State of the Herron Address

Hey ya’ll!

So…I truly wish I could have some exciting news to share as a result of the past year and a half of silence. Maybe something like, I made a baby. Or, I trained for an Ironman. Or, we moved to Turkey and now fill our bellies with Turkish Delight each day. Ah, if only…

Sadly, I have no legitimate reason for the past year and a half of electronic silence. I can only say that I am excited to jump start this blog and start answering your questions and motivating you towards a healthier life. Lord knows I’m in desperate need of a jump start myself, so I will be practicing what I preach.

In the spirit of a tradition started by the encouragement of my Aunt, my Adventure List has now been updated with 28 new adventures. I’d like to try my hand at Crossfit, the Paleo diet, and kombucha. It’s a fun way to try new things, dream big and motivate yourself toward goals!

This week, my challenge to you: Create your own adventure list with as many items as you are old!

Short and sweet, more to come later. Enjoy your weekend and stay tuned for more health, fitness and nutrition tips coming your way soon!!

Work a Little, Gain a lot!!

A lot can happen in six weeks. Start a new job; eliminate gluten and dairy; win the Boston Marathon. Hey, a girl can dream, right?! But one thing that didn’t take place was a new blog entry. My apologies, y’all. Time to pick it up a notch.

So we’ve entered that time of the year when a glimpse of the sun is a rarity and a privileged treasure.  It’s dark in the morning when I leave for work, it’s dark in the evening when I get home. It’s cold. It’s damp. It’s icy and snowy (well, maybe not in Portland!). Ahhhh the good ol’ Pacific Northwest. All this downer weather can make it harder and depressing to find the energy and gumption to hit the gym and get moving on the roads. However, with the increase of sugar-laden goodies during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, your waistband will appreciate time spent gettin’ on your sweet. To sweeten the deal, a moderate amount of exercise may be attributed to a decreased appetite. Check out this article I received from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Ok, so you don’t have a gym and, let’s be honest, you’re not going to run outside in five feet of snow. Have no fear, these tips will help you maintain your exercise level through the cold winter months:

1. Take a hike around the nearest indoor mall. You can even kill two birds with one stone by shopping while you walk.

2. Talk to the PE teacher at your local high school about a morning open gym. Often times, the gym and the weight room are open for students and staff.

3. Go snowshoeing, snowboarding, downhill skiing or xc skiing. You can enjoy the beautiful outdoors while building up a sweet and your leg muscles.

4. Turn your home into a workout room. You can rent an at-home videos from your local library, use your own body weight or purchase cheap, simple dumbbells or strength bands at your local Wal-Mart.

5. Keep an eye on local health club specials. The holiday season will often act as a platform for reduced, month-to-month rates.

So no more excuses this holiday season. I challenge you to increase your exercise, decrease your sugar consumption and create a few healthy family traditions this year!!

The Mental Games

It’s been three days and I can finally raise my arms above my shoulders without wincing in pain. My forearms look as if I was thrown into a one-on-one fight with a blackberry bush…and I lost. My knees and shins look as if Babe Ruth had a round of batting practice. And through all this pain, soreness and bruises…I couldn’t feel more alive!

This weekend, a group of family and friends and I completed a 12-mile obstacle course named “Tough Mudder.” The course was designed by British Special Forces and it claims to be the toughest event on the planet. Obstacles consist of running through live wires, jumping into an ice bath, crawling in the gravel and mud under barbed wire and inverted monkey bars – to name only a few. And yes, we did pay for this brutal torture. But one of the coolest components of this event is that 100% of the proceeds directly support the Wounded Warrior Project. If you’re a few screws loose and want to learn more about this event, check out their website at: 

One of the most important elements of this event, and any long-endurance event, is a competitor’s mental capacity or mental toughness. Runners will often say, “It’s all in your head.” Translation: the thoughts you think will either negatively or positively affect the outcome of your athletic event. Psychologists call this the Cognitive-Behavioral perspective in that a person’s thoughts affect his feelings which affect his actions. Consequently, athletes strive to consciously think positive thoughts, such as, “I can win this!” or “Only one more mile,” or “You’ve done it before, you can do it again.” As soon as negative thoughts begin to enter the mind, an athlete can feel discouraged, depressed, and unmotivated.

So what can you, as an athlete or simply someone wanting to achieve his or her health goals, do to improve your mental toughness?

1. Talk to yourself – whether it’s in your head, in the mirror or out loud, affirm positive comments to yourself

2. Establish SMART goals (S=specific, M=measurable, A=achieveable, R=realistic, T=time specific). Goals will help keep you motivated to work towards something positive

3. Visualization – close your eyes and take time to visualize yourself completing a race or a task successfully

4. Shake It Off – if you encounter a barrier, shake it off instead of dwelling on it

5. Focus on the Present – take it one day at a time instead of overwhelming yourself with the unknown of the future

6. Focus on the Positive – seemingly obvious, but focus on the “good” instead of the “bad”

7. Don’t Beat Yourself Up – sometimes your worst critic is yourself. When you’re tempted to cast the first stone, take a step back and ask, “Would I treat my friend like this?” If the answer is no, then set the rock down and allow yourself some grace

8. Find Your Cheerleader – we all need someone who believes in us; whether it’s a coach, a spouse, a child, a teacher, or a mentor, be sure to find someone who will encourage you along the way

9. Establish Rituals – establish a routine and stop thinking about the final results; this can help prevent your brain from getting in the way; Nike said it well, “Just Do It!”

10. Practice Up – whenever possible, train or practice with someone above your experience level; this will force you to grow and become a stronger competitor, allowing for more success on race day

As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t. You’re right.”

Take the first steps today to developing and conditioning your mental toughness to make you an even stronger competitor in whatever “race” you are competing!!

My First Time

First time: Right hamstring. Seconds after crossing the finish line at the Coeur d’Alene Marathon 2011. Literally froze in my tracks, unable to take another step.

Second time: Right foot. About 45 minutes after finishing the Eugene Marathon 2012. Took my shoe off in the car and my foot was literally stuck in a flexed, crocked position. Kind of freaked me out.

Third time: Right calf. Middle of cycling class two weeks ago. Had to stop for a few seconds then take the rest of the class easy. Sore for the rest of the night.

If you ask a seasoned runner if they’ve ever cramped, I mean rolling-on-the-ground-someone-put-me-out-of-my-misery cramp, I guarentee he or she will remember the place, location and almost the exact time. That’s how much pain and dissapointment a cramp can cause. It can ruin a race within seconds, rendering the runner helpless and defeated.

There are three different “classifications” of cramping that typically occur during running:

1. Side cramp = a pain in your side or lower abdominal area. Typically a result of shallow breathing

2. Stomach cramp = pain in your middle core area, a.k.a your stomach. Again, typically a result of shallow breathing but also can occur from too much fluid or food before the run

3. Muscle cramp = physical pain and/or tightening of a centralized muscle, typically occuring in the leg

How can an athlete avoid cramping while running?

1. Practice deep breathing = Place your hands on your stomach and breath deep. Also, try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth…slowly.

2. Slow down = Side cramps typically occur with new runners who start their run too quickly. Slow your roll at the beginning of a run and pick it up after the first mile. If the cramp still persists, walk it out for a few minutes. Seasoned runners naturally shift to deep breathing, so give yourself time to naturally make the transition.

3. Relax = Nervousness can lead to shallow breathing. Take a few deep breaths before the race and try to put your mind at ease.

4. Eat Earlier = A general rule of thumb is to eat 2 hours before a run. However, if you’re still experiencing stomach cramps, try eating 3-4 hours before a run. Also, try to avoid drinking copious amounts of fluid right before the start of a run. This can cause cramping and also just be plain uncomfortable.

5. Eat What Works = If you find you always eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich prior to a run but always get stomach cramps, perhaps you should try eating something different? Each runner is different and will be affected differently by different food. Find what works for you by experimenting…but I’d recommend experimenting before race day!

6. Hydrate = Make sure you drink enough water. General rule of thumb suggests 15-20 ounces 45 minutes before a run and 2-4 ounces every 15 minutes. But again, don’t overdue it or you’ll suffer the consequences of stomach cramping.

7. Balanced Diet = Make sure to eat your fruits and veggies to ensure you are taking in adequate amounts of sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium, which can help prevent muscle cramping.

Fact or Fiction: If I eat a banana before my race, I won’t cramp?

Fiction. There is a common misconception associated with the magical power of bananas to ward off any sign of unwanted cramping. Does the potassium in bananas help prevent cramping? Yes. What about sodium, does loading my pre-race stir fry with salt help prevent cramping? Yes. And even drinking a class of milk packed with calcium will help prevent muscle cramping. However, most often than not, cramping occurs from a lack of improper hydration. It is true that an inbalance or deficiency in one of these elctrolytes can lead to a muscle cramp; however, most of us are not running ultra marathons (in which case you need to supplement with salt blocks due to loss of sodium) and are eating a balance of fruits and veggies through which our bodies receive adequate amounts of these electrolytes.

So the moral of this story, make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day and be sure to eat a healthy and balanced diet!


Going Ape for the Paleo Diet?

Another recent buzzword in the diet/nutrition/health world is the Paleo Diet. In a nutshell, the Paleo diet suggests eating foods which would have been found during the time of our ancestors. This means a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish and seeds/nuts. Which also means no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no sugar, no salt.

In order to better address the topic (and questions), I did recently read, “The Paleo Diet for Athletes,” which was written by Dr. Loren Cordain and Joe Friel, founders of the Paleo Diet. The book is interesting and worth a read as it provides scientific support for why the Paleo Diet can be successful. It also addressed questions and concerns which have been raised about the diet. I’d highly recommend it.

Additionally, I stumbled upon a great article today, addressing the pros and cons of the Paleo Diet. Whether you are “for” or “against” the diet, this article presents both sides and leaves you, the consumer, to make your own decision.

As a dietitian and an average-Jane human being, my best advice is to always remember the mantra, “Everything in moderation!” No matter your dietary choices, make sure to keep it balanced and healthy, while also remembering that food and eating is meant to be enjoyed and give pleasure to the consumer!!


Gluten Free Bandwagon

I went to the naturopath last week and learned a few things. 1.) I have a hypothyroid. Awesome. More to come on this later. 2.) I should avoid eating potatoes. That’s easy since my husband is allergic to potatoes and they hardly ever find their way in our house. 3.) I should avoid gluten. My biggest fear is now confirmed!!

Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a pasta-lover, I thoroughly enjoy a slice (or loaf) or french bread or homemade banana muffins or a few (or box) of tomato basil Wheat Thins. And any sense of self control is paralyzed at the smell of a hearty, fresh-baked loaf of bread. Maybe it’s the wheat farmer background in me screaming out for the delicious taste of gluten…But despite this magnetic love of all-things-baked, I am now faced with the challenge to, “Just Say No!”

The gluten-free diet has attracted major attention within the last few years. The primary reason folks traditionally avoided gluten was out of necessity, due to an autoimmune disease called Celiac Disease. Folks with this disease are unable to digest a protein in the gluten called gliadin. In fact, this protein can cause major damage to the intestines and disrupt proper absorption. Additionally, it can cause major pain in the form of headaches, diarrhea, cramping, bloating and stomach aches for the undeserving victim. Put simply, folks with Celiac Disease should avoid gluten at all costs!

There are also folks who are have a wheat allergy or are gluten sensitive. This is less severe than Celiac and involves an allergic reaction which can manifest itself in the form of headaches, bloating, stomach aches, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, hives, itchy throat and/or skin, and diarrhea. And the last group of folks who avoid gluten simply do so for weight loss purposes (aka a low carbohydrate diet – my thoughts on this topic will be made in the near future).

So, if you find yourself falling into one of these categories, or simply just want to be more educated on this buzz-word topic of “gluten-free,” here is a list of do and don’t grains/starches to eat for the gluten-free groupie.

Eat  Teff, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, corn, rice, wild rice, flax, arrowroot, millet, hominy, soy flour, tapioca, and sorghum

Avoid – Wheat and wheat products including bulgur, durum flour, spelt, farina, graham flour, kamut, semolina; rye, barley, oats*

* What’s up with oats? Naturally, oats do not contain gluten. However, they are typically grown, harvested and processed near and/or around wheat products so it is a good rule of thumb to avoid eating oats.

The tricky thing about gluten is that it is included in many other products besides baked goods. The following list shows food products to avoid as they typically contain gluten.

Foods products to avoid – Beer, breads, cakes and pies, candies, cereals, cookies and crackers, croutons, french fries, gravies, imitation meat or seafood, matzo, pastas, processed luncheon meats, salad dressings, sauces, including soy sauce, seasoned rice mixes, seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips, self-basting poultry, soups and soup bases, vegetables in sauce

If you are avoiding gluten, the good news is there are many gluten-free food options and they are typically well labeled. The other great news is that this diet forces you to consume more fruits, veggies and protein sources – all great choices for your diet!

So now consider yourself educated on the gluten-free diet. If you think you may be gluten intolerant or sensitive, try eliminating gluten products for a week or so and determine how you feel. You can join me this week as I venture down the road of GLUTEN FREE! I’d also highly recommend visiting your doctor and getting a second option, as many folks are self-diagnosed as gluten intolerant.

Lastly, if you are looking for more information and/or recipes, visit these sites:

– “Gluten Free Goodness” by Cheryl Harris, RD –

– “Kumquat” by Gretchen, RD

– “Nourishing Results” by Hana, RD and Celiac Disease

– “The Gluten Free RD” by Rachel, RD


Shocking Discovery…Real Food!

Golden Raspberries. Ground Tomatoes. Yak Jerky. Oh my!!

This past weekend my husband (bless his soul) joined me for an adventure at the Portland Farmers Market. Since we moved down to Portland, I’ve been hearing about the expansive and beautiful Market; however, being gone almost every weekend during the summer has pretty much voided any opportunity of visiting  this Saturday extravaganza. However, this past Saturday we seized the day!

I was slightly overwhelmed. One, with all the beautiful fruits and vegetables. Two, with the abundance of LOCAL food. And three, with the array of never-before-seen or slightly odd food items. I will admit, I was also impressed by the number of people flocking to downtown Portland to spend their hard-earned cash on food grown within the state. For those of you living in a dark hole, this is the seemingly contagious trend around the entire country, let alone Portland, Oregon. Grow your own and/or buy local.

Ok, truth moment: I eat non-organic, hormone-filled, raised in another country food. Oh the horror! Yes, it’s true. But, do I eat healthy? Yes. Do I try to buy foods locally and as natural as possible? Yes. Do I consume fruits and veggies and lean meats whenever possible? Yes. Do I have a $600 dollar food budget per week? No. Hence the Foster Farms chicken and the Mexican avocados. Sorry. I’m realistic, not perfect. I do my best with the resources I have.

HOWEVER…having experienced the abundance of fresh and natural food at the market and stumbling upon Lisa Leake’s, “100 Days of Real Food,” I’ve recently embarked on a new challenge, which I’d like you to consider. But first, what is 100 Days of Real Food? It’s a movement, an idea, a challenge to buy and eat only natural, real food. This includes: fruits and veggies,whole grain products, whole foods, natural sweetners such as honey and maple syrup and 100% juice concentrates, dairy products, seafood, locally grown meat, tea, coffee, and 100% fruit juice. Everything else is out, including: fast food, artificial sweetners, anything with refined sugar or grain, or fried foods.

So with that, your challenge, should you chose to accept it, Is to take either take the 10-day, 100-day or just simply focus on removing the processed foods from your diet. Focus on the whole! (You can sign up for the challenge at

Should you chose to venture down this path, I must first-hand warn you of some side affects:

– Increased energy, decreased bloating, decreased digestive issues, clearer skin, decreased headaches, decreased stomach aches, increased longevity, disease prevention, silkier hair, and an overall attitude of, “I can conquer the world!”

So…what’s stopping you from cleaning out your cupboards and refrigerator and stocking up good old fashioned real  food??