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This is Thanksgiving and My Dad

Given I mostly use this blog for my business, I have been hesitant to post more personal stories lately. But that is what this blog was orginially for in the first place. I am not one to just go on in business as if things are the same or as if I am the same. In that regard, we are at an interesting space in the post-pandemic world where we are all different. We have all experienced a collective grief and loss and to think that we can go on the way we were, spending most of our waking hours trying to keep personal and professional separate, denying humanity for the sake of….I don’t even know. I also think sharing real life is important in business. It often explains a lot about one and another. We are all only human after all. So here is what is on my mind this Thanksgiving.

My relationship with my Dad wasn’t a typical father-daughter relationship. It was however, a relationship of love and respect. He is part of me and my brother. It took me a while to accept how he showed us love and I am glad I was able to tell him that it was enough and that I loved him as much as any daughter loves their Dad.

This Thanksgiving, I remember my Dad and share who he was through my eyes in this reading that I also shared at his memorial August 6, 2022. He is very much still with me and my family, even though his greeting cards are absent and his epic video calls are missing.

Love you Dad

Story below this picture:

Ralph Delloiacono is my dad. My father. He is also father to my brother Sean who as much as he wanted to be here, is not able. Putting words to describe who my Dad was to me in life has been extremely difficult. But this is my attempt 

When thinking of my Dad the first thing that comes to mind is “pilot”.  He loved almost everything about being a pilot: the planes, the airport, the travel. Every time a plane flies over I think of him saying “ You know what plane that is?” to which my answer would be I have no idea and would be shocked saying “ You don’t know what plane that is”!

Flying the mailrun out of Helena with Dad is one of my top ten experiences. If you ever got to fly with Ralph, count yourself lucky. He was pure magic in the air. I saw a grace and ease in him that dark night flying mail across the sky that I hadn’t seen before. He flipped switches, steered, talked on the radio, and pointed out cities and sights on the ground. I know the pressure of flying got to him sometimes (on the ground) but seeing him in the air, in his element, was magical.

I have great admiration for my Dad, he followed his passion for flying and stuck with it to live the life he wanted here in Montana. He has thousands of hours of flight time and traveled the world with enviable stories and adventures to tell. All along he showed Sean and I we were in his thoughts by bringing us souvenirs from all over the world that I have kept. My TARA ring from Mexico, my necklace and  earrings fired in camel dung from Egypt, my t-shirts from Reykjavik, Hong Kong, Diego Garcia, and Saudi Arabia that says “Desert Storm ”.  His stories were what movies are made of: being held at gunpoint on the tarmac of the Cairo airport, riding Arabian horses across the Sahara Desert, buying a leather jacket from a guy off the street in Korea only to never receive it and months later go back to retrieve it. 

In his own way he was living out the classic films and TV shows he loved, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Lone Ranger, the original Superman. I know I wasn’t the perfect daughter. I made mistakes, like not wanting to watch the “gray” Superman (what I called black and white back then) but I am grateful l watched these classics with him. 

Above all he loved old  Westerns, John Wayne films and the classic “Shane”.  While he wanted to be a pilot first, I believe he wanted to be a cowboy second. He loved horses and riding. His desire to be a cowboy lured him to Montana by way of the air force, and I am grateful for that and to be able to call Montana  home. I do remember after many, many years him saying to me “hey, did you know that real cowboys don’t wear Levi’s. They wear wranglers!” Dad was a Levi’s man and I was also grateful for that too.

His roots in New England also gave us a family elsewhere, an urban home-away-from-home in Boston where he would take us and I would later visit on my own many times to see  Nana & Papa, and Janice and Jenine. The miles from west to east felt fewer because I knew these places well and explored them many times with my Dad..

My Dad wasn’t one for dishing out life lessons but his imprint on me is now clear as day, however. He brought out the explorer in me and taught me the satisfaction behind a good endurance challenge. He taught me to ski by traversing the Ridge Run at Showdown with Heidi and I gripped in fear. A  passion for outdoors and elements was nurtured there on King’s Hill and many, many drives through the canyon to Showdown in his front wheel drive firebird which had the best heater. He would turn it down while I was asleep and I would wake up and turn it up with no words shared. 

He dragged Sean and I up High wood Baldy with nothing more than a block of Gouda cheese and salami more times than I can remember. We complained and now I do it every chance I get. Aaron, his son-in-law has even been up that mountain with him but somehow Jeanne escaped this trek. His grandkids don’t know it yet but they are about to embark on this right of passage!

Dad and I ran many races together: Governor’s Cup, John Colter, Sweet Pea, and the San Francisco Marathon to name a few. I used to get mad at him for talking about my running but, I know now, he was just proud. He went to all the races he could and I treasure a saved message he left congratulating me on another bridger ridge run.

My Dad had political views that grew stronger over time and differed from my own but just as he did when I was growing up, never imposed and let me make my own decisions and develop a mind of my own. He was polite, kind, and accepting in that way. 

He also never imposed expectations on us and by example showed me what setting personal boundaries looked like. Except when it came to his house! As teenagers, he gave Sean and I keys to his house, now remember he was a pilot, and this was before Jeanne made it the beautiful home it is today. When the world felt overwhelming and Dad was on one of his many weeks long flight runs, I would retreat to his house sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend to hide from the overwhelming world. Sean however, would throw epic parties, stashing beer cans in a hole in the frame of the house that Jeanne found during a remodel. I can still hear dad saying “ Where did all my brandy go? How do you not notice someone drinking an entire bottle of brandy” At college in Bozeman, I met someone who had been to one of Sean’s parties….at my Dad’s house.

I know there were hard times and when we both behaved in ways we are not proud of today but we are only humans doing the best we can. 

He was polite, humble, and kind. And every birthday and christmas, you could count on a card with a gift card to spend as you liked. My kids and I would try to guess before opening the card, where it would come from this time. The real gift is that my husband Aaron and our children got to know Papa Ralph.

Dad, you have been here for me my whole life, have a beautiful home, wife, and life with four grandsons to live your memory. You are now a free flying cowboy in the sky looking down on us saying “don’t cry” everything will be ok.

close up of caesar salad

Romaine lettuce has protein, right?

Sometimes I get questions that remind me to question what I think I know. In general vegetables can not be counted on to be a high quality source of protein – meaning nutritionally complete and digestib-ly present protein. They can however, compliment other protein sources to improve total diet protein quality.

A recent conversation about protein in Romaine lettuce when like this:

He said, “I eat romaine lettuce because it has protein. It does have protein, right?”

I asked, ” Where did you obtain this information about protein in romaine lettuce?”

He said, ” An article online, a website for vegetarians.”

I said, ” Well, I don’t think there is protein in lettuce but let’s check the facts.”

After being 100% certain that romaine lettuce had zero protein, I looked it up on Food Data Central only to discover that one bunch of romaine lettuce contains about 7 grams of protein.

Looks like I have to “eat crow” on this one but what about the quality of the protein and the fact that you have to eat an entire bunch to get the same amount of protein in one egg or handful of almonds.

Protein quality is measured by the amount of amino acids present. An egg for example contains all nine essential amino acids at the highest level. Because it contains all nine, it is also a complete protein.

Nine Essential Amino Acids are below and I have indicated which ones are in Romaine and the amount in an entire bunch:

Phenylalanine – .066 grams vs one egg .322 grams

Valine .055 grams vs one egg .369 grams

Threonine .044 grams vs one egg .299 grams

Tryptophan .011 grams vs one egg .083 grams

Methionine .014 grams vs one egg .21 grams

Leucine .076 grams vs one egg .528 grams

Isoleucine .045 grams vs one egg .31 grams

Lysine .064 grams vs one egg .418 grams

Histidine .021 grams vs one egg .142 grams

So yes, my nutrition stands corrected. However, I don’t know many people who will eat and entire bunch of Romaine lettuce. There are a few, and on any given salad day, I might be one of them. While Romaine lettuce can’t be counted on to meet all your protein needs, and can be part of the puzzle providing small deposits that compliment other protein sources and add up each day!

brown wooden round bowl with brown nuts

Six Steps Food Manufacturers Can Take to Gain Trust of Food Allergy Consumers

When I worked at Clif Bar and Company, my son ate countless Z Bars, Luna Bars, and every other non-peanut bar we made. Sometimes I would find him sitting under my desk with a pile of wrappers, one of each flavor which he had accessed at the employee snack station. Then, we begin getting calls about people with peanut allergies reacting to the non-peanut-containing flavors, like Apricot Clif Bar! Turns out peanuts and peanut butter residue hides in nooks and crannies of manufacturing lines. He stopped eating them even though he never had a reaction to a Clif Bar product. We also updated the packaging to reflect the potential for trace amounts despite operations best intentions.

Since then, incidence and knowledge of food allergies has grown along with the market for safe food choices for those with allergies. Food allergies and intolerances prompted a “free-from” movement so large within the food industry that it leaves a person wondering “what is left to be free from?”

Claims on packaged foods are increasing to 1) Differentiate from other food on the shelf and 2) Inform consumers looking for that specific attribute.

Free-from wheat, dairy, gluten, nuts and seeds are common. A note of caution however, FREE-FROM doesnt mean ZERO. Isolating allergens out of food manufacturing is extremely difficult. It isn’t impossible though and food companies that go the extra mile to make truly allergen free and safe foods for allergic consumers are seeing revenue gains.

Nielsen data showed 10.4 billion in revenue in 2021 and 12.2% year in allergen-free foods. A recent report by Market Research Future (MRFR) believes that the allergen free foods market will see steady growth through 2023.

Food allergies are common. The increase in allergen safe foods can be a relief to parents (me included) of kids thriving with food allergies. How can food manufactures label foods so consumers can feel confident that they food is safe for someone with one of the top nine food allergens?

  1. Know the top 9
    • The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 stated the top eight allergens were peanuts, wheat, tree nuts, soy beans, eggs, fish, shell fish, and milk.
    • On April 23, 2021, the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act was signed into law, declaring sesame as the 9th major food allergen recognized by the United States. 
  2. List common name (as required by the FDA) in the ingredient statement
    • According to the FDA ‘ the common or usual name of the ingredient uses the name of the food source from which the major food allergen is derived’ is required to be either in the listed ingredients or a Contains statement.
    • My professional and experienced opinion is to put the contains statement immediately following the ingredient list on every package to clearly list any allergen identified in the top 9.
  3. Provide a ‘Contains’ statement
    • Immediately following the ingredient list, state CONTAINS: Peanuts, tree nuts, wheat etc
  4. Provide a ‘May Contain’ statement
    • A ‘ May contain’ statement is additional helpful information to the allergic consumer. Knowing that the possibility of the allergy exists helps them to determine whether or not to take the risk of exposure
  5. Provide facility information
    • If the food is manufactured in an allergen free setting, include this information on the packaging.
    • ‘Produced in a peanut free facility’ increases the confidence and gets our household really excited!
  6. Be Prepared to Substantiate Allergen Claims & Statements
    • This is tricky and how claims are substantiated will be different for each manufacturer.
    • Whatever your method, document it and make it referenceable to those fielding questions from the public about allergens.
    • Substantiation usually is a combination of things like: ingredient specification sheets with allergen information, allergen testing programs, affidavits from manufactures and suppliers.
two people holding pineapple fruit on their palm

Crafting Food for the Journey?

Did you know Tara has twenty-plus years experience working with food and supplement companies to apply evidenced-based nutrition principles to the development and marketing of sports nutrition foods and supplements? 

As the founding dietitian at Clif Bar & Company, Tara lead the product nutrition development program and nutrition communications for nearly two decades. Her knowledge levels-up recipes, formulations, labeling claims, marketing messages, and content development. 

For information on how she can help elevate your products, marketing programs, and messages book a free call!

Dietitians Go-to Adventure Foods for Long Runs

Over two decades of working in the sports nutrition food industry designing fuel for athletes, I have learned a lot about how people feel about eating and drinking during long runs. People could be having a lot more fun if they shifted their mindset and fed their adventures instead of starving their adventures!

Being a distance runner since ten years old, I have also witnessed how people fuel long runs first hand. My college cross-country and track teammates were so concerned about staying thin to win, that they would not only not eat during their long runs but some would also go out and run more to burn extra calories  after practice.

Common reasons people don’t eat/drink and consequently bonk, hit the wall, or feel as though they are running through sand:

1) I didn’t feel like I needed it yet

2) I forgot

3) I wasn’t hungry or thirsty

4) I am burning calories not eat more more

These things may all be true. Even so, it doesn’t change the fact that if you don’t fuel properly, your adventure, race, or run will be cut short. At best you might slog through to the end.  Whether it takes one race, run, or a season not fueling properly will catch up with you and your  performance will decline.

I get the fear of eating too much or the wrong things or even nerves that squelch your appetite. I have been there. What turned me around was knowing why I ran and what I wanted to get out of it. With this mindshift, I began fueling more and having a lot more fun, more fitness, and performing to the level of the fitness!

I also developed my “go-to” adventure menu that includes five staple energy foods  you will always find in my pack for any run going longer than one hour!

Dietitian Tara’s Top Five Favorite Long Run Staples

Keeping your purpose in mind and how you want to feel will help you to eat when you might not “feel like it.”

Hydration Drinks

Nutritionally what you want during your run from a drink is carbohydrate from an easily digestible source of sugar, sodium, and water. Everything else is just puffery.  My three go-to drink options below are nutritionally very similar and therefore interchangeable for most people including myself. 

My biggest challenge with hydration drinks is finding them. Each sports retailer carries their preference. Having developed the CLIF Electrolyte Drink Mix, I have always had a bias toward making that my go-to drink. However, unless you order it from the manufacturer, it is incredibly difficult to find in store! My next favorite is Skratch Hydration drink mix. It is easy to pick up at most sports retailers and flavors are extremely light, crisp and refreshing. I love that it comes in stick packs as well. Stick packs are easy to bring along for on-trail refueling.  Tailwind Endurance Fuel is another great option. It is common on trail race courses and also found in most sports retail shops. 

Energy Chews

CLIF BLOKS in Watermelon, Margarita, Strawberry remain staples in my race day fueling menu. Sodium needs during a race vary greatly but when eating and drinking it (skip salt tabs) it is hard to get too much. That is why I “layer” in sodium with the high sodium flavors for BLOKS (watermelon and margarita). Strawberry isn’t high in sodium but it tastes great and is my go-to option between high sodium flavors. Again, a bias here because I lead the nutrition development of the BLOKS.

Caffeine Delivering Gel

Oh gels. I have never been a fan of gels, particularly CLIF SHOT, despite my background in the nutritional development of the product. CLIF SHOT Double Espresso however, seems to give me superpowers in the last miles of a race or in a middle miles slump. 

Energy Gels

After leaving Clif Bar & Company, I began testing out other gels. There are many newer ones on the market that actually have great consistency and a flavor I look forward to. Spring Hill AId, Canaberry, and Awesome Apple are always stashed in my pack.

To fuel your races and long adventures properly may require a mindset shift. There is now pride in getting through your race by eating and drinking as little as possible. Some people will tell me they feel fine with one gel every three hours or something ridiculous like that. My response to that is to get curious about what you could accomplish if you drink 30-90 grams of carbohydrate per hour with a liter of sports drink. 

My approach to almost every race is to get most of what my body needs to be fueled and hydrated through hydration drinks and then supplement as needed with gels, chews, and real food. Real food is necessary to ward off my hunger pains in races longer than four hours. 

Knowing your “why” – made famous by Simon Sinek – is intrinsically more motivating. Why are you out here running? Are you running to lose weight and create a calorie deficit so you can binge it to an uncomfortable level later one? OR are you out running because you’re curious, defying odds, overcoming self-limiting beliefs, coming back to yourself, or satisfying an itch that just needs to be scratched. I run because I am curious about where I can go and what I can experience when limits are lifted. 

two people holding pineapple fruit on their palm

Crafting Food for the Journey?

Did you know Tara has twenty-plus years experience working with food and supplement companies to apply evidenced-based nutrition principles to the development and marketing of sports nutrition foods and supplements? 

As the founding dietitian at Clif Bar & Company, Tara lead the product nutrition development program and nutrition communications for nearly two decades. Her knowledge levels-up recipes, formulations, labeling claims, marketing messages, and content development. 

For information on how she can help elevate your products, marketing programs, and messages BOOK A CONVERSATION

assorted vegetables on brown wooden table

Why Athletes Go Organic

Why are some athletes choosing organic foods?

There are many factors behind an individual’s choice to consume organic produce.  Nutritional value of all food grown organically or conventionally varies.  While some science supports the nutrient superiority of organic food others do not. A recent study showed organic crops, on average, have higher concentrations of a wide range of beneficial antioxidants/polyphenolic compounds and that people who choose organic foods tend to have higher intakes of essential nutrients such as omega-3 fats, fiber, potassium, folic acid, and antioxidants compared to their conventional food counterparts (2).

The primary reason many athletes today are choosing organically grown produce is because of its impact on the environment, farm workers, and to reduce individual consumption of pesticide residue.  Professional ultra-runner, Stephanie Howe Violett states, “As an athlete, what I put into my body is important to me. I choose to eat foods high in nutrition quality that also minimize exposure to my body and planet to pesticides which means, choosing organic and local foods.”

Evidence exists in support of Stephanie’s choices. Choosing foods that are grown with sustainable farming practices like those required for organic certification have been shown to reduce exposure to potentially harmful pesticide residues (1). This is important to health because research as to the impact of the total “body burden” of pesticides and other chemicals is lacking. 

But pesticides are also used in organic farming?

Food certified organic are grown with the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Pesticides are defined by a publication for the National Institute of Health as “substances that prevent, destroy, repel, or reduce the severity of pests”. These pests include fungi, weeds, insects, and rodents, all of which can damage crops and be detrimental to the farmer and the food supply.

It would be a mistake to assume that organic food is produced without any pesticide at all. There is a list of pesticides approved by the USDA  which are made from natural sources and not synthetic.  Organic farming restricts the use of genetic engineering farming practices. Genetic engineering is in part responsible for weeds resistant to herbicides and pesticides which then require more frequent use of pesticides to fight the infestation.  Despite the use of approved naturally derived pesticides, evidence still supports choosing organic to reduce pesticide residue ingestion. 

The Environmental Working Group reports 

“ A study, published journal Environmental Research, found that an organic diet can reduce the levels of chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide that can harm the brain of the developing fetus; malathion, a pesticide classified as a probable human carcinogen; and clothianidin, a neonicotinoid pesticide that can harm bees.”

“scientists at the University of Washington found that people who report they often or always buy organic produce had significantly lower quantities of organophosphate insecticides in their urine samples. This was true even though they reported eating 70 percent more servings of fruits and vegetables per day than adults who reported they rarely or never purchase organic produce.”

Know Where Your Food is Coming From

Choosing organic produce isn’t the only way to reduce the ingestion of pesticides in your food. Knowing your farmer and their practices also helps. It serves to reason that the larger the farm whether organic or conventional, the greater the battle against farmland pests and the greater the need for pesticide use. This is a good reason to support small farmers who go beyond requirements and apply less pesticide with less frequency. 

Athletes are outside, huffing and puffing through our beautiful environment. It also services The more toxic chemicals put in our land, water, and air, the more likely we are to ingest them. Minimize exposure of agricultural chemicals to our planet and or bodies i

Pesticides enter the body through inhalation,  drinking, eating, and skin contact. While groups like the Environmental Protection Agency, World Health Organization, and the  Food and Agriculture Organization analyze and evaluate the hazards, risks, and tolerances to exposure to each pesticide used, research is lacking as to the total “body burden” and cumulative exposure. Each person is uniquely exposed to a variety of different chemicals making research to the total impact difficult if not impossible.

This is why experts recommend reducing exposure to pesticide residue the best you can. Choosing organic foods is one of the most effective ways to reduce your exposure to potentially harmful pesticide residues (1), which is important, as science has yet to fully understand how low-level pesticide exposure can trigger subtle changes in health (especially during pregnancy and childhood) .

Use of the “Precautionary Principle in and Evidence-Based World”   

The Precautionary Principle is simple to understand. It means taking preventive action when uncertainty exists. Consider wrapping your ankle to prevent a sprain or wearing a helmet in case you hit your head. While some exposure to isolated pesticides in small amounts may not have an impact on health or performance,  uncertainty remains about what amount of total exposure any individual’s body can take.  Certainty may never come so why not practice precaution when the choice is there.

Where to start?

Shoppers Guide to the Clean Fifteen  and The Dirty Dozen


  1. Marcin Baran´ski1, Dominika S´rednicka-Tober1, Nikolaos Volakakis1, Chris Seal2, Roy Sanderson3, Gavin B. Stewart1, Charles Benbrook4, Bruno Biavati5, Emilia Markellou6, Charilaos Giotis7,Joanna Gromadzka-Ostrowska8, Ewa Rembiałkowska8, Krystyna Skwarło-Son´ ta9, Raija Tahvonen10,Dagmar Janovska´11, Urs Niggli12, Philippe Nicot13 and Carlo Leifer. Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. Br J Nutr. 2014 Sep;112(5):794-811.
  2. Kesse-Guyot E, Pe´neau S, Me´jean C, Szabo de Edelenyi F, Galan P, et al. (2013) Profiles of Organic Food Consumers in a Large Sample of French Adults: Results from the Nutrinet-Sante´ Cohort Study. PLoS ONE 8(10): e76998. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076998.
  3. American Academy of Pediatrics, Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition and Council on Environmental Health, 2012; e1406 -e1415. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-2579. Available at
  4. C.L. Curl et al., Estimating Pesticide Exposure from Dietary Intake and Organic Food Choices: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Environmental Health Perspectives, 2015. Available at

Create a Running Race Day Fueling Plan

After running my first race since knee surgery over a year ago , Canyons 26 km, I was reminded how many people out there want to know more about fueling during their races and adventures.

The other day I asked my very competitve ultra running friend if he knew how many grams of carbohydrate per hour would help him to perform to the level of us training. GUESS what he said? NO

Now if he had felt great every single run and recovered well after each one for the past ten years without knowing this information, I wouldn’t have hassled him. BUT he often complains of strong starts, low energy mid race, and slow recovery. So – it was time for an intervention.

All it took was walking him through this simple guide and making some intentional adjustments to type and timing of his race day fuel.

You can receive your free guide below. Set aside some time to get intentional with your fueling choices so you too can perform to the level of your fitness and most importantly enjoy your time out there to the max!


I am an advocate for proper fueling because time and time again, it makes a difference in the sufferfest to fun ratio in favor of more fun

If you are someone who wants more time exploring the outdoors and less time limited by a struggles with food, take the next step in making food your wingman in adventures big and small!

I have a few options for creating race day fueling plans that will help people stay outside and be active for longer:)

Nutrition matters! So feed your adventures!

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms

Mother’s day, like holidays and birthdays, are fraught with expectations on all sides. Mother’s who have martyred themselves their whole lives expect to be made to feel extra loved today (of all days) when what would have been more appropriate is for those mother’s to have not sacrificed their own needs only to now have unrealistic expectations of their loved ones for this day. No one wins. Showing mothers love, kindness, and respect all year would be better for everyone.

My greatest adventure, challenge, and reward is being a mother. How I became a mother was far from the normal baby-arrival preparations. Like all mothers whose babies arrive early or with complications that send them to the NICU there is an eyes-wide-open moment when you are faced with how vulnerable we all are. The gift of becoming a mother to a baby born too early is that you will never take even the simplest of moments for granted. My 26-weeker just passed his eye exam at the DMV while applying for a driver’s permit. My heart is full.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mother’s I know. Once upon a time when I was surfing the web for some preemie-mom support I found this below. Enjoy!

The Special Mother

-Adapted from
Erma Bombeck
Motherhood The Second Oldest Profession

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit. This year thousands of mothers will give birth to a premature baby. Did you ever wonder how mothers of preemies are chosen?

Somehow, I visualize God hovering over Earth selecting His instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As He observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger.

“Armstrong, Beth, son. Patron saint, Matthew.
“Forest, Majorie, daughter. Patron saint, Ceceila.
“Rutledge, Carrie, twins. Patron saint… give her Gerard. He’s used to profanity.

Finally, He passes a name to an angel and smiles, “Give her a premature baby.”
The angel is curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy.”

“Exactly, “ smiles God. “Could I give a premature baby a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.”

“But does she have patience?” asks the angel.
“I don’t want her to have too much patience, or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she’ll handle it.

“I watched her today. She has that sense of self and independence that are so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I’m going to give her has his own world. She has to make it live in her world and that’s not going to be easy.”

“But, Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.”
God smiles, “No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness.”

The angel gasps, “Selfishness? Is that a virtue?”
God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she’ll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child who comes in a less than perfect way. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she is to be envied.

“She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says ‘Mommy’ for the first time, she will be witness to a miracle and know it. When her child sees green grass or fall colors with perfect vision she will know that it is nothing less than amazing. When she describes a tree or a sunset to her blind child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations.

“I will permit her to see clearly the things I see – ignorance, cruelty, prejudice – and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.”

“And what about her patron saint?” asks the angel, the pen poised in mid-air.

God smiles. “A mirror will suffice.”

Enjoy this day and every day on this note:

There are two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as if everything is.

-Albert Einstein (fellow preemie)

Fabulous, Fit, and Whole Women Everywhere

I was enjoying breakfast and some quality “girl time” with a few friends after our Saturday morning run when the conversation took a turn to body and diet—and the foods that seem to exist only to sabotage both. These conversations do little for anyone’s self-esteem and fall short of supporting the whole-body approach to wellness, which starts by feeling good in your own skin.

I sat back, listening to my friends bash their strong, fit, and truly feminine selves and realizing with sadness that not one of these intelligent and beautiful women was completely happy with her body despite the fact that it had just taken them on a beautiful trail run on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean. Each friend criticized her own body’s imperfections, obvious only to herself, as needing improvement. I visualized it as a poker game: “I’ll see your flat stomach with my curly hair and big thighs.” Each one not seeing the beauty in themselves and envying something another disliked.   

If the only way you think you will ever love your body is by changing it, think again. Wellness from the whole-body approach starts by accepting who you are right now, no apologies, and discovering who you are when all that obsession over food and body is stripped away. Because of years of conditioning by society’s image of beauty, this will not be a quick task. It will be a practice of acceptance, compassion, and gratitude.

Trust me. I have learned this both through studying and my own pitfalls. This is the way. Only when we are free of shame can we begin to stop looking at foods as cheating and let it be just eating. We can reset the relationship with food to one of nourishing what we want out of life instead of living for the next meal. Find something else to look forward other than food. Look for other solutions than food. Many set their schedules around meal time. Meal time is important but it doesn’t have to be the driver. Maybe gathering is the driver? Conversation? Celebration? all places food happes to be part of.

Approaching exercise and eating right from a place of acceptance in who you are is the first step and taking good care of yourself.  Don’t wait for a number on a scale to begin appreciating your body for what it capable is of doing like walking, running, reproducing, or breathing and swallowing at the same time (a highly underappreciated skill)!  Once you move beyond food and body image “overthink” so much time, energy, and space opens up for relationships, rest, hobbies, and noticing things outside your body more.

My morning running ladies in this story are all fit and nutrition savvy eaters. Everyone had strong beliefs around what they could and couldn’t eat: “I never eat butter, too much fat,”(Never butter! Not even a little bit?) “I feel so guilty when I eat pasta, so many carbs,” (Guilt over pasta? But it fuels your long runs?) It depresses me to hear women who generally have healthy habits most of the time  associate shame and guilt with their food choices. We all deserve the pleasures of good food and healthy eating. Once we realize this, we are better able to savor foods and associate feelings of delight and satisfaction with moderate portions of foods that satisfy us without eating more calories than the body needs. Enjoyment of  food that triggers shame leads to unnecessary restriction. When you treat yourself to an occasional pastry, take pleasure in each bite because you know it’s not a delicacy you choose often, especially if it is freshly baked from a favorite local bakery. 

At this point in our discussion, I make a suggestion: “Let’s erase the beauty standard and start fresh! Delete  all your fashion and fitness followings representing unrealistic, unhealthy notions of ideal beauty and perfect diets. Get rid of ideas of should and shouldn’t with food, and replace it with a more attainable and sustainable approach. Let’s set beauty standards that respect individuality and celebrate real, confident, and healthy women who exercise because it feels good, who eat whole and fresh because we enjoy it, and who eat cake when it best serves us. It’s one hundred percent right and not wrong to eat chocolate cake and ice cream without feeling guilty when you eat with a healthy dose of intention. You have too much good work to do to waste time with worry over the size of your jeans or a number on the scale.” The girls looked perplexed, as if this was an impossible goal. Then one friend spoke, “You know, we’d probably all be a lot happier.” 

Adopting new standards and accepting yourself today will pay off immediately. In the short term, you will have more time for what is really important in life and less time to worry about never achieving some distorted standard. And ultimately, you will have more confidence and feel better about yourself most days. 

But don’t expect the outlook to change overnight. Tomorrow an airbrushed visual will  cross your feed and tempt you into feeling bad. Delete it. It isn’t even real. Don’t hold yourself to standards set by the latest beauty app. Do take steps to loving yourself, and over the long term, this road will lead to a happier, healthier you.

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Four Nutrition Tips for More Energy while Skiing and Riding Your Favorite Mountains

My family and I are fresh off of winter break or as we call it here in the mountains, Ski-Skate week! Really it should be Ski-Ride-Skate week. Or maybe it should be Ski-Skate-Skin-Ride-Glide week to encompass more of the activities we participate in all this week.

Whatever activity de jour is on the menu, to make it happen, especially on back-to-back days, we must be fully fueled

Here are tips for keeping your family fueled for fun and hopefully sans meltdowns for multiple days of winter activity in the mountains!

  1. Eat a Sustaining Breakfast

I get it. I am not much of a morning eater myself BUT I am an afternoon skier so breakfast is a must. Skipping breakfast is a day breaker! Start with something that will stick with you for the morning. My favorite option is a breakfast burrito which I can make the night before alongside making lunches. Load it up with scrambled eggs, cheese, spinach, and tomato. Other options are oatmeal topped with nuts, yogurt, and blueberries and bananas. Any fruit will do here. The key is getting a little bit of carb from grains and fruits and stacking it with protein (eggs, nuts, seeds) and kicking in some fiber (veggies, fruit whole grains) and a fat (olive oil, butter, nuts, seeds). This gives you the magic combo for carb, protein, fat, and fiber that will have you cruising through the morning.

2.Plan for hydration and have easy-to-access water

Staying hydrated makes all the difference for me at the higher altitudes. On the drive to the mountain drink about 32 ounces of a hydrating beverage. Beverages that hydrate you are ones with a small amount of sugar and sodium. I personally like Hydrant or Nuun. They help your body absorb and transport the fluid and start your day with a solid hydration base. Because winter is cold, thirst isn’t triggered like it is when its hot, you have to consciously drink. Fill your water bottle the night before and set it next to your car keys!

Carrying water that you can easily sip also makes a huge difference in my energy level on the mountain. . An insulated (so the water doesn’t freeze in the reservoir) hydration pack is a great option for bringing water along. I like to think of my brain and muscles as sponges. If they dry out they just don’t function as well as they could.

3. Load Your Pockets

Plan for mid-morning, portable snacks that can be stuffed in pockets to help prevent hunger and bonking before lunch. You can tuck almonds, energy bars, or dried fruit in your pockets for easy access. I personally love Trail Butter packets. They come in a variety of flavors and offer a sustaining combination of healthy fat, protein, and a small amount of sugar. Remember, sugar is the most efficient fuel source for your brain and muscles. Combining sugar with nutrients like fat and protein will slow the digestion of sugar and provide a slow release of energy perfect for ski-lift-repeat. If you are not locked into a noon lunch hour with everyone else, these snacks will help extend your skiing while lift lines are shorter and hit the lodge for lunch later.

4. Après recovery

When you have multiple winter play days in a row, recovery nutrition is a must. Your muscles have worked hard, depleted energy reserves, and broken down. To shorten recovery time get something with both protein and carbohydrate into your body right away. I keep a stash of recovery drinks, fruit, and protein bars in a tub in my care. Orgain protein drinks, while a bit pricey, are well worth the it. I have one-hundred percent noticed a difference in my kids’ mood and energy when they get 15-20 grams of protein immediately following their return to the car. I also noticed a clear difference in my ability to keep up with them!

Many people reach for a cold brew after skiing but I find this slows me down for the evening and the next day. I save the alcohol for later in the week and instead reach for an Athletic Brewing Company NA beer. It hits the spot for hydrating and IPA’ing without the lag I feel if I drink alcohol. Try it using a promotion code TARA20 for your first purchase on their website

Try one incorporating one of these five tips into your winter activity days and see what difference it makes for you!

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Six Nutritents to Pay Attention to When eating Mostly or All Plant-based

Year after year health agencies have stressed the health benefits of eating a diet high in plant-based goods. This advice is making its way into the minds of people who are looking not only to increase the amount of plants in their diets but also limit or remove animal products from their diet for compounding reasons of health, sustainability, and ethical reasons. For people who cut out animal products completely, there are several nutrients that need special attention.

While variety in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based protein sources can help ensure athletes are getting the nutrients they need, there are few nutrients either only found in animal-based foods or the more absorbable and digestible forms from the animal source. Vegetarian athletes should pay close attention to calcium, iron, B12, choline, vitamin D and zinc. I always recommend that competitive athletes, especially women, get their iron levels in their blood tested a couple times a year. Iron absorption can be increased by combining iron-rich foods with vitamin C rich foods.

  • Iron-rich foods: legumes, soy products, nuts, seeds, whole & enriched grains, certain dark-green leafy vegetables and dried fruits 
  • Calcium-rich  plant-based foods include dark-green leafy vegetables, calcium-fortified foods such as tofu, soymilk, almond milk, rice milk and orange juice; legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Vitamin B12 plant-based foods are few and far between but it is sometimes fortified foods in  foods like soymilk, cereal, meat substitutes
  • Zinc-rich  plant-based foods include: legumes, soy products, nuts, seeds, and whole grains
  • Vitamin D is commonly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” however, there are many factors that limit the amount the body can generate when exposed to sunshine. Fish, sea foods, eggs, and fortified milk are the primary sources of vitamin D. Portabella, white, crimini and maitake mushrooms are also sources of this vitamin.

Vitamin D and B12 are difficult to get enough of in vegetarian eating because they are found mainly in animal based foods. It is usually a good idea to get a simple blood test to determine your levels of vitamin D and B12 before supplementing. 

Creatine is an important compound involved in making gains in  muscle strength, short energy bursts, recovery, and increases in lean body mass. Because it is found in meat, vegetarians may also benefit from a supplemental form of creatine from a reputable sports nutrition company certified for sport.

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