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Into the Danger Zone: How to travel with food and not be arrested!

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

As I began writing this, I was on yet another flight, headed to yet another location and tomorrow I’ll be back at the airport. Since 2004 when I started my consulting and training business, I’ve spent at least 200 days a year on the road. I have traveled around the world and provided training in multiple locations throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. I have had many people tell me that I have their dream job; this lifestyle is so “glamorous” and that I’m incredibly lucky.

I love to travel. I love to teach.  I’ve seen some phenomenal things and met some amazing individuals. In those regards, people are correct. I’m lucky.

I also see in my newsfeed, though, comments like “I haven’t seen my husband in 11 days.” “I haven’t been home in two weeks.” That is a routine schedule for me, nothing out of the ordinary at all. When I AM home for 11 days in a row that is news! I don’t go home at the end of the day when I’m done working. I spend a lot of time surrounded by people yet all alone. I spend a lot of time driving. I spend a lot of time flying and running through airports. I have been known, due to flight delays and cancellations, to sleep for 30-60 minutes in my car in the parking lot prior to teaching all day. I’ve slept in more than one airport. Trust me when I say, it’s really not “glamorous”. I’m not on vacation and most people would not want to do this if they knew what it actually entailed. I hear people say, “I love to travel but I love to get home and sleep in my own bed.” To be honest, the Hilton bed feels more like “my bed” than the one I have at home.

I’m not sharing all of this so that you will feel bad for me. I own the company. I am doing this 560126_3460823671844_576210077_n-2by choice – in theory at least, but that’s another story. I am sharing it to make the point that I’m somewhat of a travel “expert”. I, though, like many of you also have fitness goals I am trying to attain. It’s competition season and all of this travel makes preparation quite complicated, if not downright difficult. The choice to compete is also a personal one. I’m not asking for sympathy. I’m just saying it’s not easy. It’s not for any of us.

Travel never is. In fact, it’s something I get a lot of nutritional questions about.   Many of my clients do fantastic as long as they are in their typical environment, with a set schedule. Going out to eat or traveling is when they start having problems. That’s when many panic or just give up. I hear things like, “Oh no, we’re going out to dinner. This is going to be a disaster!” “I’m traveling for the next two weeks. It’s going to be really hard to eat nutritiously and there is no way I can exercise.” “What do you have for ideas of healthy choices that don’t need to be refrigerated or warmed up?”


I’m not talking about going on vacation, kicking back for a while, and enjoying yourself. If you’re doing that, relax!!! Have desert. Get a drink, or two. Try the local cuisine. Don’t worry about it.  I’m just saying, don’t use travel, or going out to eat, business meetings, office events, or anything else as an excuse to “have to” eat poorly. You never have to. You are a grown person. You are in charge of your decisions. Own them.

Be mindful of what you’re putting in your mouth. Don’t obsess over it. You don’t have to count every calorie or worry about every tiny morsel, if you’re not preparing for a competition. You do need to be aware that your choices (including food, water, sleep, and exercise) do have an impact on you, though, and it’s not merely physical.


I realize that I am neither typical nor “normal”, and that’s okay. You can say that I’m crazy. Lots of people that I love, do. Though my niece says I’m, “just a little eccentric” and I prefer that 🙂  If nothing else, maybe this post with make you laugh.

If I’m not on vacation, traveling requires a little bit of forethought and planning. With time and travel, I simply can’t always pop into a local restaurant for something to eat. Believe it if you want to, but there are not a lot of options in some of these very rural places, especially late at night!!

I never check a bag so all of my food has to be carry-on approved. I have been stopped very, very few times by TSA, but I make sure that I am following the rules. I do not carry liquids or creams – that means no peanut butter, cottage cheese, or yogurt. Knives are not allowed!!! Forks may be frowned upon on international flights too (both Spain and Italy had issues with my fork).

As an aside, TSA also frowns upon metal dumbbells in your luggage. Evidently a 10-pound weight “makes a very good bludgeoning tool”. They will question weighted handle jump ropes (which might look like “dynamite”…..I’m not sure who carries that on the plane, but, okay….) but you are allowed to have them so long as you explain, “what you plan to do with them.”


I.  Plan ahead. If I am going to be on the road for 5-7 days, I bring most of my food with me. If it’s longer than 7 days, I will need to make arrangements to restock my cooler at some point.  The food is pre-cooked and partitioned out into servingIMG_9638s. I have a food sealer that I use because it makes the food flat, and I don’t have to worry about leakage. I carry a pair of nail clippers to open the packages.

II.  Lean protein is typically the hardest thing to find on the road. My go-to options include pre-cooked chicken/turkey breast, ground meats, or meatloaf. Know that you can make just about anything into a pancake or muffin. I make egg white and veggie muffins, mini loaves from eggs and oatmeal; and these minced broccoli, tuna, and egg white concoctions. They freeze, they’re easy to pack, and they’re easy to eat even if I’m on the road.

Craziest TSA moment: There are two when it comes to protein. (1) I bought a couple pound turkey breast somewhere in my travels but didn’t end up eating it so I was carrying it home. TSA said that because it showed as a solid mass on the screen, it looked suspicious and “almost like plastic explosive”. Fair enough J (2) I was traveling through a very rural part of Montana one year right after Easter. The grocery store was selling colored, hard-boiled eggs on clearance so I picked up a dozen. I probably had 6-8 in my carry on. Those, evidently, “look a little like hand grenades.” It does appear evident to me that given this input, perhaps I should be a little concerned about all of this travel!!!

If I am near a grocery store, I will grab some tuna or salmon packets (not cans unless I can find them with pull tops). I sometimes also pick up a whole rotisserie chicken from the deli and keep that in my hotel fridge for a few days. Note that the best place to find a grocery store is typically not too far from the airport, so that’s my first stop off the plane.

III.  Finding carbohydrates without a ton of fat is probably my second biggest challenge. This is easy to fix by bringing pre-cooked sweet potato fries, plain instant oatmeal, cut up veggies, rice, or quinoa.

Craziest TSA moment: More than once I have carried an entire spaghetti squash in my carry-on. One time in Los Angeles, I was pulled out for supplemental screening. The TSA agent and I talked about spaghetti squash for about 10 minutes and I gave him two recipes before I left IMG_9637the security area.

If I am near a grocery store, I may pick up some rice cakes, Minute Rice cups, black beans, fresh (or frozen – no sugar or additives) fruits and veggies, or tortillas. I don’t typically carry a lot of fresh fruit with me merely because it bruises easily and can be messy.

IV.  Finding fat is always easy but healthy fats vs saturated can be a challenge if you don’t know what you’re looking for. I carry unsalted nuts in my suitcase (typically almonds, although sometimes also brazil or walnuts). Shredded coconut is easy, and can be mixed into fruit or yogurt.

If I am near a grocery store, I may pick up some olive oil, nuts, cottage cheese, yogurt, and natural peanut butter.

V.  If your hotel has a refrigerator and/or microwave, you’ve got it made!  Let me tell you, though, that I am living proof that things need to be refrigerated far less than we think they do. I’m not giving you advice here; I’m just saying that I personally think nothing of carrying chicken, turkey, eggs, etc., in my suitcase cross-country. I freeze most of it before I leave home, and do carry it in an insulated cooler bag, but none-the-less. Depending on where I’m teaching, I may or may not have access to a refrigerator for several days. This really freaks my sister out so last year she bought me a small cooler that plugs into the cigarette lighter in my car. It’s fantastic for road trips but I don’t bring it on the plane.

If I am near a grocery store, I will pick up a cheap Styrofoam cooler, and a bag of ice to use for a few days.  If I’m not near a grocery store, I have extra gallon zip lock baggies in my luggage. I fill those from the hotel ice machine and put them into my cooler bag with my food.

VI.  I bring protein bars (and powders) in my luggage but many grocery stores and even gas stations carry them these days. The important thing is to read your labels! Some of those bars are just high calorie candy bars with the word “protein” on the label so you’ll buy it – you might as well just buy a Snickers and be done with it.

I am working on a review of my favorite protein bars now. That will be going out to the e-mail list within the next few days.

VII.  If I’m on a long drive, I’m not a fan of stopping at restaurants for a lot of sit down meals. That simply chews up time that I don’t have. Chipotle, or Panera are my favorites for hot, healthy, and fast food. Subway also works (my favs are chopped chicken or tuna salads) as does Wendy’s (chili and a side salad).


Vanilla Greek yogurt, fresh raspberries & water

VIII.  Drink your water!!! I drink lots of water every day but especially on days that I’m flying. I may buy one at the airport and refill that bottle for the week; or I bring a deflated and flattened bottle in my suitcase.

IX.  Use the hotel and think outside the box. Most hotels have a complimentary breakfast of some sort. I can pick up fruit, hardboiled eggs, yogurt, bagels, and individual servings of peanut butter here.

I’ve asked to use the front desk’s microwave when there isn’t one in my room. The glass plate in the bottom of the microwave (once washed) makes a perfect dinner plate. The small coffee pot serves as a bowl. On road trips, I have discovered that in addition to cooking protein waffles in my waffle iron, I can also cook 99% fat free burger meat!

X.  Buy extra cooked food when you are near a restaurant. If I have a chance to get to a restaurant, I will order one meal to eat there and another to box up and bring with me. Applebee’s, Chili’s, Outback, Panera and Chipotle are a few of my favorites. Many of the Whole Foods have hot bars where you can pick up fresh cooked food as well.


If you have no control over WHAT you eat, you can still control HOW MUCH you eat. Be mindful of portion size and choose the best alternative among those available to you. Again, don’t obsess. Don’t stress about it. Do the best you can do. I just want you to be aware that the excuse, “but I was traveling and had no choice” is just that – an excuse.  You are in control.  



Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

I originally wrote some of these thoughts as a FB post months ago. They’re important! They’re relevant! Please indulge me for a few minutes and let me restate what needs to be said.

I love health and fitness. I don’t think anybody’s surprised by that statement. What you might not know though, is that I think there are levels of health.

Competition is a step beyond fitness; fitness is a step beyond healthy; healthy is a step – a huge one – beyond where many people are today and that’s sad.

I want to start with the two extremes.

First, while it’s not popular to say this out loud today, many people have allowed themselves to become (or to remain) unhealthy and unconditioned. Considering obesity rates have more than doubled in both adults and children since the 1970s (National Center for Health Statistics, 2009), and that more than two-thirds of US adults are overweight or obese (Ogden, 2014), the numbers make my point. Do I care what anyone weighs? Not one bit! Do I try to change anyone? Never! Do I believe in body shaming? Absolutely not! Do I think we all need to weigh a certain amount, be a certain size, or fit a mold of what we “should” be? Hell, no!

I do think we need to take that hard look, though, and be honest with ourselves. We need to face the factual reality that many of us don’t take care of ourselves – especially as we get older (and by that I mean from 18 to 25 and 30 to 40…..I don’t mean “old”….whatever to heck that means anyway). The numbers back me up there too.

This table shows the percentage of people diagnosed with highChronic conditions blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes from age 18 to age 90.  

Is health going to decline as part of the normal aging process? Yes. I’m not going to be as healthy at 100 as I was at 18. Does that mean I should just let myself go, become increasingly sedentary, and stop taking care of myself at 30, or 40, or 50, or 80? I’m not going to!

Please understand that “unhealthy” doesn’t always mean “overweight” though. Been there. Done that. I have always been relatively thin but there was a time when I was not taking care of myself. I was living on nicotine, caffeine, and sugar. I wasn’t working out but I was definitely stressing out. I wasn’t healthy. Doesn’t matter what I weighed.

On the other extreme end of the spectrum, you find elite athletes and competitors. Here, too, I have something unpopular to say. A lot of people talk about competition as if it is a negative. “We shouldn’t compete against one another.” Well, I can tell you this: I am my biggest competition. I am always trying to be better, run faster; lift heavier, to do more than I’ve done before. I compete with myself all the time. I get a kick out of being on stage and competing against other people too, though. There, I said it out loud. Yes, if you hop on the treadmill or the rower beside me at the gym, I am going to race you. It’s a fact. I don’t feel guilty about it. Join me in the race and we will be fast friends! (Pun intended.) In my favorite 5K, another racer and myself sprinted to the finish line – competing with one another until the very end. It was fun. Had she not been there, I wouldn’t have pushed myself so hard. She’d likely say the same.

If we back off of the extremes, most people want to be somewhere in the middle. These are the people I want to work with!! In fact, last year I was provided an opportunity to learn to coach figure and bikini athletes with a prestigious team in Las Vegas. I turned it down. I like to compete and it’s fun to play a part in getting a competitor to walk onto stage for the very first time. I work with some competitors. I like it. The difference is that I LOVE helping people get healthy.


And it’s not helping people lose that I strive for (though dropping weight, if that’s what the person is striving for; losing inches, decreasing medication and blood pressure are all very cool).

It’s helping people gain: confidence, self-esteem, knowledge, and health.

Moving from wanting to be healthy to being healthy is a huge step. Actually, it’s a bunch of little steps covering a huge distance! First you need to be tired of living at the unhealthy level. (Let’s face it, it’s exhausting and frustrating anyway! You hate it there.) You have to want to make a change; you have to want to learn and then apply the things you learn. You have to begin making changes incrementally and consistently. It requires work. The journey is absolutely worth the investment! When you feel healthy, when you are healthy, that carries into every aspect of your life.

The fact is that getting healthy is NOT easy but it is simple.

That means that as you start to eat healthier, there will be times you’re hungry – and that’s okay. There will be days when you’re not hungry but you need to eat anyway. There will be days you won’t feel like doing what you know you need to do.Its not easy


To get healthy you need to be conscious of your nutrition (it’s not a diet) and you need to get your body moving!!

It is simple



If you’re looking for a quick fix, or a miracle weight loss secret, that’s it. Re-read the previous few lines and don’t bother going through the rest of the blog.

Truly! That’s it!

  • You don’t need a bunch of supplements or pills.
  • No special gadgets, videos, and not even a gym membership.  [I use all 3 because I want to, not because I need to. Each adds something different].
  • You don’t need protein shakes or meal replacements.  [I use these because they are a convenient way to fuel my body when I’m traveling, teaching, or super busy. They’re also an easy way to add protein to my client’s programs since most Americans are seriously deficient in protein intake, but, again, they’re not required and whole foods are always best].
  • You don’t need a program, or another useless diet plan.  [I write programs for folks and work with clients but I prefer to teach people how to do things for themselves! I am most proud when they don’t “need” me anymore. That’s the teacher in me I suppose. You need to learn how to eat, not what to eat].
  • You don’t need a coach or nutrition or fitness expert to get started moving in the right direction! [A trainer can be awesome, especially if you’re just starting out; you’re not sure what to do and you’re not comfortable yet working out by yourself. Trainers are amazing people [most of them…but that’s a different rant]. I am one and I have several as personal friends but you CAN do this on your own].

 I don’t believe in miracles or quick fixes.

Being healthy is not something you want to do for 6 or 12 weeks.

Health is for LIFE.

 Start with your nutrition.

  • Take baby steps if you need to. Try to cut your soda in half the first week. Then in half again the next, and the next, until you either stop drinking it all together or you have it once in a while as a treat. I drink a Diet Dr. Pepper once every couple of weeks.
  • Decrease the sugar in your coffee a little bit at a time. Stop getting that venti frappuccino (you know who you are…..) and get just the grande this week; go for the tall next.
  • Drink water!!! If you can’t do it plain at first, put some Crystal Light or Mio in it and work to taper that off as you go through time. I hear some people now, “Oh, the chemicals. How could you even recommend that horrible stuff?” I’m recommending that you make the changes you will actually make to begin with. If you’re not going to drink water unless it has some flavor in it right now, mix in some damn flavor. Fruit infused water is also something you might want to try! Yum. Check out for ideas.
  • Same thing with the sweets/treats. Trust me. I have a HORRIBLE sweet tooth and I love to bake – a bad combination. So, one day a week I’ll have a special meal. Gasp!! It might be going to the restaurant, Bailey’s in my coffee, carrot cake, or whatever. Throughout the week when I’m not eating that stuff, instead of acting like a victim “Whoa is me. I can’t have a treat, I’m dieting”…..I remind myself that I am in control. “I can have anything I want but I can’t have everything right now if I intend to meet my goals.” When I do have a special treat, I savor it. I sit and eat it. I don’t play on my computer, talk on my phone, or do anything except enjoy the taste, smell, texture, and flavor of my food. I don’t feel guilty about it and I don’t try to compensate by doing extra cardio to “negate the calories” I just ate. That’s ridiculous!!! I also bake treats but try to find ways to make them healthier (applesauce vs oil; ground oats instead of white flour; using egg whites, adding protein powder, etc).  
  • Eat enough food! Crash diets don’t work and you are not going to be healthy eating one salad or a piece of fruit all day. We’ll talk about protein, carbs, and healthy fats next time.

Try these things first. Once you start to feel better (and you will), add in some exercise. Begin going for a walk every day. Build from there.

The important thing is to do something.


This is a formal call to action: Do one positive thing for yourself this week.

Throw your Healthy Habits in the Freezer!

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

What to heck does snow & ice have to do with establishing healthy habits?  Actually, more than you might imagine!  Give me a second to explain.

To get better at anything, even if you have some natural ability, you have to spend time practicing, learning, and honing your skills. We’ve all heard, (as if we haven’t said it a million times, ourselves), “practice makes perfect”. In fact, if I said, “The more you practice something, the better you’ll get at it,” I doubt many would disagree. But have you ever wondered why this is true? I have a natural curiosity and try to understand how and why everything works – not merely that it does.

Clinicians say this happens because we create neural pathways in our brains. The rest of us typically refer to it as creating “muscle memory” or “habit”. If you practice something repeatedly, it becomes second nature. It becomes natural and effortless. You don’t even think about it. You jump the way you’ve trained to, twist the way you’ve trained to, lift the way you’ve trained to, kick the way you’ve trained to. Practice makes everything easier and more intuitive.

Ever pulled into your driveway after a long day and not remember anything about the trip or how you actually got from Point A to Point B? You’ve done it so many times before, that today you just did it on autopilot. Ever left the house headed somewhere only to find that you automatically drive your typical route and forget that’s not where you intended to go this time? Please tell me I’m not alone in this!!

The automatic responses can apply to all areas of your life and aren’t always positive. Grab a snack when you walk in the house in the evening? Every single day. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, over time, just pulling into your driveway and putting your key in the front door elicits a digestive system response. You are already salivating. You’re not thinking about it consciously, but your body knows it is soon going to have that hit of sugar it gets every day when you pull into your driveway and open the front door. Changing habits can be hard. Really hard! I used to smoke and always had a cigarette with my coffee. Even now, 20 years after quitting, I sometimes still crave a cigarette with my coffee – the habit was ingrained that deeply.

Did you know, though, that the brain is capable of changing, adapting, and re-organizing neural pathways as a response to changes in your environment or situations? Norman Dodge, a physiatrist and author, wrote in The Brain that Changes Itself, “The brain, far from being a collection of specialized parts, each fixed in its location and function, is in fact a dynamic organ, one that can rewire and rearrange itself as the need arises.” How phenomenal is that idea? How positively amazing is it to realize, from a scientific perspective that we can literally – change our minds? Wow!!!

Since I’m sitting in Michigan watching more snow fall, it seems especially appropriate, that Dodge explains this to the layperson by talking about sledding in the winter. The first time you try to take a sled down the hill, it can actually be quite difficult. You hitch, dig in occasionally, and try to create a path. You have to work at it. The snow hasn’t been packed down yet. Where you actually end up at the bottom of the hill is determined both by how well you steer and the characteristics of the hill itself. The second time you slide down the hill, it’s easier if you stay in the tracks you just made. If you spend your entire afternoon sledding down, walking up, sledding down, at the end of the day you will have a path that is easy and fast. You just sit on the sled and it takes you to the bottom with very little effort and you end up very close to the same place each time. If you decide you want to end up in a different location, you’re going to need to take the time to create another path.

Changing pathways, and habits can be hard. Really hard! Have I said that already? Yes, change is difficult even when you know it is what needs to be done. It’s uncomfortable. Here’s where the ice comes in.

The key to creating a new neural pathway is not in just forging a new trail – trying to force a new habit – but rather in solidifying it so that it becomes the “norm”. When I was studying Organizational Leadership in college, I came across an explanation of Lewin’s theory, which completely resonated with me! Okay, at this point I realize I have no chance of convincing you that I’m not a nerd so I guess I’ll own up to it. “Hi, my name is Debbie, and I’m kind of a nerd.” J

Who Kurt Lewin was, is irrelevant for the purpose of this discussion. It’s what he taught me about change that is important. Let’s say you are getting ready to have a party. You really want a ring of ice to float in the punch bowl but your store only sells blocks of ice. You could be incredibly motivated for that block to turn into a ring. You could really want it; really need it to happen. You could get frustrated about it, curse at it, and try to force the block to change. You can apply as much pressure as you want by squeezing, pushing, or even pounding it with a hammer. The ice will resist the imposed change because it is a system of firmly established items (in this case water crystals, rather than previously formed habits but they solidify just as strongly don’t they?). Push or pound too hard, and rather than conform, the ice is just going to shatter.

Can you turn a block of ice into a ring of ice? Absolutely! But only if you take some time to thaw the block first. If you continually heat the block, it’s going to eventually start to soften and then turn to a liquid. Once the block of ice is melted, and it’s been poured into a ring-shaped mold, it’s still not the ring of ice you was hoping for, though. It’s just a bowl of water! You have to throw the mold in the freezer. You can’t make it happen. You can’t rush it. You have to wait for it to freeze into the new shape but if you leave it in the freezer for a while, that WILL happen.

What to does all of this crazy (and wonderful, and phenomenal, and amazing….) talk about neural plasticity, sledding, and floating ice rings have to do with you? Everything! Don’t like the habits that you have right now? Change your mind! I mean, literally, change your mind!! Unfreeze your current habits. Decide what you want them to look like and pour them into that mold. Then refreeze!

I see examples of this all around me! I do a happy dance when I get messages from friends, family, and clients telling me about their work on creating new neural pathways. To be honest, they probably didn’t even know that’s what they were doing until right now as they are reading this blog!!

Yup, this was Karen when she wrote, “I got to the gym this morning. The parking lot was packed. In the past, I wouldn’t stop. That would be all the excuse I needed to just keep driving. This morning I didn’t allow myself to do that. I pulled in and parked. I walked in and did 100% of my workout. I feel great!” This was Alexi when she wrote, “I went to the gym this morning and I planned to work upper body. There were a lot of guys in the free weight area. In the past, when that was the case, I would just turn around and go get on a treadmill. This morning, I heard your voice inside my head: ‘stick to your plan’. I went into the free weight area, picked up some dumbbells and did my workout!” This was Florence when she said “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle”, and Sylvia when she said, “I’ve stopped drinking Dr. Pepper every day and even ask for water at restaurants! I don’t know who I am anymore!” This is Courtney who has made so many new habits (e.g. working out, drinking water, shopping only in the outside aisles of the grocery store) that I had to have her mom tell me what she’s doing differently because to Courtney, “this is just normal.”

I LOVE that. Yup, these things put a smile on my face that is pretty hard to remove!

“This is just normal!” In fact, this is far, far from what normal used to be but it IS the new normal!

Nathan sledding

I am very tired of winter but I am not tired of this snow and ice.

Every single time you refuse to go down that old, established trail, it will get easier and easier. You’re building a new trail. Once you’ve used the new trail for a while, the old one will start to grow over – going back will no longer be the path of least resistance. It will no longer be your normal. Throw these new habits in the freezer, ladies.  You got this!!

Food! Food! Foooddd!

Over the Hedge: What a Cartoon Can Teach You About Dietary Moderation.

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

 If you follow the Family & Fit Facebook page, you know it’s February vacation for Hayden and that my favorite 7 year old is spending the week with me. Yesterday he watched Over the Hedge, and while I’ve seen the movie several times before; this time, I can’t get some of the words out of my head. The raccoon said, “Humans always have food. We eat to live – these guys live to eat! Let me show you what I’m talking about! The human mouth is called a ‘piehole’, the human being is called a ‘couch potato’. The telephone is a device to summon food. The door is the portal for passing of food. The delivery truck is one of the many food transportation vehicles. Humans bring the food, take the food, ship the food, they drive food. The stove gets the food hot. The refrigerator keeps the food cold. That table is the altar where they worship food. Seltzer is what they eat when they’ve eaten too much food. The treadmill gets rid of the guilt so they can eat more food! Food! Food! Food! Fooooooddddd!”

It’s sad. I mean, really sad.

My newsfeed never fails to disappoint in this department either. I have an eclectic mix of decadent recipes and delicious looking food pictures merged with myriad health tips, workouts, and hard-bodies. You can find a plan, numerous experts, and “documented research” for anything you believe. In one sitting alone, I can read about why I should never do cardio and why I should do nothing but. That I should never skip breakfast, and that I shouldn’t eat until I’ve been up for at least three hours. I should focus more on fat and meat (Paleo), or that being vegetarian is the only way to be. I shouldn’t eat carbs (Atkins) – ever! Sweet potatoes are way better than white potatoes (ever look at the nutritional macros? They are virtually indistinguishable). I should eat six times a day. No, wait, I should actually fast intermittently. I should never eat after 7 p.m. and certainly should never eat fruit because it’s loaded with sugar. Egg yolks are bad for me. Don’t eat processed food. Ever! Sugar is bad. Artificial sweeteners are worse. I should measure everything. Or should I eat intuitively? I should only buy organic and locally produced food. I must avoid all GMOs, sugar, flour, soda, coffee, gluten, bread, grains, corn, dairy, anything white… Are these things blurring together for you too, or is it just me? We are consumed by what we consume. What we should; what we shouldn’t eat. Food! Food! Food! Fooooooddddd!

It really does seem to be all about the food.

That tiny two-letter word, “all” is critical. We’re actually all or nothing. Either we’re eating every single thing we want, with reckless abandon, or we’re eating nothing but salad greens. Either we’re on a diet or we’re not. We’re working out every single day or we don’t get off the couch for 8-10 hours. No time for moderation here! No in-between. We need to stick to this plan and even the slightest deviation will mean we are a failure.

The fact is: I’m just like you. I’m all or nothing most of the time. While I love the concepts of balance and moderation, I suck at both of them. I suspect most of us do. I’m working on it.

Contrary to all the noise in your newsfeed, try to remember that food is just food. There are no “good” or “bad” foods. No “clean” (or what? Dirty?) foods. There are foods that provide greater nutritional content and we should focus on those. There are foods that provide more saturated fats, sodium, sugar, and the things we should eat only in moderation. We should limit those. What happens the minute you tell yourself you can’t have something? You immediately want it. That’s all you think about! Change your thinking. Realize that you can have anything you want, any time you want. Tomorrow, or the day after, if you are really going to die without a bag of M&Ms, you can buy a small, individual sized bag then. They’ll still be there. It’s not that you “can’t” have the candy; it’s just that today you’re making a conscious decision to choose something better because what you really want is to feel better. You are in control! Give up on the idea of perfection and realize that you don’t have to “only” eat these things or “never“ eat those. Can you eat every thing you crave every day? Dessert, bread, fried foods, pasta, or alcohol whenever you feel like it? Only if you’re willing to accept the certain consequences that will accompany that action. Can you have a cookie every now and again, or a little Bailey’s in your coffee on Saturday? I certainly do!

Contrary to all the things I read about people being “hard core” and “all in”, perfection itself is unattainable. You might be perfect for a while but there will come this “one day”, this “one event” when you eat something you don’t think you’re supposed to. I’ve seen people then lament over it and feel guilty for days. I’ve seen one less-than-healthy food choice turn into a week of binging. I mean if you’re not going to be perfect, why bother, right? If you ate a bowl of ice cream, you might as well eat as much as you possibly can for the next several days. Clearly, you’re a failure.

In reality, perfection doesn’t exist. Don’t strive for perfection: just try to be better. BecauseYouGotAFlatCut yourself a little slack. Make the best choices you can and work to improve those choices as you go through time. Hold yourself accountable. Giving up on change because you’re far from perfect misses the point of how beneficial small changes can be for your health. Start by picking your battle: cut sugar intake, reduce liquid calories, increase activity, drink more water, practice better portion control. Change one thing at a time but once you’ve made that change, don’t go back. If you have a mis-step, okay. Surprise: you’re a human! Get up, dust yourself off, pump up that flat, and get right back to your goals.

Every Road Won’t Get you Where you Want to Go!

Boy traveler exploring route mapDebbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

I love Alice in Wonderland, and think there are tremendous lessons to be gleaned from Lewis Carroll’s books and poems. I’m not sure I agree with his, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there” sentiment though.

If I don’t know where I want to go, I’m likely to just wander aimlessly, or maybe even sit on the path going no where at all. I turn around or get rerouted at even the slightest rough spot. Worse yet, I blaze a path through those brambles to find that I’ve arrived far from where I might like to be. There are times to wander! There are times to just sit on the path, build a fire and roast marshmallows. There are also times, though, when I need to figure out where I’m going and how to get there. I prefer some kind of loose plan, a compass and maybe even a rough map to get me from here to there. I prefer to drive. I’m not a passenger kind of girl.

So where are you going? The first thing you need to do is determine your destination. Are you where you want to be at this moment? Are you where you dreamed you’d be? Is there something you want to change or certain goals you want to accomplish? Write them down, even if they seem lofty and unattainable at this moment. If they don’t challenge you, if they don’t scare you a little bit, they aren’t big enough!

Next, anchor your goals to the reasons you want to achieve them. With the popularity of leadership models like Six Sigma and Lean, “identifying your why” has become quite popular. Frankly, I think it’s a little over-used. “What’s your why?” confuses many people. It’s so nebulous. What does that even mean? These programs originated as forms of root cause analysis. Each advocates asking yourself “why” 5 times, both as a means to identify the reason an issue occurred in the first place, and as a means to brainstorm solutions. Outside of their manufacturing origins, it goes something like this. A new client says to me, “I want to lose weight.” Why? “Because I don’t feel good about myself right now. This is the heaviest I’ve ever been.” Why? “Because I’ve let myself go.” Why? “Because I’ve been so busy with work and taking care of the kids.” Why? At this point I’m typically met with a good deal of frustration. “What do you mean, why? Because they are my family and I love them. They rely on me for a lot of things. So do my co-workers. My boss expects me to get everything finished. If I don’t personally do these things, they won’t get done. There’s not enough time in the day.”

Valid points.

Well, maybe. As a recovering perfectionist, if I were honest, I’d have to tell you that I put a lot of that pressure on myself. No one else expects me to get all of these things done. I expect me to get all of these things done. I have actually received two different performance evaluations (from two different people, in two very different jobs) over the years, where supervisors wrote that I pushed myself too hard, and established unrealistically high expectations. Now, if you were honest, who is actually setting those expectations for you?

So, they MAY be valid points.

For that reason, I prefer to substitute, “what if” for that last “why”. What if the laundry doesn’t get folded tonight? What if there is something left in your in-box at the end of the day? What if you eat leftovers for dinner? What if you allowed yourself 30 – 60 minutes a day of personal time? If you can’t do that, what if you involved your family in your goals? Or, what if you change nothing at all and continue doing what you’re doing? What will the result be? Then, and only then, I ask the final “why”? Why don’t you overcome a few of those obstacles and objectives and go after what you want?

Spend some time thinking about these last few things. When times get hard, and they will at some point, reflecting on these thoughts brings you back to your focus. They create the topography for your map! They will help to justify your opportunity costs. What’s that? Just the terminology given to the fact that you have to choose where to spend your moments. Contrary to all the hype about “doing it all”, the reality is that if you’re doing A, you can’t do B. There are 24 hours in the day.

Thinking about the journey, looking at the map, and developing a great plan, does nothing to move you forward though. I heard someone once say that plans without action are just dreams. So I’m asking you, do you truly want to make a change? Not, “does someone want this for you”, or “should you change?” But…do you truly want to make a change?

If the answer is yes, take a deep breath and start planning your trip. When you’re going cross-country, you don’t just hop in the car and teleport to your destination (wouldn’t that be awesome!!). First you might have to have the oil changed, get air in the tires, and top off the tank. You have to navigate the roads between here and there. You have to stop for gas, endure traffic (slowdowns and maybe even standstills), and go around detours. There are potential consequences for going too fast. Every one of those things can happen on your personal journey too.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 10.22.53 AMDon’t get too overwhelmed. You need a road map at this point, not a globe! Find the “you are here” X and expand the circle ever so slightly around that point. Plan your route only to the next major intersection. I do this when I run. I pick something I can see in the distance and I run to that. Once I get there, I pick something else and run to that. (Please note that this works well unless you are trying to run in Texas! That oilrig you can see might actually be ten miles away from where you are! Don’t ask how I came to learn that!). The point is, break each objective into smaller goals. You don’t drive from DC to Seattle without a few pit stops. Remember, too, you can’t control traffic or weather on your trip. You also cannot control the earth’s gravitational pull so don’t say you want to gain or lose XYZ pounds.

  • You can decide to walk three or four days this week. If you’ve been walking, you can decide to throw in a few periods of jogging. If you’ve been jogging, you can pick up your pace.
  • You can cut your soda consumption in half (or even just by a quarter if you need to).
  • You can buy an individual serving of the food you’re craving, instead of the family size.
  • You can forego dessert with two or three of your meals this week.
  • You can lift weights, or lift heavier, a couple of times.
  • You can include more vegetables with one or two meals every single day.
  • You can decide to drink at least two glasses of water every day, and build from there.
  • You can decide to go out to eat fewer times.
  • You can decide to add more protein to at least one meal every day.
  • You can bring your lunch three or four days this week.
  • You can park further from entrances and walk just a little bit each time you get out of the car.

You can achieve your goals, health related or otherwise. What you need to do is SOMETHING. Anything. Not everything, and most certainly not everything all at once. Start at your beginning. Your call to action is this: Identify the one thing you could commit to start doing today that, if you do it consistently, will get you closer to your goal.

Do that one thing. Get used to it. Get comfortable with it. Make it a habit. Next week, the week after, or – heck – a month from now, pick one more new thing to start working on.  Enjoy the ride, but get on the road!! …and, bring your map.

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By Debbie Hatch:   The Woman Behind Family & F.I.T.

From the very moment I decided to begin writing this, I have been struggling with it. My mind has been flooded with thoughts of what I wanted to (what I should, what I could) say. How much is too much?  This morning I know the answer is to just say something.  Just start…… I sat down and initially wrote 8 pages, clearing my head!!! What follows is my best attempt to unravel those thoughts although I sit here shaking almost uncontrollably.

The fact is, my strongest skill in emotional intelligence is empathy. I don’t typically talk about me. I don’t put myself “out there”. I reach to help other people. I want to hear their stories. For a very long time, I didn’t feel that I had anything worthwhile to share anyway. I am comfortable in the shadows. I am honest. I am not typically transparent. It scares me. A lot! But I honestly believe it’s time to take a deep breathe, to say what needs to be said, to differentiate between fact and fiction. My truth today is this: I have a family that loves me very much. I have supportive friends and many people that care about me. No matter what: those truths are absolute. I can count on my fingers the number of people that “actually” know me. That is, until today.

Although these things do not define me, they have served to mold me and I have made a promise to myself to be brutally, (uncomfortably) honest. Part of me feels like I should apologize. Part of me says I have apologized too many times. The fact remains. I have to be me. It’s all I have. If I’m going to help the people I so desperately want to help, they need to know who I really am. From the time I was 6 months old until I was 26, I was physically, sexually, and emotional beaten. I was told routinely that I brought such things upon myself; that they were my fault. Nothing I did was ever good enough. When the rage would start, I would do something to ensure I took the brunt of any beating so that others wouldn’t have to. My sister calls me her warrior. I endured home until I was 17 when I found out that I hadn’t been the only one molested. I wouldn’t save myself but to have put so much into saving others and then find that I had failed, was a crushing blow. Even in this, I hadn’t been good enough.

So, on that day, yes, it was on the day that I was slapped in the face with the truth…that I spoke my silence. No one knew. I had been a straight A student. My teachers and guidance counselors had aspirations for this studious, intelligent, hard-working young woman. One thing I had done well enough, was ensure I had kept the secret. I’ve heard people who have never experienced such things say, “I don’t understand how anyone would just put up with that…..”

They could just stop at, “I don’t understand.”

They don’t.

They can’t.

Unless you’ve been in that situation, you don’t understand. And that’s okay. There’s no reason to apologize.

That was my normal. That was just life. I didn’t know anything different. You should know this. Things were not horrible every day. That’s another thing people don’t understand. There are happy times. There are days, or weeks, or perhaps even months when things are more like a “regular” normal. I can tell you that one thing I didn’t understand on that day, was the ramifications of my voice. I did not understand what was going to happen when I spoke. Oh, and there were ramifications. Unending phone calls begging me to stop, to “not air dirty laundry”, although the reins were no longer within my grasp. The thing had taken on a life of its own. At that moment, on that day, I would have made it go away if I had the ability. I was completely alone and I was lost. Police questioning and grand jury. Foster homes and death threats. My sisters were taken away from me by rules that didn’t seem to take into account how very much we needed each other, especially during those moments. On that day, speaking up did not seem like a positive thing and I would have taken it back if I could.

My counselor told me I had little chance for a successful life. I would likely follow in the footsteps of those before and although I might not abuse, I would likely lose any and all control once I was free. I might not graduate from high school. I might not develop goals. She warned that I might have a predisposition to getting myself into abusive relationships. Know what? I set out to prove her right. I partied until I passed out. More than once. I would disappear for days at a time. I did dangerous things and took ridiculous chances. I didn’t care about anybody or anything. Least of all myself. I was alone. Physically and emotionally.

I did graduate from high school and went on to college for one semester. That wasn’t about studying for me. It was about partying, as much as I could whenever I could. It was about trying to ease the pain. Trying to figure out who I was outside of that place. A year of my life disappeared in a heartbeat. So at 18 I married a man I had “dated” exactly two months. Judge if you will. I have. None-the-less. That was my normal. In reality, my abuser was about to be released and I was terrified. I didn’t want to be alone. It was “typical”. My counselor had told me this might happen. Turns out he was an alcoholic and physically abusive. Who could have seen that coming? He told me it was my fault. He told me I wasn’t good enough. I kinda believed him. I put up with his bullshit until one night he threatened to hit my sister. I wouldn’t save myself but I was going to save her. I left with a police escort, my two babies and only the clothes on our backs. I moved into low income housing. I collected welfare and food stamps. I didn’t sleep at night because I was so scared. I truly didn’t feel like I was good enough – for anything. I even contemplated suicide several times. It was my children’s faces that stopped me from doing that. It was those faces that kept me somewhat sane. I wouldn’t save myself but I was damn sure going to save them.

…and save them, I did.

On the outside, I went back to college and completed my Master’s program. I created and manage an international human resources consulting company that has been in business for a decade, and is successful enough to have acquired a subsidiary. I have been married for over 20 years to an amazing man. To say that I came with some baggage is a slight understatement. He loves me in spite of it. We’ve been around the world together! On the inside, I am happy and healthy. Two biological children, the daughter my son gifted me, and four grandchildren who love without condition. I’ve worked very hard to get to a place where I feel that I AM good enough.

Most days I believe it.

Before and afterThis isn’t where my story ends nor is it my whole story but it’s enough of that piece to share for one day. I’m exhausted. I want nothing from you. Merely that you know how I came to be and why I care so passionately about helping others. I vividly remember laying on a grassy hill when I was 12 or 13, dreaming with my eyes open, that everything would be okay. I could not, in my wildest dreams, have ever imagined it would be this amazing.

Today I speak that silence again. Today I am fully aware that, while they will certainly not be as substantial, there will again be ramifications. And…I think I’m okay with that. I don’t know why I’m compelled to talk at this moment, but I do know why I have to talk. If I can provide strength to even one person; if I can provide one drop of courage; if I can be the warrior at the front of someone else’s charge, I have to.

Please know that no matter what your struggle may be today – and we all have one – if you focus on accepting what you cannot change but change what you cannot accept (if not now, when you’re stronger; if not for yourself, for those who love you) you will be okay.  I want you to imagine the possibilities.  You need to dream with your eyes open!


An Incredible Organization on a Mission to help others Speak their Silence