Hi, I'm Diana. Several years ago I lost a bunch of weight by completely changing my attitude toward food and exercise. Since then I've learned a few things about keeping it off and I'm still learning. Even if I'm constantly fighting off a few pounds, I can't imagine where my weight would be now if I hadn't made such a drastic life change. I'm a health coach for the Prevent program by Omada Health, and previously I was a Weight Watchers leader. Hopefully my silliness will help make your journey to health a little more fun. More about me here.

Photo by Karl Ko

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Cookies for Breakfast

When describing food, the word healthy is just so BLAH. Overused, meaningless, attention grabbing. Kinda like the word literally. Which apparently is now a contranym, by the way. Truthfully, what is healthy for one person may not be healthy for another, it depends on what your goals are and what your body's needs are as well.

The foods that I suggest for my clients are of course what I consider to be healthy: vegetables, fruit, unsweetened dairy products, intact grains, nuts, beans, proteins, and healthy fats. These foods are filling, and generally low in calories, which makes them harder to overeat, but not impossible. Creating a calorie deficit through portion control and activity is still essential if weight loss is your goal.

Tons of products out there are labeled "healthy" or "natural," yet many are extremely high in calories, making them easy to overeat. One time I saw at the store an "egg white quiche," and after reading the label I found out that the first ingredient was butter! Or "natural" granola that is basically a box of crushed up oatmeal cookies.

So-called "health food" stores can sometimes be the worst offenders with carrying these types of food frauds. There are whole aisles of raw ingredient cookies and gluten-free snack cakes. Are these products intentionally deceptive? Yes and no. If you're a person at a healthy weight but happen to have celiac disease (gluten allergy), a gluten-free cake might be something that's okay to eat. But for most of us, it's just a cake, a food full of sugar that makes us hungrier than we would have been without it.

This is a nutrition comparison I did between "natural" granola breakfast cereal and oatmeal cookies:

In 51 grams of the natural granola there are 5 grams of fat, 38 grams of carbohydrate, and 5 grams of protein. In 51 grams of the cookies there are 7 grams of fat, 32 grams of carbohydrate, and 3 grams of protein. The first three ingredients in both foods are oats, processed flour, and sugar. Oil is ingredient number five. I think you get my point. Granola is just a way that food companies have figured out to make us not feel guilty about eating cookies for breakfast.

Wait, there's more! Some foods companies have decided that if they put "healthy" in the name of the food that people will buy more of it.

Healthy Mornings! Now with processed grains, sugar, sugar coated nuts, corn syrup, natural and artificial flavoring, and BHT!

Oh, and you know that "natural flavors" ingredient? Turns out, there's a lot of natural stuff you probably still don't want to eat. Castoreum is a vanilla flavoring that is taken from the castor sacs of beavers, right next to the anal glands, and is listed on food labels as "natural flavors." Yum. Bonus trivia: beaver butts actually do smell like vanilla.

And then there's the pure white granulated sugar. Apparently nothing is off limits.

Only 15 calories per teaspoon!? Well they're technically correct, and I guess that's the best kind of correct, but that won't keep me from judging them for making a health claim on a bag of f%#king sugar. How dumb do they think we are?

The healthiest foods are the ones in the produce section. And they don't have packaging to make idiotic health claims.


Highlight Reel

The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.
-Steve Furtick

This video is my mini highlight reel, in which I land my very first rail precision at height. This is five months of Parkour and strength training boiled down into 15 seconds of video. What you don't see is the outtakes. Lots of them. In one of the rail precision outtakes I fall down on a big squishy mat below, then tip off the side of it backwards onto a smaller mat as my feet comically flair over my head. And three days later I slipped and slammed my shin right into the metal pipe on the way down. More classes, more failures, more successes. This is the natural swing of things.

If you think that a girl showing off her scrapes and bruises is edgy or violent, I'm not here to fulfill your societal norms. But I actually look at them with quite a bit of fondness. Every scrape has a story, an adventure. I am pushing my limits and moving with wild abandon in the direction of the life I want. Sometimes that means stumbling a bit. We take every safety precaution possible, including weekly classes dedicated to learning how to fall without damage, but the road to greatness is not without failure. Expecting perfection is a sure way to be disappointed.

You have to start somewhere.

There will always be someone to compare yourself to, someone to make you feel inferior. There are 12 year olds at my gym that are unbelievably talented at Parkour. They have this lack of fear that (for better or for worse) I do not have. I have a hard time attacking an obstacle with all the strength I have in my body unless I'm absolutely sure I can safely bail. And that's okay. I'll never be 12 again. I'm just me, a girl who finally found joy in fitness, a girl who for the first time ever has to force herself to take rest days once in a while. I never thought I would get here.

PS You get extra credit if you noticed that I love Helvetica.

More highlights!


Fruit Monster

Healthy meals start here!

The fruit and veggie bowl always looks lovely at this time of year now that the sumer harvest is in. I didn't grow the bananas or peaches but everything else is from my garden! I had a friend who asked me to teach him how to make healthy meals and I told him it's so simple. Here's my formula:

-start with a fruit or vegetable

-add a lean protein

-(optional) add a complex unprocessed carbohydrate

That's it! I frequently also add a small amount of good quality cheese or sour cream. (I just love sour cream, that's a vegetable, right?) Plus once a day it's important to get in a small portion of some healthy fats, like avocado, nuts, chia seeds, flax, or olive oil. But really, this list of three things is how I think when I'm standing around with the fridge open trying to decide what's for lunch.

Here are some foods that count for those good carbohydrates: oatmeal, air popped popcorn, potatoes or sweet potatoes with skin, winter squash (acorn and butternut are my favorites!), quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, beans, lentils, and peas. Beans and lentils are a double whammy because they can also count as your protein.

Don't be afraid of nutritious carbohydrates, especially if you're an active person. The super low carb diets out there work not because of the lack of carbs, but because of the calorie reduction that happens when you eliminate all breads, pastas, pizza, cakes, cookies, rice, milk, french fries, chips, ice cream, sugar, soda, and alcohol from your diet. But you can get similar benefits by eliminating just the processed carbs. Slow digesting complex carbohydrates are good for satiety, blood sugar control, positive mood, stable energy levels, good sleep, and impulse control.

Speaking of impulse control...this is my favorite new video. Cookie monster explains his love of fruit to Matt Lauer. There's a good lesson here: Cookie Monster will always eat his cookie, but it's best to eat it after a meal, rather than on an empty stomach! Just like with alcohol, having food in your stomach slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Everything I know I learned from Sesame Street.


I have a sport

A kind stranger in my foam roller class approached me and asked what sport I do. I pretty much looked around to see who she was talking to. My thought process: Oh, me? Seriously? Oh, hey cool! Oh right, you're still waiting for me to say something...

Well I do Parkour! And powerlifting! And man it feels good to have an answer to the question, "What sport do you do?" that's not, "um...elliptical?" Not that there's anything wrong with elliptical per se. I just didn't love it. Or I should say I didn't love it anymore, and I had tricked myself into thinking it wasn't so bad. Here's a little story about how the right activity can change your life.

The elliptical saved me in a way. When I was almost at my highest weight, I could look out my dorm room window and see other students running on the bike path. It made me feel frustrated, like there was something wrong with me that I couldn't just will myself to be one of those people.

Every once in a blue moon I would build up my determination and go out to run. Well, jog. Okay that's probably too strong of a word too. I would get all psyched up, go outside, and jog for about three minutes. Then I would want to die. For whatever idiotic reason I didn't consider walking to be exercise so walking was a huge failure. And I was a failure because simply jogging for three minutes was the most painful thing I had ever done to myself willingly. I would catch my breath, try again, and this time only 30 seconds would pass before I wanted to break down in tears, I thought I was so pathetic. And oh, I was mean to myself. Man, I didn't even realize at the time what a collosal BITCH my inner monologue was. I sulked over my five minutes of "exercise," and decided my time would be better spent calling myself names in my head. I vowed to never work out again.

After a few more guilty months of no activity and even more pounds aquired at the cafeteria, I agreed to check out the campus gym with a friend. We did the tour, signed our waiver that said if we died the university was not responsible, and got started. I looked at the other people exercising and wondered how I was supposed to have self esteem while working out next to people who might as well be fitness models. How did these people exercise for so long? It didn't seem possible. But then...I discovered the elliptical. I loved this machine instantly. I could get on, turn it down to negative five intensity and just go. Throw a towel over the display and no one has to know! And you know what, it worked. Because I came back. And I came back. Again and again because I felt accomplished. Why shouldn't I? I had exercised for AN ENTIRE TWENTY MINUTES!

Then one day the guy checking student IDs at the locker room let me in without looking at my card because he knew my face. And it hit me: I'm a regular at the gym. Lol, wut? And that's the story of how I didn't gain any weight the second sememster of my freshmen year of college. Yeah, I didn't lose any either. But I had gained 20 pounds in my first semester so I counted it as a victory. Consistancy had triumphed over intensity.

And many years later, this year in fact, I said goodbye to the elliptical. I had loved it but I had also grown to dread it. Too many hours of trying to stave off the boredom had left me viewing the gym as a chore, just something that had to be done. At twenty minutes a day it was fine, but when you're talking about 8 hours of treadmill and elliptical a week, that's enough to drive a person mad.

But now that I've found something I truly love to do, it's hard to get me out of the gym. In fact, the other day the front desk guy joked that if I was headed home it must be closing time. Me! I can't believe that this is who I am now.

Are you still dreading the gym? Have you found your sport? There is a whole world of cool activities out there to explore. Have you tried rock climbing, aerial acrobatics, power walking, mountain biking, snow shoeing, yoga, swimming, basketball, soccer, zumba, backpacking, and badminton?

Don't like any of these? You can make up your own. If you are in need of a laugh today, check out this lady's exercise invention: prancercize!

Vulnerability and banana nut muffins

The story that Brené Brown tells in this video is one of emotional consumption, of food and other things. TED talks are brilliant at entertaining and peaking curiosity, and this one is my absolute favorite. These ideas have helped me with the mental battle to make small sacrifices on a regular basis. Like walking past the cookie dough section at the grocery store, or introducing myself to a new person, these miniature wins add up to a more satisfying life experience.  She talks about vulnerability, so it was no surprise to find this video on the PostSecret website, which shared the link a while back. If you haven’t seen PostSecret, or TED for that matter, these two links will definitely increase the quality of internet that you’ve consumed today. You’ll have to watch the video below to find out how any of this involves banana nut muffins.


These are the BIG IDEAS that have really stuck with me:

We numb emotions with food, alcohol, drugs, blame, and unbending ideology. 

We use these thing to make us forget about our pain, our exhaustion, our frustration. But, as Brené tells us, “you cannot selectively numb the bad emotions.” The same substances, the same thoughts, are the things that also prevent us from feeling joy to its fullest, because they prevent us from living the lives we really want. Overweight and unfulfilled, we continue to blame others and cover up our hurt with food. It’s a vicious cycle. 
The most exhilarating, joyful, unbelievable moments of your life are not spent in your comfort zone. We have to bask in the fear of change, pain, failure, and discomfort, and push on anyway. All these things are scary, but they're not nearly as terifying as the possibility of never living the life you want.

People who have fulfilling relationships are those who believe they are worthy of love.

This is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t believe that your true self is worthy of love, you will hide it, and thus preemptively cut off any opportunity to have meaningful relationships. Brené tells us that the solution is to, “Let ourselves be seen. Love with your whole heart even though there’s no guarantee. Practice gratitude and joy. To feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” You're allowed to want to change things about your life and yourself. But first you have to believe that you are worthy of love and respect, exactly as you are.
"You've made this day a special day by just being you. There's no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are."
- Mr. Rogers


Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, love.

The response I get from readers of my blog is clear: “We love you most when you tell the truth.” I don’t sugar coat things. I fail all the time. And people love hearing about it! Does that make you all sadistic? No. It makes you, and me, human. It makes us people who for too long have felt alone in a sea of picture perfect diet advice that doesn’t take into account the fact that we’re trying to live in the real world.
Weight loss and maintenance is a lot of work and a lot of emotion. I struggle with binge eating, food pushers, and the fear that it will never get easier. But with the help of a supportive community I have built, lots of cat snuggles, and even more caffeine, I’m doing this. And so can you. If you can accept the idea that small sacrifices, vulnerabilities, and fears are a natural part of the process, you’re on your way to building a set of habits and a life that will get you where you want to go.
Life doesn’t have to be easy to be worthwhile, in fact in most cases it’s the opposite. The things that we do in the face of struggle are what define us as human beings. My struggle with food isn’t particularly important in the grand scheme of things, but I hope that my real experiences can help people live happier, healthier lives. That’s a big goal, but it’s why I’m here.
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