Ready for Change

We're back and very excited to be in 2015 with big changes at the RFC with the addition of our beautiful new cardio and weight room!  Speaking of change, this week, Pam Cole discusses change - possibly the hardest part of implementing those new year's resolutions.

PamHappy New Year!  For many the New Year means new beginnings which also means change.  But change is hard.  We’ve all heard that before, yet still we’re surprised when confronted with the prospect of change and just how challenging it can be.

One of the reasons is that most of our daily activities are done on auto pilot.  In fact, research shows that 95% of our day consists of automatic behaviors and habits.  Only 5% of our day involves conscious actions and energy.  That’s the secret sauce.  Energy!  To create change – a new habit or behavior – you have to apply energy.  So change that requires constant energy is destined to fail.

Consider the following example.  The habit I wanted to establish last year was to have a healthy snack in the afternoon to prevent me from being so hungry that I devoured absolutely everything in sight when I got home!  I told myself that each night I would pack a snack for the next day.  That worked great for Monday and maybe into Tuesday, but by Wednesday I was already off track.  I needed a new strategy that didn’t require as much energy to make it a reality.

Here are some strategies I find helpful when confronting a change:

Start small.  A change that you are going to be confronted with several times throughout the day or week is going to be harder to realize as it will require constant energy.  I ask myself if there is a way to break the new goal into smaller pieces that can lead to the desired change over time.  One of the reasons change can be daunting is that we tend to look at the big picture of change.  Generally with large changes (restructuring of an organization, etc.) we are not responsible for the entirety of the change but only a portion or piece of it.  Focus on just that piece and when possible break the steps involved with the change into smaller portions.

Pair a new habit with an existing successful habitJanuary snacksBack to my example above. I realized that to make this change a reality, I needed first make sure to pack a snack and bring it with me – it wasn’t going to magically appear at 3:00! I do grocery shopping and fix dinner on Sunday night.  So to get this habit to become a reality I paired preparing my healthy snacks for the whole week on Sunday while fixing dinner.  Then I went one step farther and took the whole weeks’ worth of snacks with me to work on Monday and put them in my desk so that when other tasks throughout week demanded my energy, having a healthy snack didn't.

Change your mindset.  Have you ever found yourself listing all the possible things that could go wrong with a new procedure or way of doing things before trying it?  We, and others, rarely try to implement a change to make our situation worse.  When I find myself putting up roadblocks, I stop and instead begin listing some of the positive outcomes that could be a result of the change.  By eating a healthy snack I have more energy in the evening and I don’t have that uncomfortably full feeling when going to bed.

What are the consequences?  Considering changing your hairstyle? Or maybe the color of paint in a room.  If a change involves little risk why not just go for it!  Implement changes that have minor consequences to get comfortable with the idea of change.  In my case, there were some negative consequences to my not establishing this new habit (overeating, low energy, guilt, etc.) but no adverse consequences if the change was a success.

Do your research.  Not all changes are as easy as changing your hairstyle or paint color.  Often major changes like buying a house or changing jobs involve more risk.  Take time to research possible outcomes and then determine if the change still makes sense.  Can I live with the worst case scenario?

No change is final.  As they say, the only thing that stays the same is change.  I’ve found that sometimes even if the initial change isn’t a complete success, it might be laying the foundation or setting a pathway for where I want to go. Sometimes all that is needed is a few more tweaks and adjustments.  Don’t give up on the change too quickly.  You could be on the brink of something great!

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Hidden in Plain Sight

By now most of us are at least aware of the fact that too much sugar isn’t good for us.  Check out this video and learn why we might want to reduce our sugar intake and also where to find some of these hidden sources of sugar.

Besides the “not so sweet” foods mentioned in the video (pasta sauce, salad dressing, ketchup, breads), other “healthy” foods that tend to be high in added sugar include:

Yogurt/Greek Yogurt

Yogurt is probably one of the biggest sources of added sugar for those people that think they are eating healthy. Most “yogurts” in the grocery store are more like pudding than yogurt.  Some can have up to 30g of sugar per container.  Get plain yogurt and mix in your own fresh fruit.

Energy bars/granola bars

Most bars are some combo of whole grains, nuts, seeds, and sugar. Sugar content can range from 5g per bar to 25g per bar. You can always make your own bars, or just toss some nuts and seeds in a small reusable container and bring along a piece of fruit for an easy portable snack that will give you long lasting energy.


Cereal is another contributor to added sugar intake.  Many of the “healthy” cereals are loaded with sugar. Some granolas can have up to 30g of sugar per serving.  Choose plain rolled oats, unsweetened shredded wheat or make your own hot cereal out of any whole grain (quinoa, amaranth, etc.).

Added sugars have been all over the media lately. One study that has been getting a lot of attention is a large, prospective study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This study reported that adults with diets highest in added sugar had substantially higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to people with the lowest amounts.  Many other studies have concluded that there is definitely a significant relationship between added sugar and cardiovascular disease, arguing that a high sugar intake is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

So, remember, the goal is to cut down your refined sugar intake as much as possible. So make sure you choose real, whole foods as much as possible, and always read the ingredients in processed foods to find those hidden sugars.

Homemade Ketchup

Makes approximately 10 ounces

This quick and easy recipe is a great way to help reduce your refined sugar intake. For a more complex flavor check out this recipe for a longer more involved ketchup (but well worth the time).




1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup water or broth
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 Tablespoon onion powder
1/2 Tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch cayenne
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Place everything in a medium saucepan, mix well and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.   Store in refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 month.

Note: If you like your ketchup a little thinner simply add a little more water.


Nutrition Facts per Tablespoon: 10 calories, 0g fat, 65mg sodium, 2g carbohydrates (1g sugar), 0g protein


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Soft Drinks, Diet Sodas and Juices, Oh My!

Healthier Alternatives to Quench Your Thirst

water_openingWith research linking sugar to heart disease, diabetes and GI imbalances, many of us are trying to reduce or eliminate sugar. And to add salt (or sugar) to the wound, new studies are suggesting that some artificial sweeteners ALSO have negative health consequences.

When we look at the major sources of sugar and artificial sweeteners in our food supply, beverages like soft drinks, diet sodas and juices stand out as the biggest contributors for most Westerners. So, if we eliminate sugary and artificially sweetened beverages and juices, what’s left to drink?

With a little creativity and retraining of your taste buds, these 3 flavorful beverages can give you something to look forward to when it’s time to wet your whistle. And, bonus, each option offers health benefits.

Green and Black Tea


If you haven’t yet developed a taste for fresh brewed green or black tea, keep working on it. It’s worth the effort! Some health experts recommend drinking 3 – 4 cups of green and/or black tea daily and here’s why:

Green tea contains a phytonutrient called Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. EGCG is a catechin which is a natural and powerful antioxidant which prevents oxidative damage in our healthy cells. Research has shown EGCG provides anticancer and antitumor properties throughout our bodies. Green (and white) teas are highest in EGCG while black tea contains smaller amounts due to oxidation that occurs during processing which alters the EGCG.

Black tea is high in an amino acid called L-Theonine. L-Theonine has been shown in some studies to reduce the body’s response to stress both physically and psychologically. In addition, studies found that tea drinkers experienced a more relaxed mental state in spite of the caffeine found in the tea. If caffeine is particularly a problem for you, a decaf version that uses a chemical-free, super critical carbon dioxide (CO2) decaffeination process can offer similar health benefits.

Be sure to skip the processed or bottled versions of tea and brew your own (we’re talking 1 - 3 minutes here). Train yourself to enjoy it without added sweeteners. If you require a touch of sweetness in your learning curve, add a couple of drops of honey, maple syrup or whole leaf stevia.

Flavored Herbal Teas


If regular tea doesn’t float your boat, give flavored herbal teas a try. Most herbal teas are caffeine free which is a good option for those wanting to avoid caffeine.

You can find a variety of flavors to suit any taste buds like:

  • fruit: blueberry, apple, pomegranate, raspberry, orange
  • sweet and spicy: peppermint, cinnamon, mint
  • savory: ginger

Some of the sweet and spicy varieties are amazingly sweet without added sugar or artificial ingredients. One of my favorites is Good Earth® Sweet and Spicy Caffeine Free Herbal Tea.

Fruit Infused Waters

Infused waters have become a popular commodity for folks trying to lower their sugar intake but who struggle with the mundaneness of plain water. They are a simple, healthy way to personalize your water to the flavors you love.

Check out this video to learn how you can add pleasure to plain water.

You can use fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables like these to create endless flavor combinations:


Pair them with these complimentary spices and herbs for an extra kick of flavor:


Here are some flavor combinations that work well together:


Try this simple recipe to get started then change out the fruit and herbs as desired.

Blackberry, Pineapple and Mint Infused Water

6 cups ice
1 ½ cups unsweetened blackberries, fresh or frozen
1 ½ cups unsweetened pineapple, fresh or frozen
8 fresh mint leaves
1 ½ - 2 quarts filtered or sparkling water


  1. Pour the ice into a pitcher.
  2. Add the fruit to the pitcher and tamp the fruit with a spoon to release the juices.
  3. Scrunch the mint leaves between your fingers to release the oils and add them to the pitcher.
  4. Fill the pitcher with filtered or sparkling water.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for 3-12 hours.
  6. Fill your water bottles and enjoy your flavored water all day.

Chef’s Note: You can also make flavored water in individual pint-sized jars.


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Happy Holidays from the RFC

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2014 Holiday Card Small

The RFC is closed during winter break, but don’t miss out on a chance to burn a few of those extra holiday calories with the RFC’s 12 Days of Fitness Workout by Pam Cole!  Please check with your health care provider prior to starting a new exercise routine.

Photos by Edie Henninger.

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Sweet Season for Giving


We want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who donated their leftover (and excess) Halloween candy this year, you outdid yourselves!! We tipped the scales at more than 265 pounds of candy- 45 more pounds than we collected last year!

So what happened to ALL that candy? Well, we are happy to report that we were able to donate the candy to NCPacks4Patriots. The candy, along with other items such as holiday decorations, games, food, toiletries, and more will be distributed to our deserving service men and women, both local and deployed.

SAS is a Hero

CandyBoxesKeith Stallings from NCPacks4Patriots happily picked up 12 boxes of candy…yes, 12! deliver to NC Packs4Patriots. Keith later told us:

“Your generous donation saved the day! NCPacks4Patriots has received very little candy from Halloween donations this year, and the 265 lbs you donated were a welcome sight and a big hit.

We stuffed 510 stockings for military personnel stationed overseas. These particular stockings will be distributed to the crews of the USS George Washington and USS Carl Vinson, two aircraft carriers. 510 stockings for over 10,000 sailors might not sound like much, but it’s a big deal when it’s combined with the donations from other organizations. Plus, the sailors who get the stockings will share them with their teams! Trust me- you touched a lot of lives with your donation.

Thanks again for helping NCPacks4Patriots bring a smile to so many of our military personnel who will be away from home during the holidays.”


And there’s more good news! Less than half of the candy was used to create the stockings, so your donation is going to touch many, many more lives.

Once again, the SAS family has displayed a kindness that is very appropriate for the holiday season. Thank you for putting your candy to a good cause; Treats for Trade was yet again a huge success!!

Sugar Cookie Foot Scrub
Makes ½ pint
Recipe from:


Having a hard time figuring out what to get the people in your life that have everything? How about a DIY Foot Scrub that smells just like sugar cookies?!

This unique and thoughtful gift can be whipped up in minutes with just a few pantry staples. Pair it with some warm, fuzzy socks and you’ve got the perfect gift set! The holidays can be a stressful time, so be sure to save a little for yourself- your feet will thank you later!



2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1 half pint glass jar
Ribbon or baker’s twine


1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk sugars until completely combined.


2. Add olive oil and vanilla extract and mash together with a fork until all of the oil is combined into the sugars.


3. Pack mixture into glass jar.


4. Tie a decorative bow around the mouth of the jar with festive ribbon or baker’s twine. Create your own label or use this printable version. Adhere label to front of jar and/or lid.


5. Give as a gift or enjoy yourself! Stored in a cool, dry place, this scrub should last several months.

Notes: I placed a piece of clear packing tape on top of the label to adhere it to the jar. This will help make it more “water resistant” and help the label stay on the jar better.

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Holiday Nachos

What Kind of Holidays Do You Want?

Do you like your holiday filled with lots of parties or do you prefer a quiet walk in the woods with a friend? Do you love bumping elbows with thousands of shoppers at the mall or relaxing at home with family?

These are good questions because what’s good for one may not be good for another.

KindofHolidayYouWant_122014This little exercise has been around a long time. It’s one of my favorite thought provokers this time of year as I've learned over the decades that holiday hopes and expectations can be very different from one person to the next. Take time this season to determine how you would like to spend your time and share this activity with family members so that everyone understands each other’s expectations. This can create balance in your household and hopefully tone down some holiday tension.

Click image above for a printable version.


Holiday Nachos
Makes 8 servings
Adapted from: Addictive & Healthy Paleo Nachos by Rebecca Bohl


Since holiday menus are often heavy on the carbs, lighten your load this season with these colorful, lower carb nachos that will set off a sprinkler system in your mouth.

These nachos are perfect for holiday parties, family gatherings and, of course, Super Bowl XLIX! You can make the chips and meat topping ahead of time and reheat when needed. (See Chef’s Notes on how to "Refresh" the sweet potato chips.) The homemade sweet potato chips add a noticeable freshness so I highly recommend taking the effort to make them but if you’re in a real time crunch you can use high quality packaged sweet potato chips.

Personalize the spiciness by changing up the canned tomatoes and type of chili pepper you choose. I like mine mild so I used fire roasted canned tomatoes, a Poblano pepper and a little less cumin. YUM!!!

Ingredients for the sweet potato chips:


3 medium sweet potatoes
3 Tbsp melted coconut oil or olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Instructions for the sweet potatoes:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Peel the sweet potatoes and slice thinly, using either a mandolin or sharp knife (use the thinness slicer blade on your mandolin).


3. In a large bowl, toss sweet potato slices with coconut oil or olive oil.

4. Place the chips in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt.


5. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then flip the chips over and bake for another 10 minutes.

6. For the last ten minutes, watch the chips closely and pull off any chips that start to brown, until all of the chips are cooked.

Chef’s Notes About the Chips:

1. It can be tricky to get these chips crisp without burning them. If you find your chips burning, you can lower the oven temperature to 350 and cook them a little longer.

2. Refreshing Day-Old Chips

These chips can become limp after a few hours or overnight, so if you have leftovers, place them in a freezer-strength zip top bag and “refresh” them, if needed, the next time you eat them.

To refresh, place the chips on a baking sheet and put them into a preheated 325 degree F oven for about 5 – 8 minutes. This takes the moisture out and crisps them up beautifully. Watch them closely so they won’t burn. They will become a little darker than before but they are still delicious!

Ingredients for the meat:


1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 green chili, diced
1 lb. 90/10 lean ground beef (preferably grass fed)
1- 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp tomato paste
12 oz. canned diced tomatoes (spicy or mild) - drained
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Instructions for the meat:

7. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and chili pepper to the pan and sauté for 3-4 minutes until softened.


8. Add the ground beef and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly.


9. Add the garlic, diced canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and remaining spices and stir well to combine.



10. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring regularly.

Ingredients for the garnish:


3 Roma tomatoes, diced and seeded
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1-2 Tbsp lime juice
1-2 fresh avocados, chopped
2 Tbsp green onions, chopped

Instructions for the garnish:

11. Stir the chopped tomatoes, lime juice, and cilantro into the beef mixture.


12. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

13. To assemble the nachos, form a large circle with the sweet potato chips on a platter. Add the beef mixture into the middle of the circle, and then top with fresh avocado and green onions.


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Tis the season to D.R.E.A.M.

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Happy December!  Meet Cheryl Wheelock, Program Coordinator at the Recreation and Fitness Center and this week's contributor to Inspirations. Cheryl has worked in fitness for 17 years and joined the SAS RFC team two years ago.  In addition to teaching group exercise, she is a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine and  is a Registered Yoga Teacher.  When she's not teaching fitness and wellness at SAS, she's is out and about with her husband, two daughters and black lab or miles away pedaling her road bike.

Did you know???

  • The largest gingerbread man in the world is Gingerbread House ALP 2013a dieter’s nightmare, weighing in at a whopping 466 pounds, six ounces.  The Gingerbread House, in Rochester, Minnesota, baked the giant cookie on February 21, 2006.
  • An average of 5,800 people end up in the ER after suffering injuries from holiday decorating.
  • Dreaming of a green Christmas? Household waste increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. In the United States, trash from wrapping paper and shopping bags totals 4 million tons.


As 2014 quickly comes to a close, and the holiday season is upon us, it is both a magical and busy time of year. Spending time with family and friends near and far, watching the sparkle in our children’s eyes, indulging in delicious food and drink, getting cozy in the warmth of a fireplace, and the possibility of snow… It’s easy to see how we can get swept away in the magic. Yet, for some of us, the holiday season can also bring moments of stress and anxiety.  How will we possibly find time around work schedules and daily routines to tackle the necessary prep and planning, gift giving, cooking, cleaning, and decorating?  The list goes on and on. We can easily become overwhelmed and the magic quickly dissolves. Knowing these feelings are inevitable, I sit and ask myself, how I can avoid the the stress and truly experience the joy of the holiday season?


Delegate: I have learned that it is perfectly acceptable to ask for help from family and friends. You and I don’t have to do everything and they want to help.  Some of our greatest and most joyful memories are created in the process of sharing responsibilities with others.  Take a moment now to fill in the blank for yourself:  “Remember that time when….?”

Realistic: Yes, there is a plan in place, but recognizing that things will most likely not turn out exactly as you planned.  Accepting that things will happen and being OK with that, is freeing.

Expectations: Opening the mind to accept change and new traditions. In many cases we’re mixing 2 or more families with traditions of their own.  Rather than thinking negatively and/or stressing about how to combine all these traditions, it’s a way of refreshing what has always been.

Acknowledge: Know when to step away. Take a break.  Breathe.  Put your feet up and rest. Taking some personal time to unwind walking, reading, listening to music, or maybe even treating yourself to a massage can help you reset, relax, and enjoy the….

......Moments:  Enjoy and hold on to each and every one….because this is where the magic lives.

holiday wish

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The A to Zzz's of Sleep

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With Turkey Day coming up in a couple days, one thing I know I'm looking forward to is help from my parents, so my husband and I can catch up on some much needed sleep....oh the joys of being parents of little guys!  This week, I'm pleased to introduce Brittany Skillman, Senior Recreation and Fitness Program Coordinator and mother of two sweet little ones and sleepless nights as well.  A chronic lack of sleep is not just for parents of young children!  According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), "it is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting health and longevity." 

 And now, The A to Zzz's of Sleep from Brittany:

Brittany Skillman

I’m literally yawning as I write this. And no, not because it’s boring, but because I, like many others, am sleep deprived. As a mom of two young kids, one of whom hates to sleep, I feel I am in a constant state of fatigue.  Yet here I am writing about sleep. Consequently, I’m also dreaming about and longing for it! While I know my situation is temporary, for many, sleep is an on-going battle. Whether you’re a night-owl by nature, lover of the snooze button or wild dreamer, we all have two things in common when it comes to sleep – we all do it and likely don’t get enough of it.

Besides knowing we need to sleep, we don’t necessarily realize all of the benefits sleep provides.  Our mental and physical health are linked to quality sleep (more on the quality part in a bit).  Regarding our physical health, ongoing deficient sleep has been linked with an increased risk for heart disease, kidney disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and stroke. Our immune system also relies on sleep to stay healthy. From a mental and emotional standpoint, our brains don’t work properly if we are sleep deprived. That much should be obvious. Think about how you feel after a night of poor sleep—sluggish, moody, irritable, to name a few of the nicer things. We can struggle to concentrate, cope, problem solve, communicate well, and even learn. Essentially every body system and function is impacted by our shut-eye time.  Have I convinced you yet that you need to sleep more?! Great! Now, we need to understand that when it comes to sleep, quality and quantity matter.

On average, Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep each night; however, most of us actually need between 7.5 and 9 hours for optimal functioning and performance. But just because you rocked out 10 hours Saturday night while your kids slept at Grandma’s, doesn’t mean you’re all caught up either. We repay our “sleep debt” over time, not all at once. And throwing in an occasional sleep binge might throw us off even more, as it interferes with our circadian, or body’s, rhythm. One thing we know for sure is that not all sleep is created equal. Sleep happens in stages throughout the night and we cycle through each stage several times. When we are awakened will determine how rested (or not) we feel the next day.  Ensuring we get into all stages of sleep (light sleep, deep/restorative and REM/dream sleep) is key. So let’s talk about ways to help you (and me) get better, and more, sleep.

  1. Make it a priorityscreen-shot-169x300

Sleep is often one of the first things we forego in our never-ending attempt to do it all. We stay up late to finish working and wake up early to cross more off our to-do lists. Think about what we might accomplish, and how amazing we’d feel, if we had gotten that extra hour of sleep and been refreshed and energized to tackle our day. Give yourself a bedtime. We do it for our kids for this same reason—so they’re not a ‘cranky pants’ the next day. Do yourself that same favor.


  1. Limit caffeine

I know, I know; it sounds counter-intuitive. But that 4pm triple latte stays with you and can make falling asleep that much harder. Needing caffeine and needing sleep make for a vicious cycle.  After a few days without your constant flow of caffeine, you’ll adjust. While you’re at it, drink more water so you’re better hydrated and give yourself some natural energy!


  1. Exercise

For those without serious sleep issues (such as insomnia and sleep apnea), exercise and sleep go hand-in-hand. You exercise to fatigue your body and mind and then sleep more soundly at night. And for those who exercise a lot or withExercise greater intensity, sleep becomes that much more crucial for your body to recover so that you can kill that next workout. However, for those who struggle with underlying sleep disorders, exercising doesn't always help sleep in the short-term. It often takes making it a habit for a few months in order to reap the sleep benefits. Why? Research is still working on that one...  What we do know though, is that habitual exercise is good for our minds, bodies and our ability to sleep better (eventually).  So come see us at the RFC for a class, swim or workout session. We’re good at tiring people out!


  1. Chill out

Our typical go, go, go mentality can make it hard to turn off our brains at night. Taking time to unwind at the end of each day can do wonders for helping you fall asleep and stay asleep. Try reading a book instead of watching TV, meditating for a few minutes instead of playing on your iPad or even doing a few gentle stretches (see Amanda’s Relax with Yoga this holiday season post). Reducing sensory input cues our brains to slow down, which makes it easier to relax.


I hope you’re able to implement these tricks and will “sleep like a baby” tonight. (Side note: I much prefer the phrase “sleep like a husband” because mine is the soundest of them all. My baby, not so much!) So until next time, good night.


Personal Training Coordinator, Brittany Skillman has worked in the RFC at SAS for 8 years.  She holds degrees in both Exercise and Sport Science and Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds multiple professional certifications. A Raleigh native, Brittany spends her free time with her family, including husband and fellow SAS employee, Shawn, daughter Tatum and son Penn. 


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Cream of Something...Or Other


When I think of Cream of Something Soups, I immediately envision iconic 1950s ads of creamy casseroles made by happy, smiling home cooks in aprons and pearls. My second thought then quickly turns to: what are those cream of...something or other...soups really made of?!

The answer:

This is the why I have avoided any recipe that includes "cream of" in the ingredient list for years. However, I have now discovered that you can easily make your own Cream of Something Soup at home with just 7 ingredients- all of which you can recognize and pronounce!

To make Cream of Mushroom Soup, follow this simple recipe:


The beauty of making homemade cream of something soups is you can control the ingredients. Once you get a hang of the base recipe, you can make Cream of Just About Anything Soup by swapping out ½ cup of whatever main ingredient you need: cooked chicken, mushrooms, celery, asparagus, etc.

Can’t consume gluten? No worries, simply substitute cornstarch for flour. Use this table as a guide for modifying the original soup base to meet your dietary needs.

Soup Base Substitutions

No "Cream Of" Green Bean Casserole
Makes 6 Servings


Try this fresh twist on the classic green bean casserole at your next family gathering using your own cream of mushroom soup and homemade french “fried” onion topping.


3 cans (14.5oz each) green beans, no added salt, drained*
1 batch of homemade "cream of" mushroom soup (see recipe above)

French "Fried" Topping:
1 ½ onions, thinly sliced into rings
¼ cup flour
2 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
Salt, to taste


  1. For the topping, preheat oven to 475°F. Combine onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl. Toss to combine.
  2. Cover a sheet pan with foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Evenly spread onions on the pan in a single layer. Place pan in oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Toss onions 2-3 times during cooking. Remove from oven when done and set aside.
  3. Turn oven down to 350°F. Combine "cream of" mushroom soup, green beans, and half of the cooked onions.
  4. Pour into a casserole or glass baking dish.
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly. Top with remaining half of onions the last 5 minutes.


*If you choose to use fresh green beans, first blanch them for 5 minutes in boiling water.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories: 160, Total Fat: 8gm, Saturated Fat: 5gm, Cholesterol: 20mg, Sodium: 300mg, Carbs: 18gm, Fiber: 4gm, Protein: 5gm

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Feed Your Skin

When we think of acne, we typically think of teenagers and raging hormones. However, there has been an upsurge of adult acne over the last 50 years. Why, you ask? Well, one probable cause is changes to our food supply and dietary habits.

Nutritional voids and dietary excess can have a significant impact on the degree of acne a person experiences. Research has proven time and time again that there are strong causal connections between certain kinds of food and acne. Inflammation, oxidative stress, hormonal imbalance and spikes in blood sugar fan the flames of acne. Some foods promote these processes while others suppress and regulate them.

The Clear Skin Diet

The Clear Skin Diet by Drs. Logan and Treloar summarizes current research on acne and ways to protect the skin through diet and lifestyle. The 4 main principles of the Clear Skin Diet are sleep, relaxation response, exercise and diet.

Clear Skin Diet Action Plan_compressed

*Click the image above to view larger.

Acne-Friendly Foods

Michael Pollan pretty much hit the nail on the head with his advice to: "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants." If you can follow this mantra, you’ll be well on your way to consuming an acne-friendly diet. To help lessen the severity of acne, incorporate the following foods into your diet:

  • Produce: aim for a minimum of 5 servings of deeply colored fruits and vegetables daily. Studies show acne patients are less frequent consumers of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables. More color equals more antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals- all of which help fight inflammation and, in turn, acne!
  • Protein: choose fish (especially oily wild caught and small fish), lean meat and poultry (preferably grass-fed or free range; consider limiting red meat to once a week), eggs (from free range, cage-free chickens which produce eggs with higher omega-3 content), and soy in moderation (choose non-GMO products).
  • Carbohydrates: opt for whole grains like quinoa, bulgar, barley or brown rice. Breads and pastas should be limited and enjoyed in their whole grain form.
  • Fats/Oil: reach for extra virgin olive oil, canola oil or omega-3 rich oils like flaxseed or walnut.
  • Herbs and Spices: try adding ginger, turmeric and cinnamon to your recipes.
  • Nuts: experiment with different types and be cautious of potential allergies, exacerbation of acne and indigestibility. This is very individualized. Some nuts may actually cause breakouts while others have no effect. Also consider the way nuts are prepared. For example, peanuts in their natural shell may be okay while prepackaged versions fried in vegetables oils may be a problem.
  • Beverages: green tea (the real thing, not the sugar laden, ready-to-drink bottled varieties), tomato juice, 100% vegetable juices and water.

Check out this Clear Skin Diet Foods List for suggested foods to include, limit and exclude as well as a shopping list. Experiment with a wide variety of foods! You may find that certain foods on the okay list are absolute acne aggravators for you and need to be moved to the Foods to Exclude category.

Clear Skin Prescription

saladLess processed foods

More colorful antioxidants

Greater intake of omega-3 fatty acids

Increased consumption of fiber

More lower glycemic foods that won’t spike blood sugars


Okra and Brown Rice with Salmon
Recipe Adapted from: The Clear Skin Diet by Drs. Logan and Treloar
Makes 4 Servings


3 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp tomato paste
20 pieces fresh okra, caps removed, sliced into 1-inch rounds
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup brown rice, dry
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 large tomato, diced
4 salmon fillets, cooked (4oz each)*


1. In a saucepan, heat water, oil and tomato paste over medium heat.

2. Add okra, salt, and pepper and sauté 5-7 minutes or until okra begins to caramelize.

3. Cook rice according to package directions.

4. Flake cooked salmon with a fork into small pieces.

5. Once rice is done, stir in okra mixture, basil and diced tomato and mix well.


6. Stir in flaked salmon.


*Choose wild caught Pacific salmon when possible as opposed to farmed salmon. Wild caught salmon is higher in omega-3 fatty acids. For a time-saver, you can use canned wild caught salmon instead of fillets.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories: 420, Total Fat: 13gm, Saturated Fat: 2gm, Cholesterol: 70mg, Sodium: 460mg, Carbs: 42gm, Fiber: 5gm, Protein: 34gm

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