Balance is a Liar

On this beautiful Sunday morning, I managed to squeeze in a teen facial for my daughter between my work appointments.  This was her first, so pretty exciting for her. I had the opportunity to sit in the peaceful and aesthetically pleasing comforting waiting area in Pyara Salon. Hot tea and tinctures are offered along with glistening iced water that managed to look refreshing even in winter. I had initially thought this would be a great time to sit in my car and get some work done, but the lure of relaxation and natural products for me to sip to help my tired muscles won out. 

The teas and tinctures offered are from Naturopathica.  Interested in the seemingly clean and simple products, I decided to google the company to learn more about their claims and was duly impressed by founder Barbara’s Close’s words. Her mission is to educate holistically (love her already) and explains skin is a reflection of the inner workings of the body.  Yes!  I’m reading on. She mentions the unattainable “balance” that we as a society are so hopped up about. Rachel Hollis, another of my favorites to read, dislikes the term “balance” as does Close.  These high-powered, motivational women explain that balance is unattainable. What?!  That’s all we talk about is balance. The idea of balance promotes the idea that everything can be done and achieved if you find the right balance.  I’m with them. Balance is evasive, and maybe we could strive to be fluid and adaptable, but not so much that we are neglectful.

Agreed. Nothing in my world is balanced, but I do recognize that there are distinct areas that need attention.  Maybe in a given minute, day or a week, one thing needs more attention than another, and that can change in the next minute, day or week.  I can’t imagine getting everything in every day.  That would be stressful. I definitely don’t have a balance, but more of a rotation of priorities. If I am working on a deadline for something, there maybe laundry piling up. OK, definitely laundry piling up…There’s no time or space for balance, only priorities that can either work for or against us. Many of us prioritize things that we think are working for us, but they are actually taking us away from the things that may help us find more inner peace and happiness. The take away on our culture is that if you are calm and meditate or sip tea, you can’t be a go-getter, a successful business person, or successful at whatever job or life you are tending.  Most of what I see now are folk who are so stressed out they can’t be effective. 
As evidenced here by Barbara, Rachel, Brenee Brown – another of my favorites, we absolutely can live a healthier more fulfilled life by including emotional and mental wellbeing into the equation without being deemed a hippy or crunchy- which is also fine and I think desirable in the rotation!

Thank you to Christine Perkins at Pyara for providing a local business on a global stage that allows people to arrive and focus on their inner beauty and walk out with an outer beauty fueled from within. These are the types of things of that we need more. This is not an excessive luxury, but a necessary component of wellness hygiene. Rock on, sisters. Rock on. 

Getting out of a rut

At least they are gluten free

I am constantly helping people get back on track, so, what happens when I hit a low point? I embrace my low points because I realize it is the only way to get back up.  

Last Thursday was particularly challenging. I let my family know it was a low point before I changed into my running clothes and strapped on my running sneakers. I tried to go for a run but instead I drove to Trader Joe’s(just walking distance from my house), bought my favorite chocolates, and cuddled in bed with Netflix. I had to text my husband because I couldn’t find the remote control. The good news is that there is an app I could download to watch Frankie and Grace in bed with my dream chocolates. I watched way too many episodes in my chocolate covered sheets. 

When my family learned about my tough day they all bought me the same chocolates from Trader Joe’s. When I finally got out of bed for dinner I realized my husband bought me my favorite ice-cream with hot fudge and caramel. So, instead of dinner I ate ice cream and tried to sleep, but the sugar kept me up until 2 am.  

Surprisingly, eating a lot of sugar did not provide a solution to my stressful day. I embraced my low point and at 2 am wrote down a meal plan and workout schedule for the following three days. 

My plan had one big obstacle…my work week was crazy. I might not have time to even get my first workout in, but I set my alarm for 4 am, and worked out at 5 am. I jumped over that first hurdle and I was back on a normal schedule.  

We are allowed to struggle and not feel good. We are allowed to choose a day and time to start to feel better. If we truly love ourselves then we shouldn’t punish ourselves for not being perfect. If we really care about our family then we should always choose a healthier lifestyle as soon as possible with no judgement for past bad choices. 

Please let our team hold your hand jump over those first hurdles. You are not alone in struggling.

Yours in health,


Unfamiliar Territory

Dear Pat’s Nation,

We are in unfamiliar territory. The Pats are done for the year.  We don’t know the future of Belichick or Brady.  No one is in the mood to purchase TB12 meals

How do we move forward with so much uncertainty in our future?  No worries because your embody Pollyana is here to look on the bright side. I can think of 4 reasons to be excited for January in New England.

  1. Every single weekend in January just opened up for your entire family.
  2. Time to do household chores just increased dramatically. 
  3. Happy Birthday to all Capricorns and Aquarius out there. You have a birthday party planning freedom for the first time in 10 years. This is a particularly important for anyone 10 years old or younger. 
  4. On a personal note, anyone who is a fitness industry employee just became available to work an additional day of the week, and we are excited to offer you even more classes in services in January.

Let’s focus on number 4 for a little.  For the first time in 10 years, I am not concerned about the staff this month. I won’t have to find coverage or have zero attendance on big game days. I don’t need to coach members on food choices during football parties. So let’s celebrate a new January for New Englanders by getting excited for everything that January now has to offer at embody.


Join us at 4 for the new Tai Chi

January 12th-January 19th

Bring a Friend Week. You will get an embody gift for every friend who joins the program. Don’t let your friend commit to a gym with intense contracts and minimal results.  Encourage them to join a program that promotes the exact opposite. Results without any long term commitments. (My friends are coming this week because they couldn’t wait. Make sure you welcome them the embody way.)

January 15th 

Winter Reboot. Get pumped for a new meal plan, new stress reducing program and new equipment.

January 18th 2-4 pm

Bring a friend and join us for the “No Diet” talk with Wholistic Health Alliance. There will be great information, and as always, healthy and delicious food. 

No Treadmill for My Gym

On January 15th, we will unveil our new equipment. We are working towards creating our dream studio, slowly with input from our community. On January 1st, we were on the fence about a piece of equipment, and headed to a local gym to try out the fancy treadmill. We walked three floors of shiny equipment and were in awe. The facility was gorgeous! We saw cardio equipment lined up in front of the window facing a beautiful warm winter day.  I get it. If you sign up for the gym because of the amazing facility you are obligated to get your money’s worth. Even worse, if you sign your family up for a membership, everyone has to use the gym. You start making decisions like going to the gym to walk on a treadmill on a beautiful day. The fitness industry encourages people to drive around a parking lot to find the closest parking space, and limit more outdoor time so they can walk on a treadmill inside, or even worse go on an elliptical and watch Law and Order. 

While in Paris, I couldn’t help but research the fitness industry. Everyone was smoking and drinking as they walked past small fitness studios with very few people inside.I could barely walk or run the streets of Paris because they were so packed with pedestrians and bikes. I never saw a three story building filled with gym equipment. So why do I think people in France live longer? Well, I am not a scientist and have not done any real analysis but I do think the fitness industry in the U.S is not helping with our stress or helping us get healthier. There is no shortage of research on the French culture and their longevity.  “The French Paradox” was coined to describe this cream sauce eating, heavy smoking culture. Well, why I wouldn’t advise taking up smoking, I would like to point out my observations while in Paris. Parisians sit and eat and respect their meal (and themselves). There is no take meal in the car on the way somewhere. Parisians walk to markets and enjoy feeling healthy. There is evident pride in one’s health directly related to their meals and movement. I learned so much by being immersed in this culture. In fact, my first piece of advice for many new members at embody has always been to cancel all gym membership and stop working out so much. The advice works. Our members lose weight and feel better.

When we drove home from the exquisite fitness facility, we passed fewer people walking on the bike path on a perfect day than we saw in that facility. A lot of people set goals in January.  Exercise is a wonderful gift to give yourself, but don’t feel like it has to happen with fancy equipment under artificial lighting. If you hire a trainer remind them you are training to live an active lifestyle. Although the facility we toured was beautiful,  the bike path on a sunny day is far superior. The high end facility is not as healthy as walking to Trader Joe’s and preparing a meal with real food in your kitchen. We are more committed than ever to providing our members with a program that focuses on stress management and great doctors appointments.  We want to aggressively get the message out there.  

The fitness industry is frustrating but the only thing I am more frustrated with is social media rants with no real solutions. Here is definitely my rant, but also a solution. Here are some of my favorite outdoor activities in the area.

In addition, embody wants to help.  We have created a running group for our members that continues year round!   Also, if your friend joins embody during the month of January, you get a free gift from us. You get our favorite embody sweatshirt to wear on the couch after doing something fun outside. Also, we will support that outdoor activity goal.  Here are some ideas; 5k, cross country skiing day pass, outdoor skating, or downhill skiing, dog walking, walking to any walkable errand. Let’s celebrate your commitment to embody by using that body to be active. The only rule is that it has to be outside!  A gym needs to be place to train for your life and not a place to spend your life.

BTW Are we buying that treadmill? No, we decided that a running group would be a better investment in our members.  

Stress and Weight Loss

I seriously ate one cookie and gained weight! Whats up?!

The holiday season can be hectic, overscheduled and ruled by deadlines, all things that cause our stress levels to soar. Fear not, we are fueled by hot chocolate, candy canes, fancy hors d’oeuvres, that once a year cheesecake, that once a year brownie cake a la mode, that once a year whipped caramel mousse parfait, that…you get the point. Everywhere we turn, stress and sugar.

Stress is not measured by events, but rather the impact on your physical, emotional and mental state.  The source of the stress is irrelevant.  Our brains do have a cool reaction in a stressful situation, though.  To preserve precious moments that may save your life, we instantly increase stress hormones, and those hormones send us into action.  There is no time for thinking, only reaction.  This fantastic off switch can be instrumental in getting us out of harms way, but in the event we experience stress AND we need to think, we may make a less than well thought out decision.  The major stress hormone, cortisol, becomes increased, interferes with weight loss and is associated with weight gain. The holidays are the perfect storm for weight gain in most adults. Our stress hormones kick up and stay up, signaling the body to store fat, and treats are everywhere.

Stress will be ever present, and so we should early on develop skills to help manage the situation.  The old adage of counting to 10 makes good sense, allowing the fight or flight to dissipate, and think about options in a particular circumstance.

Lose weight, Focus on Stress….

Research says we can manage our stress and lower cortisol, and that we can manage weight with lower cortisol levels. Pretty cool! Research also shows that mindfulness, meditation and breathing exercises lower cortisol, improve our health and can help manage weight.

Try a few of these, and remember that this skills take practice and time to develop!

  • Count to 10 with a mantra. 1. I need to remain calm. 2 i need to remain calm. 3 I need to remain….
  • Focus on breath – Inhale on 4, exhale on 8.
  • Visualize a calm place – the ocean, favorite vacation spot, calm meadow
  • Give yourself a hug (get a hug) – compression signals our parasympathetic nervous system and helps to calm us. Hug away!

Other samples of cortisol lowering activities:

  • Meditation
  • Visualization
  • Breathing
  • Aerobic activities
  • Yoga
  • Hiking
  • Being Mindful in any setting
  • Play with animals
  • Give generously
  • Express yourself creatively
  • Dance
  • Sex
  • Pray or join a spiritual community
  • Participate in a social group and decrease loneliness
  • Regulation of circadian rhythm

Surely, you can’t meditate away poor nutrition, but incorporating some mindfulness into your holiday season can help lessen stress, and maybe even your weight!

My Road to 50 Miles

I have lived with lupus most of my life, and on the 8th Anniversary of my MS diagnosis, I ran the JFK 50 miler. I wouldn’t have considered running if my coach, business partner, and friend had not tricked me into training. I would not have survived the run without her.

The training was brutal! I had to train my body to do things that weren’t natural for me. Eating sugar again and eating sugar while running was a shock to my system. It was challenging but thanks to great public bathrooms, I survived. Running multiple times in a day and giving up on having good hair was tough, but in the end my legs could run two marathons in 48 hours without any side effects(except bad hair). My training plan was so good that I was over confident at the start line. It only took 6 hours of running the JFK 50 miler for me to begin to question my ability complete 50 miles in one day.

It was a difficult course that brought me through the Appalachian Trail for miles with blood soaked stones and runners with broken bones. Falling was common and a just a little scary for someone with MS. I felt like I should where a t-shirt that said, “You have no idea.” I kept thinking that it was irresponsible for someone with a balance issue to navigate this trail but I survived. I remember another runner saying, “You won’t win the race here but you could lose it.” Her words were in my head for miles and I made up the time on the flats.

The entire run was filled with pain, joy, and lessons.

The course is known for its support and I was not disappointed. Food, gatorade, water, Christmas cookies and even Santa was available. The volunteers and runners were the best part! The veteran runners loved offering advice and when you have endless miles to run any guidance is welcomed. People only wanted to finish and no one seemed to care about their time. I discovered that runners considered their past attempts as opportunities to learn and never failures. These veterans had great advice about slowing down and enjoying the experience and views.

And, then there were times that I was alone for a long periods and lived off the messages and supportive words I received before the run. I had a hard time falling asleep the night before because my phone kept alerting me to the flood of support.

Every once in awhile a medic on bike would ride past me with more words of encouragement like, “You are looking better than most of the people.” I started to get concerned for most of the people and questioned the logic of running this type of race. But, I also wondered how they knew just what to say to keep me going. Being reminded that I wasn’t alone in my pain and suffering gave me some weird type of solace. When things got really bad I thought of my daughter who reminded me to stop if my health was in jeopardy and weighed that against my desire to finish. I kept checking my body for any noticeable signs but felt strong.

Just like life you can prepare as much as you want but in reality it is in the moment that we learn how to run the race. The last 30 miles were tough and most runners would run/walk which lead to this amazing game of leapfrog. You would pass a struggling walker who would pass you in just a few feet. I would spend hours with the same people getting to know them at their most vulnerable moments which lead to a contest of supportive of words. “You are doing awesome.” “You are crushing it.” “Where are you from?” “You are probably a very fast marathon runner.” “Those are really short shorts, you must be freezing, but I am impressed.” “Please go ahead of me and run like the gazelle you are.” For a compliment hoar like me it was truly heavenly. I love giving as much as receiving when it comes to encouragement and this was a love fest for my type of people. Apparently, people who lacked the common sense to not sign up for a 50 miler were my people. I desperately wanted these strangers to cross the finish line.

In the end I finished in a respectable time. I received a medal that will be one of my proudest medals. I called my husband immediately to thank him for the years of support and quickly went to the medical tent. As soon as I listed my medical history I had every medical professional in the facility hovering around my cot. I always have to manage my chronic diseases but Dr. Google didn’t have any research articles of what to expect after running 50 miles with lupus and MS. I agreed to an ambulance ride because my daughters words were in my head.

The paramedics and intake nurse were fascinated with my disease management and had a lot of questions. I was reminded of the magnitude of the feat. A 46 year old women living with lupus and MS finished a 50 mile ultra marathon. I was discharged early because rest was more important than being observed at the hospital.,

The run was a great reminder of how I am surviving two chronic disease. I learned so much from training and running the race that will keep me moving forward as I face new roadblocks….and I will face new ones. Here are the top 10 things I learned:

1. Coffee shops have the best bathrooms.

2. I am only as good as my coach and my ability to listen to her.

3. I will always chose the path with no regrets.

4. Past attempts are not failures if you keep learning from them.

5. I feed off my community and their words.

6. Other peoples success fuels me.

7. I am not cured of chronic disease but I will have some great days.

8. Accepting the limits of diagnosis is challenging but necessary, especially for the people I love.

9. Grilled cheese at mile 32 is not appealing.

10. Check the weather before I pack shorts.

Is Cereal a Healthy Breakfast?

The evolution of cereal is fascinating. There is an entire aisle in a 10 aisle supermarket dedicated to nothing but cereal. People refer to “my” cereal like my mom watched “her” show. Cereal is personal, and Kellogg, the inventor of the mother cereal, the cornflake, had some interesting ideas about why we all needed to eat cereal.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was the Director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan opening in 1866, welcoming guests from all walks of life, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Amelia Earhart, who may have been looking for a “health tune-up”. The San, as it was called, offered holistic spa treatments from medical doctors to mineral baths. Kellogg, a Seventh Day Adventist, promoted well-being through a multi-faceted approach that involved nutrition, digestion, exercise, cleanliness, bath soaks, surgical interventions, electrotherapeutics, massage therapists, bakers, waiters, mental well being and a host of other practices and guidelines to help people become healthier versions of themselves. Many beliefs of The Seventh Day Adventists became part of his practice including nutrition, spirituality, mental hygiene, community and social interaction and physical movement. One of the inventions of Kellogg was, indeed, the cornflake in 1894, designed to provide maximum nutrients in the blandest form possible for his patients at The San. Kellogg thought the consumption of bland food would decrease masturbation, which he thoroughly frowned upon. Kellogg referred to his lifestyle as biological living, insisting on daily exercise, plenty of fresh air and complete abstinence from sex, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. I’m not certain how he would have mankind stay in business to consume his cornflakes, but seemingly, enough people only followed some of what he recommended.

Kellogg, a vegetarian, consumed many grains and found himself creating the cornflake which is a pretty famous breakfast food found in most all westernized civilizations. He encouraged everyone to chew each bite of food 40 times. (I’m not sure how to pull that off with cornflakes, but i see where he was going. ) Kellogg had lots of great ideas, and others that were a bit extreme, but I think he had the right philosophy to combine many aspects of health to lessen disease.

Unfortunately, I think his cornflake idea has morphed into what he would have seen as debauchery. Comparing The San with todays environment, we have The San with live music, educational health lectures, enough baths to put the Roman Empire to shame, outdoor trails for walking and meditating, sporting fields, bakers, cooks, and a medical staff and today’s health practices where getting a doctors appointment can be dictated by insurance coverage, foods are highly processed and contain many unnatural preservatives and little nutrients, many of us sit and drive for the better part of our day and get very little exercise or exercise is forced (a gym treadmill versus walking to the store), and misinformation and sound bytes regarding health and fitness. Is the cornflake to blame for all of our healthcare woes? Definitely not, but in my opinion, the cornflake was one of the inventions from Kellogg would could have done without.

Why I’m Against the Cornflake…

Kelloggs Cornflakes Ingredients:

Ingredients: Corn (88%), sugar, salt, barley malt extract, vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin E, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, folate), minerals (iron, zinc oxide).

2g protein, 24 g carbs per 1 cup serving, and not much else. The vitamins are fortified – added back in, as they were stripped out in the manufacturing process.

The corn of today is definitely not the corn of 1888. I stay clear of corn whenever possible because of the increased potential of genetic modification and Round Up pesticide in the crops, intentionally or unintentionally. Corn, without modifications, contains omega 6 fatty acids, and that makes it an inflammatory food. And, highly processed forms of corn (which are everywhere) break down very rapidly in the gut, spiking blood sugars, wreaking havoc on persons who have diabetes or other blood sugar control issues. Lastly, we should get fiber from vegetable and fruits, not from refined grains.

Most other cereals are in the same boat with the cornflake, offering little nutrition with a lot of simple carbohydrates that spike blood sugars and typically are stored as fat, even the ones that label themselves as healthy. Poor Kellogg, giving him the benefit of the doubt, was beyond well-intentioned, but could not imagine the future offspring of the cornflake. The other products available from Kellogg’s today now include Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes (chocolate or with marshmallows , Frosted Mini Wheats, Raisin Bran, Rice Krispies, Special K, Cereal Bars, Pop Tarts and more. None of these are good for you. None. In fact, quite the opposite. The chart below compares the main Kellogg products and a few other seemingly healthy cereal products. Most cereals, including the ones that tell you they are good for you are not the healthiest choices. Review the carbohydrates, sugars and fiber per serving as well as the ingredient list. If you must still choose cereal, avoid BHT, BTA, TBQH and choose cereals preserved with tocopherol (fancy name for vitamin E) The US allows food manufacturers to use these petroleum based and more harmful preservatives, and interestingly, Europe does not. Food manufactures have different recipes for exports to the EU. This is disgusting policy, in my opinion, and should be added to my list of why we should not eat processed cereals.

Frosted Flakes126010.5
Froot Loops2260.5103
Frosted mini Wheats (10 biscuits)7621158
Raisin Bran5471177
Rice Krispies229040
Special K7290.550.5
Cereal Bar – Blueberry2243123
Pop Tart2354.515.5
Other Manufacturers
Cheerios – General Mills320223
Puffins – Cinn – Barbara’s Bakery226115.5
Bob’s Red Mill Muesli423334

So, for obvious reason, I am against the cornflake, but taking one or two things from Kellogg, I invented my own cereal. I share most of his beliefs, but bland food treatment is one I definitely don’t wrap my head around – on several levels. This flavorful, nutrient dense cereal provides 11 g protein, 16 g carbs, 27g total fat 16 of which are omega 3’s, and 5 g fiber without any grain and hopefully no harmful ingredients (depending on the source of your berries and other ingredients). The total calories for this meal is 332 and chock full of antioxidants, phytonutrients, fiber, healthy fats and lots of flavor!

Nut and Berry Cereal

1/3 cup Walnuts, crushed

1T Flax Seed, ground

1T Hemp Seed

1 tsp coconut, shredded

1/3 cup blueberries

4 strawberries

4 oz Almond Milk

Alcohol’s and Fat Loss, with Bonus Cheat Sheet

I can only imagine how proud my Kinesiology and Nutrition professors at UMass would be to see me, part owner of my own gym, writing an article on which alcohol is the best compliment to a fat loss program. Anywho- here I am.  Go Minutemen!! 

Let me first start by explaining what this blog is intended for as to avoid any confusion.  The last thing I want is for anyone to start running around town telling everybody their trainer is recommending they up the boozing to get results.  That’s not what I’m trying to convey. This is simply a guide for you to use so that you can make an informed decision and understand how it can affect your results in regards to fat loss/gain.  If you’ve been told that alcohol is a death sentence when it comes to fat loss and any small amount will totally reverse your hard earned progress, I’ll tell you that’s probably not the case. All of us know that drinking too much can cause a whole host of problems not related to body composition, but I am not a doctor, and I won’t try to get into any of that.  I repeat, this is all about how different alcoholic beverages can impact results in regards to fat loss.

So what amount of alcohol is the best to achieve absolute maximal results?  Well, probably none. But the fact is that a lot of people drink (about 56% of American adults at least monthly) and when it’s consumed in moderate amounts it won’t completely derail or halt your progress.  One study conducted by Harvard University even showed light drinkers had a slightly lower BMI than non-drinkers over an 8 year period.  I can also say anecdotally, having trained hundreds of adults, and just recently attending a fitness summit with 1300 trainers (and an open beer/wine bar mixer) that even very fit people can have a drink here and there.

There’s no set rules as to how many drinks per day or week you can have and still achieve fat loss, so it would be unwise to make specific recommendations.  There are so many factors that need to be accounted for such as the food your eating, current body composition, activity levels, stress levels, sleep patterns, and so on, so you can see why specifics get tricky here.  Although I really dislike the phrase “everything in moderation” (is a moderate amount of road rage a good thing? You know, not a lot, just a moderate amount), this may be an instance where it is appropriate. My colleague and Registered Dietitian, Anne Rollins often explains to clients that if they have a drink or two a couple nights a week they can still get results.  If they up that to 3-4 nights a week they can expect less results, 5 nights even less, and so on. I believe the same is true for the number of drinks. As with anything related to fat loss, you need to find what works best for you. You need to consistently measure results, and when you’re no longer achieving the results you want, you need to make a change.

Without getting too far into the science and biochemistry of alcohol metabolism (I see your eyes glazing over already), here’s a super quick breakdown of how alcohol is processed in your body and its role in fat loss/gain.  In nutrition we talk about three nutrients your body uses for energy, the macronutrients; carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. There is actually a 4th energy source which is alcohol, or ethanol specifically. Our bodies are also very particular as to the order they break down and use those macronutrients when we eat or drink.  Let’s say you eat a hamburger. Your body first metabolizes all the carbs in the bun/ veggies/ condiments, then the fat in the meat, and finally the protein in the meat. Now let’s say you have a shot of tequila with the hamburger. Since alcohol is seen as a toxin by the body, it immediately jumps to the front of the line to be broken down and metabolized so it’s not sitting around in our system for long.  In essence, alcohol slows down the metabolization of everything else you consume. So now the next time you’re out to dinner with friends you can give them a quick science lesson on all the processes going on in the digestion of their meal… Just kidding, they won’t invite you out again.

It’s almost time to look at what options are better or worse for you to accompany your healthy lifestyle, but first a quick note on nutrition labeling for alcohol.  You might have noticed that most beers, wines, and spirits don’t have a nutrition label like food you find in the grocery store. The reason for this is because they’re regulated by the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and not the FDA, so they are not required to provide nutrition facts.  There has been a big push to change this over in the past decade and we’re even seeing some companies listing nutrition facts on their own usually to claim themselves as a healthier option.  In any sense it makes this whole thing a bit trickier for you to navigate, and for me to come up with the following list. This should serve as a good general guide, but you won’t see specific brands for the reasons above, and for the fact that I have no idea if they can sue me over that.  This is also not an all inclusive list as there are thousands of different drinks. If you are unsure of something, try to find a similar drink on the list to get clarity.

So now that we’ve discussed all the details, let’s take a look at how the different types of alcoholic beverages stack up against one another, starting with…

The Biggest Offenders:  Save for rare occasions

Super Sweet Mixed Cocktails: 

These are the drinks with tons of ingredients, tons of sugar, and a good amount of alcohol.  Think of the popular drinks at beach bars and asian restaurants. An average 9oz pina colada has about 500 calories and 64 grams of sugar, ouch!

Examples: mai tai’s; pina coladas; strawberry daiquiris; rum runners; scorpion bowls; punches, frozen margaritas, etc…

Mixed Drinks with Soda: 

As with anything involving soda, these drinks contain huge amounts of sugar.  The only reason they might be a slightly better option than the drinks above is because they’re not always gigantic.  

Examples: long island iced tea; moscow mule; gin and tonic; rum and coke; whiskey and ginger ale; vodka and sprite; tequila and san pellegrino(soda not seltzer water); or any other combination.

Mixed Drinks with Fruit Juice: 

Similar to the previous two categories, these drinks are a combination of lots of sugar and alcohol.  They get a slight edge over soda based drinks because the juice is typically more natural and might have less sugar.  Note – if the juice is fresh squeezed by the bar it will be a better option that juice from concentrate that is loaded with extra sugars.

Examples: sangrias; screwdrivers; vodka cranberries (or Cape Coddah’s as us New Englanders say); gin and juice (shout out Snoop); margaritas from sour mix; or any other combination.

Hard Lemonades/ Iced Tea’s

These are beer alternatives that are loaded with simple sugars.  Usually seen as summer or beach drinks.

Examples: all major hard lemonade and iced tea brands as well as similar malt beverages

Sweet Ciders:

Ciders keep getting more popular so there are a ton available now, and thus a huge range when it comes to sweetness.  Unlike most alcohol on this list, ciders have to list nutrition facts (weird I know) so you can usually see how much sugar is in them.  I consider these to be the ciders containing 10 grams/ serving or more (this will be most of them.). If you can’t find the sugar content, the sweeter it is, the more sugar it has.

Examples: Usually the more widely available brands; the ones that are labeled as ‘sweet’ rather than ‘dry’.

Heavy Beers: 

Sorry beer connoisseurs, but these are the types of beers that my beer drinking friends tell me are the best as they laugh at American-made light lagers.  These are usually higher carb, higher calorie, and it seems to me usually bigger (when did 16oz become the new 12)? They get a slight edge over the other drinks in this category, because they contain less simple sugars.  Quick side note – having celiac, I’ve noticed a ton of new gluten free beers of all varieties. I would categorize them exactly the same as far as fat loss goes. The heavier gluten free options belong in this category.

Examples: most IPA’s; most pale ales; most craft beers; usually beers that fill you up quickly.

Slightly Better Options:  Proceed with caution

Lighter Beers:

My self described “beer snob” friends just stopped reading.  These are the beers that appear lighter (easier to see through), taste lighter (more watery), and could possibly even be labeled as a ‘light’ beer (but not always).  These are the beers that are found in Super Bowl commercials and college campuses on a Friday night, as well as the ones readily available at most any bar you walk into here in the U.S.

Examples: most big name American lagers, especially those listed as ‘light’; the easiest to find Dutch, and Mexican lagers as well

Less Sweet Ciders:

These are less readily available than sweet ciders, but can usually be found at places that sell craft options.  Less than 10 grams of sugar/ serving. Slight edge over beers because they are not grain based.

Examples: usually listed as ‘dry’; more often craft than the big name brands

Sweet and Semi-Sweet Wines/ Champagne’s

These can be either red or white.  Their nutrition facts will rarely be listed so it makes categorizing them tougher.  Many will be labeled as ‘sweet’ or ‘semi-sweet’ and taste much sweeter because they contain sugars that haven’t been fermented into alcohol.  Cheaper wines also tend to have a higher sugar content to enhance the taste.

Examples: moscato; rosé; port; dessert wines; shiraz; zinfandel; grenache; non-brut champagnes; sweet rieslings; madeira

Classic Cocktails with Sweet Mixers

These include the classic drinks that contain a sugary mixer, but are predominantly alcohol.  You could say these are the drinks that contain only a “splash” of the mixer as opposed to some of the categories above.  These drinks tend to be strong as well and therefore take longer to drink.

Examples: cosmopolitans; old fashioneds; any fruity martini; bloody mary’s; “skinny” margaritas with lemon and lime juices

Spiked Seltzers

Similar to ciders, seltzers have gained a ton of popularity over the past decade and are required to list nutrition facts, making them easier to navigate.  Choose the options without added sugar. Most will have around 1-2g of carbs per can or bottle and are typically lower in calories compared to beers and ciders.

Examples: most major spiked seltzer brands

Classic Cocktails without Sweet Mixers

Same as above, without fruit juice or simple syrup/ sugar.

Examples: manhattans; dry martinis; dirty martinis

The best options:  These can still be overdone

Dry Wines

Wine makes its way into this category because it’s one of the only drinks on here in which people will argue its health benefits.  For the record, I won’t do that but the Mayo clinic will (click here).  Dry wines are the ones in which almost all if not all of the original sugars from the grapes have been fermented into alcohol.  These can be red or white and often will be listed as ‘dry’. More expensive wines typically have lower levels of residual sugars.  European wines tend to emphasize dryness as well.

Examples: merlot; cabernet sauvignon; pinot noir; chardonnay; sauvignon blanc; Italian pinot grigio; extra brut champagne

Spirits on the Rocks/ Mixed with Water

Any alcohol by itself or mixed with some type of water (plain/ seltzer/ soda water) will be one of your best options when it comes to maintaining fat loss and preventing fat gain.  These drinks are consumed slowly, in small amounts, and contain no sugar or carbs. Within this category, I’d say tequila(100% de agave) is the premium option because it is not grain based like most of the other spirits and it has the least impact on blood sugar.  Adding a squeeze of lemon or lime will add flavor without much of an impact on carb/ sugar content.

Examples: tequila(100% de agave); vodka; gin; rum; whiskey; scotch; bourbon

So that concludes my list.  I hope you can use this guide in some way to make informed decisions and keep you on track toward your goals.  And if you read this and came to the conclusion that you need to increase your drinking…RE-READ IT!!!!!!

Staying injury free after forty

“My back hurts. I need to take time off from the program.”

“I can’t run because of I have degenerative disc disease.”

“I have to put my membership on hold because I need to get an MRI.”

We built embody for these exact reasons, to help heal, and yet people want to put their membership on hold when they have pain. Should an injury create opportunity to revert to unhealthy habits. If your pain improves with wine and cheese while you watch Netflix, please let us know because we want to meet your doctor. We all want the same prescription.

As active fitness professionals finishing up our forty’s we have a unique perspective on living in pain. Personally we are never injury-free. A trip over an aggressive pine cone can lead to a knee injury which would derail most runners. A muscular imbalance that causes debilitating back pain might send most people to an MRI . How do we continue to train for our first 50 miler? We have the secret to feeling great in your forties and beyond.

You will get hurt.

The first moments, hours and days after an injury are important and what you do in that time can seriously impact the outcome. Keeping a sprained ankle totally immobile will absolutely prevent the sprain from getting worse. However, this will also likely lengthen the recovery period significantly. Ibuprofen, while decreasing the pain, will not allow you to know what a safe range of motion is for your injury.  If you can tolerate the pain, avoid the ibuprofen.   We are not fans of liberal pharmaceutical use, but take meds when it’s necessary.  But before we drive to a pharmacy we usually make an acupressure appointment for some much needed body work .

Pain is part of life.

Knowing the early warning signs of a strained muscle can be the difference between no injury and a MCL tear that sidelines you for weeks, months, or a lifetime. That little twinge when you go downstairs is something. Listen to your body. While the twinge is not likely serious, it is your advance warning signal that something is out of balance.

Understand the diagnosis.

A diagnosis is not a reason to get unhealthy. Most people over 40 have degenerative disc disease. If you start poking around with imaging you will find something. Understanding the source of pain is a reason to design a healing plan. Anything involving the spine is scary, and a disc disease sounds horrifying, but not moving will decondition your muscles, decrease your balance and increase the likelihood of a fall.


What you put into your body can greatly impact your outcome, as well. We have had, and seen many people with, significant injuries and one of the most important points to stress is nutrition. Eliminate inflammatory, increase anti-inflammatory foods. If you think that there is not connection, simply ask anyone who has followed an anti-inflammatory diet when injured. We are not sure why people think they can put a medicine into their bodies to be digested, metabolized and be delivered to an injury site in their bodies, but that foods would be handled differently.

Of course there will be an injury that requires rest, but pain or injuring yourself is not a reason to not get healthy. We have a unique perspective as wellness coaches completing our forties. Be an active participant in your recovery, and we guarantee the recovery goes faster. We are not special because we stayed fit in our forties.

“I hurt my knee. My physical therapist told me take time off from the program.” Statements like this are commonplace, and unfortunately, understandable. No one wants to be responsible for someone making an injury worse which could happen if you overexert an injury, even stretching it too far. So while, stretching and mild movement is great for an injury, there is too much room for misunderstanding and misinterpretation for a medical professional to give that advice. The safe answer is to rest and take ibuprofen. While this answer isn’t wrong, it’s not right.

Check in for guidance with a licensed professional and see if someone can explain what might be some safe movements for you to do instead of keeping the area immobile and stiff. Don’t limit your focus to just the injury because spot healing(intense focusing on managing the pain without focusing on the entire body) will just lead to more injuries. Heal the entire body with fitness, nutrition and restoration.

Sure there are some injuries, that usually involve broken bones, that require stability, but most muscles, ligaments or tendons would appreciate some TLC.

embody includes an intense restorative program for a reason. Take advantage of the embody 30 minute Stretch and Core Class. Enjoy a special Spa Yoga Class. Commit to balance with Tai Chi in the fall. Don’t miss a functional training session. Finally, food is medicine! Nothing heals like a healthy lifestyle.

Yours in health,

Anne and Nicole

Getting healthy after vacation

I just celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary. My husband and I are almost 50 years old and at our healthiest as a couple. We climbed two mountains over 8000 feet combined in less than 24 hours. In addition to our age and the fact, our marriage lasted, what makes this story interesting is our journey up to those mountains. My husband is recovering from a blood clot in his leg and I am living with lupus and MS. My husband was in the emergency three months ago(weighing 20 pounds more) and I am the middle of training for a 50-miler and haven’t missed a day of training.

How did we beat the odds? How did my husband lose 20 pounds in three months and recover from a serious medical condition? A healthy lifestyle. How do I maintain a 40-pound weight loss and manage chronic disease while training for a 50-miler? A healthy lifestyle. It is hard to stay motivated and vacation can derail anyone. I am sharing my plan to get back to my healthy lifestyle after vacation. I am not worried about the 5.8 pounds I gained on vacation because of my concrete plan to get back on track.

Define the vacation. The first thing I do is define the vacation. Is this a one-time vacation experience, or is the vacation an extension of my current lifestyle? Traveling for my 25th wedding anniversary is a one-time-only experience that I won’t get back unless I get divorced and remarried and even that will take another 25 years. If I was visiting our family’s summer house that would be a different vacation and plan.

Defining my vacation helps set the rules for my time off. A one-time vacation means I go off the plan completely. I had wine every night and ordered for the experience of trying different things. A family vacation is a recurring event that requires a minor deviation from the plan. I will have an extra night with wine and chocolate but stick with my healthy habits. I make most of the meals at home and order with a plan at a restaurant. I would not expect to gain 5.8 pounds in 5 days.

Go out with BANG! On the drive home, I started designing my post-vacation meal plan as I was finishing a package of Twizzlers and ordering pizza. It was important for me to have no regrets because I am was going hardcore the next morning.

Don’t let the last supper become a habit that is harder to break. I threw away the last piece of pizza the next morning. I don’t even know where that last Twizzler went. My last supper ended with no regrets and no do-overs.

Weigh-in with no judgment. It will be impossible to measure my healthy choices without understanding my starting point. I gained 5.8 pounds in 5 days. I loved that massive double-sided pecan turtle. I devoured my favorite pizza. The scale will not be a surprise at my next doctor’s appointment if I step on it today. I have learned to have a healthy relationship with the scale.

I am excited about my weigh-in next week! My weekly weigh-in will keep me on track after 8 pm. After 8 pm is the hardest time for me to stay motivated and without accountability, I will just start shopping for pajama jeans at 9:30 and grab some ice cream.

Don’t abandon the best parts of a vacation. I slept eleven hours the first night. I meditated two times a day. I spent hours unplugged. We go on vacation to reset our button and that is something that will only help maintain a healthy lifestyle.

I plan on adopting new healthy habits to continue managing my stress. Starting tomorrow I am eliminating any screen time while I eat for at least one week. I will continue meditating two times a day. I will add more daily vacations from life this summer by setting new fitness goals.

My commitment to restoration over the past year was key to a pain-free hike. I muscled through chronic knee pain for all my past hikes from the time I was eighteen. A big shout out to John my acupressurist. I have only missed one appointment in the past six months and that commitment paid off with my best performances on a mountain while training for my first 50-miler. I am pain-free thanks to a commitment to acupressure. I did not have a massage at the spa we stayed at but I can’t wait for my regular appointment with John.

My vacation was wonderful. I had time off from cooking and cleaning. I hiked over 8000 feet in two days which justified the homemade pasta with truffles for dinner. I am not sure it justified wine every night but years of disciplined eating did justify taking a break from my routine. My vacation would not have been possible without a healthy lifestyle.

I am excited for my hubby. I wouldn’t have been a great partner for my husband during his recovery if I did walk the talk. There is nothing more annoying than telling someone to eat healthy as you enjoy bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. We love cooking together and ran together for the first time in years.

I am sharing my reboot meal plan with the majority of the ingredients from the Farmers Market because a healthy lifestyle tastes delicious.