Category Archives: little victories

Monsoons, Milestones, and Magic Powders on the Road to Wellness

It’s been raining here in Texas for a while now. The windfall of water has taken it’s toll on my workout schedule a bit, but mainly in keeping me off the tennis courts.

Have you tried any superfoods as part of your health and fitness quest? What about Maca powder? Or coconut oil? Or omega-3 fish oils? Are there some superfoods that work and others that are more hype than happy? I’m sure the answer is yes. My run at bulletproof coffee was a bit of a wash, though I do think the coconut oil has helped my internal digestive system a bit.

Oh, and I did to the weigh-in, as promised.


Maybe not as low as I had imagined, but easily the best I’ve looked and felt in years. Of course, *love* has a lot to do with that.

And on that note, I found a great summer beverage that I’m trying to perfect. I’m a sucker for the frappucino or frozen coffee drinks. However, those are *loaded* with sugar and fat. So I’ve come up with my own variety.

Silver Bullet Cold Coffee(tm)

  • 1 brew of coffee – decaf or reg depending on the time of day or need of energy

  • 1 tablespoon of raw local honey

  • 1 teaspoon of raw coconut oil

  • 1 pinch of cinnamon

  • 2 – 5 grains of organic sea salt for minerals and trace elements

  • and today – 1 teaspoon of Maca powder (no idea, but a fad for sure – I’ll report back after a bit of experimentation with this super/mysterious food.

  • ice

  • blender to make frozen smoothie

Top 10 ideas from my holistic fitness and health program.

  1. Weighing-in is optional, not necessary to keep my motivation high, nor to inspire me
  2. Superfoods are also caloric, so let’s use a bit of judgement and see what feels good (all in moderation)
  3. Coffee is a health drink and a superfood combined.
  4. Coconut oil continues to astound me. Not as a weight-loss supplement, but certainly as a healthy fat and as a lubricant for all things.
  5. Today’s news: losing weight is more about eating less, rather than exercising more.
  6. Exercising everyday is a must. You’re going to miss days, so make those actual misses, rather than scheduled days off. The more the merrier. Two and three-a-days are amazing, but also taxing to your overall system.
  7. Sleep is essential. 8 hours is minimal.
  8. Waking up early, alert and inspired by what the day brings is a good sign of health and happiness.
  9. Finding someone to train with is the biggest boost to fitness.
  10. Finding someone to love is the biggest boost to life and overall health and mental resilience.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney

Superfoods: Do you believe in superfoods? Spirulina, Wheatgrass, Coconut Oil, Maca Powder, Asahi. What is and is not recommended? Here’s a bit of info on my latest experimental supplement.

7 Top Health Benefits of Maca Powder – Vegkitchen

related posts:

Do you want to try any of these superfoods for yourself. Here are the two main ingredients in my new cold coffee brew.


Surviving the Next Month of Holiday Indulgences

Ah, the turkey day is behind us. Now we just have to deal with frenzied shoppers, clogged internet connections, and family. No worries.

I celebrated my 52nd birthday yesterday along with a wonderful slice(s) of pumpkin pie. I held out all of October and November (with on slip) for this delicious family tradition, the pie. If I were stuck on a desert island and I could have 1 dessert it would probably be some form of ice cream, but if you must have cake or pie for a birthday, this is the ONE. I sampled the pecan, but only to confirm my annual favorite.

And I will admit, that after eating a nice slice of pie I felt a bit sick about 20 minutes later. Shock to the system? Too much sugar? I don’t know. I had paced and portioned my turkey and dressing all in order to have room (non-stuffed me) for the pie. It was delicious. It was the best I can remember. And…

I am setting my dessert target on the pumpkin pie, and with that my sugar fiesta is over.

I’m glad thanksgiving is over. I love the food. Love. It. But there are so many traditionally delicious side dishes that it’s very hard not to over eat. I did good this year. And today, Friday (no Black Friday shopping for me) I’m going to do a noon workout at my tennis club. Let’s burn off a bit of that meal, shall we?

I don’t regret my indulgence. In fact, the planning for pie gave me strength to turn down so many other desserts in Oct. and Nov. I simply compared their tastiness with the pie I wanted and it was easy to pass.

This morning I ate the last slice for breakfast. And again, I’m not feeling all that awesome. Interesting. I wonder, as I get further and further from sugar addiction, how sugar may be even more symptomatic as I eat it. Will I become sugar adverse? That might be a great thing.

Today, I give thanks again, that I can jump back on plan. That at 52 I’m still jamming along pretty well, with no major complaints. And I’m looking forward to the same feast in Dec. this year. I am setting my dessert target on the pumpkin pie, and with that my sugar fiesta is over. Now I think I need a nap. Is that the sugar as well?

Take the Next Step,

John McElhenney

related posts:


Wellness Quest: It’s the Little Things and the Big Things

We all know that getting our vitamins and nutrition through whole foods is the best way to go. For those of us who know we’re not doing as well as we could there are supplements. And then there are the little things we can do to improve the foods we do eat.

The Little Things

  • Adding Flax and Bran to everything. Why not? It adds some crunch to my yogurt and organic breakfast flakes.
  • Drinking filtered water. Pure water is hard to find sometimes, but my ZERO WATER filter system is always around. And I take it with me sometimes when I know I’m going to be at a hotel for a few days. Water that tastes like pool water isn’t very nice and it’s actually really bad for you.
  • Parking at the outside edge of the lot. Walk a bit more. (Buying groceries might be the exception, if you’ have a  lot to carry.)
  • Going for the lower-sugar alternative, always. But beware of artificial sweeteners as they may be worse for you than the sugar you are trying to avoid. (Yep, no more sugar-free gum, EVER!)
  • Buying organic produce and products when possible. Sure they are more expensive, but taking micro-doses of toxic chemicals out of your system is worth it.

The Big Things

  • One pint of ice cream isn’t going to wreck your health. 5 in a month might significantly impact it. If you’re going to binge on something sinful, make sure you commit to get back on your program. On frappacino may lead to your craving for another one tomorrow. If you slip down this slope, it might be best to never indulge in frappacinos.
  • Meats and fresh vegetables over grains and sweets. We never eat enough vegetables. And ORGANIC is the way to go here as well. Again, it’s worth the cost.
  • Watch for hidden sugar or even plain-sight sugar everywhere and reduce your consumption. I was in an organic grocery store last night with a craving for yogurt. I wanted to add my yogurt and oat bran mix back into my routine. But as I was browsing the endless varieties of “whole” “natural” “greek” “low-fat” “geuten free” yogurt I was hard pressed to find one without added sugar. And yes, pure cane sugar is better than corn syrup in theory, but it’s all sugar in the end. One “organic” brand of strawberry yogurt had 29 grams of sugar in one small cup! WHAT?
  • Get up and move, often. Yes, we sit too much. Yes, we don’t get enough exercise. Okay, so let’s use our fitbit/fuel/fitness tracker to actually motivate us to MOVE. In the course of my day I often move between two or three locations in my house. And I try to walk around a bit between large tasks. It’s always a good idea to exercise. The key is finding something you love to do. (For me that’s tennis and walking around a local lake with my tunes blazing.)

We’re all about finding the balance. It’s not ONE thing you do it’s a combination of all the LITTLE and BIG things you do. Add a few more good things and subtract a few of the bad things. Then do it again.

2/3 of the way through November without a major slip. (I did buy and devour some light salt organic popcorn last night, but it was a reasonable splurge.) Give yourself the break your body needs by eliminating the toxic chemicals in your diet. Lower your sugar intake. And get up the next day and keep going, regardless of your results or expectations.

Yesterday I settled on some kind of high-protein and low-sugar yogurt. It had 11 grams of sugar for a single serving. Then when I got home I added my oat bran and ate a half a serving. DELICIOUS!

It’s not about hitting your goals, it’s about living a healthier life, continuously.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney

related posts:

image: adding the little things, john mcelhenney, cc 2104


Excuses, Temptations, and Laziness Along the Path to Wellness

I passed through the gauntlet of Halloween and all its sugary horrors to some complacency on my part. While the basket of candy in the front room did tempt me with shiny wrappers and promise of good feelings, I was able to turn that craving off with my determination. The smaller stuff, the easier temptations that are always around a much harder and insidious.

This couple of weeks I had zero pizza, and zero conscious sugar. All WINS. At the same time, I ate a number of things simply because they were there. I was tired, or starving, or lazy and I went for the easy snack.

Again, this time it’s no reason to beat myself up, but more information about having good healthy stuff on-hand so the Triscuits aren’t so alluring. In years past I would eliminate the unhealthy foods completely from my pantry. But my kids starved. I do better now. I still try to limit their junk food (and we all do really well on this) while providing as many healthy options for them.

Another thing begins to happen this time of year as well, as the weather gets colder, and the daylight savings time is dropped, it’s easier not to exercise. And in my case, I’ve just picked up a new client with a large amount of work. So it’s time to shift my strategy a bit as well.

Exercise whenever it’s available. No excuses. If I CAN go I need to go. There are always going to be interruptions in my plans. And with added client work there will always be meetings that will take priority over my noon workout. But that’s no reason not to walk right after the meeting, before it gets dark and cold.

I have to admit the time change throws me more this time of year. My bio-clock still wakes up at 5am, thinking it’s 6am. It’s dark outside. And if I fight it and try and go back to sleep for an hour I wind up waking up 3 hours later, and LATE. That’s no good. So even the time change had thrown a kink in my simple plan. No worries.

Learn. Evolve. Do better.  And each time I fall off the plan, get back up and congratulate myself on the “learning.”

This week I’m going to be ready for the complications. I’m going to stock up today on a few more of my healthy snacks. (Organic: Honeycrisps, tamari-roasted almonds, granola w/out added sugar) And I’m going to hit the trail and the courts as often as I can. If I get in two workouts one day, that’s cool, because the deadline maybe coming that will take an entire day out of my schedule.

I’m not lazy, but I do occasionally opt for the rest day. And when snacks are available that don’t meet my healthy criteria they are hard to deny when I don’t have any better options.

Always keep your options healthy. Always keep getting back to work. And when you can get out and exercise, do it. Always.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney



GOOD READ: What I Had To Unlearn After Studying Nutrition – Mind, Body, Green

A few more details on those “smart eating” blue diamond almonds.


Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide that is used as a food additive. It is produced from starch by partial hydrolysis and is usually found as a white hygroscopic spray-dried powder.[1] Maltodextrin is easily digestible, being absorbed as rapidly as glucose, and might be either moderately sweet or almost flavorless. It is commonly used for the production of sodas and candy. It can also be found as an ingredient in a variety of other processed foods. – wikipedia

Even the Smallest Detail Says Something About Me

I’ve got a confession to make, and it’s not pretty. It’s more like a toadstool, actually. It’s a fungus. Here you go.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 3.14.43 AMGross, right? Of course, that’s the treatment, not the issue. The issue is a lot deeper, I’m afraid.

If we can put off getting fit, the big issues, how easy it becomes to sublimate the smaller issues. But it’s the smaller issues that may hold an important key.

Take a look at the smallest detail of your health and wellness program and ask yourself how am I doing at caring for myself? Am I taking care of the details? See if you stay focused on the bigger issues, like weight loss and blood pressure and eating less sugar, you might miss some of the more insidious issues, the ones that have plagued you for a while, but that you tend to ignore.

Here’s the meta question. How are you taking care of yourself?

As you let the small issues go, in my case a gross big toe, you are giving your body, and your overall self-image a deep and powerful message. “It’s not all that important.” Oh, but it is.

I am learning this all the time. The subtle ways you treat yourself illustrate deeper issues. When you ignore a little problem, like a painful tooth, or an unhealthy toe, you are sending a ton of on-going messages to yourself. I’m not worth it. I don’t have time to take care of myself. It’s not that important. It can wait.

All of these internal sounding boards will undermine your best plans. I’m still not ready to make the call to the laser-empowered doctor above. But why not? Money? Time? Fear? I don’t know, exactly. What I do know, is that this “shame” of mine, that I’ve been carrying around in my shoe for over 10 years, is not going to go away on its own. The creams and over-the-counter remedies are not going to miraculously start working, no matter what the guy in the nail salon says about *his* treatment, for just $21.98.

But the issue is more about me. I discount the problem. I don’t listen to the groans of my daughter when she spots my toe during a summer swim. I don’t hear my body saying, “Hey, we’ve got a problem down here. Are you listening?”

And with every action I take that is not making the appointment and getting my toe treated, is a step away from my own self-care. Why wouldn’t I take care of it?

Get clear, get clean, and get honest with yourself, down to the minor details of the big picture.

It undercuts my work on my overall wellness, I think. Sure, I’m newly focused on the big issues: committing to eating quality “whole” foods, getting more exercise, and helping my body shed some of its *sad* weight. If we can put off getting fit, the big issues, how easy it becomes to sublimate the smaller issues. But it’s the smaller issues that may hold an important key.

If we begin to identify and address even the smallest issue, we are telling ourselves, “Yep, you are worth it. Even to the smallest detail. You are worth being more svelte in your skin, and you are worth having healthy and sparkling toenails.” I continue to try and tell myself it don’t matter. Every thing matters.

So out with the little pains, the little shames, the little issues we choose to ignore. In the same way I am ferreting out the hidden sugar in my life, I’m now going to illuminate the hidden issues that I tend to hide or write off as unimportant. If I am really committed to wellness and self-care, no issue is off the table.

In the morning, I check with this laser dude and see if my insurance will cover any of the treatment.

Get clear, get clean, and get honest with yourself, down to the minor details of the big picture.

I love the phrase, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. And by the way, it’s all small stuff.” And the corollary is just as true. The details are essential to understanding the whole. Sugar intake is an easy target for improvement. How well I take care of myself and my little issues, is core to unlocking my full sparkling and healthy body.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney

Reference: Harvard Family Health Guide on Toenails
Your toenails reveal a lot about your overall health and can provide the first sign of a systemic disease.


In many ways I’m telling myself, “No, you’re not worth it.”

Pancakes for Everyone Else But Me

I love pancakes. But I need the butter and syrup to make them extraordinary. So, today, at breakfast I made a smashing round of Pumpkin Spiced pancakes (organic ingredients only) and fed them to my kids. Yes we had the organic maple syrup. And I had two eggs over easy.

What I’m really craving, most of the time is energy. The afternoon sag in my physical energy is more pronounced if I stayed up late the night before.

This is one of the lessons I’m learning about being a parent AND watching what I eat: I don’t have to force my regimen onto my kids. Sure, it’s easier if I start restricting everyone from sugar and processed foods, and I do, but there’s no reason for them to have pancakes.

When I am by myself (I’m a divorced father) I don’t keep tasty treats or fat-filled foods around the house. That has been my strategy for curbing my cravings and access to unhealthy food. However, there’s no real reason, other than *my* will power to keep those things out of the house. With kids you often have to put your “program” on the side, and still provide them with pancakes from time to time.

What I learned this morning (and have been learning the last two weeks since I started this blog) is I can make them whatever they want. And then I can make what I need. My willpower has firmed up. Perhaps it’s all about changing habits, and creating a brick wall of permission that allows me to cook tasty treats to perfection and then not even taste them

kirbylane-pancakesOur relationship to food is 100% personal. Emotions and cravings around food are more about us and what’s going on inside of us. Sure, if we’re craving salt, we might want to look at our electrolyte levels and make sure we are getting all the minerals and supplements we need. And in my newly restricted eating plan, I’m certain I can use a little support from a wide-spectrum multi-vitamin supplement.

I listen to my body and take note of my cravings. Then I have a number of choices: 1. do I give in to the craving and indulge; 2. is there some other activity I could do rather than eating (if it’s boredom or a craving that is not supported by actual hunger); 3. do I need to make sure that I stock up on some alternative foods for this particular craving.

I’ve been doing a bit of both since I rebooted. I noted my salt cravings and I stocked up on organic low-salt, sea salt almonds. I noted my desire for sweets and I made sure I have a variety of chilled apples to throw at the craving. And I also noted what times and emotional states usually resulted in these cravings.

So we grow and learn, and we make better choices for ourselves and for our children. Of course , my focus here is on *my* habits and my eating and exercise patterns.

Late night snacking. Even after a good and healthy meal, if I stay up until 1 in the morning, I’m going to require some additional fuel. Cravings begin for me around the 10:30 – 11:30 hour. I can go to bed early and wake up early without any cravings. Or, if I need to work on something, or if I’m inspired by something creative, I can use one of my healthy snacks. The best idea is going to bed around 10:30, when that’s an option.

Mid-afternoon cravings. Again this is often within a few hours of my lunch. And of course, if I had a high carb meal, or something with a bit of hidden sugar or artificial sweetener in it, the craving is likely to be for sweets. But what I’m really craving, most of the time is energy. The afternoon sag in my physical energy is more pronounced if I stayed up late the night before. However, I am most creative when I burn the candle on both ends a little bit, and the afternoon slump is a situation I have to deal with.

Again, I have options. I try for the healthiest first: 1. nuts; 2. fruit; 3. nap (when possible). Most of the time, however, when I’m in a high-focus work situation, I need coffee. A little 1% milk and coffee, no sweetener. I suppose I need to look at my coffee intake and how it jacks with my blood sugar and other pitfalls, but at the moment, I’m fine with my “jolt of the joe” habit. Something in my body is also craving the caffeine. As I’m brewing up the afternoon java supplement my brain gets excited and my mouth salivates. I’m addicted. And for now, I’m going to leave that off the table for adjustment or negotiation. [I know it’s an issue I will have to address in the near future. One step at a time. (grin)]  I am looking at milk alternatives, though.

Waking up and making several breakfasts for my kids is a pleasure not a chore. My son wanted scrambled eggs and bacon. So we grow and learn, and we make better choices for ourselves and for our children. Of course , my focus here is on *my* habits and my eating and exercise patterns. Still it’s good to know I am in control of my own cravings and desires even when I’m making delicious pancakes for one of my kids.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney

image: pumpkin pancakes – kerbey lane cafe packaging, john mcelhenney, cc 2014

Tiny Temptations and Big Picture Thinking

I stopped by the grocery store last night to pick up some sparkling water. It’s one of my vices. I love it. And as long as I get the unflavored versions, I’m good. (I hear the one with “natural flavor” added might be worse for us than we knew. And what IS allowable as “natural flavor” anyway.)

And as I was passing the nuts section, I was looking for something healthy and simple to add to my almonds. I use them when I notice a little blood sugar drop, or if I’m craving a salty snack.

And for a second, I was hovering over the Praline Glazed Pecans. I. Almost. Ate. One.

Not today, devil sugar. Today I am happy to grab a bottle of water and walk right past all your flashy wrappers and promise of minor insulin comas.

You know the simple little “sample” move. Might be illegal, or a nuisance. I’m not talking about grazing the bulk bins, I’m talking about getting ONE nut. One sugar covered nut. What could be the harm, right?

I stopped myself mid pluck. My internal voice spoke up, “Um, what’s the point? Sugar. Why? Looks good. Don’t. Okay.”

It was a quick dialogue and I’m sure I am no thinner this morning as a result of turning down a single sugary treat. BUT… It was the principle of the thing. I have committed to NO. And I’m sticking with it. It would’ve been easy to just have a single nut covered with crispy-sugary-toffee coating. I could have written it off as a little reward for my hard work.

I didn’t do it. I realized that I was rationalizing a little sugar intake. I was saying yes to a little slip. In the same way I’m not interested in beating myself up, I’m pretty flexible with myself, and my new plan. But this was different.

I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t craving sugar or anything else. I was coming in to treat myself with something 100% healthy, a bottle of plain sparkling water. And along the way, I was enticed by EVIL SUGAR. Not covert sugar, but tasty, simple, “just one bite,” sugar.

Last night a little victory. Not a life or diet altering change. But a willful step towards my goal and a brief conscious examination of why I wanted the sugar.

My tiny victory was really a much larger victory. As I left the store, sans sugary snack, I passed by the Halloween hall of candy. My renewed and strengthened brain said, “GROSS.”

I’m not trying to create an adverse reaction to sugar, but I am trying to reprogram my body and brain to evaluate what my point is when I’m craving a sugary or salty snack. Am I sad, or stressed, or angry? Am I happy and wanting to celebrate with a piece of pie? NOPE. Not today, devil sugar. Today I am happy to grab a bottle of water and walk right past all your flashy wrappers and promise of minor insulin comas.

Last night a little victory. Not a life or diet altering change. But a willful step towards my goal and a brief conscious examination of why I wanted the sugar. I just wanted it. It looked tasty. It would be tasty. And… I didn’t need it. And the little permission might have set off a craving later in the night, when I got home for more sugar. In fact, I’m almost sure that would’ve been the case.

Chalk up one for the plan. Score: ME-1, Devil Sugar-0. Yes, October is a great month to start my no-sugar regime. The perfect month, perhaps.

Take the next step,

John McElhenney

image: my beverage of choice, john mcelhenney, cc 2014