Meet Andria

Dear Reader;

Sometimes, in life, you run across someone who inspires you.  My blog subject for today’s blog is just such a person.  She has transformed her life and her body with hard physical work, support from friends and what she calls, determination for the sake of vanity.  Whatever her reasons and motivation, I wanted to hear what it was that kept her committed, determined and successful.  Turns out, she is a showcase for what is possible when you put your mind to something, no matter how hard it seems or how overwhelming it is.

Andria, who has lost over 100 pounds, is a mother of five who lives in a suburb of Austin, Texas.  She is a runner and she began running, originally, to lose weight.  She now runs half marathons and other distance runs with her running community, who have helped to support her through this journey.  She has a “maybe” goal of running a full marathon within the next year.

She is, in a word, an inspiration.

I had the chance to ask her a few questions since I wanted the chance to inspire all of you, with her story.

The next time you feel like skipping the gym or giving up, think of Andria.

What do you think was the tipping point; the true catalyst that made you change your lifestyle and stick with it. I know it’s hard, so it takes true commitment to really succeed.

I didn’t battle my weight until my 3rd child was born…at that point, I was over 200lbs and just continued to gain. I tried every fad diet, pill, fake promise, gained, lost, gained, gained, and gained. As much as I wanted to lose the weight, I just couldn’t commit, I guess I had just given up.

When my 5th child was 6 months old, I wasn’t feeling well– was run down, dizzy, tired, and just felt crummy. I was close to 300lbs at that point…even walking through Target was a struggle. I finally decided to go see my doctor who ran standard blood tests…

That afternoon I received a call that my blood sugar was out of control, I had developed type 2 diabetes, my liver and ferratin levels were toxic, and I needed to have an ultrasound the next morning. My doc wouldn’t really tell me what was going on, but, I later found out she was screening me for pancreatic, liver, stomach, and kidney cancer, as well as cirrhosis, hepatitis, and other metabolic diseases. Because my levels were so high, there was a major concern that something more serious was going on.

After spending a week as a human pin cushion and completely terrified, my doc sat me down and gave me the bottom line: my weight was going to kill me. She handed me a card for a bariatric surgeon and suggested I schedule a consultation. I got as far as calling to make an appt….then I decided I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I put the weight on alone, I could take the weight off alone.

I called my doctor and asked her to give me a year, that I could lose the weight without surgery. She hesitantly agreed ONLY if I would continue to get blood draws every few months to keep track of my levels. I probably spent $100 on diabetic cookbooks, threw all the processed crap out of my house, and downloaded the Couch to 5K app on my phone. I wasn’t going to die because of something I had 100% control over. Truth be told, the catalyst was having the crap scared out of me.

Rewind 5-10 years. If someone said you’d run a half marathon then, would you have believed them? What do you think held you back, mentally, made you think you couldn’t do something like that?

Heck no!!!

I’m a musician, a writer, a dreamer, a creator, and so NOT an athlete! I was the kid that was picked last because I was so clumsy and lacked any sort of coordination. I replaced my physical fitness credits in high school with marching band…the only way I would run is if something was chasing me, and I tried to avoid those situations.

Running wasn’t even on my radar 5-10 years ago! I just never saw myself as someone who could succeed athletically, run races, or get hooked on the gym. Being naturally thin all my life, I never thought my 20s and 30s would be so cruel to my metabolism!

What keeps you committed; stops you from going back, taking the easy road? I know we all have reasons.

One word: vanity.

I wish I could give some amazing, deep, philosophical answer, but in all honesty, I like being thinner. I enjoy walking into a store and not being treated like bovine. I no longer have to dig to the bottom of clothing stacks or the back of the racks to find my size. I can walk into any store and find something that will fit AND look good. It’s liberating to have an entire, fashionable, wardrobe at my disposal.

What has been your proudest moment in this journey?

When I crossed the finish line of my first 5K. I was still 230lbs, it was hot, humid, and there were so many people. I wanted to quit many times during those 3.1 short miles—but when I crossed that line, that’s when I realized what I was truly capable of physically and mentally, nothing was going to stop me.

I did that, no one else, and I kicked it’s ass. I’ve run 4 half marathons since then and as proud as I am every time I finish one, nothing will compare to that very first race.

Is there anything you read, heard someone say… that really spoke to you and had an impact on your decision to get serious?

I had an acquaintance who was so negative about weight loss; basically stating that someone who is significantly overweight can’t do it on their own and keep it off unless they have surgery. I guess it pissed me off enough keep me motivated, to keep me going, forced me to stay on track. Without them knowing, they made me want to prove them wrong, break that stereotype.

I started my journey in July of 2012, I haven’t gained a single pound back…I’ve plateaued, the weight loss has slowed, but I haven’t gained anything back.

Did you have any resistance from family and friends?

I remember when I told a family member that I was running a 5k, he laughed and said “there’s no way you can do that, not unless someone picks your fat ass up halfway and drives you to the finish line.”

It’s funny, he’s now one of my biggest supporters, but that sentence still drives me to the finish line-whether I’m running 2 miles or 14. No one has had to pick my fat ass up yet!

Sadly, my new lifestyle has also led to the demise of my marriage. It has taken a lot of commitment and time to lose the weight and when I joined my running group, it rubbed my husband the wrong way…he didn’t like that my life took me outside the home so often. Although he never made me choose between him and my health, I sometimes think that he was happier when I was 300lbs. As the tension grew, our relationship started to unravel; it’s unfortunate, but, if he can’t stand by me and support me, then maybe it’s for the best.

How did you cope with the unintended consequences?

I’m still trying to cope. Of course I didn’t want my marriage to fall apart, but, I also don’t want to die, where’s the line?

As for any other negativity, I let the haters be my motivators, ha!

What’s your favorite part of the new lifestyle?

The friends I have made along this journey. I moved to Austin 6 years ago, leaving behind my extended family and friends. I never thought I would build the amazing support system I have now. My running group has become my Austin family and my best friends. They have surrounded me in my darkest moments and cheered me on in my highest moments. Every time that voice of self-doubt comes into play, they are there to keep pushing me. I can’t imagine my life without them.

Do you think this will impact your children’s future? In what way do you hope it does?

My kids saw me go from the brink of despair to the finish line. They witnessed me save my own life by taking control. I want my kids to know that they can achieve ANYTHING they put their minds towards. As a family we make good food choices, understand that our bodies need to be fueled with good foods and not processed junk.

We only have one life and one body, take care of it, make positive choices, exercise, eat well, and most of all, love yourself.

Andria, then and now.

Andria, then and now.

New Study: HIIT is Not What it Claims to Be


Dear Reader;

Are you shocked by my title?  Me too!

In the fitness community lately, there is an undertone of sorts, villainizing (is that a word?) cardio.  I’ve heard it over and over again, the opinion that cardio is a waste of time and that strength training is best for losing weight.  I wrote an entire blog post about this, last year,  TRUTH About Exercising to Lose Weight.

But then there are combos that give you strength training AND cardio at once, in 20-minutes.  What could be better than that?  These are built for the people who need to save time!  Things like HIIT are claiming to be the end all to fitness goals, accomplished in less than half the time, each week.

Well, there was a small but significantly interesting study, that was published this month, about HIIT.

The actual publicized results are here at PUBFACTS.


If you’d like translation, I can help you with that.

I’m a pretty big fitness / nutrition researching dork who takes pleasure in reading all these findings that are published.  It’s where I get most of the content for my blog (studies).  I don’t base things on hunches or what I read in another blog.  Science is pretty hard to argue with and it’s what I think should guide all of us.  Not gym goer opinions.

Not that I don’t state my hunches or opinions, I just don’t state them as fact.

Furthermore, when I hear of new studies out and proving something I’ve said wrong, I correct it.

When you read the study, know that android fat is referring to those of us who have what we call the “apple” shape.  We carry our fat in the upper body with an emphasis on thicker in the middle.  Unlike the “pear” shape, who are thicker through the butt and hips.

The study had three groups HIIT group (HIIT), cardio group (CONT) and the placebo group (PLA).  The placebo group didn’t do anything; they didn’t change their habits – they are the control group.

The group consisted of 38 inactive and overweight adults.

Visceral fat is the fat that is located in our abdomen, underneath our organs.  THIS is the dangerous worrisome fat that is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and events (like heart attacks).

Trunk Fat vs. Visceral Fat = trunk fat is the entire upper body with a high concentration of abdomen fat; visceral fat is only the abdomen fat, but more specifically, it’s the fat UNDER the organs only visible with scans, and visceral fat does not include chest, back, neck like the trunk does.

The study took place over 12-weeks.

The Results in a nutshell:

Trunk Fat

- 1.6% for CONT

+1% for HIIT

-.4% for PLA

This means the trunk fat decreased for those only performing cardiovascular exercises.  Trunk fat INCREASED for those performing HIIT.  The placebo group actually lost trunk fat, but who knows why.  We all naturally lose/gain weight in a set amount of time.  Our bodies regulate.

Android Fat

- 1.3% for CONT

+.7% for HIIT

-.8% for PLA

This means the android fat decreased for those only performing cardiovascular exercises.  Android fat INCREASED for those performing HIIT.  The placebo group actually lost android fat, again, like the trunk fat study, who knows why.

What it ACTUALLY Means

This study was pretty small.  I want to see these results duplicated in a much larger group of individuals where their information about their ages, body size, body type, background, etc… is made available.  Also, I’d be interested in a study that used a group who did both cardio and strength training, but on different days, not combined like the HIIT workouts.

Does this prove definitively that HIIT is not what it claims to be?  No, but it sure does make me less likely to run out there and subscribe to the claims, especially since they GAINED fat around the middle!!

The official statement of this study is that HIIT claims efficient strategy for comparable results, but this study DOES NOT CONFER.

So, in a nutshell, HIIT should be regarded as a hypothetical, but not likely, truth.  Until further study comes along proving HIIT’s claims, do something that is proven to work for your goals.  Good old-fashioned eating well, performing cardio and strength training.   We all wanted to believe you could combine cardio and strength training (an hour and a half worth) into a 20 minute workout, but sorry, it’s just not backed by science.

Like this poster’s claim; don’t believe everything you read:



There Are Good Uses for HIIT

HIIT isn’t all bad.  If you throw it into your routine occasionally, I bet it would help you with your goals, in combination with other proven strategies.  The body needs to be confused.  That is scientifically backed.  Cross-training (doing different kinds of cardio) is how to avoid boredom and keep the body guessing too.  HIIT may be one form of cardio in your arsenal.

I’ve also read a very small research study out there that states HIIT was showing to increase testosterone levels.  I was actually researching this for a client with low testosterone levels.  She is female.   So, if you’re low in testosterone, maybe HIIT is for you.  BUT this study makes me tread lightly for those of us (both male and female) who have sufficient testosterone…

Things the Healthy Girl Does

Dear Reader;

Have you ever heard the term “fake it ’till you make it”?  How about “dress like the position you want, not the one you’re in”.  My boss told me recently, something that really resonated with me.  He told me to tell my clients to:

“eat like the size they want to be, not like the size they are”

Today, we are going to talk about a few nutrition habits the “healthy” girl has and some she probably doesn’t have, too.  Check out this list and see if you could make some changes in your diet to get closer to the size you want to be.


#1 She Checks Food Labels

Knowledge is power.

I think of nutrition as a sliding scale.  All of us are at a different spot on the scale.  For some of us, quitting 3-Cokes a day would be improvement, for others, improvement comes in the form of more subtle changes (like switching from regular flax to organic flax).  Wherever you are on the scale, the food label holds the same importance and is the cornerstone to a healthy diet.

Remember, the best and most nutritious foods on the planet don’t have a food label…

My grandmother used to tell me, pick your battles in life. That statement very much applies to what you put into your body.  Nutrition labels are a battle ground.  Begin with baby steps and make improvement.

Some great things for a beginner to consider – food label 101:

  • Sugar – try to avoid it, but always try to avoid things like high fructose corn syrup, aspartame and saccharin.  This is just a few of the sugars to avoid and this list is only the beginning.  Research this, stick to natural sugars, if you must, like agave, stevia (if your stomach can handle it) and cane sugars.  Under 10 grams per item is a must, but stay under 30 grams for the day.
  • Sodium – the american diet is FULL of sodium, the harmful kind.  The USDA estimates the average sodium intake to be 3,500 mg per day.  WHOA!  Most processed foods have tons of sodium and that’s what is causing this sodium intake number to be so high.  Check the labels. You should really try hard to be under 900 mg per day.
  • Fats – good fats vs. bad fats – I hate the language here.  In a nutshell, because this topic is broad, stay away from: trans fats.  These fats are what you eat when you eat processed foods, bakery foods, margarine, etc…  The most important thing to consider is making sure to get ENOUGH of the mono and poly fats into your diet; these are the fats your body desperately needs for energy, cell generation, brain function, etc…  Focus on eating more natural fats.  BUT don’t be a fat phobic.  Saturated fat is not so bad, as long as it’s not the only source and of course, grass-fed, organic, antibiotic free, sustainably raised, etc…  You need happy fats in your diet like avocado, fish and nuts.  Focus on those.

Those are just a few things to watch for on your food label.  I think you should avoid packaged foods all together, but I know that most Americans do not follow that diet advice.  Which is why we are in the middle of a huge epidemic of high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure…

Some things for the advanced food label reader to consider:

  • GMO – know the foods that are most commonly associated with genetically modified organisms.  Avoiding GMO’s are one of the most important dietary decisions a person can make – especially those of us with autoimmune disorders.  Here is a great website to help you navigate: The Institute for Responsible Technology.  Organic foods are not allowed to contain GMO, so buying organic is one sure way to avoid.  Keep these things in mind, straight from the website referenced above: “Currently commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include soy (94%), cotton (90%), canola (90%), sugar beets (95%), corn (88%), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), zucchini and yellow squash (over 24,000 acres).  Products derived from the above, including oils from all four, soy protein, soy lecithin, cornstarch, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup among others. There are also many “invisible ingredients,” derived from GM crops that are not obviously from corn or soy.”
  • Gluten Free – most products that are made gluten-free, taste mostly . . . terrible.  What can I say.  The way the manufacturers make them taste better is to add wayyyyyy more fat, sugar or sodium.  Really check those gluten-free labels.  If you have to be gluten-free, it’s mostly better to accept the fact that you cannot eat gluten and splurge only occasionally on those products.

This list is only a few suggestions.  I recommend that you spend some time researching.  Take a package that you commonly eat and google every ingredient in the list of ingredients, one by one.  What did you find?  What are you eating?  Does this knowledge change anything for you?

#2 She Packs Her Lunch


Eating out can really take its toll on a healthy diet.  Sabotage lurks everywhere and it’s even hidden in dressings and sauces.  You can never really tell the true quality of restaurant foods, so limiting them is a better step.  AND never eating fast foods is a good stance to take.  There is absolutely zero fast food out there that I would recommend eating.

The only exception to this is a good solid salad bar with fresh and organic ingredients.  Our Whole Foods has a really, really nice one.  So, go for it.

#3 She Doesn’t Have a Cheat Day

When you talk to people who eat healthfully, they don’t think of themselves as on a “diet” that deserves a cheat day.  Do vegetarians have cheat days?  No.  This is a lifestyle choice.  Anything less than that mentality is hard to sustain.  AND honestly, the yo-yo dieting effect is hugely linked to the cheat day mentality.

Cheating is a relative word and with a healthy diet, it looks more like a cheat moment; splurging on natural sugars, like yogurt with fruit and nuts or high quality dark chocolate.

Cheat moments that maintain the bones of your diet are a better way to approach the splurge.

#4 She Eats for Health, Not for Skinny

This is by far, the biggest difference, between those who struggle with weight and those who don’t.  I’m not talking about anyone under the age of 30 here.  Because before that, lots of people can eat terribly un-nutritous foods without physical consequences.

The goal of your food should be to fill your body with the energy, vitamins, minerals and fluids it needs to maintain good health.  Period.

Anything you consume that does not fit that requirement is empty.  And some of that empty stuff is actually harming you.

Ask yourself before you eat “am I eating this for nutrition?” and if the answer is no, put it down or only take a bite.

#5 She Loves Color on Her Plate


The healthy girl is a huge fan of variety because she knows the impact that eating the same exact things over and over again, does to her system.

I use this analogy all the time:

Think of the times before the big grocers made EVERY SINGLE THING available all year-long.  Oranges in May, sure thing.  Blueberries in December, absolutely.  This is not the way our bodies are programmed to eat.  Our biology is used to us eating things in waves.  We eat tons of oranges for like three weeks, then they disappear out of our diet, sometimes for an entire year.  The growing seasons are being forced, which is causing a “clog”, if you will, in our bodies.  Eating the same exact things, over and over is not healthy.  Your body will begin to overload on certain nutrients and lack others.

Fill your plate with colors of the season.  That’s the best way to avoid this trap.  Eat the lettuce that is plentiful, the fruit that is plentiful and the nuts that are plentiful.  Sometimes I buy bananas and then I’ll go weeks without or even months.  I realize they are ALWAYS available for the same exact price, so it’s really hard to know when the true banana season is…  But, you can “fake” it by not buying things for weeks.  And follow the seasons when you can.  The in season produce tastes better anyway.

It will help your budge too.

#6 She Doesn’t React to Peer Mockery

Oh, this is a delicate one.  It can be controversial and people take offense easily, but it has to be said.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been mocked, just in the last few months, by my peers.

“Oh, healthy girl isn’t going to eat that” – referring to the food we were wanting to share at a restaurant

“Is that all you’re going to eat” – referring to a HUGE plate of vegetables and fruits

“All she eats is salad” – overheard one friend tell another

“You eat like a bird” – eye rolling

All of this is because they are sooooooo self-conscious about their own food decisions, they have to make it okay, somehow, but it’s at your expense.  Or at least, that’s my guess.   My reaction?  Nothing.  Nada.  I have actually lost friends over my diet.  And guess what, I am 100% okay with that.

To the girl who mocks, since I have this open forum and can react without a scene, I would like to say this:

You are being unkind and petty.  And, I am not hungry.  So, please stop concerning yourself with my plate and its lack of junk food.

#7 She Recognizes How Amazing She Feels


I just told a friend, recently: “I eat like this because I am afraid not to.  I don’t want to feel bad.  I want to keep feeling amazing.  I don’t want to wake up tired, cranky, cloudy and bloated.  I love the way I feel, so I eat healthy out of fearing the alternative”.

And, that is the truth.  I recognize how wonderful the nutritious food makes me feel.  I can keep up with anyone, do anything and my clothes are comfortable too.

This could be you!

#8 She Doesn’t Buy It

Walk past it in the grocery store.  THE BIGGEST FAVOR YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF.

#9 She Doesn’t Judge

Or tries really, really hard not to.

She tries to influence others in a positive way, but doesn’t judge them for their bad habits.

I struggle with this somewhat, personally. Especially with those friends who constantly ask advice and never actually put anything into practice.  I’d rather just skip the conversation and just be friends.  I don’t have to care about food my friends are eating.  I’m perfectly happy to ignore it, just as I wish they would ignore mine (read She Doesn’t React to Peer Mockery above).

BUT I do struggle with this when they initiate the conversations.  I’m still working on this piece of advice for myself.  BUT I’ll keep trying!  Just keep trying!

#10 She’s Always Learning

She has these healthy habits that she then finds out are not working for her.  Or she reads a news piece on scientific facts from a study and then changes her habits.  It’s okay to be wrong.  It’s okay to change.

It’s also okay to admit  it out loud.

I didn’t eat very much meat for years.  I then found out I had B vitamin deficiency.  It was a little hard to “come out” to everyone that my dietary choices made me sick.  But you have to be able to learn from your mistakes and correct them.

Ask yourself: “how’s that working for you?”.  And truly listen to the answer.

#11 She Doesn’t Count Calories


True. Fact.

I know most are astonished to learn that almost every single person that is at a healthy weight without struggling, DOES NOT count calories.

Ever wonder why that is?

It’s kind of hard to be overweight when you eat naturally grown foods that come from the earth; ones that require you to pick them or cook them with love.

I’m talking fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses, nuts, seeds, yes – BEANS and legumes.

I do agree that grains aren’t that good for us.  I think Paleo people have such a great point on this!  Well, besides their take on beans and dairy.

I don’t like diets that tell us not to eat certain naturally occurring foods like fruits, white potatoes or beans.  Grains are a grey area.  They are, for all intents and purposes, not eaten in their natural state.

#12 She Cares About Quality

The dairy mentioned above, she cares if it’s organic or if it’s grass-fed or if it’s fed GMO grains.  Quality matters because it really does.

If you eat sick cows, what do you think will happen?  If you eat chicken pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones (or fed grains that are genetically grown to make them fatter), what do you think will happen to your own body?

If you eat food that someone cared about, you are making the right choice.

Boxes of Nabisco whatnots are not in this category.

#13 She Loves Food




She loves to find really robust produce and quality organic meats.  She loves to prepare them and really learn the appropriate ways to cook them for the best taste outcome.  Choosing the produce that looks good, typically results in it tasting good.  Loving the food you eat is key.  Sitting at the table inhaling your lunch on the go, is not a way to love your food.

Try this at home.  See what happens when you really take the time to enjoy your food from the beginning (shopping) to the ending (eating).  How much better do you feel about eating it?  How much better does your body feel in the coming weeks?

#14 She Eats a LOT of Raw Food

Good quality fruits and vegetables don’t always need to be cooked.  The best thing you can do for your body is to acclimate your taste buds to love raw foods.  Blending is a great way to start.  Green smoothies give you a HUGE nutritional bang with that raw and natural taste.  The more you eat raw, the more you like raw.

Someone used to a fast food, processed diet, is not going to love the taste of raw food.  It’s simply because your taste buds are programmed to expect: trans fats, sodium, sugars.  None of which is found in abundance, in any natural food.

Start slow and teach yourself to love food in its raw state.

#15 She Hydrates with Water


Her day consists of mostly water.  Occasional green tea, kombucha, coffee, or whatever your thing is – fine.  BUT most of your day is filled with glasses of water.  Your body needs the water to flush toxins, keep functioning and stay healthy.

It never needs soda or juice.  By the way, soda and fruit juice are equally bad for you.  If this is a shock to you, research it.

Quick Tip: Load the Blender the Day Before

Dear Reader;

We all look for ways to save time in the morning and one of the things that gets sacrificed, often, is a healthy breakfast.

Tomorrow, my oldest daughter has her statewide testing.  We will make sure to get to bed early and fill her full of “brain food”.  Plus, making sure we get her there “early enough to settle in before the testing begins”… blah blah blah.  You probably know the drill for testing day.

So, I took some time this afternoon to fill our blender full of the ingredients for our breakfast.  Smoothies do take time to make, so this is a HUGE timesaver for the morning.

I just set the blender inside the fridge and pop it onto the base and blend away.

Ready to Go

Yep.  This is actually my fridge and it was actually made, today.

If you’re curious about what’s in the blender, please note:

- I didn’t measure anything, I never do

- anything you put into a green smoothie blender should be organic



washed kale (the larger portions of stalk removed)

The washed tops of some radishes I bought at Sunday’s farmer’s market

alfalfa sprouts

half of an english cucumber

frozen cherries

frozen blueberries

local honey (because we are all suffering from terrible pollen allergies)

ground flax seeds

about one-quarter of a package of frozen spinach (leftovers)

the leftovers of some green tea I brewed today (unsweetened!)

and H2O


How do I know when to stop adding?  When the blender is FULL!

That’s it.  Pretty much, whatever is lying around.

Combine this smoothie with a hard-boiled egg and it’s the perfect combination of fat, protein and carbs.

Natural, fresh, whole, healthy.


How to Afford Organic


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Dear Reader; In 2014, We have finally taken the plunge and have gone almost 100% organic.  Spending my time learning about fitness and nutrition has its down side.  You cannot unlearn something.  The things I know about food and our … Continue reading