Portion Control - Real Serving Sizes

Portion CONTROL. 

Mindless eating is one of the top reasons we struggle with the magnitude of the obesity epidemic we face in our country today. The expansion of our middles in the last few decades directly reflects the increase in the size of our plates and portions. It’s time to rein it in.

We now know that for many of us, habitual over eating is actually a “food addiction.” It is real, comparable in nature to any other substance abuse. The problem is that we need food to survive and the avoidance or weaning tactics used to deal with other types of substance abuse is not realistic in this case as a recovery method. This means, then, that to win the battle around food and its priority and purpose in our lives, it has to be fought in our minds and hearts. 

It has to be battled hand in hand with surrender to God and His better way, and the invitation by Him to renew our minds completely around our relationship with food.

If you struggle with over eating or controlling portions, remember that there is no need for shame, guilt, or other negative feelings directed toward yourself because of this struggle. 


Just like all the other issues we each face in our behaviors and habits, this particular one is another opportunity to re-evaluate where you currently stand. Ask God to take any feelings you may have of your own inadequacy, and replace them with the knowledge of His ability. Remember who you are to Him, you are His marvelous reflection! He wants you to be healthy and whole.

Now let’s move on to the “how” of cutting our portion sizes down and learning what a serving size really looks like!

We hear a lot about this topic in the health arena – but do we translate the information out there into how much we eat every day? 

Despite the vast amount of knowledge available to us on portion sizes and types, many of us are not following these very simple instructions in our diets. By applying this one change to our family nutritional habits, we would see a quick and noticeable difference in our weight and health! 

Here is some valuable information to help you decipher how much food you should (or shouldn’t) be eating every day.

According to the USDA, here is a general idea of what ONE portion is in each food group:

Breads, pasta, cereal, cooked grains

  • 1 slice of bread (looks like a CD case)

  • 1/2 a bagel (the size of a hockey puck)

  • 1 cup cereal (looks like two hands cupped together)

  • 1/2 cup cooked grain or pasta (one cupped palm)


  • 1 piece of fresh fruit (the size of a tennis ball)

  • 1/2 cup cut up fruit, raw, cooked, frozen, or canned (looks like 7 cotton balls)

  • 1/4 cup dried fruit (1/2 cupped handful)

  • 3/4 cup 100% fruit juice (5 ounces or so)


  • 1/2 cup cut up veggie, raw, cooked, frozen, or canned (looks like the bulb part of a light bulb)

  • 1/2 cup cooked, canned or frozen legumes

  • 1 cup leafy greens (2 handfuls)

  • 3/4 cup 100% vegetable juice (5 ounces or so)

Meat, chicken, or fish

  • 3-4 ounces (looks like a deck of cards or a checkbook)

  • 1 egg


  • 1 oz of cheese (looks like 2, 9-volt batteries)

  • 1/2 cup ice cream, cottage cheese or pudding (one rounded scoop)

  • 1 cup milk or yogurt


  • 1/3 cup (a small handful)

  • 1 tbsp nut butter (size of both your thumbs)

For a chart of serving sizes, click here!

Another important thing to establish is what is a portion size versus a serving size? 

The difference between the two can be so confusing! Being unclear on this is one of the reasons many of us end up eating much more than we should – we haven’t mastered really knowing “how much is too much!”

Let’s see if we can clear this up:

A portion is the amount of food you put on your plate. 

A serving is a specific amount of food defined by common measurements

For instance, a pancake “serving” is 4 inches, but a typical portion you might eat is 6 inches — or almost 1 ½ servings.  In liquid measurements, a serving is 8 ounces. Often, though, we pour double that amount, and don’t even think twice about it.

One way to combat unknowingly eating or drinking too much at one time, is to use visual cues for portion sizes – for example, a serving of fruit is the size of a baseball, one serving of cheese is the size of four dice, a computer mouse represents a serving of pasta, a deck of cards is the size of one serving of poultry or fish, and a hockey puck represents one serving of whole grains like rice.

Something else to watch for is plate size - plates used to be about 6-8 inches in width, encouraging the perfect amount of food portions per plate.  Nowadays though, “dinner” plates are more like 10-12 inches around, and encourage mindless amounts of food for our meals without us even realizing it!

A good idea is to put those larger dinner plates away, and pull out the salad or lunch plates. This visual cue will go far in halting overeating.

These simple strategies combined with the application of God’s Word in renewing your mind around portion control will bring powerful freedom and change in this area in your life - if you are interested in tackling this topic and more around the way you eat, grab a copy of our FRESH Start Workbook - we cover this in great detail with helpful aids in that book!

Top 10 FRESH Protein Foods {and How to Eat More!}

Why are proteins so important for your health?

Each cell in our body holds protein and we cannot live without it. Protein sustains our bodies by building and repairing tissues, and is an important part in the building of muscles and bones.

As Dr Mark Hyman explains - “Protein provides us with the building blocks of life—helping us make muscle, connective tissue, hair, blood, enzymes, neurotransmitters, and more. Clearly, it’s important that we’re eating enough of this essential macronutrient if we want to feel strong, energized, and healthy.”

OK, So how much should I be eating?

In recent years, an unbalanced view of protein has developed, partially due to the numerous fundamental diets that have risen in popularity, touting a diet of high protein as necessary for everything from bodybuilding to weight loss. It’s important to note in this article that here at FRESH Start, we are neither a diet nor a fundamental fitness plan - we believe in balance, individual intuition-led eating, and eating the amount of protein that YOU NEED for your particular goals and needs!

That said, there is a “suggested range” of daily protein intake that we need for just “normal living” …

- now, this is obviously for those who are either somewhat sedentary or not aggressively working out.

(So this would be different from someone who is bodybuilding, working out an hour or more daily, or even, like in my case, is deficient in protein due to a chronic illness, etc)

The general idea is that we need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. This amounts to: 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man and 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.

(Above paragraph taken from this article on Healthline. com)

No matter the amount you choose to eat for your needs, it is a good idea to eat it in small amounts throughout the day, as protein is a filling nutrient.

Combine Food Groups for better Results!

“Food combining,” or including some type of protein WITH healthy fibrous foods and a healthy fat with every meal or mini-meal is powerful for your nutritional needs. It’s been discovered that this helps the body to properly break down the food, and absorb more of the benefits, as well as stabilize our blood sugar levels.

Carbohydrates from our foods provide the fuel and energy we need. Proteins are the building blocks of our cell structure. If carbohydrates are not available, the body will burn through the proteins and not ingest and put them to use properly.

The goal then, is to get more protein-rich foods in your body, more often, along with the other major food groups at the same time for optimal digestion!

Here’s a list of our top protein-rich foods, the nutritional benefits they contain, as well as ideas on how to eat more of them!

our top 10 FRESH proteins:

1. Chicken Breast

a 3.5 oz. chicken breast contains 30 grams protein - wow! - but they’re also full of phosphorus, an essential mineral that helps your teeth and bones, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system function

  • add grilled chicken to your salads

  • grill chicken and mangos for a yummy lettuce wrap

2. Salmon

high in essential fatty acids, and contains one of the highest protein loads in an animal protein - but also rich in B vitamins and selenium, 2 of the vitamins your body strongly needs for mental health

3. Eggs

versatile source of protein, rich in B-complex vitamin choline, which reduces inflammation

  • prepare a yummy omelet with veggies sauteed in a tsp of healthy fat, like olive or coconut oil for a power breakfast

  • keep a few boiled eggs in the refrigerator - add to salad or for a quick sandwich snack

4. Avocado

as well as lean protein, contain excess of 25 essential nutrients for your health, including vitamin A, B, C, E, & K, copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium AND is a healthy fat!

  • add sliced avocado to any sandwich or salad

  • serve sliced avocado along-side scrambled eggs

5. Beans & Legumes

high in antioxidants, fiber, protein, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc. Helps with weight management and to decrease the risk of diabetes and heart disease

  • Make homemade hummus out of chickpeas

  • Add to salads or toss with veggies

  • Add black beans to taco meat

6. Greek Yogurt

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high in protein (2x as much as regular yogurt!) has less lactic acid than other dairy, which makes it easier to digest and truly absorb the nutritional benefits to your body. (People who can’t digest other dairy can often digest Greek Yogurt with no problem.)

Greek Yogurt contains live microorganisms, or probiotics, which are good bacteria that we’re often deficient in. They are healing to your gut lining and help improve your immune system, and even, help reduce side effects of antibiotic treatments!

  • add 1/2 cup greek yogurt to your morning smoothie for a balanced, whole-food protein boost instead of processed powder

  • stir 1 Tbsp chia seeds into 1/2 cup as an energy-giving power snack

7. Nuts and Seeds

(example: Almonds, Cashews, and Chia Seeds)

As tiny as these nutritional powerhouses are, they contain a large amount of vitamins, minerals and fats in addition to digestible protein for your body’s needs! The fats in them are the right kind (in moderation of course) and help keep down inflammation, maintaining the normal structure of every cell in your body.

  • Sprinkle a tablespoon of chia seeds or ground flaxseed over a yogurt parfait or in your daily smoothie for an energy boost!

  • Pre-portion 1 ounce of raw, lightly or unsalted nuts like almonds, pecans, walnuts or cashews into little bags for quick grab and go power snacks!

8.Sirloin Steak

good source of protein and other vitamins and minerals such as  B12 and Zinc

  • serve in a quickie stir-fry with broccoli, green onion, soy sauce, & cooked brown rice

  • try it just seasoned and grilled with a baked sweet potato

9. Ground, Lean (93/7) Turkey and/or Beef

not only super high in hefty protein, but low on the “bad fats” and nutrient-packed with iron, other minerals, and vitamins B12 & D

  • grill patties and serve on a whole wheat bun or pita piled with veggies

  • make a low-sodium taco mix with black beans and sweet corn & serve in tacos al carbon (warmed, not fried) or over a lush green salad

10. Quinoa

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contains all 9 essential amino acids (one of the only foods that does!) and is a great source of riboflavin

  • quinoa-stuffed vegetables

  • try it with maple syrup and nuts for a yummy breakfast or snack

  • spoon over a spinach salad for added crunchy, chewy vegetarian protein!

It just takes a little planning and creativity to include more of these lean proteins in your daily diet!

The possibilities are endless!

Share some of your favorite ideas and recipes for these foods by commenting on this post or visit us on our Facebook page to share!

What NOT To Say To a Sick Person

Sharing this post with you from my health coaching heart today….but also from my own painful journey as a “sick person.”

I’m going on 3 years now of living with a painful, chronically EXHAUSTING and generally soul-sucking illness called Hashimoto’s Autoimmune. And close to 15 years now with a chronic spine condition I was born with (spondylolisthesis) that creates daily pain and massive physical limitations (including an unattractive bent-over-look that is hard on a girl’s self-esteem!)

One hidden blessing of living with chronic disease and pain - my COMPASSION for others INCREASES.

My understanding of “invisible illnesses” has greatly expanded.

And my desire to share this awareness with you is on fire!

So today, I’m sharing some heartfelt advice for us all (OR, what NOT to say to a sick person!)

Right before my spine correction surgery in Oct 2016…I was so scared! So very, very scared. But God was with me! The whole time!

Right before my spine correction surgery in Oct 2016…I was so scared! So very, very scared. But God was with me! The whole time!

The statistics (which haven’t even caught up with the reality) on chronic disease, especially invisible disease like autoimmune and pain conditions, are frightening, to say the least. What they confirm is that we are each most likely touching the lives of someone who struggles with one or more…or are sur-thrivers of them ourselves.

Knowing this, we’ve got to come out of the stigma-influenced mindset of judging, demeaning, pitying or patronizing those who suffer.

The only way to even begin to understand, let alone bring healing to someone in this situation, is to admit we might need to change our viewpoint.

We've got to remember that people who are struggling with an illness or disease or life-issue DO NOT WANT to be sick. 

I repeat: NO ONE WANTS to be sick.

It's just SO hard when you are in the midst of sickness or some struggle and peeps give "pat comments." (Even IF their hearts are to help, and you know it, it still stings and sucks.)

Please be kind.

Be sensitive.

LISTEN instead of TELL.


* You are healed, you just need to receive it (yes, I get this one A LOT) as if I've actively CHOSEN to not receive it for the last few uber-painful, uncomfortable years of my life.

Um, just trust me on this, kay?

I DO want to receive it and you can be assured Jesus and I have conversed as such on more than one occasion.

* Have you tried THIS FIX-IT or THIS JUICE or THIS OIL or THIS PILL or THIS.... 

#1 Yes, I continue to keep an open mind, and I will try just about anything ONCE however, #1 money don't grow on my tree in the front yard, and

#2 my poor body needs a breather from "trying stuff" for a bit, thank you very much. (Not to mention the bank account.) PLEASE don’t offer me anything unless you wanna buy it for me?

“Oh, I know exactly what that feels like, from when I had *insert whatever ailment here* “

NO. Just no.

NOBODY knows exactly what another person’s struggle, pain, issues, or circumstances feels like.

It’s impossible.

You may be able to relate, but validation that you DON’T know what it feels like would be nice, then you can get into the relating piece after that.

Especially because now, I’m feeling CARED ABOUT by heart is now wide open.

Example of what would be better to say: 

“Gosh, friend, I have NO idea what that feels like, you are one tough cookie to deal with that! A while back, I had *insert whatever pain I had* and I could barely handle that! I’ll be praying for you.”


* Aw, I'm sorry friend. You're in my prayers (or, if you're not a person of faith, you can say, "best wishes for healing")

* I can't imagine what that feels like, you must be so tired of this (oh sweet validation - it's like medicine)

* What can I do to help? (they're probably NOT gonna take you up on it, but it's that whole "thought that matters" thing)

* SEND THEM A QUICK MESSAGE with a song, a quote, an inspiration, or better yet, a sweet card in the mail with encouragement

OH and another quick tip: Don't forget about the "strong ones" - the friends or family who AREN'T COMPLAINING - they need those check in messages too! They need the thoughts and prayers and care - but they may never ask for it.

Post-surgery in 2017 but very sick with Hashimoto’s - Kissing my hubby on the beach at our Family getaway spot in Mexico. We are taking this life one day at a time, and trying to find joy in every moment.

Post-surgery in 2017 but very sick with Hashimoto’s - Kissing my hubby on the beach at our Family getaway spot in Mexico. We are taking this life one day at a time, and trying to find joy in every moment.

Back when I was very, very sick with a severe seizure disorder that upended my life in my late 20’s (but since, the Lord has COMPLETELY healed my body of it!) I once heard a neurologist say… “we are ALL one breath away from a neurological disease or mental illness.” He was saying this to remove my own self-induced shame about the condition, essentially telling me that EVERYONE is capable of sickness.

Since then, I’ve realized this is true of ANY sickness or condition or disease - and of course, as a health coach on a mission to bring hope and healing to this world, I don’t want to think that way.

I want to see EVERYONE healed!

NO ONE sick.

But it is true that while walking this imperfect journey in this broken world, NONE of us is “safe” from pain, disease, sickness or struggle.

We don’t earn sickness by “being worse than others” and we don’t “earn our way out of it with great faith” - and YES I do believe in faith and supernatural healing, and even have numerous testimonies of it in my own journey (with more to come!) but NO we personally don’t get to choose when that happens!

God is SOVEREIGN ya’ll - He alone is God. I’m not about to tell Him how to do His job.

Maybe, when we realize our great vulnerability, we will plant good seeds for our own uncertain futures by serving those in our lives now who are affected.

Maybe our own compassion meters will fill back up, our thoughtfulness thermometers will be on high alert and our sensitivity sensors will be working well!

Who has God put on your heart to reach out to?

Get up in their private messages right now, and show 'em some love!

...and thank you for taking the time to read this, friend. Your care in reading it is an amazing gift to those in your life who need you and your love!

Huge hugs and belief in you ~ Coach Bess

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13 Quick Ways the Busiest Mom Can Experience Habitual Self Care

As moms, we often forget to take proper care of ourselves. Or, we put our self-care on the back burner, thinking that somehow we will one day have enough time to prioritize it.

Can I share a secret with you? That “one day” is NOW!

I know, CARAZY.

busy mom self care.png

Yes, you will not wake up one day when your small kiddos are bigger and think “NOW I have time for me!” (Ask me how I know!)

I remember fantasizing about how parenting was going to get easier once my littles were more independent (oh how I wish I had been right…*sigh*) The truth is, with the “spare time” available these days, parenting 2 adult kids and 2 almost-grown ones, I have discovered that theory was not sound!

And yet, over the years, I’ve found ways to build short, simple, affordable self-care into my day as a habit - mainly because struggling with the pain and exhaustion of an autoimmune disease and chronic spine-pain issue, I’ve found that if I do not, I will not be able to “be there” for my family, let alone anyone else!

Self-care isn’t a luxury, mama-friend!

I believe with all my health-coaching heart that it’s a necessity! And I credit my own health coach, Casey Sollock, of She Shines Wellness, with teaching me this concept I’m sharing here is this article. She called it “aggressive self-care” and she helped me understand that it’s not a one-and-done kind of thing - especially for us moms. It’s an ongoing, necessary, habitual kind of need for health and healing!

SO HOW DO WE BUILD IN THE DAILY HABITS TO BETTER SELF CARE? can be simpler, more affordable and even more fun than you might think! That’s why I’m sharing this article with you - to give you some ideas on simple ways you can add a little self-care into your day!

The power-moms here in our FRESH Start Community shared their best tips for making self-care a habit for even the busiest mom!

Here’s what some of them shared…

Misty Judd said…

“I purposefully pick a snack just for me when I go to the grocery store. It’s usually healthy and a lot of times not something I would buy for the family. They can be very picky and prefer homemade baked goods packed with sugar. I tend to put my family before myself and this helps me remind myself to take care of me on a daily basis. I also escape to the nail salon every 2 weeks for a 90 minute sanity break. When the kids were in diapers this is the only time I had a break and could clear my mind.”

BootsBobbie Denson shared…

“Since I love to craft and it is very relaxing for me, as a working mom, I would build into the schedule a time to craft with the kiddos. Quality time with the children and a needed reboot for me.”

Lorrea Hall shared her secret sauce…

“Well it’s always insanity around here...but here’s what I do:

1) I take a few minutes everyday to just breath - if I can do it outside, I do. I typically have these mini-breaks built in throughout the day. First thing in the morning before the kids get up I have coffee and breathe before the day starts. I work from home so I always go to my office 5 minutes early and take 2-3 minutes to breathe and release whatever home stresses I have been dealing with before I start diving in so I am fresh and focused on work. At the end of the night before I go to bed I take 2-3 minutes to free my mind of any intrusive thoughts or urgent needs I’ll need to handle first thing in the morning. This frees my mind to rest knowing that I have everything handled. I am a 2am thinker so if I haven’t freed my mind - I’ll be up at 3am remembering all these things that are weighing on me.

2) exercise - Quick walks around the block during breaks or at lunch or before bed. I also have a sit/stand desk so I can change my desk from sitting to standing. In standing mode I have a rocker that I stand on that gets me moving. I also, keep fitness bands in my office for a quick exercise break when I have a minute or 2 and a stretching poster in my wall to remind me to stretch throughout the day. I also have some motivational quotes around the office that remind me to pause and reflect helping me sneak in a little bit of mind quieting.

3) family me time - I think women get recharged by investing in others. For me this is mostly my family but also friends. I have a bi-weekly nail date with my mom, we sit, we have some wine, we do our nails together. I have hobbies with each of my kids we do together - riding bikes, doing science experiments, building things, and coding. There things we both enjoy so we’re both getting our buckets filled + quality conversation and connection.”


My personal go-to way (as a busy mom of four!) to add in a little more self-care habitually is:

To make a few healthy habits non-negotiable!

What I mean is, there are a few things that I will do day-in-day-out no matter how crazy the day, no matter how full the calendar!

For me, these are simple, affordable and easy to squeeze in…

1. Drink enough water NO MATTER WHAT - even if I’m enjoying a no-no soda pop or extra cup of coffee, I’ll make sure to get those 8 minimum cups of water NO MATTER WHAT!

2. Have a smoothie in the morning NO MATTER WHAT - I may end up eating “off plan” on a crazy day, BUT by having that smoothie, I’ve had a couple of servings of veggies, fiber, healthy fat, protein, vitamins and minerals - so no matter the deficiency (or unhealthy stuff) in the rest of my meals, I’ve had that boost and nutrition to combat it and help give my body some goodness! (My fave recipe is here —- >> Berry Nutty Smoothie Recipe)

3. Take a walk outside NO MATTER WHAT - so even if I don’t get more steps or a good heart-pumping workout that day, I’ve gotten in a few minutes of sunshine (Vitamin D!) fresh air into my lungs and blood supply and a great stretching exercise in for the rest of my body.

These are just a couple of examples of my personal list of “non-negotiables” for my self-care...they will happen NO MATTER WHAT ELSE DOES!

What could you turn into a daily habit that could be a “NO-MATTER-WHAT” for you?

These small things really do add up and create a new level of health in your mind and body!

More moms from our Community share their secret sauce with us…

Melanie Mason Shannon tells us…

“As working mom, I use my lunch hour. If weather is pretty, I like to take lunch outside and enjoy some quiet time soaking up the sunshine. If weather is not cooperating, then I will turn lights off in office and relax for 15-20 minutes after I eat. Some afternoons I drive home with radio off just for some quiet. Also, peppermint oil is my friend on stressful days. A sniff perks me up or few drops rubbed behind ears and on temples helps with headaches.”

Michele Spooner says ...

“Get up and spend 10-15 minutes writing in my gratitude journal as I drink my tea. Really begins my day off right and keeps me focused on what is important!”

Vee Tal shares …

“I sit in my car and just look at God. Gratitude goes a long way to uplifting my day.”

Gloria B. Dorsey advises…

“Thinking back to when I was a young mom... joining in the kid fun, not just watching; jumping in the puddles, going down the slide, skipping along, throwing rocks in the river as well. Kids play is good for adults as well; when you are playing and laughing you are not stressing!”

Mary Tomko Huggins tells us …

“Taking 5 minutes to sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and nothing else. I love doing this outside in the morning, before people wake up, and just center myself. Make a quick facial scrub / hand scrub of EVOO & brown sugar. This is great to use on the face to get rid of dead skin and also make your skin feel soft. I also like to use it on my hands. I keep some made up in my bathroom to use daily.”

Feel free to share YOUR input on how you weave self-care into your busy day, can comment right here om the post, or drop into our free community, FRESH Start Club to tell us there!

And in the meantime, remember to intentionally take a few minutes for YOU today! ;)

From one busy mama to another!

~ Coach Bess

A Healthy Gut Means a Healthy You

This guest post is written by our guest expert, Carl Mason, Fitness and Food Guru and longtime FRESH Start friend. Read on to learn this oh-so-important info about our guts and exactly how important it is to care properly for it, to ensure our overall health! You can find out more about Carl at the end of this article.

I say it often, “Your gut is the heart of your health.”

Just ponder that for a minute. Where does your body access nutrients that feed your cells? Where does nutrient absorption take place for your muscles, your brain, all your organs? Where are toxins isolated and expelled to prevent you harm? It all happens in the gut.

The gut is more than your stomach. It is a very complex, strategically functioning network that includes…

Your Mouth

Your mouth is the gateway to your gut. From the moment you smell dinner, your mouth waters and the digestive process begins. With every chew, the process continues as the enzymes of your saliva start to break down the food.

Your Esophagus

As you chew every bite, ideally 15-30 times, the food enters your esophagus where it is delivered into your stomach.

Your Stomach

Now that your dinner has arrived in the stomach, it is sterilized and the digestive process continues with the aid of hydrochloric acid. Meanwhile, the stomach’s enzymes process proteins and nutrients while the stomach churns this broken down food, called chyme, into a liquid.  

Your Small intestine

At this point, your brain gets involved and once it has decided that the food is properly broken down, it signals the release into the small intestine. This is where all those nutrients are absorbed and become the building blocks that keep you healthy.

Your Pancreas, Liver, Gallbladder

These three organs are now vital to the process. The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine that break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, while also producing insulin to help regulate your blood sugar. The liver, your protein building organ, produces bile, which is secreted into the gallbladder, that is then released, as needed, into the small intestine to break down fats. Now, this is a two way street as your small intestine then sends carbohydrates, fats, and other nutrients to the liver, where they are converted into protein and glucose, to be used as fuel for the body.

Colon and Rectum

Once the small intestine has done its job alongside these three vital organs, the remaining material is passed into the colon. Its role is to absorb all the water and electrolytes before passing any remnant waste to the rectum and out of the body.

It’s all very clever, wouldn’t you say?

It gets better. Within this entire network is something called your microbiome. It is essentially the atmosphere in your gut that is comprised of living microorganisms. And you feed it with every bite you take...either for good or bad. The trouble is, that the modern diet feeds the bad, and also kills the good.

All the refined foods filled with synthetic flavorings, preservatives, and additives are deadly to the microbiome. The lack of fiber, common in these foods, is yet another blow. Did you know that only 5% of Americans are believed to ingest the minimum recommended daily allowance of fiber considered good for your health? Five percent. That’s shocking, right? Yet, fiber is the number one nutrient that feeds a healthy microbiome.


So how do you make sure you are empowering a healthy microbiome and the fantastic health you are seeking?

Avoid Toxic Foods

Refined and processed foods are loaded with toxins that include antibiotics, glyphosate, and a long list of chemical additives, preservatives, and flavorings that replace everything that refining has destroyed. Every one of them is deadly to your gut health.

Avoid Refined Sugar and Oils

These, in addition to the negative effects of all the same toxins just mentioned, feed the bacteria that cause gas, indigestion, bloating, and chronic inflammation which throw a roadblock to your digestion and health.

Consume Prebiotics

You all know about PRObiotics but do you know about PREbiotics?

Probiotics must be fed in order to remain active and vibrant and that is where prebiotics enter the scene. They are, essentially, a plant fiber that your body cannot digest. They reside in your large intestine where they feed the probiotics to do their job.

Very simply put, eat loads of fiber from sources like activated whole grains, leafy greens, fresh fruit, and ample vegetables. I’d even consider a natural supplementation of psyllium husks taken first thing in the morning.

Consume Probiotics

You may be taking a probiotic supplement. Unfortunately, you are likely wasting your hard earned money. I know that is a frustrating statement to read. But don’t distress. There are very easy and far more delicious ways to get those much-needed probiotics.

Fermented of my favorite nutritional topics.

I know that word fermented doesn’t sit well with modern consumers. Yet, fermented foods have been a staple in cultures around the world for thousands of years. It has only been in the last 100 years that they have fallen from grace and nearly vanished from your nutritional health strategy. They were sadly replaced with pickles...vinegar based, shelf stable, pasteurized, pickles.

Properly fermented foods are loaded with billions of probiotics per serving which could be as small as a teaspoon. And they are alive, all natural, robust and ready to get right to work.

So what are they and how do you eat them?

Here’s my list…

  • Miso

  • Kombucha

  • Kimchi

  • Sauerkraut

  • Shoyu Soy Sauce

  • Pressed Salads

I realize this list may be foreign to many of you. It may even be daunting.

But these are all accessible, delicious and easy to include options.

Miso can be added to sauces, soups/stews or made as a simple broth to drink like tea.

Kombucha is a refreshing beverage while kimchi and sauerkraut are condiments in any meal.

Shoyu soy sauce is a traditional Japanese version that makes for great seasoning in grains or stir-fry.

Pressed salads are easily prepared at home with salted, sliced vegetable that you press underweight for an hour and then consume as a side to your meal.

In fact, here is my favorite pressed salad recipe:

Easy Pressed Salad

  • 1 head napa cabbage or any other leafy green, thinly sliced

  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced

  • 1 small daikon or 6 red radishes, thinly sliced

  • 2 stalks celery, sliced thin on the diagonal

  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced paper thin

  • 2 medium carrots, grated

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1/4 cup brown rice vinegar OR umeboshi plum vinegar

Place all the vegetables in a glass bowl. Add the salt and mix well then place a plate over the vegetables and press down with something weighted like a brick, a thick book or rock. Press for 1 hour. Remove plate, and squeeze out excess liquid. If the salad is a bit salty, rinse with cool water and dry thoroughly. Toss with vinegar and serve.

Keep in mind, you can use most any vegetables you like.

As you explore these truly good probiotic eats, just beware that not all are created equally and selections such as sauerkraut must not be the vinegar-based varieties down your grocery store aisle. The authentic versions will be in the refrigerator section.

Be mindful of the quality and authenticity and you’ll get incredible benefits.

Now that you understand the basics of your digestive system and its function and have a simple guide to feed it well, you can begin to make a beautiful transition to better health.

Remember, you deserve great health. You were designed for it and every provision has been made to ensure it. It’s your time to thrive in health and it begins with your gut.

Happy eating!
~ Carl


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Carl Mason uses the elements of nutrition, fitness, mindset, self-care and home health to create a lifestyle of health. He used these very tools 22 years ago to cure his “incurable” cancer following five years of chemo and radiation. Today, he is professionally and personally dedicated to sharing this blueprint with the world. Even his off-work hobbies reflect these values and passions. You can reach him through his powerful group at or email him directly at

How to Make Easy Elderberry Syrup

It’s that time of year when cold and flu season will be upon us and many times, it’s convenient to run out to the store and grab an over the counter medicine to treat fever, coughs, body aches and pains. It’s better in the long run, though, to boost the immune system naturally. Keeping the body healthy and less susceptible to those nasty germs and viruses is always a good idea!

How to Make Easy Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup is a natural way to boost the body’s immunity because elderberries are very high in vitamin A, have more vitamin C than oranges and are high in quercitin (a powerful antioxidant). They are also a natural anti-inflammatory and have antiviral properties that can not only help prevent colds and flus but also help the body recover faster from these viruses.

You can find elderberry syrup in your local health food store already made or you can make your own at home with this easy DIY recipe which is more cost effective. You can buy elderberries at your local health market or buy them online from Amazon. It’s best to look for and use organic elderberries when possible.

Here’s how to make it…


  • 3/4 Cup of Dried Elderberries

  • 3 Cups of Water

  • 1 cup Raw Organic Honey


  1. Bring water to a boil in a pot.

  2. Add elderberries.

  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes. Let pot set for 15 minutes. Strain the elderberries using a fine wire strainer over a bowl.

  4. With the back of a large spoon press down on the berries to remove as much liquid as possible. Squish the berries down to extract a little more liquid. Discard or compost elderberries unless you have another use for them.

  5. Pour strained liquid back into clean pan and warm it over medium heat.

  6. Add honey. Cook uncovered until reduced to syrup consistency. Let cool to a warm temperature and pour into glass Mason jar and store in the fridge (it will last several months!)

How to Take Elderberry Syrup

Adults: For prevention take 1 tablespoon daily during cold and flu season. Take 1 tablespoon 4 times daily if you have a cold or the flu.

Children: Take 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of elderberry syrup 3 times per day during a cold or flu and for prevention take 1/2 -1 teaspoon daily during cold and flu season.

FRESH Start Coach Sue Glashower of Busy Moms Living Well recently took us behind the scenes in her own kitchen as she made a batch of elderberry syrup! (Her recipe is slightly different, but the general idea on how to make this is the SAME, so it will still be quite helpful!)

Here is Coach Sue’s how-to video for our visual learners!

Of course, here at FRESH Start, we know that our healthy lifestyle is a whole-life process, and goes a long way to boost the body’s immune system and keep sickness at bay! So, eating FRESH whole foods while avoiding sugar and processed foods, continuing to move FRESH, and even keeping our Spirits healthy, work for our overall health … along with taking this syrup!

Let us know in the comments below if you use Elderberry Syrup in your holistic routine for whole-family health!

Healing Adrenal Fatigue {A FRESH Look}

Introducing our guest blogger from the archives, Laura Williams, one of our beautiful alum of the FRESH Start Coaching Academy!

Laura is sharing her personal journey with how she is healing Adrenal Fatigue naturally. She resides in Alaska with her family and LOTS of natural beauty all around her. Please enjoy a little of her story today and then pass on the article...this story is going to help someone suffering from adrenal fatigue today!

Here's what she writes:

Even though she resides in Alaska, Laura and Coach Bess got to meet in person a few years ago! 

Even though she resides in Alaska, Laura and Coach Bess got to meet in person a few years ago! 

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”                                                           - Matthew 11:28 (NASV)

With everything that is going on in the world around us today, it is hard to keep up.  We put so many unrealistic expectations on ourselves and our time.  By the time we get through the day we are exhausted from working, taking care of kids, preparing meals, laundry, cleaning the house, carpool, after school activities, homework, and church activities. 

This doesn’t even include the time we take for ourselves in prayer, meditation, bible reading, and exercise.  If you are like I used to be, most nights you fall into bed so weary that you don’t know how you will get up the next morning.  And then you can’t sleep…

A little about adrenal fatigue…

The adrenal glands sit at the top of your kidneys and are responsible for releasing hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline) in response to stress.  Cortisol influences many functions in our body such as regulation of blood sugar, blood pressure, metabolism, and immune response.

During normal function our adrenals have their own “circadian rhythm” which gives us the highest cortisol levels at around 8am and the lowest at 4am. In times of increased stress our cortisol levels are at their highest and should return to normal once the stress has passed. With today’s current lifestyle many times this doesn’t happen and eventually the adrenal function is disrupted.

I was diagnosed with adrenal disruption almost three years ago and then adrenal fatigue two years ago. 

Some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

Feeling tired all day, not wanting to wake up in the morning even when you got a good night’s sleep, being wide awake after 6pm and not being able to fall asleep, craving salty and sweet snacks, crashing in the afternoon (mine was at 3pm) and not being able to function without a nap or high amounts of caffeine. 

I was demonstrating all of the above symptoms. 

Barely making it thru the day, I would come home and take a nap before I could make dinner. After dinner it was all I could do to sit on the couch and watch TV with my family. 

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I remember being so hard on myself that I didn’t have the energy to get up and play with my children. 

I would often go up in my room and cry because I felt like I was such a bad mom to them. This made my resolve even stronger to get better so that I could be the mom my children deserved.

My journey to get healthy has not been easy.

God really had to get a hold of me about some things in my life. I feel like I was battling for my health on two fronts, both spiritual and physical. I had to learn to control myself and my eating habits as well as give God complete control of my life.

Before this time I would get up with a start in the morning and immediately be organizing my day in my mind. I would rush through my shower and spend my perfunctory time with God so I could check that off my to-do list each day. I realized this had to change. I started taking my thyroid medication (I also have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) first thing in the morning while I was still in bed and then I would then lay in bed meditate on God’s Word. 

I would speak scriptures in to my life about health.

One of my favorites was Isaiah 40: 29-31 which says,

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

This 10-15 minutes of time has become the most important time in my day.  God also spoke to me about how I had been dealing with things. 

I tend to be one of those people who wants to control everything in my life. (Can anyone relate?) I make lists, organize, and structured my day in hour by hour increments. The problem is, if things don’t go according to that plan, I would stress so badly and it would throw me completely off. 

Even though I thought I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do I realized that I left no time for Him to lead me during the day. There was no time to just sit and ponder a beautiful sunset or to help someone He put in my path. Once I learned to give God complete control I realized that I didn’t have to react when things didn’t happen as planned. This one concept has freed me more than any other that I have learned. By not being in a constant state of stress I was finally able to begin to heal.

The other thing I learned during this time was how important diet was in adrenal health.

To help correct this condition as naturally as possible, I began starting the day by taking a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). Some people put it in a glass of water and add honey and cinnamon. I personally like the taste of vinegar and can drink it straight. ACV helps regulated blood sugar and helps restore premium stomach acid levels for proper digestion. 

My circadian rhythm was way off so I needed to help get my body back on track. I cut way down on my caffeine intake. I started taking methyl-B12 in the morning to “perk” myself up naturally. This really helped me during the day.

Falling asleep in the evening was difficult too, so I started taking “Natural Calm”, which is a magnesium drink, about an hour before bedtime.  Magnesium is such an important mineral that many people are deficient in.

It helps regulate blood sugar, bowel movements, and decreases our anxiety towards stress. It also calms us so we can sleep better. Natural ways to increase magnesium are by eating seaweed, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, and almond butter. In addition to these supplements I started eating better and decreased my intake of sugar, which can inhibit proper adrenal function.

I found that it is important when trying to heal adrenals is to not overdo it with the exercise. 

High intensity exercise is a problem because this puts even more stress on your adrenals. Taking the time to go for a nice easy walk and enjoy the scenery does wonders for your outlook on life. During my year-long healing I stopped making exercise another thing on my to-do list and started enjoying the beauty that God has placed around me.

I want to warn and reassure you that healing from adrenal fatigue is a lengthy process. I did not see big changes in how I was feeling overnight. It took me a full year to begin to feel normal again. But during that year God did an amazing work on me and my heart.

Since joining the FRESH Start Community I have been able to heal even more. Doing the FRESH Start 14-Day and 28-Day Challenges have really helped me stay on track in my eating, thinking, and get back in to more faithful exercise. 

Best Healthy Cooking Magazines

When I first started consciously cooking healthier for my family, I quickly found that I needed a flow of new ideas. 

The internet, with it's myriad of websites (like this beauty you are currently reading!) and resources (there's almost too many nowadays!) almost overwhelmed me into inaction.  Can anyone relate to "idea overwhelm?"

So, for my healthy cooking needs, I turned to the old friends I had been relying on for information for years...magazines!

From the time I was old enough to look at pictures, I have loved magazines. 

The smell, the feel of the slick pages that don't muss with my fingers, the pages and pages and pages full of vibrant colored-pictures, and the unending flow of up-to-the minute information - all packed into those wonderful little mini-books! 

To this day, I still squeal with delight when the mail arrives, and a magazine is cushioned between all the bills stuffed into our mailbox!

Today in this post, I'm giving you the breakdown of my favorite healthy cooking magazines. Hopefully you'll find that one or two of them suit your fancy as well!

Eating Well Magazine  

This is a monthly magazine that not only boasts dozens of new recipes and cooking tips each issue, but also publishes well-researched and easy-read health articles. I usually gain at least 2-3 new practical recipes from each issue (the reason it's not more is because many of them are just too complicated or involved to make my busy-mom list!) The well-rounded offerings from this magazine are great - whether your approach to healthy cooking is vegetarian, clean-eating, or any other type, this magazine has something you can use!

Whole Living Magazine 

This beauty of a magazine is from Martha Stewart's publishing, and is a great resource for those interested in the environmentally-friendly, sustainable approach on healthy cooking and eating.  It is also great for the whole-life aspect, as it teaches about greener living, including body care, home care, and more.

Healthy Cooking Magazine

I love the simplicity and focus of this magazine - "healthy cooking" is what it's called, so healthy cooking is what you get!  Fun recipe challenges and contests to enter, dozens of great recipes (from beginner cooks to gourmet!) and vibrant, easy-to-follow how-to's, this magazine is a close second place to my top pick...

...drumroll please....and now, my absolute TOP HEALTHY COOKING MAGAZINE!!!

Cooking Light Magazine

Where do I start?  This beautiful magazine is chock-FULL of clean and healthy, easy-to-cook, family-friendly, filling and satisfying recipes every month!  Want to make your comfort food favorites healthier?  You can find out how here!  Want to add some fast favorites to your family's collection? Now you can!  

There are also great shopping, meal planning, and cooking tips in every issue - all written to keep you happily cooking healthy for your family!

So there you have it, the best of the healthy cooking magazine best! 

Take your need to feed your family healthy, supply it with a steady flow of FRESH ideas and recipes, and you'll have one happy, healthy family! 

For more great resources like this to help keep cooking, eating and raising a healthy family, join us in the FRESH Start Club! Totally free and warm place with resources & support for step-by-step, family-friendly healthy living!

Grilling Tips for Your Healthy Summer

It’s summer, and do you find yourself stepping outside to do some outdoor activity and a stomach-grumbling, appetite stimulating, scent wafts your way from somewhere in the neighborhood? 

Yep, that’s probably me, taking full advantage of the weather and getting my grill on!

Are you ready to get grilling this summer and you just need a few great grilling tips?Grilling is my ultimate favorite summertime dinner activity.  Around here, it’s a way to get the whole family outside more often, as they run and play while I lovingly turn chicken, or arrange veggie-loaded kabobs, or place fresh-soaked cedar planks loaded with delicious fish over the hot burners.

I’m not sure what I love more, the scent of charring deliciousness, or the fact that I’m not standing, sweating over a hot stove during the hottest time of the year

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There’s virtually no clean-up, and with the amount of cooking I do around this house with four kids, a hungry man and my own grown-up appetite, that’s important too!

I’ve discovered that just about everything edible known to man can be grilled, or roasted on a grill, or steamed in a foil packet, or slipped lovingly onto a skewer, or in SOME way, grilled!  Fruit, veggies, chicken, fish, seafood, lean meats, breads, and even lemons and spice bunches! It’s all game for the grill, it just takes imagination and inventiveness with those cast iron plates!

While I am by no means the top grill-expert (but alas, that title still belongs to the great Bobby Flay!) I have tried my hand at many a dish involving the trusty old grill, and I’ve gathered some great ideas over the years. 

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So here are some of my top tips for making this summer a grillin’ success in your own backyard!

  1. Use a gas grill – It’s mess-free, and much easier to manage the temperature as you cook your food.  If you prefer the scent of a charcoal grill, just add the cedar chip tray to give your food the desired smoky flavor.
  2. Start small, start easy – If you are new at it, start with easy dishes, like chicken tenders or hamburgers to learn temperatures and timing.  As your confidence grows, add new dishes, like grilled veggies and steaks.  It’s smarter to learn how to grill with something lower cost and easy than the hard way with a $15 steak!
  3. Mind the grill – While you are gaining your grilling medals, be sure to stay close to the grill, and check your food often (though you only need to touch or turn it once!) It’s not fun to get caught up doing something else and forget about the salmon, creating petrified dinner!
  4. Think outside the grill – You’d be surprised what you can grill, or how you can combine different food groups, and still achieve deliciousness!  Fruit with veggies, veggies with fish, citrus with fish, chicken with fruit, the list goes on!  I’ve even seen grilled salad in some new recipes!

Keep it fun, make it inventive, and your family will stay full – and in such a healthy way – with your grilling skills this summer!  

Let’s get grillin’ together!  Share your pics, recipes, ideas and experiences with me on my Facebook page, Coach Bess, or in our free community, as I bring you grilling info all summer long!

Delicious, Delightful H2O

Why do we need to drink more water? 

Every day, your body “loses” water through various ways, like elimination, sweating, and other normal bodily functions. And that’s just one of the reasons you need to drink more.

Your body is made up of about 60% water and desperately needs fresh water to properly hydrate your organs and fluid supplies.

Digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature are all functions of your body’s fluids. Giving your body the necessary amount of water ensures that these vital functions operate the way they were originally designed to!

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Ways Water Helps Your Body Stay Healthy

  • Increases Energy – Water speeds up/enables good digestion to help keep you from the afternoon deep fatigue that so many suffer from.

  • Flushes Toxins – Rids your body of pollutants that can make you sleepy or sick. This means less trips to the doctor.

  • Keeps You Feeling Fuller – Trying to lose weight? Drink more water and you won’t be as strongly tempted to reach for those sugary snacks or chips.

  • Plumps Cells to Enable Good Working Condition of the Entire Body – The stronger the cells in our body, the healthier we are. Water helps keep all the cells in the body strong and functioning like they should.

  • Hydrates Skin Cells Improving Appearance – Want to stay looking young or get rid of some of the wrinkles? Drink more water.

  • Reduces or Eliminates Headaches – I had a beautiful client who loved her soda and energy drinks, and hardly ever drank water. She also had daily headaches. After 2 weeks of no soda or energy drinks, she was headache free. One day, she took a sip of what used to be her favorite soda and instantly got a headache. Her body was clean of the sugar and caffeine it had been used to, but when she put it back into her system with that one drink, it went into almost like a shock! Luckily, she knew what the problem was, immediately drank down a glass of water, and the headache disappeared.

Even armed with all these great reasons, drinking more water doesn't always come easy. Hey, I get it! Water by itself can be, well...BORING! It doesn’t have to be all blah and no fun, though.

Here are just a few ways you can get more water into your body and actually enjoy it!

Ideas to Make Drinking Water FUN!

  • Drink it Iced - add in fresh mint, cucumber and/or lemon slices for a healthy pick-me-up on taste AND a fresh dose of energy from the nutrients!

  • Drink it Hot – Add lemon and honey just like you would warm tea.

  • Set Up Accountability Challenges – Whether it’s with yourself or others, set up a little fun competition! Sometimes all it takes is knowing someone else might win to get you moving forward.

  • Have a Special "Water Only" Cup – Make it funky, colorful and fitting to your personality or favorite things.

  • Track Your Intake – There’s something about putting it on paper that pushes people to reach their goal. You’re oh so close only one more glass to go, so fill up a cup and drink it down. Accomplishment works wonders for motivation!

  • Get the Kids In on the Action – Many of the parents I work with say their kids don’t drink enough water. Because it’s always easier when you tell someone else to do it, I recommend they make it a priority to get their children to drink more water. Naturally, the parents drink more too. We all know kids learn better by watching than by parents just telling them what to do!

Today, I challenge you to drink 1 more glass of water than you usually do. If you find it difficult, try one of the ways above and see if it makes it easier!

If you have trouble with drinking enough water, I’d love to help you find a way that makes it easier. Head on over to our FRESH Start for Health page on Facebook or join me in our free community and let’s talk!

If you’re a believer in the power of drinking water for your health, I’d love to hear some of your favorite ways to make drinking water more enjoyable too!

From my healthy kitchen to yours ~ Coach Bess

Health Benefits & Unusual Uses of Bananas

Whether it’s in smoothies, on top of a granola and yogurt parfait, in a fruit salad or eaten right out of the peel, bananas are a great addition to any healthy diet.

After a bit of research, it seems this bright and yummy fruit has even more benefits. Here are a few fun facts, benefits and uses for bananas that will make you want to buy even more of this sweet and versatile fruit.


5 Banana Fun Facts:

  1. 100 billion bananas are eaten annually, making them the 4th largest agricultural product in the world. Only wheat, rice and corn are higher.
  2. Bananas may have been the Earth’s first fruit – they are found drawn in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
  3. Scientific name is musa spientum, which means “Fruit of the wise men”
  4. Bananas float! So do apples and watermelons.
  5. The starch in bananas turn to natural sugar as they ripen. The riper the banana the sweeter they taste.

5 Health Benefits of Bananas:

  1. Bananas can improve your mood! They contain th amino acid tryptophan plus Vitamin B6 that when combined produce serotonin, which naturally relieves depression.
  2. Lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and decreases the chance of getting cancer.
  3. Contain almost no fat and are very low in calories.
  4. High in Vitamin B6, fiber, potassium.
  5. Replenish carbs, glycogen and body fluids the body burns during physical activity. Great post workout snack!

Who’d Have Thought?

Even the peel of a banana has many convenient uses, so don’t throw that banana peel out just yet!  Use the inside of a banana peel to:

  • Ease skin irritations such as bug bits, poison ivy, burn and scrapes - Rub on bite or irritation to relieve itching and prevent swelling and infection.
  • Work splinters out of skin.
  • Remove warts - Rub for a few seconds every night for 2 weeks or so.
  • Whiten teeth - Rub peel on teeth for 2 minutes prior to brushing every night
  • Polish silver & shine houseplant leaves.
  • Cure a headache - Place peel on forehead.
  • Rid your garden of pests - Cut up peels and bury an inch or two around plants infested with aphids.
  • Help your garden grow – Great for composting and mulch too! Just dry peels and break up for mulch.
  • Keep chicken moist when roasting - Place peel, inside down, on top of chicken breasts

We may have just discovered some of the reasons so many “Go bananas!” over the banana!

Be sure to share these facts with your picky eaters – you never know it just might make bananas cool in their eyes and get them eating more of them!  

What other ways do you use bananas? Leave a comment below to let us know!

How to Eat Clean for Your Health!

So many of us are looking for the right methods of eating to get healthy, lose unwanted weight and even just to generally feel better

The bottom line is, we cannot get our health to our ultimate peak without eating clean and healthy.

We can exercise as much as you want, try all kinds of fixes, or take all kinds of supplements...however, if the food we choose to shop for, cook, and eat are not clean choices, then we just won’t be as healthy! 


If we eat "crappy food," our bodies (and how we feel) will show it. On the other hand, if you eat whole, healthy and fresh foods, then your body, skin and soul will glow with health that gives you endless energy!

If you are looking to remove toxins from your diets and bodies, then the way to do that is to “eat clean.”  To do this, your focus should be on gaining overall wellness, not just losing weight. Avoid processed foods of all kinds, and eat only when you feel the hunger need, or 3-6 times per day.

Here are some ways to eat clean, get that glowing health, and FEEL great!

Eat Lots Of Plants

Eat food that is “as close as possible to the original way it was found.” 

Eat mostly foods that come from the ground, a tree, bush, plant or vine, and you’re covering the healthiest sources. The idea is to stay away from anything that humans (food corporations) have altered in any way.

It is so amazing, the incredible selection of good choices available to us from plants! Green, leafy choices and delightfully delicious root vegetables and squashes...colorful, vibrant veggies like brussel sprouts, asparagus, green beans, celery, corn and carrots.

There's the tart goodness of citrus and the sweet taste of fruits like berries, melons, apples, cherries, bananas, and pineapples. There's avocado, tomatoes, and herbs galore. Lentils and beans and chickpeas and more! Onions, garlic and ginger root to flavor your dishes...spices and herbs to make them delicious!

This list of course, is only scratching the surface of the wonderful array of clean food from plants! Enjoy them abundantly and watch your energy soar.

Include Clean Meats & Lean Proteins

Eat meats that are whole and straight from the butcher. Avoid buying pre-packaged or processed meat products because they often include additives, antibiotics, and other harmful ingredients.

When possible, buy whole meats and grind them yourself, or ask the butcher to grind them in-store. One idea is to select a few turkey breasts and ask that the butcher grind them for you, instead of buying prepackaged ground turkey. Many butchers are more than willing to accommodate this special request.

Some examples of "clean meats" are wild-caught salmon (frozen is a great option!) organic chicken and other poultry (locally grown and harvested are even better!) cage-free, organic, grain-fed eggs and grass-fed red meat (antibiotic free, locally grown and harvested is even better) 

Enjoy Whole Grains

Unless you have found that you are sensitive to grains, it is balanced and healthy to eat and enjoy grains that are still complete and haven’t been broken down into “white” or processed versions.

For instance, stick to brown or wild rice, quinoa, oats, steel cut oats, farro, barley and other whole grains. There are many varieties of quinoa or rice pasta now as a gluten-free option to add grains into your diet. Grains are good for "brain-food" and eaten within balanced proportions, actually combats depression, fatigue and brain fog! 

Eat Lots of healthy fats

Clean fats are so necessary for your best health, and easier than ever to get into your diet! Like all the other food groups - in balance is best, and with healthy fats, a little goes a long way for your health!

Some examples of healthy fats you'll want to enjoy:

  • Olive oil & Coconut oil
  • Salmon and other clean seafood
  • Avocado
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Greek Yogurt & Kefir
  • Real Butter or Ghee

Become a Label Sleuth

Labels can be a tough one! Here's a couple tips to decipher them: read the nutrition label, NOT the front packaging of the product. Try to keep the ingredient list under 10-12 items (5 or under is BEST.) 

One example of the confusion of labels is: many types of breads at the store say they are whole grain, but if you look carefully at the ingredient list, white flour is the second ingredient after whole wheat flour!

Watch out also for “natural” or "naturally flavored" labels on food, as it is often a deceptive marketing term for a product with “healthy stuff” thrown in, but the bulk of the product is still processed flour or ingredients.

Eat Fewer Ingredients

Try not to purchase foods that have more than 10-12 ingredients in the ingredient list, and under 5 is the best, really. If you don’t recognize each and every ingredient, they are likely unhealthy ones. (This is a general rule though - sometimes, they are in such a tiny amount, that they aren't a problem.) Ultimately though, remember, if you can’t pronounce or place it, it probably shouldn’t go into your body!

Though the thought of eating clean may feel a bit overwhelming at first, taking these tips and applying them to your own life, even one at a time, will make such a difference in how you feel!  That great feeling and the excitement about how you look as unwanted weight drops off, will propel you to continue this lifestyle!

Take small steps toward these goals every day, and you’ll be making real, lasting progress.

Don’t beat yourself up for the choices you’ve made in the past, and yes, yesterday was the past! 

We all struggle with our habits, choices, and lifestyle – turn your trials into triumph with small daily healthy choices! Realize that it’s what you do the majority of time that counts, not one mess-up!

Whether you are a newbie at choosing healthier foods or a veteran clean-eater, I want to hear from you! Come join the other healthy life-changers over in our community at FRESH Start Online Community and share your experience with others just like you!

Why I Don't Exercise {Confessions of a Health Coach Part 2}

Well, I’m glad you’re here again, my friend, because I’ve got some more confessions to get off my chest! In the first post in this series, I got pretty personal with you, sharing that I struggle with this healthy lifestyle thing too, and that I really don’t care what you’re making for dinner tonight.  ;)

Today, I’m digging even deeper - you ready to hear it? I’m ready to spill! Let’s go...

Confession #5: I CARE DEEPLY about your health, but not much else

(meaning: I’m not criticizing your choices, weight, beliefs, fads, or anything else in your life!)

Just as I said in the first post in this series - I care SO MUCH about YOU, but not much about your choices! I don’t see you as “overweight” or “weak” or “sick” or “crazy” or anything else!

I just see YOU...beautiful, unique, wonderful YOU!

So I don’t care what eating plan you are following, drinks you are drinking, whether or not you are exercising, what habits you are keeping. I really don’t.

I DO care, though, about how you FEEL everyday, and about your HEALTH and WHOLENESS! (God put this calling on my heart when I was a wee thing, so it’s cool that I am actually able to have a career now in a calling that has been on my life since childhood.)

I have realized over my adult life that “ain’t nobody got time” to be trying to convince, control or criticize others in their FREEDOM OF CHOICE! (God gives us freedom of choice for a reason, who do we think we are to try and remove that same freedom from others?)

Here’s what we’re missing though…

Our choices are free for us to make, but the consequences of those choices are NOT free!

They cost us.

They cost our loved ones (think about how it affects the kids, grandkids, etc when someone in the family grows ill - there is a burden - financially, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically.)

The consequences to our choices COST EVERYONE we love and are surrounded by!

Heck, they even cost our community and our country - our medical system and personnel are under a tremendous burden - one they almost cannot continue to carry. And it is directly due to a nation of people leading a lifestyle and making lifestyle choices that have led to innumerable amounts of completely preventable (and reversible, many of them) diseases and conditions.

And the statistics say (based on our current way of eating, moving, living, etc as a country) that this situation is GRAVE and getting worse and must be considered seriously (though there isn’t much being done about it on a national level)...meanwhile the numbers for the upcoming diagnosis of obesity-related illnesses, cancer, diabetes Type 2, autoimmune diseases and mental illness are looming over us like a death sentence!

So what to do about all this? Well, that brings me to confession #6...

Confession #6: I’m overwhelmed too (by the over information + fundamental lifestyles & diets + judgy people)

It’s true! When I talk to people who are in discouraging situations with their health or I read new articles or stories of “how bad it’s getting” - I start to feel overwhelmed. And don’t even get me started on the conflicting studies and information being shared! One day, “this oil” is good for us - the next, it’s bad for us. One day, you SHOULD eat eggs, the next day, you shouldn’t. It’s CRAZY!

When people argue (online is where I see/hear this the most) about what supplement is best or what oil to use or whether bread is killing us or not, I RUN. I can’t do it. So my heart gets even bigger for you! Because if I feel this way, and this is what I DO and AM PASSIONATE about it - I can’t even imagine how overwhelming or discouraging it is for you to see the banter and debates. (Especially if you are genuinely looking for practical guidance or help on something!)

And let’s not even get into the fundamental lifestyles being taught/followed out there - I have always and will continue to believe one thing about a fundamental lifestyle - it is NOT sustainable for the long term, whole-family-friendly or even affordable for most of us! (Think $120 monthly supplement or powders or shakes PER PERSON - what family can sustain that? Not mine.)

But even if there is no supplement or other product purchase involved - who can sustain a “do NOT eat this, that, that, that or that or even TOUCH that or you’ll be sick or fat or dead!” (Of course I’m taking some liberty here on my dramatic storytelling - but you get the point I’m making, right?!)

How about this study for ya. It’s actually been proven that out of 1000 people of the population, only ONE has the personality or fortitude to stick with a fundamental lifestyle for their health long-term. ONE out of ONE THOUSAND. And I can tell you right now, I’m NOT that one! (It IS confession time, so, there ya go!)

OK and what about “judgy people?” And all the “advice” they so eagerly give? Before I get into this one too deep, I need you to know in full disclosure, that I WAS THAT JUDGY PERSON once upon a time!

Only after some humbling circumstances I endured (and terrible choices I made) over the years did I find freedom from operating in judgy-person mode...and I’m SO thankful too! Because I could NEVER be a health coach today or have built the FRESH Start movement from a place of pride or judgement.

So I’m not judging the judgy people with this post - I’m just letting you know that I “hear them too” and you and me, we’ve got to #1 make sure we’re not one of them and #2 let the words they speak and looks they give stream on down off our backs, like water off a duck’s back, as my mama would say.

So I hope that YOU discover exactly what I have found - that YOU are the BEST health coach and adviser for YOUR life and lifestyle choices!
— Coach Bess

Really, YOU ARE! You already have most of the answers you need either inside you or at a quick prayer’s notice - God gave us our gift of instinct for a reason.

If you know that you “feel better” when you eat eggs - EAT THEM and enjoy them. If you enjoy “this oil” over “that oil” and you are using less and less of it anyway (which, on a side note, should be the general goal here anyway - using less of the stuff!) then USE IT! If you feel better eating some meat rather than none or a slice of toast with your coffee in the morning (gasp!) then ENJOY IT.

YOU are the boss of you.

God made YOU TO BE! Yes! He gives free choice, but He also leads us - and He’ll let you know what to eat, what not to eat - just listen to that powerful small voice inside you that was saying all along that eating eggs felt good to you or cutting back on meats was a great improvement or dropping the extra sugars felt real FRESH.

Just LISTEN to YOUR voice and His voice, and try to tune out anything that brings overwhelm, stress, panic, confusion or discouragement!
— Coach Bess

Confession #7: I don’t “exercise”

I know, terrible thing for a health coach to confess to, right? Let me explain, though. It’s better than it sounds!

So I’ve been to fitness classes, taken online classes, followed Youtube videos or DVD’s and joined gyms. I’ve even had the “three free sessions” with a personal trainer when I first signed up at the gym. And I HATED IT. DREADED IT, actually!

But I found over the years that when I walk for miles a day or do a little meditation/yoga-type stretching or swim or hike in our gorgeous “back country” out here in the mountains, THAT I ENJOY IT IMMENSELY! Figuring this out has been a lifesaver and now I almost can’t even stand to let a day go by without my walk or a short hike.

It doesn’t feel like “working out” but it does get my heart pumping, my legs and glutes and core feeling the burn, and my gams toned! It DOES get me moving to do this, but it’s NOT a “workout” per se. And that’s exactly my point...why not FIND SOMETHING that brings you joy that also gets you moving intentionally and DAILY?

So as a health coach, my goal has been to help my precious clients (who I become quite protective of, think mama bear! haha) find a way to get moving more and get that good, heart-pumping purposeful daily movement in - but in a way that feels more like play or therapy or joy-giving than “join a gym” or “hire a trainer.”

Do you like to play tennis? THAT is a workout! Do you feel at home in the water? Start with 10 minutes or 2 laps! Do you enjoy nature? Walk, hike or climb hills and mountains...won’t feel like a workout AT ALL!

Oh and the more we can do our activity OUTSIDE the better that is for us! We kill like 5 birds with that stone (another saying from my good ol mama!)

Here’s what you’ll get from outside fitness:

  • Vitamin D for pain relief and healing benefits from the sun

  • Lungfuls of fresh air, clearing away brain fog

  • Mental clarity from being AWAY from technology and stresses of home

  • Benefits of the exercise itself to your brain, heart, blood and muscles

  • Social interaction, it’s so good for your spirit

  • Meditation moments with God and His gift of nature, lifting your soul

Now for full disclosure, I am NOT against gyms, trainers, classes or DVD’s - in fact I’m about to up my own fitness game this fall by joining my colleague and dear friend Trisch’s upcoming online class (she’s a Master T-Tapp Trainer and SO gracious as a teacher - I’m excited about this!) I’ve got personal friends who are trainers and have seen many people benefit from hiring them…

I just don’t think these “traditional” methods are the ONLY WAY or everyone’s way to create a lifestyle of fitness.
— Coach Bess

That is my help you find what kind of “exercise” BRINGS YOU JOY so that you’ll want to keep doing it, day after day and it won’t be such a dreaded chore.


Which of these confessions of mine have you experienced or can relate to? I’d love to hear your input in the comments below or in our free online community on Facebook.

And join me back here on the blog SOON - I’ll be posting my next few confessions to finish up this series next week!

Confessions of a Health Coach {Part One}

Can I get real with ya’ll for a minute?

Yes, I’m a Health Coach. NO, I’m not watching you through green-smoothie-colored glasses!

I’ve been a health coach for over 6 years now, and in this time, I have experienced a phenomenon. Sometimes, when people find out I’m a health coach, the interaction between us can become awkward with anything to do with food or exercise or anything “health.” I’m thinking it’s due to what is quite possibly preconceived notions - about what I actually care about in their life!

And I want to take a few minutes to clear this up! This will be fun...from my well-meaning heart to yours.

Confession #1: I'm NOT looking in your shopping cart! Or judging you for what’s in it.

Yes, that’s right! I actually DO NOT care what you’re putting in your cart.

And I'm certainly not criticizing what you do or do not provide for mealtime at your house!

I'm of the simple belief that we are all doing the best we can with what we know right now. And even if you're not, I'm not your mama and I'm pretty sure you're already aware of what you can do better (we're all adults here!) I'm only interested in holding myself accountable to my own goals and standards. Oh and of course, THOSE WHO HIRE ME to, I’ll keep them accountable too!

Full disclosure: I DO care (and deeply!) how you FEEL from what you eat every day - which is why I work so hard daily to do what I do. If this sounds contradictory, let me explain - I’m NOT interested in judging your choices, only in helping those who are ready with guidance in better eating! It’s WHY I spend hours researching natural healing, recipe testing, and creating resources and challenges and meal plans and programs to help those who are READY and want to make changes for the better in their eating.

Confession #2: I struggle too (with changing habits & making healthy lifestyle choices)

This is a lifelong struggle in a lot of ways for ALL OF US! I’d be lying if I acted like living like this (or teaching this lifestyle, for that matter!) is easy for anyone (especially when picky eaters, stubborn spouses, and multiple kids are in the mix!) I have noticed though, some things do get easier with time - and that’s a relief.

I struggle with the daily grind of the “extra work” that making better choices entails


I struggle with my weight within a 10-15 pound range (up and down, up and down UGH)


I struggle with OCD/anxiety tendencies - and all the “mind stuff” that it involves


I struggle with wondering if I’m being a “good enough” mom/wife/friend/daughter/caregiver/coach/sister/entrepreneur/Christian - can anyone relate? LOL


I struggle with LOVING sugar and anything made with sugar and anything you can add sugar to


I struggle with chronic pain (daily)


So yeah. I struggle too!

And if I’ve learned ANYTHING in my 6.5 years as a health coach - it’s that WE ARE ALL JUST DOING WHAT WE CAN. And we need to give OURSELVES and EACH OTHER waaaayyyy more grace than we do (I struggle with this too! haha)

Full disclosure: Some of my greatest personal struggles have been addictive behaviors.

I used to smoke cigarettes (been smoke-free since July 2009, praise God!) and was also addicted to the energy drinks and diet sodas that accompanied that habit.

I carried shame around that habit for the longest time...please find a way to dump that worthless shame if you are in the same cycle - it’s such a wasted a emotion (though a POWERFUL one!) and I wish someone would have said to me in 2009 what I’m saying to you now!


No matter what you are struggling with, leave those worthless emotions of guilt and shame behind and join me in the land of the redeemed and forgiven (Christ gives it freely, we just have to RECEIVE it!) You only get one life, let's make it AWESOME!


Confession #3: I don’t care what you’re making or picking up for dinner

Yes, this is similar to confession #1. But different, so I want to specifically discuss the “dinner dilemma” - because it’s a REAL thing for us! (Any moms out there with me on this?) By end of day, we’re DONE. Tired. Over it.

Last thing we want to do is spend ANOTHER 45 minutes on our hurting and tired feet cooking, then watch the family inhale in 5 minutes our loving gift that was created with expensive ingredients, and designed with the last bit of sanity that’s clinging to our frazzled brains! Then get right back up and spend the next 20-30 minutes cleaning up the mess everyone leaves behind...Seriously?

So. I. GET. IT.

And exactly why I don’t judge! If tonight is a drive-through-sanity-keeper-choice - then mama, YOU DO YOU and I got absolutely no malice for ya!

Full disclosure: All I care about when it comes to your dinner choices is that YOU are happy with them!

This is seriously what I care about - that YOU feel happy with your choices - and I want to help you change that in a REALISTIC, practical way if it’s something you are ready to tackle! The meal planning/shopping/chopping/cooking part of what I do is my FAVE because I’ve committed these last 6 + years to developing a system for keeping dinner HEALTHY and SIMPLE and that WORKS for the busy family/working mama/budget buyer!


Confession #4: My kids eat and drink junk food (and I do too)

Yup. We do.

Now, before you get too excited - let me explain. We eat a clean, veggie-based, lean meats, unprocessed, small-portioned type diet about 85% of the time. We drink a LOT of water. We drink homemade smoothies with veggies in them every day.

HOWEVER, we DO enjoy “junk food” like commercial, sugary coffee drinks or a small bowl of ice cream on our “treat day” every weekend. We enjoy candy or desserts during holidays, cake on birthdays and Abuelita’s amazing fried tacos and other traditional food when we visit her in Mexico. (We’re Mexican, ya’ll! Food is LIFE!) We enjoy a pastry or a bag of chips on occasion, too!

We believe in balance, and enjoying this life, and making merry with small servings, instead of overeating on the fun stuff! But we don’t believe in deprivation (we tried it and it didn’t work anyway) or a lot of NO NO NO’s. We believe in adding in the good stuff to squeeze out the not-so-good most of the time. And being ok with splurging the other times. It seems to be working, so it’s probably how we’ll continue this healthy living thing.

What about you, my friend? Do you see yourself in any of these confessions?

My heart as a health coach is to see you at peace with your choices, free of shame or guilt in them and making the BEST ONES YOU CAN with what you can afford/do/handle right now!

So I hope you let yourself off the hook of “attempted perfection” in this lifestyle, do what you can today (and celebrate that you did THAT!) and keep pursuing the BEST God has for you in your habits and choices and future! Because YOU DESERVE IT!

Come back to the blog Thursday, I’m publishing the second part of this fun post series! I’ll be confessing “why I don’t exercise” and “why I’m overwhelmed in this lifestyle too!” (gasp!)

When Someone You Know is Grieving

Lately, so many precious hearts in my circle have been dealt painful, hard blows from life.

Whether it be fate, God's will, or pure chance matters not. The hardship, the loss exists. The grief, the heartache over it... the questions of why or how could this happen...the recovery (ooohhh how HARD is that word?!) as life must go on...yes, life does go on.

Whether it be death, illness, tremendous loss, betrayal, or heartbreak that has occurred...these precious hearts have to keep living.

And then, due to the intimacy that Facebook and other social media has created...due to the inevitable "touching" of our souls through the internet's waves...we are faced with the choice of reaching out, of saying something (but what to say? are words even GOOD enough?) and the choice of shrinking back behind the screen, in shock and horror of the levity of the blow they have been dealt! We are faced with the terrible situation of observing their experience from across the miles … and now, touching their pain.


What have you done when this has happened? Do you find yourself in the same dilemma I have over and over?

Do I reach out and say something (though it could sound horribly trite!) and express the tears welling up in my eyes even as I read of their painful event? Do I quickly scroll past their post...reading on again to help avoid it and soften it and cover the initial shock with cute cat pics and funny FB memes?

This post is NOT a condemnation if you have scrolled past, neither a how-to for those of us still struggling over how to be a "friend" to those in hurt...

This is merely a post of my heart's grieving whisper out loud. I was pondering on this as a dear friend expressed earlier that today was her son's one-year anniversary of his passing...her beloved, adult, ONLY son. And as she expressed herself so authentically, so honestly she exposed her pain and grief, I was moved to tears - shaking, cleansing tears.

Because I cannot even imagine loss like that.

Then, I was moved to post a "hopefully comforting comment"  on her post...but that same, negative, nagging voice whispered...but what if you say the "wrong thing" to her...what if you comment and it only causes more pain? Or you sound stupid? Yada yada...the doubts went on.

Then I remembered a day in late June of 2000 - a hot and sticky summer day, when Juan and I were trembling and tears were streaming down our faces...we kissed her soft, fuzzy head and nuzzled her cheeks for the first and the last time...we tried to memorize the way her hands looked, so tiny yet so perfectly formed....we held her, even after her first squeak and last breath...and then, with gently nudging from the wise nurses, we reluctantly passed her wrapped, still body to them to be taken away.

juan and I looking down.jpg

I had just birthed, and then we held her while she died, our first daughter, Sela. And then we went home. Home alone. The still, too quiet house where we laid in bed and I sobbed while he held me and stroked my hair. Home, where I was supposed to bring her. Home, to cook and clean and live like my baby, my daughter wasn't lying still and cold in the morgue. Home, where my milk came in and my breasts swelled and I couldn't suckle the baby my body was trying to feed.

And people said things.

Some said kind, thoughtful things. Some just cried with me and couldn't find "words" but spoke anyway. Some said thoughtless, sharp things better left unsaid, no matter the good intentions.

But I remember feeling that those who "said something" were still welcomed by my grieving heart...and that it made us human together. That they were trying (feebly though it may have been at times!) to feel with Juan and be there.

They were sharing in our grief by entering it with us.

So this post is to encourage you...that when someone in your life is hurting, grieving, in pain...enter their space. Yes, it may feel awful or be awkward (especially at first!) and you may have nagging doubts about whether or not your "words" are helpful or comforting. But, from a mom who experienced loss and grief all those years ago...I am assuring you, that when you say something from a heart of kindness and a place of grace, your words will matter. Your heart will matter.

Juan and Bess in happier moments in 2010 - a Testimony of Healing Through Loss

Juan and Bess in happier moments in 2010 - a Testimony of Healing Through Loss

If you have been struggling through something hard or have experienced loss, we want you to know that you are not alone. We support, love on and pray for each other in our FRESH Start community group (it's free) and we'd love to welcome you there. 

Books for Healthy Living (Coach Bess' Top Recommendations)

Sometimes digging into a good book resource on healthy living can be exactly what the doctor ordered!

Looking for natural answers to a chronic illness or condition? Open up ANY of Dr Mark Hyman's books, like The UltraSimple Diet or Ultraprevention or Ultrametabolism!

Need meal planning help to get the whole family on board with your healthy eating? Pick up a copy of Amy Hendel's book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families.

Trying to break out of an eating disorder, food addiction, or shame around your weight? Grab a copy of Lose It For Life by Dr Linda Mintle & Stephen Arterburn or pick up Lysa Terkeurst's Made to Crave or Lisa Bevere's You Are Not Your Weight.

With all there is to learn on this healthy living journey, ONE book is not enough! 

Choose from the multiple books out there and available to help you add healthy living tools and strategies to your toolbox! Or to help you overcome a mental block that may be holding you back from transformation.

books for healthy living

Some more of my personal favorites are:


ANY books by Joy Bauer - like...

Idiot's Guide to Total Nutrition
Food Cures

Food Bible by Judith Wills

Get the Sugar Out by Ann Louise Gittleman


Your Whole Life by Carole Showalter

What the Bible Says About Healthy Living
by Rex Russel

And of course, our book, the FRESH Start for Health Workbook, by yours truly, Bess Blanco, is a fabulous combination of lifestyle change help on faith, beginning fitness, food and our mindset! You can find it here on this website or by clicking HERE.

Now, remember you can add these resources to your personal library little by little or even with a visit to your local library! I've found MANY of my awesome books (and this is only the smallest sampling) at yard sales, thrift stores and on discount websites online, gently used! 

What are YOUR favorite books on healthy living? We'd love to hear your recommendations in the comments below, or share them with us in our FRESH Start Online Community on Facebook! 

Every other Tuesday, we have a LIVE chat called #LetsTalkAboutitTuesday in our free healthy living support group on Facebook, and this video above was today's chat! You should join us to catch the next one!

Enjoy this helpful video, and be sure to subscribe to the FRESH Start for Health channel on Youtube to continue getting our healthy living tips and encouragement! 

Healthy hugs and belief in YOU ~ Coach Bess


Lower Blood Pressure Naturally, Break up with Salt!

It's time to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally, and Break up with Salt!

In my years as a health coach, I've heard from many clients about the battle to reduce their salt intake. Many times, they realize they have to do something about their sodium levels after the doctor has told them their blood pressure is beginning to reach the danger zone. If YOU struggle with high sodium or high blood pressure, be encouraged, it's surprisingly simple to lower your blood pressure naturally if you follow some simple guidelines.

"Can't we just get rid of salt altogether?"

Many of my health coaching clients have asked me this. Seems like we could just get rid of salt, right? Since too much of it causes high blood pressure, then why not? Believe it or not, our bodies actually NEED a daily amount of sodium to be healthy! However, 2300 milligrams of sodium daily is ALL our bodies need to function healthily. And remember, this is just 1 TEASPOON, so it adds up QUICK through our foods and drinks!

Watch my quick video below for some easy guidelines breaking up with the salt in our diets! Learn more about the role sodium plays in creating high blood pressure and exactly where it’s sneaking into our daily food intake!


The typical American diet includes upwards of 1 ½ - 2 teaspoons of salt each day which adds up to between 3500-4000 mg each day. This is almost twice as much as our body needs!

High blood pressure adds another complication to this picture. Here's a quick breakdown of the numbers:

Normal blood pressure is 120/80 and pre-hypertension 139/89.


Stage I High Blood Pressure is 159/99 or above. Anything over 160/100 is dangerous - and considered moderate to severe blood pressure.

Though there are of course OTHER LIFESTYLE FACTORS that contribute to the condition of hypertension, like chronic daily stress and smoking, to name just two, we know that too much sodium intake is very closely related to high blood pressure. In fact, it is so closely related that reducing our intake of it can reduce our blood pressure (if it is high) in as quickly as a few days! Good news, right?

Here’s a quick self-diagnosis method: if your ankles swell up or you end your day with those indentations showing from your socks and shoes it’s a good bet that you’re battling some water retention as a result of higher-than-needed salt intake in your day!

The incredibly good news about all of this is that it isn't too complicated to reduce our salt intake and to support a healthy heart!

So where is sodium & salt hiding in our diets?

Look for salt hiding in these foods:

  • Breads and cereals are storehouses of sodium
  • Sauces, such as spaghetti sauce, gravy, and canned cheese sauce
  • (Spaghetti Sauce RECIPE link HERE!) Click HERE for our easy and delicious homemade spaghetti sauce recipe to use as an alternative to canned, high-in-sodium AND sugar varieties!
  • Most commercially prepared SPICE MIXES include extra salt as well! Watch out for items like Fajita seasoning, Taco seasonings etc.
  • Marinades and salad dressings are often high in sodium.
  • Canned vegetables and canned beans! Steer clear of canned veggies. You can use canned beans in a fresh and healthy eating plan, just look for low sodium varieties and make a practice of RINSING all canned beans!!
  • Canned soups and prepared pastas are all very high in sodium

Bottom line: ANY and ALL pre-made, boxed, canned, and packaged items are usually super high in sodium and contribute to high blood pressure. Fast foods and many restaurant foods are as well.

(Remember that in foods with a long shelf-life, food-like items meant to last a long time without refrigeration, salt is used as a preservative!)

"So, what can we do to reduce our salt intake and lower high blood pressure naturally?"

To lower blood pressure naturally to support a healthy heart is simple. Changing our eating habits isn't an overnight process BUT these simple steps will get you off and running in the right direction:

  1. Go back to natural, whole, healthy FRESH foods in the produce isle! Make more of your own dishes, as you can control the amount of additives and salt that you add.
  2. Stay away from take-out! If it comes in a drive through it’s super high in preservatives and sodium.
  3. Avoid all pre-prepared foods –canned or packaged soups, pre-made entrees (frozen, canned, packaged)…if you’re opening a package, at the very least READ THE LABEL and RINSE!

The cure for most of our over-indulgences or unbalanced food intake is truly a return to the “old-school way” - eating whole foods and cook meals at home. Just this one change will make a HUGE difference in your sodium intake!

Quick sodium-detox solution!

One of the reasons we include an Eat FRESH * Move FRESH * and Think FRESH action steps in our signature FRESH Start Program is because our bodies were designed by our Creator to operate fully and in wholeness if we’re moving, hydrating and purposefully thinking about our lifestyle choices DAILY!

Making a habit of balanced exercise every day, hydrating enough with water daily, and eating FRESH choices all contribute to our overall health. This way you are supporting your body’s natural ability to flush through any extra sodium you’re taking in! This also flushes through environmental toxins we’re unaware we are taking into our bodies each day.

A personal invitation...Join our FRESH Living movement!

The FRESH Living movement that began six years ago is now a vibrant community of beautiful individuals around the world, supporting each other, taking simple action steps and achieving remarkable changes in their lives!

Please let me know how we can support your healthy-living journey in any way! We have an interactive community on Facebook where we support and encourage each other daily through challenges, posts and prayers…go here to join our free online community!

Natural Thyroid Treatments {How to Detox Your Everyday for Thyroid Health!}

We're sharing today's post from our friend and Mentor Coach here at FRESH Start, Heidi Hovde from Salisbury, Massachusetts!

She is a Certified Holistic Nutritional Health Coach, mama of 4, wife to Aaron and recently our guest on the FRESH Living Talk Radio show about Detoxing our Everyday for Thyroid Health. She shared life-changing information for all of us to use in natural thyroid treatments! You will be GLAD to read this incredible article and if you haven't heard the show yet, you can listen to it HERE.

Here's Heidi...

I am honored today to share with you some exciting and rockin’ news about detoxing your everyday for natural thyroid treatments. I have so much information to share with you (due to my own personal story and years of research!)

Here's my “message in my bottle” - I will do my best to summarize; and at least get you started, thinking about what you can do to make small gradual changes in YOUR everyday life for a healthier thyroid!

Your thyroid gland is part of your endocrine system. It is the little butterfly-shaped organ in your throat area. When you have thyroid disease, you have what is called an autoimmune disease/disorder. I personally have Hashimotos, but others who are affected by thyroid imbalance have Grave’s Disease, hypothyroid or hyperthyroid disorder, or a goiter. All of these conditions affect the same gland, the thyroid. This organ governs so many of the functions in our bodies. Having a thyroid imbalance can cause a lot of implications because of this “lil butterfly in our throat.”

The thyroid regulates these body functions:

  • Heart Rate
  • Mental Clarity
  • Emotional Balance
  • Organ Function
  • & Stress Hormone Response
  • Inflammation Response

Foods to Avoid while trying to detox and create better thyroid health:

  • Gluten
  • Sugar - including artificial or sugar substitutes
  • Processed foods, dyes, and additives
  • Caffeine and alcohol in excess
  • Sugar-free/diet products
  • Soy

Most importantly, something my Medical DOCTOR never told me, until I saw a Naturopath MD…

Avoid: Raw GOITROGENIC foods (otherwise known as cruciferous foods) plants of the cabbage family, broccoli, collard greens and kale. Unless you prepare them steamed, baked, or sauté! In raw form, these normally-healthy foods create inflammation in the body. Strawberries are included in this group of foods!

Green smoothie lovers make sure you steam your goitrogenic foods at the beginning of the week and freeze them so you can still add them to your smoothies.

Foods to ADD IN for DETOX & thyroid health:

  • Drink WATER!
  • Sea salt, sea vegetables such as kelp, nori, (seaweed snacks) I like to add them to soups for ease.
  • Brazil nuts for selenium
  • Whole foods such as greens, veggies, fruits, fish, seafood, grass-fed organic beef, and chicken.
  • Coconut oil helps restore thyroid function and actually increases the metabolic rate leading to weight loss.
  • Properly prepared/soaked gluten free grains (rice, quinoa, and gluten free oats)
  • Burdock root
  • Superfoods such as Acai, Goji berries, Cacao, Turmeric, ginger, and green tea to name a few

Detoxing our Personal care products is key to maintain healthy thyroid function:

Our skin is our largest organ, what you put on it enters directly into your blood stream within minutes. Did you know that Europe has BANNED over 1300 harmful chemicals from personal care products and the USA only bans 11! Oh my word no wonder we have such a toxin problem and the rise in autoimmune disorders in the USA continues to climb! These chemical are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors! The word FRAGRANCE on a product actually means the maker is hiding any amount of over a 1000 known toxins!

Our day begins and we brush our teeth with Flouride toothpaste (fluoride is an endocrine disruptor.) We slather on shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, skin-care products, makeup, lotion, and perfume. We have literally slathered ourselves with parabens, triclosans, and oxybenzones, just to name a few endocrine disruptors! (Don’t panic, there are hundreds of non-toxic options we CAN use!) Little by little, one step at a time, we can make better toxin free choices. Contact me HERE if you'd like to explore the options I use and love!

Another important product to look at: women’s feminine products such as tampons and pads!  They contain bleached cotton and the toxin glyphosate. There are organic or toxin-free options available, do your research and swap them out!

Detoxing our cleaning and household products:

Dish soap, floor cleaners, dryer sheets, laundry cleaners, all-purpose cleaners are made up of mostly toxic chemicals. Start using more natural products like baking soda, vinegar, lemon, and essential oils, just to name a few natural options. If you don’t want to make your own, check with me HERE, this is great resource for non-toxic laundry, dish cleaning, and all-purpose cleaners.

Plug-in air fresheners and sprays are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors as well. If you need something to smell wonderful in your house, seek out essential oils and fresh fruits that can make your space smell amazing and also calm your nerves. Double POW!

Environmental toxins & other exposures to avoid:

  • BPA plastics in our kitchen containers, water bottles, etc ( a better option is glass or stainless steel containers and water bottles)
  • Shower curtains containing PVC
  • Mercury filings/Dental work leach neurotoxins into our bloodstream. Heavy metals can alter our immune system as well (Dr. Mercola is a great resource re: dental do’s and don’ts)
  • Microwaves: Avoid cooking in microwave ovens. Reheat foods on the stove top.
  • Cellphones: Avoid prolonged use of and storing your phone on your body. If you need to be on long calls or use your phone often try using an ear piece or bluetooth device. These EMT’s (Electromagnetic transmissions) directly affect your thyroid gland.

Supplementation for any deficiencies in the thyroid:

  • Good quality multi-vitamin
  • Toxin free fish oil
  • B vitamins
  • Co-enzyme Q10
  • Vitamin D
  • Probiotic - digestive enzymes is a must!

Decrease “Toxic Stress” in your life:

Learn the power of the word” NO!” You can’t be everything to everyone. You can’t be at every event and party. Nourish the relationships that bring you peace and joy. Eliminate the drama and “Toxic Relationships” in your life.
— Heidi Hovde, Certified Health Coach


Get appropriate sleep:

  • Keep the cell phone outside of your bedroom.
  • Shoot for at least 8 hours of sleep
  • If you are tired during the day, allow yourself a nap and rest.

Relaxation techniques:

  • Yes BREATHE; breathing exercises are amazing to increase energy and decrease stress.
  • Color!
  • Do yoga
  • Pray and meditate
  • Get outside in nature and get some good old-fashioned fresh air and sunlight

One more thing I wanted to mention is that we also have something called "chakras" in our physical being.

The chakra in the throat area is the on related to the thyroid. These energy centers of our body can get blocked, or sluggish. We need to keep these open and not restrict them with negative self-talk. Negative self-talk directly effects our thyroid gland. So the moment you get that “I am not good enough” thought, or “I am not doing enough” thought in your head, let it go! Don’t let it make it off the tip of your tongue and out of your lips. You are good enough. Give it to God and he will handle it. Pray and Praise yourself daily.

Remember, detoxing your lifestyle as you know it is a gradual process. Start small in one area of your life and work on that. Then, little by little, you can make huge progress in decreasing your toxic load for better overall and thyroid function!

Be well,

Dealing with Stress and Hormone Imbalance Naturally

Enjoy this guest post today from our friend, Dr Daisy Sutherland, founder of Wholistic Fit Living! She was recently our guest on the FRESH Living Talk Radio Show and taught us more about dealing with stress and hormone imbalance naturally - by making simple, natural changes to get back in balance!


Stress. It has many meanings to different people.

It’s not a new concept, yet both male and female can’t seem to control their stress. If you don’t control your stress or at least learn to manage it, stress will kill you! Yes, you read that correctly. Stress kills and unfortunately many people in particularly women feel that stress is simply part of their genetics.

Many women will say that stress is part of their ‘make-up’ and without it they could not function. Although that may be true in a sense, stress is something that can be managed and even more so if we are aware of what may be causing it.

Hear more about what Dr Daisy shares about stress, hormones and balance in this informative and helpful episode of FRESH Living Talk Radio Show!

There is this interesting hormone in our bodies called cortisol and when we are stressed it tends to rise.

When it rises, we will naturally feel our blood pressure rise, our hair stands on end and our breathing become labored. Some have claimed it felt as if they were having a heart attack when it was merely cortisol levels that increased and sent the entire body into a crazed frenzy. Before you give in to the notion that a stressed life is what you must lead and there is no hope, understand that you are in ultimate control of your body and many times what you stress over are things that are out of your control. If you can’t control it why worry, right? Easier said than done but it is quite necessary to do.

Now that you know that cortisol plays a huge part in your body when it comes to stress, what can you do? There are many techniques, such as taking cleansing breathes (my favorite), aromatherapy, physical exercise (another of my favorites), and quiet time. Cortisol levels rising and falling are considered imbalances. The cortisol levels will rise, causing your body to go into the ‘flight or fight’, where your blood pressure rises and your breathing is erratic and you simply can’t focus. Or the opposite will occur, where the cortisol levels will fall and you are suddenly exhausted, can’t focus and simply want to crawl under the covers.

Were you aware that there are foods you can eat that will help with this hormone imbalance?  Some foods that you want to include into your daily diet to combat hormonal imbalances (especially cortisol imbalance) are dark greens such as kale, spinach, and collard greens. Citrus fruits also bring balance, so try adding oranges, limes and lemons to your diet. Ginseng and herbal teas help to reduce stress as well. Ginseng and other herbal teas contain adaptogen, which can help the body manage stress and normalize bodily functions.

Below is a recipe I'm sharing with you today!

Easy Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe with Olives and Roasted Red Peppers


12 oz. whole wheat Rotini pasta 1 can black olives, drained well, then cut in half 12 oz. jar roasted red bell pepper, drained well and diced 1/3 cup vinaigrette dressing 1/3 cup pesto 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


1. Fill a medium-sized pot half full of water, add a generous amount of salt and bring to a boil. Add pasta, and cook 9 minutes (or check package for cooking time if you're using whole wheat pasta.) Drain pasta well, and let cool for 10 minutes while you prep other ingredients.

2. Pour olives into a colander, drain well, then cut olives in half.

3. Pour red bell peppers into colander, drain well, and dice into small pieces.

4. Combine vinaigrette dressing and pesto, whisking together.

5. When pasta is cool, stir in enough dressing to coat the pasta. (You may not need all the dressing, but save it to add if needed after the salad has chilled.)

6. Add olives and roasted red pepper, and stir gently to combine.

7. Cover salad with plastic wrap or a lid, and refrigerate for 1-3 hours.

To serve, remove salad from refrigerator and stir in 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more dressing if needed to moisten salad. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Other things you could use in this salad to change it up: -diced marinated artichoke hearts -marinated mushrooms, cut in half -cooked turkey Italian sausage, cut into small pieces -turkey pepperoni, chopped -grilled vegetables of any type such as zucchini, mushrooms, onions, or summer squash -cubed fresh mozzarella cheese.