Category: Inspiration

My Dad, My Hero: 6 Lessons that Have Shaped My Life

While I write mostly about food on this blog, I also recognize the importance of taking a more holistic approach to life. Nourishment isn’t just about food. One of the most important ways we nourish ourselves is by how and what we think.

Being raised by two entrepreneurs who have been married for almost 36 years has given me unique insights into what working, living and loving can look like. They’ve shaped how I think and have encouraged me to think differently, to dream of what is possible.

My dad, in particular, has influenced me and served as one of my greatest mentors. With Father’s Day approaching, I thought this would be a perfect time to celebrate who he is in my life and to share with you lessons I’ve learned from him. dad-me-kid

He has taught me so much about pursuing work that I love, treating people with kindness, and dreaming big.

I spent some time reflecting on what I’ve learned from him, and I want to share those lessons with you – advice from my dad. Dad + advice = DAdvice 🙂

#1 Challenge Yourself

“Do something every year that scares the crap out of you.”

It’s one of the phrases I’ve heard my dad say more times than I can count. He practices what he preaches.

He celebrated his 66th birthday earlier this month by competing in the Raleigh Half Ironman triathlon. That’s a 1.2-mile swim in a lake (that was 81 degrees!) followed by a 56-mile bike ride and finished off with a 13.1-mile run. The very thought of those distances would be enough to discourage and intimidate most people, but my dad embraces races like these. dad-swim-run

As a 5-time Lake Placid Ironman finisher (2.4 miles, 112 miles, 26.2 miles), who is now training for his sixth race with my husband, who will be doing his first, my dad shows me and everyone around him that the greatest roadblock to what we can accomplish is our own limitations.

When he tells people he’s training for another Ironman, Half Ironman, or Olympic-distance triathlon, the first response is often a simple, “WHY??” followed by, “I get exhausted just THINKING about that!”

He’s not out to prove anything to anyone but himself. He knows that continuing to challenge himself in this way physically and mentally keeps him feeling and looking younger than he is. He learns new lessons with each race.

DAdvice #1: What’s one thing you can do in the next 6 months that excites you (and scares the crap out of you)? Make it happen.

#2 Question What’s “Normal”

My dad and I dancing at my wedding!

My dad and I dancing at my wedding!

What is “normal” anyway? Most of us decide that it’s “normal” to feel old and achy as we age, to be in a less than fulfilling job, or to settle for an “okay” relationship instead of an awesome one.

Why do we do this?

Because we don’t question it. We accept it. We assume it’s how things have to be.

It is what it is.

My dad has taught me by how he lives that those things don’t have to be normal. We can, in fact, shape our lives and the lives of those around us not by accepting what is but by thinking about what could be.

I’ve seen by how he lives that we can age and be well and have energy. That we can do what we love, love what we do, and get paid for it. That we can feel even more in love as we grow older instead of drifting apart or putting up with the other person.

My dad notices that most people his age have accepted that losing energy, feeling rundown, and having aches and pains are “normal” just because they’re common. But he refuses to accept that.

My dad and I at the summit of a mountain in Upstate New York last summer

My dad and I at the summit of a mountain in Upstate New York last summer

Because of his age, people often ask him when he’s going to retire. “From what, to what? I’m already doing what I love” is his response. That mindset has had a significant impact on my life and how I look at and pursue work.

He knows that moving his body and fueling himself with real, whole food are two of the keys to being able to compete in triathlons, spend his leisure time biking, swimming or running, and being so successful with his business. His life is a testament to Satchel Paige’s wise words:

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DADvice #2: What’s one thing you’ve accepted as “normal” that might not be? What might the alternative be?

#3 Embrace What Makes You Different

If you’re someone who grew up feeling “different” from other people, you can likely relate to this one. File_000

My dad was always small for his age and maxed out at 5’6″, so he’s never been much of a physical presence. He was once asked whether his family was in the circus because of his size. He’s always told me that he liked being small because he could always make himself bigger. He felt badly for tall people because it was much harder for them to make themselves smaller.

He moved more than a dozen times when he was a kid due to his dad’s job, so he learned to be adaptable. He learned that humor is a great way to make friends, so he used it to his advantage throughout school (and to this day) as a way of disarming and connecting with people.

As a history teacher, he understands the importance of context, processes, and connections and uses what he has learned to help companies function more effectively, communicate better, and just “get along” as he says. I think he is brilliant at what he does, and he has helped thousands of people with his work.

He inspires me to do things differently in my work, just as he does with his. He’s totally comfortable doing things differently than everyone else. He embraces what makes him different and has taught me to do the same.

He and I recently co-presented a keynote session at the Frederick County SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) annual conference and infused the talk with our unique approach to work and life. It was SO MUCH FUN!

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DADvice #3: In what ways are you “different” from other people? What makes you unique? If you can’t think of it yourself, ask your friends or someone else who knows you well.

#4 Pursue Lifelong Learning

If any of us buys my dad a DVD as a gift, we know to buy the “extended” edition that includes the director’s commentary because my dad will want to know the story behind the story…every time. He’s one of the most eager learners and voracious readers I’ve ever met. As a result, he stays relevant, offers new insights to his clients, and is always ready to share the latest and greatest teaching with anyone who will listen.

He describes his business as an “interest-driven” business and incorporates his new knowledge into how he consults with companies and individuals. One cool thing he’s helping companies do now is drive negativity out of the workplace using principles he and my mom have learned through marriage workshops they’ve attended.

Whether he’s reading the paper or a new book, talking to a sought after expert, or learning a new swimming or running technique, he constantly pursues new skills and knowledge, so he can continue to grow and feel alive.

DADvice #4: What’s something that interests you? What would you like to learn more about? This week, order a book, sign up for a class, tell a friend. Make forward progress.

#5 Be Humble and Grateful

In the spring of 2009, I almost lost my job. Health care reform legislation had been passed and the need for a full-time wellness person in a small firm was questioned. I remember when I was called into my boss and CFO’s office and was informed that I could stay onboard and take on another position or hang around for a few months while I found another job. It’s not like there was a resume service TX or something like that, that could help me get ready for a new job at the time.

I was stunned.

I remember calling my dad in anger and frustration, “Can you BELIEVE this?” I went off about my boss at the time and how I felt taken advantage of by her. I wasn’t feeling heard. I had even started copping a (noticeable) attitude with her when she asked certain things of me. At times, I told her “it wasn’t my job” to do what was, in fact, her job. (That phrase is, quite possibly, the LEAST effective thing to say…ever. I’d advise against it unless you have a new job lined up). My negativity began permeating other aspects of my work.

I had become indignant. My pride had gotten the best of me.

With his years of wisdom and a strong knowledge of my heart and how I’m wired, my dad did what he does best and helped me see things differently. He was the only person who could have lovingly told me what I needed to hear, not what I wanted to hear. “Honey, she’s your boss. If she asks you to get coffee every morning, you do it. You have a pretty good gig there. You get to do a lot that interests you, you have good benefits, good opportunities, and you work for a good person. Take all of that into consideration.”

He was right. I had gotten proud and felt entitled. What I needed was to be humble and grateful.

DADvice #5: How can you shift your mindset to focus on what is working and what you DO like instead of dwelling on what you don’t? What we focus on expands. One idea is to focus on 3 things you are grateful for each night before you go to bed.

#6 Go for It

Perhaps more than anything else, this advice from my dad has shaped my approach to what I do. Whether I’m pursuing an opportunity or a promotion or want to meet someone I admire, I hear my dad’s words over and over again and have shared them with others:

“The worst thing they’ll tell you is ‘no’.”

Most of us are afraid of rejection. It doesn’t feel good. It makes us feel inadequate, insecure, less than. But so does not trying. If we never try, we’ll never know what is possible.

So, why not ask?

Last year I was recognized as the #1 Health Promotion Professional in the U.S. by WELCOA and was in San Diego for their wellness conference and another conference. A renowned expert in the field whom I admired was to be one of the keynote speakers at the second conference. I had read his book and articles, watched him on videos, and was inspired and impressed by what he was doing.

So, I found his email address on his website and emailed him to tell him how much I admired him and how I would love to meet. Not only did he give me his cell phone number, but he spent nearly three hours at dinner with just me one night of the conference! I was incredibly honored. It was something I will never forget.

Simply because I took a risk…and asked.

Dr. David Katz and me after dinner in San Diego!

Dr. David Katz and me after dinner in San Diego!

DADvice #6: What is something you want that you’ve been too afraid to ask for? Who’s someone you want to meet or talk to that you think is too “big” for you? Ask. Reach out to them. The worst they’ll say is “no”.

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to learn so much from my dad and his example. I know that his influence has shaped my mindset around work, the body, my marriage and how I treat people. I hope the lessons he’s taught me speak to you today.

Remember to challenge yourself, question what’s “normal”, embrace what makes you different, pursue lifelong learning, be humble and grateful, and go for it!

A Dream Come True: When Your Calling Finds You

Last year when I was in San Diego soaking in the final moments of the WELCOA conference after being honored as their Top Health Promotion Professional, I pulled out my journal.

I had one page left and decided to use it to list a few of my intentions and goals for the coming year. At the top of the page, I felt compelled to write this:

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I closed the journal, returned home, and stowed it away in a drawer.

And then it happened.

I received a call from WELCOA in August of 2015 and was invited to speak at their 2016 summit in Orlando!

I hadn’t done anything intentional to “make it happen.” I hadn’t pushed for it. I wasn’t trying. I hadn’t even asked WELCOA if I could present or told them I was interested. I had simply put my intention on paper.

And my calling found me.

I was asked to speak about eating in a way that was refreshing, non-prescriptive, and welcoming. I couldn’t believe my dream was becoming a reality.

I knew I needed to keep the message simple yet compelling. I wanted to invite people to be curious about food and their bodies, not to judge them or “tell” them what to do. One of my goals and life missions is to reframe the conversation around food to move away from fear, shame, guilt and judgement and toward something that is inspiring, empowering, uplifting, positive, encouraging and supportive.

As I geared up for the presentation, my dad, who is one of my greatest mentors in business and life, sent me this image because he knows how significant the symbol of a butterfly has been to me lately.

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I had to let that one soak in.

What if he was right?

What if it was true?

What if I was ready?

As I transitioned from, “I think I can/ Can I really?/ Why me?/ Who am I to do this?” to “I’ve got this/ I can do it/ I was born for this!” in the days leading up to the presentation, a sense of peace came over me.

Reading this passage from my devotional two days before my presentation was all the assurance I needed to know I would be given what I needed to do what I was called to do. I couldn’t help but feel as though the words had been written just for me:

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I was humbled and encouraged by what I read.

“You have no reason to be afraid, Rachel.”

“I’ve got you.”

The morning of the presentation, I opened a gift and card from my husband, Bill, who knows my heart better than anyone. It was just the lift I needed to start the day. Another butterfly…and a pretty awesome card.

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It was as though everything and everyone around me was supporting me, lifting me up, and speaking truth to me.

In that moment, I knew I was ready.

As I approached the stage on Tuesday morning, my eagerness turned into an adrenaline rush that flooded my body with a powerful surge of energy I couldn’t explain. I could feel the power of the dozens of people who were praying for me and wishing me well back in Baltimore and in that room.

For the next hour, I delivered a message of hope, encouragement and life to a room of nearly 400 of my peers and colleagues. We had the opportunity to connect, savor, laugh and be transformed by the truth about food.

What a privilege it was, a moment I will never forget.

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I felt so alive. 

Free.

Flowing.

Radiant.

Present.

Connected.

and

Worthy.

I truly felt like the best, most authentic version of myself and was aligned in every way with the core desired feelings I declared at the beginning of 2016.

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When my time was up, I stepped down from the stage, realizing that what I had just done was a challenging but defining step along my journey.

I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of my family, friends, colleagues, coworkers, the folks at the Institute for Integrative Health, and my church community. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you did to prepare me for this moment.

I’m so grateful.

Thank you to everyone at the conference who was kind enough to offer words of affirmation to me throughout the week. That is my #1 love language, so I was honored and humbled by the number of kind and thoughtful things people said. “Authentic,” “captivating,” “inspiring,” and “real.” Your words spoke to my heart and are what I aspire to do and who I strive to be.

One of the questions that excited me most was whether or not I’ve ever considered giving a TED Talk. Yes! Yes, I have. It’s one of the items on my new goal list. I believe it will happen one day, so I will remain open.

I will continue to pursue what makes me feel most alive.

I will surround myself with people who lift me up and speak truth to me.

I will dream even bigger dreams and believe they are possible.

My calling will find me once again, just as yours will find you.

Trust that if you are called, you will be equipped.

All you have to do is be patient, be open and listen.

And be ready for your time to fly.

Connect.Savor.Nourish: A Refreshing Approach to Eating

Quick Note: If you’re having trouble with old links working due to the recent website transition, please use the search box on the right-hand side to find the post/recipe you’re looking for. Links will continue to be updated to minimize error messages 🙂 Thank you for your patience!

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Food has always been a special part of my life.

Going grocery shopping and to farmer’s markets with my mom as a little girl.

Waiting for the horse-drawn “strawberry man” cart to come to our neighborhood with fresh “strawbetties”, as I called them.

Picking wild raspberries along the side of the road in upstate New York on a warm summer day.

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Photo Credit: Laura Toraldo Photography

Listening intently as my elderly neighbor and Julia Child admirer, Miss Muriel, taught me the art of making cheesecake, pasta, bread, and sugar cookies from scratch. 

Spending my summers in high school guiding customers how to pick out ripe watermelons and the perfect peach.

I’ve always been drawn to food.

After conducting several nutrition-based research studies with a professor in college, pursuing a graduate degree in health science, completing my health coach training, and running my company’s wellness program for the past decade, I knew I had to do something more than just read or talk about food.

I had to write about it.

I was encouraged by friends and coworkers to start a blog over two years ago, and that’s how Rachel’s Nourishing Kitchen first came to be. Since starting the blog, I haven’t felt like it reflects my style or my brand, so I’ve been working to change that. Over a year ago, my designer created this beautiful logo for me, and I’ve wanted to showcase it on my site ever since then!

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It’s playful, fun, inviting and warm. I love the little pop of color and how I feel when I see it. I’ve gotten similar feedback from dozens of people when I hand them my business card.

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Photo Credit: Laura Toraldo Photography

Today I’m excited to celebrate the roll-out of my redesigned website, complete with branding, professional pictures, and a cleaner, less cluttered look. This is the first phase of the redesign process, so you can look forward to even more improvements in user experience and functionality in the future.

In the process of coming up with the new design for the site, I spent some time thinking about what makes me different and what makes this site different. What’s the unique message that I want to put out into the world in a way that is meaningful to me and my readers?

After years of writing, teaching workshops, and interacting with people one-on-one and in groups, I’ve come to realize that what makes Rachel’s Nourishing Kitchen different is the refreshing, inviting, judgment-free, hopeful, and empowering approach I take. I stand in my truth and am honest about my victories and my struggles. I invite you along that journey with me, giving you permission to explore your own health, life, body and food choices.

We’re inundated with confusing, often negative, fear-driven information around food in the media and in our conversations. Most of us are looking for something beyond a diet, something that will stick, something that makes us feel good and gives us hope.

What if instead of feeling overwhelmed, you felt empowered about eating?

What if instead of obsessing over calories, you could connect with why you eat in the first place and what foods make you feel best and most alive?

What if instead of judging yourself for what you ate, you decided to get curious about it?CuriousG

I’ve updated my tagline to reflect what I feel is my unique message around food – Connect.Savor.Nourish. I want to invite you to connect with and savor your food and nourish yourself in every sense of the word.

  • CONNECT with your food – why you eat, how it makes you feel, where it comes from, and the impact it has beyond your plate – and with a community of people that lifts you up and brings out the best in you.
  • SAVOR your food by slowing down and making eating an experience, so you can truly taste and enjoy your food instead of feeling guilty about it.
  • NOURISH your body with energizing, healing, life-giving foods, so you can look and feel like the best version of yourself and, in turn, be your best for others.rnk_logo200_new

People who don’t know me often ask me why I have the word “kitchen” in my blog, since I don’t operate a physical space called Rachel’s Nourishing Kitchen.

Here’s the reason.

The kitchen is a special place. I’m going to guess that you have positive memories at some point in your life that involve a kitchen.

I remember baking Christmas cookies and muffins with my mom, sharing family dinners at the table, and sitting down after a long day at school to a snack with my brother. We set out cookies for Santa, dyed Easter eggs, and blew out birthday candles at that table. It was a place to gather, a place to share stories, a place to make memories and connect.

Food is about so much more than nutrition.

It’s about life. It’s about connection, celebration, enjoyment, and nourishment. I love what nutritionist, Marc David, has to say about the connection between food and life.

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Whether it’s your first time here or you’ve been here since the very beginning, welcome.

Welcome to my nourishing kitchen – a place of connection, and community. A place to be yourself and try new things. A place to find delicious, nourishing recipes that nourish your body. A place where you are invited to explore why, how, and what you eat in a way that is energizing, inspiring, and makes you feel alive.

I’m grateful you’re here, and I hope you’ll come back soon to visit!

 

What’s Your “Weightless Why”?

One of the commitments I’ve made since Day 1 of writing this blog is to be transparent and authentic. One colleague recently affirmed this by saying to me, “You stand in your truth.”  I was humbled by her comment and took it to heart because I know how important it is for me to do that.

I aspire to be refreshing, energizing and inspiring in my words and in my tone. I’ve learned there is immense power in being honest about ourselves and our struggles and that it gives other people permission to be open and honest about theirs. I invite people to be curious rather than passing judgment. This makes them feel safe, and it builds trust.

As part of my journey, I’ve had a constantly changing relationship with my self-image, confidence, health and weight. As I shared in my most vulnerable blog post in late December, I’ve been on a healing journey with my body and have been working to restore my health and well-being.

I’ve gone from being clinically malnourished only two years ago to looking and feeling alive, vibrant, radiant and whole today.

RD Before After

Throughout that process, I struggled emotionally, fighting fears of weight gain and what the public perception would be of “the wellness person” gaining weight. But I did what I knew I had to do to get my life back and give my body what it needed to feel its best.

I stopped weighing myself and now focus on the process of being well. This is what has worked for me, so I simply offer my story as an invitation to get curious about your own life and open up to a different way of thinking. Today, I care more about how my body feels and functions and less about a three-digit number that doesn’t tell the whole story.

I eat nourishing, whole, colorful food and cook most meals at home with my husband.

I make time to savor what I’m eating, so that I can truly taste it and enjoy it, whether it’s a piece of dark chocolate or a roasted sweet potato. 

I move my body regularly in ways that I enjoy and in ways that challenge me.

I surround myself with a loving, supportive, and fun community.

I’m involved in my church and make it a priority to give back.

I continue to pursue purpose-driven work that makes me feel alive.

Instead of using weight as my motivation for eating the way I do, I align how I eat with my life’s greater purpose, which is to bring hope, inspiration and empowerment to people through food and stories, so they can feel better and be the best version of themselves.

When I feel my best, I can be my best for others.

I eat the way I do to have lasting energy, a stable and lifted mood, a strong immune system that keeps me healthy, boosted physical performance, glowing skin, and thick hair. Food has given me my life back and the life in food has gievn me life.

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So, how about you?

Do you ever get hung up on the number on the scale? Have you ever allowed it to dictate your day? How you feel? How you see yourself? Whether you wear certain clothes or show up at an event? How much power and control do you give that number?

When weight is our only metric of “success,” we might not notice improvements in our mood, sleep, energy, skin, and performance that come along the way.

When we focus too much on the outcome, we often miss out on what the process is teaching us.

Being aware of our weight is not bad or wrong in and of itself, but when we obsess about it and let it run our lives and dictate how we feel on a daily basis, it can do more harm than good. Even Weight Watchers, a company whose very focus is weight, recently launched a new program called “Beyond the Scale” because they realize their customers are seeking something more.

If they can invite people to do that, so can we.

The most enduring, highest quality form of motivation comes from within us, not from the outside. If we want our motivation to last and our habits to stick, it’s important that we tap into something deeper and identify compelling reasons why we’re living the way we’re living and eating the way we’re eating.

For that reason, I invite you to identify something that I call your “Weightless Why”. What are the reasons you are motivated or inspired to nourish your body in a way that fuels you to be the best version of yourself that has nothing to do with the number on the scale?

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Here are just a few reasons I’ve come up with over the years that motivate me:

  • Feeling energized
  • More stable and elevated mood
  • Better mental focus
  • Being medication-free!
  • No more seasonal allergies
  • No more acid reflux
  • Bronchitis and ear infections are a thing of the past
  • A strong immune system that keeps me well (even when everyone else is sick!)
  • Warm tone/color to my skin
  • Clear skin (best of my life!)
  • No more aches and pains
  • Enhanced athletic performance and recovery
  • Improved digestion
  • Better sleep
  • To support local, sustainable farming practices and farmers

Which of those reasons resonate with you? Are there any that I missed that you would add?

I’d love to hear from YOU about your “Weightless Why.”

Feel free to leave a comment below.

The Courage to Be Vulnerable: My Untold Story

The story I’m about to share is the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever done.

Fear tends to accompany vulnerability, especially when we’re putting our WHOLE selves out there into the world.

Fear of rejection.

Fear of judgment.

Fear of being “too much.”

But I have to share this.

Because what I’ve experienced over the past five years has been a gift.

It has happened for me, not to me.

It’s my responsibility to be open enough to find meaning in my journey and to use it for good.

So, with that, here’s the story I’ve never told until now.

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I swore it would never happen again.

That I would never gain back the weight. That I’d never wear “those” clothes again.

I remember five years ago when I started proudly packing up all of my old clothes that no longer fit. I’d lost so much weight that I had gradually amassed a brand new wardrobe.

I hadn’t thought it was possible to get back to the weight I was in high school, but I had. The last time my body was this size, I was playing competitive soccer. I couldn’t believe it. I thought my body was destined to be the size it had become, but I had proven myself wrong and surprised myself.

In addition to losing weight, I had uncovered the root causes of other nagging body issues like congestion, allergies, acid reflux, and other digestive discomfort and had adjusted my diet to get rid of the triggers.

My body was more adaptable than I’d ever thought possible.

I felt good – better than ever. I was happy and for the first time in years, I loved going shopping to try on clothes. Nothing was tight. I had dropped a size or two.

I was proud of what I’d accomplished.

And I was convinced it was where my body was meant to be.

For years, I didn’t even think about my weight. I naturally maintained my weight and even lost a few more pounds, without much effort. In one of my most read blog posts ever about how I lost 20 pounds and kept it off, I wrote about what I did to lose the weight.

I had never gotten attention for my body before.

I welcomed the praise.

The “You look great/so good/amazing!” and “Have you lost weight??” comments fed my ego and my sense of worthiness. I had been employed as a Corporate Wellness Specialist for years, but now I looked the part.

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I started to tell my story of how I had lost weight and gotten off of acid reflux medication after a decade of taking it every day.

My story became my identity – “Wellness Consultant Drops 20 Pounds and a Decade of Taking Medication.”

But, as the body tends to do, mine started to change.

During the winter and spring of 2013, I hit my lowest weight. I had completed coursework about the benefits of a plant-based diet, which I had adopted years earlier when the weight loss began. What I learned caused me to stop eating animal products. I had cut out dairy a few years prior, as I found out it was one of my trigger foods, but now I wasn’t eating meat, poultry or even eggs.

My body started whispering to me, sending subtle signals that something wasn’t quite right.

I had lost weight everywhere, including my chest.

I looked more like a 14-year-old girl than a 28-year-old woman.

My libido was MIA.

My menstrual cycle was irregular.

Then, in August 2013, my body ceased whispering and started shouting.

“That time of the month” stopped coming.

For 7 months.

Seven long months.

And, no, I wasn’t pregnant.

Bill and I knew we wanted to have kids one day, but if that system wasn’t working, I wasn’t sure how it would be possible.

I switched OB/Gyns. I met with a natural fertility specialist.

I started seeing Dr. Mary Jo Fishburn, an acupuncturist and integrative medicine doctor. She had me complete a series of tests called Genova NutrEval to help us arrive at some answers about what wasn’t working in my body.

The tests would give us key information about five core nutrient areas: antioxidants, B vitamins, digestive support, essential fatty acids, and minerals.

The results came back.

I was devastated.

They were coded stoplight-style – red, yellow, green – and I was “in the red” on over a dozen key nutrients.

My body wasn’t breaking down and absorbing proteins.

We started looking at the food sources of each of those nutrients.

“But I’m eating most of those,” I responded. I ate plenty of spinach, kale, almonds, quinoa, and other nutrient-rich foods.

I was so confused.

What was happening inside my body?

I had just about stopped eating animal products, a major source of B vitamins and amino acids for most people, and the decade of acid blockers had messed with my body’s ability to properly use vitamin B12.

Years of taking antibiotics and acid blockers and consuming foods that were compromising my immune system had interfered with my body’s ability to break down and absorb nutrients from my food.

I had become malnourished.

It sounded like such a harsh word, but my test results supported it.

“You might need to gain some weight,” she suggested.

I had never been told by anyone that I was underweight. I never thought of myself as being “too thin.”

But I was. I appeared to be doing everything right from the outside, but my body wasn’t okay on the inside.

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But what would happen if I gained weight?

What would people think??

I had lost weight, kept it off, and was telling my story everywhere I went.

It had become part of my identity.

If I gained weight, people would notice.

Would they question my credibility to speak and teach about what to eat?

Would I lose their trust in me and my position as an “expert”?

Then, the internal name-calling began:

Imposter.

Fraud.

The fears began to overwhelm me, but I knew I had to keep moving forward.

I couldn’t keep ignoring my body’s signals.

My doctor referred me to a nutritionist, Kasia Kines, who I started seeing in January 2014.

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She put me on therapeutic doses of high quality supplements to begin replenishing and rebuilding my body’s stores of nutrients.

I slowly began reintroducing animal products into my diet. I made sure they were high quality – grass-fed, organic, pastured, etc. It started as a once a week thing and then built up.

Because of what I’d done to my body, my stomach acid production was deficient – something that is common among people who have acid reflux – but is misdiagnosed as excess acid. I was put on a hydrochloric acid supplement to take with protein-containing meals.

My body began responding.

My appetite returned.

I didn’t realize it, but for years, I hadn’t felt true hunger. I had been taking some form of medicine for acid reflux since I was 19 and had essentially shut down my stomach acid production. With the acid reintroduced to my stomach, my body could properly break down proteins into building blocks for the first time in years.

The ultimate gift came a few short weeks after starting with Kasia.

In January 2014, after waking up early one morning to use the restroom, I ran into our bedroom and shouted to Bill, “I’m a WOMAN again!!”

I couldn’t believe it.

I had hope.

My body was starting to cooperate, but I was still very irregular.

I brought my concerns back to my nutritionist.

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to have kids,” I told her, as a tear rolled down my cheek.

What she said next hit the deepest part of my being. She told me to repeat this phrase to myself whenever I was feeling discouraged:

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Oh, how I needed to hear that. 

And, oh, how it broke me.

She had no idea how profound and inspiring those words would be for me for years to come.

As my body started absorbing nutrients and with the guidance of my doctor and nutritionist, I started to gain weight. I opened myself up to the possibility that doing so could help me reach my ultimate goal.

My cycle finally regulated itself in October 2014 and has been on track on a monthly basis ever since.

But with it has come weight, something I’ve emotionally struggled with over the past year. I now wrestle with the fear that losing too much weight will send me back to the female issues I’ve recently overcome.

I’ve been making a conscious effort to shift my mindset about what has happened and what it means. Insights from books by Brene Brown, Geneen Roth, Marc David, and Elizabeth Gilbert have helped and have inspired me to face my body fears.

Instead of judging myself and feeling self-conscious or crying in the mirror when I don’t fit into an outfit I wore a year ago (been there, done that), I’m trying to focus on recognizing and appreciating everything my body does for me.

It wakes up each morning, so I can take on a new day.

My heart beats and my lungs bring oxygen every second.

My hair and nails are strong.

My cycle is back on track.

My skin has improved.

My reflux is still gone.

I have energy all day long.

RD Tossing Kale Looking Up

Photo cred: Laura Toraldo Photography

I’ve had the best year ever in my career.

My nutrient levels are back in healthy ranges.

In the midst of pushing myself physically, mentally and emotionally, my immune system kicks on to fight the bad guys trying to slow me down.

I can’t remember the last time I was sick.

I’m more in tune with my body and what it’s trying to tell me than ever before.

I’m doing my best to love this one precious, beautiful body I’ve been given.

Even when it confuses me.

Even when it frustrates me.

Even when I catch a glimpse of a picture of my once malnourished body in a dress that no longer fits.

In those moments, I remind myself of my nutritionist’s words of wisdom:

“What a journey you have had!

We are human. We do have to honor our bodies.

They are not at fault.

Other things are.

Just be gentle and forgiving.

It is doing its best for you!

It always has.”

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The Power of Disconnecting: 7 Life Lessons from the Adirondacks

I know how important it is to nourish myself with more than food, but I’ve been running myself a bit ragged over the past few weeks and haven’t made that much of a priority.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day busyness and lose sight of what matters.

Amazing things happen when we physically get away and give ourselves space to just be.

My recent vacation to Upstate New York was exactly what I needed to reset, recharge and refocus my body and brain.

It nourished my soul.

Most people who live in Baltimore spend their summers at the beach, but my vacation has always involved an 8-hour drive to the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. It’s where my mom spent her summers as a kid and where her parents lived for as long as I can remember.

I have so many great memories of spending summer vacations “Up North” as a kid, and I’ve grown to appreciate it even more as an adult.

My parents think of it as their heaven on earth, and it has become something similar for me in recent years. As much as I’m running around all the time at home, I can’t help but disconnect and refocus myself physically and mentally when I’m up there.

It’s such a special, centering, and grounding place.

Overlooking the Adirondack Mountains on a recent hike in Lake Placid, New York

One of my favorite things to do is hike the mountains. The air is crisp, clear and free of pollution, and the views are absolutely breathtaking.

As my husband, Bill, and I were hiking one of the 46 High Peaks with my parents (both in their 60s!), it started to hit me how much hiking and life have in common.

Whether we’re trying to reach a goal related to weight, movement, or what we’re eating, having a healthy perspective around the journey, destination and challenges along the way can help us stay on the path instead of being deterred or discouraged.

I’m always open to inspiration, no matter what I’m doing, and our hike up Phelps Mountain ended up being the perfect time to take in the lessons life had to teach me that day.

When we take time to nourish our entire being and realize that there’s more to life and being well than kale salads and green smoothies, we can learn tremendous lessons.

Lesson #1: Be prepared and have a plan

When you go for a hike, you don’t typically do it on a whim.

You pick a trail you can physically handle and usually a peak with good views. For example on one of the iconic Dreamland Safari tours, you might find yourself exploring the breathtaking Vermilion Cliffs. You check the forecast to make sure the weather is going to be nice. Clear days are the best days for views at the summit, so you plan for those as best you can. You pack food, water, a trail guide, first aid supplies, a camera, and whatever else you’ll need to stay hydrated, fueled, and safe.

Some of my favorite snacks to take on a hike!

The same goes with life. The more we set aside time to think through a plan and map out what we’ll need to be successful, the more likely we are to end up where we want to be.

I know quite a few people who plan each day the night before, so they can live intentionally and start each day focused on what they want to get out of it instead of just letting it pass by.

Planning time is not wasted time. It helps us be more productive, focused and intentional, so make time for it in the midst of the busyness.

Lesson #2: Enjoy the journey

The goal of hiking isn’t just to get to the summit and climb back down. Relative to the total hike, you spend a sliver of time at the top and most of the time getting there or back.

Getting through the hike makes you appreciate the summit that much more, so instead of anticipating the outcome at the expense of appreciating the journey, enjoy the entire hike, from the ascent to the summit to the descent.

Stop and pick the blueberries, look for beauty, take off your shoes and rest your tired feet in the ice cold spring water.

Stopping to pick blueberries on Blueberry Mountain

Someone else spelled this out on one of the lookouts. So cool!

Bill taking a break along the trail

We stopped at a stream to put our toes in the water on our way off the mountain

As the daughter of two entrepreneurs and someone with passion and desire to continually raise the bar, I often forget to do this. I’m so focused on “getting somewhere” that I don’t appreciate where I am in the moment and end up stressed as a result.

Enjoying the journey as much as the destination is about being fully present to where we are in the moment instead of wishing it away.

Lesson #3: It’s okay to get lost or go the “wrong” way

Hiking trails aren’t always clearly defined. Sometimes you make a wrong turn or get lost and have to figure out how to get back on track.

One time, Bill and I completely missed a sign and ended up hiking up a ski trail (talk about tiring!). It actually ended up being a bit of a shortcut but was a tougher climb than the actual trail would have been. We may not have gone the “right way” but we ended up where we needed to be.

The same thing happens in life. We can be so afraid of making mistakes or doing something “wrong” that we don’t even try.

Who says your way isn’t the right way just because other people do it differently?

Lesson #4: Trust your gut; it’s smarter than you

When we talk about having a “gut” feeling, that’s a real thing. We have neurotransmitters and nerve endings in our digestive system that are directly connected to our brain. When we were on our hike with my parents, we didn’t see trail markers for a solid half hour, and my mom started to worry if we were going the right way.

But we instinctively knew we were on the trail. Eventually, we saw trail markers, but we didn’t wait until we saw them to keep moving up.

In life, there aren’t always giant, in-your-face signs telling us what to do or where to go.

If we’re always waiting for a definite, clear-cut answer about what to do before moving forward, we might miss out on something or never get to where we’re meant to be.

Sometimes, we just have to trust our gut and listen to what our intuition is telling us.

Lesson #5: You’re going to have some “Holy S#@!” moments

The High Peaks are infamous for some pretty steep rock beds and scrambles as you approach the summit. When you’re hiking, you’re usually looking not more than a few feet in front of you, so you don’t always see them up ahead.

I remember on our hike that I looked up at a steep pitch at one point and just thought to myself, “Holy S#@!” as I tried to figure out how the heck I was going to get beyond it.

This happens in life a lot. We’re in the midst of our day or our journey, and roadblocks or barriers come out of nowhere and rattle us.

Sometimes, we have no idea how we’re going to get around them. But we assess the situation, consider a few possible options and go with what makes the most sense or “feels” right. We have to take action, or we won’t move forward.

Lesson #6: Get support from others along the way

Some people like to hike alone for the solitude, and I can totally understand why. But I find so many aspects of hiking are more fun when I’m with at least one other person.

It means we can share the load of whatever we have in our packs. We have another set of eyes and intuition to guide us along the trail. We have someone who can help us over physical obstacles like ladders or steep pitches. We have someone to talk to and take pictures with throughout the hike.

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The same goes with life. When we bring other people on our journey with us, they can support and guide us along the way and celebrate with us when we reach our goal.

Struggles and celebrations are easier when we go through them with other people.

Lesson #7: Soak in the summit

One of the most magical moments of a hike is when you reach the peak of a mountain. The views are stunning, especially on a clear day, that you can’t help but be silent and take in the beauty and peacefulness of your surroundings.

When we hike, we usually spend a solid hour at the summit. We take our shoes off, down some water, and enjoy our well-deserved lunch. We take pictures, lay on the rocks, bask in the sun, and take in the entire experience.

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I find this hard to do in my life. When I accomplish something, I’m quick to move on to whatever the next project or goal is and rarely appreciate what I’ve just done.

I don’t take time to celebrate victories.

But last week, the mountains reminded me that there’s something incredibly satisfying about pausing to treasure and honor something we’ve worked hard to accomplish, to fully soak in the awesomeness of that moment.

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Sometimes we have to step away from the crazy busy worlds most of us live in to reflect on our journey and what we’re trying to accomplish on a daily basis. I hope some of these reflections speak to and inspire you today to reset, refocus and take on a new perspective along your journey, no matter where you are on the path.

My WELCOA Moment: A Day I Will Never Forget

Each of us has days in our lives that we’ll remember forever. 

Tuesday, March 31st was one of those days for me.

In February, I found out that I had been named the Top Health Promotion Professional in the U.S. by the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA).

I was overjoyed and shocked when I got the news and am pretty sure I didn’t stop smiling for about a week!

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Doing the work that I do is rewarding in and of itself because I’m put in a position on an almost daily basis to impact people’s lives for the better and to give them hope that they can be well.

A super cool perk that was packaged with the award was a trip to San Diego to attend WELCOA’s annual summit, which brings together leaders in our field and serves as a source of inspiration, energy, and community each time I come.

On the second day of the summit, I had the privilege and opportunity of delivering an acceptance speech to nearly 400 of my peers, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

welcoa stage

I had spent several weeks working on what I wanted to say, crafting the words based on inspirations that came to me first thing in the morning, on a run, after conversations with my dad, and even in the midst of reflecting on what other speakers shared during the conference.

Our message was essentially the same: Tell your story. Stories are powerful.

As Ryan called me up on stage, I was so present to that moment and just took in everything I could. You know you’re doing what you’re meant to do when you feel so alive and excited you could burst with joy, and that is how I felt in this moment.

I was humbled by the kind words complete strangers, colleagues, and industry leaders shared with me afterwards. Several people commented that I should speak at a future WELCOA conference.

Wouldn’t that be the coolest?! 🙂

I felt so overwhelmed with gratitude for being given this honor and so humbled that what I had to say meant something to and touched so many people.

Some people wait their whole lives to feel how I felt on Tuesday. 

At the beginning of this year, I declared that I wanted to FEEL five things:

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The experience I had at the WELCOA Summit gave me the opportunity to feel all of them at once.

I felt so alive. 

I can hardly put into words how incredibly special and meaningful this experience has been for me.

It was a feeling, a moment, and a day that I will never forget, and for that, I am grateful.

Do you want to bring health and wellbeing to your workplace? If you want to learn more about how I can help, including leadership training and interactive health and nutrition workshops, contact me at rachel@silbs.com.

My Husband Faces His Fears…And Celebrates with This No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Pie {Vegan, Gluten-Free}

Sometimes we experience moments in our lives that are so profound, so impactful that we can’t help but be affected by them.

I experienced one of those moments today.

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My husband, Bill, faced some of his biggest fears today as he humbly yet commandingly held the attention of a room full of people, sharing his story of growth through community over the past 6 years.

When our pastor and friend, Ryan, called Bill 3 weeks ago to ask if he would share his story at church, he stepped up to the challenge, despite his fears and reservations.

Like many people, Bill has had a lifelong fear of public speaking. And like most men, he wasn’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to share his thoughts and feelings with a room of over 100 people. When Bill was first asked, he panicked and decided he needed some proper training, so he spent the following twenty minutes googling public speaking courses. He found some good ones, but they were all UK based (Here’s some great public speaking courses to attend in London if these are of interest to you!). However, I managed to calm him down and he came round to the idea of no training and just practicing with me instead.

Being emotionally vulnerable isn’t something our culture encourages men to do, and those who do put their fragile egos at risk.

Bill opened up by highlighting the irony of how he can easily speak in front of a room of elementary school students in his job as a phys ed teacher, where conversations typically consist of debates over who did what, who likes whom or who has to go to the bathroom.

Speaking in front of a group of peers is an entirely different ballgame.

He shared how he used to be terrified of speaking in public. He would intentionally sit on the outskirts of a room full of people in our small group, sometimes dozing off as a result of the heat in the room, hoping to go unnoticed and not be asked to contribute to the discussion.

He talked about how he grew in his understanding of what it really means to be a man in a guys’ group he was a part of through our church as he studied the book The Way of the Wild Heart.

He got choked up as he shared how he felt years of emotional burdens lifted as he and the guys in that group shared their stories and struggles with each other.

He opened up about the impact of a retreat we went on last September on our ability to communicate more effectively and lovingly as a couple.

In Rhinebeck, New York for the Getting the Love You Want couples retreat

In Rhinebeck, New York for the Getting the Love You Want couples retreat

Sometimes what we are so afraid to share with other people is the very thing that will connect us to them, the very thing they are so frightened to unveil themselves.

Sometimes it just takes one person with the courage to be vulnerable.

I’m so proud of my husband for being that person.

I’m proud of the man Bill has become and the leader he is in our relationship, in his job, and in our church.

I’m proud of the example he sets for what it means to be a humble, teachable, gracious, forgiving, kind, caring and loving man.

I’m proud to be his wife.

Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky.

I wanted to celebrate him and what this milestone means, so we grabbed brunch at one of our favorite places – Atwater’s – and I gave him a card letting him know how proud of him I am.

When we got home, I served him this pie. Bill and I both love the combo of peanut butter and chocolate, so we had eyed up this recipe before. I thought today would be the perfect day to make it for him.

If you like peanut butter and chocolate, you need to know about this pie. Talk about an indulgence! It’s chocolately, peanut buttery (trust me, it’s a word), and decadent.

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Tempted to try it? Click here for the recipe**! I used cacao powder (not cocoa powder) because it has more health benefits! Click here to learn more about why CACAO is better than COCOA.

**I added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the filling. For the crust I ground up 1.5 cups of whole almonds in my food processor until it was a fine consistency because I didn’t have any almond meal. Then, I just added the other crust ingredients to the food processor to combine them before pressing it into the bottom of the pie plate.

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