“First Do No Harm”


Hippocrates, an ancient greek physician is known as the father of western medicine.  One of his best known sayings and the first rule of modern day medicine is “Primum non nocerum. (First do no harm)”

Do you know what you are putting in your body?  Is the product you are using providing the benefit you are seeking?

A recent study has shown a link to supplements (including multivitamins, energy drinks and weight loss products) and over 20,000 emergency room visits a year.  They collected data from over 60 hospitals across the U.S. over a 9-year period.  About 10% of those cases resulted in hospitalization.

Have you evaluated your supplements and why you are taking them?  Have you considered their effectiveness and if they are truly providing a benefit or are they doing more harm than good?

Energy:  Many individuals seek out supplements/products that will provide them with an energy boost.  These “energy” supplements typically contain caffeine or similar stimulant.  In moderation, caffeine may not cause any adverse health effects, but in high doses or in combination with other stimulants/drugs can increase the risk of heart damage or cardiovascular events.  Instead of covering the problem with a pill/drink, evaluate why you are low energy.  Are you lacking adequate sleep, not getting regular exercise, not eating healthy food choices?  Any or all of these behaviors may be contributing to feeling low in energy during the day.  Break the habit of relying on supplements to get you through the day – focus on improving your behaviors to increase your health.

Weight Loss/Management:  Products that claim to help with weight loss are very popular.  However, the majority of the over-the-counter pills or supplements usually rely on caffeine along with a variety of other popular “weight loss” ingredients.  The NIH has published a great fact sheet that evaluates the more common ingredients found in “weight loss” products.  It discusses the theory of how it works in the body, but more importantly the research, or lack thereof, to show it’s effectiveness.  However, there is enough known on some of them to know which ones are harmful to the body.  Taking any variety of weight loss products may result in some weight loss, but it typically comes with a risk to the body.  Typically, the person has not made appropriate lifestyle changes to support the weight loss. As a result, when the product is not longer used, the individual returns to the same behaviors they had before the product and weight is gained back – plus some.

How can you stop this cycle?  Eliminate the use of these temporary and potentially harmful products.  Focus on making small positive healthy behavior changes.  This could be going to bed earlier, eating breakfast, getting a 10-30 minute walk in a day, drinking water versus a caloric beverage.  Small simple changes, can have positive long term lasting effects.  Making these changes will not cost you any money and in fact may actually save you money in addition to improving your health.

Health: Many individuals take a multivitamin supplement to improve their health.  This may be because they want to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need.  Or some use it as an excuse to eat unhealthy but “make it up” by taking a multivitamin.  Research has shown that those individuals who take some kind of multivitamin are usually getting adequate nutrients through their diet.  As a result, the multivitamin is not necessary.  Other research studies have found no difference in individuals who take a multivitamin versus a placebo when assessing for risks for various diseases.  Therefore, the researchers concluded that there was no need to take a multivitamin.  There is a potential for individuals to exceed normal intakes of certain vitamins and minerals which can result in adverse effects.  This usually occurs when individuals are taking a multivitamin and consuming highly fortified foods and beverages.

There are still certain populations where specific supplementation is warranted and has been shown to be beneficial, these include women who plan to become pregnant or are pregnant (supplementation of folic acid and in some cases iron may be needed), post-menopausal women (Calcium and Vitamin D), exclusively breastfeed infants (Vitamin D).

If you are taking a supplement of any kind in any form, take some time to evaluate if that supplement is actually providing you with a known health benefit.  Speak with your doctor regarding any supplementation you are using.  This is especially important if you are taking any prescribed medication.  The combination of some prescribed medication and certain supplements could be a risky mix of stimulants/drugs.  While certain specific supplementation of vitamin/mineral may be warranted for a specific medical condition or individual health, most all other supplementation for health, weight loss and energy  is unnecessary and potentially dangerous to your health.

Again Hippocrates gives us this wisdom from nearly 2500 years ago, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

When selected appropriately, food truly can be the best medicine for the body.



Andrew I. Geller, M.D., Nadine Shehab, Pharm.D., M.P.H., Nina J. Weidle, Pharm.D., Maribeth C. Lovegrove, M.P.H., Beverly J. Wolpert, Ph.D., Babgaleh B. Timbo, M.D., Dr.P.H., Robert P. Mozersky, D.O., and Daniel S. Budnitz, M.D., M.P.H. Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Events Related to Dietary Supplements. N Engl J Med 2015; 373:1531-1540 October 15, 2015 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa1504267

NIH. Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.  April 6, 2015. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/WeightLoss-HealthProfessional/

NIH. Multivitamin/Mineral Supplements: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.  July 8, 2015. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/MVMS-HealthProfessional/



Does when you eat matter?

Does your body care when you eat your meals throughoutClock the day?  Yes, there is research showing that the timing of our meals throughout the day does appear to influence weight management.  We highlighted in a post last week that the type of foods you eat matters more than the calories.  We have also talked about the importance of breakfast and how important it is to have both a good protein food source as well as good high fiber food sources (such as eggs with oatmeal and raspberries).

Now consider when you eat throughout the day.  This is always an interesting topic in my Nutrition class, as many college students explain that they skip breakfast because they don’t have “time” to eat usually because they wake up right before they need to be out the door.

What effect does skipping breakfast have on you?  Can’t you just adjust your meals to eating late breakfast, lunch and dinner to compensate for waking up late?  You can, and many do (or they just skip a meal altogether).  But then how does that affect your choices throughout the day and how does it affect your body?  A few research studies 2 years ago specifically looked at the effect of pushing meals back and eating them later than typical.  One study evaluated two different groups.  Those who ate their lunch at a regular time versus those who ate their lunch “late”.  Interestingly, total calories, dietary composition, estimated amount of energy they expended in a day, appetite hormones and sleep duration were all similar between groups.  However, those in the group that ate lunch late (after 3PM) lost less weight and experienced a slower weight loss over the 20 week study period.  Additional research is planned to evaluate these factors.

A second study that came out the same year, evaluated the impact of the size of the meal throughout the day.  In this study, individuals were again divided into 2 groups.  One group consumed a large breakfast, medium lunch and small dinner (they evaluated based on calorie content).  The second group had the reverse meal schedule starting with a small breakfast and ending with a large dinner (this is typically what we see in the American diet – little to no calories for breakfast, an average lunch and then a large caloric dinner).  The results are pretty surprising.  The group that started the day with a large breakfast (~700 calories) lost an average of 17.8 lbs (3 inch waist circumference decrease).  While the group that consumed the large dinner (~700 calories) had less than half the success with an average of 7.3 lb lost (1.4 inches from waist).  This was evaluated over a 12 week period.

What about the diets that state it is better for your metabolism to eat small frequent meals throughout the day versus 3 big meals?  This to has been researched and the latest research has shown that individuals who eat small frequent meals throughout the day are not satisfied and end up eating more calories throughout they day versus those who consume 3 regular meals with perhaps a snack or two.  Physiologically, meals should be timed about every 3-4 hours throughout the day.  What I find most people struggle with is they eat lunch around noon and then dinner around 5-7 PM.  The problem here is going going 5-7 hours without food.  Then, when they finally eat, they usually do not make the best food choices and/or eat more than they intend.  This would be a good reason to include a healthy snack mid afternoon (~3 PM) to help curb hunger until dinner time.  A snack should really be a small meal, a combination of a healthy source of carbohydrate, protein and fat (nuts and fruit, veggies with savory yogurt dip, cheese or peanut butter and an apple, etc).

In summary, Eat Breakfast!!  Go to bed a little earlier, prepare your breakfast/or parts of your breakfast the night before to help reduce prep time and make Breakfast a priority.  All meals should be a good balance of healthy carb, protein and fat food choices, but the best breakfast is one that includes protein and fiber (cereal and milk just doesn’t cut it).  For example, a multi-grain toast with peanut butter and banana with a glass of milk is quick and easy to prepare.  Be consistent with your meals throughout the day.  Be sure to eat every 3-4 hours with the greatest amount of calories consumed at breakfast and gradually decreasing over the course of the day.

Kristine Clark

Wellness Associates


1. Garaulet MGómez-Abellán PAlburquerque-Béjar JJLee YCOrdovás JMScheer FA. Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. Int J Obes (Lond). 2013 Apr;37(4):604-11. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2012.229. Epub 2013 Jan 29. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23357955

2. New Study Highlights Weight Loss Benefits of Proper Meal Timing. http://www.acefitness.org/prosourcearticle/3460/new-study-highlights-weight-loss-benefits-of/

3. Night Snacking Woes: Is Food timing Key to Weight Loss?  http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Manufacturers/Night-snacking-woes-Is-food-timing-is-key-to-weight-loss

4. Cameron JDCyr MJDoucet E. Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet. Br J Nutr. 2010 Apr;103(8):1098-101. doi: 10.1017/S0007114509992984. Epub 2009 Nov 30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19943985

5. Ohkawara KCornier MAKohrt WMMelanson EL.Effects of increased meal frequency on fat oxidation and perceived hunger. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Feb;21(2):336-43. doi: 10.1002/oby.20032. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23404961

Are you “the worlds best backwards driver”?

45209180001One of my favorite films is Disney’s Cars. Mater is tow-truck character in the film and self proclaimed “world’s best backwards driver”. Though I love Mater, and that is a lofty goal to shoot for as an automobile, it’s not a great way for humans to live life. How much time have you spent driving backwards, making sure you get away from what you don’t want? The more we focus on what we don’t want the less attention gets paid to what’s important to us. Additionally, what we do want is not always directly opposite of what we don’t want.

Building a meaningful, purposeful life means facing your life, the good, bad, and ugly, with compassion and openness. One way we can try to be more like Mater is to cherish and accept our imperfections. Dents, scratches, and rust come with experience, adventures, and time. Rather than try to pick and choose the parts we want to delete, cherish the meaning behind those experiences and focus and act on what you want and value. That pursuit will bring meaning and purpose. As you live your valued life you will realize that joy, happiness, and peace are all coins with another side to them. Pain, sorrow, and worry are part of a package deal. You can’t know sweet without bitter. I want you to have it all! After all it is your life. They are your emotions, thoughts, ideas, urges; all yours. Why not have them? If you have them, then they don’t have you. You are not a clunker that needs cleaning or fixing. You are a whole person. You are not broken.

Have you struggled with your emotions? Are you ready to drop the struggle? Having anger or depression or anxiety or stress does not mean you are broken. You don’t need to be fixed.

Are you stuck in the trap that says you need to change your thoughts and emotions before you can live your life?

What if there is a way to release the hold these thoughts and feelings have on you? I am not talking about teaching you ‘more, different, or better’ ways to manage or get rid of symptoms. You’ve lost enough of your time, effort, resources…LIFE trying to manage and suppress thoughts and feelings. You can build a life of meaning and purpose and value even with your painful or tough thoughts and emotions.

By realizing that thoughts and emotions are just part of you and they don’t define or control you, you free yourself up to act on your life and values. So go out and begin living the life you want to live. Don’t drive through life using rear-view mirrors. Update your education, start exercising (again), volunteer at your kids’ school or for a youth sports league, spend more time with family or friends, read that book you have been eyeing. Turn your life toward what you want to be and do. Take those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings along for the ride. Welcome them along on your new journey.

Chris Clark

Wellness Associates

Don’t count calories, eat food that counts!

UnknownMost all diets are based on reducing calories.  Some diets require a certain calorie level.  Restriction, usually in calories as well as foods enjoyed by the individual, may result in some weight lost, but the ability to sustain the diet is not feasible.  A cycle of yo-yo-dieting begins in the search to find a “diet” that will provide the weight loss and “body” individuals are seeking.  There are two problems here.  First, focusing on weight loss or the “perfect body” is outcome based.  When outcome is the focus, how one gets there usually is not, resulting in unhealthy, sometimes dangerous methods.  For most, outcome focused “dieting” is not sustainable or an enjoyable process and leads to regaining pounds, plus some, when the individual reverts back to regular habits.  Second, greatly reducing your caloric intake is problematic for a number of reasons.  If calories are too low, you will not be able to consume adequate amounts of necessary nutrients.  In addition, not only do most diets require a reduction in calories, but usually encourage the elimination of one or more whole food groups.  Eliminating whole food groups means eliminating necessary and important nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants, etc).

Well known metabolic researcher, David C. Nieman, has found the resting metabolic rate (RMR) on average for females is ~1200-1400 calories/day and ~1500-1800 calories/day for males.  What does this mean?  This is the amount of calories required by your body just to sustain the functions of your body while at rest.  This does not include any daily activity or physical exercise.  Therefore, it is no surprise that individuals find it challenging to try to “diet” on 1500 calories or less a day.  At this level, you may not even be providing your body with the minimum amount of calories it needs.

What if you did not have to reduce your calories at all, but simply change the type of foods you were eating to experience some weight loss (an greatly improve your health)?  While we have known for a long time how important it is to provide our bodymix of foods with nutrient dense whole foods, new research out this week examines other countries diets’ compared to the American diet and shows quantitatively what could happen if just the makeup of an individual’s diet was changed without reducing calories.  For example, they found that if you simply changed your diet to a mediterranean diet with no change in typical caloric intake, your BMI (body mass index – a simple ratio of your weight over your height) would be reduced by about 2.5 points.  If you adjusted your diet composition to mirror that country as well as followed the average amount of calories that country consumes, you would experience a greater reduction (up to 3 point reduction in BMI based on a Japanese diet).

How is it possible that you could reduce your weight just by changing the foods you eat without reducing calories?  Not all calories are created equal.  Our bodies prefer whole, unprocessed foods which provide a variety of naturally occurring nutrients.  Most other countries rely on and consume a higher amount of plant-based whole foods.  While the American diet is composed of highly processed and refined foods.  The most recent report shows the top 5 sources of calories for adults are: grain-based desserts (cookies, cakes, pies, donuts, sweet rolls, etc), yeast breads, chicken/chicken dishes, sodas/energy drinks/sports drinks, alcoholic beverages).  It has also been reported that eating in restaurants contributes on average about 20% of overall calories.  bowl of veggies

Are you ready to make a change?  Evaluate what you have in your fridge and cupboards.  Make a plan for how you can eliminate those highly processed, empty calorie foods and begin replacing them with less processed, whole food options.

This new research supports the approach of Wellness Associates of focusing on the composition of the diet, rather than calories.  if you want to tweak your diet or begin to use more whole foods give us a call and let us guide your journey toward a more healthful diet.

Kristine Clark

Wellness Associates

1. The Cost Savings of Changes to Healthier Diets in the U.S. http://ageconsearch.umn.edu//handle/205608

2. How Americans can lose a lot of weight without giving up a single calorie.

3. Disturbing chart shows the 25 foods that make up most of the calories Americans eat. http://www.businessinsider.com/foods-that-make-up-most-of-the-calories-american-consume-2015-2

4. Your Metabolism: Facts and Fables. http://ncrc.appstate.edu/sites/ncrc.appstate.edu/files/Nieman-Your%20Metabolism-NCRC.pdf

5. Eat More, Weight Less. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/energy_density.html

Can certain words have an impact on how you feel about food?

How we think about our food impacts our food choices and how we eat.

11 Sep 2007, Garnerville, New York, USA --- Assortment of High Fiber Foods --- Image by © Envision/Corbis

In the article, Five words you should stop using when you talk about food, the author highlights the reasons to eliminate the words detox, cleanse, skinny, never and perfect from our vocabulary when talking about food.  A few other words we hear frequently that could be added to the elimination list include “clean” and “cheat”.
Clean in itself is not a negative word, but the way it is used in association with food creates an opposition in our minds, implying that some foods are “dirty.” Initially, trying to eat more “clean” may be a very positive step for some individuals, as usually processed foods are eliminated first.  For some individuals, this view of food can lead to extreme thinking resulting in the elimination of what is consider healthy and nutritious foods. Over time, they justify why a food is no longer “clean” or “pure” (some refer to this extreme way of eating as orthorexia) and eliminate even more foods from their diet until they only consider a handful of foods acceptable to consume.

“Cheat” on the other hand, is a negative word and implies we are doing something wrong or something we should not. Many individuals will eat “clean” all week and then allow a “cheat” day where they can eat those foods they do not consider “clean” or they view it as a free day to eat whatever they want that day. This mindset contributes to unhealthy eating behaviors. On “cheat” day many individuals tend to over-consume or over-indulge in what is considered the not-so-healthy food choices.  This approach is similar to restrictive dieting, where individuals eliminate foods they enjoy because it is not “allowed” on their diet.  The funny thing about restricting foods from our diet, is it creates a desire to want it more.  As a result, when individuals get to the point where they just can’t deny their favorite food/treat any longer, they typically over-consume that food.  This can lead to a cycle of negative feelings, such as shame, failure, and unhappiness followed by compensating with additional unhealthy behaviors including more over-eating (some would call this emotional eating) and/or trying to compensate by exercising.  mix of foods

How can you have a positive relationship with food?  The first step is to eliminate negative words you associate with foods. Second, focus on consuming a balance of different foods which include, vegetables, lean meats/proteins, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and low fat dairy.  Each food group provides the body with important nutrients the body requires.  If you eliminate a whole food group – you will likely be eliminating important and required nutrients your body needs.  Third, it is okay to have treats or the not-so-healthy foods on occasion.  We like the 90/10 guideline which means try to make 90% of what you eat each day as nutritious as you can allowing yourself 10% of what you eat to be from not-so-nutritious foods.  When you plan in the treats and less nutritious foods, then there is no association of guilt or shame from consuming them.

The research supports this idea of eating healthy the majority of the time and planning in small treats in moderation.  Why does this work?  If you plan in your treats (dining out on occasion, going to a party, etc) then you eliminate the negative feelings that come when you eat something that you have decided is restricted from your diet.  Eliminate the restrictions and focus on a balance of whole foods with your favorite treats in moderation and you will find yourself happier and more satisfied with eating.

If you are struggling or have a negative relationship with food, let us help you think of food in a positive way in order to develop a positive relationship with eating.

Kristine Clark

Wellness Associates

Supporting article written by some professional colleagues: “Why Treats should be Part of any Healthy Diet”

Before and After…


How to lose that post pregnancy belly…

I never thought I would be the type to go under the knife after my last pregnancy – but there I was 6 days after my last child in the OR ready to have weight removed from my belly — well it actually was probably less than a pound – it was an inflamed appendix.

I have seen a lot of advertisements for products and programs showing females how they can lose their post pregnancy belly. Recently, I saw a new one floating around Facebook with pregnant, post pregnant and post “product” pictures. I felt like I needed to share my experience.

I have had 4 children, all natural births and have used the same “program” for each of them which has allowed me to return to my “pre-pregnancy” body (Is your body ever really exactly the same after your first birth?).

With my last child, 6 days after he was born, I was back in the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. The recovery from this was so much more challenging than recovering from natural deliveries – at least for me. As a result – I took pictures of my recovery over the course of 4 weeks on my “program”.

10 days post delivery, 4 days post surgery
18 days post delivery, 12 days post surgery
27 days post delivery, 22 days post surgery
33 days post delivery, 27 days post surgery

Now that you have seen the pictures, you are probably on the edge of your seat wondering, “What did she do or use to drop weight/get her belly back so quickly, not just after delivery but surgery too?” The answer: Nothing.  All I could do was eat a healthy diet, not only to produce breast milk for my newborn infant, but to also provide the energy my body needed post-surgery.  The hardest part was I could not exercise for 6-8 weeks in order to allow the body to heal and not contribute to any of the possible post-surgery complications (none of them sounded like anything I wanted to experience so I decided to play it safe and follow the doctor’s orders).  The extent of my exercise during my recovery built up to walking around the house, work and neighborhood as the recovery weeks progressed.

Disclaimer: Let’s be clear that everyone’s body is different and each female responds differently to pregnancy (and not all females have the same experience with each pregnancy). Second, my recovery from pregnancy and surgery did not begin right then. It began long before I was pregnant and continued through pregnancy. What I am referring to? Simple, it is staying active/exercising and eating a reasonably healthy diet. I have always been active (as an exercise physiologist I have been teaching group fitness for almost 20 years) and have maintained a reasonably healthy diet most of my life (I grew up with a mother who made most everything from scratch and have continued that practice within my family). When people find out I am a registered dietitian, there is a perception that we do not eat anything unhealthy like donuts, chocolate or treats. However, I enjoy my treats just like anyone else and actually love to make cookies and treats and absolutely love chocolate and peanut butter. The key is to try to maintain moderation in all things.

So before you say, “Well how does that help me? I don’t have the same body type or the same lifestyle and eating habits.” Making small, appropriate changes can have a large impact over time. Your experience may not be like mine (but I guarantee that there is no magic product or program out there that is better or safer than appropriate exercise and a healthy balanced diet with all things in moderation).

You can’t change what is in the past, but you can change what you are doing now and the choices you make as you move forward.

I conquered the “Hill” in my first Bike Race

“Your going to bike 50 miles?  Glad it’s not me!  Good luck with that!”

This was the common reaction I heard from many people when I told them what I would be doing.

A few months ago, my sister asked me to participate in the Cache Gran Fondo.  There are two options, 100 mile or 50 mile.  I thought it would be wise to start with the 50 mile race.  She told me up front that she just wanted to complete the race, she was not interested in racing for time.  This took off a lot of pressure to really train hard.  I had good intentions to get out on the road and ride more than I did, but I did put in 2-3 days a week on the Real Ryder bike while teaching my morning class. Going into the race, although I felt I had prepared well nutritionally, I had not done well with getting proper sleep.  The lack of sleep worried me as I knew this could cause me to fatigue much more quickly and easier. Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 10.30.17 PM Race day came mucIMG_2914h quicker than I expected.  As we approached the start line, I was equipped with a bottle full of water and a camelback of diluted coconut water (since Chris had a positive experience with this for his Spartan race the month before) and the package of electrolyte chews they had provided with the race registration.  Now our start time was 6:35 AM or after.  When we arrived at 6:40 AM, we were the only riders at the start line.  We had seen waves of riders as we drove in to the start line, but we were shocked that there were not riders waiting to start.  However, I was relieved that I would not have to start out in a pack of riders.


As we began our ride, it was perfect weather, nice and cool and the sun was just making it’s way over the mountains.  The first 20 miles was pretty uneventful.  We passed riders that probably started at 6:35 and then we were passed by more experienced riders that started behind us.  I was amazed and impressed with the amount of food (bagels, what looked like homemade cupcakes, fresh fruit, water and gatorade), and volunteers at each rest stop.  While we did not utilize any of the food at the rest stops, it wasScreen Shot 2015-07-14 at 10.23.31 PM great that they were so generous with fueling the riders throughout the race.

As we made our way into Trenton, we saw the Trenton Hill that we would be climbing in a few miles.  That first view was definitely daunting as it appeared that the climb was pretty steep.  However, as we approached from the side, it did not appear that the hill was as terrible as it first appeared.  It was just a long steady climb.  As we made the turn to start toward the hill, I looked up at the other riders making their way up the hill.  I watched as a bike flipped to the left, what must have been a rider who had been unable to unclip from the pedals and went down with their bike.  They must have been okay – because moments later they got up.  IMG_2938

It was at that point that my sister noticed a funny noise on her bike, so I dropped behind her to see if I could figure out what is was.  One side of her back brake was riding on the wheel, creating constant drag and resistance.  We stopped to try to fix it, but needed proper tools.  She made an effort at the hill, but quickly decided it would be better to walk her bike up.  So she told me she would meet me at the top.016

I was on my own to climb the long steady hill.  This is where my lack of sleep from the week really hurt me.  I found that as I looked up to the crest of the hill, it seemed so far away and I began to doubt my ability to make it up the hill and allowed myself to think I was too tired to be able to make it up the hill.  At that point I knew I needed to have a different focus.  So I looked down at the road right in front of me and told myself to focus on where I was.  I knew I just needed to keep pedaling.  At that point, I realized what I needed was a hill climb song from one of my spinning playlists.  The first one that came to mind was Beyonce’s Halo – so that was what was going through my head as I kept pedaling and eventually made my way to the top of the hill.  I continued to climb until the road leveled off.

While I waited for my sister to join me, I called my husband to bring tools to help us with her brakes.  Luckily, he was only a few miles away.  As he arrived, one of the race helpers noticed we needed help and came to our aid.  When we realized we did not have the right tool, he kindly took my sisters bike back to his car and was able to tighten up her brakes.  Luckily, that was our only real mishap.

IMG_2949 IMG_2938

It was about this point of the race, that I began to notice the ache and fatigue of my forearms and shoulders.  This is where longer rides on the road with the road bike would have been more beneficial for developing that endurance.  The only other place that I noticed soreness was in the quads around the knee.  Again, this was my mistake.  When we stopped a few times, instead of getting off the bike, I would remain straddling my bike on my toes – creating tension through the quads that would cause great soreness later that afternoon.IMG_2930

The second half of the race we experienced increased car traffic.  As we left Mendon on the Mendon Road, teams from the 100 mile race (remember they did have a half hour start on us) began to pass us in the last few miles to the finish line.  I loved the sound of their bikes as they would pass us in one fluid body.  Their energy was awesome and it made me want to pick up my speed and follow them in.  However, we continued in our pace until we had the finish line in our sites and then we “sprinted” to the finish. As we sped into the finish line, we were greeted with cheers from all gathered there, the ringing of a cow bell, and many onlookers waiting for their racer to finish the race.  We received a very large medal and a nice towel.  But all I wanted at that point was some “real” food.  The last few miles of the race I began to physically feel empty and began looking forward to lunch at the finish line. IMG_2957 Overall, it was a really good experience and I plan to do it again.  What did I learn?

1. Training is important and while I had a good foundation, I definitely could have done so much more in preparation.  Specifically spending more time on the bike I would ride allowing my body to build endurance in that position.

2. Nutrition and Hydration is extremely important to fuel the body and keep the body functioning properly.  I felt I did pretty well with this, however, I probably could have taken advantage of the great spread of carbs at the last rest station in Mendon when I began to feel “empty” and ready for some real (meaning more than just the glorified sport “fruit snacks” and diluted coconut water).  But was grateful for the free lunch provided to us at the finish line.

3. Proper rest.  I knew this would affect me, fortunately since we were not pushing ourselves for time, I don’t think I noticed how much it really did affect me, except for the hill.  I believe had I taken better care of myself the week leading up to the race and gone to bed earlier each night, I don’t think the hill would have been as challenging for me as it felt. 3. Get off the bike when I stop (or I need to buy a bike that is appropriate for my size so I am not one my toes when I straddle the bike).  This resulted in a painful ache above my knees later that afternoon which made it really difficult to rest.  However, rest really does make a big difference.  The next day (and days following) I have not experience any pain or soreness from the ride.  I honestly expected stiffness and soreness in my forearms and wrists as well as my quads.  But with the exception of that same day, I have not had any.

4.  Stay focused on the moment.  At different points, I appreciated how far I had come which positively reinforced that I could do it – completing the 50+ miles was doable.  My greatest challenge in the race was the “Hill”.  What kept me on the bike and successfully riding to the top was to keep my head down and focus on what was right in front of me, knowing I had a hill to climb, but staying focused on just the couple feet in front of me.  It is easy to get lost in the big picture of the ultimate destination, but that can be daunting and then it can be easy to talk yourself out of it or make excuses for why you can’t finish.  However, it is really hard to tell myself I couldn’t keep climbing just a few more feet.  So I kept going.

Now that we have each completed a competition on our own, Chris and I look forward to completing our next competition together.

Kristine Clark Wellness Associates

Life Lessons from the Spartan Race

In my practice as a sport counselor, often I share the idea that sport is not life, but there’s more to sport than just sport. Here is my take on Life Lessons from the Spartan Race.

IMG_1233 IMG_1232

What is the Spartan Race? It is a rugged, dirty race, usually in the mountains or rough terrain, spread out over 5k (sprint), ~8m (Super) or ~12 (beast) miles. Along the way, you have obstacles to overcome, these include: climbing over walls; pulling or carrying heavy loads for a set distance; traversing spaces using bars, rings, or rope; crossing water and mud obstacles under barbed wire; jumping over fire. If you can’t complete an obstacle, you face a penalty.


IMG_1008The start of the race – you have to hoist yourself over a short wall to get in position for the start. As you are waiting to be released, there is someone at the front of the line on a megaphone providing words of encouragement.

First lesson: Be Prepared! Was I prepared? Yes. Could I have been better prepared? Yes! Leading up to the race, I put in my time doing the workouts and exercises I felt would help me be best prepared to complete both the distance and the obstacles of Spartan race. I spoke with individuals who had completed the race before and each one had recommendations and feedback for what worked for them and what I should wear.

Lesson two: Being in a hurry does not help you get to your destination faster. Case in point, about half way up our first climb of the profile of Soldier Hollow, on a single file trail, I passed a competitor beside the trail who had decided to try to go around the group byIMG_1251 going through the sagebrush, weeds, and cacti. (His athleticism, youth and fitness level far exceeded my own.) Because he was in a hurry and wanted to get around the group, which he felt was going too slow, he decided to go off the trail. He tripped landing with one hand over the top of a large cactus. As I passed him, at a 3mph trudge a few moments later, he was still pulling the cactus spines from his hands.

Lesson Three: Hydrate early and often. My hydration and nutrition/fueling began in the 24-48 hours before the race began. Knowing that it would be hot and the race long and grueling, I began increasing my water intake leading up to the race. As I began the race, I began drinking from my Camelback (half water, half coconut water) before I ever felt thirsty. Before the first hydration station, I began to worry that I would run out of fluids, but I continued to drink knowing my body would need fluid and electrolytes. When I got to the first station, I refilled the Camelback and continued to do this at each hydration station throughout the race. As a result I never felt that familiar feeling of muscles being starved of water or deprived of minerals. Did I feel fatigue? YeIMG_1258s. Did I feel tired? Yes. But I never felt as if my muscles would give out or cramp up.
Lesson Four: Transitions are important. This is where my preparation (see Lesson One) could have been most helpful. My fitness level could have been better. For the flatter parts of the race I kept up a pretty good pace, rarely walking, except on the more steep grades. Throughout the race as I would approach each obstacle area, I found myself slowing to a walk to allow my body to recover and regain the physical strength that I might need for the upcoming obstacle. My strategy worked. I was able to complete all of the obstacles some more easily than others. Some on my own, some with the teamwork of other racers.

Lesson Five: We is better than me. Some obstacles required an unassisteIMG_1325d effort. Some obstacles required that you work as a group/team. I found out early that working together with other competitors was not only efficient and necessary at times, but also made the event more enjoyable. I also found this principle to be beneficial in the running portion as I teamed up with 2 other runners for most of the race. As we raced, the encouragement, companionship and inspiration we gained from each other pushed us all through times of discomfort.

Lesson 6: What is at the finish line is more important than the time achieved or rewards received. As I completed obstacles, and counted mile markers, my confidence and sense of accomplishment grew. But the joy and relief of reuniting with my eternal family outweighed any feelings of accomplishment from the race.

In Summary, Be Prepared. Vince Lombardi Said “The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.” In life you can’t rely on your strengths to carry you through tough times. You must prepare and improve your weakness. Life has a way of finding the soft spots in your armor.IMG_1336

A wise man I coached with always taught “Be quick, but not in a hurry.” When we go too fast, often we become careless or simply miss important things that should not be overlooked. Resist the urge to speed through life. There’s a time and place for speed but, life is not a competitive sport.

In sport, as in life, if you wait until you are thirsty to drink from your sources of spiritual, physical and emotional strength, you may find yourself malnourished and dehydrated. Drink and feast on your sources of strength in this world.

As humans, we resist change. Change is hard. We don’t like the unknown and unfamiliar. We may even fear it. Life is about change. And to some extent, transitions are very important. Sometimes slowing down is required depending on our ‘fitness levels’. However, if we can be self-sufficient and build up our strength and flexibility to endure through our own transitions we may find there are those around us, struggling through their own transitions, whom could benefit from our help…and it’s OK to be the one that accepts help from others. I sincerely believe our greatest achievements are accomplished with others IMG_1387and that our greatest joys and accomplishments cannot be accomplished alone.

People matter, often times that means family. Whether that’s your bio-family or the family that has accepted you for who you are and made you part of theirs. Sometimes we race with family, sometimes we race alone, but in the end we will always find the meaning and joy of our journey with and through them.

Chris Clark

Wellness Associates

Iron or Spinach?

Do you worry about getting enough iron, omega-3’s, calcium, or other specific nutrient?

Or is your focus on getting enough vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains and low fat dairy options?

Not surprisingly, the media, advertising and research results have influenced us to have greater concern and focus on a single nutrient versus the whole food that contains that nutrient.  Is there a problem with focusing on the nutrient (or being nutrient-centric) vs. focusing on whole foods (or being whole food-centric)?  Based on new research, yes, it appears this is a concern.

A study published just this month evaluated the perceptions of over one-hundred adults.  Each group received a description of a man and his behaviors and were asked to rate his risk for disease.  The descriptions were exactly the same except for the description of the diet.  One group received a description that listed the type of nutrients consumed, while the other group received a list of the foods consumed.  The information was equivalent. The way the information was presented was the only difference for the nutrients amounts matched up with the foods where those nutrients found.  However, the interesting part is those who had the nutrient list for their diet, ranked the person as having a lower disease risk.  And those who received a corresponding list of whole foods containing the same nutrients, ranked the man with a higher risk for disease.

So what does this mean?  As a society, we seem to think that isolated nutrient focus is more important than focusing on whole food consumption.  The reality is that there is a greater health benefit and absorption rate by consuming our nutrients in whole foods (with a few exceptions).  For example, if you consume raspberries (vs. taking a vitamin C supplement) you will not only be getting vitamin C, but fiber (raspberries are an excellent source of fiber per serving! ), potassium, and some calcium, iron, B-6 and magnesium to name a few.  We still do not fully understand all nutrient interactions, but we do know that consuming whole foods usually results in better absorption rate for the body as well as utilization within the body.  These interactions within the body are important for reducing risk for disease.


From a safety standpoint, there has been no evidence of dangerous levels of nutrients within the body when people are obtaining their nutrients from whole foods.  However, when supplements are involved toxic levels may build up in the body and result in negative health issues.  For example, we have seen negative health consequences linked to supplementation of Vitamin E, beta carotene and calcium.  This is why it is important to speak with your physician and/or registered dietitian regarding whether a supplement of any kind is warranted, necessary or appropriate for you.

For more individualized feedback and help, please contact Kristine Clark Wellness Associates.


JP Schuldt, AR Pearson. Nutrient-centrism and perceived risk of chronic disease. J Health Psychol June 2015 vol. 20 no. 6 899-906. 

Woodside JV1, McCall DMcGartland CYoung ISMicronutrients: dietary intake v. supplement use. Proc Nutr Soc. 2005 Nov;64(4):543-53.

Make Stress Your Friend

In the past few years I’ve had to rethink my view of stress. Based on solid research from University of Wisconsin – Madison, there is evidence that stress may not be as bad for us as believing stress is bad for us. In fact, as many as 43% more people died when they believed stress was bad for them even when their stressors were less intense than their stress-friendly peers. That’s right, believing stress will kill you, can kill you!
This weekend I had a big reminder that I am not alone in this world. Thankfully, there was no emergency that necessitated this reminder. I simply needed help doing something I could not do myself. My wife and I asked for help and help was given. Some helpers I had never met. So what does this have to do with stress?
The stress of preparing my part for this project focused my mind, prioritized my behaviors, and increased my awareness of what needed to happen and how we could do it safely. In other words, stress was my friend. I also had a sense that the stress I was feeling had a purpose and was related to something important to me, my children’s happiness. Health Psychologist Kelly McGonigal in her TED Talk “How To Make Stress Your Friend”  presents the research and reasoning for why stress is not our enemy.
In my stressful weekend project I was reminded that social support in the face of stress is a protective factor. Having close relationships and feeling that you can rely on others brings about biological changes that protect us against stress. One such change is the release of oxytocin. This hormone is also known as the cuddle drug. Oxytocin helps us to feel calm, connected, and courageous. Oxytocin also has a cool side effect of protecting your heart by binding to special receptors in heart cells. This effect blocks the negative side effects of stress hormones. Oxytocin is released during pleasant social interactions. For example, hugging for 20 second or longer may stimulate the release of oxytocin. It is also released in higher doses during sexual activity.
So how do we make stress our friend beyond seeking out social support and loving relationships? Embracing stress and the events that stress us out will help. For example, recognizing that the increased heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure prepare your body and mind to meet the demands of the stressful challenge. Breathing rate increases oxygen intake. Increased heart rate moves that oxygenated blood to meet the energy needs of the body. Increased blood pressure directs that blood flow to specific areas. So smile when you feel the stress coming on and know that your body is preparing for action, and seek out help from others.
For more information on how stress is good for your body and mind check out this article, “7 ways stress does your mind and body good”.
For more strategies on how to make stress your friend contact Chris Clark Wellness Associates at 307-630-3466 or find us at http://www.WAcounseling.com.

Keller, A., Litzelman, K., Wisk, L. E., Maddox, T., Cheng, E. R., Creswell, P. D., & Witt, W. P. (2012). Does the Perception that Stress Affects Health Matter? The Association with Health and Mortality. Health Psychology : Official Journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 31(5), 677–684. doi:10.1037/a0026743