Eating & Emotions: the connection

After a full year of social distancing, physically isolating and completely changing our entire way of life and altering our norms, there is no doubt that one’s mental health and emotions are in question. Whether speaking in terms of emotions, depression, anxiety, nervousness and the feeling of the “unknown,” our mental wellbeing has changed over the past year. I say OUR, because I mean all of us:  we, us, our. We are all in this together and not a single person is immune to the emotions that come into play during an entire universal change. 

What I really want to talk about is the connection between our eating patterns and our emotion patterns. The question at stake really is:  Is, what we eat, connected to the emotions (or lack there of emotions) that we feel? 

The short answer is: YES, absolutely. No doubt. 

The long answer – is this entire blog. The truth of the matter is that the food we feed ourselves is the building blocks of our entire body. These building blocks (food/nutrients) of our body determines how we are built – not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Our bodies are built from the inside out; every tissue on the inside of your body is affected by what is put into it. From your gut health, to your hormone health, food and nutrients play a part in who you are. No doubt, your hormone health plays a part in your levels of energy, fatigue, emotions, sleep, feelings and many more aspects of your mental health. 

Furthermore, as I talk about hormone health – I am not just speaking about the women in their 20s,30s, 40s, 50s and beyond who experience body fluctuations. I am also speaking about how we feed our children, specifically our female children. Remember, what we put into our body is how our body is built. Thus, how we feed our female children from young ages is how their gut and hormone health is built. When I speak about the foods that help and harm our endocrine system, I am speaking about ALL AGES of well being here. I am very passionate about this!  (Note: Any moms about there who have gone through the hormonal challenges and wouldn’t wish that on their daughters —– this blog will hopefully be a resource of hope.) 

Over the recent decades, humans have referred to food as basic items of calories in, calories out. As food companies and factories have evolved, what we consume has literally become ITEMS that we should be embarrassed about: poptarts, granola bars, canned fruits, dried meats, frozen sandwiches, packaged burritos, frozen dinners in a box, rice cakes, pizzas from freezers, and so  many other processed items. Sadly, food isn’t the nutrient dense farm to table health options that our country used to have. And, the myth of calories in versus calories out isn’t fully accurate. It is more about macros-nutrient calorie categories in (more about that later.) 

Food has become more about convenience and cravings more than it has become about the health factor. Back to the idea of your body being built from the inside out and every tissue being affected. When we fail to provide our bodies the healthy and nutrient dense calories it needs, we are building a foundation more susceptible to disease. Most commonly, food related disease will manifest itself as obesity, diabetes, heart conditions, liver disease or many others. Less spoken about, and often debated about, food related disease can and will manifest as mental problems, depression, anxiety, nervousness. These are overall wellness diseases that are taking place in today’s society, and have a dramatic impact on the wellbeing of our bodies, our families, our relationships.  These are also diseases that overlap each other in many cases. I, myself, have felt obese and depression together all at once:

The part that is severely overlooked is how eating and emotions are related. While the way you eat will not cure and entirely prevent diseases, the nutrients that you put into your body can and will build a better, healthier foundation of cells and tissues within your body. You can, and will, determine your gut health and your hormone health based on what you put into your body.  But on the flip side, the bad junk you put into your body will feed these diseases.  What you DECIDE to eat is your decision to either feed your health or feed your UNHEALTH.

Let’s get started and talk about the eating styles that trigger poor emotions. The most important word we can talk about is “processed.” Highly processed foods do not carry the nutrient dense calories that your body needs to maintain healthy gut and healthy hormones. In terms of proteins and meats, extremely processed meats such as hot dogs, high sodium sandwich meats, pre-packaged/frozen sandwiches, extremely packaged/boxed burger patties and burritos will not serve your body well. Frozen dinners such as boxed lasagna or pizza will provide your body with more artificial ingredients, added sweeteners, sodium rich additives than they will provide healthy nutrients. When it comes to canned foods – while convenient and possibly a last resort when the produce section is running low – canned fruits/veggies will wreak havoc on your gut and hormone health with the preservatives, additives, and sodium, not to mention the dyes and sweeteners. Choosing the fresher, locally sourced produce that has recently arrived at your store will be your better option. Your fast convenient “protein” or “granola” bars are likely to provide more artificial or added sugars rather than finding true protein or true carbohydrate options. Even when marked gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, keto, and packaged in the most beautiful of packages, these items are carrying ingredients and additives that will destroy your gut health and hormone health.  Digging deeper into the idea of choosing healthy carbs, your “grains” that companies are advertising could possibly be the culprit of inflammation and pain, which contributes to frustrations and depressions. It is all linked together! I cannot say this enough. Choosing a whole, non-processed grain such as quinoa, rice or barley will be a better option than a bag of bread or box of snacks labeled “whole grain.” If you cannot literally see the “WHOLE GRAIN” as you are preparing your food, that label simply means that they began the process with the whole grain. It doesn’t mean you are taking in the whole grain.  It surely doesn’t mean that you are reaping the benefits of the whole grain. Without needing to really mention it, alcohol and sugary beverages are also huge depressants that contribute to the unhealthy wellbeing of the human body and hormones; avoiding them will absolutely help.  I know it feels like we just eliminated the entire aisle section of the grocery store in one store. Probably true.  But, it will do your health, your body, and longevity of your life a favor.

The processed items within these foods, that you mainly do find in the dry food sections of grocery stores, will completely throw off and confuse your endocrine system to the point that your body cannot maintain a natural flow or natural balance of hormones. When your body cannot maintain this natural balance of hormones, everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) is off balance. From sleep, to energy, to happiness to sadness, to smiling to crying, to extreme moodswings – EVERYTHING is thrown off. 

Now that we have talked about the eating styles that trigger the emotions and imbalance, shall we point out some ways in which we can elevate our emotions and elevate our wellbeing?  As I have said, the presence of nutrient dense foods will help not only improve our eating habits, but also improve our emotional habits and overall health.  I know it feels obvious to simply point out that staying hydrated and eating fruits, vegetables, proteins will help. That’s something that we all know. But sometimes it is a matter of HOW to eat these properly to maintain a healthy balance in our body. We need a healthy balance of our nutrients – specifically our macro nutrients.  It is about taking your macros, from these fruits/veg/proteins/fats and turning them into healthy options in your kitchen, in your meals, on your plate.

While I am not going to get into the science of the macronutrients, (I teach that in my nutrition workshops) I will say that by balancing your macros, you will be able to regulate your body better. From your body fluids within the gut, organs, digestion, body temperature to your energy flow, your mood, sleep and more you feel more regulated from the inside out.  You emotions will feel better.

With your three macronutrients being carbs, proteins, and fat, it is very important to NOT eliminate a macro group. Many such as Atkins tell you to reduce/cut carbs. Other diets like keto tell you to go high fat, high protein. Eliminating calories = eliminating nutrients. Eliminating nutrients = imbalance in macro nutrients = imbalance in your body = imbalance in your hormones. (that’s a topic all on its own.) 

Really though, speaking of the HOW to eat your macros will be the main focus of balancing them. 40% of your calories come from carbs via fruits, vegetables, grains. 30% of your calories come from fats via avocado, seeds, nuts, coconut, cream, cheese. 30% of your calories come from proteins via meat or plant based protein. Maintaining a balance for 90+ days will help build and regular your body from the inside out. 

Now that we have spoken a lot about how eating is connected to our emotions, let me finish this off with a list of the top food items for each macronutrient category that will help you eat natural, locally sourced foods rather than processed foods that destroy your mental health. While you can follow this list on your very own and get creative inmeals, I still HIGHLY suggest a nutrition program with a solid meal plan that brings this all together for you. Need help with that – just let me know, I have got the resources for you.

Happy eating & happy emotions! 

365 Days of Digital Days — losing motivation, enforcing discipline

A year ago this weekend I showed up to the virtual Canyonlands Half Marathon as best dressed…. Well, in my opinion, best dressed. Even in the worst of situations, I do try to be the most energetic, funniest person around. I wore my rainbow socks, bright red running skirt, a “longest beer run ever” shirt and St. Patrick’s day themed headband (not in the photo as I ran). I ran 13.1 miles in the Moab area with others who, like myself, were in denial that the world was shutting down. Who the heck knew that was literally about to be… the longest beer run EVER! 

Just a few days later, on March 17th I wore the exact same outfit to teach my 90 minute spin class at the gym dressed as St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun. Upon arrival, I was informed I’d need to sanitize the bikes/room and yoga studio, and the gym was closing. Caution tape was put up and by noon that day we all excited that particular gym. A year later – I have yet to return to that full gym and they have not resumed group fitness classes. What we thought was a two week closure has officially reached 365 days!  (But, we are celebrating those 365 days of digital discipline, no doubt).

What you have to know about me is the pre-covid days, I taught 24 group fitness classes a week, did private sessions, and coached just a handful of people on the internet. Classes were my pride and joy. Creating choreography and music lists were my biggest hobbies; and seeing participants in my class thrive with the music/choreography together brought energy to my day like no other. 

The first two weeks after the closures were extremely depressing to me. I stayed home pretty much from March 17 until the first part of April. I didn’t see another person, other than my husband for 6 weeks!!! I felt depressed at some moments, a little bit anxious at other moments, and extremely over ambitious at most moments of my day. The “overly ambitious” moments really became a coverup about how I really felt about the world and the new season of “digital days.”  Before I knew it, I was installing a barre into my workout room (don’t confuse barre with bar – we installed a BARRE), pulling out my spin bike, and arranging the lighting for teaching DIGITAL classes.

As you can imagine – it wasn’t long before in my overly ambitious moments, I got the ideas to start teaching digital fitness, digital nutrition, digital cooking classes. From teaching the science of macros & hormones to teaching sweaty workouts, to cooking classes, I brought as much positive energy as I could to the screen. I just felt like that is what the world needed – a little bit of positive energy, with a splash of digital discipline.

Okay, that was a really long anecdote to bring you to the point of my 365 days of losing motivation, only to find DISCIPLINE. If you made it that far through the story, you can imagine that in March/April time, I was fighting depression/anxiety, but it was totally masked by ambition. Through my super sporadic moments of ambition, I did start to find the important, key piece of my own health for the year, as well as the healthy of others: discipline

With having zero races on the agenda, the motivation to train, run, cycle, and lift was lost. Out the window, gone, none. I didn’t need or have my typical 6am wake up time to workout and then head to my classes. I didn’t have my typical run groups to chat with.  Discipline found its way into my schedule, into my mind, into my agenda. And, wow, am I glad that the discipline popped in uninvited. 

What I learned is that if you allow discipline to make its way into your agenda for long enough (3-4 weeks) that discipline transitions into consistency. And consistency transitions into commitments. And following through with commitment becomes victory and pride.  

While I don’t have the best of answers to remain disciplined and committed to your health, I can try to give you a short list to get started: 

  1. Welcome discipline into your home, into your agenda, into your exercise area, into your fridge and meal prep areas. Welcome discipline wherever you need it most. 
  2. Face discipline face-first at least 5x per week. If you can follow through with the discipline to be active, eat right, hydrate well, sleep decently for at least 5 days a week, you will get 20+ days/month. That gives you 2 days a week to freestyle it, but 5x to face discipline. 
  3. Be consistent. If you are consistent in one area one day, be equally as consistent in that area the next day.  Don’t use the productivity of the prior day as an excuse to slack on that area the next day. (Example: if you exercise on Monday, come Tuesday don’t tell yourself “but I exercised yesterday, I can slack today.”) That is not discipline or consistency. Choose consistency in your exercise, your eating, and your mindset. 
  4. Be committed. If you have learned anything in this past year, it’s that commitment to your own health and commitment to the health of others around you can and will save others. It will prevent health scares, illness, and create longevity in the lives of others. 
  5. Take pride in yourself. Embrace and celebrate the victories. When I say take pride in yourself, I mean – value your health, your wellness, take pride in being the best healthiest version of you that you can be. Be proud of the discipline you instill in yourself. 

As you follow this list, I’d LOVE to hear about your successes and how you are feeling from day 1 to day 365. Remember, the days will feel long, but darn are the years short. Make the best of each and every year. As you work on these days of discipline, be sure to post, share, tag me, and celebrate every victory along the way.

The Snack Pack!

The infamous question: What’s In Your Pack?  I get this question a lot. For example, when I hike 8-10 hour, or a long day of biking, or my 50 miles. The common question is: What do you eat?

So, let me tell you all about what I eat and my idea of food in my “snack pack.”

First of all, anytime that I talk about food, I talk about what food does for our bodies. Food isn’t meant to just be a filler in our day. It isn’t meant to just make us feel good temporarily until the next meal. It isn’t meant to just “hold us over.”   Food has a function. Food is meant to fuel our body, to help our cells properly recover, to help us feel amazing and energized from the inside out.  These concepts stand true for meals and snacks alike. 

Thus, in this blog post, I want to touch on some of my SNACK PACK SUCCESS and what you may find useful to navigate your own SNACK PACK.  While this particular blog post will not go into the science, macros and/or calories of the snack pack, you are encouraged to explore more about macronutrients on my website and in workshops at

Since we are talking about snacks, let me start by stating that snacks should provide a balance of your macro groups as they aren’t meant to be “empty calories” such as junk food. That is why you won’t find snacks in this blog such as chips or candy, just real food. As long as your snack is real food, it has a function. A snack is intended to provide nutrition to your body between meals, time on the trails, or fuel you for a long day, and to suppress cravings.  Each of the foods mentioned is my own recipe and can be made in a small kitchen in a small amount of time. The recipes can be previewed in my cookbook “Recipes for Results.”

When I mention, the SNACK PACK SUCCESS – I am aiming to help the busy humans of all walks of lives. Whether you are literally packing a pack for a day on the trails, on your mountain bike, exploring ski slopes OR you are a nurse with a 12 hour shift, a mom a 5 playing taxi drive between events, or a teacher who runs between the classroom and bathroom between classes, this is for everyone. This SNACK PACK SUCCESS can be utilized in so many variety of ways. 

Let’s talk about the SNACK PACK as trail food. As you know,  I consider myself to be an endurance athlete, and many of my readers are endurance athletes as well. Therefore I would like to take a brief moment to talk about what we eat on the go, on the trail, and what we keep in our pack for real food, real fuel.  When I refer to trail food in this blog or any of my books, I am referring to the snacks that will properly fuel your body for performance during hiking, biking, running, or any other endurance activities. The main two trail foods I use frequently are my “waffles for wellness” recipe from the breakfast section of my cookbook and “Heather’s Homemade Gel” from the snack section.  With those two being my favorite, I also use the “energy bite” recipes from the snack section. 

The waffles and peanut butter gel fit really nicely in a day pack. Furthermore, I also use the homemade granola bars and DIY larabar bites in my running pack. I would suggest these if you are looking for trail food that you can make yourself and have less waste.  Oh, and, how cheap they are to make is just a bonus!  

For references back to the recipes for each of the foods mentioned, you may consider exploring my “Recipes for Results” cookbook on Amazon and/or Kindle. You can also preview it on my website.