Ready To Put The “Happy” Back In Your Holidays?


By: Jessica Waclawski, Kara Wickman, and Penny Wilson

I know it’s “only” October.

I know you may not be ready to face the Holidays. But. . .

By starting to think about them now, you can start getting ready to have the Holidays you want. . . .To focus on family, friends, food, and fitness. To put the “Happy” back in your Holidays.

What do you expect?

The holidays are filled with messages of joy, peace, and love. But, in reality, it’s a time of high stress and high expectations! We tend to get caught up in what we “should” do, how the holidays “should” be, and spiral into a cycle of comparing the “should” to reality.

We never feel like we’re doing enough, like we’re enough, like the life we created isn’t enough.

What most of us really want – I mean really, really want – is to focus on our family, friends, food, and fitness.

Not all of the artificial “happiest time of the year” stuff that doesn’t ring true. And, doesn’t really make it the “happiest time of the year”.

Rates of depression and anxiety drastically increase during the holidays. If you’re alone, you may feel that loneliness even more. It appears as if everyone else is having a great time with their loved ones.

If you’re a perfectionist (to any degree) your expectations go through the roof as you worry about entertaining guests and family and making every event the “perfect” event. Your bank account shrinks as demands to choose and buy the perfect gifts grow.

Is your heart rate increasing just thinking about all the demands of the holiday season? Mine is! But here’s the thing that we seem to forget… we get to CHOOSE. We get to choose what makes our season Merry and Bright. We get to CHOOSE how we want to spend our hard earned money. And we get to CHOOSE what will fill our hearts with joy and peace.

But, here’s the thing that we seem to forget… we get to CHOOSE. We get to choose what makes our season Merry and Bright. We get to CHOOSE how we want to spend our hard earned money. And we get to CHOOSE what will fill our hearts with joy and peace.

One of the tricks to managing the sky-high holiday expectations is to step away from what the commercials, your mother, or even your memories tell you what the holiday season SHOULD be. Listening to what everyone else thinks creates unrealistic expectations that everyone falls short of.

So, what can you do? Start now – today – by redefining what the holidays mean to you. Choose what you want most to get from this time of year.

Start reevaluating and CHOOSING for yourself what you desire most!

Stop. Take a deep breath. Think about what you want this holiday season to be like. Choose what you want – what you really want. Get a pen and paper. Now, write down what you want this holiday season to be like.

What about the food?

Food is one of the main focuses of holiday celebrations. And, the person responsible for food is even under more pressure than everyone else.

Is that you?

If so, now is the time to begin thinking about what your expectations are for holiday meals. Just because things have been done a certain way in the past doesn’t mean it has to continue being that way this year.

Think about what your ideal role with the food would be this holiday season. Don’t use commercials or ads to decide what you would want. Think about what you want.

Maybe rather than having all of the extended family over you’d prefer to have a small gathering with just yourself, your partner and your children or just close friends.

Don’t censor yourself. There is no “right” or “wrong” – only what you want.

If cooking stresses you out, whether you cook some or all of the food, what can you do this year to reduce that stress? Can you enlist others to help? Can you order some of the food out? Again, none of these are “right” or “wrong”. They are different ways of getting food on the table.

Because, what’s more important . . .you being relaxed and able to enjoy the holidays with your friends and family or you being stressed out trying to do everything yourself and not able to enjoy the holidays?

Stop. Take a deep breath. Think about what you want the food, and your role in producing the food, this holiday season to be like. Choose what you want – what you really want with the food – going out, staying home and cooking or a combination. You get to choose what you want. Now, write it down.

Choosing what you desire for the holidays, as well as setting reasonable expectations, is such an important part of getting the happy back in your holiday. Lastly, let’s look at goal setting, as it relates to taking care of YOU during this busy time.


Have you ever said to yourself, ‘I just need to get through the holidays and then…(insert here)? Then I’ll start exercising. Then I’ll start eating better. Then I’ll deal with that issue.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic to not just get THROUGH the holidays, but actually THRIVE through the holidays?

To be able to get back to a time of genuine thankfulness, celebration, and pure joy. To enjoy your family, friends, food, and fitness.

There will never be a perfect time, no perfect date on the calendar to start making healthier decisions that will affect every area of your life. Why not start now – with some baby steps? Do something small every day and begin to develop those habits.

This holiday season, I challenge you to think about exercise and movement in a different way. Instead of massive, over reaching goals that you save for the New Year, focus on small ways you can fit movement in each day. With busy schedules, parties, shopping, and preparation, how you take care of yourself may look different during this time of year.

And guess what…that is OK.

It may require creativity concerning when and how you take care of yourself. But, if we spend a little time thinking about how we can make this holiday different than years past, that HAPPY that we are longing for, might just creep back in.

In a time where we often forget about ourselves, I encourage you to make the time anyway. Your future self will thank you – not only for beating the holiday pounds, but more importantly for clarity, peace of mind, reduced stress and anxiety…and happiness. When we focus on these bigger outcomes, more intrinsic reasons for movement, we find habits easier to stick with.

Often times a stumbling block to achieving our goals is trying to replicate how someone else does things. Get rid of comparison. Comparison is a destructive thing that keeps us from real joy and from achieving the goals we set for ourselves.

Before the hustle and bustle of the season picks up, sit with yourself and think about what will work for YOU. Remember that pen and paper? Grab it again and write down what you would like fitness to be like during this year’s holiday season.

Ready for a Happier Holidays?

Now, take a couple of more minutes and look back at all of your notes. What do you think? How do you feel when reading them again?Keep your notes handy so you can look back at them when you get caught up in the “shoulding” or unrealistic expectations of the season. Remind yourself that this is your holidays. You deserve to have the holiday season you want.

Keep your notes handy so you can look back at them when you get caught up in the “shoulding” or unrealistic expectations of the season. Remind yourself that this is your holidays. You deserve to have the holiday season you want.

This is just the beginning of some ideas behind what we will be discussing in our upcoming webinar. We’ll be focusing on how to have a Happy Stress Free Holiday. Watch for information on how to sign up for our FREE webinar where you’ll receive our 5 secrets to a holiday free of stress! Join us as we dive into this topic and share more strategies to equip you with the tools to enjoy a truly Happy Holiday. Then come the New Year you will already be feeling successful rather than stressed!

Now, it’s your turn. Tell me in the comments below a few things that come to mind that you’d like to do differently this holiday season.

Got Gut Issues? The 5 R’s Can Help!

Balancing stones

What causes digestive issues? Food? Emotions? Stress? Drinks? When working with people who are having GI issues – anything from constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas,  – using a protocol based on the “5 R’s of Gut Restoration” helps get the issues resolved.  The 5 R’s provide a protocol, an approach, to figuring out what’s causing the problem, repairing the digestive tract if it’s been damaged, and getting clients on the road to being symptom free again. The 5 R’s are:

  • Remove
  • Replace
  • Reinoculate
  • Repair
  • Rebalance

You’ve got to be systematic when trying to figure out gut problems because there are a lot of things that contribute to them. If you don’t have a protocol, a lot of time you can just be “shooting in the dark” to try to figure out what is triggering the symptoms. And, if the problem is more than one thing, which it usually is, the protocol takes multiple things into account.

Briefly, each R is:

  • Remove: figure out what is causing the symptom and remove it
  • Replace: replace things that are missing – like digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid
  • Reinoculate: seed the gut with probiotics to be sure that the microbiome is well established
  • Repair: if the lining of the GI tract is damaged supply key nutrients to repair it
  • Rebalance: look at lifestyle choices that impact the GI tract including sleep, stress, and exercise

The 5 R’s are not necessarily addressed in the order above. For example, if the lining of the GI tract is damaged, it should be repaired before or while the microbiome is reinoculated. The order in which the R’s are addressed depends on the person’s symptoms and the severity of the symptoms.

Using the 5 R’s to address GI issues allows us to look at the GI tract as a whole, the person as a whole, and the symptoms they are experiencing. Then, together we develop a plan.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to break down each of the 5 R’s. Next week, I’ll start with “Remove” and talk about things that may be causing problems, how to test for them, and how to remove them. Removing some things, like foods, can be easier to remove than others, like parasites.

Do you have ongoing digestive issues – gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation – which you haven’t been able to figure out? Would you like to talk to someone about it? I want to help. I’m offering a free 60 minute “Target 3 Triggers” session. To schedule your session, click here.

Do you want to get started on Removing those things that may be triggering your symptoms? Logging can be key to figuring it out. I’ve created the Symptom Log for Digestive Wellness to help. You can get your copy here.

Let’s Take A Ride (Part 2)

Roller Coaster


The more I learn about the GI tract, the more I see how it is the center of our health and healing. This is the second post in series about the GI tract, it’s parts, how it works, what can go wrong, and how to keep it healthy. In last week’s blog post, we started on a tour or “ride” of the digestive tract. Here’s a link to Part 1.

Part 2

“We’ve now entered the small intestine. Lots to look at here. The average small intestine is about 22 feet long! Yes, 22 feet! You see that hole up there? Yes, up in the top above your head? That’s where digestive enzymes from the pancreas and the gall bladder come in to continue digesting, or breaking down, the food from the stomach. The gallbladder holds bile which helps digest fats. The gallbladder stores the bile until your body detects that there’s fat in the small intestine. Then, the gallbladder contracts and releases the bile to break down the fats. You don’t have your gallbladder? Then, there’s nowhere to store the bile. It drips directly from the pancreas into the small intestine all the time. If you eat a fatty meal and have diarrhea soon after it’s because your body can’t handle that much fat because your gallbladder is gone. This first part of the small intestine is called the duodenum. You’ll notice on the sides there’s some additional fluid coming in. That neutralizes the stomach acid so that it doesn’t damage the small intestine.”

“Moving along now, we enter the next section of the small intestine – the jejunum. You see all those folds there? Those are called villi. On the villi are more small folds on the folds called microvilli. The villi and microvilli increase the surface area of the small intestine. Remember how we talked about increasing the surface area of the food by chewing and digestion to allow the digestive enzymes to break the food down into smaller parts? In your small intestine we want a lot of surface area to be able to absorb the nutrients from the food. If you flattened-out all the villi and microvilli of your small intestine, you could cover about two tennis courts. That’s a lot of surface area! It’s in this part of the small intestine that most of the absorption of sugars, amino acids from proteins, and fats happen. Also, this is where a lot of your immune system resides. About 70% of your immune system is in this part of your small intestine. Why? Since you’re absorbing things here – this is where the parts from the food pass into your body – we want to let what we need in and keep things we don’t need or that may be harmful out. The immune cells here act like bouncers at a night club. They let the good things in and keep the bad things out. The next section of your small intestine, the part we are now entering is the ileum. You can see we still have the folds. In this section we absorb vitamins and bile salts that are recycled into more bile in the pancreas. Ahead, you’ll see we’re reaching another sphincter – the ileocecal valve. This valve is between the small and large intestines. We’ll stop here for a minute and let you take a look back.”

“Ready to move on? Here we go into the large intestine. The average large intestine is about 5 feet long. Our microbiome lives in our large intestine. A healthy microbiome weighs about 5 pounds. These little microbes do a lot to help us out. They digest the fiber we’ve been eating and produce some vitamins and other things our body and digestive tract need to stay healthy. So far, they’ve identified about 10,000 species of microbes in a healthy microbiome. You can see all the microbes along the walls of the large intestine here. If this person had taken antibiotics, there’d be hardly any microbes here because the antibiotics often kill off most or all of the microbes. Then, we have to repopulate them through supplements and food. Our large intestine absorbs water and all the good things that the microbes produce through their digestion. Don’t be afraid of the microbes. They’re really friendly. See? That one is waving to you!”

“Finally, we find ourselves in the rectum and anus. This is where the waste products are stored until you are ready to go to the bathroom. And, out we pass and we’re back safely into the ride loading area. Your cabin cover is unlocked. Just lift on that handle and it will lift up. Same for your safety bar. Please stand and exit to your left. I hope you enjoyed this tour of your GI tract! We’ve got some great snacks out in the lobby for you to enjoy. See you next time!”

Now that you’ve toured your GI tract, I hope you have a better understanding of the various parts and functions. In next week’s post, we’ll talk about some things that can go wrong in your GI tract.

I’ve got something for you if you have an unhappy gut. One of the best ways to get a happy gut is to track your food and symptoms. I’ve created a Symptom Log for Digestive Wellness based on my years with IBS and working with clients with digestive issues. I also created a series of videos to go along with the log to help you learn how to use it, figure out what may be triggering your symptoms, and other resources to get a happy and healthy gut. If you want the Symptom Log and other goodies, you can sign up to get it here.

You’ve Got To Have The Guts. . . .

Woman with bowl of fruit

We talk about brain health, heart health, keeping our muscles strong. But, we don’t talk about gut health. Much. I mean, some of us do. But, most people don’t.

Yeah, I get it it. Talking about gut health and digestive issues isn’t really “fun”. You especially don’t want to talk to your doctor about it because they’re going to want to do things that involve hospital gowns and anesthesia. Not what most people consider having “fun”.

We’ve got to start talking about gut health in the open. It’s not a secret. Everyone’s got a gut. And, most of us have times when our gut isn’t happy.

Why is talking about gut health so important?

Because, if our guts aren’t happy and healthy, then we don’t get the benefit of all the food that we eat. Think about it a minute. How much do you spend on food each week? Meals. Snack. Grocery store. Dining out. All of it.

What if most of that money is ending up, literally, in the toilet. If your gut isn’t healthy, your body can’t get the nutrition it needs from the food you eat. You may not be able to get the benefit of the carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from your food if your gut isn’t healthy. And, it ends up . . . in the toilet.

Your gut, or digestive tract, is between about 26 and 30 feet long – your mileage may vary depending on how small or large you are. A lot of things can go wrong in that much space. And, if something is going wrong, then it impacts how well you digest – or breakdown – and absorb the nutrients from the food you’re eating.

I’m re-launching my blog focusing on helping you have the guts to be healthy. I’ll address other nutrition and health topics, too. The main focus, however, will be on the gut.

Next week will be the first part of a two part series on the parts and functions of your digestive tract. Then, I’ll get into how to know if something is wrong, what some of the things are that can go wrong, ways to fix it if something is wrong, as well as how to keep your gut healthy.

If you have an unhappy gut, one of the best ways to get a happy gut is to track your food and symptoms. I’ve created a Symptom Log for Digestive Wellness based on my years with IBS and working with clients with digestive issues. I also created a series of videos to go along with the log to help you learn how to use it, figure out what may be triggering your symptoms, and other resources to get a happy and healthy gut. If you want the Symptom Log and other goodies, you can sign up to get it here.

Careful with Causation

The media got an early Christmas present this week when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a monograph stating that red and processed meats cause cancer. Woo Hoo! Time to unleash the media feeding frenzy!

Unfortunately, the full monograph won’t be available until later. What is available is a Q&A on the monograph. Here’s key points from the monograph:

1.      Red meat is classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans . . .based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and  mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect.” The report goes on to say that the association was mainly seen for colorectal cancer, with some associations related to pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

2.     “Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.”

3.     The report defines “red meat” as all types of mammalian muscle meat, such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat.

4.     The report defines “processed meat” as “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood.”

My thoughts:

1.     The report mixes causation and associations. Since the full report isn’t available, we can’t see exactly how their conclusions were reached. In my training and my PhD level statistics courses, I was told time and again that an association is not causation. This means that two things can be related, and one may not cause the other. In the first bullet point above, the IARC mixes causation and associations. You really can’t say that one food causes something else to happen in a human body unless you are controlling all of the study participants food, exercise, living environment, etc. For YEARS! Anyone want to sign up for that study? Not me.

2.     In the past red and processed meats have been lumped together. I’m glad to see that they’ve separated the two. However, they’ve left in fermented meats which may have probiotic and health benefits. This is a slippery slope. Some meats are fermented quickly (in the US) while others are fermented slowly (Europe). My concern with having “fermentation” in the report is that some people may begin to shy away from these amazing foods.

3.     It may not necessarily be the meats that are causing the rise in cancers but how they are cooked. High-temperature cooking over an open flame or panfrying can lead to the development of Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs and PAHs have been found to cause changes in DNA (in lab experiments). In the Q&A of the IARC’s monograph it states that the role of HCAs and PAHs “is not yet fully understood”.

What does all this mean?

1.     If you’re cooking meats, avoid charring of the meat and cooking at high heat (over 300 degrees F) for a prolonged time. (More information can be found here.

2.     If you’re eating red meat, eat it occasionally as part of a balanced diet.

3.     If you’re eating processed meats, look at reducing how often you have them. And, decide which ones you’re comfortable eating and which you’d rather not eat.

4.     Whenever the media starts reporting that some food causes some disease, take it with a grain (or more) of salt. Remember, the media is driven by rating. Sensational stories get ratings.

5.     Remember balance and moderation. If you eat red meats and/or processed meats, only have them occasionally – like once a week or a couple of times a month. If you consistently eat things like turkey lunch meat, why not bake a turkey breast, slice it yourself and freeze it in individual servings? That way, you know what you’re eating because you made it.

6.     Whenever you see stories about some food causes some disease, take a closer look at how the study was done and was it really an association rather than a causation. And, was it done in a laboratory, in rodents, other animals, or humans? Then, you can decide how to evaluate the study.

You can see the IARC’s press release here and the Q&A here.