What's better for weight loss Diet or Exercise?

It’s that time again.  The start of a new year and a new you.  With that come the revelations of what we need to do in the next few months to make our lives better and our bodies trimmer.

There is a little secret that I would like to share with you, something that I have known for a while. In fact, it might be something that we have all known, but just aren’t willing to accept into our current conscious of living better. 

So here it is.  Drum roll please. 

Exercise is not the leading factor to losing weight.  YIKES!  Yes, I said it.  I will probably lose all my potential clients in the new year, but it is true.  I recently attended the Spokane Health and Fitness expo where I saw lots of hopeful people out there looking to sign up for Barre classes, cross fit, personal training, Pilates, Yoga etc.  Many of my friends and colleagues from their own studios were busy chatting these potential clients up on their latest classes, prices, and promotions.

It’s what we want to hear. It’s what we are hoping for. “If I join a gym and get moving, I will lose weight.”  It sounds good and it definitely has merit, but here are the facts. 


When it comes down to it exercise does burn off calories but not as much as you think and the leading factor to weight loss is diet and lifestyle changes, not exercise.  

Maybe you have seen some of the research out there that is now finally coming into mainstream media.  At the start of the new year, one of these articles showed up in my inbox and I really knew it was time to set the record straight.  Just read, Exercise myths. 

The way to take off the pounds is to eat less and eat healthier more nutrient rich food.  Simple huh?  Well, not so simple. 


No one wants to immediately give up their comforts because our relationship with food can be complicated.  How many of us have had a hard workout and reward ourselves with an extra little something, like a cookie, a snack, a drink - because we think we’ve earned it or have burned enough calories to warrant it.  I am a person who loves food as a reward.  I like to eat and I like to eat well.  I may not be a fried food junkie but put a cheese board in front of me and I am all at it.  

Often times when you start a new training program you tend to get hungrier.  Your body might be used to fueling a certain amount of calories each day and when you add in exercise it’s wants to maintain that amount.  So the real caveat here is whether we are ready or willing to put our will power to the test and really start changing our eating habits.  Sometimes it’s easier to start doing something than to stop doing something. So we tell ourselves we will start exercising, but we aren’t going to give up our chocolate, glass of wine, or mid-afternoon cookie. 

But don’t fret.  It doesn’t mean that exercise isn’t a part of a healthy lifestyle, but the “why” we exercise is more than just keeping pounds off. 

In a recent article in Time Magazine they put exercise to the test and showed that it is linked to less depression, better memory, and quicker learning.  It helps circulation and enables the body to burn more fat for energy.  It keeps our blood flowing and triggers the release of chemicals in the brain that dull pain and lighten mood. These are just a few of the benefits.  There are so many more.   Exercise can also be social and we enjoy seeing friends at the gym or joining them for a Yoga or Pilates class.  We build relationships through exercise.  When we feel better we have a better attitude about our lives. I have often worked out my worries or problems on a long hike outdoors. My parents go for long walks and talk about their worries, their day, the things that might not come out in conversations at other times.  


So if you were to take exercise and a more healthy diet and combined them, you have the equivalent of the wonder twin powers!  One really doesn’t work well without the other.  

So in the new year, we can alter our diet and exercise.  We will have a better chance at keeping the pounds off and also keeping a healthy mind and body. 

Good Luck!

The process takes as long as it takes

I recently read a great post by one of my favorite nutritionists Jonny Bowden.  He was talking about the holiday season and how many of his clients are predicting weight gain and already looking for their next training program for the new year.  It happens every year, doesn’t it?  The first of the year always brings a rush of people to the gym and an onslaught of weight loss ads flood social media and TV commercials.  

I’ve already given up on trying to change the cycle; I hope you have.  The thing that really struck me in his latest article was that many people ask him how long it will take for them to get back into shape or to lose the weight.  Time is client’s biggest concern. 

What you will hear with any new program is an estimated amount of time.  If you are on a weight loss program you may hear you can lose up to a pound or two a week.  For an injury maybe your doctor will tell you it takes 6 to 8 weeks to heal.  And if you are looking to get back into shape you might read that it will take about 6 weeks to feel the changes in your body. 



Even our beloved Joseph Pilates had a time table;10 sessions and you will feel the difference; 20 sessions you will notice the difference; and in 30 sessions you will have a whole new body. 

Well, none of this is a guarantee.  These are just numbers, estimates, and averages.  They don’t factor in our mental states, the uniqueness of our body and it’s structures, as well as our lifestyles or our will power.  

One of my closet friends is a psychologist and she once told me that when trying to make a significant change in your life, the process will take however long the process takes.  But no one wants to hear that.  Everyone wants an end date, a timeline so that we know exactly when we will be thinner, healthier, and moving better.  The grey area and the ambiguity of it all is what kills us, but as Mr. Bowden pointed out, you just need to give whatever you are doing enough time to work and that there are no unrealistic goals, only unrealistic timetables.

This is something I can really relate to because not only can we apply that to our health and general well being but also to ourselves in any endeavor we take on.  Are you trying to change a habit?  Are you trying to get stronger?  Are you trying to build a relationship?  Whatever the goal is, it takes as long as it takes.  Yes, we can create estimates and predictions that might help us get a general idea, but I would hate for someone to come into my studio and start working with me and give up too soon. 


A client I was working with for several years, told me one day, “You know what Pilates really is? It’s using your core all the time in every exercise…its core all the time!”  I looked at her and smiled.  The light bulb went on. It took 2 years, but she got it.  It didn’t matter how many times I told her the same thing. It didn’t matter the amount of exercises I taught her or how long she had been working with me. She got it, when she got it. The process was her own and it took as long as it took.

Maybe in this day and age with all the instant gratification and our ability to connect in an instant to the internet or reach friends and family immediately with a quick text, we aren’t used to waiting.  Maybe we have lost that sense of patience and acknowledging that the process is the journey.  So much learning takes place and so much change happens along the way to any goal.  Why not appreciate the subtleties that come along with it instead of our need to get there in a certain amount of time. 

Now all that being said, we all eventually have to get there and know when to switch our goals or possibly acknowledge that we may not reach them, but I think that topic of discussion is for another time.

For now stick with your goals, remember to keep at it and enjoy the ride



Holiday Blues?

Am I the only one who gets down around the holidays?  I think it might be a combination of the days getting shorter, the lack of sun, and the general malaise of colder days.  The holidays tend to shine a light on things in our lives, mostly our family connections and our waistlines.  While these two things seem mutually exclusive they really aren’t.  These are the two things that contribute to making us feel the worst.  Relationships with our families are tricky and I am saying this even though I love and feel very close and connected with mine.  There is something about those you love knowing all about you.  They can make you feel like you are the most special person on the planet or the worst in an instant.  Food is kind of the same way.  I love to cook and feed those close to me, but over indulging or drinking too much can make me feel depressed and guilty about not taking better care of myself. 


So here is to food and family - the best and worst of the holidays and my advice on how to make it through in one piece

Traditions - The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous

Growing up we had a lot of traditions around the holidays.  For Thanksgiving it was the type of food everyone was expecting, such as turkey with the mashed potatoes, or the candied yams, or, God forbid, the weird green casserole made with canned beans and fried onions on top.  I have to say, some of it I loved, but some of it I wouldn’t touch any other day of the year. So why are we feeding ourselves things we wouldn’t normally eat?  My dad grew to dislike turkey and it wasn’t until several years ago we chose another meat dish to go along with the traditional bird.  Why do we torture ourselves with things we don’t like, or even worse why do we get so disappointed when we don’t have something we expect?  If we don’t open ourselves up to new things, how will we form any new traditions or experiences?  I say the tradition should be to experiment every year with something new.  This year, we may be having Tamales for dinner.  YIPEE!!

Eating - Too Much or Restricting

If you read my blog, you know I love food and cooking.  This time of year brings a smile to my face because I get dirty in the kitchen.  I pop open the wine, play the tunes and start cooking.  I eat as I cook, I eat during the meal and I go for seconds because it’s good, right? Then I lie on the couch and beat myself up.  I feel so horrible.  Why did I do that?  It’s the epitome of the binge - the food binge.  

There are two sides to this as I see it.  Binge and get over it. Don’t beat yourself up but give yourself a pat on the back for indulging in your favorites. Or the second is, don’t over do it at all and use your best will power and focus only on you, not everyone else.  Over eating tends to be done is social settings, so while uncle Jim is going for his 3rd helping doesn’t mean you have to.  Choose the one that is easiest for you.  

If you binge, just do it for that day don’t keep it going.  Don’t go on a holiday bender.  Choose the day, have fun and don’t beat yourself up.  No one is going to gain ten pounds in one day.  You have to over eat for several days or weeks to put on the lbs.  So if you go back to your normal life style you will be fine.  


I can attest to this as this is my technique every year.  If you choose will power, don’t complain and don’t make others feel bad for your choice.  Find something to occupy your mind, choose healthier options and still enjoy.  Surround yourself around those who might be on this same path.

Family - Love and Hate

I have a client that says she doesn’t look forward to the holidays because the dinner conversations tend to get gross.  There is always that relative, that either says wildly inappropriate things, drinks too much and acts obnoxious, or brings up politics or bad family drama. I think dinner conversation is an art form and the canvas for the art is the people that are there.  You aren’t going to paint a colorful landscape if all you have are charcoal pencils.  Be mindful of the people around you, their quirks and their personalities.  Be kind even if you can’t stand the person.  Allow yourself time to enjoy and leave when you feel it’s too much.  Lastly, if it’s really that bad, choose to surround yourself by others.  It’s not the end of the world if you skip a holiday with family and find some friends you enjoy hanging out with.  In my family we like to play music and sing while getting dinner ready.  It helps get us all in a good mood and keeps the conversation light.  

The Spotlight - Not Always a Good Thing

Every year it seems like someone is on the hot seat, either with some family drama, some illness, job, etc. There is something uncomfortable that makes us not want to spend time with family and friends.  In recent times I’ve felt that weight on me.  The spotlight can be great if it’s an engagement, a new baby, a new job.  Everyone is all smiles and wants to congratulate, but sometimes the spotlight is not so great, divorce, separation, illness, death, etc. 


For this I will repeat the advice my mom gave me when I was 10.  “You are the only one that is in charge of your feelings, no one can make you feel any way you don’t want to.”  I repeated this to my 8 year-old son just the other day and even though I think this concept might be beyond his grasp, one day he will understand.  I did and I remind myself when I feel the heat, that I am standing proud and tall and that I am in charge of my feelings, my choices, and the people I surround myself by.  

So take charge this Holiday season, eat, be merry, have fun, and enjoy!

How to build muscles as we age.


One of my clients came into the studio after the summer and was discouraged that she had lost most of her muscle tone during her hiatus . She took a break from Pilates to manage a home remodel, and when she returned she felt she was back at square one.

Her concern was that she just didn’t believe that you could build muscle past a certain age.  And of course in typical fashion, I took on her challenge to prove her wrong.  

Here is the thing.  YES, it gets harder the older we get to build and maintain muscle mass and strength but not impossible and far from as difficult as we think it to be. 

So let’s first review what our lovely muscles do for us.  They are the primary movers of our skeleton and provide support to keep us upright and balanced.  Something you may not know is they are the main heaters for our body. Yes, our muscles create most of the heat needed to keep our body temperature at a 98.6F.   

Now how do we build and maintain our muscles?  Without going into a large anatomy lesson here, I will simplify.  Muscles grow when we use them and more importantly when we strain them.  After we work out with weights, or bands or your own body resistance (all of which are considered resistance training), little minor tears occur in the muscle fibers.  So the body sends in the medics to repair them and then also make them stronger. So when we are resting after our workout the body is repairing the tears and building stronger muscles for the next onslaught of training. 


Muscle strength, muscle growth, stamina, and endurance are all different; and personal trainers will set your program depending on your goals.  Strength training is being able to increase the load of the contraction for lower number of reps, basically working at your highest capacity for a shorter amount of time.  Muscle building is lowering the weight to a moderate load and increasing the repetitions.  Stamina is being able to stay at a higher contraction for a period of time.  Endurance is moderate to low contraction of a muscle group for a longer period of time.  Think about the difference between a sprinter and a long distance runner. 

Don’t worry there won’t be a quiz after all of this.

Now most people who aren’t training for a specific sport or event just want to stay fit.  So luckily if you do any of it you’re pretty much working on those muscles and hopefully you can mix things up a bit so that you make sure you are building both muscle and strength.  Because unless you are a professional athlete or training to be a powerlifter, it won’t really matter.  

In the case of my client who is a 60 plus woman, she just needs to keep moving and straining those muscles because as we get older, it gets harder to maintain it.  Which brings me to the familiar quote “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Just like anything else in our body cellular growth slows down as we age.  However, the research shows that older muscles will continue to grow and strengthen as long as we keep training them.  The more often the better.  The main difference is that in our 20s and early 30s we could take a few weeks off without losing a step but that changes every decade we get older, hence the reason to keep moving. A recent post from the NY Times wellness blog states that the age in which muscles can actually start to lose their fiber mass isn’t until age 80 where it decreases 30 to 40%.  So there is really no reason why this 60+ woman can’t strengthen and build muscles.  Check the research on this website: https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/12/02/can-you-regain-muscle-mass-after-age-60/  

As we get older we all just want to be able to move and enjoy our lives.  We want to be able to pick up the grandkids, take them to the park, and be physical with them.  We want to lift the heavy bags of groceries and move some furniture around the house.  These are real things that don’t have anything to do with youth.  They are just part of living but as we age we have to work out to keep those muscles in the best health so that we can do those things. 

I’m reminded of a story my father told me of my grandmother. She passed just before her 95th birthday and this story was many years back when she was only in her young 70s. She wanted to go skiing one winter while visiting us in Spokane. My father didn’t think this was a good idea because all he could think about is how old and frail he thought she was (ironic that now my father is in his 70s) He postulated that if he took her out in the snow she would clearly slip and fall and break a hip.  She insisted and he caved.  You know what happened? She didn’t fall at all and my dad fell several times!



What is important here is to keep moving.  Put your muscles through some strain regularly. Challenge yourself because as we get older it becomes harder to maintain that muscle mass and strength.  We just have to be more diligent about doing it.  So for my client, yes over a long summer away from the Pilates studio, she did lose it, but it doesn't take much to get it back.  My recommendation is to keep at it, work out regularly, mix it up, and be sure to rest.  This is what keeps you healthy and strong.  



Approaching wellness

The health and wellness industry is one of the largest growing business in America.  The Health care debate is in the throes of political policy and rhetoric.  Yet here we are, Americans, trying to take care of ourselves, trying to live, survive, and just feel good with so much of our health being decided in government. 

Everyone complains about what they want or what they don’t have. It is a basic human need to survive.  We are born into this world to procreate and sustain the species.  But after, it is all about survival.  Everything we do is about getting through another day and living to see the next. 

However, somewhere along the line of human existence we have lost sight of our humanness.  We’ve compartmentalized our life.  Fun is here. Work is there. Exercise is here. Family is there.  Vices go in a closet.  Food is over there. And we all have our strange relationship with food.  Each part of our life is in a box and we live it like we are visiting different states, or dare I say, planets.  It's almost to the point where we become different people in each place.


We ignore and don’t communicate with all that makes us whole.  We ignore signs in one area that will eventually lead to a serious break down in another area.  When there is stress it affects all aspects of our lives, our relationships with people and within our selves.  An infection cannot be contained.  

How do we change this?  

I think it’s easy for me to say all this as my entire career is based on staying healthy, both body and mind.  I teach people to move freely in their bodies and hopefully have fun doing it at the same time so that their two little boxes of fun and exercise can come together.  I talk about life and learning about ourselves to hopefully get clients to see that they can’t turn off the physical part of their bodies when they are at work or home.  Just because they have left the studio doesn’t mean they can’t still be present in their bodies for the rest of the day.  I ask about how people feel when they come in, so they know to not ignore their emotions when they are choosing to move or exercise. I do this because I hope -really hope- people will start to get the connections and start to choose to bring all of those boxes of life together. They are all an essential part of our survival. 

I have friends that teach Yoga. I have friends that are life coaches or therapists and you know what?  We all struggle.  The yogis aren’t perfect and the therapists need their own therapy.   We are not perfect nor do we have it all figured out.  We just keep at it.  

I recently read an article from Michael Stone who was a teacher, writer, and facilitator of this very subject, who recently passed.  In an essay about grief, he talks about his own struggles with an end to a partnership.  He also had bi polar disorder and worked on relief through meditation and practical uses of Buddhist teachings.  His approach to health was very tangible and accessible, but he was willing to be open about his own struggles realizing that yoga and meditation were key but that his body also at times needed medication for support.  

You can’t put it away in a box.  Everything affects everything.  Our approach to wellness should be a full approach where we incorporate all aspects of our lives.   It almost sounds cliche to say “balance,” but what other word is there?  Sometimes when we are sick or have a chronic condition, we just treat it in one way and one way only.  We don’t see how something as simple as joy, or movement, music or connecting to another human being can help heal.


It really is that simple. Let it out and let the little boxes open up and bleed together so that not one thing is completely by itself.  In this balance we can also reach out to others because surviving as one is a lonely world.  We all need each other to see it to the next day, to make our lives full.  It’s a community of health and wellness that lifts us all up  

It’s an approach to wellness that I hope this country will take.

Why I don't eat Gluten - My IBS story


Recently I posted a recipe of “Maria’s Get up and Go Coffee Shake."  In that post I mentioned I have eliminated foods from my diet that don’t work for me,  such as gluten.  This was not just an arbitrary decision, but rather a long and somewhat gut wrenching (literally) journey. 

Over the past decade gluten-free has become a bit of a trend with new research and testing that has shown 1 % of people suffer from Celiac disease and 6 times more people have what is called “Gluten Sensitivity.” 

I know there are many skeptics out there, so I would like to share my personal journey full of some embarrassing moments in my life. 

I am tall and thin, but I wasn’t always this way.  Most people when they get older develop a belly from sedentary life styles and bad eating habits, but I already looked that way as a kid. I was a little thing with a huge belly.  I had long skinny arms and legs and a round protruding mid section.  My mom used to say I was growing skin and that I was going to sprout up which I did eventually, but I didn’t lose the belly.

My first memory of horribly wrenching gut pain that would be most of my life was in high school.  Always sometime after lunch, my stomach would tie into knots and my gut would distend.  When I say distend I mean unbutton the jeans and wear a baggy shirt distend.  With the bloating would come a twisting and knotting sensation in my belly.  The only thing that seemed to alleviate this was lying in the fetal position, which didn’t go over well in 4th period English. 

This didn’t happen every day, but like I said I have a clear memory of it happening often enough in my teens.  This was the 80s, some time right before the fat free craze.  At this time most of my diet consisted of flour products.  Breakfast was toast or cereal; lunch was a sandwich; snacks were crackers, bagels, or quesadillas with flour tortillas; dinner always included bread.

The gut wrenching pain continued throughout college. I would have periods of time where there were no problems - actually months- but when it came on, it would take me down and it would last for weeks.  You’d think I might have tried to see a doctor about this. I sometimes look back and wonder why I had waited so long. 

By the 90s, I was convinced I was lactose intolerant with the other half of the population.  So I stopped eating dairy and started choosing soy. BIG MISTAKE!  Oh, and I also became a vegetarian….also BIG MISTAKE.  As a vegetarian, my diet of gluten increased.  More bread, pasta and the like.  I had a constant puff on my body, plus the intermittent gut pain. The beer drinking probably didn't help either.  What can I say, I was living in Seattle during the Grunge era….we all drank a lot of beer. 

The tummy problems only got worse during this time.  And now I was having what new mom’s refer to as “Blow outs.”  I needed to make sure that a bathroom was close at all times and God forbid if someone was in it.  

My best friend at the time thought I might have an eating disorder with the way I was always going to the bathroom.  At this time I actually was seeking help. I started seeing a naturopath who said that I had an overgrowth of candida and not enough good bacteria in my gut.  I went on probiotics, among some other fancy herbs she prescribed for me.  This did absolutely nothing.  

Fast forward to Los Angeles in the late 90’s and by now the blow outs were intermittent with constipation and a few trips to the emergency room because the pain was so excruciating.   I am now seeing a gastroenterologist after yet another failed attempt with a naturopath and a Chinese herbalist who had me stick out my tongue and read my future…I did think he was fascinating though.  The Gastroenterologist was actually the most helpful…yes, western medicine people!  He ran all the tests including a Sigmoidoscopy and a Barium swallow because by then I hadhorrible heart burn as well.  He concluded that this was diet, but what was triggering it?  I have to mention here that people weren’t talking about Celiac disease yet and effects of gluten on our gut health.  There was no testing at this time. 


So when you have these issues, you don’t make them particularly public.  It’s not a topic of dinner conversation asking across the table about someone else’s bowel habits.  So who could I really talk to about this but health professionals and yes some close friends, who probably know entirely too much about my gut health. 

Solace came when I started my Pilates training and I met a gal who had the same symptoms and was suffering as I was.  She asked me “How much soy do you eat?”  I thought I was being healthy, I was still drinking soy lattes and buying health bars stuffed with soy protein.  She said that many of her symptoms went away when she eliminated soy from her diet.  At this point I was trying everything.  If someone said I needed to stand on my head for 10 minutes a day, I would do that too.  

So I took out the soy and guess what.  RELIEF!  The Gut wrenching pain went from a 10 to about a 5.  The heartburn went away and the -“ahhem”- blow outs decreased enough for me to not always be looking for a bathroom close by.  

And now some important information on soy…..


So I thought I cured myself.  I really was feeling a whole lot better.  

By the early 2000s I was doing pretty good for the most part.  I was no longer a vegetarian, I still had occasional constipation and gut issues but compared to before they were really manageable. I had concludedthat the rest of my symptoms I just had to live with.  What woman doesn’t complain of bloating or constipation now and again, right? 

Life went on and 4 years ago, 2013, I started seeing a skin doctor. She was giving me a facial peel and we were just chatting.  I told her that I have IBS, because that is what they labeled my condition some 20 years ago.  She asked me if I considered eliminating gluten from my diet as she is one of those 1% with Celiac. I thought, “I don’t eat that much gluten,” so that is not the problem, because I was eating more vegetables, meats, fruits etc.  I altered my diet during this whole process trying to find the right foods for me. I went on occasional cleanses and exercised regularly.  I though I was as good as I was going to get, right?  


On her advice, I took gluten out of my diet for about 6 weeks, maybe to prove her wrong or just for my own curiosity.  

This is the part of my blog where the skies part and there is this high note of hallelujah.

This is what happened:

  • I was no longer constipated
  • The bloat I experienced everyday that I thought was normal - gone
  • My belly started shrinking for the first time ever
  • Pounds melted 
  • I felt light and awake.  It was like a fog lifted from my brain. 
  • My mood changed
  • My life changed.

I have been gluten free since then.  I have never gone back.  I have tweaked my diet still looking for the balance.  I have determined that I am not Celiac and I can have a little gluten here and there. It’s the amount and how often that really affects me.  Another doctor said I could just have a wheat allergy and not all gluten.  Possibly, but honestly, I don’t miss it.  I am probably in the 6% of Americans with the non celiac gluten sensitivity.  All of that belly was gut inflammation which my poor body was trying to tell me for years. 


What astonishes me is that I spent most of my adult life with this problem.  I tried everything. I listened to countless medical professionals, read hundreds of different articles and books.  I kept searching and now in my late 40s I am lean, light, full of energy and just plain happy.  It took a while to get here but I am so happy I did, and I learned so much about myself along the way.  I was my own lab rat.  

If you think you might have gluten sensitivity or celiac, here is a great resource for all things gluten, including information on different gluten disorders, recipes, support, etc. 


This is just my story and every single person out there is unique. One size does not fit all. I have many friends that don’t have issues with gluten or being vegetarian. Some can’t tolerate coffee, others can’t eat nuts.  Seriously, why do we think we are all the same?  I say, just keep finding that thing that works for you.  Whether it’s the type of exercise you do, the things you eat or who you spend your time with.  It’s your life and your body, be kind to it!



Food & Fitness

About 15 years ago, I decided to change careers.  I used to work at a well-known animation studio.  I loved my job. I worked with great people and enjoyed the creative process.  But there were a few problems.  One, I had intermittent back pain from sitting all day.  Two, my eyes were gradually getting worse the more I stared at a computer screen, Three, I had digestion issues probably from stress and not moving around enough.  I also worked long hours at times.  I realized that I didn’t see my future doing this.  

The two things I loved outside of work were Pilates and cooking.  My husband had signed me up for some cooking classes at a local culinary school.  One of the things I don’t always talk about on my blog is that I LOVE TO EAT.  I really do, I’ve had a healthy appetite ever since I was a kid and I can’t make a meal without adding some fancy ingredient or altering a recipe to try a different flavor.  Most of my friends and family know that I am the “Go to” when it comes to a good meal. 

I also love working out and Pilates.  So I didn’t know which one to pursue.  I realized that Pilates was probably the healthier choice long term and if I wanted to have a family that meant I needed to think about what motherhood would look like as a Pilates teacher versus a chef.  The decision was made and I ended up following the path of fitness.  However, I never stopped cooking or learning new recipes.  So when my girlfriend suggested that I start sharing some of them online, I decided OK.  



As a wellness coach, Pilates teacher, Massage therapist, and general health enthusiast, you might think I follow this crazy life style and only eat organic and never eat sweets or drink beer or eat fatty food.  That is so untrue.  I love cheese and wine and moose popcorn. And who doesn’t love margaritas and chips and salsa.  I am a real person, and I don’t like to restrict myself, but I have learned balance and what works for my body. I splurge here and there, but I am careful to look at the overall arch of my health.  I eat mostly healthy foods, which I like to say is just “REAL FOOD.”  I have eliminated the things that don’t work for my body and my health such as gluten and processed foods and sugar.  I move everyday, I get to sleep at a decent hour and try not to sweat the small stuff. 

Since I don’t eat Gluten, breakfast can be kind of tricky - at least a quick breakfast.  Eggs are still my favorite when I have time, but lots of mornings I am rushing.  Coffee is a staple for me and I absolutely love it. So over the past couple years I have created a coffee shake that gets me going in the morning, fills me up, has good whole healthy ingredients, and is convenient and tasty.  

So here is the recipe plus some information on the benefits of the ingredients in the shake.  I recommend you try it, but know everyone is different and what works for me might not work for you.  Have fun and enjoy!


Maria’s “Get me going” Chocolate Coffee Shake - around 275 calories

Fresh Brewed Coffee Hot - 8 to 12 oz (more or less)

Grass Fed Chocolate Whey Protein Powder - 1 scoop

Raw Cacao Powder - 1 heaping teaspoon

Tumeric - 1/2 to 1 tsp (more or less)

Cinnamon - 1 tsp

Organic coconut oil - up to 1 TBS

Grass Fed Butter - up to 1 TBS

Pour ingredients into blender and blend on medium speed for about 30 seconds.  Pour into a mug and enjoy!

Now a little bit more on the benefits of these amazing ingredients:

Coffee - Coffee is high in Antioxidants, higher than tea.  It improves energy levels and mood. Many studies say that coffee drinkers are less likely to develop Dementia, Type 2 Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and even “death,” noted by a recent study of the National Institute of Health. Well if that hasn’t convinced you, I don’t know what can! 

Whey Protein powder (Whey is the liquid remaining after the milk has been curdled & strained.  It’s converted into a powder form) - Protein provides the building blocks for strong muscles and bones. It is essential for metabolism.  Whey protein is a complete protein as it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids.  It can aid with weight loss by creating the feeling of fullness and help build lean muscle mass.  There have been lots of studies on the benefits of whey protein.  This article is great for all things whey.  

Also, there are different opinions about whether you should use grass fed.  I have tried both and honestly I do notice a difference in the quality of the powder.  It could be that there are other factors here, not sure.  Do your own research and make the decision that is best for you.  

Raw Cacao Powder - So I really didn’t know the difference between Cacao and Cocoa.  Look at the spelling, how would I know?  When I did a simple search on the difference so much more was revealed than the spelling.   Raw Cacao powder is super high in antioxidants, is the highest plant based source of iron, has more calcium than cow’s milk, and is a natural mood elevator. Unsweetened Cocoa powder still has many of these properties but you could say it’s on the “B team” because the roasting process has decreased its benefits. 

Turmeric - Some of you may not know, but turmeric comes from the ginger family.  Turmeric has been used in India as a medicinal herb for years.  The main compound found in it is curcuminoids (sounds like an alien race from Star Trek).  Curcumin is the super star of these curcuminoids and is a natural anti-inflammatory agent.  Inflammation leads to all kinds of problems for our bodies, e.g. heart disease, cancer, degenerative diseases, etc.  Turmeric really only contains about 3% of Curcumin, but I like the flavor and not everything is about health!  If you want to know more about inflammation and curcumin, here is a great article.  Benefits of turmeric  

Cinnamon - I buy this spice in bulk and put in just about everything.  I love the flavor so I was happy to hear how beneficial this little spice actually is.  A quick research online concludes that it is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-diabetic, immunity boosting, etc.  As little as 1/2 teaspoon a day can have these benefits.  I feel like it’s my new super hero spice, I imagine it running around in my body beating up bad guys.  So glad I have been eating it regularly! 



Coconut Oil - If you haven’t heard about the benefits of coconut oil by now, I would ask where have you been hiding? It’s in everything from skin and hair products to drinks and health bars.  As with everything use wisely.  It is a saturated fat which we need to help build a strong immune system, improve heart health and brain function.  A certain amount of saturated fat is needed for our bodies functions.  Healthy fats are good, so it’s important to know the difference and NOT go overboard. Eat good fat in appropriate portions and here is something to ponder.  Heart disease increased drastically during the fat free craze.  Check this site for some healthy fats

Grass-fed Butter - I am so glad that people are eating butter again.  What the heck was that margarine craze all about….yuck!!  Butter is a great source of fat and for those that have a lactose problem, they should try Ghee which doesn’t have the lactose and has a higher smoke point, so it’s great for cooking. Grass-fed butter has a slew of health benefits.  Just read this

Note:  I will say again….moderation is key.  I use at MOST a tablespoon in my shake. Look at your day and diet as a whole.  If you already eat a lot of Saturated fats in your meals, you might want back off on the quantity or consider which ones are more important to keep in your diet. 

Healthy diets and lives don’t have to be complicated.  Have fun, dance in your kitchen, eat real food, and spend time with those you love!!!

See you soon. 


Healthy Lifestyle - 5 Easy Tips to a Balanced and Healthy life

Leading a healthy lifestyle is not always easy. There is a lot of information out there making it hard for us to really know what to do.  What does a healthy lifestyle look like to you?

Well, I did some interviewing of clients and friends, and this is what I found when I proposed the question, “What do you think is a healthy lifestyle.”  These are some of the answers I got. 

“It’s exercising more”

“It’s eating right”

“It’s taking time for yourself” 

“It’s not eating junk food.”

“Maintaining a consistent schedule”

Notice that none of these really include anything difficult or challenging.  These are very simple things.  

Why do we make it so complicated?

Well, I think part of it is attitude and it starts with your mind. You cannot do any of the above until you have decided wholeheartedly to embrace these concepts. 

In my last blog I spoke about discipline, that is one of the key elements, but before we discipline ourselves, we have to believe in ourselves. 

I think that the way to living clean, happy, and free of stress is believing you can and most importantly not making a mountain out of a mole hill.  Don’t make it difficult. 

Earlier today I was on the phone with a close relative talking about a stressful situation in my life. As we got to talking, I started feeling different.  I realized that some of the obstacles I was facing were really put there by me.  And another friend’s advice came ringing true, “Get out of your head”  

Our minds like to create problems to solve, they like to think and be active.  They are little busy bees running around a hive.  In reality we don’t need to think about all this that much.  Take for instance the current topic about saturated fats, which ones are healthy, which ones aren’t healthy.  Should you eat refined coconut oil or unrefined, how much when and with what?  What about the difference between organic butter and grass-fed butter? As a researcher, I like to find answers.  I read over 10 different articles on oils.  Afterwards, I felt that it was a minefield of what not to eat and when to eat and it just created more problems.  

The other side of this is looking too far ahead.  We look down the road with the “what ifs.”  “What if I don’t have time?”  “What if I don’t like that gym?”  “What if I make a fool out of myself in my first yoga class?”  “I don’t know how to meditate.”  “I don’t know how to cook.” 

You see with these phrases comes uncertainty and doubt.  We already are setting ourselves up for failure. 


We just have to believe we can and make that first step.  Anyone can make a first step.  It’s also important to make that first step easy.  So here are my favorite 5 easy tips for leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

1. Find something you love to do and stick to it.  

With so many different trends out there for exercise it can seem overwhelming, but we can all find something we love.  We are more likely to stick with something we enjoy doing than feeling dread before going to the gym.  I tried all kinds of fitness trends before I found Pilates.  And since I loved it so much, I became a teacher then teacher trainer.  So it goes to prove a healthy habit can also turn into a healthy career. 

2.  Move with Joy

Gone are the days of “No Pain, No Gain.”  if you’re still living by this motto, please stop.  We all love to feel the burn and there is definitely nothing wrong with that, but pushing past our limits can lead to injury so take care.  Have fun and don’t think about it as exercise.  Just walking, dancing and being up and about is all part of staying healthy.  If you don’t enjoy it, don't do it (back to tip #1).

3. Meditate

Find time to chill.  When the mind chatter turns off it gives us a chance to receive and listen to our body and our hearts.  We feel refreshed and ready to return to our daily grind with a little more peace and patience.  Good decisions are never made when we are in a state of stress or heightened emotions.  Take time everyday to find a little calm. 

4. Eat Real Food

I always tell my kids…”Did that come from a factory or from the earth?”  Less ingredients is better.  Our bodies were meant to eat real whole food.  Find ways to add more to your day and you’ll find yourself reaching less for the boxed stuff.  And if you have a bad day, don’t beat yourself up.  It’s better to find healthy habits that you can stick to instead of extreme trends that feel like a struggle. 

5. Spend time with people you love

Take time out of your busy life to schedule social time for yourself with friends or family.  I have heard so many times….”I am so busy.”  But we don’t get any extra points at the end of our lives for being busy.   It’s the human interactions that fulfill our lives.  So when my kids ask me to go swimming or play a game with them while I’m hurrying to get something done, I take a moment and give them some of my time.  I always feel better afterwards and am rewarded by hugs and smiles.  What’s better than that?!



So you see, these aren’t hard or challenging.  Pick one. Make that first step.  I believe you can!

Disciplined exercise...not just boring routine

The other day I was on FaceTime with my folks who were traveling in Australia.  I was chatting with my mom about their recent adventures.  In the background, I can see my dad who is on the floor doing planks, push ups, and kicking his legs up and down.  I looked beyond my mom and asked “Hey Dad, what are you doing over there?”  He replied. “My exercises, I do them everyday.”

My parents are enjoying their retirement to the fullest, having moved to the Big Island of Hawaii, building their dream home, and living at Priest Lake in the summers.  They take a big trip every year somewhere new and make sure to visit family and friends all over the country.  They are 70 years old.  My mother underwent heart surgery a year and a half ago and her doctor said to walk everyday to get her heart in shape. So my parents walk 4 to 5 miles everyday and Dad does his core exercises and stretches.  


When many boomers are feeling the effects of their age and finding it harder to get around, I notice the ones doing the best haven’t lived fast and hard lives, but have managed to do little things every day to stay healthy.  They have maintained a sense of discipline for their health and longevity.  

I am one of those people that is fairly disciplined. When I decide I want something, I pencil it out, make a plan, and stick to it.  I hit road bumps along the way and make sure to adjust, but I always keep going.  Being self-disciplined is not something that is easy.  There is nothing sexy or interesting about routine or sameness.  Everyone loves the excitement of a new challenge, but many of us “peter out” when we get to the middle of the road.  

Now in my 40s there is nothing more middle of the road than where I am now with so much life behind me and still so much ahead.  What am I doing everyday? Where am I going?  How does discipline show up in my life?  For me it shows up in movement everyday.  Doing something physical like Pilates, Yoga, or walking. I do it partly to stay in shape but mostly because it’s also a way to find my center and stay grounded. 

Taking a long walk gives me time to clear my mind and work through problems.  Breathing deeply in a yoga class gives me a chance to be mindful and present.  Practicing Pilates builds my strength and energizes me without making me tired.  

I think discipline is a tough thing to do when there are so many distractions and choices out there.  With the ease of everything being so accessible, it’s harder to be disciplined.  Once something gets a little challenging our tendency is to bail and find something else.  With so many choices, there is a multitude of options out there that may or may not be better than our current routine.  So we bounce from one fad to another, losing the disciplinary routine needed for good health both body and mind. 

Yet throughout history discipline was a way of living and the key to our survival.  How would we survive a cold and long winter if we didn’t stock pile foods and wood for fires, or plan for spring if we didn’t tend our soil?  And we had to do this every year, day in and day out to survive. 

I admit, that sometimes even when I face challenges I just want to quit and do something different, but I am reminded that discipline comes in many forms.  It is mind and body.  Attitude is what makes it work.  Instead of always searching for a specific outcome, we should see it as a way of life and being present and taking care.  It creates an environment of well-being.  Discipline isn’t about the immediate gratification, but more of a daily reminder of what is good and pleasant in our lives, whether we reap a reward immediately or not from it.  If you were to take a survey of the most successful people in the world, you would find this common thread.  They all have a fair amount of discipline. 

In facing challenges it is this that keeps us moving forward. It allows for growth and gaining skill in any endeavor we face.  With discipline comes accomplishment and allows us to improve ourselves, our minds, and our environments. It’s not just a boring routine. 

Even as my father is doing his push ups, I am reminded of how 20 minutes of disciplined exercise every morning and long walks has not only kept him in shape, but also happy.  

So how does discipline show up in your life? 

The Benefits of Getting Regular Massage...A Personal Journey

Over a year ago, I was going through some major life changes both personally and professionally.  You could say I came to a crossroads.  I had to make some choices about who I wanted to be as a professional Pilates teacher and what that meant to me personally going forward in my life.  

There are basically 2 types of Pilates teachers.  The ones that go for the burn, the sweat, and quivering muscles.  They teach more to the general public and can be found in large studios or gyms.  The other type uses Pilates as a tool in rehabilitation and functional training for clients with special needs. They are found in small studios, PT, or chiropractic clinics working one on one with clients or small groups. These are the teachers that you should seek out when your doctor recommends Pilates for your low back pain.

Both these types of Pilates teachers are great for different reasons and I really thought I could do both.  However, when many people started coming to me because they were hurting, I found that what I needed to do is embrace this clientele and get more training.  But what kind of training?  I could take the Pilates knowledge and experience only so far, but I knew the answer was more manual therapy than physical therapy. 

Once I realized I needed to add massage to my skills, there was no looking back. 

Luckily, I have a good friend who runs a massage school.  I signed up two weeks before the course started; I hectically rearranged my work schedule and promised my clients that this would be to their benefit! 

Little did I know that when I embarked on this educational journey, I wouldn’t just be gaining skills to help my clients, I would be helping myself.

In massage school some of the learning is at a desk and in books but the rest is all hands on (no pun intended).  I had to learn how to develop my touch.  Every day I went to school I had to touch and be touched.  This was a new and somewhat scary idea.  I didn’t quite know if I was going to be good at this.

Human touch is highly underrated as a healing tool.  Many times in that first three months all I was doing was Swedish strokes, a more spa like massage.  There wasn’t any “deep tissue” therapy, just moving blood and lymph.  This type of massage is highly beneficial for the nervous and circulatory systems.  Moving blood and lymph to tissues is what keeps them hydrated, feeds nutrients and takes out waste.

During that year, I was managing a business, going to school, and discovering the challenges of being a newly single mom.  There were many times I just didn’t think I was going to make it.  One thing I knew for sure was that twice a week I could lie on a table and get a good massage and for that hour, I would let go of it all and just relax.  I would drift off into a pleasant meditative state.  I would awake refreshed and my head and heart would feel lighter. 

I kept a regular schedule of Pilates and Yoga on my off days and even when I felt sore muscles, I knew I would be getting a massage to work it all out.  I felt that I recovered more quickly and could move into deeper poses in my Yoga class because the fascia and connective tissue in my body was suppler.   

I noticed that my fellow students were changing too.  I saw one who suffered a knee injury during a snowmobiling accident feel relief from inflammation and pain. She was able to walk a little better and within two to three weeks her knee range of motion drastically improved just from massage. Our postures changed as well.  Tight necks and backs were slowly unwound.  We were standing up straighter, old aches and pains went away.  

But even more surprising, our lives were changing as well.  Our attitudes about challenges or the stress of what to do after graduation subsided.  A confidence grew in us.  I could say that in some ways it was better than therapy.  You may ask, how can massage be more effective than therapy?

Well, most of us live in the sympathetic nervous system known as the “fight or flight.”  It is most affected by stress, fatigue, depression and anxiety. The parasympathetic “rest and digest” is responsible for bringing our heart rate down, increasing our deep breathing, decreasing our blood pressure and otherwise soothing our body.  In massage one of the goals is to get into parasympathetic, so that healing can take place.  “Healing” being the key word.  It could be the need to heal from emotional or physical trauma.  It could be facing a new challenge with strength and grace.  

But too often we wait to get a massage until we are over that edge either physically or mentally.  

We wait until we are broken.  How many of you have waited? I admit I am one of those people now.  I enjoyed the fruits of regular massage with Pilates and Yoga last year.  Now I am giving massages but not receiving them.  My body is stiffer, little aches and pains are creeping up here and there.  Yoga poses are a little harder. Recovery takes a little longer.  My sleep is more disruptive and I’m moody. The only thing that is different this year is that I am not getting massage.

So here is my challenge to you. Try getting routine massages.  See if you feel a difference, especially if you are facing challenges in your life that cause you stress.  Stress can be your worst enemy.  Massage isn’t just for that pulled muscle, cramps, or aches and pains.  It is also preventative.  It keeps tissue supple and hydrated and on an emotional level it relieves stress and anxiety.   The great Greek Hippocrates, also known as the father of medicine, recommended a combination of massage, diet, exercise, fresh air, rest, and music to help restore the body to a healthy state.

Last year was one of my most hectic years and I sometimes wonder how I did it all. But when I look back I also know I learned more about my own healing and recovery.  In the end, the decision to go to massage school to help more of my clients actually ended up helping me.