Category: Inspiration

The Astonishing Power of Habit & How To Make it Work in Your Favor

First of all, wouldn’t you agree that when you hear the word “habit”, you instantly think of bad habits? I mean, most of the time when the word even comes up, it’s due to the fact that we want to get rid of a bad habit. This is part of the mindset that I think gets us off on the wrong foot with this whole thing.

When you give it even a little bit of thought, it is clear that everything we do is based on habit. That’s what allows us to go about our day and not think through every little thing. I don’t argue with myself over whether or not I am going to brush my teeth, I just do it. I don’t ponder the idea of using my turn signal or not, I just do it (bad example? Don’t be that guy! Use your freakin’ turn signals #petpeeve). I don’t have to think about bringing my phone with me when I leave the house, it’s an automatic thing. I don’t have to think about doing something with my hair and makeup before I leave the house (you’re welcome) : I just do it.

We all differ in our habits, the ability to easily create new ones and on which are more important to us. But, we all have habits that are deeply ingrained in us and in our routine.

Here are some tips to help you along the way:

First of all, I beg of you to get the “it takes 21 days to form a habit” crap out of your head. Let it go. I have never read/heard any scientific evidence that this little idea is anything more than just cute. Truly though, it can make habit forming so much harder. Do this for me: think LIFESTYLE CHANGE. Don’t set your eyes on just 21 days. Likely, that time will come and pass and then it will be a big relief (even subconsciously) to let go of all the progress you’ve made. Because, let’s face it: it’s hard changing habits! Instead, think of the awesomeness that will happen in your life because this new habit will be part of you.

I cannot emphasize this enough! If you don’t purposely replace the bad habit with something that serves you better, you’ll unknowingly replace it with something just as bad, if not worse. Think about it: you’re doing it (whatever habit it might be) for a reason!For example: I have the habit of munching at night. I get very snacky, even if I’ve had dinner and I’m truly not hungry! What I have come to realize about myself, after trying to majorly restrict myself and feeling miserable, is that it’s a form of relaxing for me. It is part of my nightly ritual once my kiddo is in bed and I’m not longer focused on “work” and what all I NEED to be doing, to just take care of me for a bit. Isn’t that why we snack? It gives us happy feelings. It truly does. Food releases all those awesomely wonderful happy chemicals and that’s why we treat it like a drug without even realizing it. So, rather than trying to take the habit away and hope it sticks, I have another plan that works better. I change the habit. I do a few things: I LOVE baths and an epsom salt bath in the evening really makes me feel more calm, relaxed and like I am doing something good for me. I exercise a lot, so it truly is therapeutic. I also still allow myself to snack, but it’s purposeful. I love a glass of wine in the evening and will do something like air popped popcorn (with real butter & sea salt!) with my hubby or a frozen Greek yogurt bar. It’s controlled, rather than mindless! No regrets then.

I am a big proponent of recognizing hard work and celebrating it! Make a chart of what you will do when you’ve reached small steps with your habit. Choose a that will help inspire you to keep going and help make that habit even more a natural part of your life. Obviously a donut would not be the choice to make if you’ve lost 5 pounds from eating better! A health magazine or new workout top would be, though!

Now, for this one I don’t mean posting on Facebook that you will never be eating sugar again starting NOW. That can backfire and then you feel ashamed when you slip up. Rather, announce that you have accomplished “fill in the blank”. Let’s say it’s been 7 days since your last soda: celebrate!! 2 weeks of smoking half as much as you used to and it continues to go down: tell us! You’ve exercised 5 out of 7 days for 3 weeks in a row: hello!!This is when you let the world know what’s going on, because the encouragement you will get will totally propel you forward! AND, you will inspire people along the way as well. Pretty awesome!

Let’s me real about how hard it really is to change habits. Why oh why would you try to change 7 at once? Really. “I’ve never exercised before and I LOVE fast food, but starting tomorrow I’m exercising 7 days a week, tracking ALL my food, eating no sugar, giving up fast food, drinking 64 oz of water a day, eating 5 cups of veggies AND no more staying up until midnight: bed at 9pm!”
GOOD LUCK to ya.

Start with one thing. Focus on that and I am tellin’ you, other habits will change as well without you even realizing it! You might stop drinking so much soda simply because you’re exercising more and just don’t have the same cravings, for example. It’s awesome how this stuff works!

Also, like my example with nighttime snacking, I am being realistic by recognizing it’s part of my ritual and it doesn’t have to go away: I just have to change how I do it. I’ve learned that trying to totally do away with it is not what I am interested in. If you’re not all in, it just won’t work.

So there you have it. This is all just my opinion and what I have noticed in myself and clients I’ve worked with. I want to hear from YOU! What works for you? What hasn’t worked for you?

Are you currently working on a habit and in need of some accountability? Connect with me! I’d love to offer some support and help you celebrate along the way!

Living Real

Wow this road has been an interesting one for me. I did not get into health and fitness because it sounded cool…because exercise was always my thing…because I’ve always just been that healthy girl and wanted to share. I got into health and fitness because I struggled so damn hard for so damn long.

We all have our story. It is so important to remember where you came from…to remember your why. I took such solace in food as a kid. The first half of my life was all about avoiding pain. Sounds dark, I know. It was. And I know there are plenty of people walking around like “normal” but are oh so broken. My journey has just downright sucked at times. And…it has been so full of hope I’ve felt like my heart could burst at times. There has never been a straight line because, well, that’s not how it works, is it?

I didn’t want to get too deep but, I guess it’s too late! There are so many people struggling deep in their heart and feel there is no way out. We all have our own ways of coping with life, don’t we? It’s our human nature to numb out at times…and depending on the time in our lives and what is going on…some times more than others. I lived a very numbed out life for years. Years. I had no tools for coping and just wanted things to always feel more “normal” and so I turned to my drug. Mine was food. That’s why I’m here in this health and fitness world. My struggle might not look like yours, but I likely understand more than you think.

I used to try hard to make people happy and had no sense of me. Wow there are so many many girls out there like that these days I’m afraid. But, instead of trying to figure out who they are, they think selling themselves short and trying to compete for attention by compromising who they are is somehow their truth. It breaks my heart. That is not strength my sweet sisters. It’s just not. Not even close. The people who love you for what you truly have to offer this world and for your uniqueness will not even want to be a part of you sacrificing your truth for attention.

It took me what felt like eons of holding so tight to God, sitting through storms, feeling lost and totally alone and getting good counseling, seeking wise words from books, people I saw truth in…letting certain people in who showed me that they had “been there” too, to get to where I am. Not perfect, but genuine and so much healthier. I failed at times. I let people in I shouldn’t have. But over time I’ve learned to be truer to me; to who I believe God made me to be; to who I think my son needs as a mom; to who I would’ve wanted as an example to me when I needed one.

Why am I even spewing out my guts on my little health and fitness site? Because we all know that these things we struggle with on the surface have deep, deep roots. I wasn’t able to really let go of my food issues and my eating disorder until I was good with me. God was always good with me. I was the one who needed to get my head out of my rear. I needed to realize no one would do it for me and that God loving me fiercely never meant He would do it all for me. No. In fact, it meant quite the opposite. And why? Because He loves me that much. And He loves YOU that much. He wants us to grow through our struggle rather than protect us so much that we end up safe and oh so very weak.

I’ll end here having poured out enough for tonight. Just know YOU have more to offer than you even know and it has NOTHING to do with how you think the world needs you to be. The expectations we think we need to live up to are SHALLOW. Be who you are meant to be. If not for you, for the girl who will cross paths with you (perhaps your own daughter) who needs you to be that example for her.

You are loved.

Imagine that!

Here it is, into the 2nd full week of the new year. Resolutions abound! I definitely see it at the gym and hear the chatter on social media and among friends. Even if you abandoned the idea of New Years resolutions a long time ago, there is still something infections about starting fresh along with a brand spankin’ new year! The problem, well…there are several…but the stick-to-it-ness is lacking. Along with accountability and planning/goal setting, a huge tool for success, in my opinion and personal experience, is visualization.
What? Is that some weird new age, magic, must use fairy dust and chant kind of thing? Um…no. In fact, it is a scientifically researched tactic that a lot of athletes use. In fact, Aymeric Guillot, Ph.D., a professor at the Center of Research and Innovation in Sport at University Claude Bernard Lyon, in France finds that we actually activate some of the same neural networks (paths of interconnected nerve cells that link what your body does to the brain impulses that control it) during visualization that we do in the activity itself. Does that mean I can visualize running 5 miles instead of doing it? Well, it doesn’t activate your muscles and fat cells so…nice try! But, it gets your head in the game, helps prepare you, builds confidence in your own ability as you “practice” in your head and, as those neural networks are activated, lets you experience some of the adrenaline that might come with what you are envisioning.

“Ok, well I’m not ‘training’ for anything. What does this have to do with me and wanting to lose 20 pounds?”

Visualization can be used in a very powerful way to create new habits. I really believe that when you are changing something in your lifestyle, it is crucial to create sort of a new culture for yourself. Losing a significant amount of weight or starting a fitness program, these things have far more to do with your day to day life than just going to the gym 5 days a week and eating less. It has to do with how we relate with people, how we deal with stress, happiness and emotion in general. It has to do with how we relax and how we celebrate. It has to do with routine and what brings us comfort. I could go on and on…

If I want to become a fit, healthy person, envisioning myself as a fit, healthy person in very specific ways is huge. It makes it real in my mind, I can actually see how it would look in my life. Very important is what it reveals to me that WON’T fit in my life anymore. If I am picturing myself as being strong, energetic and fit but find myself binge drinking with my buddies on the weekend, or on the couch at night numbing out with a pint of ice cream or bag of chips, or I go out with my family and order a meal that puts me into a food coma for the rest of the evening and therefor cannot complete my workout …those things are going to start sticking out as NOT what gels with my image for myself.

Another way this tactic is helpful is in creating that new culture for oneself by bringing new input into your life in a lot of different ways. What I mean is surrounding yourself with things and people that inspire this new way of life in you. It might be friends who are living a healthy lifestyle, a magazine that motivates you, pod casts, books, websites, going to workshops or taking classes. A homework assignment I often give clients is to make a vision board. There are no specifics with the vision board other than making it something that inspires you in terms of a specific goal you are trying to reach. A vision board, if you have never done one, is essentially a collage.

Here’s an example of one (not mine):

Some people like to put quotes up in their house, in their car, etc. I love that idea too. A vision board takes the process a little deeper and the experience of just creating the vision board has a lot of meaning and helps us focus and hone in on where we are going with our goal and how we need to mold certain things in our lives in order to get there.

I would love to see any vision boards that are created! Or hear other tips that you use that you find helpful and inspiring!

Either send me a message through the contact form or you can find me on FB: healthwithjess

Happy 2015!

Love and blessings,

My “WHY” & believing in more

Today I heard something on a podcast I was listening to that went something along the lines of “it’s not just about fitting into your jeans, it’s about being happy”. So simple and so true. It made me think of my why, which is very simple, and yet very multidimensional and super personal at the same time.

This “before” picture is me probably middle school aged right before I went on my “first” diet. I was miserable growing up. I always felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere whether that was with my family or peers. My family was a mess. Never did I feel anyone believed in me. They didn’t even believe in themselves. I was painfully shy and would just melt into the wall hoping to go unnoticed. I really had no confidence whatsoever and could not relate to the girls my age. I was too shy to act out and rebel against my dramatic and unstable surroundings and yet I didn’t know how to deal with it in a positive way. And so I ate.

Food was my comfort. I was always the quiet girl either tagged as “nice” or “snobby” depending upon how my shyness and lack of confidence was interpreted. One night, my mom sat me down on my bed and told me I was getting fat. Well, she didn’t say it, she just said, “you’re getting…” and she puffed up her cheeks and held her arms out to paint the picture of a fat person. Hmmm. What a moment. Burned into my heart. Although there are far more loving and tactful ways of addressing such a topic, I took it seriously. I lost 20 pounds on my first diet. I was in the 7th grade.

I will say that I ended up gaining confidence through taking control of my weight. I followed a diet that allowed me dry toast and plain peppermint tea for breakfast, cottage cheese, pineapple and walnuts for lunch…I think chicken and veggies for dinner… I remember getting candy from friends at Christmastime and just saving it all up in my room, proud that I didn’t touch even one piece. And so the cycle began.

My weight went up and down over the years and so did my family. I had already been in therapy and continued, participating in group and individual therapy. (I HIGHLY recommend this and will talk more about it in a later post). Fast forward on this crazy journey. I realized that food was my drug of choice. I ended up struggling hard with an eating disorder for many years. Food offers you that substance that is not only legal, but necessary. I was able to hide my abuse of it by keeping my actions secret and using exercise and not strict dieting to cover up the damage I was doing. I could go days hardly eating a thing because of the binging I would do. Exercise became my saving grace. It was another addiction, though. If I didn’t get in my certain amount of minutes/days each week I felt out of control. I irrationally thought everything would unravel and I would turn back into that girl sitting on my bed when my mom told me I was fat. That was my nightmare.

In the midst of this, though, began my relationship with God. I knew that I was made for more. I knew that, I was more than the dysfunction I was born into. I knew I was more than my struggle with food. I knew I was more than my struggle with self-esteem. I knew that somehow, my life had purpose. What that was…I had know idea. But, I was determined to find it.

So, on life went, very touch and go with my disorder, always working on myself in therapy, a strong relationship with exercise, dysfunctional choices in men…and on and on. However, my faith has always been my true saving grace. God has truly been my rock, even when I felt that I was just flat on my face. There has always been an underlying, undying belief that there is meaning even in my pain, despite so many mistakes…

So, here I am. I have a nine year old son who I consider a miracle, simply because children are just that. I have been a single mom since he was 2. During these single mom years I have earned a masters degree in Health Psychology, gotten certified as a Health Coach and as a Fitness Instructor. Life is often far too busy for my own taste, but I am so very thankful. I finally can say that I believe in myself.

My “why” when it comes to health and fitness is about fighting. I refuse to be the person I believed I was growing up. It is never too late to become who you know you can be. It doesn’t happen overnight, but the journey is a beautiful thing. This is why I love doing what I do. Sure, it’s thrilling to see people lose weight and fit into their jeans. But, what I live for is those moments you see tears in someones eyes because they have found hope again. I have watched people get back in touch with this belief in themselves and I am SO honored to be a part of it. It takes great courage to “go there” and be that real with yourself and others. It is incredibly worth it, my friends!

So much love to you this Chirstmas!


Don’t you hate it when people give you the whole “when life hands you lemons…” line? Life sometimes just plain sucks. I think it’s okay to acknowledge that. There are things that I just don’t understand and it makes my head hurt to even try. And, to make matters worse, often times the very best things we could be doing for ourselves are the very things we DO NOT feel like doing. AT. ALL. Why is this? Never mind…head starting to hurt.

I do know that I spent many years blaming my past for my own pain. Bottom line…it did nothing for me. All it did was help me look down. When you’re looking down you’re life feels like…well…one big downer. The problem is that we do need to be real about the crappy stuff. It’s there. We need to get down in the dirt and just work hard and grieve and struggle sometimes and it’s ok to hate it. But, it’s not ok to stay stuck.

How do you know if you’re stuck? I think you just know. I think when we are really, painfully honest with ourselves, we know.

Sometimes we just have to kick ourselves in the pants, peel our eyeballs of the sidewalk and force ourselves to look up and decide “THINGS ARE GOING TO CHANGE AS OF NOW”. That doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and gumdrops from then on… it means I will take the crap in my life and use it to my advantage. Sometimes that means I am going to fake it, knowing that staying the course will be SO WORTH IT.

Thank you, GOD for do-overs, for forgiveness, for GRACE, for purpose behind the junk I just. don’t. get. Thank you for loving the stuff about me that I hate. Thank you for being FOR ME.

You really are entirely up to you. Don’t give the other stuff your power!!


I talk to so many people during their journey toward better health and fitness and I am always interested to get to the bottom of what is hard for them. It’s never this perfectly straight line from start to finish. And, it’s often not just a forward motion. What’s that old saying? “One step forward, two steps back”? Or is it “two steps forward, one step back”? Regardless, it’s not this cute little clean “thing” that occurs. We all know it is not ever an overnight process. But, what I think makes that fact even more difficult is this messy transition. It’s one thing to have it in your head that you’ll have to sit through things for a bit until you notice changes. However, to also accept that you’ll slide backwards at times and feel like you’re fighting against odds you never knew were there…well that’s just not fair.

“So, what about it?” you ask. What I have noticed about people who are able to keep going, little step by little step, and not get quite so easily discouraged, is that they have passion. I was going to say their passion changes. But, really, for many people, they find it for the first time. When we are in a zone of avoidance and numbing, this passion has no place to live. In fact, we likely wouldn’t recognize it if it started to surface. We don’t have time for passion. It takes too much effort. We, instead, choose to live on autopilot. Autopilot is pretty comfy. Autopilot allows us to pretend that we’re happy while we secretly long for so much better. Autopilot saves us from those uncomfortable, unpredictable things in life that we face when we reach higher than we are. Risk is not involved with autopilot. As much as we hate to admit this, many of us just love this place. We feel far less naked and vulnerable when we are all snuggled up with our bad habits…which, in fact, feel quite good.

Well now what? This is getting depressing. Well, yes, it is sort of depressing. In all honesty, this is the part that just sucks for me as a health coach. You just can’t pry someones little fingers off of their habits and make them choose to find their passion. But, when they do, it’s kind of magical. It remind me of one of my favorite quotes from the movie “We Bought a Zoo” (If you haven’t seen it, it requires tissues):

“Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.
Just, literally, 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery.
And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

And that…that’s how you find your passion. One little moment at a time. You put down the drink, the cookie, the remote, the bad relationship…you put it down and point yourself in the direction of something that actually feeds your soul and spirit and helps you get one tiny, tiny step closer to who you want to be. Then, you do it again. Pretty soon, it doesn’t make you want to turn around and embrace whatever it is that you let go of. Pretty soon you don’t long for the old dark, musty place called denial that was such a good friend. Pretty soon hard work feels good and you start to walk a little taller and feel a little more like someone you might actually be proud of. One day, you begin to notice you like things; things you never thought you might like. And this ignites a fire inside of you that is so good it’s almost scary. It is a fire to be better and even to inspire the same in others. Turns out it is so much better than a sugar hangover, or a regretful night with someone you don’t love, or all those cigarettes or an entire day wasted in front of a screen or the negativity you thought was part of you. Finally it becomes not so scary to have some direction and you start to welcome the notion of life; real life: the good, the bad and the ugly. This, my friend, is passion.