Monday, July 28, 2014

Nutrition and your Cholesterol

One of the most commonly asked questions that I have received this summer is "What should I eat to help lower my cholesterol?" And no wonder, because around 71 million people across the U.S. are classified as having high cholesterol.1 Therefore, I thought I would break down the issue of high cholesterol a bit for you today.

What is Cholesterol Anyway? How does it Affect my Body?
While we use the word quite frequently, do people actually know what cholesterol is? The waxy, fat-like substance that is found in our bodies and in many foods is known as cholesterol.2 While it has a bad reputation, it does have functions in the body. According to The Harvard Medical School Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol, it serves three main purposes, including: helps make the outer coating of cells, makes up the bile acids actively used to digest foods, and it allows the body to make Vitamin D and other hormones including estrogen.3 However, the problem lies when we consume too much of certain foods and the cholesterol builds up in our arteries. In fact, when your cholesterol does build up, the deposits (known as plaque) will narrow your arteries, allowing less blood to pass through the passageway.This is dangerous because a heart attack is the result of a totally blocked artery. In addition, angina (more commonly referred to as chest pain) may also result from partial plaque blockage in the coronary artery. This blockage reduces the blood flowing to the heart.2


The terms LDL and HDL are commonly thrown around when discussing a person's cholesterol. They are the carriers (lipoproteins) of cholesterol through the bloodstream. People often will refer to LDL (low-density lipoproteins) as the "bad" cholesterol, while the HDL (high-density lipoproteins) as the "good" cholesterol. The reason that LDL cholesterol is less desirable is because it contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries.4 This could later result in heart disease.4 HDL, on the other hand, is helpful to the body because it assists in removing the LDL cholesterol from the arteries.4 It is also estimated that a healthy level of HDL cholesterol may help protect the body against heart attack and stroke.4 A total cholesterol level that is considered high is 240mg/dl or higher.5 For LDL, 190mg/dl or higher is considered very high, while a level between 100-129mg/dl is optimal.5 For HDL, a person is at major risk for heart disease if their level is below 40mg/dl, but a level of 60 or greater is considered protective against heart disease.5

What causes high cholesterol?
High cholesterol is mostly caused by lifestyle factors, though genetics does play a role. As people age, their risk for high cholesterol tends to increase.A person with diabetes is also found to be more likely to develop high cholesterol.7 The reason I am asked so much about high cholesterol is because diet plays a large role. Foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, dietary cholesterol, or triglycerides have been shown to increase a person's risk for high cholesterol.8 Some health professionals promote foods high in saturated fats, raving that these fats are "good" for you. However, the bulk of the research points to the negative effects of saturated fats and this is the information that I would rely on at this point in time.

How do I know if I have high cholesterol?
When a person has high cholesterol, it is difficult to diagnose because there are no apparent signs and symptoms.6  The only way you can truly know if you have high cholesterol is by having a blood test performed. This will result in a number in the units mg/dl (as outlined in the HDL and LDL section above.

Avoiding high cholesterol by food choices
If you are a person who already has high cholesterol or has a family history, it may be time to start considering your lifestyle choices. While there are medications that can help with a person's cholesterol, I am going to focus on nutrition and exercise, since that is my area of expertise. Plus, part of my goal is to help you avoid having to begin taking medications. According to the Nutrition Care Manual, it is recommended that people with high amounts of cholesterol in their blood go on the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet, better known as the TLC Diet.9 Below are the main guidelines to follow:9

  • Limit Saturated fats and trans fats 
    • Pay attention to your intake of animal products (including fatty meats, whole milks, cream, and butter)
  • Limit the amount of cholesterol consumed to less than 200 milligrams per day
    • Foods to look for include egg yolks (having 212mg per yolk), fatty meats, whole milk, cheeses, shrimp, lobster and crab
  • Consume omega-3 fatty acids
    • Foods higher in omega-3's include: salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines
    • Walnuts, canola, and soybean oils
    • Flaxseed
  • Limit overall fat intake to 25-35% of all calories consumed each day
  • Make sure your fiber intake is between 20-30g per day
    • Strive for eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dried beans
  • Strive to get around 30 minutes of exercise on most days

The nice thing about this "diet" is that, in reality, it's really not a diet. These guidelines are what all Americans should be following on a regular basis to strive for a healthy life. This is no crazy, off-the wall, Dr. Oz-promoted diet that I am bringing to your attention. Thank heavens. Because, do we really need more than one Dr. Oz in the world?!

1. CDC. Vital signs: prevalence, treatment, and control of high levels of low-density lipoprotein choleterol--United States, 1999-2005 and 2005-2008. 2011;60(4):109-14. 

2. CDC. About high blood cholesterol--United States. 2010. Accessed July 28, 2014. Retrieved from:

3. Freeman MW and Junge C. The Harvard Medical School Guide to Lowering your Cholesterol. Chapter 1: Understanding Cholesterol: the god, the bad, and the necessary. 2005. Accessed July 28, 2014. Retrieved from:

4. American Heart Association. Good vs. Bad Cholesterol. 2014. Accessed July 28, 2014. Retrieved from:

5. National Institute of Health Medline Plus. Cholesterol Levels: What You need to Know. 2012. Accessed on July 28, 2014. Retrieved from:

6. CDC. Health, United States, 208. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2008.

7. National Cholesterol Education Program. Third Report of the Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). NIH Pub. No. 93-3095. Bethesda, MD: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 1993.

8.  CDC. Cholesterol: Signs and Symptoms. 2010. Accessed on July 28, 2014. Retrieved from:

9. Nutrition Care Manual. High Cholesterol Nutrition Therapy. 2014. Accessed July 28, 2014. Retrieved from: 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Liebster Award

Last Thursday, I woke up bright and early and went for a morning run in the Rapid City area. (I was vacationing there with my Taiwan friends!) Afterwards I was enjoying some much needed coffee and scrolling through my Instagram feed when I received a nice surprise in the form of an IG notification. Marianela from Love Vividly  had nominated me as one of her Liebster Award winners. When I started my first blog a couple of years ago, I received the same award. What a pleasant surprise to have been nominated on my newer blog! I have loved reading Marianela's blog. I first discovered her corner of the world when I came across her pictures on Instagram. They are the best!! She is always posting creative crafts and recipes, like this sangria recipe that I MUST try before the end of the summer. Yum! Be sure to check out her blog and Instagram.

The Liebster Award is most often given to smaller blogs as a way to help welcome them into the bigger blogging community. It's a fun way to introduce yourself through a series of questions. Most of the blogs that I have selected are not what I would consider "small blogs" and most have been around for years. (I'm not one to follow the rules, I guess.) However, these are a few of my current favorites and I am curious to learn more about the ladies behind these blogs.

Here are the rules for those nominated:

  1. Answer the 10 questions of the nominator
  2. Choose 10 blogs with a smaller following and nominate them for the award (I broke this one a bit by selecting larger following blogs and only 5)
  3. Ask your nominees 10 questions
  4. Link back to the blogger who nominated you
  5. Let your nominees know you have nominated them
Here are the 10 questions Marianela asked:
1. What are the first 3 songs on your recently played playlist?
My most recently played songs are: "A Sky Full of Stars" by Coldplay, "Not a Bad Thing" by Justin Timberlake, "Don't Drop that Thun, Thun, Thun" by Finatticz. The last song is kind of an inside joke and I smile every time it comes on my iPod. Pretty random list, really.

2. Why did you start blogging?
I started my first blog as a way to help me focus on the more positive things in life by capturing moments and encouraging others. (I used to be a pretty negative person a couple years ago.)

3. If you could go anywhere in the world to get food where would you go?
I would have a picnic by the Eiffel Tower in Paris with an assortment of cheese, bread and wine. I would choose this more for the picturesque setting rather than the food itself. A cute date wouldn't hurt either! ;)

4. If you could tell your younger self one piece of advice what would it be?
Do not obsess about numbers on the scale and comparing myself to others!!! I am so glad that I am at peace with my body and thankful for what it does for me now, but man, I haven't always been that way.

5. Flats or heels?
Flats. I am nearly 5'11"...I think it is safe to say I don't need the extra height!

6. What was the last thing you bought?
I filled up my car with some gasoline. Not my most favorite purchase, that is for sure. 

7. If you could have any drink in your hand right now, it would be…?
A mimosa. Mmmm. Excuse me while I go make this a reality...

8. If you could live in any era what would it be?
The 1940's. For some reason, I have had a mild obsession with anything related to WWII. I think I read The Diary of Anne Frank about 3 times in middle school. While there were plenty of hardships that I cannot imagine, this is the era I am most fascinated with.

9. What is your life motto?
"There is always, always something to be thankful for."
I try to remember this during the hard times. Perspective is everything.

10. And the BIG question…Backstreet Boys or *NSYNC?
*NSYNC. Is this even a questions?!? ;)

The following bloggers are who I nominate:
1. Rach at This Italian Family
2. Gina at Gina Alyse
3. Katie at Hope Engaged
4. Kailey at The Caffeinated Runner
5. Kristina at Moxie Musing

Here are my questions for you:
1. Where is the most favorite place that you have visited?
2. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
3. What is your most favorite blog post you have ever written? (Include a link!)
4. What is an app that you can't live without?
5. What is one word that best describes you?
6. A picture is worth a thousand words...include a picture that brings back memories or makes you really happy.
7. What is something you have done in your life that you are most proud of?
8. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and with whom?
9. What is your "go-to" beauty product?
10. What is your favorite summer activity?

Let me know once you have answered the questions! I am excited to read your responses!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Get Out of that Zone of Comfort

Photo at the Badlands today...
Posting more on Friday

Earlier today...while I was seated in the driver's seat of a 9-passenger state vehicle filled with nine Taiwanese exchange students...I found myself thinking about how I wouldn't be in this position had I never strayed from my comfort zone. But wait...after that long run-on sentence, you are probably wondering how I did find myself in such an odd position. To recap, last summer I helped chauffeur Taiwanese dietetic students of China Medical University through the exchange program of my college. They visited South Dakota and Minnesota for about a month and I had the pleasure of getting to know them. Then, I was able to visit China Medical University in Taiwan this past May. You can read more about my Taiwan adventures here, here, here, here, and here. When I heard that more students would be coming back this summer, I jumped at the opportunity to help out again.

One of the most valuable pieces of advice I can give to anyone (especially college students) is to not shy away from situations that make you take a few steps (even leaps) outside of your comfort zone. When I think of people, I picture them standing in an enclosed bubble, secluded from the world around them. (Think John Travolta in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble circa 1976...that's the image I'm going for.) Imagine all of the ways in which this barrier is interfering with your life and all of the things you are missing out on each day. Since you've only known life within your "bubble," the thought of breaking free seems a bit scary, almost absurd. As I was scrolling through Pinterest the other day, I came across a quote saying:
"Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new."
While leaving that zone of comfort is, well, uncomfortable, how else are we able to grow? If we are only exposing ourselves to the same environment, the same people, the same tasks, we are not allowing ourselves to experience new sensations and grow as an individual.

Today, I encourage you to think a bit about your comfort zone. Ask yourself what is holding you back from conquering bigger and better things. When I was asked a year ago to drive a 9-passenger van full of foreign exchange students in the Twin Cities, I could have easily said "no!" Because let's be completely honest here...I don't know an ounce of Chinese and I can hardly drive my Buick Century. However, a part of me knew that I couldn't pass on such an opportunity. If I had never taken that step outside of my comfort zone, I wouldn't have made friends with nutrition students across the globe and I probably never would have traveled to China and Taiwan. I also wouldn't have been given the option to be hired to drive the Summer 2014 China Medical University students to the Black Hills and again to the Twin Cities. I'm getting paid to travel, people! Dream. Come. True!

I'm leaving you with a simple image with a profound message. Now put on your big girl (or boy) pants and get movin' outta that comfort zone!

Monday, July 21, 2014

What I Learned From 4 Months as a Vegetarian

Back in March, after considerable amounts of contemplating, I made the decision to become a vegetarian. I maintained that lifestyle (with the exception to a couple of times in China) for about 4 months. While I have decided to no longer label myself as a vegetarian, there are a number of valuable lessons that I learned from the experience that I have kept with me and wanted to share.

1 //  Society centers meals around meat
Think back to the last time you asked someone "What's for dinner?" They probably answered with something along the lines of "Steak" or "Chicken." However, I have never heard anyone say, "Steamed vegetables with a side of pork." We are a meat craving country. I've never been a big meat-eater anyway, but identifying myself as a vegetarian helped me re-frame the way I think about my meals each day. I am now more likely to look at the vegetables first when planning a meal and then expanding around that.

2 // Health Benefits of Watching Meat Intake
A number of studies indicate that there are a number of health benefits associated with adopting a plant-based diet. In a review of the available studies on vegan or vegetarian diets, it has been shown that the lifestyle is highly effective for weight loss and populations have lower rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.1 The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also states that a well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet is healthful and nutritionally adequate.2 The key is that it is a "well-planned" diet though. Sure, you can eat processed junk day in and day out and it might be considered vegetarian or vegan. But if that is your idea of plant-based, then you may as well just stick to your current eating because all of that processed junk is missing the point.

It's not realistic to expect that everyone will someday switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet, but people would benefit from limiting their meat intake and basing their diet on plant foods first...namely, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans!

3 // Social Setbacks with Restricted Diets
The hardest part for me when I finally told people that I was a vegetarian was the judgement and questions. As soon as you mention that you don't eat meat, suddenly everyone is a nutrition expert. Trust me, it didn't even matter that I have a degree in nutrition. I was always bombarded with the question: "But where do you get your protein?!?" To clear that one up, YES you can get all of the protein that you need from plants, plus a number of other benefits too! Eating out with people or especially while traveling in Asia was challenging. I never wanted to be the person to make special requests, so I often would just pick around meat or try to load up on the fruits and veggies we did have available.

While eliminating meat was my choice, it did give me a greater respect for people who must eliminate foods for allergies and other reasons. For example, people who are diagnosed with Celiacs and must eliminate gluten from their diet must go through a tremendous amount of stress both personally and socially each day. While I probably will never truly understand what that is like, I feel like I can better relate to some of the difficult situations that they face each day if I ever counsel them in the clinic setting.

4 // Overall Benefits
I found this infograph image from one of my role model dietitians, Julieanna Hever, that nicely sums up some of the reasons a person might opt for a plant based lifestyle.

Final Thoughts
While I no longer label myself as a vegetarian, I am so thankful for those four months where I did adopt the lifestyle fully. As a result, I have explored a greater range of fruits and vegetables in my diet. I have also experimented with new recipes. I've dived deeper into the research surrounding the plant-based movement and have slowly used some of the practices within my own life. Most days I would say that I could label myself as a vegetarian, because I hardly ever eat meat. However, there have been times throughout this summer where I have indulged, so I can't fully embrace the title.

What are your thoughts on a plant-based lifestyle? How do you stay healthy in your diet?


  1.  Tuso PJ, Ismail MH, Ha BP, Bartolotto C. Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. Perm J. 2013: 17(2): 61-66. Accessed on July 21, 2014. Retrieved from 
  2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Position of the Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009. 109:1266-82. Accessed on July 21, 2014. Retrieved from

Friday, July 18, 2014

Currently I am...

Since I don't have a ton of time to get too creative this morning, I thought I would use this fun blogging prompt idea that I have seen floating around on some of my favorite blogs....aka the "Currently I am..." prompt.

Reading: Wanderlust by Elisabeth Eaves. I was in Sioux Falls, SD for some dental work on Monday and Tuesday so I stopped by Barnes and Noble to find a book to help kill some time in between appointments. I am only about 100 pages deep into this book, but I'm lovin' in it. However, is this really any surprise since I'm so obsessed with anything travel-related lately?

Watching: Surprisingly I am not in the middle of any TV shows at the moment. When I first got home from Asia at the beginning of June, I was catching up on Pretty Little Liars nonstop. However, I haven't started watching the newest season yet, because I am terrible at watching shows when they are actually airing. Otherwise, I have just been watching documentaries and movies on Netflix recently. 

Loving: That I haven't been working as much the past week. I like working and exerting myself, don't get me wrong. But sometimes I think it is necessary to have some time for rest and fun with friends...I have been able to have time for both this past week. 

Looking Forward To: Girls Weekend, starting in T-1 hr 20 minutes!!!!! Minnesota Twins Game, Apple River tubing, and sailing with my favorite girls! Ahhh! 

Driving to Omaha, NE for Girls Weekend last July
Wondering: If I will ever get used to these stitches in my mouth... On Tuesday I had a graft done on my lower gums. Basically they take some tissue from the roof of your mouth and slap that baby over the receding gumline and stitch it up. Can you say ouch? My diet has basically consisted of apple sauce the last several days. I am counting down the days until these annoying stitches are gone!

Cooking/Baking: Not much unfortunately! :( Since our basement flooded in June, I have been back and forth between my home and my aunt and uncle's house each day. This hasn't left much time for me to get too creative in the kitchen. However last week, I made a strawberry pie for some of my favorite people. Note to y'all: sugar-free Jello and regular Jello are NOT the same in a recipe! Lesson Learned! ;)

Disliking: that it is already July 18... Where has my precious summer gone? I don't really want August to ever get here. While I am excited for life in Illinois and a new chapter in my life, I am not sure I want to face the inevitable "goodbyes."

Making Me Happy: You guys know I have a Coldplay obsession, so naturally this song and this dorky video make me so happy. And if I ever call someone a dork, that is a huge term-of-endearment in my book! 

Wishing: you all a weekend as wonderful as mine is about to be!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


If you've been reading my blog for awhile now, you might recall that I have talked about inner beauty in the past. While it is not directly in my jurisdiction as a dietetics student, it is something that goes hand-in-hand. Often the motivation (besides health reasons) behind why clients often seek weight loss help is due to dissatisfaction with their appearance. Obviously, it is important to strive to be the best version of ourselves, but where the problem lies in the dramatic measures we often take to achieve the unrealistic appearance that has been portrayed by the media.

This past week, I was strolling through my newsfeed on Facebook and encountered this video by the singer, Colbie Caillat. I've always loved her music, but I now have an entirely refreshed respect for her. 

If you haven't already, be sure to "share" her video and help spread the message of embracing your inner beauty.

I hope y'all are having a great week! :)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Exercise + Five Favorite Jillian Michaels Workouts

Ignore the cemetery background during my 5K last month...
I promise the race wasn't that grueling ;)

As you know if you have stopped by my blog lately, my past few Monday posts have been informational pieces on nutrition. However, this week I wanted to talk a little bit about another aspect of good health...You guessed it: Exercise! (I can hear you grunting with despair from over here!) While I know exercise sometimes seems like a pain or an interruption in our already busy lives, it is just as important as well-rounded nutrition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.1 In addition, it is recommended that adults work their major muscle groups at least 2 days a week.1

If you don't already have a love affair with exercise like myself, why should you become acquainted? 
Exercise offers a number of benefits including: weight control, reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, may reduce risk of cancers, strengthens your bones and muscles...
Need I go on? In addition, your boosted mood as a result of exercise will keep you coming back for more.3

While running is my favorite exercise/stress reliever, I also love the Jillian Michaels workout videos. So today, I wanted to highlight 5 of my favorites and give a couple details as to why I like each of them.

My most favorite video by my girl, Jill, is the No More Trouble Zones video. I first purchased this video during my freshman year of college and I haven't looked back since. All you need are 3lb dumbells (I usually use 5lbs) and a workout mat, if you desire. Out of all of the videos I have tried, this one gives me the best overall workout. As the title indicates, the moves target all of those tricky problem areas on our bodies. It lasts about 55 minutes, so it is not one I tend to do every day. Wanna know something that will excite you? You can try this video right on YouTube! Who doesn't love anything free?!

Another video that I love by Jillian is her Killer Buns and Thighs video. Like many women, any weight that I gain tends to go right to my booty and thighs. So this workout is perfect for me. One thing that I really appreciate about this video is the ability to select a level. There are three levels and my default level is usually level 2. You can do the video with or without dumbbells, though I usually keep a set of 5-pounders handy. You will also need a chair for a couple of the moves in level 2. While I own the DVD, I have noticed that this one is also on YouTube. Here is the link for level 2. (The other levels are on there as well.) This workout is about 42 minutes long, with the warm-ups and cool-downs.

My next recommendation is the Banish Fat Boost Metabolism video. I stumbled upon this one over Christmas break when I was in need of a video without weights while vacationing at my grandparents'. This one is fun because she targets your entire body, but also adds more fun kickboxing moves. This video is about 55 minutes in length and can be found here.  

Moving on to the 30-Day Fix. One of the main reasons I like this video so much is because of the length. I certainly can't complain about a solid workout that is less than 30-minutes in length. I love the layout of this video with 3-minutes strength, 2-minutes cardio, and 1-minute of abs in each circuit. This also has various levels. Here is level 2.

Finally, this is the most recent video I have stumbled upon and oh my goodness, it is FUN! Now let me just say right off the bat: there will NEVER be any pictures or videos posted of me trying this video!! Let's just say that a 5'10" lanky female flailing her arms and legs is not the most attractive sight. Thank heavens this video is performed in the privacy of my own home! But seriously, this video is only 20-minutes long and not only fun, but a good workout. I like to try out this video after I go for a run to give me a little extra in my routine. Try this one here!

What are your favorite exercises or workout videos? If you try one of the above, be sure to let me know in the comments below how you liked it!

Happy cardio and strength training! :)

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need? Dec 1, 2011. Retrieved from: 
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity and Health: The Benefits of Phsical Activity. February 16, 2011. Retrieved from: 
  3.  Kenneth R Fox (1999). The influence of physical activity on mental well-being. Public Health Nutrition, 2, pp 411-418. doi:10.1017/S1368980099000567. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Time of Our Lives

(Listen to this to set the mood ;) )

With all of my excitement surrounding my Asian travels, I realized that I never took the time to share some photos from my undergraduate graduation. Not that it's an important day in my life or anything...pshhh!

Graduation weekend is a bit of a blur to be perfectly honest. While it has been a couple of months ago already, it felt like a blur at the time as well. It's not just my memory deceiving me.

Entering college, I was nervous, but I'm the kind of person who puts on a tough face and tries to not let others know when something scares me. However, my life changed in the best way possible when two smiling girls asked if they could sit by a couple other girls and myself  at the Welcome Picnic. Four years later ....I feel so blessed to not only have been able to call these girls my best friends, but also my roommates. 

While we may be heading down different paths and going our separate ways, I am confident that our friendship will extend beyond our time at South Dakota State University. In fact, we are continuing our second annual girls weekend tradition next week. I am counting the days seconds.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Be Still.

The other day, I made a quick visit to one of my favorite places in Sioux Falls, SD--Falls Park. I always have to laugh a little when I mention that I love the Falls because they are in such peculiar location. To the Northeast of the park both the State Penitentiary and a meat processing plant are located. Not exactly the most picturesque setting! None-the-less, when I am in the area and have plenty of leisure time, I like to go and relax there. It might sound odd to want to sit at a park by yourself, but on occasion, it is just what I need. While I am generally an extrovert, I need those moments to myself where I can sort through my thoughts and make sense of certain aspects of my life. 

On this particular day, I was reflecting on some words from my daily devotional that I had read that morning. The Jesus Calling text for that day read:
"You will never be in control of your life circumstances, but you can relax and trust in My control. Instead of striving for a predictable, safe lifestyle, seek to know Me in greater depth and breadth. I long to make your life a glorious adventure, but you must stop clinging to old ways. I am always doing something new within My beloved ones. Be on the lookout for all that I have prepared for you."
I read that text and grinned and thought to myself, "God, you always know just what to say..." What a guy!  

Lately, I can't quite pinpoint the word to describe my state of being...impatient...contemplating...unsure....conflicted...
Those are a couple words that come to mind. Those of you who follow me on Pinterest or Twitter have probably noticed that I have been thinking an awful lot about travel. A lot! I keep asking myself where I want to go on my next big journey and how I am going to tackle all of these things on my bucket list. Then in the same breath, I am wondering how I can make these dreams possible when I am supposed to be making a living using my degree within the States.

As all of these thoughts and questions were weighing on my heart, I came across a tweet from one of my RD "friends" speaking of employment opportunities with the Children's Nutrition Program of Haiti. I think my heart actually sunk a little as I opened that link and learned more and more about the opportunity. It. Is. INCREDIBLE! Unfortunately, it doesn't exactly mesh well with my commitments at the Illinois State University dietetic internship.

I am in a season of waiting. Waiting for my internship to start. Waiting to discover what the rest of my life holds. Waiting to understand what exactly God has in store for me. For the longest time, I thought that I was meant to be a registered dietitian who opens a private practice and focuses on weight loss counseling. While those are still passions of mine, I am starting to wonder if perhaps God wants to use my background in nutrition to help out in third world countries or in some other area.

In Psalm 46:10, God tells us
"Be still and know that I am God."
Simple, yet powerful words. I think one of the most difficult parts of being confused about your future is feeling a bit helpless. We, as humans, want to try and actively figure things out and have a predictable path ahead. Yet sometimes, we need only to be still.

While I am not entirely sure how God will be using my gifts, I am working on finding a state of patience in my life where I can enjoy the ride and trust in God's plan for the road matter how winding it may be!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Crash Course: Calculating Your Body's Needs

As a dietetics student, I am often struck with questions like:
"How many calories should I eat each day?"
"How much protein do I need? Am I getting enough?"
Here is the simple answer for you: Everybody is different! One of the aspects of nutrition that has been emphasized the most in my classes is that nutrition is a very personalized science. Your nutrient needs very much depend on your body. In fact, dietetics students are now required to take a genetics course in college because we may move towards using your genetic makeup to determine your nutrition needs, in the future. Therefore, nutrition is really not a "one size fits all" approach. That is one reason why I am so passionate about going into the field of nutrition counseling, so I can sit down with people one-on-one and develop a plan just for them.

So now you are probably wondering how the heck you figure out how much you do need of all of those macronutrients. There are apps that you can download that will help crunch the numbers for you,
however, if you are like me, you kind of like to see how you get the final recommendations. Or if you are a dietetics student and you stumble upon this blog post, this may be a good review for you as well. (We all need a little basic review time!) I wish I would have had a handy guide like this prior to my practicum!

Let me break it down for you! Here are the formulas I used with many of the clients I saw during my practicum experience last summer.

Pounds to Kilograms Conversion
Before we get started, I want to mention that many of the calculations are done in the metric system. Therefore, you probably aren't familiar with your weight in kilograms. However the conversion to pounds is simple! Just divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 and you will come up with your kilograms weight.

For example, a 130 lb woman would weigh 59 kg (rounded). (130lb/2.2=59.09kg).

*To make the rest of the calculations easier, I will use the same female data to come up with her nutrition profile. 

Body Mass Index Calculation
Before I do any of the macronutrient calculations, I always calculate a person's BMI (body mass index). There has been much debate on the accuracy of BMI in depicting the health of a person, however it is the quickest measure when a dietitian is making these calculations and placing a patient into the weight categories below:1
 The equation is:1

Weight (kg) / [height (m)]2      (or, as I prefer...)

 Weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 * 703
I also like to use the calcuator that the CDC provides.

130 lb female at 5'5"

130 lb / [65 inches]2 =21.6
The female in this example has a BMI of 21.6 and would be categorized in the "normal" weight status. Therefore, you would proceed on with the rest of the calculations.

However what if you are overweight or obese?

180 lb female at 5'5"
180 lb / [65 inches]2 =30
The female is classified as obese. Since her ultimate goal is to lose weight, we are going to need to adjust her body weight for the rest of the the formulas by first using the Hamwi method to determine ideal body weight.
1.) Determine Ideal bodyweight (Hamwi Method)
a.       Women: 100+5 lbs. for each inch over 60 inches
                                                               i.      Ex. 5’5” = 125
b.      Males: 106+6 lbs. for each inch over 60 inches
2.) Subtract IBW from current weight
                                                               i.      Ex: 180-125=55lbs difference
3.) Take the difference and multiply by 0.25
                                                               i.      Ex: 55*0.25=13.75lbs (can round to 14 lbs)
4.) Take IBW and add amount from step 3
                                                               i.      Ex: 125+14lbs=139
1.       Use this number for energy needs (Adjusted Body Weight—ABW)

Women with a BMI between 19-27 are recommended to consume 25-27 kcals/kg of body weight (adjusted for breastfeeding.) Men with a BMI between 19-27 are recommended to consume 25-28 kcals/kg of bodyweight. There are a number of methods used to calculate energy needs, however this is probably the most simple form. If we were dealing with bed-ridden hospital patients, our approach would change.

For example:
The 130 lb (59kg) woman should consume 25-27kcals * 59kg = 1475-1593 kcals per day. 
This range will generally be rounded (1500-1600kcals) and is adjusted if the person is physically active. This is just a basic example. 

For carbohydrates, I don't follow any equations. Rather, I follow the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) and recommend 130 g per day for adults.2

The recommendation is to consume 0.8 gram of protein/kg of a person's body weight.2 However, during my practicum, I shadowed a registered dietitian with years of experience and she recommended that RD's use 1.0 gram when making calculations. Whichever you choose, it probably won't make a world of difference.

For example:
The 130 lb (59kg) woman would need 59kg * 0.8g=47g, rounded (or 59 g, if using the 1 gram method).

The recommendation is that a person consume 30 cc/kg of body weight. (This number will increase if you are breastfeeding or engaging in exercise). {30cc =1.014 ounces}

For example:
The 130 lb (59 kg) woman would need 59kg * 30 cc=1770cc (about 60 ounces)

I hope this is was helpful to future dietitians (like myself) and those out there who are simply curious about how to calculate their nutritional needs. If you would like me to do do all of the calculations for you, just send me an email! ( I am always looking for practice!

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About BMI for adults. September 2011. Accessed July 7, 2014. Retrieved from:
  2. Mahan K, Escott-Stump S, eds. Krause's Food, Nutrition, and Diet Therapy. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders; 2008.