7 simple steps to clean living

My definition oliving-clean-logo-buttonf clean living is simply to live in such a way that I eliminate as many toxic things from my life as possible – not just from my body, but from my mind and soul, too.

Real food.  Simplify life.  Reduce stress.  Love God and my neighbor.  Work/life balance.

Do you beat yourself up because you are interested in clean living but haven’t quite “gotten there”?  Well, don’t be discouraged … it is a PROCESS, not just a destination!  And it’s a very personal journey for sure.  For example, I have been on the path to clean living for years, and I started with two simple things I knew were “poisoning” my body  … sugar and white flour.  You will have to decide what poisons are in your own life.

I started by eliminating these two things from my daily diet.  I’m not a sugar or white flour Nazi per se,  and occasionally I’ll allow myself that indulgence, but I probably stick to it 98% of the time.  That was my start.  After getting that under my belt, I began to tackle the elimination of processed foods in my routine – boxed, canned, jarred goods  that obviously didn’t come from Mother Earth that way.  That’s a harder mountain to climb.  If I’m short on time, I do buy prepared salsa or jarred pesto, etc.  I opt for the freshest and best food labeled product I can find.  But in general, I probably keep to the “no processed foods” 90% of the time.

Then I began to tackle my skincare and personal care choices.  The skin is our largest organ!  That’s exactly why nicotine and estrogen patches on the skin work!  So I’m evaluating my shampoos and conditioners, toothpaste, moisturizers, make up, and sunscreen.

For the mind, I’ve turned off most TV.  I make watching the screen an intentional choice. Instead of the TV being on 24/7, I make a decision if I want to watch someone else live life for two hours or if I’m going to live my own life.  If I make the decision to watch (and I DO love movies), I put on Netflix and choose what I want to fill my mind with for a limited time.  And books?  Yes, yes, yes!  The mind can be so much more creative with a book!  But again, there are trashy books and there are meaty books.  I’m training my mind to reject what I know is trash infiltration and crave intellectual, good story-telling, quality, subject matter books instead.

For my soul, well that’s probably the most significant clean living choice of all!  Matthew 15:17-20 in the NIV says:  “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person…”  Enough said.  I know my own failings so I enjoy church where I have to be transparent and I am accountable for my actions, reading Scripture, and being challenged through intelligent and thoughtful discourse about God.  

But I haven’t “arrived” at fully living clean yet!  That’s the personal part of each person’s journey.  I color my hair.  My bad!  Talk about toxins!  But I don’t like how I look with grey hair compared to my dark locks.  So it’s a toxic choice I’ve willingly made.  I occasionally wear nail polish.  Another toxin!

And the “toxin”list in our lives is huge … carpets, bed sheets, house paints, teflon cooking surfaces, detergents, etc.

So in your interest and journey toward clean living, don’t get overwhelmed with the whole kit and caboodle!  Start with one step, just one “poison” that you know is in your life.  Then another.  Then another.  The important thing is to get on the path and start moving toward the goal.  Here are seven starting ideas:


  1.  Substitute water for other beverages.
    • Do you drink lots of coffee or soda or sugary juices?  Begin to substitute water over these other choices a little at a time until water is your go-to beverage.  Water hydrates the body, improves complexion, flushes toxins out of your system, and is the earth’s natural beverage resource to us.  It’s the “cleanest” choice of beverages.
    • If you are one of those who struggle with drinking water, don’t buy flavored versions!  That defeats the purpose of putting something “clean” in your body.  Instead, add sliced real food, like fruit, mint leaves, cucumbers, etc. to your water to infuse it with those flavors.
  2. Coffee and tea green-tea
    •  On my journey, I gradually moved from full caffeinated coffee to half decaf, and also moved to organic.  I was raised with offering coffee as a sign of hospitality.  There’s something comforting and welcoming about holding a warm mug of beverage with a heavenly scent.
    • I began to collect organic teas and green teas, and offer guests hot tea in addition to decaf organic coffee.
  3. Increase intake of fruits and vegetables
    • The more you fill up on fruits and vegetables, the less room you’ll have in your stomach to fill with junk and processed foods!
    • Fruit and vegetables are from the earth … no additives and preservatives.  Not formulated in a factory.
    • Eventually, for truly clean living, you’ll also need to migrate to purchasing organic fruits and vegetables.   What you purchase at your local grocer most likely has pesticides, could be GMO (genetically modified organisms), and if it’s an out-of-season/out-of-region food source, it’s been shipped from who knows where to get to your locale!
    • In time, farmer’s markets will become your favorite shopping destination!
  4. Convert to coconut oil for cooking
    1. Virgin coconut oil resists oxidative damage from heat unlike olive oil.
    2. Vegetable oils contain long chain triglycerides (LCTs) which are more difficult to break down.  This is an added toxic burden to your body.
    3. Coconut oil contains lauric acid which converts to monolaurin in your body.  Monolaurin is known to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antiprotozoal properties.
    4. Beware:  As in many cases with food, not all coconut oils are the same!  Mass-produced coconut oils are oftentimes refined, deodorized, and bleached which not only strips the oil of beneficial nutrients but also adds toxins to the oil.
    5. The BEST coconut oils?  Look for ones that are made from fresh coconuts and are cold-pressed.  This avoids the need for additives and solvents in the process.
  5. Decrease sugar consumption!
    • Just DO IT!  I can’t emphasize this one tip enough.  Refined sugar is poison to your body and proven to be more addictive than cocaine.  Monitor your children’s intake so you don’t create in them the same lifelong addiction that you experience!
    • Begin by taking coffee black, use honey in tea.
    • No diet sodas or artificial sweeteners.  These are toxins as well.  The point is CLEAN living, reducing toxins.
    • If you have to use a sweetener, you can use stevia, but once again, not all stevia is processed the same!  Use green leaf stevia...  it’s the least processed type.  The leaves are dried and ground into a powder form.  It isn’t as potent as other stevia products.  But just because it’s a natural sweetener, moderation is still key.
    • Read food labels!  Cereals, protein bars, protein shakes, etc…  Always be aware of how much sugar you are taking in!
  6. Don’t eat “white”!
    • If you’re not gluten-free, then you can change from white breads, to whole-grain breads.  From white rice to brown rice.  From white potatoes to red potatoes.  You get the idea.  If you’re trying to go gluten-free, then you need to dig deeper than just not eating “white”.  You can’t eat whole grains, because those will contain gluten and instead will need to convert to coconut flour, corn flour, etc.
  7. Mind and Soul
    • Evaluate your mind and soul.  What are you watching?  What are you reading?  What do you focus your time and energies on?  What stress could you reduce?  What kinds of friendships and relationships do you keep?  Do you seek a place for God in your life?
    • DO something about the evaluation.  Notice what’s healthy and what’s not.  Action plan one thing you could do differently…

Best calorie counter app

iphone computer paperSo I’m not as much a fan of calorie counting as I am of simply eliminating sugar, white flour products, and processed foods from my body!  And yes, this is tough.  I’m not perfect at it either, but I strive for it.  I figure if I hit the mark 85% of the time, I’m moving in the right direction!

But there are those out there who are learning to read food labels … and they are on a journey of seeing food in a whole new way and getting a grip on their health!  They might be checking out a food’s protein, sugar, vitamin, or sodium content as well as calories. Kudos to you!  And one way to become cognizant of what you’re putting into your body is to simply…track it!

In 2015, the Journal of Medical Internet Research published a study titled:  Adherence to a Smartphone Application for Weight Loss Compared to Website and Paper Diary.”

The study stated that “In recent years, research into mobile devices to facilitate dietary and physical activity self-monitoring and weight-related behavior change has grown. Mobile phones, in particular, are an intuitively appealing intervention platform given that they are ubiquitous, engaging, and portable.”  This study sought to compare the ability of participants to stay engaged with a phone app versus “two other self-monitoring interventions to allow comparison of self-monitoring on a mobile phone against other approaches.”

I bet you’re not surprised … the smartphone app won!   Over 93 percent of the app participants continued to track their weight-related behavior and calories for the duration of the entire study (six months) whereas only 55% continued in the website group and only 53 percent in the diary group.

Of all the Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 4.00.12 PMcalorie counter apps out there, My Fitness Pal comes in first, according to ratings by  Livescience.com.  The site states that the app has as many or more features in its free version as other fitness-tracking apps.  It compiles a pie chart with a breakdown of calories based on percentages from carbs, fats, and proteins…and can be seen on a daily or weekly basis.  And considering what we discussed above about tracking, a nice add-on is the notes section, where users can either journal about their food, or their thoughts, or their exercise that day.

The app keeps a running total of calories so users can see where they stand in relation to their goal intake throughout the day, and it also has a huge searchable nutrition database.  That means you’ll find the calorie count of almost any food you want to look up!

Finally, Livescience.com notes that the best feature of all is “the app’s  ability to download recipes directly into the app and get estimated calorie counts. The app will take the recipe ingredient list, cross-check it with its nutrition database, and give an estimate of calories per serving. (Users can check the app’s work and alter any calories or serving sizes that need tweaking.) For people who scour the Internet for recipes, this feature is invaluable.”

Nuff said, right?!  Sounds like a powerhouse of an app … put the power in YOUR palm!

Meetups -support for body, mind, and spirit!

As you seek health in your body, mind, AND spirit, have you thought of using Meetups as a way to support your entire well-being?

For those of you who aren’t aware of what “Meetups” are, the http://www.meetup.com site says they are: “neighbors getting together to learn something, do something, share something.”

These Meetup groups cover a huge range of interests and are started by individuals who have a need (new in town, or have a hobby/interest they want to share with others) and form a group on the website to satisfy that need.  Individuals get onto the website, put in the geographic range that they would travel for activities, and voila, a list of formed Meetup groups shows in a list.  The range of groups I’ve seen vary from volleyball, photography, hiking, women of Christian faith, dog lovers, book writing and aspiring authors, business owners, running, young business professionals, entrepreneurs, coed baseball, knitting, prayer, yoga, book lovers, flag football … on and on and on.  SO many choices! Continue reading “Meetups -support for body, mind, and spirit!”

Perfect female body around the world?

I have three points I want to make sure to get across here… I promise the end point is encouraging!

  1.  Researchers identified the “perfect body shape” for women based on cultural preferences in various countries (click here to view – ugh).  What did it tell me?  Well, one, that “beauty” is determined by cultural influences.  Researchers found the “ideal” 5’4″ woman’s weight in China was considered to be 102 pounds, however in Columbia, it was 147 pounds.  There truly is NO perfect body shape!  NONE.  So if you’re a woman who looks in the mirror and says you don’t measure up…well, WHO’S STANDARD are you trying to measure by? Take that pressure off yourself NOW because every body standard is simply subjective to a bunch of people’s preferences in society, people who have no individual interest in YOU!
  2. Now, the really important second point is this … beauty is not defined by a body shape!  There is inner beauty of kindness and compassion.  There is intelligence that just humbles me in its scope.  There is external beauty,  like hair that is thick and wavy, or straight and smooth, or curly and out-of-control.  There is skin that is chocolate, or porcelain, or anywhere in between.  There are blue eyes, brown eyes, green eyes, black eyes.  Young and old.  There are smile-line wrinkles, wisdom-old wrinkles, and skin as smooth as a baby’s butt!  There are large bodies and small bodies.  Who is to say what is beautiful?  It’s YOUR place to say what makes YOU feel beautiful.  Have grey hair and color it and that makes you feel beautiful?  Ok!  Love your grey hair and flaunt it?  Ok, too!  Have a curvy shape and it makes you feel feminine?  Embrace it.  No one has the corner on determining whether you are beautiful or not.
  3. Here’s the third catch.  Getting HEALTHY is different than getting beautiful!  When one begins a journey of HEALTH, they end up feeling beautiful from the inside out!  If what you are putting into your body, or on your skin is poison, toxic, known-to-be-bad-for-you food or products, it affects your mood, self-esteem, energy levels, and all around well-being.  If you were worried about your beauty, transfer that energy into getting healthy.  

So don’t be deceived that your beauty is a body shape or a number on the scale!  Don’t allow a cultural preference to dictate your esteem!  Fight against that!   For me?  Well, I’m determined to work on “me” from the inside out.  I care about pursuing  compassion and kindness as a human being, deepening my faith in God, pursuing healthy eating habits and physical strength, pursuing education and learning new things, and lastly, about touching others’ lives so that I make a difference by being in the world.  Now THAT is beautiful to me…

Valerie’s Nugget:  If you were worried about your beauty, transfer that energy into getting healthy.  


Awesome Body Mass Index in 3D

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 3.55.15 PM

BMI.  What is this, you ask?   It stands for Body Mass Index.  According to Medicalnewstoday.com,  BMI is “a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height and applies to most adult men and women aged 20 and over.”  What this is saying is that BMI isn’t a direct measure of body fat, but instead is based off a correlation between weight and height.  That being said, the site goes on to state that research indicates BMI results do correlate to more sophisticated measurements of body fat but keep in mind that “factors such as age, sex, ethnicity and muscle mass are not accounted for in BMI”.

Okay, so what does knowing our BMI do for us?   Simply put, it’s a screening tool used to give reasonable indication of someone’s state of being in regards to weight:  healthy weight, underweight, overweight, or obese.

Why would this be important to know?  NOT because size determines beauty, but instead it’s about HEALTH!  Carrying extra weight increases health risks!  According to the site “Excess weight increases how hard the heart has to work, it also raises blood pressure, blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Excess weight can make a person more likely to develop diabetes.”  From observation, I would add it increases wear/tear on joints and compromises the immune system, among other things.

While there are many BMI calculators out there, I came across a really awesome BMI calculator that shows body fat percentages in 3D models.   Use the easy-to-use sliding scale to input your height and weight data (just make sure to click “American/Imperial” under Measure System so the inputs are in feet/inches and pounds instead of metric).  A picture is worth a thousand words!

But don’t stop there.  Take your results and reference it to the table below.  Where did you land?

  1. Normal weight   19–24
  2. Overweight         25–29
  3. Obesity level I    30–34
  4. Obesity level II   35–39
  5. Obesity level III      ≥ 40

Take that answer and let it move you to take steps to reduce your health risks … from the inside out, of course!





How to find a farmer’s market near you

farmer's market 2

Woohoo!  April is here… and in my world, that means FARMER’S MARKETS ARE ABOUT TO POP UP EVERYWHERE!  For those who can’t grow their own produce, this is the next best thing!  Trust me, once you get hooked on truly fresh produce, you’ll have a hard time buying at the grocer again!

I don’t know about you, but there is something earthy and comforting in attending farmer’s markets!  I get to talk to the farmers who actually grew the produce and see the fruits of the earth direct from farm to table.  Over time, I get to know the farmers by name, and I know which booth or farmer vendor I trust the most… it’s to those individuals that I return time and time again during the entire harvest season.

This is an excellent way to not only support local growers and the economy, but also ensure your produce is fresh, organic, and safe at the same time.  There is a NOTICEABLE difference in taste from a tomato at the store versus fresh from your own garden or a farmer’s market!  I wish there was a way over the internet to let you taste the difference!

An added bonus?  This is not only is this healthy for you and your loved ones, but also sets an example of a lifestyle to your children!  I have a daughter in college who goes to the farmer’s market in her town EVERY WEEKEND.  She makes an outing of it…taking her rollerblades or sneakers, she rolls/runs on the trail near the lake, then goes to the farmer’s market by the water’s edge afterward.  She strikes up conversations with the farmers, and like me, she returns to the same ones she has developed a relationship with over the weeks.  And guess what?  She’s only 20 years old!   She is striving to eat “clean” while in college.

Okay, to make it easy for you, click here  to go to the LocalHarvest website where you can search by zip code for farmer’s markets near you (search box at top of website).  You can also check your community newspapers and leaflets for information about ones that might not be listed on this site.  And finally, you can always contact a local 4H group or a university to ask to be directed to someone who can tell you about farmer’s markets in your area.

Mmmmm, I’m craving a fresh tomato after all this talk!

Chat soon!


Container gardens – the art of growing food

I’ve been traveling the past few days and had the pleasure of visiting an incredible national treasure … Monticello.  For those who are history challenged, this is the home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States.  Monticello is located on a gorgeous mountain in western Virginia with views of rolling hills and valleys.  And part of the beauty of the estate is not just the orchards and flower gardens, but the vegetable garden, too! OH MY … Be still my beating heart!

Monticello garden 2


The soil was rich, the furrows straight, and the entire vegetable garden must have reached the length of two football fields!    The garden is still farmed with primitive methods and includes an incredible variety of vegetables.  As I gazed in awe at the garden, it reminded me how we’ve lost the appreciation for growing our own food … as well as the knowledge of how to farm!

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s  Agriculture Food and Statistics report in 2014, the number of farms in the U.S. has fallen from more than 6 million in 1935 to roughly 2 million in 2012.  The family farm is on the decline while corporate-owned farms rises!   One of the ripple effects?  The experience and knowledge of how to farm and grow sustainable gardens will disappear as these family farms disappear, too…

Monticello garden

My dad grew up on a farm in Iowa in the 1930’s.  I’m so proud of that fact!  Grandma and Grandpa were sturdy midwest folk and taught all they knew about farming to their kids, who worked alongside them on the farm.  My dad and mom went on to raise eight children (yes, I have seven siblings!) on a small parcel of land on the outskirts of an Iowan town … and as you can guess, they turned a large portion of our yard into a garden!

I grew up snapping beans and shelling peas under the maple tree in the yard, eating tomatoes like apples, and grabbing grapes off the grapevine on the way to the school bus in the fall.  We ate canned vegetables in the dead of winter and enjoyed homemade jam on homemade bread.  And that is what we are losing … the art of growing food!  And we aren’t teaching our kids!  There is knowledge in gardening that comes solely from past experiences and generational teaching.  My dad knew just what to do to make his Iowa corn grow, when to plant, when to harvest, what made great natural fertilizer, how to rotate his crops, etc.


My encouragement to those of us who live in the suburbs and want to embrace healthy living, is to connect with our history.  LEARN gardening.  For you and your kids!  If you have a patio or a small backyard, you can plant vegetables in containers.   You can do a raised garden bed near your house.  Options.  Simple.  Start with just one type of plant.  Get your confidence up and plant more next year.  And let the kids own part of the work of “gardening” the plant.  Second best option is to hit your local farmer’s markets!  Not only do you support the local business, but you also know exactly where your food comes from!

There is such GREAT satisfaction in eating what you grew with your own hands. Your body will thank you, too!








Roasted Veggies


Happy Easter!  One of my favorite veggie dishes for any holiday is simply roasted vegetables!  It’s a super easy way to fill up on this essential food group in such a way that you long for more! And I think you’ll love the simplicity so much that you’ll prepare roasted veggies year round!

I like to use mostly root vegetables with just a spattering of a few others.   The root veggies help the medley to stay firm and not so mushy.  Feel free to throw in any veggies you have on hand, but root vegetables work best.  You can’t go wrong! Continue reading “Roasted Veggies”

Interval Training…what? How?

running track

Ever heard of interval training, otherwise known as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)?  Yes, Virginia, there is a science to it!

The science behind it is twofold:

  1. High intensity: By doing a quick “burst” of maximum effort in exercise during a workout, you maximize muscle fatigue as well as oxygen utilization (and using this oxygen is what burns calories).  You see, the harder you work (as in ALL OUT effort), the more oxygen your muscles require.  By bringing your body to maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 Max) you actually create an afterburn effect!  This is simply where your body will continue to use oxygen, hence burn calories (5 calories for one liter of oxygen) up to 48 hours AFTER a workout.  WOW!  That’s some bang for your buck!
  2. Interval Training:  This is where you alternate between periods of high-intensity effort in your exercise with low-moderate intensity for 20 minutes total.  This builds new muscle faster.  And we all know that muscle BOOSTS METABOLISM!

Continue reading “Interval Training…what? How?”

The evolution of…you

Life is fluid, not static. If you’ve been on a path leading to poor health, it’s not over! There is always opportunity to make different decisions and change course.

girl skip with umbrella

I love this picture!  It captures the essence of freedom, joy, energy, abandon, playfulness.  As children, we have this in us… just watch a bunch of four year olds on the playground!

And yet somehow, as we enter adulthood, these lovely traits begin to fade.  Whether we get weighed down with responsibility, bad experiences, disappointments, or the daily grind of living, it not only affects our demeanor, but our health as well.

What does YOUR evolution look like?  Our lives are fluid, not static … which means your life is not “stuck” in one place.  We change, evolve, grow, and move in life, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.  You are who you are today due to a myriad of choices along the way of life.  If you’re in a place of poor health, it didn’t happen overnight.  It was a progression of many choices.  If you’re in a place of good health, it didn’t happen overnight either!  It was a series of good choices, sometimes sacrifice, and hard work.

The good news?  “It ain’t over till it’s over!”  Because life IS fluid and evolving, your life is in motion until your last breath.  Don’t let discouragement or the past dictate your future. What was is done.  What’s tomorrow is yet to be…  And our health evolution isn’t always a straight path.  Sometimes it’s three steps forward and one back, and eight forward and four back…but the goal is to be further ahead than where we were.   If you fell today, get back up and start anew!  And if you’re doing well, keep moving forward in it.  LIFE IS NOT STATIC.

How is YOUR life evolving?