Fall Into New Healthy Habits

 Shed what is not working for you, and sweep away those leaves to make room for change. Photo by  Autumn Mott  on  Unsplash

Shed what is not working for you, and sweep away those leaves to make room for change. Photo by Autumn Mott on Unsplash

With the leaves falling from the trees, I am reminded of the transition of the seasons.  The crisp, clean air always inspires me to make a fresh start. This is why I am back again on this blog and vow to be consistent in providing you healthy messages more frequently.  

A whole lot has happened in the past year. Long story short, I have had an enlightening journey in Oregon thus far.  I am working at a wonderful Diabetes and Weight Clinic with a warm staff and amazing, inspiring patients.  My husband was laid off from his job in March 2017, and after about two months of being without unemployment funding, his former workplace has reinstated such funds.  Although that is such a blessing, we are still behind on many bills. Therefore, I have started freelance writing with a vengeance and have realized that at some point in the very near future, I want to pursue freelance work full-time.  So far, my part-time work in freelance writing has gotten an amazing response. I am convinced now that every struggle happens for a reason.

So, what does this have to do with fall? What doesn't it have to do with fall?  Fall is about transformation. After allowing your ideas to bloom in the spring, and exposing them to light in the summer, the fall provides a time of assessment. What is helping you get closer to your goals? What is standing in your way of happiness, health, or success?  Answering these questions helps you realize what leaves you should shed to make room for new growth in the new year.

Perhaps you started a healthy eating routine in the spring that cut out all carbs. However, maybe over the past few months, you realize that you are low on energy and are always hungry.  Your body may be missing out on important nutrients it needs. Therefore, it may be time to visit the doctor to check your vitamin and nutrient levels, and perhaps make over your diet.

No matter what information your assessment provides, it is important that you take action on what you find out.  You don't want to keep wading through the same tired routine if it is doing nothing to make you feel better inside or out. 

If you need help on figuring out what is getting in the way of the healthiest, happiest you, then contact My Lighttrack Dietitian today.

The True Health State of the Union


We are a stressed nation.  Every corner you turn, you are bombarded with negative headlines, social media rants, and sales pitches.  Work schedules often extend beyond the 40-hour workweek, and therefore meals of many families are purchased ready-made and eaten in the car or in front of a television screen.  When I was a child, me and my siblings and friends would play outside while our parents cooked dinner.  Now, I see children of elementary school age with their eyes glued to a phone or television screen while waiting at the bus stop.

Communication has gone from talking about your day at the dinner table, to texting, tweeting, or chatting online.  In turn, I have noticed that people are much more brazen online then they would be in person. In feeling more uninhibited behind their computer screen, more negativity then ever travels in real time from person to person, insults flung left and right, and to those children, tweens, and young adults that are in the midst of self-discovery, feelings are also battered and bruised.  The art of communication and having respect for others has seem to have gotten lost in the mix of many trying to get attention and gain approval from strangers online.

It is not surprising that this communication gap has caused concern for an increase in mental health issues, especially among youth.  One in four children aged 13 to 18 years old are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder according to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH).  Eighteen-percent of adults 18 years of age and older have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, with nearly one-half of individuals reported to not seek treatment for such disorders.  Of those adults diagnosed with anxiety, women are 60-percent more likely to experience an anxiety disorder than men.

It is no surprise to me to find that obesity and mental health issues are closely related.  Several studies over the years have linked obesity with increased rates of depression and anxiety.  Mental health disorders can lead to disordered eating, hormone imbalances, and sedentary behavior which can cause a state of being overweight or obese. On the same note, obesity itself can lead to increased depression and anxiety. It is no coincidence that as obesity rates in adults rose in the United States from 10-15% in 1990 to 25-35%  in 2014, while statistics from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSRI) report the number of adults disabled by mental illness rose from 1 in 184 in 1987 to 1 in 76 in 2007.  Those states that have increased rates of depression have been statistically found to have increased rates of obesity, heart disease, stroke, sleep disorder, and less access to medical insurance.

What makes this situation even more dire is that when individuals do want to get nutritional counseling, most will not be covered for it.  Only about one-third of states have elected to provide coverage for nutritional counseling, with many setting provisions for coverage such as having diabetes, kidney disease or other chronic diseases; covering only weight loss drugs or home-health worker-provided nutrition therapy; or covering only bariatric surgery.

If someone wanted to prevent themselves from chronic obesity-related disease, if they have a family history of obesity or diabetes, or if they had a mental health issue that predisposed them to a higher risk of obesity-related conditions, they would not be able to get coverage for preventative nutritional counseling.  Most individuals who are at risk for obesity cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket costs to see a dietitian which I have seen range from $60-$300/hour.

If the health of the nation is going to improve, then nutritional counseling should be seen just like a preventative exam at the primary physician.  Anyone who has health insurance should be able to be covered for dietitian visits so they can get advice to prevent them from going down the road of obesity and its many related chronic conditions.  I have worked for various different weight loss programs, and motivated individuals who wanted to get healthy would quit before reaching their goals because they couldn't afford it or their insurance would stop covering the  costs because they were not making enough progress.  In these same programs, there would be repeat customers over and over again because deep down many of these individuals could benefit from therapy or counseling, but either would not seek it out, or did not have insurance coverage for such visits.

Therefore, weight loss programs should strive to include a mental health practitioner on staff to assist in providing patients with the most holistic care.  These mental health visits should be covered for anyone who participates in a weight loss program that meets the criteria for mental illness.

Which leads me to the screening for mental health.  Although some doctors may be apt in doing this, I know from personal experience that a lot of doctor's offices push patients in and out as quickly as possible to get as many people in as possible.  This leads to 10, maybe 15 minute meetings with the doctor if you are lucky.  This leaves barely enough time to go through a basic physical assessment, let alone a depression and anxiety screening.  I think the "depression screening" that I was given at my last appointment was a few questions about if I felt hopeless or had thought about taking my own life.  Now if I really felt that way, do you think most people would admit to those behaviors? Of course not.  It took me nearly a month or two of weekly support group meetings to get my patients to open up to me about their anxiety issues.  I think mental health screenings need to be revised and expanded to prevent mental health issues from remaining undiagnosed, otherwise many who struggle with mental health issues will be left untreated.

And if someone is not attending a weight loss program, physicians should take more time with patients to refer them to local weight loss programs or dietitians if they screen for overweight, obesity, or a family history of obesity-related conditions to help prevent chronic health issues.   If a patient opts for bariatric surgery, mandatory meetings with a therapist or dietitian should extend far beyond the pre-surgical mandated appointments.  Patients should be mandated for meetings with a therapist and dietitian at least one-year post-surgery since it is within this time that I see most gastric bypass patients relapse into old eating habits and gain weight back that they had lost.  The reason they may gain this weight back cannot be pinpointed. However, from the cases that I have seen it is because the mental health issues that led to the escalation of the patient's weight gain to begin with were not dealt with or resolved.

Although there have been many improvements in nutritional counseling and mental health coverage with insurance, there is still a long way to go if any serious impact is going to be made in mental health and obesity rates in the United States.  I hope that with support from other health care professionals and advocates, such policy improvements can continue to be made so that the country can reform itself into a better state of health in the coming years.

Finding Peace of Mind


Peace of mind.  It's the stuff of fantasies.  The never-ending to-do list of life seems to leave not a minute of peace.  And with the outpouring of tragedy and negativity from the media to the dramas of everyday life, peace seems to be an impossible feat. Or is it?

Since the beginning of this journey across the country, I have been on the lookout for ways I can find peace in my anxious-ridden mind.  Anxiety disorder runs in my family on my mom's side of the family, my husband has anxiety, and surprisingly, I am the least anxious of them all, but was not always that way.  I suffered from anxiety, panic attack disorder, depression, and disordered eating at various points throughout my time in graduate school.  I tried medication, yoga, dancing, running, church, and support from family and friends to get through those difficult times.  For the most part, such methods were very effective, but the anxious thoughts still linger on from time to time to this day.


I decided that I would explore a variety of different methods to find some peace of mind.  I have been a devout Christian my whole life, so it was a no brainer that going to church on Sundays and reading the Bible every morning was something I was going to implement into my peace of mind prescription.  Yoga, meditation, hiking, writing, and downtime are some of the other ways I have been exploring to find peace of mind.

"Show respectfulness to every one, every day."

Church is not only is a time for me and my husband to share quiet time in prayer together, but the sermons can also be very inspiring.  Just the other day, the pastor told everyone to "Show respectfulness to every one, every day."  He talked about how being content in your life is not about getting your way all of the time since most of the time you will not get your way.  Instead, he talked about how the void you may feel in your life should be filled with faith instead of violence or negativity towards yourself or others.  And no matter what our opinions may be, we should always respect differing opinions, take time to listen to others, and accept that not everyone is going to go our way. It is this acceptance of the differences that exist in this world that can bring you closer to peace of mind.



In my yoga class, during one of the Dharma classes I enjoy taking, the teacher spoke of a concept derived from Hinduism and Buddhism known as "ahimsa."  Ahimsa is a term meaning to show compassion or nonviolence.  During the affirmations in class, the teacher explained how we can sometimes get down on ourselves if we don't live up to our expectations, if things don't go our way, or if we can't do something as simple as stretch as well as we would like during yoga class.  The nonviolence ahimsa starts with being compassionate and forgiving of ourselves and others for the imperfect beings that we are.  It is when we accept and forgive ourselves that we can be more accepting of others.  And it is when we are more accepting of others that we can find peace of mind.

Although I had taken yoga classes before this time, I think the missing piece of the puzzle for me was the meditation and relaxation breathing.  During a restorative yoga class I took, I remember the teacher talking to us while we were lying down and performing our yogic breathing.  She talked about how  we spend so much time and energy on fixing others, fixing what is wrong with us and with the world, that we forget to just love and accept ourselves and others for what we are.  Since I have a tendency to be overly critical towards myself, and have a tendency to worry when someone doesn't agree with me, this moment during class really struck a chord with me.  I felt a sense of calm coming over me as I realized that I am enough and I don't need to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I could release a huge weight of burden that had been laying dormant on my mind.

Breathing in the Fresh Air

I love to run.  I have run about four marathons and about 15+ other running races over the past 7 years.  I enjoy the thrill of the adrenaline running through my veins, and also the way my anxious mind is able to escape while I am distracted from the act of running.  However, I was told by my doctor that I may have nutritional deficiencies related to the vigorous training from running marathons.  Therefore, for now, until I get my body back in balance, I had to find another physical activity I could use to relax and get fit.  I was lucky to find that in Oregon there are a TON of hiking trails and beautiful places to hike.  Therefore, my new sport of choice has been hiking.  I can burn calories, get fresh air, and as an added bonus I am able to explore all of the beautiful places that Oregon has to offer.  When I see the vast expanse of trees, hills, mountains, and blue skies around me, I feel like anything is possible.  And since hiking is safest when done with another person or group of people, it has been a great opportunity to spend quality time with my husband.

"Do what you love, love what you do"

I love to write.  I love being able to get all of my feelings onto paper.  It is therapeutic to say what you want to say when you don't always know how to say it out loud.  I started this blog because I know I have so much to say to and want to try to help others in whatever way I can.  I have not always been confident in my writing.  I have had some teachers tell me that my writing was great, while others would make comments like" You need to take a writing class." Although it hurt my feelings, I was never against trying to learn more to become a better writer.  Therefore, I started doing freelance writing online with Examiner.com and Livestrong.com to help me grow as a writer.  Eventually, I became a writer for Omnichannel Health Media writing diabetes-related articles for Cdiabetes.org and still write for them occasionally.  I never gave up and will never give up because I have a message in my heart that weighs on my mind.  I know that I can free the burdens of my mind through my writing, and hopefully help at least one person with my words.

Winding Down

At the end of the day, even though I work at home currently, I am tired from the hustle and bustle of cleaning, running errands, ironing clothes, cooking, and whatever else I may have on my to-do list. Therefore, I try to set aside some time each day for downtime.  Whether its watching my favorite television show, playing a game on my retro game system, or taking myself out to get my nails done, I have found that it is vital to my well-being to allow my mind to relax.  Being a person with anxiety can be exhausting, and dealing with my various digestive issues and itching throughout the day every day wears my body down.  It is nice to engage in activities that are enjoyable, do not require much thought, and that allow me to be distracted from my worries for a while.  Downtime, or "me time," is a vital piece to overall well-being and peace of mind.  If you do not take time out to take care of yourself, then you will not be in the best condition to take care of others and those you love.

One size does not fit all

Not every thing works for everybody, so it can be a process of elimination to figure out what method or methods of relaxation work for you.  The important part is that you do use a healthy and positive way to deal with your emotions so you can free the burdens of your mind and body from stress.  Emotional eating, drinking, or self-loathing will do nothing to give us peace of mind.  However, if we can seek out ways to forgive ourselves and accept ourselves and others, then we can find peace of mind and get on the path to healthier living.

A Lighter Life


It was just six weeks ago that me and my husband moved to Oregon from Maryland.  Having lived in the hustle and bustle of the Northeast United States for most of our adult lives, we looked forward to a change of environment and a chance to experience a different culture.  Each weekend we hope to explore sites either within the Portland local area or venture out into the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. This past Memorial Day weekend was no exception.  Realizing that most people would probably be traveling towards the Coast to soak up the sun, we headed east to explore the John Day Fossil Beds and Painted Hills.  It was during this weekend adventure that I discovered how refreshing and light it can be to lead a simple life.

On the drive east, there was no lack of beautiful scenery.  The rolling hills, mountain peaks, and rural landscapes covered every mile of the road trip. As we stopped along the side of the road to take some pictures, we couldn't help but notice the rare sound of absolute peace and


quiet in what seemed like the middle of nowhere.  This quiet calm was refreshing to our often overwhelmed senses.  At times, the sights seemed almost surreal as we peered onto preserved lands that revealed history of times gone by.  It did not take long for me to realize that any stress that I may have had in my mind at the start of this journey was small compared to the vast landscape of life.  As we met the residents of the small towns within this landscape, I realized that being in the midst of such great wonders of nature really brought a person down to Earth and made them realize what was truly important.

 painted hills

painted hills

Entering each restaurant or shop, the locals called each other by name and shop owners seemed to value each and every customer that walked through the door as if it was their only guest.  Every question or request was answered with a smile, and each customer was provided well wishes as they finished their stay.  Children in such towns rode their bikes around the streets as the local dogs ran playfully nearby, unleashed but obedient.  Stores closed at no later than 8:00pm.  It was after this time that lamp posts provided a shining light as the town settled to sleep in preparation for another full day of hard work.

Main Street in Prairie City, Oregon
Main Street in Prairie City, Oregon

Most of the restaurants in town seemed to be family-run with the owners also acting as waiters and cooks. Nearby farms and ranches, likely run by other residents in nearby towns, provided the fresh cattle and produce that helped feed the local towns.  Supermarkets and fast food restaurants were few and far between.  Fresh, home-cooked meals with family recipes were on every restaurant menu.

The lack of strong wifi signals and phone reception within the towns helped keep the focus of each day on enjoying nature and spending time with friends and loved ones.  Without technology and to-do lists, I could allow myself to truly rest.  This lighter living kept my stress levels low, my mind clear, and my body rested.

On the drive home, although there was traffic at times during our 6 hour drive home, looking at sights such as Mount Hood on the horizon made everything seem OK.  It was as if the fresh, crisp air blowing through the car windows from the far away mountainside washed all of my worries away.  Reality did set in as I pulled into the driveway of our new home, but that did not make me feel any less inspired.

 mount hood

mount hood

For the past three years, I have worked on updating my website with no idea how to best launch my site.  Since this past Memorial Day weekend, I realized the best way to introduce the world to My Lighttrack Dietitian was to write about an experience that encompasses the true mission of the site.  My Lighttrack Dietitian is about helping others to lighten their load, not only in terms of physical burdens, but emotional and mental burdens as well.  My Lighttrack Dietitian hopes to align others' thoughts to more positive thinking, opening their minds to trying new things, lightening their perspective on healthy living as less of a chore and more of an exciting journey towards a new way of life.

During this trip, I saw the way life could be if one took time out of their busy schedules to truly engage in life.  Once cellphones were set aside, time was scheduled for love of nature, oneself and others, and bodies were nourished with fresh food, life seemed more enjoyable.  When you start to enjoy life, you start to appreciate the possibilities that life has to offer.  It is in these possibilities that dreams become more tangible and motivation comes to life.  Therefore, whether you hope to become healthy or need helping staying healthy, My Lighttrack Dietitian will be there to guide you towards ways to live simply towards a lighter life.