My Optimal Health/Weight Loss Workshop Explained (Phase 2)

**This is an explanation to my professor of the second module (or phase 2) of my weight-loss, optimal health online program. I’m currently working on my Master’s of Holistic Nutrition from Hawthorn University.**

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Once a client is fully entrenched in Phase 1 of my Fittbodies Optimal Health Plan, I introduce the Phase 2: Boost Immunity formula. In this phase we build on the Phase 1: Alkalize steps with immune-supporting habits, paying closer attention to fasting, sleep, cravings for sweets, and holistic health.

I begin by encouraging clients to eat their meals within a small, condensed window of time, also known as Time Restricted Eating (TRE) (Longo & Panda, 2016). Scaling back the timing of their first and last meals gradually, by 30 minutes a week, allows the client to ease into a longer fasting window without feeling deprived. For example, if a client’s regular breakfast time is 7am and dinner time is 7pm, I would have them begin Phase 2 by taking 30 minutes off each side of their fasting window. They would therefore eat breakfast at 7:30am (at the earliest) and eat dinner at 6:30pm (most days). Of course there needs to be flexibility to accommodate work schedules and social engagements, but the aim is to achieve a longer fasting window 80% of the time. As the client builds confidence in fasting, we will lengthen the fasting window by another 30 minutes for a week. It may not be feasible to scale back dinner as much as it is to put off breakfast, so once a client finds an optimal dinner time for their schedule, preferably 2-3 hours before bedtime to allow for complete digestion, we hold that dinner time and begin scaling back the first meal only. Not only does this way of eating better coincide with circadian rhythms (Longo & Panda, 2016), but it allows the cells to undergo positive metabolic changes (Longo & Mattson, 2014). Ideally, we work up to a 16 hour fast with an 8 hour eating window over the course of weeks to months.

Physical activity is maintained during Phase II, with the challenge of exercising while in a fasted state. Stressing the body occasionally this way encourages hormesis and builds the body’s ability to adapt to stress (Mercola, 2013,

Phase II also encourages clients to eliminate refined sugar and artificial sweeteners and instead use honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and stevia leaf for sweeteners. We continue to work on reading labels with emphasis on avoiding products with added sweeteners. If a client has a favorite treat that holds a lot of emotional value for them, we’ll work together to find a healthier version that they can eat without compromising their newfound health. An example of this is my healthy “raw cookie dough” recipe, which is comprised of almond butter, MCT oil, plant protein powder, and bittersweet chocolate chips. I personally eat this, mixed in a small cup, instead of eating the white flour, sugar-laden traditional version, without feeling deprived.

Alcohol is also limited in Phase II, as alcohol metabolizes in the body as sugar. We scale back to consuming only on the weekends, and one-to-two drinks only (Cloe,

Phase II begins the elimination of grains, including wheat, corn, oats, rye, buckwheat, etc. to see if it makes a difference in the client’s energy levels, mood, and sleep. Processed foods, such as crackers, pasta, breads, cereals, cakes, and cookies are avoided. Limited intake of home-prepared quinoa and black rice is acceptable as they provide fiber while creating less of an insulin response in the body (Goldman, 2018,, and (Price, 2019,

I teach about our toxic exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals in Phase II, and encourage the client to purge their make-up, body-care, and personal-care products and cleaners and to purchase cleaner alternatives. Obsesegens, hormone-disruptors, and chemicals hidden in our daily routines wreak havoc on our bodies, resulting in hormone imbalances, weight gain, and other disease states. A great resource for finding “clean” alternatives is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database (

I encourage clients to begin the practice of daily oil pulling as a way to detox as well during Phase II. Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice in which a person swishes coconut, olive, or sesame oil for up to 20 minutes a day. It is purported to whiten teeth, reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and kill bad breath, among other things (Axe, 2018, Clients start with 3 minutes a day of swishing, working up to 5, 7, then 10 minutes minimum, with coconut oil.

Finally, we work on both quality and quantity of sleep in Phase II. Rest is underrated, in my opinion, and so we work on emotional as well as physical aspects of sleep hygiene. This includes darkening the room for sleep by unplugging clock radios, night lights, or anything else that glows at night; plugging in cellular phones as far away from the bed as possible; using room-darkening window coverings; wearing blue light blocking eyewear at night; and avoiding digital devices for at least an hour before bedtime (Stevenson, 2013, Moving up bedtime 30 minutes earlier each week is a goal, until a minimum of 7 ½ hours of sleep a night, on average, is reached. Use of a Fitbit or other sleep-tracking device is a great motivator, as sometimes we over-estimate the sleep we get.

There is a lot to this Phase II, and clients are allowed to take it as slowly or as quickly as they need or want. At the fastest, the above steps are implemented over the course of a week and maintained over a month or two before moving on. Those who choose (or need to) take it slower can incorporate one new step every week or two, progressing over the course of 2-3 months.

Individuals may experience some setbacks during this phase, including symptoms of detoxification such as irritability, nausea, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, etc. Sugar cravings may ramp up before dissipating, and some may struggle with limited alcohol and grain intake. Longer sleep may take time, as will the transition to shorter eating windows, eating the garlic, and exercising in a fasted state. It’s very possible clients will get impatient if results don’t occur quickly enough, or if they regress at any point, so I’ll need to provide lots of support and reminders that this is a lifestyle change that will enable their weight to drop off and stay off over time.

Check-ins, weekly (or more often as needed), videos, and Facebook group support are key to success in Phase II. The initial “glow” of success with Phase I will diminish, and it is possible clients may feel more deprived of the foods and habits they love most during Phase II. Progress in this phase may slow down, or even seemingly stop, so I will need to provide reading materials, hand-holding, and testimonials from other clients to help them stay motivated through these changes.



Axe, J. (2018, June 02). Coconut Oil Pulling Is the New Flossing (It Stops Tooth Decay, Prevents Cavities, Kills Bad Breath & More!). Retrieved March 16, 2019, from

Cloe, A. (n.d.). The Effect of Alcohol on Insulin Resistance. Retrieved March 14, 2019, from

Goldman, R. (2018, July 23). Why Is Quinoa Good for Diabetes? - Healthline. Retrieved March 14, 2019, from

Longo, V. D., & Panda, S. (2016). Fasting, Circadian Rhythms, and Time-Restricted Feeding in Healthy Lifespan. Cell Metabolism,23(6), 1048-1059. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.06.001

Longo, V., & Mattson, M. (2014). Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications. Cell Metabolism,19(2), 181-192. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2013.12.008

Mercola, J. (2013, September 13). Why Exercising While Fasting Is Beneficial. Retrieved March 14, 2019, from

Price, A. (2019, January 30). Why You Should Eat This 'Forbidden' Food. Retrieved March 14, 2019, from

Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2019, from

Stevenson, S. (2017, November 08). Sleep Problems? Here's 21 Tips To Get The Best Sleep Ever. Retrieved March 14, 2019, from

Embrace Your New Normal

There is so much change happening, and 2017 has just begun!

I used to think I was open to change, free-flowing, chill, relaxed, and flexible, until REAL CHANGE happened to me in the form of a breast cancer diagnosis. 

That's when the embracing my new normal started. It's when the work really began.

Whatever your challenges are, wherever your journey takes you, embracing the new normal is key to keeping your head on straight, keeping your attitude positive, and keeping your focus on what's most important.

Please check out this interview I did with Sofia Holub from Sofia Holub Wellness. She speaks with cancer survivors from all walks of life asking them how they embraced their new normal- how they dealt with BIG CHANGE

Cancer might not be your challenge, but perhaps you'll find some tidbits that resonate with you.


Yours in health,

Make a Plan for the Holidays

The dust has settled from Thanksgiving and we’ve turned our sights on holiday preparations. Lots of football to watch, we’ve got a winner on The Voice, and parts of the country are in a deep freeze.

My question is this:  What’s your plan?

Do you have a plan for navigating the holidays this year? Is your calendar already booked? Gifts purchased? Cards sent? Tree decorated? Lights up?


What if I told you there is a way to make your holiday experience stress-free?  You realize you have control, don’t you?

Here are my 7 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season:

*Block out time for yourself.  Get out your calendar and book time for exercise, rest, and downtime. Your calendar will fill whether you do this or not—might as well make sure you’re taking care of YOU during the holidays, too.

*Say NO to more things. This one’s tough. There’s FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and the people-pleasing side of you conspiring to take away all of your freedom and free time.  What’s left? A frazzled, over-booked, cortisol-filled, stressed-out YOU. Certainly not what the holiday season is about. Say no to even some of the good stuff. It’s painful, I know, but a very simple way to take back control of your sanity. Your neighborhood will be just fine without you hosting the cookie exchange this year. There will be plenty of treats at the class holiday party, even if you don’t contribute. Make an appearance at the office party and then get to bed at a decent hour.  You deserve it.
*Own your weaknesses. What is your biggest temptation during the holidays?  Is it grandma’s homemade caramels? That extra glass (or two of wine) after dinner? All the ways to spend money everywhere you look? Whatever your Achilles heel is, it’s always better to acknowledge it and deal with it before the moment strikes. Allow yourself a bit of what you love (in the spirit of giving to yourself), but start the season with boundaries.  For example, only eat caramels after you eat a “clean” dinner, and only eat two max. Or pick out 2-3 upcoming special events and plan ahead that you’ll be drinking more than one glass of wine at those; then keep the wine-drinking to a minimum on all other days. Setting a strict spending budget helps curtail the overspending, or simply avoid the stores that trigger you to buy.  Taking  a moment to write down your weakness and your strategy to deal with it. And then stick to it!
*Get more sleep!  Now I’m asking the impossible, right? Actually, by getting more sleep you’ll be able to accomplish more without compromising your health or sanity. Make it a goal to head to bed 30 minutes earlier each night and the benefits will be felt almost immediately!

*Hydrate. I know, I know. This is on every list I’ve ever made. For a reason! Make it a priority to drink half your weight in ounces of water every day. You will have more energy, stay fuller longer, and your cravings for sweets will be dampened (pun intended). This one is easy to do and will make a big impact. 

*Pick one tradition and focus on just that one. It could be as simple as wearing your ugly Christmas sweater to casual Fridays at work. Maybe it’s making the homemade clam chowder for Christmas Eve dinner (that’s what we do in our home). Whatever your family traditions are, pick just one and make it extra special this year. Rather than spreading yourself thin with multiple traditions and task lists, focus on the one thing and really make it shine. If you don’t have any traditions (or don’t like the ones you have), this is your chance to make one of your own!

*Give in secret. The one thing experts agree on regarding stress, depression, and guilt, is that the act of serving others helps alleviate all that negative emotion. The holidays are all about service, and there are endless ways you can brighten the day of others. I’m suggesting doing small acts every day, anonymously. Little things. In secret. Just because. See how quickly your attitude lifts when you appreciate others.

I could go on and on and on. I’m sure there’s something I forgot. The point is this: having a plan and simplifying your life at this busy time of year will go a long way towards a simple, stress-free, and meaningful holiday experience.

Healthy Holidays,