is a checklist to go through when you’re eating when you’re not hungry or it’s not time for a snack or meal. This is an important tool for us, but also to help our kids recognize why they may want to eat and not get into a cycle of emotional eating. If you’re planning your meals ahead of time, eating high quality food in the proper amounts and still wanting to eat when you’re not hungry ask yourself:

  • Am I truly hungry? On a scale of 1-10 how hungry am I? (If you’re truly hungry then have a healthy snack! If not, go on.)
  • Am I actually thirsty instead? Go drink a full glass of water and wait 20 minutes before deciding if you really need to eat.
  • Am I eating because I’m bored?
  • Am I eating because of another emotional reason? Journal instead.
  • How will I feel if I eat this (fill in the blank)? Do I want to feel this way?
  • What can I do instead of eating to make myself feel good?
  • How do I want to feel? Full? Stuffed? Light? Guilty? Proud? Satisfied?

Cravings can be the end of many well-intended healthy lifestyle changes and the beginning of month long binges for thousands of people! When you find yourself with a craving here is some help:
Identify where the craving is coming from. Is it a nutrition deficiency? For many of us, this is the cause. Cravings are our body’s way of telling us we need something. Sometimes it is proper nourishment, other times it is stress causing the craving and our brain is looking for a quick fix serotonin boost. Sometimes we need to go deeper and delve into our emotional reasons for cravings. This is when we journal then call a friend, go online for support, identify the problem without “stuffing” our emotions with food.

After identifying why you may be having the craving and determining it is not nutritional or emotional eating, give yourself permission to “give in.” While I don’t believe in labeling “bad” foods, (I think there is a place in even a healthy lifestyle for an occasional treat), when we tell ourselves “I can’t have that” it seems to make that craving for the foods that give the quickest boost, like junk food, even worse. When I recognize that I want something I tell myself I can have it…as long as I have something healthier first. Most of the time I find I am completely satisfied after my healthy snack and a big glass of water. Don’t keep unhealthy foods you crave and can’t resist in the house. If you have to go out for it you’re less likely to give in to the craving.

Eat to keep cravings at bay. I find when I stay well nourished and eat every 3-4 hours, my cravings pretty much go away. As soon as I have a few more processed indulgences than normal they seem to flare back up. When I research the countries with the least diet related disease and weight issues, here are the common threads: a healthy diet, appreciation for wonderful real food, eating often (not denying or depriving food) and enjoying a small sweet treat most days. Sounds like a pretty wonderful life, right? This is the lifestyle I have adapted and in the process I lost over 100 pounds and have kept it off for over 6 years now, without dieting or depriving.

Notes from the meetings:

This week the ladies all took a group walk. It is wonderful to see the relationships blossoming. I hope you’re enjoying watching Kristi and Shirley on Q13 Fox on their journey!


Have a wonderful week and congratulations on Week 6 towards a BetterU!

Chef Kirsten Signature

Special thanks to our sponsors:

Verdant Health Commission

Lynnwood Rec center



BetterU 2014 – Week 5

Welcome to week 5 of the BetterU Challenge! (New here or want to find out more about this program? Jump back to the week 1 information here!)

Special thanks to Marni Hughes and Q13 Fox News – they are helping spread the word about the Go Red BetterU program! Marni interviewed group participants Shirley and Kristi, plus popped in to catch me in my kitchen for the kick-off to the Q13 coverage of the remaining weeks of the BetterU program this session. We are looking to help YOU participate right along with us. Are you going to join in on the BetterU program with us? If so we are honored to have you here! Leave messages below to say Hi, ask questions and shout it out that you’re doing the #GoRedBetterU program on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine and more!

Watch the recap of the kickoff here, then watch me every Tuesday during the 4pm news hour for the new weekly recap and healthy cooking tips, plus see the ladies as they go along on their journey! 

Week 5

Week 5 of the BetterU program focuses on Weight Control For Your Heart. While the focus of this entire program is on making small changes in your daily life to help you lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and over all taking better care of yourself to lower your risk of heart disease, and we try not to focus on “just” losing weight, having a healthy body weight is an important piece of the puzzle. The good news is when you focus on lowering the numbers that directly affect your heart health (and over all wellness) shedding excess pounds our bodies don’t need tends to come naturally! (This is exactly how I lost over 100 pounds!)

Dr. Siecke gave us a glimpse at the heart back on Week 2 and we saw the effects of excess weight, which increases your heart’s work, which often times leads to high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, has on the heart. Excess weight isn’t just an aesthetic issue, it can truly shorten your life and lead to major health complication. If your BMI currently is in the overweight or obese category (—>here is an easy to use calculator) a reasonable initial goal is to lose 5-10 percent of your body weight. This can significantly lower your risk factor for heart disease as well as alleviate blood pressure and cholesterol when done in a healthy way. Have more to go? Keep on going, focusing on your over all health, not just the pounds, and enjoy living a healthier, more delicious and active lifestyle!

Weight management is simple, really, when you focus on your other numbers. They often times go hand in hand.

  • Eat appropriate portions.
  • Choose healthier foods, limit or eliminate processed foods.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits, aim for every meal and snack.
  • Move your body more, trying for 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise.

Make it easy, don’t get caught up in calorie counting every single day. Instead use the recommended guidelines from the American Heart Association. This is a healthy way to eat, every day, for a healthy body and weight management:

  • Fruits and vegetables: at least 4.5 cups per day
  • Fish (preferably wild and oily): at least two 3.5 oz servings per week
  • Fiber-rich whole grains: 3-5 servings per day(3 if you’re looking for weight loss, 5 for larger frames, children and those maintaining their weight or if you indulge a bit on the weekends)
  • Sodium: Less than 1,500 mg per day. Simply cutting out processed foods and adding just a pinch of salt at the beginning of cooking helps you achieve this.
  • Added sugars: No more than 450 calories per week. A little honey or maple syrup in your oats, some stevia in your coffee or tea, a homemade muffin a couple of times per week.
  • Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least 4 servings per week.
  • Processed meats: No more than 2 servings per week, preferably none. Including lunch meats.
  • Saturated fat: Less than 7% of your calories. (For an 1,800 calorie diet no more than 12.6 grams of saturated fat per day.)

Activate weight loss! Just starting out or stuck at a plateau? These tips will help!

  • Move more. Every movement burns calories.
  • Increase the intensity of what you already do. You burn calories faster if you pick up the pace.
  • Don’t “reward” a workout with food.
  • Go for a walk to help fight non-hunger urges to eat.
  • Keep track of your physical activity in your journal.
  • Watch your portions. Pre-portion your meals and snacks.
  • Don’t drink your calories. Go for water first.
  • Pay attention to hunger. Eat before you get too hungry. Stop eating before you feel too full. Hara Hachi Bunme: Eat until you are 80% full.
  • Keep track of your eating in your journal. Be HONEST with yourself. If you’re sharing this information with your doctor, nutritionist, etc. be honest. They can’t help if you’re not being honest about your food intake and choices.

But…we all have barriers that may keep us from living this healthy lifestyle. You may be in the diet-mentality mode that many of use are stuck in. The “I fell off the wagon, I’m going to just give up” mindset. This is a lifestyle, not a diet. Taking care of your body is a life-long journey, not a goal you will reach then finish working on. 

We’ll be talking more about breaking through barriers in Week 6, but here is some information that can help:

Lapsing and Relapsing

A lapse is a small mistake or return to old habits. This can happen when you have a bad day and overeat or skip exercise.

A relapse is when you go back to old habits for several days or weeks.

Remember that having a lapse or relapse is not failing. You can get back on track. Think about whether you feel hunger (gnawing in your stomach) or urges (mental cravings for food). When you feel an urge, set a timer for 15 minutes and wait, or do something else before eating. This will teach you to be in control of your desire for food. Try to use other ways to respond to life’s stresses besides eating. Take a brisk walk, start a new hobby or calm yourself with stress-management techniques.

Some food for thought: What does it take to achieve a healthy BMI?

According to American Family Physician, as of September 2010, adults who successfully maintained their weight loss:

98% have modified their eating habits.
94% have increased their level of physical activity, especially walking.
78% eat a healthy breakfast every day.

Yes it takes some work and some change. But the health benefits are SO worth it!

Notes from the meetings:

This week at the meeting we had a guest speaker, Amy, a fitness trainer and director from the Lynnwood Recreation Center, who spoke with the group about how to add physical activity to your every day life. Don’t have time to workout? Amy recommends taking the stairs, parking as far away from the door as possible, fitting in 10-15 minute walks in your day. Amy also stressed the importance of scheduling your exercise into your week, just like you would a meeting.

Amy also talked to the ladies about which exercise routine would be best for them. Need motivation? One of our participants who mentioned she struggled with this and Amy suggested she try group exercise. When others are counting on you being there it is a good motivator. Another participant mentioned she doesn’t find much time for exercise in her daily life, as well as mentioned she had a dog. Amy suggested she use her time walking the dog every evening as a good warm up then as soon as she gets back to the house to continue into a 10-15 minute at-home strength training before settling down for the evening. Great ideas Amy!

Amy also demonstrated some easy workouts to do while you’re brushing your teeth, waiting for water to boil, etc. It all adds up! We even had a participant ask how to get “Michelle Obama arms” so Amy graciously showed us a good arm toning workout you can do at home without any special equipment. Thanks Amy!

The ladies are continuing to grow their relationships outside of class, this is so wonderful to see! They are forming support groups and workout buddies. Just like last year, I see there are lifelong friendships coming from this 12 week program!

Have a wonderful week and congratulations on Week 5 towards a BetterU!

Chef Kirsten Signature

Special thanks to our sponsors:

Verdant Health Commission

Lynnwood Rec center


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