Health Coaching Explained

Health Coaching Explained

Sometimes, it’s nice to be told what to do.

Just kidding.

Let me start over. When it comes to our health, we’re used to being told what to do.  It’s easier to accept a prescription than responsibility. Yet it’s our lifestyle that triggers chronic disorders and disease. And research shows (and countless people are discovering for themselves) that issues can be managed and reversed by making changes within our control.

Change is hard. For the most part, we know what we need to do. Drink less, sleep more, increase veggies and stop eating (and drinking) processed crap. Got it. But that’s too simple and also too hard. So we look for the hack. Pills are easy to swallow and programs get quick results. There are solutions at every price point.

But what happens when the pills cause more problems than they solve? Or when the program stops working because we can’t stick with it? Depending on our personality, we buy into the next promise or stoically accept our fate.

There’s another option—a new buzzword in town. I’ll explain what health coaching is, how it’s different than what you might expect, and why it works. It’s a complete shift from the normal “help” we’ve been offered. I’ll be honest. I didn’t understand health coaching until after I became one.

I wanted to be a certified health coach because I know a lot about nutrition and wellness. And I love to talk about it. Free advice is my specialty . . . you’re welcome. I’m the go-to gal with the fun food facts. Heck. I even wrote a book. Evidently, I had a lot to say–it’s so thick that few people actually finish reading it. It’s like a bible. But that’s ok–I’m proud of it. I continue to share the good news in every medium I can manage. Just sit next to me at the next band competition and see for yourself. Bring a notebook in case you want to write stuff down.

What is a Health Coach?

Imagine my shock when I learned in the certification process that effective coaches listen more than they talk. This was disappointing in light of my abundant words of wisdom. It was awkward to learn that my advice won’t work for everyone. In fact, it may not work for me indefinitely. I can’t lay claim to having the answers. My job as a coach is to help others figure out what they need, what works for them, and most importantly, how to auto-correct as life evolves.

From a young age, we’re told that the professional opinion is the correct answer. Experts are the authority. And this is true in many situations. Medical school is a legal prerequisite for diagnosing disease. But while doctors do prescribe treatment, it is not their job to guide you step-by-step to wellness. Doctors manage what’s wrong. In contrast, coaches help you discover how to get right.

Coaching is an emerging field in healthcare. Thus, most people do not understand what we do and where we fit into the big picture. It’s unlikely that your doctor has referred you to a health coach, and less likely that your insurance company agrees to pay for it. The landscape is changing fast, as evidence demonstrates that coaching yields significant results (at a fraction of the cost). For now however, we are still outliers in the system (aka out-of-pocket-eers). That will change in the near future.

Despite my theoretical understanding of coaching, I still gave a lot of advice when I began seeing clients. That paradigm is hard to shake. Clients expected me to be the expert and I wanted to deliver. And in the short-term, my rules (or anyone else’s) can work. Try this! Do that. You’ll likely make some headway. But eventually, there is a wall. Following someone else’s program requires a lot of willpower because it belongs to someone else. Eventually, you run out of steam and it doesn’t work anymore.

How Does Health Coaching Work?

When the walls closed in on my clients, and my advice was no longer working, I felt as discouraged as they did. Their failures became my own. So I enrolled in a masters degree program. I knew that I could do better. Coaching is a skill. Done well, it is powerful—just look at the results that business, executive and life coaches get! They charge big bucks, and the investment pays for itself many times over. Within a few months of entering the program, I made the turn. I got it. I stopped talking and started asking questions. And the answers were there.

We are each the expert of our own life. My job as a coach is to help you own that. There is no such thing as an “unmotivated” person. We’re all motivated by something. Sometimes our brain-wires get crossed. Coaching untangles those wires and brings clarity to our behaviors. I ask questions like, “You said this, but you’re doing that. Why?” And your answer leads to the next step. Connecting to your own unique values and God-given strengths results in lasting change.

My clients made the turn with me, once I stopped assuming I knew what they needed. They reached their goals and now push beyond. In turn, they inspire me. That’s what I love about coaching. I get to grow too. I do offer direction when asked, but now it’s more like an open-ended set of options. My clients chose their path. Together we evaluate the results and plan the next step. I don’t miss giving a lot of advice because plain and simple, that didn’t work. Failure isn’t rewarding.

And that proves that personal transformation is possible. Because if I can figure out how and why to stop telling people what they need to do next, you can change too!

P.S.: Please realize that results don’t happen overnight. I am not offering a quick fix, rather  real and lasting transformation. Together we will take one step at a time, and you will get where you want to go in a way that allows you to stay there. Check out Anna and Missy’s stories below. I’ve worked with both of these ladies for over a year.

Who Needs a Health Coach?

In my opinion, everyone can benefit from health coaching. Including me. In my observation, there are three categories of people:

  • Those struggling and want help.
  • Those struggling but prefer to argue that change is not possible.
  • Those who aren’t struggling but are ready to tackle a new goal.

Which category describes you? Would you like to give health coaching a try? I offer free consultations. Submit a health history form and I’ll contact you for an appointment. 

What is a Health Coaching Program?

Health coaches often have a specialty that appeals to a specific group of people. The overall focus of my program is nutrition and wellness. Though every client is unique, I most often deal with people looking to lose weight or maintain their weight loss, balance gut health and improve digestion, reduce chronic symptoms like pain, allergies and IBS, combat cravings, manage stress, and/or incorporate more home-cooked meals with meal plans, recipes and efficient strategies. My intention is to help you:

  • Discover what foods or diet plan works best for your body.
  • Assess your life from a holistic perspective.
  • Identify assumptions and thought patterns that are working against you.
  • Find true motivation, inspiration and energy.
  • Focus forward with timely, achievable and realistic goals.

My health coaching program provides you with:•

  • Two private 50-minute sessions per month
  • Ongoing email and phone support between sessions
  • Simple healthy recipes and nutritional guidance
  • Resources specific to your needs and goals (books, videos, websites, handouts, etc.)

What is Group Coaching?

Working one-on-one with a health coach means that every session is all about you. However, so much can be learned from others. Tapping into collective wisdom and experiences, and brainstorming from different perspectives can lead to discoveries you might otherwise miss. Group coaching is based on a team environment of confidentiality and trust, where group members are open to being coached. Themes arise from individual issues and questions. Discussions and exercises reveal varying perspectives that can offer a feeling of normality, inspiration, and multiple layers of support and accountability.

Success Stories

Anna M.–Tallahassee, Florida

“I have been a single mom since shortly after my children were born. For 10 years, I worked in a high stress job and spent all of my time taking care of my kids. Fourteen months ago, my weight hit an all time high. I was five feet tall, 165 pounds, and needed Spanx to squeeze into my biggest clothes. So I spent a year going to a personal trainer 3-4 times a week, and cut back on unhealthy food. When I didn’t loose any weight, my doctor referred me to a metabolic specialist, who found that my triglycerides were at 602, and my total cholesterol was at 347. A genetic test indicated that I don’t metabolize cholesterol very well. Statins were prescribed, and I was told I’d need them the rest of my life. But even at small doses, the side effects were immediate. Muscle fatigue, cramping, flu-like symptoms, daily exhaustion, and several severe depressive episodes were debilitating. I tried at least five different statins and each was as bad as the last.

I couldn’t live this way. So I did my research and made a decision. I believed that if I changed my lifestyle, cleaned up my diet and lost weight, I wouldn’t need those drugs. But I felt like I’d already tried everything! Even my doctor believed I’d always need the statins regardless of my efforts. It seemed hopeless.

And then I started working with Colleen. Unexpectedly, most of our sessions were not spent talking about what I should and shouldn’t eat. Self-defeating thought patterns were my greatest challenge. Colleen helped me get out of my own way and overcome my fear that things would never change. Every small step gave me the confidence to take another. I just needed someone else to believe in me until I could believe too. The weight was slow to come off and I had to push through frequent plateaus. But I now weigh a healthy 118 pounds. My cholesterol and triglycerides have dropped into the normal range—off the statins!—and continue to fall. And I have no fear that I can’t sustain this. Colleen didn’t just help me lose weight. She guided me to a completely new perspective. Her coaching style – combining both nutritional and psychological counseling – has been instrumental in my success. I know that I did the work, but I give Colleen all of the credit. And now that I have the knowledge (and the energy!) I will pay this success forward, starting with my kids!” –Anna M.

Missy B. — Fort Wayne, IN

“I lost over 100 pounds on my own. And then it started coming back. It was embarrassing and shameful to think I was destined to be among the 95 percent of people who regain all their weight. I envied the healthy and active people who seemed to have it easier than I did. Working with Colleen gave me the tools and skills to transform my relationship with my body and my understanding of food. She encouraged me to trust my intuition. She challenged me to break my own rules (because they were holding me back). Now, for the first time in my life, I am happy with myself and so very proud of who I’ve become. I would never have believed this was possible without Colleen’s support.” – Missy B

8 Ways to Save Money on Organic Food

8 Ways to Save Money on Organic Food

Going organic doesn’t have to break the bank. A few tricks of the trade will help you save money on organic food.

Everyone would “Go organic!” if it was easy. Green is a pretty color, and no one wants to admit they are part of the problem. But cost, seasonal supply, weather related shortages and in-store BOGO offers on name brands just make decisions a little more complicated. You can save money on organic food if you know what you are doing.

First, accept the fact that change takes awareness and effort. It’s OK to work harder for a little less (in the beginning). Resisting the effort it takes to create new habits and try different things will keep you from success. There is nothing wrong with a little idealism. If we want to be healthier, save the planet and live to tell the story, it’s going to take leg action, elbow grease, and trial and error. On the upside, doing the right thing helps you sleep better at night.

Full disclosure: Organic food is not cheaper than conventional or processed food unless it’s a bit rotten or a tad misshapen. Adjust your expectations. But any extra money you spend need not be considered an indulgence. It directly impacts and supports the farmers, little and local artisans and even (gasp) large national corporations that are risking their own bottom line in pursuit of the greater good. Though it’s not a legal tax write off, it’s a moral investment.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered on my organic journey.

1. Buy grains, legumes and beans in bulk.

 Not only will you save money, but you’ll reduce consumption of unnecessary packaging included with the brand name labels. And with the money you save, invest in a rice cooker. I’m NOT kidding. You can cook everything from quinoa, couscous and oatmeal to lentils, black beans (Don’t forget to pre-soak!) and split peas. It’s magical. Oh, and feel free to splurge on a cheap one. The high-end varieties are heavy, counter space stealers. I bought mine three years ago for $17. I use it almost every day.

2. Focus your meals around seasonal produce.

 Get out of your conventional grocery store where acorn squash sits next to lettuce, and strawberries are next to the apples. Go outside to a farmers market or local farm and you’ll learn that there are differences between spring, summer and fall that are not all about footwear and party themes. Get to know your food like you know your holidays. And if you can tell me schedules for off-season, pre-season, playoffs and championships, you certainly have room to know that asparagus is not a summer squash.

3. Look for reduce-priced produce, on the downside of ripe, for canning or freezing.

You don’t have to have a commercial kitchen or live with your grandma to do this. Literally, throw those strawberries in a freezer bag (that you will re-use) and enjoy them for up to 6 months. Now, technique can make a difference. Freezing fruit is best done at the peek of ripeness, washed, dried and frozen individually on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, you can combine in a bag. Vegetables need to be blanched (dipped briefly into boiling water) to stop rotting enzyme action, keep color bright, and retard the loss of vitamins. See 

The National Center for Home Food Preservation for specific instructions.

4. Don’t be afraid to buy frozen or canned items during the off-season.

 Organic foods have no pesticides or unnatural preservatives (maybe a little organic salt!), they’ve simply been minimally and properly processed to provide food for the winter.

5. Shop online.

 I use companies like and Green B.E.A.N. Delivery because this is what works for me. They deliver baking suppliesbulk, dry and spice products and even produce right to my front door. Many of them have for vegan, gluten free and other limited diets, making your shopping experience simple! Though price points of their local products seem higher, my grocery bills are significantly lower since I made the transition because I no longer go to the grocery store on a regular basis. And that’s not a figment of my green-colored imagination. According to a J.D. Roth, more than half of in-store grocery purchases are impulsive. And half of us make “quick stops” at the store three to four times per week, spending, on average, 54 percent more than we planned. As everyone who’s been domesticated already knows, in most relationships, there is a Coupon Clipper being undermined by a Budget Blower.

6. Adjust your spending in other areas.

 I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but supporting the organic movement is part and parcel of saving the world. You can’t expect it to always be easy. According to the USDA, in 2009, Americans spend less than 7 percent of their budgets on food. If we continue to keep the quality of our food in such low priority, the monetary costs of sick care, healthcare, pollution and a toxic environment will continue to rise exponentially and be the least of our concerns.  You get what you pay for. What are you buying?

7. Clean up your diet. 

Buy and eat less crap. Instead of 2 for $5 bags of twenty oz potato chips, buy 1 fourteen oz bag of organic (The salt and vinegar variety are food art!) for $3 and let everyone have a handful. Why the hell would anyone need that many chips? You don’t even notice more than the first few. The rest of the process is only mechanical hand-to-mouth and jaw action. Yes, that sounds bad. And it is.

8. Communicate with your neighbors.

Share your bounty and your leftovers with your friends. Leave a comment here about what works for you. Supply, demand and price are intricately interwoven, and we must work together to right the system.

Thirteen Life Lessons Learned from my 13-Year Old Daughter

Thirteen Life Lessons Learned from my 13-Year Old Daughter

Today is my daughter’s 13th birthday. In honor of our time together, I reflect on the gift her life is to me.

  1. Grades are game tokens. Anna reads between the lines. In the 6th grade, her common sense surpassed the institution. “I get the material, mom. Why do I need to do extra work? I mean really, who cares about grades?” Well, babe, it depends on what you want. Society agrees that grades reflect intelligence. In reality, grades reflect the ability to follow the rules. So it just depends on what game you want to play. Play to win, my dear.
  2. Real girlfriends don’t do drama. “Who cares who sits next to who at lunch? I mean, really, Sally (not her real name) came up with a schedule to make sure everyone has a turn sitting next to each other. Who makes time to do that? And what is this ‘group’ thing about? I like a lot of people. I don’t care who I sit next to, or even which table I sit at.”
  3. Mindcraft skills do not transfer to the real world. Anna can spend hours, days, (Ok, maybe months) creating cities, partnering with friends to enhance communities, utilizing natural resources and fostering a healthy economy. However, she and her sister cannot do the dishes without engaging in all-out war.
  4. Personality trumps hair. Anna got the hair I’ve always wanted–thick, long, gorgeous hair that will do whatever she wants. Fixing it reminds me of the mannequin head that I used to practice braiding as kid. Because I couldn’t practice on my own thin, fine hair. It boggles my mind, that, with hair like that, she wears a hat. Everyday. But I get it now. People who are bigger than their hair don’t need their hair to speak for them.
  5. Quietly flying under the radar is better than loudly buzzing the tower. Most of us seek attention. We positively or negatively reward each other for behavior and we drive each other crazy by taking too much of another person’s space. Anna doesn’t seek attention. She likes her own space. She is not the squeaky wheel. She doesn’t constantly ask me for things. She self-entertains. And the older she gets, the more that works in her favor. I joke that at some point, she’ll walk in the door, having Uber’ed to Chicago and back with friends. I will not have noticed she was gone. And she will not have thought to tell me where she was going.
  6. In order to see, you have to look. Anna takes tons of pictures of nature. She notices the background of life and the little things those of us on center stage tend to miss. She’s awestruck by the deep blue auras of sunrise, and admiring of the wicked purples and reds of dusk. She notices the shadows, patterns, angles and textures that create dimensions. “Well-played, Mother Nature, well played,” she often says. Yes, indeed.
  7. Curiosity is never bored. Boredom is the bane of a mother’s existence. “I’m bored,” is a cry of war on a peaceful day. How can anyone be bored? The only place I get bored is at Disney World. The cure for boredom is curiosity. Boredom is an insult to every person on the planet who has to work for the next meal. Anna is never bored. She is learning a new language on an app she just found, reading an entire novel in a day, learning how to edit pictures on her phone, or philosophyzing with the cat. She is happy doing nothing because she’s always doing something.
  8. If you don’t like homework, don’t do it. Anna hates doing homework. Not really, she just hates doing schoolwork at home. When missing assignments were taking a toll on her grades, we strategized and came up with a plan: she’d stay after school until her assignments were done. No more homework. She does her schoolwork at school, and when she gets home, she reads, talks to the cat or plays outside. Of course, this solution required that I pick her up instead of having her riding the bus. But the time spent in the car celebrating her accomplishments trumped the headaches of the homework dramas.
  9. Moustaches are funny. Life is fun when you wear a moustache, especially if you change up the color and size. Moustaches were a “thing” with Anna for over a year, adorning folders, bracelets, birthday cards and faces. The more moustaches, the better. And why, moustache (must-I-ask), not?
  10. Hair bows hold you back. Anna is a free spirit, unfettered by the insecurities that I struggled with as a kid. When I was in 7th grade, I got up 2 hours before school to wash and curl my hair, apply make up and change my clothes 5 times. Anna gets up, slaps on a hat, waits patiently as her brother finishes his hair, and races to the school bus.
  11. The fewer battles you pick, the more you win. Anna is very easy going, until she’s not. She doesn’t throw down over much, but when she does, I let her win if it’s possible. Because she doesn’t throw down over much, get it?
  12. Our children are not a reflection of ourselves. I am not responsible for my kids’ failures or success. I cannot give them happiness—only show them how I find happiness. Anna can do things that I never could (or thought I couldn’t), think of things I’ve never thought of, and see opportunities that I’ve missed. The less I try to direct her (um…control her), the more delighted I am by her unique perspective. I ask for just as much advice as I give.
  13. Try lots of new things. Anna came into this world with the belief that she can do anything (except chores—those are too hard). I think she weighed 42 pounds when, at the age of six, she nailed the double-back-handspring-back-tuck in gymnastics after 4 weeks. “Wow,” the coach said, “she’s got talent. She’ll go far.” But by the end of the season, she was ready to try something new. A few years of soccer and basketball prepped her for the softball and lacrosse teams. She enjoyed track—until the Robotics team appeared on her radar. She started playing the drums in 6th grade, and then learned the ukulele using an on-line app. She doesn’t ever ask for lessons. She doesn’t need them. She’s a player in life. Her motivation is simple: Be happy and do things that bring you joy.

Happy Birthday, babe. You bring me so much joy. I love you.

Congratulations! You’re Getting a Divorce…

Congratulations! You’re Getting a Divorce…

Caution: Divorce Ahead. Proceed with love.

“Congratulations! You’re getting a divorce!”

When you tell people you are getting a divorce, there is an awkward moment of silence. It’s the biggest party foul statement you can make. Usually, the next thing that is said is, “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.”

But anyone that’s been through a divorce knows the emotional battle that has been waged prior to deciding to end a marriage. And putting an end to the suffering, for both parties, deserves only one comment.


Divorce is awful. But contrary to the evil images of broken families, broken hearts and shattered dreams, the divorce isn’t the problem at this point. It’s the solution. And it’s a profound moment of relief to hear the counselor say, “children would rather be from a broken home than living in one.”

Divorce doesn’t create a broken family, it simply exposes it. Similar to having your car breakdown on the highway of life, once you decide to divorce, all of your shit is laying on the side of the road for everyone to pilfer, ponder and judge. A couple that decides to end their marriage undoubtedly has years of financial dysfunction, emotional co-dependency and passive (or not so much) aggressive habits. It’s been there, lurking behind eye-rolls and sarcastic commentary, but denial is easier than dealing.

When the only thing worse than going through a divorce is staying in a miserable marriage, you know you’re doing the right thing. Yes, the RIGHT thing. Divorce can save two good people from a toxic tailspin that is keeping them both from living a great life.

It takes a lot of courage, effort and hard work to finally take control of your life. It would be easier to stay and simply blame your own bad behavior on someone else’s refusal to participate. Staying is assumed to be the selfless thing to do.

But selfless people who deny themselves independence, happiness and passion become martyrs that demand sympathy. No one, including and especially the children, benefits from self-denial. Everyone deserves the best. Always. Being unhappy is never a productive endeavor. For anyone. You can’t sacrifice your happiness to give someone else theirs. It doesn’t work that way.

Anger is similar to pain, in that it’s there for a reason. And the message that it delivers is always the same. You’re doing it wrong. Yes. You. It’s not your spouse. It’s not your financial circumstances. It’s not your job. It’s not your kids. It’s not your friends, or lack thereof.

It’s your choices.  It’s your thinking. It’s your words and actions.

But once you realize that you are the problem, it’s the best day ever. Because then you can finally see that YOU are the solution.

Your anger serves a purpose. And continuing to live an angry life is only to punish yourself for someone else’s perceived crimes. When you take ownership of the anger inside you, and stop believing that someone else is making you feel the way you do, you will finally discover that it is only you that stands in the way of your own happiness.

Happiness is a choice, and that choice will require change. And if your partner doesn’t agree with those changes, that is their right. And if you can’t live together and be happy, then it is, indeed, time to part ways.

The spouse who finally calls the time of death on a rotting relationship will often take the fall with family and friends. If a cheating spouse files for divorce, that spouse is deserting the family. If the non-cheating spouse files for divorce, they are giving up on their family; unwilling to forgive. Because family and friends don’t want to be reminded that the rules of the game can change at any time, and vows are no guarantee of security. When life is comfortable, we want to believe it’s because we’re doing it right, and that it will stay that way. We collectively agree that if a marriage ends, it’s because someone did something wrong. (And so we pop the popcorn and tell our stories!)

But life isn’t personal. It doesn’t matter what cards you are dealt. It matters how you play them.

Marriage is more than just love. It’s a partnership. It’s two people choosing to share goals and make a team effort. But when you realize that you are no longer working for the same goals, the marriage seizes to be effective. Because then, it feels as though you must fight. And so you do. And the one relationship that is supposed to provide solace and support becomes a battleground filled with power struggles. Because if your spouse gets what they want, you loose. If you get what you want, they feel cheated.

You can’t win.


You are willing to stop playing the blame game. Because everything on earth has a life cycle; there is a beginning and the end. The glossy brochure that promotes marriage as “till death do you part” doesn’t mention that you can feel dead when you are still walking around. A death in spirit is just as significant as the death of the body.

But you can revive your spirit, whether you decide to divorce or not. In order to become happy, you must let go of your anger. You can’t hold onto both. If you want to get what you want, you’ve got to let go of what you have. Without fear.

It doesn’t matter who did what to whom, or who didn’t do enough. You don’t need to prove why you were unhappy. It’s enough to acknowledge that you are. You can’t earn a stamp of approval by listing a litany of someone else’s sins. Worthiness isn’t something you earn. It’s something you own.

When you enter into the solution of divorce, you must do so as a team. Because until the decree is final, what you do to each other, you do to yourself. If you want to “win”, you must want the same for your partner. As long as you are married, you win or loose together.

Divorce is a reckoning, and it hurts. You now have half of what you thought you did. Accept that as quickly as possible. Everything will be split…money, possessions and time with kids. You can’t get a divorce without the divorce part. The more you resist necessary changes, the more you will suffer during the process. Whenever you argue for what “should be”, you are failing to deal with what is.

There is no reality that includes “should be”. Get over it. Do you want to be happy, or do you want to be right? It’s your choice, and it’s that simple.

But as always, you can look at the glass as half empty or half full. Focus on the empty space and see it as potential. You now have room for what you want in life. You have the opportunity to make a fresh start. To learn from your own mistakes, not your spouses. Life’s a bitch in this way: it gives you the test, and then the lesson. LEARN IT.

The more time you spend ruminating on the hurts and bad habits of your spouse, the less time you spend dreaming your future into existence. Again, you are only punishing yourself for someone else’s failure to give you what you need. This is not productive, and demonstrates that suffering is a choice.

Pain is part of life, and it’s certainly part of divorce. But suffering is a mental state of mind that only you can change. You alone are responsible for your own suffering. You must identify the thoughts that bind you and the stress that makes you sick. And then make the necessary changes to let go and be well.

After all, that’s why you’re doing this.

Congratulations! You’re getting a divorce…

If you are even thinking about divorce, get NOLO’s Divorce and Money. Purchase an extra copy for your spouse. Because you both deserve to be educated on the laws. If you approach it as a legal procedure, it will become a business transaction that will free you of the emotional chains that bind. Another great resource for both of you is

Vegetables and Kids: Best Practices for Bribery, Extortion, Imprisonment and Misinformation

Vegetables and Kids: Best Practices for Bribery, Extortion, Imprisonment and Misinformation

Vegetables and kids often go cuff-n-hand…

Anyone who has ever fed a child knows that no matter what you feed them, they are going to resist. From the first taste of a new formula or milk, to the first jar of peas or peaches, each new smell, flavor and texture is a process, and the first step always include spitting and maybe even vomit.

So we create routines and comfort, even songs and rewards, around eating– overselling our efforts like cheap car salesmen. And one day, apple oatmeal in the Dora bowl with the Superman spoon on the Mickey Mouse placemat is the only acceptable option for all three meals. But a week later, the same magical combination invokes a temper tantrum worthy of YouTube, and we’re back to playing airplane with strained bananas.

So many factors play into a child’s bipolar appetite. Growth spurts, siblings, millions of marketing images, teeth (or lack thereof), taste buds, texture, hot and cold, interested dogs and curious cats, attention span, energy levels, parental reaction and past experiences. The very least of these factors is probably the actual compatibility of the food with the child’s palate.

I’ve heard that a food has to be introduced SEVEN times before a child accepts it. And according to the anectdotal evidence that I’ve been collecting for the last 14 years, this is a ridiculously inaccurate underestimate. You ask me how I get my kids to eat kale and beans? Well, the same way every other parent feeds their child. I do and I don’t. Go to the Burger King playground and listen to all the parents insisting that a child “finish that hamburger and fries before playtime”, and check out all of the food thrown on the floor, stuffed in wrappers and thrown away.

Getting kids to eat ANYTHING requires Nobel Peace Prize-worthy ingenuity and patience, SWAT team-level negotiation skills, and government intelligence training in manipulation and subterfuge. At any given meal, whoever is smarter, richer and more stubborn has the best shot at winning the game, but there are no sure bets. The taste of defeat is bitter, and goes best coupled with a nice Merlot.

My first approach was to transition the children gradually…limiting their animal products, processed foods and snacks and asking them to just try my meals. And that completely DID NOT WORK.They had no interest (i.e. motivation) to eat the food I was cooking because they would just hold out and sneak a PB&J sandwich, eat a freezer pizza or blow through a box of cereal when I wasn’t looking. There became a flourishing black market for contraband in my upstairs…hidden food, secret codes, barters for favors, cash and candy. Strange, unmarked packages came from UPS addressed to my 13 year old.  I was actually quite impressed with the little mobsters. They weren’t arguing with me or each other, and they were happily supportive of my new vegan efforts. But there was too much eye contact, weird hand-signals and positive team spirit at the table….Big Red Flags. So, phase 2 was complete immersion. I bought nothing that wasn’t vegan, and I stopped buying unlimited amounts of bread and peanut butter. There were no chips, cereal or frozen pizzas. The kitchen landscape was barren and my children began to look….thin and hungry. Aghhhh…I was finally getting somewhere. Next, I attempted to indoctrinate them emotionally, and had them view Food Inc, SuperSize Me, and some horrific documentaries showing slaughter houses and chicken farms so that they could glimpse a little of the reality that was fueling my passion. But emotions fade as appetite rises, so their childish convictions rightfully and expectedly wain with the tide.

For the next few months, I put unbelievable stress on myself to make three vegan meals a day for each member of my family, no matter how many different directions we were running. No matter who was going where, I cooked in advance and filled coolers and baskets with appropriate fare. I sent lunch boxes, brown bags, and trays of separately made pizza, soy dogs, shamburgers and snacks to school, parties and friends. There was no eating out, no stopping for something quick and no compromises. Within six months, I needed a vacation in the psychiatric ward.

But it was all part of the process. It’s been four years, and my kids have not starved or developed any malnourishment diseases. In fact, they are thriving. They will tell you “Our mom is vegan, so we are too at home”….Which is GREAT! (But stay out of their way at the Pizza Hut Buffet line!) The foods and flavors I’ve introduced my kids to are not the usual American cuisine….But who wants to be normal? I’ve learned how to camouflage the massive amounts of vegetables I include in my dishes (BLENDER!), and they’ve learned that beans do not mean daddy lost his job. And ketchup still goes a long way to disguise nutritious substances. They’ve learned to text their dad a wish list if he’s stopping at the grocery, and though I hear the rustling of bags and the whispered exchange of goods and services, I don’t mind as long as they come to the table hungry and act appropriately grateful for my efforts. I don’t buy snacks and extras on a regular basis, but a Friday night party is just that, and I try to create vegan treats that qualify as junk food.

So how do you get your kids to eat what you cook? First you cook it. Then you serve it, and sit with them while they investigate it. Give them your opinion on it. (I don’t like everything I make!) Let them explore the tastes and texture. I often tell my kids they can ‘pick out’ one or two things…and then take pride in all the good stuff they are still eating. And a little hunger goes a long way. No one is going to starve. Kids in third world countries stand in line for hours just to receive a small portion of bland rice or mush or ANYTHING. I’m just saying. Picky is directly proportional to choice.

And then you may negotiate a certain number of bites. You might get angry and throw the dish in the sink, and you may quietly surrender to their opposition and eat it all yourself. They may go to bed hungry, and they may find mercy in a PB&J sandwich.

It’s all part of the process, and it’s the same in every home, regardless of the type of food you cook or how picky you think your kids are. It’s a comedy of errors, an exercise in futility and a journey of love. And it is SO worth it!

Why the Organic Certification Process Isn’t Sustainable

Why the Organic Certification Process Isn’t Sustainable

Why the Organic Certification Process Isn’t Sustainable

I don’t mind putting up with tedious government regulations for the sake of living in civilization. There will always be people who are willing to throw toxic sludge into the river in order to save a buck if no one’s looking…if not because they are inherently evil, then only because they are ignorant. In theory, checks and balances create accountability.

I learned a lot about sustainable farming when I worked for Green B.E.A.N. Delivery as the Fort Wayne market coordinator. Demonstrating compliance for the organic certification process takes a lot of time and money. Many small farmers focus on producing high quality food while protecting the environment, and can’t afford the extra bullshit to fertilize their crops with an “official” stamp of approval. So they label themselves “sustainably grown” and quietly go about their business.

I’ll buy from those guys every time. 100% of the time.

I use Green B.E.A.N. Delivery for the majority of my grocery shopping, and one of my favorite items is Phoenix Organics “Great Balls of Tofu”. They are seriously the best!–and are the only product I regularly stock because I haven’t been able to easily recreate them from scratch in my own kitchen.

So when GBD stopped carrying them, I cried. But then, I remembered that I don’t take “no” without a fight, and I called the manufacturer directly. The company didn’t have an on-line store, but the owner kindly agreed to send me a case. (They store well in the freezer.) I was back in business!

Phoenix Organics makes the Great Balls of Tofu, as well as thick, restaurant quality veggie burgers and a delicious egg-less salad. They are located in Spencer, West Virginia. Coincidently, I travel in that direction a few times a year to play in the New River Gorge. When my sacred supply dwindled down to the last pack in the case, l decided to take a road trip, and drive my four kids and large dog, with all of our bikes, kites and gear to West Virginia for a little playtime. And as the gorge is conveniently close to Phoenix Organics (only in theory…getting there was an quite an adventure), I’d replenish my Great Balls of Tofu. Double win for me!

The 2 hour detour turned into five, partially because my iMap didn’t sync with the rural road signs (even Google can get lost in West Virginia!). But also because from the moment I met Bill Quick, the owner, I recognized a kindred soul, and we became fast friends. On a tour of the facility, I saw how tofu is made, and how important integrity is to the process. He didn’t bat an eye at all the kids and dogs and crazy hot mess that I am, and I couldn’t care less that his office was in the break room, and that wifi wasn’t an option. We just started talking, and didn’t stop for several hours.

He proudly showed me around his facility, which included equipment that has been in use for nearly 100 years. Unlike large factories that use automated processes to increase efficiency and profit, Bill’s company believes in quality and old-school integrity. They use real people, non-gmo soybeans and fresh running water to prepare one-of-a-kind recipes. They are sustainable in their systems, and do things right the first time.

In prior years, it cost $793 for Phoenix Organics to go through the USDA organic certification process. But a cost-share program sponsored by the USDA and the WVDA offered $702 in rebates (for those willing to jump through another set of hoops). So last year, less than $100 was needed to demonstrate compliance.

But with an update of the 2013 Farm Bill, cost-sharing was eliminated, and the price tag for the organic certification process increased dramatically.

Phoenix Organics now faces a minimum $2400 obstacle course to prove that they are (still) doing things right. (Isn’t it funny how our government subsidizes conventional commodities that are responsible for much of the planet’s pollution to the tune of $20 billion/year, but charges the little guys profit-crushing fees in order to show they aren’t using fertilizers, pesticides and unnatural processes? Isn’t that INSANE?)

Last year, the inspection of the Phoenix Organic’s facility took place in Bill Quick’s office. It took six hours to ensure all the paperwork was all in order. As the interview concluded, it was Bill who invited the inspector to tour his business. He’s proud of his work, and he found it illogical that the USDA seemed to just want the “i’s” dotted on the forms (and the check, of course).Why wouldn’t they want to see the processes in action?

To put that in perspective, when the rabbi came to certify the facility as “kosher”, he didn’t care about the files and forms. He simply wanted to SEE if things were indeed kosher. When Bill questioned him, the rabbi answered, “Um, Paperwork is irrelevant. I answer to a higher authority.”

Right on, rabbi!

Bill Quick made the decision to keep his $2400, and stop playing games with the USDA.

This means that although Phoenix Organics is produced under strict organic conditions, they are no longer USDA certified. They now have to remove the word “organic” from their brand name, packaging and labels. Evidently, the USDA owns the monopoly on the word “organic”, and no one can use it without paying homage. (Incidentally, it’s not cheap to refile trademarks and domain names, design new logos and reprint marketing materials to eliminate “organic” from everything. And even though they ARE still organic, it’s illegal for them to use the word.)

So they’ll have to depend on smart customers to recognize the integrity behind their new “sustainable” approach, hoping that “organic” discussions between friends and neighbors will educate their customers on the unsustainable rules behind the organic certification process.

Sustainability occurs when a process can continue indefinitely without robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s about balance. Both conventionally produced and USDA certified organic crops are ultimately a part of the system that is wreaking havoc on our bodies and environment. And as larger producers and corporations respond to consumer demand for “organic” food, they will industrialize the process to maximize the productivity of farmers, animals and land. In many cases, they already have.

Corporations are designed to do one thing…create a marketable product that will make money for shareholders. And you can bet that those same shareholders will lobby our law makers to change the “organic” regulations they find profit-limiting. And it’s a slippery slope back to business-as-usual. A quick look at the graphic above demonstrates that the same old wolves are gaining control of the hen house that just wants access to healthy food.

In the end, the term “organic” is quickly being reduced to a legal term that changes with every election cycle. The Golden Rule in America has become, “he who has the gold makes the rules”.

Before I was able to publish this, I was informed that Bill Quick passed away. The day of my visit, we had decided to partner together. Waking Up Vegan would create an on-line store so that more customers can have easy access to these amazing vegan, gluten-free and kosher products.

I am so sad! I regrettably did not take a picture of the two of us on the day that we met, assuming I’d just get it “next time”. It hurts to realize that sometimes, there isn’t a next time. I’ve been told that his son is taking control of the business, ensuring that Bill’s legacy lives on. If asked, I’ll still create the e-commerce store. Hopefully, this sustainable business will continue to grow and be prosperous for that family and community. 

Rest in peace, Bill! Listen to my rough interview with Bill Quick, owner of Phoenix Organics, recorded just before he passed away. Bill and I discuss his experience with the organic certification process.

Sunflower Seed and Pine Nut Vegan Pâté

Sunflower Seed and Pine Nut Vegan Pâté

Sunflower Seed and Pine Nut Vegan Pate

I attended a baby shower for my sister-in-law, hosted by GreenB.E.A.N. Delivery owner Beth Blessing. As she welcomed me into her home, Beth pointed out several vegan options on the baby buffet. And as awesome as it is to have someone recognize AND cater to the vegan diet, hummus and a nut bowl aren’t exactly culinary accomplishments.

I was sipping the party punch as I chatted with the mom-to-be, and decided to try the hummus. It looked boring and basic, but I’m used to that.

Suddenly, I could’t make out what anyone was saying. My taste buds hijacked my hearing, cutting off all sensory input that wasn’t directly related to the party taking place in my mouth. I think I even stopped breathing for a brief moment.

Full disclosure: My initial impression registered carnivore-quality flavor. I remembered my mom’s homemade fried chicken; and as a future vegan, the best part wasn’t the poultry. It was the crunchy crumbs left on the plate that were as good as any dessert that was offered.

Seriously, I didn’t even swallow…I found Beth and asked with a mouth full of food…”WHAT THE HECK IS IN THAT?”

She simply shrugged and mentioned something about sunflower seeds and pine nuts. She assured me it was a vegan pate.

Everyone who saw my reaction came to try a bite. So a word to the wise. Don’t draw attention to this, lest you have to share. It’s THAT good.

Vegan Pate

Sunflower Seed and Pine Nut Vegan Pate

Sunflower seeds, pine nuts and lemon juice. You can't get anything more simple and delicious than this.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Sides and Snacks
Servings 10


  • 2 cups sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce of choice substitute coconut aminos for soy free
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper optional


  • Roast seeds and nuts in oven at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Add all ingredients to Vitamix or food processor. Blend to a chuncky consistency.
  • Be careful not to over-process---the oil permanently separates from the nuts, and while it's edible, it's not as satiable. If you find it to be too thick, add a few tablespoons of water.
  • Serve with crackers of choice.

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