In this new series of Healthy Habits blog posts, we'll provide valuable insights into creating healthy habits that promote a healthy life, including aspects of physical fitness, mental well-being, and emotional balance. Whether you're a beginner or already have some experience with healthy living, this series will provide the tools and inspiration you need to create lasting change in your life.

The first blog in this series will be focused on sleep hygiene. While the term may feel a little clinical, "sleep hygiene" is simply the practice of developing healthy habits and routines to promote restful and rejuvenating sleep.

We all know good sleep is essential for overall health and wellness. During sleep, the body repairs and rejuvenates itself, and the brain consolidates memories and learning. Lack of sleep has been linked to a range of health issues, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Good sleep also plays a crucial role in regulating mood, increasing productivity, and improving cognitive function.

Despite all of the evidence practically begging us to get a good night's rest, many of us still struggle to catch the zzz's we need on a regular basis. Luckily, building a good sleep hygiene routine is an easy step towards facilitating the rest you need for your body and mind to work their best. So, grab a warm drink, get comfortable, and let's dive into the dos and don'ts of sleep hygiene together!

Sleep Hygiene Dos

Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule

One of the most important things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene is to establish and maintain a consistent sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Doing so helps regulate your body's internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Following a sleep schedule will help you feel more refreshed in the morning so you have the energy to enjoy your day.

Create a Sleep-Enhancing Environment

If you're one of those people whose bedroom also functions as dining room, office, and playroom, it's time to say no to the extracurricular bedroom activities and create your ideal sleep sanctuary! You can enhance the quality of your sleep just by making sure your bedroom is a place of peace and comfort. Keep your space cool, dark, and quiet. Consider investing in blackout curtains, a comfortable mattress and pillows, and a white noise machine to block out any outside noises that may disturb your sleep. You can even get extra fancy with it and buy yourself some nice pajamas for a luxuriously comfortable sleep experience.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Practicing relaxation techniques before bed can help calm your mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep. Some techniques to try include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation. Even just a few minutes of mindful breathing can help us deactivate any stress in our body and trigger the body's relaxation response. Remember, just like any exercise, relaxation takes practice! If you've been operating at a 10 all day, teaching your body and mind to turn it down to 1 before bedtime will take time. Practice short, guided 5-minute breathing exercises or meditations using a meditation app like Calm or Simple Habit to help you get started.

Establish a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

What you do before bedtime is a key part of promoting restful sleep. Doing the same thing each night before bed will signal to your body that it's time to wind down and fall asleep soon. And the best part is that your bedtime routine is unique to you! Spend some time thinking about what activities put you in a state of calm and try different things to find your ideal bedtime routine. If you have kids, create a family bedtime routine that you perform together - this can create an environment of healthy sleep for the whole family! Some bedtime routine activities to try: reading, cuddling with pets, sharing highlights from your day, taking a warm bath or shower, or performing self-care rituals like a skincare routine.

Incorporate Physical Activity into Your Day

Regular physical activity has been shown to improve sleep quality, so make sure to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Even just 30 minutes a day can reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, increase body temperature, and help regulate the body's internal clock - all things that promote restful sleep.

Try Different Products to Promote Good Sleep Hygiene

With today's cultural focus on self-care, there are tons of good sleep products that can help banish your insomnia and get some restful sleep. Some extras to incorporate into your sleep hygiene routine might include:

Sleep Hygiene Don'ts

Alcohol & Caffeine

Caffeine and alcohol can both disrupt your sleep cycle, so it's important to avoid consuming them before bedtime. Caffeine can keep you tossing and turning all night, while alcohol may help you fall asleep initially but can lead to disrupted sleep later in the night.

Screen Time

It's not just the kids that need to lay off the screens! The blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with your body's natural production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. To promote restful sleep, avoid using electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime. If you absolutely must do some scrolling before bed, use your device's warm light setting or purchase a pair of blue light-blocking glasses to wear at bedtime.

Big Meals & Spicy Foods

Heavy, spicy, or high-fat foods can cause indigestion, which can disrupt your sleep. To promote restful sleep, avoid consuming these types of foods before bedtime.


Nicotine is a stimulant that can interfere with your sleep cycle. If you smoke, it's important to avoid smoking before bedtime to promote restful sleep. (And we suggest not smoking at all - but that's a topic for another blog post!)

Exercising Before Bed

While daily exercise is a great way to promote overall health and wellness and improve sleep quality, exercising right before bed is a don't. Exercising too close to bedtime can stimulate your body and make it harder to fall asleep. If you like a good nighttime workout, aim to finish up at least 90 minutes before bedtime so your body has enough time to wind down.


Napping during the day can be a great way to catch up on missed sleep, but keeping naps short and sweet is important. Long naps can interfere with your body's natural sleep cycle and make it harder to fall asleep at night. Ideally, naps should be limited to 20-30 minutes and taken earlier in the day, preferably before 3:00 pm. If you find yourself consistently needing to nap during the day, it may be a sign that you're not getting enough quality sleep at night.

Sleep Medications

While sleep medications can be effective in helping you fall asleep and stay asleep, they come with potential risks and side effects and should always be used with caution. Sleep medications can be habit-forming and may interfere with your body's natural sleep cycle over time. It's important to speak with a healthcare provider before taking any sleep medications, as they can help determine the underlying cause of your sleep issues and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Ready to catch some zzz's?

In a world brimming with health and wellness tips, good sleep hygiene might seem like just another buzzword, but we promise that changing up your sleeping habits can help you achieve more restful nights and a better feeling of overall well-being. With a little effort and attention to sleep hygiene, you can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated each morning. Sweet dreams!


In Wisconsin, we know that sunlight is a precious resource in the winter. With our long work weeks, busy school schedules, extracurriculars, and other hobbies, it can be hard to soak up enough sun during the colder, darker months of the year. Unfortunately for us northerners, we get most of our intake of Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, which can be challenging during the winter. In fact, it’s so hard for us to get enough sunlight in the winter months that Vitamin D deficiency is endemic in Wisconsin.

Fortunately, we’ve officially passed into spring (although you might not know from looking outside) and should see more sun soon. Until we can spend more time soaking up those rays, there are other ways to keep our Vitamin D levels up!

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is more than a vitamin; it actually acts as a hormone! Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption and the maintenance of adequate serum calcium and phosphate levels, which assists in the growth of healthy bones and teeth. Without sufficient levels of Vitamin D, our bones may become weak or brittle over time.

Vitamin D also plays a vital role in our immune health, reducing inflammation and modulating cell growth & glucose metabolism. Research suggests a link between long-term Vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis and lupus. Low Vitamin D levels are also linked to depression, which may be another reason we feel extra low during the dark winter months.

Can I get enough Vitamin D from the sun?

Doing a little sunbathing is one of the best ways to get more Vitamin D, but if you live in a place that lacks adequate sunshine, you likely won’t be able to get the 15-30 minutes of daily midday sun on at least a third of exposed skin that you need to produce an optimal level of Vitamin D. (Unless you plan on lounging around in a snowbank in your swimsuit.) Plus, the darker your skin is, the longer the time necessary for maximum absorption from the sun. And let’s not forget that too much sun exposure comes with big risks too—sunburn and skin cancer are serious concerns when spending a lot of time in the sun. All of these factors make it difficult to get the necessary amount of Vitamin D your body needs from the sun alone.

How can I get more Vitamin D?

Because it is a “fat-soluble” or fat-loving vitamin, Vitamin D is best absorbed when consumed with fat. Luckily some foods that have Vitamin D already contain a source of fat, which means they’re the perfect all-in-one food. Examples are salmon, tuna, chicken, eggs, sardines, liver, and trout. Other foods with high levels of Vitamin D include mushrooms, fortified dairy products, and fortified cereal. Getting your Vitamin D through food is an easy way to boost levels, but unless you plan on eating a steady diet of mushrooms and tuna salad sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you still likely won’t get enough Vitamin D.

Vitamin D supplements are another good way to ensure your body produces enough of this essential nutrient. A good Vitamin D supplement taken daily can keep your Vitamin D levels healthy all year long.

How to choose a Vitamin D supplement

Before choosing a Vitamin D supplement, research which dosage to take or consult with your doctor. Vitamin D is measured in micrograms (mcg) or international units (IU), and the recommended dosage for people ages 1 to 70 years old is 600 IU (15 mcg).

Dosage recommendations do vary by age. Check out the chart below for a full list of recommended dosages:

Infants 0-12 months 400 IU (10 mcg)
People up to 70 years 600 IU (15 mcg)
People over 70 years 800 IU (20 mcg)

If you’re browsing the supplements section at the pharmacy, you may notice Vitamin D bottles with dosages far exceeding the ones listed above. That’s because optimal Vitamin D intake varies widely based on age, skin color, season, and latitude. So an adequate amount of Vitamin D for someone in Wisconsin winter would be higher than someone near the equator. The upper limit for recommended Vitamin D intake is 4,000 IU per day, and you should consult with a medical professional if you think you need to go beyond that dose.

Though rare, Vitamin D consumption in excess can lead to high blood calcium levels, which causes bones to calcify and hardens the blood vessels, kidneys, lungs, and heart tissues. This serious reaction to an overdose of Vitamin D is unlikely to occur with dosages under 10,000 IU a day, but it’s still important to speak to a medical professional before going higher than the average recommended dosage.

Stop by the FuelBar for an extra dose of Vitamin D

If you’re feeling a little worn down by all the snow clouds still in the sky, stop by the FuelBar at Western and try our current seasonal smoothie —the Vitamin D-licious. Made with fortified orange juice, almond milk, and multivitamin powder, this fruity drink provides 65% of your daily recommended Vitamin D!

Stop by the FuelBar this week and get a dollar off the Vitamin D-licious smoothie when you mentioned this blog.

Visit the website to view our full menu of tasty smoothies, snacks, and more.

Have you been wandering sluggishly through the past week, yawning in meetings, wishing you could get a little shut-eyet eye? You’re not alone. Most of us head into March craving more sunlight after a long winter of dark evenings and cloudy skies, but we also pay a hefty price for it when Daylight Saving Time finally comes around. Losing that hour of sleep can have long-lasting effects on our minds and bodies and can disrupt the daily routines of everyone people of all ages, and even our pets!

So why did we start Daylight Saving Time in the first place?

What is Daylight Saving Time?

Daylight Saving Time, or DST, begins every year on the second Sunday in March when we collectively turn the clocks forward one hour. This time change runs for about seven months, to the first Sunday of November when we move the clocks back again by one hour.

The first instance of Daylight Saving Time in the United States began in 1918 but only lasted seven months and was then repealed. President Franklin Roosevelt reintroduced DST to the U.S. in 1942 as a national defense effort to conserve energy. During this time, DST was known as “War Time,” and the time shift lasted until 1945.

The United States toyed with Daylight Saving Time a couple more times in the sixties and seventies, but it didn’t stick until 1987, then beginning the first weekend in April and running through the last weekend in October. In 2007 we shifted again, beginning DST on the second Sunday in March and ending it on the first Sunday in November.

Only two states don’t follow DST (Hawaii and most of Arizona), and with all that back and forth, can we really blame them?

The health side effects of Daylight Saving Time

According to sleep scientists, “springing ahead” one hour is asking a lot of our brains and bodies, putting us at higher risk of myriad short-term health problems, including sleep disorders like insomnia, depression, slowed metabolism, headaches, and injuries (including a 6% spike in fatal car accidents during the week proceeding the shift to DST).

And while the short-term side effects of switching to DST usually subside after a few weeks, researchers have also found that the disruption in circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock) can exacerbate existing and underlying issues that lead to a spike in heart attack and stroke risk, as well as digestive and immune-related diseases.

So how can you combat these negative side effects and “spring forward” with some pep in your step?

Seven tips for adjusting to Daylight Saving Time

1. Keep a sleep routine

Practicing good sleep hygiene is a good habit all year, but it’s especially helpful when adjusting to Daylight Saving Time. Try to keep to a regular sleep routine with a typical time or window of time that’s dedicated to getting ready for bed and falling asleep. Don’t engage in sleep-disrupting activities in the hours before bedtime. These include activities like drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages, snacking, looking at your phone or other electronic devices, and doing strenuous workouts.

2. Don’t over-caffeinate

You might be tempted to hit the coffee pot a few extra times while your body adjusts to DST, but studies show that consuming 400 milligrams or more of caffeine even six hours before bedtime can disrupt sleep. If you’re a one- or two-cup-a-day coffee drinker, steer clear of the extra cups even if you feel that late-afternoon slump.

3. Soak up the morning sun

It might feel like an extra challenge to greet the day while you’re adjusting to Daylight Saving Time, but research shows that getting outside into the sun in the morning can jumpstart your day and help to more seamlessly reset your circadian rhythm.

4. Avoid blue light before bedtime

We all know having our faces stuck to our devices all day isn’t great for our health, but putting aside the phone or tablet before bedtime is especially important. A growing body of research on how digital technology usage affects sleep has shown that staring at the blue and white light from our devices actually stops our brain from releasing melatonin, the natural hormone that tells our body that it’s time to sleep. Do your brain and body a favor and switch to “Do Not Disturb” for at least two hours before you go to bed, and if you simply must scroll before you hit the hay, switch your device to night shift mode to help filter out disruptive blue light.

5. Don’t nap

We know…it would feel soooo good to just lay down for a minute and catch some zzz’s. But taking a nap, even a short one, in the middle of the day will further throw off your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep at bedtime.

6. Exercise in the morning

Multiple studies have shown that regular exercise helps you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality. Just 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each day increases the amount of slow wave sleep you get, which is the deep sleep your body needs to feel the most rejuvenated. Exercising in the morning can help you get ahead of the DST blues by signaling to your body that it’s time to get up and move. It also raises your core body temperature, which has the same effect as a warm shower, signaling to your body that it’s time to be awake. (P.S. Western opens bright and early at 5:00 am Monday through Friday and at 7:00 am on Saturdays and Sundays.)

7. Do whole body cryotherapy

Whole body cryotherapy increases the production of norepinephrine in your body, a hormone that helps activate REM sleep and balance your circadian rhythm. Doing a whole body cryotherapy treatment also causes your body to release endorphins which will give you a boost of energy, followed later by a state of calm, both of which will help you adjust to Daylight Saving Time and fall asleep easier. One study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine exposed twenty-seven basketball players to -202°F in a whole body cryotherapy chamber every day for a week. The results showed not only improvements in their mood but their sleep as well, with sleep quality improving by 15%.

Need some help adjusting?

It’s never too late to start establishing healthy habits. At Western, we can help you get into a healthy routine with free daily group fitness classes, customized personal training, wellness and recovery services like whole body cryotherapy, and nutrition coaching!

Visit our wellness & recovery page to check out all our wellness resources and schedule your appointment today! (Don’t forget - members get FREE HyperIce services each month!)


As we inch closer and closer to the holidays, there are a number of distractions and speed bumps we have to navigate through in order to make healthy decisions. There are parties, wine tasting, pies, desserts, and leftover Halloween candy that just has to be eaten. And let’s not forget two of the best holidays: Thanksgiving and Christmas. As the weather gets colder and colder, we often stay indoors as well, catching up on our favorite shows or binge-watching a new series while not being able to enjoy the warm weather that’s slowly leaving us here in Wisconsin.

While all these changes are happening, many of our health and fitness behaviors are changing as well. Many people use this time to step off the track and indulge themselves in the holiday treats, saying they’ll start up their fitness routines and healthy eating habits again after the holidays. Sometimes the busyness of the season can make it too difficult to work out and eat healthily.

However, the holiday season is an important time to stay committed to our healthy behaviors. As the saying goes, “It’s easier to turn the wheels of a moving car,” meaning it’s easier to stay in the habit of health instead of starting up again after taking weeks off and losing much of what we’ve been working for this past summer and fall.

I’m not saying to go on a strict diet and workout plan because I think we should all be able to indulge a little during the holiday season, but even indulgence should be done in moderation. I’m also not saying going to the gym and working out every single day is necessary, but I would suggest making it two or three times per week so you can keep that momentum into the new year. Plus, at Western there are so many health and fitness options - we can make just about any schedule or lifestyle work for you! We have a great personal training team who would love to help you and the best group fitness classes and instructors in the state as well! And if you’re looking for a “taste” of fall without all the excess sugar and calories of holiday treats, stop in at the FuelBar. We have delicious and healthy treats that you’ll love!

If you're looking for some personalized guidance, and haven't had a Fitness Consultation yet, I also highly recommend reaching out to Ryan Kostroski, Western's Fitness Consultant, at He will be able to assess where you’re currently at, where you want to go, and options on how to get there. This is a valuable tool for tracking goals and progress as well as pinpointing areas that may need improvement. There's no better time to do it than now! Why wait until after the New Year to get started? Give yourself a leg up so that a healthy foundation is laid well before January 1st.

If you need some holiday diet tips or guidance, please reach out to our Registered Dietitian and Precision Nutrition Coach, Tad Taggart at He is an excellent source of information and can help you stay on track while still being able to enjoy all the delicious holiday foods. You can learn more about Tad's approach to a healthy relationship with food and our bodies and about our nutrition programs at

My advice during this holiday season is to enjoy yourself but also keep in mind your health is very important as well. You don’t need to floor the gas pedal, but please don’t hit the brakes either. Use the wonderful resources Western has to offer so you can enjoy the holiday seasons and go into 2023 feeling confident and healthy.

As soon as I "lose these last x pounds" or "fit into size x pants" or "look like x" or "have six-pack abs", then I will be happy and confident in my body.

Do you feel like your life is on hold until you reach that particular body goal? You’re not alone – the lines between an individual’s body, body image, nutrition, and overall happiness blur all too often. At this point, we are conditioned to accept that a person’s body shape and size are entirely dependent upon they way they eat and exercise. Generally, the train of thought is often as follows:

1. If I eat and exercise just right, I can get the ‘perfect’ body.

2. Once I have the ‘perfect’ body, I will feel confident and secure in my body.

3. Once I feel confident and secure in my body, I will always be happy (because I’ll be more attractive to others, my spouse will love me more, I’ll be better at my job, I’ll be a better athlete, etc.)

4. To conclude, if I eat and exercise just right, I will always be happy (because I’ll be more attractive to others, my spouse will love me more, I’ll be better at my job, I’ll be a better athlete, etc.)

Unfortunately, to draw such a conclusion is a stark example of a logical fallacy known as a "non sequitur”. In other words, just because A=B and B=C, that does not mean that A=C. Or, in the example above, just because we assume 1=2, and 2=3, that does not mean that 1=3 (as demonstrated in #4). Number 4 sounds extreme, but it isn’t far from the promise of many diet-fads and weight loss infomercials. The messaging typically circles back to “You’re unhappy because you’re fat. If you’re not fat, you’ll be happy” which, by the way, this is another a logical fallacy known as “affirming the consequent”; just because A=B, that doesn’t mean B=A. To be clear, though, I don’t believe or endorse any of the messaging shared above related to eating, training, or striving for a particular body ideal. These statements rely on a number of faulty presumptions about your ability to change your body, your body image, and how these things truly influence your overall wellbeing.

Ultimately, the key presumption upon which these arguments rest is that your body image (or perception and satisfaction with your body) relies solely on the shape of your body and your ability to change it. If you were told your entire life that you had the ability (or even responsibility) to change your body, then it seems a no-brainer for you to assume that you are the only thing getting in your own way of being happy. But what if your unhappiness with your body size or shape isn’t because of the size or shape it actually is but rather because you have been told it “should” be a certain size or shape? Your dissatisfaction isn’t with the inherent shape of your body, it is with how it compares to the ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ body; if it doesn’t measure up, you feel like you’re falling short. For example, if you got a B on a test and knew that an A is a higher grade, of course you’d be disappointed. If you instead were focused on the work put into achieving the B and ignored that the A is the ‘ideal’, you may find more contentment in the grade you received, particularly since both are still a ‘passing’ grade.

Back to body image. Let’s further explore the idea of rooting our confidence in how our body looks. What about the physical outliers? Those that have limbs or other body parts that are different, nonfunctional, or missing altogether. How does their body image fit in with the narrative of “change your body to fit the ideal if you want to be happy?” These individuals are forced to face the reality of their body and that it will never fit the so-called “ideal”. But does this mean these individuals are the body image exception? Or that their approach to body image should be radically different than everyone else? Not really; at some point or another, we will all have to face the reality that our control over our body, how it looks and how it functions, is not entirely in our control. Even the most educated and diligent health and fitness experts cannot stop time from marching on. Eventually, your body will change and you will need to decide how you’re going to handle that. Even famed fitness guru Bob Harper thought he had fitness and health figured out until he suffered a massive heart attack.

To fully understand my point, you must fundamentally understand that body image (how we feel about and perceive our body) has two primary components. First, body image is what we actually see in the mirror - the reality of the physical form we face. Most people are familiar with this component of body image. The second, and arguably more powerful, component of body image is what we think and feel about the undeniable physical form. To look at our own body in the mirror and to perceive it as different than it actually appears is quite common. Many people struggle with seeing themselves as being skinnier, fatter, taller, or shorter than they actually are. Whether this perception is true or not, few are able to look in the mirror and feel that their body perfectly aligns with what culture would consider the “ideal” body. As a result, many people feel dissatisfied with their body and the perceived imperfections separating them from said “ideal” body. This ability to misrepresent the reality of our body and set unrealistic expectations exemplifies the power of how we perceive the body we are living in, regardless of how it actually looks. How you choose to see your body and how you choose to react to that perception is more profoundly impactful on your emotional state than the actual physical shape in the mirror. Further, ongoing shame or dissatisfaction in your body could perpetuate a variety of health issues. In fact, the very same health issues that are typically associated with being “overweight” are actually known to be caused and aggravated by stress from body shame.

Further flaw in the train of thought is revealed through our limited control over the shape and function of our body. No matter how many “good” foods you eat and how many “bad” foods you avoid, your body will continue to change. Further, our genetics, environment, socioeconomic status, and much, much more can have an even greater influence over our health and body size than our nutrition or fitness ever will. This means that point #1 (If I eat and exercise just right, I can get the ‘perfect’ body) is a flimsy foundation for the argument that nutrition and fitness can really lead to you feeling confident and happy with your body. At least, not permanently. Even more so, that foundation will crumble if your confidence is based entirely in how your body compares to the supposed “ideal”. No amount of “clean” eating can fix how you see and feel about your body.

Can embarking on a fitness journey be incredibly empowering? Absolutely. Can changing your diet to better support your physical health also result in mental health benefits. For sure. But (and this is a big but!) if the aim of achieving a particular physical change in your body is the primary driver of these changes, you’ll ultimately be disappointed. Either you will be disappointed and defeated when you never attain that goal (and maybe even say screw it to your whole health journey), or you may get near that goal, only to find that the satisfaction of reaching for this goal was overinflated and fleeting. Don’t believe me? Here’s a testimony from a personal trainer on her experience competing in bodybuilding and how it didn’t improve her body image as she anticipated.

And maybe you’re reading this and thinking “I am perfectly content with my body as it is, right now.” That’s great! I only implore you to question where this contentment comes from. Is it because you “check all the boxes” of fitness and nutrition to keep your body as close to the ideal as possible, or does your contentment derive from the inherent value your body holds? Can you be satisfied in the fact that your body is functional enough to be living today, reading this article? If you can say yes to the latter, I would say you’ve found a more solid foundation of positive body image, rooted in a strong sense of gratitude. If your answer more aligns with the former, you may find that this form of “positive body image” is vulnerable to times in your life where your body may feel like it is betraying you. Where it will gain or lose weight, despite your best efforts. Where it will be injured, change, or breakdown. Though it may not be pleasant to consider, that day where your body doesn’t do exactly as you wish will certainly come.

As you read this, I hope this doesn’t prevent you from pursuing a new health or fitness journey. The aim is for you to evaluate your goals and ensure that the goals you pursue will truly result in you feeling better, physically and mentally. My encouragement is this: to approach a health or fitness goal with a sense of gratitude towards your body, rather than a sense of shame. This will grant you the freedom to accept the unchangeable, find joy in the mundane aspects of health and fitness, and allow for room to discover authentic passion in the health and fitness journey rather than the destination.

Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t try to live someone else’s life or satisfy someone else’s expectations. Life your best life, and live it for yourself.

To put this message into practice, I propose a new thought process as to how you can approach body image, fitness, and nutrition:

1. I will move my body in a way I enjoy so that I continue to feel inspired to do so.

2. As I continue to move my body, I will need to fuel and nourish it. I will choose foods that are nourishing for my body (nutrient-dense) and foods that nourish my soul (foods I crave).

3. As I nourish my body and soul, I will feel physically and mentally better, gaining an appreciation and gratitude for the life my body allows me to live.

4. Through the way I nourish and care for my body, I enhance my overall wellbeing, increasing my gratitude for my body and desire to care for and nourish it.

Notice the cyclical nature of these processes? It’s called a spiral of health and healing, and it’s a great place to be.

1. Muennig, P. The body politic: the relationship between stigma and obesity-associated disease. BMC Public Health 8, 128 (2008).
2. Fiscella, K., & Williams, D. R. (2004). Health disparities based on socioeconomic inequities: Implications for Urban Health Care. Academic Medicine, 79(12), 1139–1147.
3. Baum, C. L., & Ruhm, C. J. (2009). Age, socioeconomic status and obesity growth. Journal of Health Economics, 28(3), 635–648.

"I am enjoying a relationship with two men simultaneously. The first is called Ben, the other, Jerry. Number of current boyfriends: zero." — Bridget Jones, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004 movie)

In the Friends episode “The One with the Thumb”, Monica dates a man named Alan. As the rest of the gang comes to know Alan, they become even more enamored with Alan than Monica. When Monica breaks up with him, the whole crew takes it pretty hard. At one point, she walks in to find them collectively drowning their sorrows in tubs of ice cream.

Why is it that this common trope in television and movies seems to persist? We often see the heartbroken individual turn to a dessert-like food for solace. Many people will see this and at least understand what’s being conveyed, if not have a level of empathy for having a similar experience. We seem tied to this recurring imagery because it resonates with us. It feels familiar. Many people are familiar with and understand the concept of “comfort food”, but did you know that there’s ancient biological wisdom hidden beneath this comedic messaging? For generations, fables and mythical tales have been often told to convey moral lessons or wisdom. In our current age, television and film are our most common vehicle of storytelling, and it’s possible that television could be passing along innate, ancient wisdom.

For most, the common reaction to stressful events is either a noticeable increase or decrease in appetite. But why is that? Why would appetite change at all in response to stress, and why is it different in different people? And with that, why is it we would rather reach for something like ice cream than celery?

Like many of the baffling phenomena related to food and eating, we have to start by looking at the brain. Specifically, we are concerned with the motivational circuit, where dopamine is released after positive experiences to serve as the ‘rewards system’. This motivational circuit overlaps with the limbic system, which is the part of our brain responsible for emotions, reactions to stressors, and responses that are critical to maintaining homeostasis (keeping us safe and functioning). You could refer to the limbic system as our “caveman brain” or “survival brain” because it only knows how to respond to emotions and try to keep us alive. In addition to the limbic system, we need to be familiar with the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC is responsible for what you might call “higher-level thinking”. This is the region of the brain that is typically responsible for executive functioning, planning, and control of impulses, desires, and cravings. You might call this part of our brain, the “mature adult” brain. During times of high stress, our “mature adult” brain (PFC) is overtaken by the “survival brain” (limbic system). With the limbic system in the driver’s seat, we are more prone to “automatic” behaviors done for survival. In other words, our brain only knows that it is stressed and needs to survive. Back in the “caveman days” where food was scarce, seeking out food in response to stress meant avoiding starvation. This reaction of seeking higher fat and/or carb foods in response to stress is actually a brilliant survival mechanism. In times of high stress, our ancestors didn’t have time to sit back and

contemplate their 5-year plan. High stress meant danger. Danger meant a need for immediate action. Eat to avoid starvation or run to avoid predators.

To support this survival instinct, our body has established metabolic and hormonal reactions to further help endure stressors. In a normal stress-response, cortisol is acutely elevated, causing metabolic changes (like increased blood glucose mobilization, blood flow redirected to the muscles/heart/muscles, and increased heart rate) designed to prepare us for “fight or flight”. As these changes occur, our body decreases the priority of digestion and appetite. Historically, sitting down to eat never seemed like a top priority when running away from a hungry tiger.

These responses are all what we expect and actually want in response to normal, short-term stress. This is what helps us perform better on the test, in the big meeting, or during our athletic competitions. Where we run into problems is when that stress doesn’t come back down.

Chronic stress can contribute to a host of unsavory health issues. In the context of stress eating, we are concerned with chronic stress causing dysregulation to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This dysregulation can have consequences for our appetite regulation. In general, people already under chronic stress are more prone to experience greater appetite and cravings in response to additional, acute stressors. In these scenarios, research has also shown that people show greater preference for foods higher in carbohydrates and/or fats.

But what happens when, or if, you choose to follow these cravings? What happens, physiologically, when you reach for that pint of ice cream your body beckons for after a brutal day? Interestingly, choosing to abide these cravings may help dampen the stress response. It’s been shown that insulin action helps to reduce cortisol. Insulin is released in response to eating foods, particularly those with carbohydrates. The greater the carb intake, the greater the insulin response. In other words, that sweet treat could actually be just the medicine your body needs to take the edge off your stress. If anything, this speaks to the innate wisdom your body holds related to food and health.

What happens if you resist the ice cream? What if you are committed to a particular diet-style and have decided that whatever your body is craving doesn’t fit in the plan? This is called “restrained eating”, and research has shown that this perspective only serves to further raise cortisol levels during a stress-response and, ultimately, contributes to more frequent and/or intense cravings in response to future stressors.

By fighting these cravings, you are fighting your biology. You’re opposing your survival instincts. The body doesn’t understand the difference between a rough day at work and being chased by a tiger. In the same way, the body doesn’t understand the difference between you choosing to not eat something and starving from lack of available food. To the body, stress is stress. Hunger is hunger. Following a stressful event, your limbic system (“survival brain”) takes over, causing you to be more ‘reactive’ to your stress and emotions. By resisting the drive and urges of “survival brain”, cortisol stays high, the limbic system stays in the driver seat longer, and you feel stressed out longer.

So, what do I suggest? Stop fighting your biology. Eat the ice cream. Help your cortisol return to baseline more quickly, which will let the limbic system take the back seat and put the prefrontal cortex back in control. Once you’re not in ‘max stress’ mode anymore, you can address the thing that stressed you out in the first place and try keep the stress from becoming a chronic issue.

In 1965, a group of researchers noticed the University of Florida Gators football team struggling in the intense heat, many of them suffering from heat exhaustion during practices and games. In a lab, this group of researchers collected and studied the sweat of the players to then create a fluid that mimics the composition of sweat. The researchers theorized that replacing the fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat would help players push through the heat and enhance performance. The researchers lifted their glasses, took a sip, and promptly spit it out. The earliest form of Gatorade had been born, but the flavor needed quite a bit of work before it resembled that of the Gatorade we now see on shelves.

As the researchers had expected, the Gators performance throughout the season saw significant improvements after the introduction of this hydration solution. While there was certainly awareness around hydration and electrolytes prior to this, one might say that this was a dawn of a new age in hydration. In the coming years, a variety of sources (including the American College of Sports Medicine and Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics) would confirm that as little as a 2% decrease in body weight from sweat loss can result in significant declines in athletic performance. Maintaining adequate fluid intake is critical for all facets of health and fitness. Nearly all metabolic reactions in the body occur in water. In addition, water (and sweat) is needed to maintain body temperature during workouts. Without adequate fluid for sweat, the body overheats, resulting in various bodily functions running less efficiently (including muscles and the nervous system). As sports nutrition research would progress, we would come to find that the minerals, electrolytes, in water and often lost in sweat are just as critical to our overall hydration as water.

What are electrolytes? These are minerals found in the diet that carry a charge (also known as ions). These minerals are special because of this ionic charge, giving them special functions in the body. The primary electrolytes in the diet include sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and chloride.

Sodium is the most predominant electrolyte lost in sweat. This is because sodium is the most abundant extracellular electrolyte. In other words, sodium prefers to exist outside your body cells and stay in your fluids. Potassium, on the other hand, is the predominant intracellular electrolyte (preferring to exist inside body cells). This balance of sodium outside the cell and potassium inside the cell is critical to maintaining a cell’s health and function. Body cells are constantly pumping sodium outside the cell and potassium in. This exchange helps to transport nutrients into a cell and waste out of a cell (think of it as the electrolyte highway!). In addition, adequate intake and balance of sodium and potassium helps nerve impulses and muscle contractions operate properly, both of which are critical during any form of physical activity. Plus, a proper balance of sodium to potassium helps regulate and maintain a healthy blood pressure. What is this “proper balance” of sodium and potassium I refer to? In general, a ratio of about 2:1, potassium to sodium, tends to be the ideal balance of these electrolytes. For most adults, the sodium tolerable upper intake level (UL) recommendation is 2300mg per day, while the potassium recommended daily allowance (RDA) of potassium is 4700mg per day. Unfortunately, many people under consume potassium (due to a diet lower in fresh fruits and vegetables) and over consume sodium (due to a higher concentration of processed foods in the diet). This will throw off the balance of our sodium and potassium intakes, hindering out exercise capacity and general health. How do we regain balance?

Seek out foods higher in potassium to include in your diet! In general, most fruits and vegetables are abundant in potassium. That being said, some examples of potassium superstars include:

Other major electrolytes of concern are calcium and magnesium. Both of these electrolytes work synergistically to facilitate muscle contractions and relaxation. In fact, magnesium is often recommended for individuals with chronic muscle cramps, as it has been known to help alleviate this issue. In addition, magnesium is involved in over 300 metabolic processes in the body. In other words, it is hard to overstate the significance of this mineral. Magnesium helps the body create energy from food, build proteins, regulate blood glucose, manage blood pressure and heart rate, maintain bone strength, maintain immune function, and much, much more! On the other hand, calcium is equally as significant. In fact, calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Many know that calcium is critical for bone health, but as mentioned above, it is also critical for muscles to both contract and relax. Insufficient calcium can result in muscle cramps, spasms, and overall weakness. In addition, adequate calcium intake has been shown to help manage blood pressure and possibly reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. In a day, most adults need 1000 to 1200mg of calcium per day, while most adults need about 400mg of magnesium in a day. Most adults do not get adequate magnesium, particularly since this mineral found in lower amounts in most foods. Some (but not all) adults get adequate calcium in the diet, but you may want to seek out additional food sources, particularly if you are someone that typically avoids dairy for any reason.

Good sources of calcium?

While you’re at it, pick up some foods high in magnesium, too:

Notice some overlap? Nature is pretty good at including the nutrients we need in proportions our body prefers. All the more reason to include fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole plant-based foods into the diet often!

The next time you are bearing through the high heat of the summer and think about hydration, don’t forget the whole picture of hydration: fluids and electrolytes. While drinking plenty of water is important, the minerals in your diet play an equally vital role. In fact, at least 20% of your daily water intake comes from the food you eat and nearly all of the electrolytes in your diet come from your food selections. While it may not be what you expected, your food selections are just as critical to your hydration as the water you drink! Before you reach for Gatorade or some other electrolyte/hydration supplement, ensure that you’re getting adequate minerals from your diet first!

Did I get your attention? Great.

Okay, this recipe might not exactly be carrot cake, but don’t leave now because it does taste pretty darn close! I like to say that these muffins are “carrot cake in disguise”. More specifically, these muffins pack many of the same flavors of carrot cake but are “in disguise” as a nutritious breakfast pick.

How did I stumble upon this life-changing recipe? Well, yours truly interned with a non-profit, educational farm in Sheboygan Falls, WI, called Nourish Farms. At this farm, they have a beautiful facility that is host to weddings, farm-to-table events, cooking classes, community dinners, cooking competitions, and much more! During my time here, I had the opportunity to work in their state-of-the-art kitchen and cook up some meals using some of their locally-sourced ingredients (including those grown right on the farm!).

One of these recipes was the “Nourish Morning Glory Muffins”. Whether you’re the type that needs an easy breakfast to grab on the way out the door or you’re looking to help your picky eaters sneak in more fruits and vegetables, these muffins will do the job! The whole-food ingredients in these muffins, such as the sunflower seeds, carrots, apple, and coconut help to boost both the nutrition and flavor. Compared to typical muffins, these deliver a greater dose of antioxidants, fiber, protein, potassium, and vitamins A, C, E, and B! Enjoy the nutritional boost at breakfast or anytime you’re craving a healthy sweet treat!

Before you scroll down to the recipe take a second to check out the amazing Nourish Farms and then sign up for our Farm-to-Table event and get your own tour and taste of Nourish! Learn more at

Want to see a video of the recipe being made? Check out the link below to see a video from my internship days when we did a cooking demonstration for the local WFRV Channel 5 news:

Below is the complete recipe. Happy baking!

Nourish Morning Glory Muffins

Courtesy of Nourish Farms in Sheboygan Falls, WI


· 2 cups flour

· 1 ¼ cup sugar

· 2 tsp. baking soda

· ¼ tsp. salt

· 2 tsp. cinnamon

· ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes

· ½ cup sunflower seeds

· ½ cup raisins

· 1 apple, shredded

· 2 cups shredded carrots

· 3 eggs

· 2 tsp. vanilla

· 1 cup vegetable oil


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Mix wet ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, mix dry ingredients.

3. Add wet ingredients to dry, stir until batter is smooth and evenly distributed.

4. Distribute muffins evenly into greased muffin tins or muffin tins with muffin liners.

5. Bake for about 20 minutes, until toothpick inserted into muffin comes out clean.

6. Enjoy!

It seems superfoods are “discovered” more rapidly than Marvel or DC can drop its next movie or TV series. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a good superhero story. Despite that, it can feel pretty overwhelming trying to keep up with the break-neck pace that these shows get released. It can often feel the same way with all the mighty “superfoods” that seem to be discovered.

“This just in! This new root, found deep in the Amazon Rainforest, might be the best food to cure inflammation, make you feel 10 years younger, help you make more money in your job, and it will even do your taxes!”

You might think I’m sounding crazy, but the claims that made around these supposed “superfoods” make it seem like you’ve been bitten by a radioactive spider and can now scale walls or swing from webs. Truth be told, some of these “magic elixir” powdered greens or ‘health’ drinks taste so bad, I’d rather just get bit by the spider and take my chances.

Why, then, does it seem that our diets are populated by the mundane, superpower-less types of foods (“Hello boring ol’ white potatoes, broccoli, and carrots!”) while we are constantly bombarded by the “next major superfood to take you from zero to hero”? When you really boil it down, it comes back to our same fascination with superheroes. There’s nothing exciting about the everyday staples, the boring, the normal, but there’s something endlessly fascinating about the incredible, new, or unique. So, as you stare down at yet another boring salad, you dream of the superpower promises brought on by goji berries and dragon fruit.

But when we think about it, we have to ask the question – what makes a superfood super? When we strip it down, remove the masks and capes, are these foods really super or are they just posers with a great PR department? Do they stack up like Superman, wielding impressive otherworldly powers, or are they more like Batman – a grown-up karate kid with plenty of money and impressive gadgets?

Let’s take a look at the humble spud, the white russet potato, and its super counterpart, the sweet potato.

The Contender: White Potato (medium, baked) Sweet Potato (medium, baked)
Calories 161 103
Fat 0.2g 0.2g
Protein 4.3g 2.3g
Carbohydrates 36.6g 23.6g
Fiber 3.8g 3.8g
% Daily Recommended Intake
Vitamin A 0% 438%
Vitamin C 28% 37%
Magnesium 12% 8%
Phosphorus 12% 6%
Potassium 26% 15%
Iron 10% 4%
Copper 10% 9%
Manganese 19% 28%

Credit: Information sourced from Precision Nutrition Infographic

Upon analysis, it appears that the sweet potato might not be as dramatically superior to its “less-as-super” counterpart. The sweet potato comes in at lower overall calories per serving, but also with less carbs and protein – nutrients that can be critical to fueling an active lifestyle (or fighting crime!). As far as dietary fat and fiber are concerned, these potatoes are a dead-tie. The sweet potato weighs in heavily with a Hulk-sized punch of vitamin A. Besides just beating out the white spud in vitamin C, the russet potato demonstrates a strong lead with a number of highly important dietary minerals, particularly electrolytes that are often lost in sweat.

After combing through the results, what can we conclude? That both potatoes certainly carry their own unique traits and contributions. My verdict? These both have their place when you assemble your plate, in the same way that every hero has their role to fill when the Avengers assemble.

Truly, the definition of a superfood according to Oxford Dictionary is, “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” When you really dig into it, you might come to realize that this definition applies to any fruit or vegetable.

Did you know that carrots, broccoli, and garlic are among some of the best kryptonite for various forms of cancer? Also, the healthy monounsaturated fatty acids found in olive oil defend you from inflammation in the same way that Iron Man’s suit defends him against – well, everything. These foods are anything but new or exciting, but they carry immeasurable potential!

As a dietitian, I often get asked “What’s the main foods I should eat for [insert goal here].” In this moment, I know people are asking me for a specific answer - the foods that I’ve supposedly learned of in my years of studying that are apparently not known to the public. In this moment, these clients see me as some sort of nutritional Nick Fury – a man who’s investigated and assembled the most powerful superfoods on the planet, wielding the power of the superfood Avengers to come to the rescue at any moment. Unfortunately, the answer is rarely one they want to hear. The truth is that the fix to most nutritional goals rarely lies in the next, up-and-coming hero of a food. The truth is the answers lie within the mundane, within the everyday staples of life. Unfortunately, nutrition isn’t as easy as finding the next magical cure of a food.

That’s the bad news, but here’s the good news: optimizing your nutrition isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Captain America makes for a wonderful example. Steve Rogers gained his incredible abilities from a Super-Soldier serum, but he never would’ve mastered these abilities without all of his rigorous training and dedication. In Captain America’s case, the serum and his powers weren’t what made him super. Steve Rogers’ dedication, heart, and discipline are what truly made him into Captain America.

Well, that’s nice… but what the heck does that have to do with food?

It means that committing to consistency – consistently eating plenty of fruits and vegetables (not just the “super” ones), consistently drinking enough fluids, consistently getting in your exercise to train towards your goals – is the key to accomplishing what you seek. Finding dedication to the mundane and everyday – in the same way that Captain America commits to his training – is what will constantly and consistently move you forward.

This means that you can stop searching for that next magic food. You can rest assured that the capability for (nutritional) greatness already lives within you! It lies within the ‘boring but oh so fundamental’ truths we’ve been told growing up. Maybe mom was onto something when she told you to eat your vegetables so you could be “big and strong like a superhero”.

As you start to discover the freedom and power that comes with embracing the basics, never forget: with great power comes great responsibility.

After seeking the “quick fix” of nutrition for so long, it can be hard to figure out what the fundamentals even are and how to apply them to your life. Just like every hero needed guidance in the mastery of their powers, you may want to consider talking to a Wellness Coach or dietitian about how to harness your newfound nutritional powers. Check out the link to our website below to answer your Call to Adventure and begin your own Hero’s Journey!

Wellbeing at Western Wellness Coaching

Another way to tap into the potential powers found in all fruits and vegetables is finding more ways to get them in the house and on the table! Thankfully, Western will be partnering with a local farm, Moder’s Gardens, this summer to offer Western members the opportunity to purchase farm boxes. These boxes are filled with seasonal, local produce that can be picked up directly at Western! If you’re interested in learning more, speak with a Western employee at the Fuel Bar.

As women, we know the world expects a lot from us but not as much as we expect from ourselves. For me, the gym was a place to burn off steam and laugh and feel strong no matter what else was happening, but there were days that I just couldn’t get myself to move the same or weights felt heavier. I know there are a lot of factors that go into your energy levels such as diet, sleep, over/under training, stress, progressing workouts, etc. Having heard about hormones coming into play too, my nerdy nurse brain needed answers and I set out to learn as much as I could about how hormones effect our bodies at different points in our cycles.

Things to remember: Always talk to your doctor about any concerns and before starting any new program. Everyone is different and the information here is based on a 28 day cycle. It may be helpful to track how you’re feeling to see if you notice any patterns. Lastly, listen to your body! These are suggestions but you know your body best!

Days 1-7:  Menstruation
No matter how long your period lasts, this is when estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest, and we start the follicular phase of building up the next egg to release. Think of estrogen as energy and progesterone as heat and calm. No wonder you aren’t always in the greatest mood and want to lay on the couch snuggled up with the dog, chips and gummy bears. Prostaglandins are high which is what causes the uterine cramps, but the muscles in your intestines also respond to these and increase their activity leading to diarrhea. Isn't it just so much fun?

Since estrogen is low, so are energy and libido. You might have more bloating and motion sickness. It’s common to have brain fog so it may not be the best time to learn something new. Your immune system is running lower leading to flare ups in autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, eczema or psoriasis. Try to rest, decrease stress and eat healthy.

The good news? No need to skip your workouts this week! Try lighter cardio, walking or yoga. Make sure to drink extra water, and if you have heavier periods, stand up slowly.

Days 8-14: Post-period
This means estrogen is on the rise to its peak. You are feeling great! Energy is up. Bloat is down. Your brain is back, and you have a higher pain tolerance. Progesterone is staying lower. Testosterone is increasing which helps build lean muscle while estrogen helps the connective tissue that binds muscle to bone.

This is your week to get at it! Try something new because you have increased memory and concentration, and tend to have less depression symptoms. Challenge yourself by increasing your intensity and aerobic activity in a boot camp, strength or HIIT classes!

Day 14-ish: Ovulation
We are just past the peak of estrogen, starting its decline. Energy and libido peak because your body wants you to get pregnant even if you don’t. Your cartilage is looser putting you at higher risk for joint injuries. Protect your joints by doing a good warm up, stretch, use good form and watch out for fatigue. Progesterone is on the rise, increasing your body temperature and metabolism.  There is a slight decrease in serotonin which may damper your good mood and increase food cravings. On the other hand, your testosterone has peaked making you more competitive and ambitious.

Days 15-21: Mid-cycle
Your estrogen is overall on its way down. Workouts may feel harder. Progesterone peaks around day 21 and so does your body heat and metabolism. You may feel more serene as progesterone rises and testosterone decreases.

You have better lung efficiency and stamina so think longer, steady aerobic work instead of anaerobic HIIT work. You can still do your favorite strength and bootcamp classes but may notice lower performance. Try barre, Pilates, steady cycling, swimming or running.

Days 22-28: Pre-period
Both estrogen and progesterone plummet.  Your body feels completely out of whack: increased headaches/migraines, insomnia and nightmares, mood swings, fluid retention, cravings, asthma attacks, pain sensitivity (avoid waxing and plucking if possible). You may be more clumsy or drop things, possibly related to fluid retention. Those prostaglandins will affect your bowels and you may poop too much or not enough. Mentally, you may have a lack of concentration and motivation, poor memory, and increased depression and anxiety. The good thing is that exercise increases the blood flow to your brain. Small, frequent meals may help handle the cravings, and dark chocolate is an excellent mood booster.

This is the time to do whatever workout makes you happy, maybe arrange to meet a friend for yoga or cycling. Boost your endorphins to boost your mood to boost your energy.

Peri-menopause and menopause are their own challenges because the hormones lose their regular pattern.  It’s not easy to determine when your highs and lows are. It’s easier to gain weight and harder to lose it. Due to bone density and muscle mass loss, it is important to continue aerobic work but continue or add weighted strength work and really focus on your warm up. There are a lot of great resources on how to stay active and deal with this stage.

The moral of the story is to just keep moving and don’t be too hard on yourself!  Take advantage of those energy highs and lows and above all listen to your body!

Stimulate your senses and create a calming experience in the kitchen!


When you think of cooking there can be many sounds that come into play. For some, when they think of cooking sounds they think of busy chaotic kitchen noises coming - pots and pans banging around, searching through drawers or cupboards to find the right tools, and frenzied movement. To find a calming correlation when in the kitchen forget the clanking of silverware and plates and focus your mind for a moment on the sizzling of food, the subtle chopping sound of a knife, or the rolling boil of water. Focus on one sound at a time, and you may notice that the sounds of the kitchen become more harmonious and peaceful. Acknowledge the artificial noises that are allowed during this time. If you must play music, strive for instrumental covers or something without lyrics. Try to find calm within the movement of cooking.

We are told from an early age not to play with our food. I urge you to throw that notion out and have a little fun and stimulate your senses by getting your hands dirty! A lot of stress release can come from the physical acts of squeezing, kneading, or compressing. If you are cooking for yourself there is no harm in touching your own food (just make sure your hands are clean first). There is appreciation and feelings of gratitude that can come from touching and admiring something that you have created with your own hands.

Take in the aroma! Aromatherapy for relieving stress has become exceedingly popular. Experiment and choose to cook with ingredients that bring positive or relaxing thoughts. Here are a few herbs and spices to try in the kitchen and the impacts of their aromas.

The sensation of tasting food can release a multitude of emotions. It can tap into memories and conjure up different thoughts and ideas. This is also why it is important to be mindful of the food you choose to cook, especially if your goal is to reduce stress while cooking. When I think of the effects that taste has, this scene from Ratatouille comes to mind.

“A feast for the eyes” or “Eat with your eyes.” These are expressions that make the connection of how visualizing food can be as important as tasting. What we see tells a story and invokes emotions. That is why for stress reduction choose foods that are not strenuous to eat. Complex foods may include foods that need a multitude of tools or utensils to eat such as crab, lobster,
or foods with a shell that need prying. Take note of foods you try that are visually distressing. You don't have to force yourself to eat anything bony, slimy, gooey, stringy, or otherwise unpleasant to you! Something to look at are the colors used. View your plate as a work of art and try to see what kinds of palettes you can make with your food!

Focus on a more mindful cooking experience next time you're in the kitchen and note how it makes you feel. Paying attention to our sense and being present in whatever we are doing helps reduce stress - plus you'll come out of it with a delicious meal!

There are many aspects, habits, and beliefs that can make for a good relationship. No two relationships are the same and as long as both parties are happy, that’s the main goal right? In my own experience, I truly believe that laying a good foundation based upon communication is so important when it comes to a healthy successful partnership. This is my story of how the decision to improve communication saved my relationship and marriage. 

I met my husband, Lucas, when I was just 14 years old. That was 18 years ago right in our hometown.

We started off as really good friends. He was a nice, sweet guy that took the time to talk to me and picked on me in a playful way. Over the next few years, we would chat often on MSN messenger (back when that was cool). We’d go on bike rides around town as well as shoot hoops at the west side courts. We’d wave at each other through our connecting art classrooms. He would come and visit me at my job at Express Video and help me return the movies on the shelf (when that was still a thing!) and he’d let me wear his Abercrombie & Fitch hoodie when I was cold (although it fit me like a dress). I think it’s safe to say looking back at all of that now, that there had been some attraction that could be taken more than just friends. 

We finally started dating February 2008 right before I graduated high school. It felt so good after all those years of friendship to finally be together - it felt right. And then I went off to college. 

End of the honeymoon phase 

Since Lucas was a year behind me in school, my first year of college was rough. With a brand new “long distance relationship” and my own personal co-dependency issues, I became really depressed, to the extent that I failed my first semester. 

Once Lucas graduated high school, we had a tough decision. Were we going to go to college together or separate? Lucas had coaches recruit him for their teams from all over the state but in the end, he chose UW-Marinette (which is now a branch of UWGB) to be close to family, continue our sports legacy/education, and our relationship. 

UW-Marinette did not have dorms, however, so in order to live there affordably, we made the decision (with blessings from both of our parents after a few very long talks) to rent an apartment together at ages 19 and 18. We were so young. So. Very. Young. 

Once you live with someone you learn so much about them. You learn their good, bad, and even their ugly. You find out you can’t just “leave and go back home” when stuff starts getting hard. Missing them becomes less and less because you see them every day. You fight about the dishes, the cleaning, the laundry, and of course, money. All of these things while trying to find your way in your own life with school, career, and personal development. 

It was hard on us. Very hard. From 2009-2012 were the hardest years we’ve ever been through together (growing pains I’d like to call it). We were two very stubborn people. We lost a lot of respect for each other and started treating each other more as roommates instead of boyfriend and girlfriend. Life was not easy back then, and we made it harder on ourselves by being disconnected and unwilling to work and communicate as a partnership. 

We took a break… 

March 2012 we decided to take a break from the relationship. Lucas moved back home with his parents and I moved in with a work friend and we spent the next 4 months trying to navigate life in a new normal. It was anything but normal for either of us and speaking for myself, I did some things I was not proud of. But during that time we were both able to live and feel what it was like to not have the other. We were able to see what we had taken for granted and the saying does ring true sometimes “you don’t know what you've got til it’s gone”. 

There were a few summer events that forced us to be around each other, and I am now thankful for those times. We were able to talk, and we slowly started to see that there was still a spark there. But if we were to start this relationship over on the right foot, we both needed to commit to making some changes, and one of those big changes was deciding to focus on improving our communication. 

We got back together after that summer, and 10 years later (with 7 of those years being married, and currently 9 months of waiting for our baby...), I am convinced that effective communication is the secret ingredient to any good relationship. 

Why do I think it’s communication? There are a few reasons, but the biggest one I believe is because you can’t be certain you know what the other person in the relationship is thinking. You may THINK you know, but you are not them. When one person in a relationship is not happy, they need to express what they feel and what they need. On the flip side, it's also important to communicate what DOES make you happy in the relationship. We had not been doing either of these things successfully.

As our communication skills got better, so did our relationship. It was hard at first because of old habits (blaming, shutting down, being defensive, not listening) but we made a consistent effort to try and work through the hard conversations and feelings. In the 14 years we have been together I have not been more in love with Lucas than I am with him today. 

These are the communication game changers that I felt really moved the needle for us. 

Listening with the intent to understand 

One of the biggest human needs in the world is the need to be understood, and yet I believe a lot of us listen only to RESPOND. By actively listening to someone, asking clarifying questions and validating what they are expressing, you can demonstrate you care about what they are saying and get the full picture into their thoughts. This helps make that other person feels heard and respected and will greatly improve your communication. Listening is a hard skill to master and it’s something we practice every day in our household to continue to make us better partners, and it has saved us a lot of arguments. 

Don’t take things personal 

In the past, if Lucas was having a bad day, it was easy for me to believe it was because of something I did, which was almost never the case. Sometimes the other person has things they need to work on and get through that has absolutely nothing to do with you. I’ve learned to trust that if there is something I can do to help Lucas, he’ll tell me. I ask, “Hey are you OK?” and if he says he is then I trust he is, and I don’t take it personally. Being a good partner is not just about growth together but supporting each other's growth as individuals as well.

Remove Expectations 

Expectations (in my opinion) are relationship killers and will not improve communication. I’ve set expectations in my life and I’ve almost always been disappointed because things didn’t go as I thought they should. To me this is similar in communication and interactions. You can’t expect to know what the other thinks because you are not them. If you expect them to do something, say something, or feel a certain way and they don’t, how do you think that will make you feel? Angry, sad, frustrated? That’s how I would feel. So, I do myself a favor now and I try my best to never set expectations. 

Understand that you are not always right 

This one was a big one. Lucas and I were both very stubborn people once upon a time. We didn’t understand that there could be more than one solution to a problem, more than one view to a situation, or more than one way to do something. We both thought our way was the one right way. Once we improved our communication, we started to see that that clearly was not the case. We are both two different people with our own experiences and biases. Sometimes one of us is right, sometimes neither of us are right, but we’ve found with time that if we can recognize that sometimes both right, just in different ways, that’s when we both win. 


I feel one of the best skills to improve communication in a relationship is to learn to compromise. Both parties have to be willing in order to make this work. After following the first four skills I mentioned compromising is much much more attainable and realistic. Boundaries may need to be set for the compromise to happen but hearing both parties out, accompanied by actively listening and understanding, can help produce an organic compromise that can make both partners feel seen, heard, and validated.  

All of these tips to improve our communication have helped us grow into the partnership that we have today. None of these would be able to work if we weren’t willing to talk to each other. We set time aside to go on long walks on the weekend (sometimes when only lightning bugs light the road) and we talk about anything. We talk about dumb things, fun things, and (my favorite) deep meaningful things. But it took a long time and a lot of work to get to this point. Sometimes misunderstandings still happen, but these habits we’ve been practicing have become automatic now. They have been worth all of the work we have done and continue to do. 

Today, I challenge you to think about one way you can improve your communication with a partner or a loved one and begin practicing that everyday! If you find you need some guidance working on changing the way you communicate and build these habits in your life, consider Wellness Coaching at Western! We have a team of certified Wellness Coaches with expertise in helping you live your best life and building habits that strengthen the wellness of you and your relationships. If you're not familiar with Wellness Coaching or want to dip your toes in to see what it's all about, consider a Discovery Session! The Discovery Session is a great way to give yourself a chance to find out if wellness coaching is right for you and can expect to leave this 60-minute session with direction on taking tangible steps towards whatever your individual goals are.

Visit our website to learn more about the Western Wellbeing team and Wellness Coaching services.


Water is key for a healthy body! Hydrate the body for optimal training!
Water is essential for life and it becomes even more important when it comes to exercise. Our bodies are roughly 60% water, so it is no wonder why staying adequately hydrated is so important to overall health. We hear general recommendations to drink eight 8-ounce glasses a day, but that number increases even more when we work out. Water lost during workouts varies, however sweat loss can be tracked by measuring weight immediately before and after working out.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people drink about 17 ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise, to promote adequate hydration and allow time for the body to excrete any excess water. Water helps move waste products out of the joints and from our muscles, in turn reducing pain and improving flexibility.
When you work out, you should add 12-15 ounces of additional water to your daily total for every 30 minutes that you work out.
Benefits of water: 
  1. Improves physical performance - Dehydration during exercise can lead to altered body temp control, increased fatigue, reduced motivation, and fogginess. Since muscle is around 80% water, you can see the impact your hydration status has on your workout.
  2. Effects brain function and energy levels - headaches, lack of concentration, and impaired mood are all caused by fluid loss. Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of dehydration.
  3. Keeps your bowels moving - Constipation can occur when there is a lack of water throughout the day.
  4. Aid in weight loss - Water can help increase fullness and boost metabolic rate. Drinking even a half hour before meals can help you feel fuller so you eat fewer calories.
Water FAQs:
Does water temperature have an effect on your health? Should I drink room temperature water or cold water?
-It all comes down to personal preference. Water in general helps increase metabolism by your body having to work to heat the water you drink. Drinking more water increases blood volume to then get more oxygen and nutrients to cells and carry out more waste. In general, you just want to consume plenty of water to stay hydrated, no certain temperature required!
Is tap water bad for you?
- Tap water is safe and healthy to drink! It is the most cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and convenient way to stay hydrated. All public water systems are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency which check for contaminants that would pose any serious health risks. You can also add tap filters or buy filtered water containers for an additional level of filtration.
Do filter water bottles really work?
- Yes! Certain filters purify the water directly once you pour it into the bottle, while others do it while you're drinking.
Strength coach Charlies Poliquin says, "Hydration is the greatest determinant of strength. A drop of 1.5% in water levels translates to a drop of 10% in maximal strength." So, get to filling up those water bottles! Happy hydrating! 

Does the daylight savings time change make you feel more tired than normal? Feeling tired can affect almost every day to day activity and put extra strain on your body. Feelings of fatigue not only affect mental power, but also physical aspects of the body as well. Trouble focusing, low coordination and just pure exhaustion are all negative side effects being tired has on your body. Aside from getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night, there are many other ways to feel less tired during the day to ensure you can feel your best and perform your best.

1. Exercise

When you are feeling exhausted, exercise is probably the last thing on your mind. It sounds contradictory that exercise can make you less tired, however this is far from the case. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that reduce feelings of stress and improve mood. Your mindset will take a turn to be more positive which can give you the extra boost of energy you were lacking before. Exercise can also improve sleep quality by making it easier to fall asleep during the night because of the energy burned during the workout. A Certified Personal Trainer here at Western Racquet can put together a great workout tailored just for you and the needs of your body.

2. Yoga

Stress uses up a lot of the body’s energy during the day and also impairs your ability to get a good night's sleep. When your body is under stress it releases the hormone cortisol to maintain natural body functions. When you are under constant stress the body may release too much cortisol, resulting in feeling more tired. Yoga is a great way to naturally reduce stress and also get a great mind and body workout in. Yoga sessions promote relaxation both mentally and physically. The practice of yoga can also lower blood pressure and heart rate, both symptoms of stress. Check out our many yoga classes offered here at Western Racquet to help fight constant stress and fatigue.

3. Nutrition

The food we intake has a major effect on how our mind and body function. When feeling symptoms of fatigue it may be helpful to turn to your diet to see how you can improve your mental and physical function and increase your energy. The first thing to analyze when trying to increase energy is to look at if you are eating at normal times. Getting on an eating “schedule” may benefit you greatly as your body will be used to taking in food at a certain time and can learn how long it has to sustain energy afterwards. There are many foods that benefit energy levels and some that also can be detrimental to your energy. Refined carbohydrates are not great for the body as they raise blood sugar levels quickly, making the body release more insulin in order to get it down to a normal level again. This can cause the feeling of fatigue as the body is working on overdrive. Try to eliminate refined carbohydrates and make the switch over to unrefined carbohydrates which are more rich in natural fiber. Increasing protein intake is another great way to increase energy. Protein takes longer to digest making it a longer source of energy for the body. Another great perk of protein is that when consumed with a carbohydrate, it can actually slow down the rapid spike of sugar into the bloodstream causing blood sugar levels to rise much less rapidly. If you have more questions regarding great nutritional strategies to reclaim your energy, don’t hesitate to meet with one of our great wellness coaches here at Western!

To conclude, living a healthy lifestyle has a great impact on your energy levels. Exercising increases endorphin release, improving your mood and increasing energy. Exercise also helps getting a good night's sleep because while increasing energy during the day, it also burns off energy making it easier to fall asleep at night. Managing stress through a class such as yoga is a great way to improve energy levels as stress uses a lot of your energy during the day. Yoga promotes the relaxation of the mind and the body and lowers cortisol levels to keep the body from working on overdrive due to stress. Eating a balanced and healthy diet and at the right time during the day also lowers that tired feeling and keeps you performing at your best. At Western Racquet, we have resources and certified staff to assist with all of these lifestyle changes so be sure to check out these resources to help your body get to it’s optimal state of wellness.

I don’t know about you, but for me the past few years have been...interesting, to say the least. There have been ups and downs, fear, worry, unknowns, which then sometimes lead to what we call "survival mode." There always seems to be new stressors or situations coming at us with no end in sight. We constantly feel like we need to be “on”, “prepared”, or “ready to react” to whatever the world throws at us, especially lately. But this “survival” instinct has been around for much longer than just the past few years. 

The survival mode I’m speaking of is when our “fight or flight” response is activated for extended periods of time and causes a state of dysregulation in our nervous system. This was great for our ancestors if they were being chased by a lion, but in this day and age, we’re not being chased by lions (hopefully). The same state of dysregulation our ancestors experienced still happens within us but manifests in other ways. For instance, survival mode can kick in when you are preparing for a meeting or a big sale, studying for a big test for school, or even worrying about a scenario/outing/trip that is happening soon. This state is triggered by stress and your brain doesn't know if you are in fact being chased by a lion or if you just realized you forgot about a very important meeting with a client (and now you must scramble and try to wing it). It’s a great mechanism our bodies use when we need to get down to business (or get out of harms way), but if you are constantly in this state for extended periods of time, that’s when disease happens. And after coaching many clients and deep reflection on my own habits and life, a lot of us are in this state more than we know of.  

What happens when we’re in a fight or flight response? Our brains lose access to logic, problem solving, and creative thinking. Our behavior becomes impulsive and reactive. Our emotions can can be either highly reactive or even become numb and shut down. Digestion also shuts down and you may go hours without feeling hungry only to be starving on the way home from work ready to eat whatever you can get your hands on as soon as possible. Think about how much this can affect us if we are in the survival mode state more often than a relaxed state. If your body has been in this habit of living for years, think about what it could be doing to your health and wellbeing. 

Just remember, you can survive survival mode. 

As we become conscious of our thoughts, behaviors, beliefs, and responses, we can interrupt the survival mode pattern with consistent practice. Some of the most powerful practices include: breathwork, body movement, dancing, grounding, meditation, cold exposure (like cryotherapy!) and basic small amounts of daily self care (which will look different for everyone). By doing these practices, you’re telling yourself you can safely return to the body and experience the present moment. 

If you consider incorporating some of the habits to help you to minimize the stress in your life, you may notice your body feeling the urge to always being “doing” and become restless, or you might have restless/intense thought patterns. That’s when you need to give yourself some grace and compassion and know that you may be releasing years (or decades!) of conditioned responses or habits that at one time helped you, but now have become your every day wiring. You might even feel “bored” or unconsciously seek conflict, chaos, and unhealthy relationship dynamics that give your body the hit of adrenaline it was used to when entering a fight or flight situation. But remember, all of this is a natural and normal part of the healing process, and any way you can mitigate or process through stress will help your overall wellbeing and quality of life. 

What’s something you can do today to experience a relaxed state? 

If you find yourself needing a little help or guidance coping with "survival mode" talk to a Western Wellness Coach today! Visit to learn more.

Part 3: Why Your Workouts Aren't "Working Out"

After years of scouring through fitness and nutrition research, I have discovered quite the assortment of tips and tricks to ‘maximize results’ in the gym. By this, I mean I have put in considerable time and effort towards understanding all the ways to help my clients most efficiently and effectively reach their fitness goals. Throughout this research, I have come to find that much of the ‘big picture’ or ‘fundamental’ truths for fitness seem to be glossed over, neglected for the sake of defining and understanding the minutiae. In other words, we often seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when seeking or giving advice to make progress in the gym. Many of the popular articles in the news and on the internet are announcing the next ‘breakthrough technique’ or product that will ‘take your fitness to the next level’. While we are obsessed with finding the cutting-edge difference-makers, we forget that fundamentals are… well… just that: fundamental. The “tried and true” basics of how to be successful in the gym aren’t shiny, sexy, new, or exciting. So, while we frantically search for the next secret to make that 1% difference, we forget to attend to the other 99%. Among the chatter of all the ‘new research’, we seem to no longer hear about what has worked for so many people over so many years prior.

In this three-part blog, I would like to introduce the major errors I see fitness enthusiasts make that prevent them from reaching their goals or their fullest potential. The intention with this article is that you use it as a sort of “checklist”. As you read through each bullet, consider whether any of these fundamental missteps sound familiar. If this is the case, addressing this factor could be the missing link in truly accelerating your health and fitness goals. With that, I also recommend treating this list in sequential order, working from top to bottom. If you find that there are multiple points you need to work on, start with the upper-most point (closest to #1) and work your way down. The higher on this list the point is, the more foundational it is. If you don’t resolve any issues in the earlier points, any changes in the later points will not have as significant of a result, if any. Whether you are starting a new fitness journey or have been working out consistently for years, this list is essential to ensuring you find a fitness plan that works for you.

As this is a 3-Part blog post, be sure to read Part 1 & Part 2 prior to moving on to this section.

With that, read on for the top foundational fitness mistakes and how to fix them:

These next two points (#5 and #6) are often the first things people contemplate and seek advice on when they want to advance their progress in the gym. Note that these points are lower on the list because changes in these will yield little results unless points #1 through #4 are addressed first. It is only after you have established a fitting and sustainable approach to fitness that you can address these following points. Ensure your approach to fitness considers activities you enjoy, goals that make sense, recovery that sustains you, and focus during your fitness routines before being concerned with the following points.


Error #5: You make it to the gym, but possibly too much or not enough.

Frequency of your workouts is a major consideration in many fitness circles. When discussing it, the image of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” is always comes to mind. You don’t want it to be too much or too little – but “just right”.

I can’t emphasize this point enough. Sometimes, it seems the messaging from health and fitness influencers says “more is better”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. With any form of physical activity, there is a point at which increasing your frequency or total volume will not result in any further benefit. In fact, surpassing this limit of maximal benefits can result in regression (not to mention increased risk for injury, illness, and many other issues. Especially if intense activity is overdone). If you recall point #3, recovery is just as important, if not more so, than the effort and activity itself. The point at which no added benefit is gained from increasing exercise frequency/volume is known as “the point of diminishing returns”. In a practical interpretation, this could mean that weightlifting 3-4 times per week is your “sweet spot” for increasing strength, for example. For this individual, lifting weights any more during the week would only interfere with their recovery and likely lead to loss in strength and possibly even injury. While the example I provided is for lifting weights, this principle applies to all forms of fitness.

In other words, there is truly “too much of a good thing”. It’s true. Doing “all the right things” too often can actually hinder your ultimate progress. Spending too much time and effort on “perfecting” a singular piece of your fitness won’t necessarily be the fastest path to results. Sometimes the “scenic route” will yield the best outcomes. For example, a runner may think that the best, and only, way to improve their running pace may be to simply run. It has been shown, though, that performing various weightlifting and agility drills can help enhance speed and power while decreasing risk of injury in runners. From this perspective, including variety in your training won’t just make you a more well-rounded athlete, but a better athlete at your activity of choice.

With that being said, all forms of activity need a minimum frequency and volume of training to result in noticeable progress. While I wish I could give the “magic number” of times you should generally work out each week to maximize progress, any number I would give would be a gross oversimplification. Every person has a different threshold for volume of activity and making progress. This threshold is based on the activity they do, their ability to recover, their genetic potential for said activity, their diet, and much more. To help guide you, I would like to provide you with a rule of thumb: If you currently do an activity or exercise consistently, have not made any noticeable progress within the last couple weeks or month, but also find that you are consistently feeling fully rested and recovered, you are probably ready to explore increasing your frequency. Note: this ONLY applies of you aren’t making progress AND are consistently recovering.

While I know that this is a very broad approach to finding your ideal frequency to train, this is going to be your best method to discovering your individual needs and limitations. Struggling to find that training “sweet spot”? Consider talking to a Western personal trainer about how your current routine could be tweaked to accelerate your progress.


Error #6: Your nutrition could be better… and not in the way you think.

“I’d hit my gym goals if I could just stop eating carbs/sugar/junk.”

“It would be so much better if I had more self-control with food.”

“I just need to eat less calories. It’s all just calories in, calories out.”

“I think keto/intermittent fasting/[insert popular diet here] will be the key I’ve been looking for.”

In the fitness community, nutrition seems to be the center of conversation quite often. Just as I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, it seems that we also seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when it comes to nutrition. Take it from a dietitian: nutrition does not need to be complicated. In fact, the belief that you just need to cut out a particular food or follow a certain diet to be fit or healthy only serves to overcomplicate nutrition.

It seems that every year is accompanied by the next new “diet hack” that is guaranteed to make you thinner, leaner, stronger, faster, etc. Despite each “diet breakthrough” spreading like wildfire, it seems that it never sticks long before the next is announced. Case in point; For much of the 1980s and 1990s, eating low-fat was the key to ideal health and fitness. Across grocery stores, low-fat versions of everyone’s favorite foods could be found. Now entering the 2010s and 2020s, a diet that is low-carb (Hello, Keto!) is the key to ideal health. Those very same low-fat foods that filled the shelves have now been replaced by high-fat and low-carb alternatives. Anyone else suspicious about the flip in script?

Hidden underneath the shouts of these “revolutionary diets”, you may have heard the quiet but unchanging mantra of many nutrition professionals, “eat a balanced diet, including a variety of fruits and vegetables.” Is this advice revolutionary, breakthrough, or grabbing any headlines? No. But it never changes, and that is for good reason. This advice, though not exciting, is consistently true. I hate to break it to you, but there is no magic pill, no revolutionary diet, or perfect food. Our human biology has developed over many, many years. As a result, it is unlikely that we will simply discover a way to “hack” our incredibly smart, complicated body. For some, this news may be disappointing. You may not even want to believe it and continue to hold on to hope that the next new diet will be your secret key. Perhaps for some, though, this may be a relief. It may be reassurance that you can stop your searching and rest easy knowing that eating doesn’t have to be complicated.

Despite this, I can still assure you that there are tips and tricks to change your diet for improved fitness and even just general health. Thankfully, these points are short and simple enough to fit on the following bullet points:

Nutrition can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it. Know that there’s no such thing as a “bad” or “wrong” diet. There are certainly different ways to eat that may or may not support whatever outcome or goal you desire, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with any particular food choices. When in doubt, the smallest and most sustainable changes to your current nutrition habits will have the longest-reaching and most significant impacts.

Part 2: Why Your Workouts Aren't "Working Out"

After years of scouring through fitness and nutrition research, I have discovered quite the assortment of tips and tricks to ‘maximize results’ in the gym. By this, I mean I have put in considerable time and effort towards understanding all the ways to help my clients most efficiently and effectively reach their fitness goals. Throughout this research, I have come to find that much of the ‘big picture’ or ‘fundamental’ truths for fitness seem to be glossed over, neglected for the sake of defining and understanding the minutiae. In other words, we often seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when seeking or giving advice to make progress in the gym. Many of the popular articles in the news and on the internet are announcing the next ‘breakthrough technique’ or product that will ‘take your fitness to the next level’. While we are obsessed with finding the cutting-edge difference-makers, we forget that fundamentals are… well… just that: fundamental. The “tried and true” basics of how to be successful in the gym aren’t shiny, sexy, new, or exciting. So, while we frantically search for the next secret to make that 1% difference, we forget to attend to the other 99%. Among the chatter of all the ‘new research’, we seem to no longer hear about what has worked for so many people over so many years prior.  

In this three-part blog, I would like to introduce the major errors I see fitness enthusiasts make that prevent them from reaching their goals or their fullest potential. The intention with this article is that you use it as a sort of “checklist”. As you read through each bullet, consider whether any of these fundamental missteps sound familiar. If this is the case, addressing this factor could be the missing link in truly accelerating your health and fitness goals. With that, I also recommend treating this list in sequential order, working from top to bottom. If you find that there are multiple points you need to work on, start with the upper-most point (closest to #1) and work your way down. The higher on this list the point is, the more foundational it is. If you don’t resolve any issues in the earlier points, any changes in the later points will not have as significant of a result, if any. Whether you are starting a new fitness journey or have been working out consistently for years, this list is essential to ensuring you find a fitness plan that works for you. 

As this is a 3-Part blog post, be sure to read part 1 prior to moving on to this section, which you can find here.

Error #3: You aren’t chasing your dreams.

Now that you’ve chosen workouts that you love and have goals that align with these activities, it’s time to start focusing on how to continue fueling yourself for these activities. Points #1 and #2 focus on the fitness activities and goals we choose, because this sets the course for our fitness journey. If we are consistently active and working towards goals we care about, we have the foundation needed to make progress. From here, we need to consider other factors in our days and lives that will either accelerate or hinder our fitness progress.

There are many different variables that may come to mind when I say that recovery is critical to making fitness progress. Many health and fitness experts would agree that the quality of your recovery matters more than the actual effort made in they gym when it comes to making progress. This point should not be overlooked, so read it again if you need to. It is very intentional that this point is the very next fundamental to follow up your activity and goal selection.

Don’t believe that your recovery is just as important, if not more so, than your effort in the gym? Consider this: all forms of exercise are a physical stressors. The common lesson many of us receive regarding how a muscle grows and gets stronger stands as an excellent example. As you may have heard, damage is done to a muscle as it works. This damage is known is “microtraumas” or “microtears”. When the body repairs this damage, it is supposed to grow back bigger and stronger. While this is an oversimplification of the process, at its core it is true. Considering this, you may realize how significant recovery is. Without the recovery or repair process, the muscle simply remains damaged. In this case, you’re not just delaying progress but possibly causing regression. It is for this reason that significant progress in any fitness endeavor demands adequate rest and recovery.

With that in mind, we must address sleep. Sleep is the cornerstone of our health. Without adequate sleep, nearly all your health and fitness efforts will be more like an uphill battle. During sleep, your body and brain are restored and repaired from a full, exhausting day. The more you miss out on this opportunity to reset and recover, the less motivated you’ll feel and the less energy you will have for nearly anything else.

Unfortunately, there are many different things that can interfere with our ability to get a good night of sleep. Stress, blue light from screens, caffeine intake, or any number of factors can seriously hinder our ability to drift off to dreamland. Feel like your sleep needs some improvements? Check out this link to find tips for improving your sleep from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Error #4: You make it to the gym, but you aren’t present for the workout.

At this point, you are certain that you have picked forms of exercise you enjoy, you have set goals that keep you coming back to these activities to seek progress, and you are getting enough sleep to recover from all the hard work you put in. This next rule focuses on your mindset in the gym. More specifically, we are concerned with the principle of prioritizing ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’. In other words, it doesn’t matter how long you spend in the gym, but how intentional you are about working towards your goals. To put it bluntly, nobody ever hit their fitness goals staring at their phone. Distractions during our workouts diminish the quality of our workouts and the benefits we will receive from them. Among the top offenders for distractions: phones and stress.

If you find yourself getting sucked into your phone during your usual time for fitness, it may be time to find ways to distance yourself from the phone. If that isn’t a possibility (perhaps you listen to your music through your phone or need to be close to your phone for work), it may be worth at least exploring options to reduce distractions. For some, putting the phone on ‘airplane mode’ or silencing notifications is enough. For others, it may mean putting the phone in the locker or the gym bag. Can’t quite part with your phone during a workout? Try to at least leave it on the other side of the gym. This way, you may be less tempted to pick it up as often.

If you find stress is the main culprit distracting you during your workouts, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with balancing busy schedules and various responsibilities, more than a few of which tend to creep into our mind during our fitness time. In this scenario, having routines or strategies to create a ‘mind-shift’ into fitness mode can be very helpful. Sometimes it may be as simple as having a favorite playlist of music to blast in your headphones. Other times, it may require some creativity. Having a routine or ritual to your workout can help you get into the proper headspace. Some people feel they need an activity that is mentally challenging and stimulating, like boxing or playing basketball with someone else, to pull them out of their headspace and into the present. Other people sometimes find that changing the time of the day that they workout can be a simple fix to stress-levels and distractions. For some, the morning workout is too stress-inducing to squeeze into an already-packed morning schedule. For others, the evening workout is too difficult, as they still have thoughts from work swirling in their head and find they can’t focus. Finding your sweet-spot may take some trial-and-error.

Still feel that you’re struggling to manage your stress and finding that it is hindering your fitness goals? Contact a Wellness Coach here at Western to see if we can help you find effective stress-reducing strategies!

It is officially winter!  And as the days get shorter and the nights get longer, many people find themselves in a bad mood or feeling in a funk of sorts. You might feel sad or blue around the winter holidays, or get into a serious slump after the fun holiday festivities have ended. Some people find themselves suffering from the “winter blues” year after year during the fall and winter months. So what is it about the darkening days that can get us down in the dumps? And what can be done about it?

Researchers have been studying the “winter blues” and a more severe type of depression called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, for years now. “Winter blues” is more of  a general term, rather than a medical diagnosis, and tends to clear up on it’s own over a short period of time. “Winter blues” are generally associated with a specific event, like the stress of the holidays or missing a loved one at a certain time of year. However, SAD is a clinical diagnosis that is said to be related to the shortening of daylight hours during the fall and winter months. SAD is more common in northern parts of the United States where the winter days last longer and there is more darkness than sunlight. Reduced sunlight can disrupt the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythms, and can reduce the body’s natural levels of serotonin.

As with other forms of depression, SAD can lead to a gloomy outlook, feeling worthless, and irritable. Individuals suffering from SAD may lose interest in activities such as hobbies or spending time with friends. It is reported that SAD can look kind of like hibernation - people may become withdrawn, have low energy, oversleep, and crave carbohydrates. 

So what does exercise have to do with it? 

When you are experiencing the winter blues, exercise is probably the last thing that you want to do, but research shows that it can be one of the best things to do to improve your mood! 

We have all heard the benefits of regular exercise on physical health and fitness over and over again - improves heart health, improves lung health, can help manage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, can assist in weight management, can strengthen bones and muscles, etc. But the benefits of regular exercise on mental health is something not everyone thinks about. 

Studies have shown that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication - but without the side-effects. A recent study done by the Harvard School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%.

Exercise can be a powerful tool when fighting depression for several reasons; it promotes changes within the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and creating new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. Exercise also releases endorphins, or chemicals in the brain that can energize you and make you feel good. Lastly, exercise can also serve as a distraction from everyday life and stressors, this can allow you to find some time to break out of a cycle of negative thoughts that can often lead to feelings of depression. Other benefits of exercise can be;

If regular exercise is not already a part of your routine, you might be wondering how much exercise you need to do to give your mental health a boost this New Year… Well, you don’t have to become a power-lifter or marathon runner to reap the benefits of exercise, any exercise is better than none! The good news is the exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous or take a long time to be effective. Studies show that low or moderate intensity exercise is enough to make a difference in terms of mood and thinking patterns.

Current ACSM and CDC guidelines recommend that all healthy adults ages 18-65 years should participate in moderate intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on 5 days a week. If you aren’t there yet, that’s okay! The key is to commit to some moderate physical activity - however little - on most days. Then when physical activity becomes a habit, you can slowly increase time and intensity. Find activities in the gym that you enjoy and if you keep at it, the benefits of exercise will begin to pay off.

Every December 31, many of us start thinking about what the new year will present to us. We set goals, we break them. We make other goals and break them as well. It's hard to create new habits; oftentimes harder than we realize!

What’s your goal? Do you want to lose weight? Run a marathon? Sleep more? Or do you have a physique that you’re working towards? At the root of it all, a plan with self-discipline will get us to where we need to go.

In order to keep a New Year’s resolution, breaking down our goals and creating smaller, short-term results is key. Do you want to lose 40 pounds this year? For many, the sound of it sounds unattainable or unrealistic. But, does losing one pound in two weeks sound possible? Absolutely.

Do you have a plan? Do you need help creating a plan? A plan is like a road map. If you don't know what you’ll be doing, how to do it, or even where you’re going, getting to a specific destination is really difficult.

Below are some strategies you can use to assist in your New Year’s resolution.

  1. Start with small, short-term goals. They’re easier to achieve and create momentum for the next one.
  2. Set reasonable goals and write them down.
  3. Create a schedule. Come to the gym on a set schedule. Consistent routines are key to forming a habit.
  4. Utilize Western’s registered dietitian! He has expert knowledge that can help set you up for success. (Learn more about Tad at
  5. Speak with a personal trainer. It’s not just a workout you’d be looking for; it is a partner who holds you accountable, creates a personalized workout plan to match your goals and lifestyle, and makes sure you exercise with correct form to minimize risk of injury. In my experience, nothing derails progress like pain and uncertainty. Speak with one of our great trainers to make sure you’re moving in correct movement patterns and using a plan that makes sense for you! (Visit to get matched with the right trainers for you!)
  6. Go to group classes. Western's group fitness classes have a reputation for being fun, energetic, and taught by excellent, passionate instructors. A team dynamic is very motivating and going each week will give you a set schedule. And even better? There are over 40 group fitness classes at Western that are completely FREE with your membership! (Visit to see a full schedule of classes.)
  7. Workout with a friend. You hold each other accountable and push each other. Also, people tend not to skip workouts because they don’t want to let their friend down. Tip: Choose a friend who pushes you or has similar goals as you. You'll be that much more motivated!
  8. Keep your weekly goals in a visible place like your refrigerator or somewhere you’ll see it daily.
  9. Do you have to make dramatic, life altering changes? No. The key is small changes and moderation. Remember to take things slow!
  10. Do what you like to do. Do you hate running? Don’t do it. Does the thought of hopping on the stairmill for an hour give you anxiety? Don’t do it. Do you like walking your dog outside in the evening? Do that! Do what you like because you’re more likely to continue doing it. Fitness isn’t a cookie cutter lifestyle. Do what you enjoy so it becomes fun.
  11. Most importantly, ask yourself "why" and then keep asking "why". Get to the bare root of why you have this goal. If you ask yourself "why" enough times and it triggers an emotional response, you’ve found your reason. When the going gets tough, you can always look back on that core reason to help keep you motivated.


Happy New Year from me and all of us here at Western! We can't wait to help you with your goals in 2022!

2019 was a huge year for me mentally and physically. I overhauled my lifestyle, adopted new habits that served me, and transformed into a person who I was finally proud of. I felt confident, mentally/physically strong, and balanced. I was so happy, and I felt unstoppable.  

2020 was also a big year for me as I found my true passion and calling in life, which was to be a health coach. For me, this meant taking all the tools and tips I learned that helped me and help other people find their best selves. Fortunately, I have been able to do this through Western as a Wellness Coach, and there isn't a place I’d rather be than Western! 

Then in September 2021, everything changed. 

After almost a year of trying, my husband and I finally became pregnant! How exciting, crazy, and scary! But, I had almost a year to prepare for this! My nutrition was on point, my exercise routine was solid, and I knew all the things that would keep me and my baby healthy. I was determined to have a smooth first trimester. I was not going to go off the deep end with food (I knew what to eat and I loved good healthy foods!), I was not going to neglect my exercises, and everything was going to be FINE. 


Wrong. Oh boy was I wrong. 


Fatigue. I was in bed as early as 5:00pm some nights and I would sleep until I the last moment that I hadto get up the next day. I slept on average 10 or 11 hours a day. And it still felt like it wasn’t enough. 

I couldn’t think about eating veggies or most meat. I couldn’t even eat my favorite breakfast smoothies or protein oats that I had been eating for years. The thought or the taste would make me instantly nauseous or give me acid reflux. 

And my exercise? That suffered the most. I went from doing multiple high intensity classes a week (sometimes multiple each day!) to NONE in a matter of weeks. Although my body could handle it, I just didn’t have the energy to do it. I went through Shockwave training (an amazing rowing and stations class on the group fitness schedule!) around 7 weeks of being pregnant, and I was down and out for a day and a half.  

I ended up having a breakdown around 11 weeks of pregnancy to my husband and some of my closest friends. “I don’t like this new version of me! I feel like no matter what I do I can’t feel better!” I said. Sometimes, a Wellness Coach needs to be coached herself. 

The amazing people I have in my life reminded me that when you go through a big change in your life, you must give yourself grace. Your routine can be completely thrown off, and although you know the right things to do to make you feel good, there is only so much willpower one can have. And even that isn’t on will call. The best thing you can do for your body in times of change (job change, loss of a family member, pregnancy, sickness, etc.) is listen to your body and release the guilt of what you should or shouldn’t be doing. Taking each day at a time and doing small things that make you feel good and building on that foundation when you can. And if you can’t, give yourself credit for what you have done and can do. If that means eating one apple amongst the Spaghetti-Os, Kwik Trip doughnuts, and Taco Bell nachos and cheese, then you celebrate that win. If that means walking 3,000 steps one day when you couldn’t get out of bed the day before, you celebrate that win. 

This is my message to you that has helped me get through this time of change. It’s always a work in progress. May it resonate with you that we all struggle even if we feel we have the answers. Everything is temporary, and if there is one thing you can count on, it’s change. Things may get harder before they get better. Remember what you are capable of, what you’ve been through, and believe that this too you will get through. And don’t forget to surround yourself with people who love and support you and remind you of how amazing you are. It’s okay to ask for help!

When it comes to literally anything related to nutrition, protein seems to be at the forefront of many people’s minds. When it comes to fitness and performance nutrition, it’s not a matter of if, but when, protein becomes a part of the discussion. While there are 3 different macronutrients (i.e. “macros”), carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, it seems as though protein gets a disproportionate amount of attention. Today, I’d like to clear the air related to some of the common misconceptions I hear regarding protein. Along the way, I’d like to make the argument that this macro isn’t any more important than carbs or fat, regardless of your health and fitness goals.

That being said, let’s get started…

Myth #1: Eating more protein means building more muscle

This is possibly the most common mistake I see, particularly among the weightlifting community. The thought-process behind this is actually quite logical: muscles are damaged during exercise… muscles are made of protein… protein is needed to help repair muscles… thus, MORE protein will repair muscles BETTER and FASTER. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case. Our body can only rebuild muscle as fast as it is genetically programmed to. Providing adequate protein is obviously important so that the rebuilding of muscle can occur, but extra protein does nothing to help the process. For example, imagine you are the boss of a team of construction workers building a house. You can continue buying and stockpiling all the supplies you want to build the house, but your workers can only build this house so fast. The exact same is true for muscle.

To take this argument one step further, I would argue that overdoing it on protein intake can actually hinder muscle-building and other fitness goals. Protein is a highly-satiating macronutrient. In other words, foods that are high in protein are typically very filling. With this, a protein that is very high in protein will crowd out other foods that carry other important nutrients, leaving you too full to consume a balanced meal. While a balanced diet filled with vitamins and minerals is essential to performance and recovery, the main nutrient that I see get left out in favor of protein is carbs. When you fill up on protein and don’t take in enough carbs, your energy levels are going to suffer. If you get in the habit of under-fueling for your workouts, you aren’t going to be truly pushing your limits and actually experiencing any kind of genuine progress. It may not be a surprise to hear, but a diet that balances all nutrients without prioritizing one over the others is going to yield the best results for performance and overall health.

Myth #2: Too much protein is bad for your kidneys

This misconception seems to take the polar-opposite stance to the first. Instead of trying to get more protein in, I hear some people share that “too much protein is bad for your kidneys”. A quick Google search using terms like “kidney function” or “kidney disease” and “high protein diet” will yield a variety of results that seem to say that high-protein intake is detrimental to kidney function. What’s more, these results have connecting links to peer-reviewed, scientific, sound research. Based on these results, it is very easy to conclude that too much protein will wreak havoc on your kidneys. Rest assured, this is also not the case.

As a dietitian, I’m rather defensive about definitive recommendations related to diet and health. In this case, making conclusions based on Dr. Google’s quick search results undermines the work and experience needed to truly read, understand, and implement research. In this case, many of the studies that populate in this sort of search are referring to individuals with kidney function that is already compromised. In other words, it is true that high-protein intake can be detrimental to kidney function, but only those with kidneys that already don’t work properly. I feel this study by Martin et al., 2005, says it quite well: “Although high protein diets cause changes in renal function (i.e., increased GFR) and several related endocrine factors that may be harmful to individuals with renal disease there is not sufficient research to extend these findings to healthy individuals with normal renal function at this time.” To wrap up this myth-busting, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to eating protein so long as your kidneys are healthy.

Myth #3: Protein from animal sources is superior to plant sources

This argument has some pseudoscience roots that makes it seem like a rather strong point. The basis of this myth comes down to the difference between “complete” versus “incomplete” proteins. Complete proteins are proteins that have all essential amino acids, or amino acids that our body needs to function but cannot make on its own. On the other hand, incomplete proteins are proteins that are missing one or more essential amino acid. Animal sources (e.g. eggs, meat, dairy, etc.) of protein are considered complete, while plant sources of protein are considered “incomplete” (with a few exceptions, such as quinoa). The important distinction here is that our body is able to convert some amino acids into other amino acids, based on what it most needs, but it is only able to do this with non-essential amino acids. For example, your body can convert alanine (a non-essential amino acid) into glutamine (another non-essential amino acid). What your body CAN’T do, is convert something like alanine (a non-essential amino acid) into tryptophan (an essential amino acid). In this case, you must get tryptophan in the diet. From this understanding, the animal protein source, containing all essential amino acids, is always superior to the plant-based protein.

While the perspective of this argument is logical, it is a very reductive perspective when nutrition should also focus on “bigger picture”. In this case, this ignores all other nutrients within the food supplying the protein. In other words, a steak will provide high levels of protein, but it is usually high in saturated fat, relatively high in cholesterol, and low in fiber and vitamins and mineral. On the other hand, plant sources of protein, like black beans, are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals while also delivering next to no fat or cholesterol. If you’re concerned about getting all essential amino acids, you can rest assured knowing that having variety of protein sources throughout the day (e.g. oatmeal with breakfast, rice with lunch, beans with dinner) will meet, if not exceed, all essential amino acids you need in a day. With that, you can feel confident about meeting your protein needs whether its from animal or plant sources (or ideally, a mix of both!) as long as there’s variety.

Myth #4: A high-protein diet is the key to successful weight-loss

This myth also has some roots in truth, but unfortunately it is often misconstrued and taken to extremes. As I shared under Myth #1, protein is a highly-satiating nutrient. Eating protein helps aid with feelings of fullness. If you’ve ever eaten a big helping of beans, eggs, or steak, you might agree. With this understanding, the perspective for weight loss is often to eat as much protein as possible to stay full as long as possible while eating as little as possible. While this is logical, it is again missing the “bigger picture” of nutrition. First, refresh yourself on why eating too much protein is counterproductive for fitness goals by reading my debunking of Myth #1. In short, excessive protein intake means deficient intake of something else. It could be carbs, fats, vitamins… take your pick. If you have a weight loss or body composition goal, you need to provide your body with the healthiest, most balanced diet possible. If your diet is not balanced or sustainable, you’re going to quit on whatever changes you’ve made. Further, weight loss is much more complicated than “calories in, calories out”, and you can’t just “cheat the system” by eating a diet heavy is one nutrient while lacking in others. Weight loss is a subject much too complicated to be distilled into a couple short sentences. Suffice to say, any diet that requires you to take in high levels of something while restricting something else is guaranteed to be unsustainable and will, eventually, fail.

If you want to be your healthiest and happiest self, find a dietary balance of nutrients that nourish your body while satisfying your cravings. If you don’t know how to find this balance, talk to a licensed or certified health or nutrition professional.

Myth #5: Your body can only use a certain amount of protein in one sitting, anything more is wasted

This myth is my favorite to debunk, as it assumes that the body is “incapable” of using food you give it. To bust this myth simply, your body does not waste any food you eat. Regardless of how much protein you eat in one sitting, your body will metabolize it all and find some way to use it. I do believe that this is sometimes thought in the context of whether the protein will be used for muscle-building or “wasted” by being used by the body for something else. When it comes to eating more protein and whether it will help build more muscle, you can refer to Myth #1. In addition to overdoing the protein daily, it is possible to take in more protein than is helpful for muscle growth in one sitting. Will the extra protein be harmful? Not necessarily. It simply won’t speed up your recovery any faster after reaching a certain threshold. Beyond the threshold of protein needed for repairing muscles, the remaining protein will mostly be burned for energy. With a much greater excess beyond use for muscle-repair and energy-production, some protein might be converted and stored as fat for energy later on. With that answer, most people want to know, “So what is that threshold? How much protein should I have in one sitting for the best recovery without going over?” To give you the most honest and accurate answer anyone could possibly give: I don’t know. That’s the unfortunate truth. I don’t know because nutrition recommendations can’t be made as generalizations. Every body and lifestyle is too diverse to be making nutrition prescriptions in a public blog. If there is a public article claiming exact numbers for how much of anything you need nutritionally, they’re making grave generalizations and are definitely not accurate for your individual needs.

With that, allow me to climb down off my soapbox and give you an answer that might be helpful in some way. Now that I’ve established that I don’t actually know how much protein your body needs and that generalizations aren’t accurate… allow me to make a generalization. Based on research of averages of body weights and body sizes, it seems that 20-30g of protein, depending on how large your body is and how active you are, seems to be the ideal range for optimizing protein use for muscle-protein synthesis (or building and repair). In addition, the metabolic and recovery benefits of consuming this amount of protein after a workout is enhanced when also eaten with carbs.2 This range of protein can apply to meals or snacks throughout the day, as well as after workouts. Note that despite using averages and making a generalization, it is still a range. My hope is that these numbers help you at least make ballpark estimates when it comes to nutritional planning.

Busting nutrition myths takes a lot of “bigger picture” views because understanding our body requires a “bigger picture” perspective. When it comes to health, fitness, and nutrition, it is easy to get caught up in the details and nuances while forgetting our fundamentals. While some of the info I might be sharing is not earth-shattering, it is based in fact and proven itself for many, many years.

Our bodies are incredibly efficient and incredibly resourceful. The body is not wasteful. Years of our ancestors surviving famines and droughts has taught our body that any food that comes in is more valuable than gold. Further, our bodies are much, much smarter than we are. Years of research on the human body has turned up as many (if not more) questions as it has answers. This fact remains, there really isn’t a diet we can choose that will “outsmart our biology”. Recent years have shown a dramatic uptick in extreme diets, choosing to cut out entire food groups or revert to extreme restriction. Whatever diet you may think of, it simply can’t account for all that isn’t known about the human body and nutrition. Every day, research discovers something new about the human body. Every year, dramatic progress is made in nutritional research and developments. Despite every major discovery made from year-to-year, one truth remains: The body functions best with a balanced diet rich in a wide variety of food, including foods from plant and animal sources.

Do you lie awake at night, fighting to fall asleep? Maybe your brain is keeping you up with all the stress of the day or you're struggling to find a comfortable position where your body can feel relaxed. If this is relatable, I promise, you are not alone. When we don’t get a healthy amount of sleep, it can lead to experiencing major threats to our health and happiness. Sleep is responsible for healing and preparing the body for the next day. It improves our daily performance, keeps our minds sharp, and we feel better mentally and physically. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to increased heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, depression, weight gain, and more negative side effects.

Healthy sleep requires 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted rest. Leading factors for sleep disorders are breathing problems, drinking alcohol, eating certain foods, eating too late in the evening, inadequate exercise, or depression & anxiety. Many of us struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night, but it has been proven that creating healthy sleep habits before bed is a great way to start falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.

One thing that can be done is to create a regular sleep routine to follow each night. Every night have a set of specific activities to do before getting in bed. This will help get the mind and body in a “ready for sleep” mindset and make going to bed much smoother. Things to think of when creating healthier sleep habits are:

Set up a healthy and comfortable sleep environment. The place where you sleep should be comfortable and relaxing. Eliminate any distractions in the bedroom.

Maintain a consistent time for going to sleep every day of the week. This includes weekends. This keeps our circadian rhythm regular, making it easier to fall asleep when we want to.

Turn off or silence all electronics like phones and TVs at least 30 min to an hour before bedtime. Screens disrupt the release of melatonin in the body making it harder to fall asleep.

Reduce intake of caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals before bed.

Avoid physical activity right before bed.

Do some calming exercises to relax the body.

Getting a good night’s rest is very important for our well-being. It is beneficial for your mental and physical self and keeps you going every day. Do your body a favor and start creating healthy sleep habits that will lead to a better night’s rest and a happier you.

As a (recovering) people pleaser, I never entertained the thought of putting myself first. But during these crazy and uncharted times in a pandemic, I believe now more than ever that it’s important to make yourself a priority. 

Growing up we are taught to share with others, care about others, and give to others (time, money, love, energy, talents, etc.). These “others” that I speak of could be family members, friends, business partners, charities, or even strangers on the internet! Not only was it taught, in many families, it was even encouraged! 

Now…don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that giving the above mentioned to others is bad and shouldn’t be encouraged. Giving can make you feel REALLY good and fulfilled! But how often are we taught to truly give to OURSELVES? When we are younger, how often are we encouraged to put ourselves first? 

Until recently I would be SO flexible and go along with ANY plan (even if it was something I didn’t want to actually do). I believed that what other people wanted was more important than what I wanted. I was also willing to run my tank on empty before feeling like I let someone down. I was unaware of how much energy I was giving constantly! And the energy I was giving was without any limitations or boundaries. 

Because I wasn’t good at putting myself first, it was affecting me negatively both mentally and physically for years. I had low confidence, I was a people pleaser, and I was EXHAUSTED. 

Putting yourself first could look a little bit different to everyone. To me, it was a combination of being who I truly was, investing in myself (physically and mentally), and getting healthy. When I finally made the decision to start putting myself first in December of 2018, let me tell you, it was 1000x easier SAID than DONE. In fact, there were a few beliefs that I needed to let go of in order to start putting myself towards the top of my priority list. 

1. Putting myself first makes me selfish. 

This was the biggest belief that I felt was most important to let go of. As a people pleaser and one who wanted everyone to like me, I felt if I put myself first, it was selfish…and people don’t like selfish people! How dare I go to bed early because I like my routine. And how dare I not drink alcohol when everyone else is enjoying it. 

But when you give in and do things that you don't necessarily want to do, just to appease others, are you being the person you want to be? Are you honoring yourself? I know what my answer was. I have read and heard this example over and over again, but for a very good reason. If an airplane is going down, the flight staff tells you that YOU need to put your oxygen mask on FIRST. If you try to help others without putting yours on first, you will not be alive very long to help save other lives. Yes….it’s very extreme, but it's a great metaphor for how important it is to make yourself a priority!

2. I have to pick one or the other 

There is a trendy word going around right now, and maybe you’ve heard of it: BALANCE. In my mind, either I had to put everyone first or I had to put myself first. But after practicing moving myself up the priority list, I realized you CAN do both. You can give to others and give to yourself. It can BE a balance if you are willing to set boundaries. 

For instance, I work out/move my body almost every day. It is a habit, a non-negotiable. It makes me feel good, gives me energy. And because of that, I’m able to do my job and GIVE to members/others (energy, time, etc.) all day. And it brings me joy. If I was always just giving to everyone without giving to myself, I don’t feel that I would have the true kind of love and energy that I want to give to others (at least not without total exhaustion). And exhaustion is not healthy! 

Once I let that go, I was able to see I could accomplish both. It took some practice, but it's possible!

3. I am not good enough 

Here comes ALLLL the negative self-talk and conversations I used to have. *queue the violin* I didn’t think that I was good at anything, or that I was funny or likable enough. I told myself how dumb I was when I stuttered over my words and when I didn’t make sense. And I was beating myself up inside so much, why would I put myself at the top of the list if I feel I didn’t deserve it?! I had to change my self-talk to “I am good enough, and I deserve this”. 

This one took a LOT of practice, but guess what? Your thoughts become your reality. How your speak about yourself is how you begin to truly view yourself. And YOUR thoughts inside of you are the ones that matter most. Because they’re YOURS. You are going to be stuck with you the rest of your life, so why not let this belief of “I am not good enough” go and start becoming your biggest fan. That’s what I told myself when I made the decision to start putting myself first. 

4. There is not enough time for me. 

I am going to give you a little tough love on this one, because I was a big victim to it too. 

We all know that there is 24 hours in a day. It doesn’t matter WHO you are, how successful you are, how rich you are, how many friends you have….it doesn’t MATTER, you get 24 hours. But it is 100% your choice how you spend those 24 hours. And guess what? There is always enough time for the most important things. What are you making important? What are you choosing to give your time and energy to? 

Letting go and putting myself first 

I let those beliefs go and I’ll tell you that I have not looked back. I feel more connected to myself more than I have ever felt in my life. I’m aware and conscious of giving to myself so I can better give to others. Because I’ve done this, I feel so grounded and confident. I continually show up for myself and put myself first because then others get the best version of me. And my recovering people pleasing self LOVES that. Putting myself first doesn’t mean that I ALWAYS put myself first above everyone else. But to me, it is finding the perfect amount to fill my cup. It’s not selfish to give to others AND give to myself. I am MORE than good enough and deserving and I MAKE the time for myself because I. AM. IMPORTANT. I believe it and I show myself, every day. 

I’m not asking you to deconstruct and ruin friendships/jobs/lifestyles. All I’m asking is for you to ask yourself if you are important. And if you say that you are (and I REALLY hope you do) what’s one thing that you can do for yourself EACH day that will pour a little back into your cup. It doesn’t have to be HOURS, it may only be a 5-minute conversation with yourself in the mirror telling yourself how great of a person you are. But I challenge you to start slowly building on that foundation. You are good enough. 

So tell me, are you important? 


The holidays are right around the corner, and though there can be many joyful moments throughout, 'tis also the season for anxiety, depression, and stress. Although the gym is not a cure for those symptoms, it's a good starting place to help ease them! 2021 has been an interesting year, to say the least, and I'm sure most of us have suffered from added anxiety, depression, and stress due to COVID and many other things in one way or another. All of us need an outlet to release some of those negative feelings sometimes. Self-care is a great place to start, and you can think of going to the gym as one of the easiest ways to care for yourself (and the cheapest therapy)! The hardest part can be just getting here, especially if you're feeling down, but when you do, there's an infinite amount of things you can do! Need to vent? Bring a friend and chat vent it out while you sweat it out together. Want to try out something new or learn a new machine to take your mind off things? Ask our expert personal training staff. Prefer to work out in a group setting? Our group fitness classes rock and I guarantee you will leave feeling great and with a smile on your face! Need a little pick-me-up treat? Stop by the FuelBar and grab a delicious, fresh-made smoothie!
Let's focus on the primary reason for the gym, the actual workout. No matter what you do - lift weights, go to class, even just walking on a treadmill - studies show that any form of exercise helps the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, otherwise known as endorphins. If you're needing a cool-down to a stressful day, take a yoga class! Maybe it was a bad day, let the rage be fuel to a killer lift day. Just get to the gym! It's a very healthy way to work through emotions!

“The only bad workout is the one that never happened.”

“No pain, no gain.”

“Go hard or go home.”

We seem to have an endless supply of motivational quotes designed to keep you pushing your limits. The message in all avenues of life is clear; if you aren’t working your butt off, you’re wasting your time. Particularly in the fast-paced culture we currently live in, the perspective seems to be that you need to be busy or productive every hour of the day, otherwise you would be considered ‘lazy’.

Right now, I’m begging you to question this perspective. As healthy, well-rounded human beings, we are meant to do so much more than just ‘work’. I’d like to bring to your attention the nine dimensions of wellness. These dimensions include cultural, environmental, social, emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual, occupational, and financial. To account for all dimensions of wellness, we need balance in life. A balanced diet can stand as a metaphor for our overall life balance. Shocker that the dietitian would relate the topic to nutrition, right? Hear me out on this, though. If you only eat the same one or two things every day, you are bound to miss out on valuable vitamins or minerals. Eventually, you could become deficient in a nutrient and develop serious health issues. In the same way, filling your days with only work, for example, will leave you deficient in other areas of wellness. For example, a workaholic usually becomes “socially deficient”, missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with friends and family.

I often see this same predicament unfold in dedicated athletes and gym-goers. This mentality of “no days off” drives the high-achievers to adopt the approach of “more is always better.” In this scenario, three days a week of working out will always be better than one. In the same way, five days will always be better than three, seven better than five, and twice a day every day is better than seven times a week. As both a dietitian and personal trainer, I want you to know that this is not the case. Furthermore, you should know that walking the path of “more is always better” is a slippery slope, particularly in the fitness world. Long-distance runners that don’t get adequate rest often develop shin splints. Weightlifters that don’t get adequate rest often develop strains or tendonitis in the overworked muscles. Athletes that don’t get adequate rest are often much more susceptible to major injuries. To be able to push the body, you must nurture the body. If you’re chronically skipping rest-days, lacking sleep, and under-fueling by not eating enough, you’re not going to see the results you really want. On the other hand, if you take care of your body, it will take care of you.

To take a broader view on this, how do we learn when to “step on the gas” or “step on the brakes” in different avenues of our life? I’ll be the first to admit it’s not easy. Striking this balance in life requires that we become attuned to the different dimensions of wellness in our life. It takes practice to intuitively find what you need, from day-to-day or moment-to-moment, to truly be well. Perhaps the first, and most important, step is to practice mindfulness in various aspects of your life. Allow time for reflection to see how you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically during different times of your day. Let’s walk through an example. For instance, let’s say, one day at work, you were stuck in a late work meeting. Once you are finally on your way home, much later than usual, you get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. You eventually arrive home, only to find an email from your boss stating that the deadline for a big project has been moved up to tomorrow. As a result, you continue working late into the evening. The next morning, your alarm clock goes off for your usual, early-morning workout. With getting much less sleep than usual, every ounce of your being screams out to turn off the alarm and sleep in. In the same breath, you fear the guilt and sense of laziness that arises from skipping a workout. What is really happening at this moment is a conflicting mental dialogue. Your attuned self is telling you that you haven’t gotten enough sleep and you should continue resting. At the same time, the ever-prevalent media and cultural messaging that says rest is “lazy” is overpowering your attuned self and using guilt to push your limits. Am I saying that sleeping in is always the better alternative to working out? Not quite. I’m simply suggesting you take time to investigate the motivations behind some of the decisions you make in a day and make the final decisions that will ultimately better your overall wellbeing. In this same scenario, you might rationalize that you don’t have the energy to get your usual workout in, but you might still go to the gym for some other forms of self-care. Maybe you’d walk on the treadmill instead of your usual, intense workout. Maybe you would take time to stretch, foam-roll, sit in the sauna, or simply get cryotherapy and a smoothie to kick-start your day.

True wellness involves being critical of the “healthy” choices we make every day and analyze them in the context of what we truly want and need. Wellness is so much more than striving to out-work, out-do, out-anything anyone else. Wellbeing has many different looks because everyone has a very different lifestyle with very different needs. With this article, I hope it helps all my fellow workaholics out there take a moment to reassess their current perspective and consider what they can do to care for themselves just a little bit better.

Feel like you could use some help rediscovering a lifestyle that has balance in all aspects of your wellbeing? Consider how Wellness Coaching at Western could help you! Email to learn more about Wellness Coaching and what we offer!


When I was a kid I recall going on many adventures. I would pretend that my swing set was sitting over boiling lava. You had to get across without touching the ground or you’d burn to death!! I would go over to a friend’s house at least once a month and play games like Ghost in the Graveyard (although I was afraid of the dark). But the best adventures of all were when my sister and I would go over to my grandma’s house for the night or weekend. We’d stay up until the wee hours of the night watching I Love Lucy reruns while eating hot air-popped popcorn with real butter, salt, and a side of a Butterfingers candy bar. We’d play Crazy Eights and Solitaire for hours before we’d have a 30-minute bath. And once we were ready, the three of us would crawl into my grandma’s king-size bed, turn and face one way and scratch each other’s backs for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes were up, we’d reverse to the other side and scratch the other’s back until eventually, grandma said “bedtime!” or I’d fall asleep. It was always a blessing to get out of our normal routine to go to grandma’s. Sometimes, doing silly or out-of-the-ordinary things is just what we need to break out of the rut of a routine! When we're kids, this comes naturally to us, but as adults, we often need a little reminder!

One time we made a “For Rent” sign for the empty manger scene that was on the frozen pond right next to Main Street by the nursing home. Two of us would keep a lookout while the other would set up the scene. We created a big yellow smiley face that had its tongue sticking out and put the word “YUM” right on his forehead. We put that guy on the giant wooden ice cream cone that was outside of the BP on Main Street also. We even crafted a “Reserved Parking” sign for the light pole that our pastor would always park in front of at church so no one would steal his parking spot. “Thou shall not park here.” 

We were not vandalizing or hurting anyone, but it felt so a good way! The laughs we had, the adrenaline, the feeling of not knowing what would happen next were some of the best memories I had with my grandma. That kind of fun and the adventure I had when I was younger isn’t always present now that I am older. I have more responsibilities (bills, job, house, goals) now more than I ever had before. My routine is scheduled most of the time and life can become very predictable and controlled. It’s during those times that I like to pull a page out of my grandma’s handbook: Be B.A.D. 




Here are some of my favorite simple ways to nourish my adventurous inner child to shake up my routine. Maybe you can try a few of these or make up your own this week and break out of your routine for a little fun!

These are just a few actions that I like to keep in my back pocket when I’m feeling drained and in need of a pick me up. Like when the feelings of “when is it going to be the weekend”, wishing my days away, or just waiting on the next big thing are weighing on me. Doing things like these really help get me out of the same monotonous routine of every day and they remind me of the fun rebellious times I had with my grandma when I was younger. 

What do you like to do to shake up your daily routine? Try to capture each moment and enjoy each day!

In this week's Wellness Corner, I want to explain what I feel the differences are between competitiveness and comparing, and how I’ve been able to live a happier life because of recognizing those differences!

I am competitive (I get it from my mom). The thrill of beating my husband (occasionally) at a round of horse makes me giggle. It feels like I won Jeopardy when I can name a song title and band name before anyone else as it starts to play. Monopoly? You bet I’m out for blood. 

Competitiveness can be a very healthy attribute to have, minus the gloating (I’m guilty!). Being competitive can give you the motivation to be better and push yourself. It can help you admire people that are, in your eyes, succeeding. Competitiveness may even create drive and inspire you to set new goals for yourself which is great (and has done wonders for me). But there is a fine line between competitiveness and comparing. 

I, like many of us, was a victim of constant comparison, and not the healthy kind. I found myself on Facebook endlessly looking at other people's profiles and comparing my pictures to theirs, comparing my job to their job, comparing their perceived happiness to my happiness. While I was processing the information I was seeing, it quickly turned into self-pitying or victimizing thoughts against myself. I would ask myself what was wrong with me that I couldn’t be as happy, or have that dream job, or have that flawless skin. The questions turned into negative self-talk:  “You’re not that good, smart, or worthy of a happy life”. To be honest I wasn’t aware that I was doing it at the time. Comparison can be subtle in the way it needles itself into our lives. But looking back on it now, it was part of my routine every single day. Comparing myself over and over again every day was making me miserable. I was unhappy, negative, and self-sabotaging. It was hard for people to have a conversation with me because of the negative, self-deprecating comments I would make, making other people feel uncomfortable. 

Teddy Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy" and he couldn't have been more right. It was during the beginning of my wellness journey when I saw that quote. It resonated and struck a chord with me so much that I knew I needed to change in order to live a happier, more fulfilling life. 

These were the major changes I started practicing to stop me from comparing myself to others:

1. Focus your energy on what YOU are doing 

Instead of focusing on what everyone else was doing, turn your attention back to what you are doing! Doing this gave me clarity on what I could control (like my effort), for instance, my gym routine at Western. Could I get lost in looking at other people’s routines, what machines they’re using, how they’re doing it, and comparing how my body looks to theirs? Of course! But I made the decision to spend that time and energy focusing on what exercises feel right to me and make me happy and...voila! I began to see a shift in my feelings of self-worth! 

2. Realize that the majority of people did not wake up one day with everything they have now

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a professional singer but didn’t think I was talented enough as all the famous singers out there. I mean, Lady Gaga is amazing but I doubt she woke up one morning and was a superstar. People have to WORK to build their skills. And skills are learnable. I just had to find out which skills were most valuable to me. It was also important to me to realize that everyone is in a different part of their journey. Experience, practice, and opportunities play into each person’s journey. I choose to support people and cheer for them on their journey but overall I keep my eyes focused on my own path. 

3. Everyone has an opportunity 

I used to feel that if someone had something or did something I wanted to do, that meant there was lesser of a chance for me. Now I know that's simply not the case. Opportunities exist for all of us! Something someone else has that I also want just might not happen the same way for me and that's okay! Part of the fun is figuring it out! 

4. Only compare yourself to who you were yesterday 

Going forward, if I’m going to compare myself to anyone, it will be to the person I was yesterday. Each day is a new day to be better. A better wife, friend, listener, money manager, sever, human. To me, that is progress. 

I still have my competitive nature, but my biggest competition is myself and who I’m striving to be. This has changed my level of joy in my body and life tenfold. 

What might you need to let go of in order to stop comparing yourself to others? If you need some extra help on the journey to self-acceptance and a life filled with happiness, consider Wellness Coaching! Western's new Wellness Coaching services offer one-on-one coaching to help you find and implement strategies personalized to your goals. We all need a little help getting on track sometimes! As a certified Health Coach and Life Coach, my greatest passion lies in holding the vision of who you want to be and helping you take each actionable step towards that version of your best self, and not only give you tangible tools, but also listen, understand, and believe in you. Check out to learn about all our options and see what might be the right fit for you, wherever you are in your wellness journey.

With the recent Labor Day weekend wrapping up we now officially enter one of the busier times of the year for gyms and health clubs everywhere. Many people find themselves overwhelmed during the summer months with an abundance of traveling, sporting events, family activities, etc. and simply fall out of their regular fitness routines. If this sounds familiar to you then there is simply no time like the present to reassert your commitment to your health and fitness. That being said, what is the best way to go about doing this?

There are a plethora of different ways to get back into shape and you ultimately need to do what is best for you. For some people this will mean group fitness classes, others will hire a personal trainer, or people who love running may dust off their shoes and start hitting the pavement once again. No matter which avenue you choose to go down there is one thing all these methods will need in order to be successful - a combination of both short and long term goals.

Long term goals are extremely important because they offer you something you can strive to achieve over an extended period of time. Some examples of long term goals would be: lose 20 pounds, decrease your body fat percentage by 5 points, run a marathon, or increase your squat max by 50 pounds. Long term goals are more successful when they are something you truly care about, so make sure you pick out something that is important to YOU. It’s also important to pick out a goal that is measurable. While “living a healthy lifestyle” is important there is no true way to dictate whether or not you are legitimately achieving this goal. My last point on long term goals is that, while they are extremely important for achieving long term success, they need to be coupled with short term goals. This is necessary because long term goals can be intimidating and overwhelming. There is no way to quickly achieve long term goals and this can create a mental roadblock for many. However, if you also create a series of short term goals you can succeed at in a shorter period of time the feeling of accomplishment will push you and become a motivating factor.

What are good short term goals? Just like long term goals, short term goals will be met with success more often when they are personal and something you care about. Also, just like we mentioned with long term goals, make sure you pick out something that is measurable so you can quantify if you are actually reaching or surpassing these milestones you set for yourself. A good example of long term goals vs short term goals could be, I have a long term goal to run a half marathon (this training could take a year depending on where you are starting) but my goal this week is to run 10 miles over 3 sessions. Never hesitate to give yourself a reward for achieving your milestones, it often time will help to give yourself an incentive to push it harder!

For anyone reading this, I challenge you to take 15 minutes this week and write down some short term goals and long term goals for your health and fitness. You may find this is something that is really helpful for you when it comes to achieving being the best version of yourself!

It’s a fact - happier, healthier employees are more productive employees. We’ve all heard this statement before, right? This is the main concept behind the birth of Corporate Wellness Culture, but what does it even mean? Think about it this way: when was the last time you had a really great week – go back to that time in your mind. You accomplished a lot at work and had a very productive week. Now, think of how your time was spent outside of work hours that week. What else was going on? Maybe you spent quality time with your family. Maybe you did a great job meal prepping for the week. Maybe you stayed consistent with your workout routine. Maybe you had a night out with some friends, stayed on top of household chores, or scheduled some much-needed appointments for yourself. Whatever it was, I bet a few of these statements ring true because YOU HAD A GREAT WEEK! I bet you felt accomplished, balanced and productive, which made you feel successful, happy, and healthy. This is the whole idea behind companies offering corporate wellness options to their employees, and creating a corporate wellness culture in the workplace.

From an employer's perspective, all eyes are on the numbers that determine overall production and health care costs. Especially for those businesses that are self-insured, keeping health care costs down is a huge plus! The healthier your employees are means fewer doctor visits, and fewer sick days. This is why offering wellness options and developing a Corporate Wellness Culture has become so important. According to a Gallup State of the American Workplace study, “employees with high overall “well-being” have 41% lower health-related costs compared with employees who are struggling, and 62% lower costs compared with employees who are suffering”. This, paired together with higher production numbers, makes investing in your employee’s health and wellness a must. In fact, by adopting a Corporate Wellness program, companies can expect:

From an employee perspective, being informed about, and utilizing your employer’s corporate wellness offerings is a HUGE benefit to you. Let’s face it – most of us spend the majority of our time during the workweek AT work, right? So, it makes sense to prioritize your individual wellness ensuring your overall production in the workplace will be positive – that's what employers wish for. Especially in today’s world, this is more important than ever. The COVID pandemic has of course had a strong impact on the corporate landscape, especially concerning depression and anxiety among adults. I think many of us feel this. Some studies have reported as much as a 30% increase in these symptoms from before the pandemic began. Now more than ever, our overall health and wellness are critical to our overall well-being, especially in the workplace.

As the Corporate Wellness Director at Western, I’ve found a lot of businesses are trying to work on supporting their employees with this concept, which is fantastic to see! Many larger companies have even formed an entire department around workplace wellness, whose primary role is to act as a resource for their employees, offering various health- and wellness-related benefits. I’ve discovered these often include reimbursements for health club memberships, workshops discussing self-care, nutrition and mindfulness, or even workplace group challenges and competitions. My role at Western is to help support businesses in our area with their programs and initiatives – to help people find that “Work-Life Balance” through health and wellness, both physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Employers, I encourage you to consider creating and developing optional benefits like those noted above for your employees, demonstrating that wellness is more than providing health insurance and retirement benefits. Five key components to ensure a successful wellness program are:

  1. Provide employees with practical and accessible programs
  2. Have a health-conscious work environment
  3. Integrate wellness into the company structure
  4. Link wellness to existing support programs
  5. Offer health screenings and education

Keep these ideas in mind when developing something new and consider partnering with local resources like Western to enhance your offerings.

Employees, I encourage you to seek out the options offered to you at work and utilize them to better your Work-Life Balance. Because everyone deserves to be happy, healthy, productive, and have a great week ALL the time!

“It’s all in your head.” Whether you have struggled with anxiety, depression, or even overwhelming stress, this is a phrase you may have heard at some point. Even if it comes from a well-intentioned friend or family member, this “advice” or suggestion is literally less helpful than someone saying nothing at all. If you or a loved one has struggled with their mental health, you might also agree that this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. What if I told you that research continues to find evidence that psychological conditions are actually a manifestation of physical imbalance or illness and not simply just a result of “a bad mindset”. You may be thinking of the “chemical imbalances in the brain” often discussed with mental illness, but that isn’t what I’m referring to here. No, I’m actually discussing an imbalance in the body that is nowhere near the brain. Instead, we need to look lower. Much lower. We need to look to the gut.

More specifically, I’d like to focus on the trillions of bacteria that live in our intestines, primarily the large intestine but to a lesser degree the small intestine. The numbers and types of bacteria that live in our gut differ from person to person and changes across the lifespan due to many different factors. Regardless of the make-up, the collective of these bacteria is referred to as the gut microbiota. Some of the variables that influence a person’s microbiota include diet, exercise, stress, sleep, medical conditions, medications, and much, much more! Though they are very small, the importance of these bacteria shouldn’t be underestimated! On a fundamental level, these bacteria ferment many of the different foods we eat. While this sounds insignificant, the byproducts of this fermentation provide our bodies a host of benefits. Some of the direct byproducts include vitamin K and a number of B vitamins, all of which are directly used by our body. Other byproducts help maintain the health of the gut, which in turn helps prevent issues like bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, and malabsorption. Another role of gut bacteria is to assist our immune system by fighting off harmful bacteria and preventing them from crossing the border of the intestines into the bloodstream. Some byproducts even produce a cascade of events in the body that controls the level of inflammation in the body. While all these roles are interesting and valuable, perhaps most incredible is the gut microbiota’s effect on the brain.

During the fermentation of certain foods, the microbiota produces short-chain fatty acids (which I will abbreviate as SCFA). Of these, the most prominent and active SCFA are butyrate, valerate, and propionate. These byproducts have the ability to travel in the bloodstream and impart effects on the brain. Emerging research has been investigating the relationship between certain concentrations of these SCFA in the blood and the presence, absence, or severity of conditions like depression, anxiety, ADHD, and even autism. This isn’t to say that an increase or decrease in certain SCFA is directly related to the onset or prevention of these conditions. Unfortunately, it is a bit more complicated than that. In general, it is more about a certain balance of these different SCFA for ideal health. To achieve that, there is a certain balance of bacteria needed in the gut to produce the ideal amounts of these SCFA. It is often simplified down to a balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut. In essence, the “bad” bacteria promote inflammation, weaken the immune system, are harmful to overall gut health, and produce proportions of SCFA that promote mental health issues like anxiety and depression. On the other hand, the “good” bacteria do just the opposite. Throughout your life, these “good” and “bad” bacteria are in a constant battle to populate your gut. The best thing you can do for your health, both physical and mental, is to support your “good” bacteria in consistently winning the battle.

Years are spent by researchers studying the countless strains of bacteria in your gut. They spend immeasurable hours investigating which specific strains have what effect in your body and how various lifestyle factors can increase or decrease the presence of said strains. Despite the seemingly endless research, one resounding message seems to hold true: habits we know as part of a healthy lifestyle also support the healthy bacteria in our gut. In other words, eating plant-based foods (fruit, veggies, and grains), exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and managing stress all help support the presence of “good” bacteria in the gut.

Certain foods are particularly good at boosting levels of “good” bacteria in your gut, helping them win the war for your colon. Foods that have prebiotic fiber provide fuel for your “good” bacteria, fermenting these fibers to produce healthy byproducts that fight off “bad” bacteria. In other words, the “good” bacteria are your troops and prebiotic fiber is the supplies and ammo they need to fight. Some excellent prebiotic foods include oats, bananas, berries, apples, and asparagus. On the other hand, probiotic foods are those that already have “good” bacteria in them. This helps to directly add more “good” bacteria directly to your gut. In other words, probiotic foods are like reinforcements for your bacterial ‘army’. Some excellent probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha.

Filling your life with healthy foods, physical activity, stress management, and good sleep habits can help create both a balanced life and a balanced gut. In turn, you’ll fortify your gut against the negative effects of imbalanced gut microbiota. Not only will this help minimize inflammation and boost your immune system, it might actually boost your mood and help you stave off anxiety and stress! When it comes to struggling with any number of mental health struggles, whatever level of severity, I can confidently say that, no, it is not, “all in your head.” In fact, one of the best things you can do for your mental health is to take care of your body, and then watch how, in turn, it will take care of you.



Wake up, take the dogs out, feed them, start coffee, get lunches ready, get dressed, leave for work. Get to work and open, serve customers, have meetings, chat with co-workers and members, get prep list completed, place orders. Get home, take care of the dogs, get dinner ready, clean up around the house, get dishes done, maybe cut the lawn, chat with hubby, prep anything for next day, and finally go to bed. Whew! The day is over!

Does that craziness sound familiar to you? Our days get packed full of work, family, chores, cooking, kids, friends, etc., and often before we even get home we are burnt out for the day. How often do we take a pause during our day to give ourselves some time to just stop and take a breath, taking the time to reflect on the positive and the challenging events of the day?

For many of us, personal time or self-care has been conditioned in our minds as selfish. What is it about slowing down and caring for ourselves that makes us feel guilty? Why is it so easy for us to say yes to anyone and everyone, except ourselves?

In the book, Dare to Lead by researcher and author Brene Brown, she discusses what she calls “the dirty yes”. This is when we say yes to a request but are internally saying no because we would rather let ourselves drown instead of possibly disappointing someone. So many of us could benefit from learning to advocating for ourselves and getting comfortable with saying, “You know, I would love to but at this time I just cannot help out.” There is nothing wrong with not overfilling your plate and not being able to give that sliver of time you do have to yourself instead of trying to cram in a task for someone else.

Self-care activities can be as easy and mindless as hiding in the bathroom for 5 minutes or sitting in your car with some quiet time (my personal favorite), to getting in an intense killer workout or going to a calming yoga or meditation class. Whatever it is you decide to do for you will be right for you, because you are giving your mind time to check out for a bit.

If you are unsure of how you will find this time, try killing two birds with one stone. gives some ideas like walking to work (you are outside with fresh air, being more environmentally friends, and saving and wear and tear on your vehicle plus getting in physical activity), arriving at work/appointment early, and using that time for whatever you need, after dropping the kiddos off at practice walk at the facility or outside of it, and lastly, if possible, take your lunch break offsite/outside alone.

Self-care is not a one-size-fits all concept. It will be different for you and everyone you meet. For some, they may just need a 1-minute breathing activity to get grounded and continue with the day. For another, it could consist of 5 minutes in the morning, 5 minutes at lunch, and 5 minutes before bed. Some may need a whole day to recharge their batteries and feel ready to take on life’s challenges again. Practicing self-care activities are easy because you can do whatever you need to but continuing to practice self-care may be challenging and will take time to master and add that into your list of daily activities.

Let’s all try to start taking a couple of minutes of the day to give yourself grace, time, and rejuvenation. Be willing to ask for help or to say no if you are already overloaded or feeling like you are slowly sinking.  Encourage yourself to find the time to practice self-care for yourself, your family, and your career so you can fully bring out the best of yourself. If you are interested in more about self-care take a look at the links provided that explain what is self-care, self-care activities, and why we should all practice them.

Here is to us all finding a little time in each day and starting to see that we are worth self-care and self-love.

It doesn’t matter who you are in this world (your title, status, salary, etc.) - we ALL have just 24 hours in a day. That’s it! No more, no less. But what you choose to do with it, is what makes each of us different. For someone like me, managing that time can be incredibly overwhelming. 

I have struggled with ADD, time management, and procrastination from an early age, and to be quite honest, I still struggle with it. My husband lovingly reminds me. “Try not to over-book yourself!” or “You always pack your days so full!” 

I always say to myself “I can make it work, I can do it!” But then end up draining myself of all my energy. I needed to find a better way to manage my time. 

Between YouTube, Google, and (of course) TikTok, I found a few tools and processes that not only helped me with my time management but also significantly reduced my anxiety.  

The process that has helped me the most is something called Timeboxing/Timeblocking. An example of a timebox is below.

You can also watch this quick 3-minute Youtube video: 

Now, I’m no Elon Musk, but this simple process was a game changer! You start by writing (brain dumping) all of the tasks and events you need to get done, AKA your “to do” list. From that list, you pick the top 3 priorities that you MUST get done that day. Then, you proceed to assign a time to a task that you wish to get done that day. Simple right? IT WORKS. You can even take it one step further and copy the list you made for the day into your preferred calendar on your phone. I time block 10 minutes in the morning (after I fill mine out) to put the tasks and times in my Google Calendar so I have it with me (and get notifications on my phone). 

Planning helps with anxiety, but the other tip I’m going to give you is to remain flexible. Things come up and your schedule may not go exactly how you wrote it in the morning, and that’s okay! It doesn’t mean that you failed the day. Adjust, be flexible, and see if timeboxing can help you!

Self-myofascial release (SMR) is a popular form of self-massage used to reduce soft-tissue stiffness, aid post-workout recovery, and maintain normal muscular function.  SMR can be done with a variety of tools such as foam rollers, lacrosse or tennis balls, and handheld rollers.

SMR works by applying pressure to tight or knotted muscles in order to trigger relaxation.  It can be an intense experience, but consistent use will maximize the benefits and decrease the discomfort.

The Benefits of Myofascial Release:

SMR is great to use as a warm-up, a post-workout recovery routine, or as part of your daily mobility routine.  Watch the videos below to see how to release various muscles using a tennis ball.

Calf: Place the ball under the mid-calf.  Slowly roll the calf over the ball until you find a tender spot.  Flex your ankle back and forth a few times, or hold pressure on the ball until you feel the trigger point release.  Repeat for other tender areas around the calf.

Hamstrings: Sitting on a box, place the ball under the mid-thigh.  Keep pressure on the ball and extend at the knee until your leg is straight.  Relax your leg and repeat for a few times.  Move the ball to a different area of the hamstrings and repeat.

Glutes/Piriformis: Place the ball in your glute and lay back.  Grab on to your knee and gently pull it to your chest.  Release your knee and repeat.

QL: Lay back with the ball above your hip and to the side of your spine (be sure to not be on bone).  Grab your knee and pull it to your chest.  Relax the tension on your knee and repeat.

TFL: Place the ball below your hip bone (where your pocket would be on pants).  Flex your knee to 90 degrees and slowly rotate your foot back and forth.


Pec Minor: Pin the ball between your chest and a squat rack or door frame.  Raise your arm up as high as your can while keeping pressure on the ball.  Slowly lower your arm and repeat.

Suboccipitals: Lay back with the ball directly under the base of your skull.  You can roll the ball from side to side, nod your head yes, or just relax with pressure on the ball.

The dog days of summer are here and they are coming in HOT! If you’re looking to cool down, a session in the cryosauna in our Wellness & Recovery area will do the trick! In fact, the whole body cryosauna cools down to temperatures around -250 degrees Fahrenheit, which sounds pretty tempting on a 90-degree day.

But of course, cooling down on a hot day is not quite what whole body cryotherapy was developed for (although it’s a nice bonus). Originally developed in Japan in 1978 for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, the additional benefits have been widely studied and refined since then. Cryotherapy is now offered worldwide to help treat and combat many issues and ailments, both physical and mental.

Simply by immersing the body in extremely cold air for just a few minutes, the body receives a number of health benefits. Many elite athletes use cryotherapy multiple times and swear by its recovery benefits, but even if you’re not an elite athlete there is so much regular cryotherapy can do for your body and mind.

ole-body cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to lower a person’s skin temperature to about 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but because the skin is not in direct contact with the gas there is no danger to the body. Instead, our skin simply reacts to the cold and signals to the brain to send blood to the core of our body to maintain body temperature. Toxins are flushed from the tissues and blood is enriched with oxygen, enzymes, and nutrients, and the nervous system is stimulated to active healing and release endorphins.

If you’re sore from a workout, suffered an injury, or undergone surgery, even one session of whole body cryotherapy can speed up recovery time and reduce inflammation and pain. Studies have also shown a significant reduction in pain and inflammation related to chronic illnesses like arthritis, rheumatism, and multiple sclerosis and chronic skin conditions like psoriasis. Recent studies have also shown that cryotherapy can significantly help migraines, especially localized cryotherapy around the neck and carotid arteries. 

Cryotherapy treatments can even help improve skin’s resilience, increasing collagen and reducing the appearance of cellulite and fatty deposits at the skin’s surface and can help you with weight management as your body burns extra calories to maintain core temperatures (some studies show up to 800 in session). 

While you’re relieving physical pain and discomfort, you’ll get the added benefit of mental benefit of released adrenaline, noradrenaline, and endorphins and a reduction in stress-causing cortisol. The ultra-cold temperatures applied in whole-body cryotherapy cause these physiological hormonal responses that have a positive effect on those experiencing anxiety and depression. One study found that whole-body cryotherapy is actually an effective short-term treatment for both!

And the cherry on top of all of these benefits? Whole-body cryotherapy only takes MINUTES to start feeling the effects and is well-tolerated by most people with minimal risk.

With all the possible benefits, special pricing for Western members, and those hot dog days of summer bearing down, now is a fantastic time to try whole body cryotherapy. If you have a specific condition or issue you’d like to address or aren’t sure if cryotherapy is right for you, e-mail us at and one of our cryotherapy techs can answer your questions and guide you through the process. If you’d like to learn more about all the Wellness & Recovery services at Western, visit

“Summer shred” is a common phrase or phenomenon around the gym. If you aren’t familiar with this term, it is otherwise known as working on the “beach-ready body”. This pursuit often pushes gymgoers to hop on a treadmill or elliptical and pound away for hour upon sweaty hour. The belief is that burning enough calories will whittle away the fat, shedding pounds and revealing a physique akin to those of Greek statues. Unfortunately, it’s more common than not for many ‘summer shredders’ to burn endless calories and still not end up looking like Michelangelo’s David. If the science says that staying in a calorie deficit helps to burn fat and lose weight, why does it still feel like all that running on the treadmill is really going nowhere?

If this resonates with you, the source of your frustrations may be boiled down to an observation of human biology and metabolism known as “Setpoint Theory”. This is likely a phenomenon you, yourself, have experienced but maybe didn’t realized has a name or scientific explanation. While this theory can be explained through an intricate interplay of metabolism, genes, and hormones, I feel this theory is best represented by a rubber band. Imagine you have a rubber band wrapped around an immovable stake in the ground. That stake is your body’s current “setpoint” weight. This is the weight that your body would prefer to be at, based on the many interactions of your physiology. The rubber band is your genes trying to always pull you back to your setpoint weight. Your pull on the rubber band, wrapped around this stake, is like your efforts to change your weight. It is true that you can pull and stretch the band, but note that rubber bands become much harder to pull the more they are stretched. In the same way, your weight is malleable, but only to a point. Truly, your weight will move more easily when it is closer to your setpoint weight. As you continue to stretch that rubber band, it becomes more and more difficult to pull the further from the stake it is. In the same way, your weight becomes harder and harder to budge the further it is pushed from the setpoint. Your efforts to ‘stretch the rubber band’ are reflective, usually, of dieting and exercise to try and lose weight. The more you slave away on the treadmill and lose pounds, the more the weight-loss slows to a crawl and, eventually, a dead-stop. In this instance, you’ve pushed your limit on how far you can truly push your weight from your setpoint. Further, what happens to the rubber band once you release the effort to stretch it? It snaps back toward the original length, looped around the metal stake. This is the same with our efforts to diet and exercise to burn calories. Once all the efforts stop, the body settles back towards the setpoint weight. Note, this theory applies to weight/muscle gain, as well.

So what do we do? Do we despair in the hopeless efforts to change our weight, only to have our genes snap us right back to our setpoint? Not quite. There are various lifestyle and dietary factors that can actually make it easier to move away from our setpoint (and stay there). Some choices, like eating fresh fruits and vegetables, managing stress, and engaging in exercise that supports muscle mass and a healthy metabolism, can all serve to reduce your body's pull back to the setpoint. Some lifestyle factors can even effectively move your setpoint! In the case of our rubber band, our changes in nutrition and fitness are like swapping out our current rubber band for a much thinner one. In this way, the pullback to our setpoint (the stake) is much weaker. In other words, your weight change goals not only become easier to achieve but also more sustainable. These changes often require that you try things you might have never thought to try or develop habits you might have never even considered. For you it could mean trying meditation, cooking a new recipe, attending a new yoga class, having a trainer guide you through a new workout plan, or getting nutritional guidance from a professional.

Don't waste energy and time pulling on that thick rubber band pulling you back to your setpoint. Choose a new approach and swap in a thinner rubber band for greater success in your health and fitness goals.

We all slip from time to time! Progress isn't always linear and when we're working towards goals, it's expected that there will be occasional setbacks. Don't let your setbacks stop your from reaching your goals! Here are ten tips for getting back on track!


1. Only eat when you are feeling hungry (wait until your stomach is growling but not until you are starving). If you wait until your body goes into starvation mode your body will not burn as many calories.

2. Avoid major hunger by breaking your meals into five smaller meals per day. Think of yourself as a scavenger and try to avoid eating over sized meals.

3. When eating out immediately cut what was given to you in half and take the other half home. This way you get two meals for the price of one and you don’t have to worry about overeating.

4. Know your own body! You will be able to tell when your body is hungry so don’t be afraid to eat.

5. Alcohol will throw off your weight loss goals quickly. A couple nights of drinking in a row could throw off what you had been trying to obtain all week from eating healthy and working out.

6. If you weigh yourself all the time, STOP! Go off how you feel and only weigh yourself occasionally. The number on the scale does not determine how healthy you are.

7. Take small steps, don’t try to change everything in one day. Lifestyle change and maintaining weight loss comes with consistency of healthy choices.

8. Don’t think that you must do multiple workouts every day to lose weight. Loss of weight comes from burning more calories than you are consuming. Weight loss comes from a balance of nutrition and exercise.

9. When working out, it is important to give yourself a break or relaxation day to recover.

10. Be confident in and dedicated to yourself when it comes to being a healthier you! You know what needs to be done. Make good choices!

Many people in the fitness community fall into one of two categories. The first category is filled with those that view their time at the gym as a necessity. These people feel energized, refueled, and fulfilled by their trips to the gym. A missed session would make for an incomplete day. The second category dreads every workout. The trip to the gym is a box to check off on the “to-do” list, and the workout is anticipated to be long, painful, and unpleasant. These categories are not necessarily distinct from each other. Rather, these categories fall on opposite sides of a spectrum. Regardless of which side of the spectrum you feel you typically fall, it may benefit your fitness journey to consider the following.

Why is it that there can be such dramatic differences in perspectives on exercise? There’s no denying that people are diverse in past experiences and preferences. Further, different physical baselines can make certain ways of being active more or less enjoyable. But what if there was something even more fundamental impacting your enjoyment, or lack thereof, of exercise? What if I told you your diet is killing your exercise joy?

This may be something of an understatement, but weight loss is a common goal among gym-goers. The saying “eat less, move more” is the paramount mantra of the weight-loss industry. Eating in a caloric deficit is touted as the only way to achieve the “ideal” body. But in actuality, how does “eat less, move more” make you feel? Lethargic? Weak? Irritable? This shouldn’t be surprising, as the body doesn’t function properly under circumstances of self-induced starvation.

If you have only ever used exercise as a means to lose weight or prevent weight-gain, you have likely experienced most workouts while in a caloric deficit. In other words, most of your workouts have been spent demanding your body to work harder while being provided less fuel. A workout without enough calories for energy is bound to feel like torture. In this state, it is no wonder workouts would be something to dread.

If you have always associated workouts with dieting, exercise has always been associated with feeling tired and weak. Exercise has always been a means for aiding weight loss and nothing more. Further, the exercise stops when the diet stops. And because diets are not sustainable, they always stop, eventually. Sometimes the break from the diet lasts a week, sometimes a month, and sometimes years. Regardless, the exercise often doesn’t resume until the diet does. If you’ve found that you fall into some iteration of this cycle, you may have not given yourself the permission nor opportunity to find a love for fitness. On the other hand, phases of “bulking and cutting” may be to blame for dips in motivation for the frequent gym-goers. Feel like your drive to be active is less than ideal? Consider the state of your nutrition.

If you forced yourself to go to the movie theaters starving and sit through a movie you don’t care for, you might find that going to the movies is an unpleasant experience. Why would the gym be any different than this? You may find that your time in the gym is much more enjoyable when you have the energy to run, jump, and row. Further, freeing yourself of the weight-loss goal may allow you to find methods of exercise you actually like. Feeding your body the calories it needs and giving yourself permission to do activities that sound exciting, instead of those that “burn the most calories”, might actually spark joy for movement. If you don’t dread the gym, or exercise in general, you won’t find yourself constantly digging deep for every morsel of motivation. When going to the gym is no longer a chore, but instead something to be excited for, you won’t need to dig for any motivation. You’ll no longer need to worry about “falling off the wagon” because you never got on the “wagon”. Instead, your purpose for exercise becomes enjoying the process of moving and feeling better.

At this point, I’m afraid I might have lost you. Whenever the suggestion of “eating more calories” comes out, most people shut down. These blasphemous words go against every tenant of the weight-loss and dieting culture we live in. The truth is, eating more calories may not be the fastest way to lose weight. Despite this, choosing not to starve yourself may give you the energy to explore new ways to enjoy exercise. Choosing to be active while giving your body what it needs may at least provide the motivation to be consistent with a workout routine. Consistency in a fitness routine is much easier to achieve when you aren’t scraping the bottom of your “willpower barrel” for every workout. With enough energy to enjoy every workout, you’re much more likely to stick to your fitness journey and reach your goals.

In the craziness of life, I often forget to be joyful and to find or be reminded of what brings me the most joy.

The past year has caused worry, anxiousness, stress and so many other emotions. We’ve had to navigate the unknown even more than normal.

It always leaves me feeling somewhat numb and just going through the motions of daily life. I have to remind myself to only control what I can, and that is myself and taking care of my family.

That’s where we need to come back and be present.


Present with our family, in our work, and in our daily life. We can’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow, but be in the present moment.


Think about what brings you joy.


Is it a hobby?





Food? (I love food




What truly brings you joy?


It’s the simple things in life for me. I have a very energetic 3-year-old. He reminds me to keep things simple. He’s silly and makes me laugh.


Quiet time by myself brings me joy. When I can simply enjoy 5 minutes to myself daily, that can often bring me the greatest joy, which shows how even the simplest of moments can produce moments of profound peace and happiness in our lives.


Here are a few ways to find simple joy in life:


1). Make a list of what you are thankful for.

2). Sing. Very loud!

3). Go for a walk outside.

4). Indulge yourself.

5). Watch a sunrise or sunset.

6). Try something new.

7). Laugh. A LOT.

8). Meditate.

9). Dance!

10). Start working towards a new goal.


Another thing that always brings me joy is being on my yoga mat. Flowing, breathing, moving, slowing down, just being.


Take some time to follow along with me in the video below and enjoy this joyful yoga practice.




I’ve never been one to set New Year’s resolutions. “On January 1st, I’m going to...”, nope. Not me. I know myself too well. I’ll set too many goals, or too big of a goal, and fail. I’ve always just let the New Year come and continue on, taking it day by day as I usually do. But this year feels different to me, does it for you too? These past few weeks I’ve found myself spending many moments reflecting. Reflecting on where we’ve been the past 10 months...what has happened, how we’ve changed. It’s been A LOT of change. For all of us. Our jobs look different, our businesses look different and the way we interact is REALLY different. But one thing I’ve recognized that has remained the same is our CONNECTION. Through all of this, we’ve still managed to stay connected with each other in some way, and for most of us, that has been our saving grace.

For a moment, take yourself back to March of 2020. When the pandemic began, schools went virtual, and the world shut down. Remember that? Remember how you felt? You woke up each day not knowing what to expect – from the news, your emotions, your job, your family – every day was different. One day you were happy and feeling motivated. The next day you were sad and unsure. Now, fast forward through the past 10 months. And think about how we’ve adapted to our ever-changing circumstances! How our families, friends and kids have adapted! We’ve learned new technology, how to work and go to school from home!  Isn’t it incredible? All this time, no matter what challenge has come our way, we’ve adapted, and we’ve done it all by staying connected. Let that sink in, and let it make you smile.

I keep thinking how during a time like this it’s very fitting that the first two letters in the word Wellness are “WE”. Not “I”, or “Me”, but “WE”. Wellness is a word we often identify with and define on an individual basis. We talk about goals and taking action to achieve a healthier lifestyle. From how we eat, to how we exercise, to how we take care of our ourselves...but on an individual basis. We use words like “I”, “Me”, and “Self”. We set aside time to better ourselves both physically and mentally, with the goal of putting ourselves first. Yet as I reflect on the past 10 months and where we’ve all been, and how far we’ve come, I can’t help but feel that the word Wellness doesn’t just apply to me. I keep thinking about how everything we’ve achieved during this time has been due to our connection with each other. We’ve worked together to find solutions to the challenges we’ve faced. We’ve joined each other in virtual classes and meetings to keep pushing forward. We’ve rallied behind each other and encouraged each other to keep Wellness a priority in our lives. All of this connection we’ve managed to maintain makes me wonder - what if part of achieving Wellness in our individual lives - especially now - also included, WE: “Us”, “Our”, “You and I”. What if the best way to come out on the other side of these ongoing circumstances and pushing forward is together, not alone.

So, whether you set New Year’s resolutions or not, maybe this year try adding a little extra “WE” to your Wellness goals. Maintain those connections you’ve held onto, make new connections and mend broken ones. Maybe reach out to a family member or friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Take a little time to join your child in their virtual classroom. Take that group fitness class you’ve been thinking about trying. The way we connect with each other may look different right now, but it is what has kept us moving into the future. It is what has kept us all somewhat sane during these past 10 months! Because I can confidently say that without other’s support and companionship, this New Year would look and feel pretty different, and I bet you can say the same.

Have you ever sat down to eat a meal and instantly thought, “I should not be eating this!"?  Or, did you ever think that “My day was awesome! I owned it, I am going to enjoy this cheeseburger, fries and beer!”?  Nutrition is often a love/hate relationship because some foods that you truly enjoy may not be what you ‘should’ be eating.  Yet, who is to say that you should or should not eat a cheeseburger and fries or enjoy a venti peppermint mocha with extra whip and sprinkles? Granted having those high fat, high sugar, highly processed foods daily can lead to some future health concerns, but they may be consumed in moderation. 

I know for myself that when I have a craving, I will give myself a day to see if other foods I eat can provide that fix. If I am not satisfied and the craving still lingers, I will eat whatever it is I am craving. Usually, it is not a specific food it is more of a taste craving; salty, sweet, sour, or bitter.  It could be pizza (maybe a whole one), candy, sugary coffee drinks, chips, or a dessert.  At times, I find that after eating the ‘not so healthy’ food and going back to my usual meals I see results and feel great.  There is nothing wrong with indulging these foods but knowing it should not become a staple in your daily diet is very important.  Many would be surprised to know that people in the health and fitness industry don’t always stay on point either.  After surveying some of the Western staff the following food items were listed as their go-to indulgent foods: ‘pizza, wings and beer, ‘doughnuts’, ‘cereal or Chik-fil-A’, ‘burger and wings’, ‘Culver's', Starbucks cheese danish, doughnuts and coffee, 'candy, tacos, cheese pizza, cake' and ‘protein balls’.

I would like to encourage you to read the article in the linked here, entitled Mind Over Food. Part of it talks about how your mood, brain and hormones can affect your digestion and the other part talks about the power of expectation.  The first portion is very eye-opening and it has me being more mindful about my mood when I am eating my meals.  It is amazing to think, the mood you have about the food you are eating will play a role in your digestion.  

With the holiday season upon us, I encourage everyone to give yourself compassion and grace to eat the cookies and pies (in moderation 🙂), have a second helping of cheesy potatoes or have a glass or two of your homemade baileys.  

Wishing you all a very merry holiday season to you!

Nearly 1 million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s Disease. An American is diagnosed every 9 minutes. I think when some people hear ‘Parkinson’s Disease’ they think it affects the older population, with tremors and slower movement.  That might be true for some, but being diagnosed with Parkinson's is different for everyone. When I got Certified as a Rock Steady Boxing Coach, a neurologist spoke with us and said, "If you met one person with Parkinson’s, you have met one person with Parkinson's." I think this is the most frustrating thing for diagnosed patients and their loved ones. Parkinson’s is an ongoing, progressive disease of the nervous system which affects your movement. There is no cure. There are medications to help control the symptoms but one thing that is scientifically proven to delay the progression of Parkinson's Disease is EXERCISE. That’s right. MOVEMENT. One particular organization has really put their foot down on the gas pedal and made some significant strides in helping people with Parkinson's live better lives. That organization is Rock Steady Boxing.

Rock Steady Boxing was founded in 2006 and has grown to over 900 affiliates across the globe. We added to that ever-increasing number in 2018 with our very own Rock Steady Boxing program at Western Racquet.

Western held Rock Steady Boxing classes 3 times per week in our gym that was filled with heavy bags, speed bags, and many other pieces of equipment to help with balance, dexterity, motor control, handwriting, and more. Besides the equipment, we filled the room with Certified Coaches, Volunteers, Caregivers (we call them Cornermen), and of course, our boxers (people with Parkinson's). We had an average of 26 boxers who dedicated 75 minutes 3 times a week with us, working on Voice Activation, Mobility, Core Work, Strength Exercises, Balance, Movement, and of course, heavy bags and speed bags. And, we had SO MUCH FUN.

I have never seen a group of people work so hard not only during class but all day long. One of our boxers once told me that Parkinson's was his "full-time job" now. And for many Parkinson's sufferers, that's the case - making sure you are continuously moving to eating the right foods to taking medications on time and making sure your mental health is in a good place.

Our Rock Steady Boxing classes were magic. I know that sounds a bit corny but they truly were! I could see the difference in their movement from the time they walked in to the time they left. They walked taller, smiled bigger, and confidence was at an all-time high. Of course, it was not always easy. Having Parkinson’s means every day is different. Every stride, every turn, every step up to a curb feels different minute by minute. But the one thing we all had was each other. We are a big happy family and had each others' back in and outside the gym.

Fast forward to COVID-19. We were all absolutely heartbroken to learn we could not have class for a while. We truly thought we would be back in "about 2 weeks". Remember when we were focused on "flattening the curve" so we could get right back to normal? As the first few weeks went by and numbers continued to rise, Coach Katie, Sara, and I knew we had to come up with a plan to keep our Boxers moving. We were recording homework for them, did a weekly check-in email, phone calls here and there...but being together is what we really needed.

With the help of Dance For PD instructor, Lisa Pritzl, we figured out how we could virtually get our group back together again. We started with a Happy Hour to teach them the ins and outs of using Zoom, then we slowly added our classes back virtually.

We successfully brought our indoor crazy high energy fun class virtually to their living rooms. We still get loud and we still play jokes on each other. We still laugh and dance and sing. Oh, and we workout too!

I am SO proud of our boxers for taking the fear of the unknown (technology) and continuing to fight back against Parkinson’s Disease. I am so proud of us, the Coaches, and all of the Rock Steady Boxing Affiliates who transferred their classes to a virtual platform. This year proved that there really is NOTHING that will stop us from fighting and living our best life.

What is S.A.D.?

A type of depression that corresponds to the changes in the seasons. For most people, this starts in fall and continues throughout the winter months. This usually starts and ends at the same time each year when the seasons change. As the season progresses, your symptoms may progress as well.

Seasonal affective disorder occurs more often in women than men; also, it occurs more often in younger adults than in older adults. But it can affect anybody at any stage in their life!

What may increase your risk of S.A.D.?

Causes of S.A.D.

Unfortunately, there is not a specific cause, but there are a few factors that can cause S.A.D.

Possible Signs and Symptoms of S.A.D.

If you feel like you want to harm yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

We all have days when we are feeling down, but if you notice this happening days at a time, go see you doctor. Treatment can help the symptoms from progressing.

Take control of your mood and fight the S.A.D.!


Here we are in September and fall is in the air! The days are slowly losing sunlight. School is back in session. Pumpkin spice everything is popping up everywhere we look and our favorite oversized sweaters are being pulled out of storage. Long summer weekends are a thing of the past but the sun's wrath still lingers on our delicate skin. Dark spots appear on our faces that weren't there 3 months ago. You tell yourself, but I used sunblock, I mean, I mostly used sunblock. Maybe I forgot the sunblock a few times? It’s too much hassle to put the sunblock on. I’ll do better next year. This is me and so many other people I know. We are well-intentioned at the beginning of summer, and then we lose steam when it comes to our personal well-being as the summer goes on.

Of course, there are amazing products that can help like lotions, gels and serums, but at Western Wellness and Recovery we have another tool that can help along with those topical solutions. LED light therapy can help reverse these stubborn sun exposure issues. We have a full-body option as well as an option just your face called the Celluma. Our light therapy services can help with hyperpigmentation, discoloration, or dark spots, as well as boost collagen production which can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Light therapy is good for both women and men and can also help with current acne and past acne scarring. And remember all those “fall is in the air” routines we’ve started? That can also include the start of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The sun, which can leave nasty reminders of itself on our skin, also gives us Vitamin D which is essential and mood-boosting. Good news for us, because while we use the LED services to help our skin, at the same time it gives us the Vitamin D we seem to lack during the cold, dark snowy months we endure as Wisconsinites. Better news for us, there is no harmful UV rays with our LED services. This essential vitamin will help sufferers of SAD all while helping to repair our delicate skin.

Keep in mind while our new routines are falling into place we need to continue taking care of ourselves, whether it be with Western’s LED therapies, our immune-boosting cryotherapy treatments or are compression therapy NormaTec. We are here for you all year round for all things Wellness and Recovery.

With so much uncertainty in the world right now, you might be more aware of your stress levels now more than ever. The world is simultaneously going through a global pandemic and significant social and political upheaval, plus many of us are still dealing with big changes in lifestyle, like working from home, facilitating virtual learning for kids, and continuing public health precautions like limiting our interaction with friends and family which can take its toll on us mentally and emotionally.

Stress is inevitable, even in the best of times, but how you look at stress determines how it will affect you. Take control of the situations in your life you have control over, find what works best for you, and find a stress management routine to create a healthy relationship with the stressors in your life.

Here are some healthy ways to cope with stress:

We will always have some sort of stress in our lives but learning effective strategies to adapt to those stress levels will help create a positive outcome for you.

If you feel like you need a little extra help managing stress in your life, consider Health Coaching as an option to get you on the path to more healthy stress management! Learn more about Western Health Coaching at

We tend to focus so much on our physical fitness but do you ever focus on your mental fitness? Your brain needs exercise just like your muscles do. You can become more mentally strong, healthy, and fit at any age! You just need time, practice, and consistency. Here are 10 ways to start focusing on your mental fitness today!

Remember that not every thought is true or helpful.
Our beliefs, past experiences, and feelings are an invisible filter that influences how we interpret and experience the world. We don’t have to accept every thought we have. Just because we think it doesn’t mean it’s true. A different way of seeing the world is possible if you open your mind.

Train your mind to concentrate.
Meditation is a great way to strengthen your ability to focus and tune out distractions. Some other ways to concentrate are cleaning, conscious breathing, coloring, yoga, listening to music, walking, journaling, and dancing.

Notice when you are continuously thinking the same thoughts.
When you catch yourself in the downward spiral of thoughts, bring yourself back to the present moment. These thoughts might happen when you’re stressed, worried, disappointed, angry, or nervous. It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts of overthinking and self-criticism. Use your senses to bring you back to the present moment with what you can see, hear, feel, smell, and touch.

Rest your mind.
Your mind needs to reset and recharge, just like your body does after your workout. Some may think rest equates to lazy, but getting enough rest can increase your focus, creativity, and energy to be more productive and efficient. Find something to rest your mind and give yourself a break from your everyday stressors, whether it is reading a book, crafting, or a board game.

Tune out the noise.
Digital devices are everywhere! We have notifications, messages, social media, and streaming platforms at our fingertips, which can pull us away from what’s important in life. Minimize your push notifications on your phone and practice being in the moment more.

Prioritize sleep.
Sleep is important for your body and brain to repair and recover during the night. If you want to show up the best you, get more sleep at night. It will help your memory, mood, creativity, and problem-solving skills.

Create a routine.
Creating new habits can take time, so finding a routine that works best for your lifestyle, will help you stay consistent. Start by scheduling your habits into your day until you don’t have to and they become a routine.

Let go.
Accept that you cannot control everything in life. Focus on what you can control and let go of the other stuff. Be kind to yourself if you struggle with letting go, too.

Listen to the voice within.
Listening your instincts and gut feeling is a great form of self-love and you can build a relationship of trust with yourself. Sometimes we ignore these feelings because our friends and family can influence your thoughts. Stick with what you think is right.

Take a deep breath.
Deep breathing is a powerful tool to use when you are stressed, nervous, and upset. Slowing down and deepening your breath can calm the mind, reduce blood pressure, improve memory, and settle your emotions.

  1. Take a long, slow, deep inhale through the nose while your belly, ribcage, and chest expand.
  2. Exhale through the nose feeling your belly, ribcage, and chest relax.
  3. Repeat this cycle for as long as you would like.

The average person thinks 12,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. And we tend to judge and blame others much more harshly than we do ourselves. We all have our own beliefs, thoughts, and purpose that build our identities, so questioning ourselves can be uncomfortable. No one said change was easy, but it is almost always worth it. The following questions will challenge your purpose and beliefs and may be tough to answer. If you honestly answer them, hopefully you will be able to go forward and make different or better choices in the way you think and act.


What if I’m wrong?

“What if I’m wrong?” is great for managing your emotions and checking your ego.

What do you do when you are wrong? Do you get upset? Do you acknowledge it? Do you shut down?

How often do you admit when you are wrong? We have a hard time taking responsibility when we are not right because it is such an unpleasant thing to admit.

Our beliefs are based on our own life experiences, education, media consumption, and people we listen to and we all view situations through our own eyes. So, your family, significant other, coworkers, and friends may have different beliefs than you, and that is okay! Try to better understand the world around you and respect the beliefs of others.

Nobody is perfect, but it is always smart to check in and ask yourself, “What if I’m wrong?” And if you are wrong, be okay with it.


Is it impossible?

“Is it impossible?” is what you need for overcoming your excuses.

What do you do when you feel stuck or feel like giving up on something? Do you give in to your excuses or do you figure out a solution? This is the perfect question for when you’re feeling frustrated about something you are trying to achieve in life. It may be trying to get to sleep on time, making time for workouts, or some other significant goal you have.

We don’t like to admit when something is impossible, so our brain comes up with multiple solutions. Almost anything can be an excuse if you let it be. Always ask yourself if it’s impossible. You will almost always find that is is not and there is a solution for most obstacles.

Examples of excuses:

Once you overcome your excuses and realize that it is possible, ask yourself, “What do I have to do to make it possible?”

Are you willing to do what it takes?


What’s the worst that could happen?

“What’s the worst that could happen?” is what you can ask yourself to overcome your fears. This is for the stuff you are afraid to do, but you know would be good for you.

If you are scared of something, sometimes it’s best to identify what the worst possible outcome could be. Most of us are afraid of the idea of something, but not the actual thing.

What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe some embarrassment, a bruised ego, or loss of a little time or money.

Are you paralyzed with fear? Do you run away from a situation that makes you uncomfortable? Or do you face that uncomfortable situation head on and overcome it?

When you do the things you are afraid of, usually you’ll feel glad you did it.

What are you giving up on by not taking that chance?


Why not now?

“Why not now?” is the perfect question you need to ask yourself for getting important stuff done.

How accountable do you hold yourself? As a child, our parents hold us accountable, but when you grow up, you become accountable to yourself.

When you have important stuff to get done what do you do? Procrastinate and push it off or get it done right away? When you put things off, it’s still on your mind. You have a cloud looming over you as a reminder that you have something important to do. When you decide to tackle the task now, you save yourself time and you free up space in your mind.

Whether you want to build your own business, start a diet, or any other goal you want to achieve, you need to prioritize and start today. Telling yourself you’ll do it tomorrow or start on Monday just keeps pushing you further and further from achieving your goals. Start now. TODAY. Once the task is done, you can forget about it.

So, what are you waiting for?


What if I’m the problem?

What if you are the problem?

That’s is one of the toughest questions to tackle because you first have to ask yourself if you’re wrong. Nobody likes to admit they are wrong or the problem. People put meaning into comments, words, and actions of others that aren’t there, making others out to be the problem rather than looking at themselves.

If you don’t like how someone treated you, it’s your problem. They were just being themselves. Look at yourself and your actions instead of pointing fingers at others.

We live in a society with others that have different viewpoints. And we might not agree with others on every topic. And that is okay! Your success depends on yourself and your choices, not someone else’s. Learn to let go and focus on what you can control.

So, before you look at your spouse about your marriage, your trainer about your workout plan not working, or your boss about your career, look at yourself.

Ask yourself, “Am I the problem?”


Look back at the last few weeks and ponder on these five questions. Ask yourself these questions regularly and see how much your thoughts and actions change.

Have you ever thought about trying yoga but aren't sure if it's for you? We all have excuses of why we shouldn't try it or how inflexible we are. There are so many benefits as to why you should practice yoga.
1). Practicing yoga helps to create flexibility.
     Yoga can help release tightness, which would help bring a greater range of motion.
2). Yoga can help to build strength in your body as all poses are your own body weight.
3). Yoga helps you to improve balance. Standing on one leg or practicing a headstand - helps to build core strength and stability.
4). Yoga teaches you how to breathe.
5). Yoga helps to build self-confidence.
6). Teaches you to be present.
7). Yoga helps to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
8). Protects our body from injury.
9). Helps to recognize self-acceptance.
10). Overall, helps to relax your whole body. Connecting mind, body and spirit.
I encourage you to start where you are and you'll be surprised where your yoga journey leads you.
Take some time today to follow Western yogi Amy Xiong in the video below! And remember, start where you are. Yoga is for EVERYONE at every stage of your journey!

Are you looking to mix up your fitness routine this summer? Being active for 60 minutes can be fun if you find activities you enjoy. Even get your kids involved in the summer activities planning!

Here are some fun ways to stay active this summer:

The sunny day may be your motivation to be outside and exercise, but the summer heat can be risky. Here are some tips for being safe while staying active this summer:

Pick multiple activities to do this summer, or just choose one that appeals to you. Get outside, be safe, and get active this summer!

As Stay at Home Orders are being lifted and businesses are starting to reopen, you might be thinking of your return to the gym. We are all so excited to see you when our doors open on May 26th! We hope you have been staying healthy and taking care of yourself during this pandemic. Before you return, Western Personal Trainers and Group Fitness Instructors would like you to keep a few things in mind as you head back to the gym.


We all just spent over two months at home with no access to a gym. Some of us are probably nervous to go back and scared to see how our bodies respond after two months of low-intensity workouts or no workouts at all. Please do not beat yourself up for how your body did or didn’t change during this lockdown period. We are all at different stages of our fitness journey. It’s not about the weight gained or lost during this unusual time - it’s about you staying healthy!


Some of you may not have touched a piece of workout equipment for over two months or had access to limited equipment, and that is okay! Here are some important tips to remember as you return to Western:


Western has protocols set in place to keep us all safe with sanitation stations in multiple locations throughout the club. Use them frequently. Please do your part and remember to not only wipe down the benches you sit on, but also everything you touch: weight plates, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, balls, bands, handles, and pins when done. Pretty much everything you encounter! Practice physical distancing and keep others in mind as you are utilizing the club. Learn more about all the new protocols and cleaning procedures at Western by visiting


In our first phase of re-opening, we will not be adding in-person group fitness classes yet! We will continue hosting Zoom virtual group fitness classes, so check those out on the Western Group Fitness Junkies page on Facebook!

Once in-person group fitness classes start to slowly get added to the schedule, here are some pointers to remember:


A few other reminders for when you re-enter the club:

Please be mindful of your health and the others around you. We are all in this together and we are so glad to see all of you again!

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