cloudsI studied psychology in college (hello, major number one!) for three semesters.  It was interesting, and I did well in my classes, but it wasn’t quite right for a career path.  However, studying critical thinking, motivation, personality and social attachment for a year and half planted some important idea seeds for me.  Here are a few that I hope help you in your attempt to get your head on straight about your own fitness and health:

  1. Conventional wisdom is so often wrong.  Just because you’ve heard it (or read it on the Internet) doesn’t make it true.  Some sources are better than others and there is SO MUCH INFORMATION out there about what to do/eat/etc that I find most people coming to me, don’t know where to start.
  2. Action comes before motivation.  In the brain, you literally create and strengthen new neural pathways by taking action.  You also have the power to stop bad habits in their tracks AND CREATE LASTING GOOD ONES by utilizing my two other favorite neurology truths.  Ask me about them!
  3. Personality counts.  No two people keep themselves healthy by doing the exact same things.  How do YOU gain the most energy?  What makes YOU happy?  Knowing who you are and taking into account your life situation and current resources are paramount.
  4. You need other people.  Even if you are more introverted than extroverted, you’ll benefit so much by drawing on and acting on the wisdom of true expertise AND having friends/loved ones/your tribe to cheer you on.  It’s much easier to overcome unhealthy habits and create better ones with a tribe lifting you up.  This was KEY for me personally in creating long lasting healthy eating habits.

Want to know more about how to create space in your brain and your life for positive change?  I love helping others find what works for them in a supportive, real, fun and uplifting way.  Reach out to me at or call me at (408) 827-8440.

[Photo: Sunrise, San Jose, CA]

There’s a difference between achieving your health goals and falling short.  No matter your current state of fitness, you can utilize these three elements to improve your individual recipe for success.

The ingredients build on one another and work in tandem to actuate positive change:

  1. Context – Your plan must take into consideration your unique personality, physical environment, resources, and life situation.
  2. Cstjoesommitment – You need dedication to see through your goal to the end.  If you allow yourself to give up, you won’t achieve what you set out to.
  3. Consistency – Out of the commitment comes the action that, over time, leads to success.

What works for you?  That’s context.  Match your temperament and circumstances to your activities.  If you super extroverted and love the outdoors, try a biking, running or walking Meetup or join a community sport league or team.  Bring your family and friends to the gym.  If you’re more of a one-on-one or solo interaction kind of person, work with a trainer or find a workout on your Apple TV that you can do at home.

Can you own it?  Is is something you can dedicate or re-dedicate to with intention?  Are you committed in your mind to staying the course with some flexibility?  Do you have a backup plan for when your hike gets rained out or you don’t feel like being active?  Sometimes you do have to push your plan forward to stick with it.

Can you keep doing it?  Is it too much exercise?  Too little fuel?  Too taxing for your current work and life schedule?  Can you find the motivation to do it over and over again?  The health of your mind and body are a sum of the time and effort invested.  It’s not enough to do the right thing once.  You’ve got to do it over and over again to sustain your healthy behaviors.  Stick with positive changes and eventually they become habits.

Anyone can use these three ingredients to master their health!  If you’ve tried in the past and stopped short of your goal, go back to the quality of your ingredients.  Did you respect context?  Did you dedicate yourself to the goal?  Were you relentless in your pursuit of it day after day?

 [Photo: St. Joseph’s Hill summit; Los Gatos, CA]

The Intensity of Adjustment and the Case for Letting Ourselves Change…Slowly

PushupsLife = change.  I’ve just been through the most dramatic shift of my life, which at present, is bringing a new baby into the world.  My son is a few months old now, and I’m presently returning to my work as an independent fit lifestyle consultant.

I may be a subject matter expert when it comes to health, fitness and behavior change, but even the adjustments that come with pregnancy never could have prepared me for what was to come.  The magic and exhaustion that are caring for new life hit me hard, especially since the baby wasn’t (and still isn’t) keen on sleeping very far away from his mama.  I’ve worked closely with pre-and-postnatal moms since it became my specialty in college, but nothing could have prepared me for the constantly fragmented sleep and hundred percent shift in focus from anything and everything I’d been doing pre-birth to baby care tunnel vision.  How I’ve functioned so highly for so long given basically no sleep must be some kind of mom miracle.  It is an awesome adaptation and let me tell you, what moms do for their children every minute of every day is nothing short of miraculous.  The first steps, pregnancy and birth, are easy.  It’s the utterly jarring lifestyle change afterward that hit me personally like many tons of bricks.

Is that what it can feel like to attempt a healthy lifestyle shift?  Over the years, I’ve observed so many people in their first steps to healthy change.  Oftentimes, people want to instantly be healthier or skinnier or look like they used to before.  There’s a deep emotional motivation we have for looking good and in turn, feeling good.  This is especially true for American culture, in which a polished and even flawless outward appearance is prized above other, arguably worthier pursuits.  What happens when this deep desire meets a sudden realization that one is NOT where one wants to be health or looks wise?  We want to push a button or snap our fingers for that immediate result, and we can’t possibly have that, so we mentally and emotionally “flip the switch” and over-commit to change.  We’ve all seen this over-commitment happen every January.  The motivation is truly there, but it’s only temporary.  Real, sustained change takes time and consistent effort…and the ability to understand that the change can only be sustained by consistent commitment.  Otherwise, most of us are beyond our human capacity to adjust and we set ourselves up to fail.  Over-commitment feels good in the moment because it meets the emotional need for some kind of change that we know we need.  But like a marriage entered into without due consideration, it’s not sustainable.

How can we set ourselves up for success?  Adjust the intensity of any health behavior change to a level truly do-able for you.  Take it one step at a time, and maintain flexibility along with your consistency.  I know that can be challenging for those of us who want the instantaneous result (hello, fellow type-A, driven to achieve personalities), but it’s worth it in time to ease into a healthier lifestyle.  The shock of intense change is rarely effective.

So if you’ve started once or twice or twenty times to work toward a health goal and stopped, ask yourself why it didn’t work before.  It may be because it was just too intense given your temperament or life circumstances.  Maybe you need more resources to achieve your goal, like expert help and social support.  Innovation is social by nature and we need each other to recognize and defy negative behavior patterns and create newness.

No better example of this than bringing new life into the world.  No matter the exact circumstances, we need each other for the creation and sustenance of new life.  The same is true for new, healthier, happier life within us.

[Photo: Baby does pushups! @ the home “gym”, CA]



The Truth About Weight, Genetics, and Intensity

sunsetThat guy you know from work lost forty pounds in three months by swearing off carbs.  Your spouse dropped four inches from their waist after walking three miles a day for three months.  Your best friend went vegan for three months and seemingly effortlessly melted into the best shape of their life.  But when you try to do what they did for three months, you don’t lose fat.  What gives?

It turns out that genes can have a dramatic effect on the outcome of your efforts.

Unsurprisingly, most people respond to higher intensity exercise (88%) versus a lucky 12% who will be able to lose fat and manage their weight with lower to moderate intensity work.  On the diet side, there seems to be a more even split: about half of people lose fat on a lower carb diet, while the other half responds to low fat eating.

This explains not only why so many people spend hours in the gym and get no tangible results.  Most people cannot rely on a thirty minute, steady pace elliptical workout to create change in their bodies beyond a week or two.  It’s just not intense enough.  Moreover, modes like weight training (with heavy-enough resistance) and Crossfit can deliver results because they have an inherent higher intensity that has the power to produce those results.

The caveat is, however, is that most people should NOT start with a high intensity workout.  To progress in your weight loss as well as overall fitness, you need to dedicate plenty of program time to tissue quality, mobility and stability.  Otherwise, you may be losing weight, but your high intensity moves will only be exacerbating your weaknesses further and pre-disposing you to poor structure and function as well as injury.

Do yourself a favor and work with a knowledgeable trainer who can help you shore up your weaknesses and heal imbalances on the front end.  You’ll avoid pain and injury and feel good in your body.  Then, you can build your workout intensity and continue progressing in your weight management goals.

[Photo: Beach sunset, Santa Cruz, CA]

Why Recovery Is Essential

The Narrows @ Zion

Why do over 90% of people fail when they attempt to get in shape for the first time?

  • They don’t know what they need to do to get results.
  • They think they’ll lose thirty pounds in January.
  • They promise to work out every day.
  • They drastically change what they eat.
  • The list always goes on.

It’s incredibly easy (and normal, by the way!) to align with this way of thinking.  These mindsets are a parade of unrealistic expectations, which we’ve discussed before at length and they are ingrained in our culture.

But what HUGE additional factor is easy to overlook?

  1. Stress.
  2. New routines are stressful.
  3. Stress is cumulative.

It’s a very American response to stress to go harder when we experience it, and to push further when we’re exhausted.  Ever hear the maxim, “no pain, no gain”?  I see this work-until-you-drop, no-off-switch, Silicon Valley MO in the corporate environment literally every day.  Personally, I am moving out of one of these non-stop work cycles right now.  They are so common that one of my newer clients told me earlier this week: “Nicholle, I can’t remember a day when I was NOT tired.”  This is not the first, or twentieth, time I have heard this during a client interview.

This leads me to believe that many people are already operating on less than a full tank when they begin a fitness program.  Chances are, if you’re already tired, you’ll de-motivate quickly — even when you know that changing your health habits is the best choice for you.  There’s a better way!

Here are some ideas that can help you maintain balance between motion and rest — BEFORE jumping full tilt into a new routine:

  1. Stop working.  Make a commitment to yourself to take at least one day of the week for complete physical and mental rest.  Two may be ideal based on your schedule and ideal workout program (the latter of which I highly recommend determining alongside a qualified fitness professional).
  2. Stand and move more.  In addition to day(s) of rest/light activity, take regular breaks throughout the day from sitting, which can be extremely stressful for the body (and in turn, the mind).  Your body was not meant to sit, and it literally needs to recover from sitting!  Try to move at LEAST five minutes for every hour, and moving every 20-30 minutes is even better.
  3. Sleep!  Adequate sleep is ridiculously underrated in our culture.  It’s a badge of honor to survive (and supposedly thrive) on four hours or less.  According to my physician, most of us need 7-9 hours to function optimally.  Dedicate a few extra minutes each night to turning in earlier to begin building it as your “new normal”.  It will take some time and be worth every minute in improved energy, health and performance.

Apply these consistently, and you’ll have a much higher chance of success in achieving your goal and maintaining your best health for life.

[Photo: The Narrows @ Zion National Park; Springdale, UT]

Listen To Your Intuitive Sense of Hunger

Babies naturally have an accurate sense of when they’re hungry and when they’re not.  As we grow up, when does our ability to eat for the right reasons soften? And why?  So much of our tahoeblueeating behavior — IF done mindlessly — is dictated by our environment, culture, and society:

1) Nonstop work and activity. In American culture, a leisurely meal does not happen by default. Those who work outside the home are pretty much at the mercy of their workplace schedule.  Family life, including mealtime, can be dictated by the kids. Our culture values convenience over spending time on food prep and cooking, and fast food is often laden with high levels of sugar, salt, and fat.

2) Never-ending availability of cheap, palatable food. Not long ago with regards to evolution, food supply was scarce.  This is not so today.  We can eat whenever and whatever we think we want.  Even office supply stores have soda, candy, and junk food in highly visible spots.

3) Marketing and advertising messages to eat, eat, eat all the time.  These also play on our natural inclination to eat when there is food around.  These are signals that make us think we want to eat when oftentimes we truly aren’t hungry and don’t need to eat.

How can you work around these obstacles?  Re-train yourself to eat intuitively: that is, listen and observe your body’s hunger signals and respond properly to them, just as you did when you were a baby.  Mentally, you can approach eating with the idea that when your hunger is a 7 out of 10, you should eat. When your satisfaction is a 7 out of 10, stop.

Practically for starters, have balanced snacks on hand, and when you’re truly hungry between meals, eat one!  Raw and/or unsalted nuts could be a healthy choice, and it only takes a true portion – about 20 almonds, for example – to satiate hunger.  If you have a work fridge, you can stash string cheese or low-sugar yogurt and fruit.  For any snack, eat a portion and wait 20 minutes.  If you’re still hungry, i.e. not at a 7 out of 10 level of satiety, eat another portion and repeat.  The same principle is true for meals: take less of each food than you think you might need, eat it slowly, and re-assess your hunger after 20 minutes have passed.  Most of the time, you’ll be satisfied with what you’ve had (registering between a 7-9 satisfaction level if you stop at 7) and won’t truly need more.
Using that approach will help you be less inclined to buy and consume the ubiquitous junk food, and you’ll be less responsive to external cues telling you to eat.  The most salient example is the commercial, created by corporations whose only interest is to get you to buy, with no thought of how it could affect your health.

The 7/10 tactic has a positive effect on your health in a couple of important ways. First, you eat less food overall, and thus buy less. This is because there’s more food for days to come, and next time you shop for groceries, you won’t need as much. In the long-term, eating more healthfully not only gives you the opportunity to save and do more with the money you would’ve otherwise spent, but also arguably saves you from paying more in health care costs down the road.  It saves you money now AND later, enhancing financial health along with benefiting your physical health.  All the payoff starts with mindfulness.

[Photo: Flume Trail, Lake Tahoe, NV]

The Mindset Mistake Most People Make

Have you experienced frustration when trying to get healthier, lose weight, and gain strength?  If you say yes, you’re telling the truth!  On bad days, thatwilder frustration can tempt you to stay inactive.  On worse days, you may feel hopeless and want to give up entirely.
What’s at the heart of the struggle?  What separates people who are successful in reaching their goals and those who give up?
I’ve found time and time again that it comes down to mindset.
Humans are creatures of habit, and we often think of habit exclusively as things we DO.  But the doing starts with thinking, and we may not even be aware of the reflexive thoughts and assumptions that are holding us back from reaching our optimal health.


These unrealistic expectations, aka “failure mindset” are poison to your health and goals.


What the failure mindset looks like:
  • Wanting the 6-12 month result NOW
  • Not accepting obstacles and missteps as a given, and not having a contigency plan
  • not having a plan for fuel opportunities (meal/snack times and social gatherings; EG deciding ahead of time when you will and won’t splurge on a treat)
  • thinking “on the ‘Biggest Loser’ show, contestants drop double digit pounds a week so I should be able to” (sadly, almost ALL former contestants gain some, all or more of their weight back)
Unrealistic expectations look like:
  • going to the gym for a week or two then quitting when you don’t see an immediate difference (this happens en masse every January)
  • making an unplanned unhealthy food choice and saying “I screwed up so screw it” for the rest of the day/week/month
  • by the same token, an “all-or-nothing” mindset.  Work out 5 days a week or none; never eat sugar again or eat way too much of it; be either thin or fat, healthy or unhealthy.  Neither approach is sustainable.
The biggest danger of unrealistic expectations is that they set you up for failure by robbing you of the very consistency needed for great results.  Save yourself from the failure mindset with honest awareness.
Here’s what to expect on the way to your goal:
  • A marathon, not a sprint.  Good health is for life, not just 2 weeks or months or years from now.  It takes time to develop the mindset and the lasting healthy habits that follow.
  • Freeing yourself from the scale.  A scale is but a few pixels of an entire picture.  It’s a tool that can show some progress, but blood work results, energy level, body composition (lean vs. fat mass) and movement quality are all fitness components MUCH more important than that number.
  • Mis-steps happen.  A mis-step is simply an unplanned detour from the path to your goal(s).  Everybody has different ones depending on what the goal is.  If your goal is to eat greens every day of the week, and you miss six days, figure out where it went wrong; typically either your goal is unrealistic, or you’ve missed some opportunities (EG you were busy and didn’t have time to go to the market and buy arugula or what you had went bad).  The antidote is to decide on and implement a plan.  How can you improve next time?  What will you do to improve next time?
  • It’s uncomfortable.  Getting back in shape isn’t without discomfort, and not just the physical aspect.  You’re becoming more aware of your body, but you’re not yet where you want to be health-wise, and that’s an uncomfortable space to live in.  It won’t be sunshine every day, and you’ll have good days, worse days, and best days.  When it feels like it sucks, you’ll recognize that it’s part of the process and free yourself to keep going toward success.   
I want you to treat yourself kindly when you make choices out of line with your goals…and then get right back up and take control of your health!
Do couple of stretches, a few pushups, or take a mindful deep breath.  A small action re-orients your path.  Call a supportive friend or text your trainer.  Drink water.  Eat a vegetable at your next meal.  Figure out a healthy behavior that you can do, do it, and feel better.
Be honest.  Be present.  The most important moment of your life is the very next moment.  Be in that moment and turn toward what you really want.

What’s Your Soul Food?

The landscape used to look very different in America.  Prior to WWI, most citizens were farmers, working and eating from the land.  Farm-to-table wasn’t a hipster movement but an actual way of life.rockyridge

When I was little, I was only allowed to eat real food for the first few years, albeit a slice of birthday cake here and there.  As I got older, fast food became more ubiquitous because of convenience and the fact that it tasted good, so everyone in the family would eat it.

As a result of the Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, pizza, and Chinese food, I got lazy.  I barely knew how to cook when I left college, and when I moved to CA I was mostly surviving on frozen food from Trader Joe’s.  Thankfully, then-boyfriend-now-husband taught me the basics of cooking, and after a few months we were regularly making dinner together.

I’ve never felt better than when I make dinner every night: fresh veggies, something with healthy fat and protein, green salad, and complex carbs.  A serving of each seems to be in perfect balance with whatever my body needs.  When I get away from that, my energy and well-being suffer.

Food is truly natural, un-processed, and has few ingredients.  Non-food is processed, probably comes in a bag or box, and may have six ingredients or sixty.  Just because something is edible doesn’t make it food.  Just because you grew up eating something, doesn’t make it food.  Just because it tastes good, doesn’t make it food.  Check your habits at the door and question everything you think you know about food and eating.  When you open your thought process, rather than chasing the latest “diet”, you’ll be able to make the choices that are best for your health and your well-being: true soul food.

I like the 80/20 guide: eighty percent of the time, eat fresh things (food) that originally came from the ground, not a factory.  The other twenty percent of the time, enjoy stuff you like that’s fast, processed (non-food) and/or not the healthiest choice.  Not 80 percent salad, though.  Change it up regularly so you and your taste buds don’t get bored.  (Plus 20 percent for whatever your cupcake equivalent is!)

Pro tip # 2: add three fresh vegetables (two green) and two fresh fruits to your daily eating.  Have fun with it by looking up healthy, delicious recipes that use in-season, thus more affordable veggies.   Simply planning more and adding produce will have you well on your way to higher-nutrient eating and more energy to live life and meet your goals.

[Photo: Santa Teresa State Park, San Jose, CA]

How Will You Fare Downstream?

Many of us give our future selves the shaft on a regular basis. We spend money we don’t have, eat sugar we don’t need, and procrastinate to the point that stress is inevitable.

We’re human. How can we manage to change our behavior for the better whemultnomahfallsn our best intentions don’t match what we do?  This: Be proactive. Start thinking upstream.

In business, “upstream” refers to the process of searching for and procuring raw materials. For our purposes, upstream behaviors encompass gathering all of the tools and support needed to be successful in making healthy changes.

First, ask yourself: what is the specific behavior that you want to do?  “Eating healthier” is a good goal but the target is too broad.  Start with one behavior, like eating one serving of greens per day, or drinking a glass of water when you wake up.  Then break it down: what resources do YOU need to make that behavior happen?

The answer to that question is driven principally by two things: motivation and ability*:

Here’s how to approach each one to maximize your success:


  • Prepare your mind.  Create a mental picture of how you’ll look and feel when you reach your goal.  Alternatively, consider what not taking action will lead to in a month, six months, a year, and down the road.
  • Get social support.  Enlist as many people as possible to champion your efforts, especially those closest to you.  Reach out to them for encouragement when you need it.  Ask them to remind you why you’re doing this.
  • Be accountable and reward yourself.  Track activity with an app or paper log to see progress.  For every X number of workouts completed, put $5-10 aside for a treat like massage, mani/pedi, or new fitness gear.


  • Try something new to build knowledge, experience, and confidence.  Go to a group fitness class that’s new for you.  Try strength training, or rock climbing, or a challenging hike.  Attend a healthy eating or stress management talk, or read a related book or reputable source online.
  • Get professional coaching.  An effective trainer is worth their weight in gold and more.  A good trainer can help you reach your short-term goal, and a great trainer will teach you everything you need to know to stay as healthy as possible over the long-term.
  • Set up an environment for success.  Make it easy to eat healthfully and work out.  Set a calendar alert to remind you to drink water or try a salad for lunch.  Block off time for a workout.  Make it harder to eat unhealthful food by not buying it at all or hiding it behind something that’s better for you.  Plan to only eat dessert twice a week, and do so away from home.

The more sources of influence you incorporate, the higher your chance of success in completing your goal.  Addressing at least 4 of these thoroughly “upstream” has been proven to boost your future (“downstream”) achievement.

Keep these guidelines close and figure out what’s going to work for you by trying different things.  Will writing out your plan work for you?  How much flexibility and professional support will you need?  Stay curious and be persistent.

What do you need to do now in order to reach your goal downstream?

[Photo: Multnomah Falls on a foggy day outside of Portland, OR]

*For further reading: Change Anything.

How to Motivate Yourself Without Fail

sunsetI love working out.  Breaking a sweat makes me feel amazing and strong.  I feel good, look good, sleep deeply, and keep stress at bay.  If there was a magic pill for health, it would be wholesome food and regular exercise, and fitness in my life is as automatic as taking a daily dose.  I help other people figure out how to make it a successful habit in their lives, so they can thrive in our rapidly advancing world and feel full of vitality, too.  It’s a thrill to partner with someone and help take the burden of modern healthy living from them.

That said, success takes two.  There’s a key difference between who I will work with, and who I won’t work with.  But first, I want to ask you this:

Which comes first, action or motivation?

Most people say it’s motivation.  First get motivated, then act.

TRAINER NEWSFLASH: You’ll be waiting a while, because ACTION is what motivates.

And now is the time to act.  If not now, it won’t happen.  It hasn’t happened.  If not now, then when?

The absolute best way to motivate yourself is to do something.  Go for a walk.  Join a gym.  Take a deep breath and step on the doctor’s scale.  Hire a trainer.  Set a goal and get as many people as possible to cheer you on.  Invest in yourself and you will not let yourself down.

I’ve heard it over and over again: “I’m just not motivated.  It’s too much effort, too much time, too much hassle, too much work.  I don’t know what to do.”  On and on.  Sound familiar?  When you tell yourself these things, you ensure that you’ll never be motivated because you’re talking yourself out of action.  Find your why and you WILL take action.

You’re tired of thinking about it, and you’re tired of talking about it.  Let’s do it!  It’s my joy and privilege to work with those who take action to improve their health and well-being.  You can reach out with questions by emailing me at

The sun is down on 2014, and it’s a new year with new energy!  Cheers to your vitality in 2015 and beyond.

[Photo: Sunset en route to the Golden Isles, Georgia]