Health and Wellness Blog

Watching Television and Eating

By Dr. Abby Bleistein, Healthful Life MD

It is completely understandable with the fast pace lifestyle of today, people are looking for ways to unwind at the end of the day. Many people chose to unwind by watching television. They come home, make dinner, kick off their shoes, turn on the TV and mindlessly eat dinner as they flip though the channels.

While in theory this seems like a great way to check out for a bit and recharge, the habit of dining in front of the television creates a link between television watching and eating.

Not only have studies shown people consume up to 25% more calories when eating while distracted, but eating in front of the television can also generate a trigger-habit loop.

The cue to the habit is turning on the television, the habit is eating, and food becomes the reward reinforcing the habit because food releases dopamine, the hormone that triggers a pleasure response. Once this loop is created, the pattern occurs without the frontal lobe of the brain getting involved at all and voilà, people are eating mindlessly, often without realizing they are even doing it, much less being aware of how much they are eating.

How can we combat mindless television eating?

  1. Practice mindful eating. Do not eat in front of the television. Ever. Make it a rule. If you want to eat a snack in the evening, turn off the television, sit at the table and eat. You will discover yourself eating less, and possibly that you do not even really need to eat at all.
  2. Reset your trigger-habit loop. This can be done a couple of different ways. One option is to choose a different reward for the cue of watching television. For example, if relaxing in front of the TV at night is part of your self-care routine, have a cup of tea instead of snacking. It will take some mental energy initially to reset the pattern, but after a few weeks, you will institute a new habit. Another way to reset is to find a healthier self-care routine all together. Perhaps reading, or playing a card game.

Click here for a Guide to Mindless Eating that provides exercise to help you develop mindful eating habits.

Take your first step towards getting healthy from the inside out today! Visit Healthful Life MD online to learn more about our comprehensive weight loss solutions and schedule a free consultation with our in-house physician, Dr. Abby Bleistein. Or call 720-336-5681 and we can answer questions and help get your complimentary appointment on the calendar.


Barramundi en Papillote

I love barramundi. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and has a mild flavor and lovely texture. I think of it as a sustainable, and affordable, Chilean Sea Bass (one of my favorite fishes to eat!). I have been eyeing leeks and fennel and put this recipe together. You can do in the oven too, but I decided to cook it on the grill. Delicious!

– Dr. Abby


  • 4 barramundi fillets (I get mine frozen from Costco)
  • 1-2 oranges, cut into slices
  • 2 leeks, greens cut off, cut in half the long way, rinsed well, and chopped in fine slices
  • 2 fennel bulbs, cut in half and then sliced into thin half circle slices
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste


Preheat grill, or oven, to 350 degrees. Cut sheets of parchment and fold in half—halves should be more than large enough to cover fish fillets. Lay some fennel and leek slices on half of the parchment. Cover with 2 orange slices. Place fish on top of orange slices. Drizzle olive oil over fish and salt and pepper to taste. Place 2 orange slices over fish and add more leek and fennel slices. Repeat on separate parchment squares for each fillet.

Fold the other half of the parchment paper over the fish/orange/vegetable stack so that the edges of the parchment line up. Starting at one corner at the fold in the parchment, fold over about 1/2 inch of the edge, pressing down to make a crisp crease. Continue working your way around the edge of the packet, twisting or rolling up the 2 halves of the parchment paper, making overlapping folds (like pleats), always pressing firmly and creasing the edge so the folds hold. Twist the end of the second fold to finish. If necessary, make a second fold anyplace that doesn’t appear tightly sealed. Cut several vent holes in the top with a sharp knife.

Place the packets on the grill, or on a baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until done, based on the thickness of your fish.

Carefully open parchment (the packets release hot steam when opened) and serve. Delicious!


Busting Through the Exercise Blues

How to get yourself motivated to exercise

By Ashley DePaulis, Owner of ASH Fitness & Founder of The Inner Athlete



Exercise always seems like a good idea until it’s actually time to put on your shoes and get out the door. I bet this is usually the point you start to question why the heck you were so pumped up to exercise in the first place. Then you begin formulating a list of reasons to justify your workout raincheck.

Why is it that motivation tends to easily slip away?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s the antidote to your fitness blues and it is Your Inner Athlete. Whether you consider yourself an athlete or not is beside the point because EVERYONE has an Inner Athlete.

Your Inner Athlete is your story. It’s physical, personal and connected to the experience of your unique human spirit.

If you are struggling with getting motivated to exercise, there is a good chance you are missing the feeling of energy, strength and aliveness that are hallmarks of being in sync with Your Inner Athlete. Being in touch with your own Inner Athlete provides clarity and when you have clarity, motivation begins to appear organically.

Before connecting with your Inner Athlete, it is completely normal to harbor feelings of hesitation that keep you away from exercise. You want to wait until you “feel better” or “feel motivated” before you get started. Perhaps you believe there is a right way and a wrong way to exercise and you fear you will be embarrassed or, even worse, get injured if you do it wrong. Many times you are comparing yourself to others, or a past version of yourself you are unable to keep up with.

These kinds of mindsets have the ability to squash your enthusiasm before you even get started. This is why it is so important before focusing on your action plan, you first gain clarity on the “why” behind the exercise. Are you working to heal an injury? To lose weight? Are you training for a marathon?

Whatever your reason, when you are crystal clear on what you want, you will be focused and driven to achieve your goal. And that my friends creates motivation.

Once you have clarity and a readjusted mindset, it is time to channel your motivation into action. How can you do that?

  • Realistically gauge your current abilities. Always start right where you are. Remaining present allows you to push past your ceiling based on the here and now. It makes exercising more enjoyable because you are holding yourself to realistic expectations.
  • Structure workouts in a way you find enjoyable. One thing is for sure, if you do not find your workout fun and satisfying, it will not get you moving. Know yourself and what gets you going. If you like being with people, find a gym or workout club where you can exercise with other people. If you like being outside, find ways to exercises outside. Whatever it is that gets you excited find ways to incorporate it into your workouts.
  • Find someone or something to keep you accountable. Even elite athletes who have laser focused clarity need accountability. If they need it, so do you. Depending on what your goals are, find a coach, workout buddy, group fitness program, online fitness tracker, etc. to help you stay on track and keep you moving towards your goals.
  • Be consistent but flexible. Do something to work towards your goal every single day, but pay attention to Your Inner Athlete and be flexible. Some days you are going to be ready for hard work, but other days Your Inner Athlete may be screaming at you to get some sleep, or hydrate. Listen. The fastest way to achieving your goal is to consistently and harmoniously work with your body.

The truth is, you are not going to get through life without experiencing a lack of motivation at some point. Whether the struggle is past or present tense, experiencing a lack of motivation can be downright depressing. It is hard not to show up in your life and in your training as the lean, vibrant and powerful version of you that you dream of being. You want to feel good in your body and feel energetic. Yet for whatever reason, you feel hesitant. Just remember, when you start lacking the motivation to get your body moving, put the brakes on and clarify what you are working towards, because that will most certainly help you to bust through your workout blues.

Ashley DePaulis, is the owner of ASH Fitness and Founder of The Inner Athlete. She helps everyday athletes master their minds after an injury or health challenge so they can get back into action. She offers one:one accountability and training, and transformation through her group program – The Inner Athlete Advantage. To learn your unique pathway to sustainable health and motivation, along with the mental and physical tool set needed to navigate life’s adversities connect with Ashley and The Inner Athlete community on Facebook or visit ASH Fitness online to learn more.

The Nighttime Eating Trap

By Dr. Abby Bleistein, Healthful Life MD

One of the most common challenges my patients face in their weight loss journey is nighttime eating. Most of my patients are hungrier, note more cravings and eat more calories at night. There are a number of reasons this patter is so common:

  1. Fatigue: This is a huge driver to eat because the brain recognizes fatigue and looks for a quick fix, which usually includes fast energy—calories and carbohydrates.
  2. Mental energy: Willpower is the mental energy it takes to make positive choices. Mental energy is strongest first thing in the morning, but like a battery, the multitude of decisions made throughout the day drain power. By the night willpower is weakened which often results in making choices not aligned with long-term goals.
  3. Dehydration: The human brain has difficulty differentiating between hunger and thirst, so lack of daytime hydration can lead to over-indulging at night.
  4. Habit: Over-eating at night can be pure habit. People often unwind from the day watching television, surfing the internet or checking social media. While they unwind, they reward themselves with little snack or treat. This pattern becomes a habit and usually ends up with the person mindlessly consuming a lot of extra calories.

What can be done to counteract nighttime eating struggles?

  • Get adequate sleep. People who sleep less than 6 hours nightly have a 50% greater risk of obesity. Focus on getting 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • When you are tired at night, go to bed. Do not eat to stay awake longer. Accept it is time to sleep when you are tired.
  • Recharge your willpower battery through meditation practice. Use meditation in the evening to reset your mental energy and improve your choices.
  • Hydrate throughout the day with lots of water.
  • Practice mindful eating habits. You will find that you eat less and feel more satisfied.

Take your first step towards getting healthy from the inside out today! Visit Healthful Life MD online to learn more about our comprehensive weight loss solutions and schedule a free consultation with our in-house physician, Dr. Abby Bleistein. Or call 720-336-5681 and we can answer questions and help get your complimentary appointment on the calendar.

Exercise Reimagined: HIIT for Middle-Agers

by Priscilla McElveen, Healthful Life MD Personal Trainer

There is something about reaching “middle-age” that is rather shocking. You know it is coming, of course, but the first time a nice, young barista at the coffee shop calls you “Ma’am” or “Sir”, it is a little alarming. Your mind still identifies with a hip, twenty-year-old version of yourself, but somewhere along the way your life drifted. Now you have a job, responsibilities, a family, and exactly zero time to invest in things that were once a priority in your life—health and exercise many times topping that list.

You did not intentionally stop working out, but there simply is not enough time in the day to do everything. When time starts to gets squeezed, exercise seems like an easy thing to let go. It is for this exact reason that HIIT has become extremely popular.

At this point, many of you are asking the question, “What is HIIT?” The term has become a buzz word in the fitness community in the last few years, but many do not know exactly what is means.

High-Intensity Interval Training, HIIT for short, is a system of organizing cardiorespiratory training which calls for repeated bouts of short duration, high-intensity exercise intervals intermingled with periods of lower intensity intervals or active recovery. Or in layman’s terms a series of brief all out work periods separated by active rest.

Long story short, this form of exercising is extremely effective because it gets your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time. For people who struggle to fit exercise into daily life, HIIT is an excellent solution. You do not need lots of equipment, specialized space or a lot of time. These workouts can be scaled and adjusted based on fitness level, time constraint and desired outcomes.

What does HIIT mean for you?

  • Traveling for work? No problem! HIIT workouts require very little, if any, equipment and can be done in a small space, so hotel rooms or pocket resort gyms are more than adequate.
  • Have a day filled with non-stop meetings and activities? No problem! A quick 10-20 minute HIIT workout can produce excellent results and get you on track to a healthier, happier you.
  • Feel like your body isn’t capable of moving faster than a walk? No problem! HIIT can be scaled to any ability level and can be adjusted up or down in intensity to address a wide variety of different fitness goals.
  • Get bored with the same old workout routine? No problem! You can change up HIIT in lots of different ways so your workouts stay exciting and keep you on your toes.

WORD OF CAUTION. HIIT is a great approach to exercise and is a wonderful fitness tool. It produces results and can help even the most unmotivated and busy people get going with a regular exercise routine. Something to keep in mind however is that, like many other things in life, HIIT will be most effective when combined with other kinds of fitness—cardio, weightlifting, stretching, etc. You will still see results regardless, but only when your workout routine is well rounded and incorporates HIIT along with other important styles of exercise will you truly be able to maximize your fitness results.

Just like in nutrition, eating Kale is a really good for you and provides many great nutrients to your body. However, eating only kale, does not give your body everything it needs. In the same way, HIIT is a great solution for people with a busy life, but without incorporating other elements of fitness into your routine, your body will lack in important areas.

With HIIT as an option, there really is no excuse not to be exercising! HIIT workouts are quick and effective and will leave you feeling great. Take it easy at first and ease yourself into the routine. As you get stronger you can start adding in more complex movements, increase the intensity and start adding on other kinds of fitness. You will be surprised how just a few minutes a week will start to transform your life and your body. You may still be middle-aged, but you certainly will not feel like it!

Interested in getting started with Hight-Intensity Interval Training? Visit my website Warrior Within Fitness, click on “At Home Warriors” and subscribe to get access to all my home workouts. Getting started with High-Intensity Interval Training has never been so easy!

Take your first step towards getting healthy from the inside out today! Visit Healthful Life MD online to learn more about our comprehensive weight loss solutions and schedule a free consultation with our in-house physician, Dr. Abby Bleistein. Or call 720-336-5681 and we can answer questions and help get your complimentary appointment on the calendar.


Pea Hummus

Peas are a great spring vegetable, and this Pea Hummus recipe from Epicurious is an amazing and creative way to incorporate them into your menu. Add the hummus as a dinner side, or grab some for a quick snack. It is a bit sweeter than your traditional hummus, but is really delicious and the bright green color just makes you feel like spring!


  • 1 10 oz package frozen peas
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup well-stirred tahini (Middle Eastern sesame paste)
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Thaw frozen peas and drain if there is liquid left. Add cumin, cilantro and garlic (to taste) to a food processor and finely chop. Add peas, tahini, lemon juice, salt and pepper and purée. You can use fresh mint instead of cilantro if you prefer—we would suggest using 1/4 cup mint rather than 1/2 cup as with the cilantro.

Serve and enjoy!


Weight Loss Food Rules Debunked

By Liz Daeninck, MS, RD – Registered Dietitian, Healthful Life MD

The internet is teeming with information about diet. Search engine results produce hundreds of articles suggesting rules for everything food related—foods you should never eat, foods you should eat, the best power foods, top 10 food rules, and on and on. While these articles are sometimes interesting, it is important to know what they suggest can be less than helpful.

Establishing rules for food consumption can be good, and is especially helpful when working to lose weight, but anytime you assign blanket rules (such as NEVER eat this food, etc.) to food and weight loss you risk your efforts backfiring. Just like when you were a kid and your mom told you to not do something, a lot of times you ended up doing the exact opposite.

Strict food rules leave you obsessing about things you otherwise would not think twice about, and ultimately, can cause you to reject guidelines about foods entirely, even the good ones. They also set the precedent for labeling foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This is risky because it can drive you to evaluate self-worth based on what you eat. The food choices you make are irrelevant to the kind of person you are. What is important about food choices however, is understanding how certain foods impact you and make you feel.

Food is food. It is an object and as such, it does not warrant being identified as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. When you label food as good or bad, you may start to judge yourself when you eat foods carrying such labels.

So what are my food rules for weight loss? In all honesty, I do not ascribe to specific food rules, but rather a set of guidelines for creating the awareness essential to making smart food choices and achieving health and weight goals. These guidelines are intended to add structure to what can otherwise seem overwhelming in your weight loss journey.

  1. Avoid certain foods and drinks: While working on weight loss, avoiding calorie dense, nutritionally poor foods and beverages will produce the best weight loss outcome while maintaining optimal health.
  2. Limit the variety of food options: Limiting the variety of food options available simplifies eating patterns and reduces the number of food decisions being made. This can be a very effective tool for weight loss.
  3. Reintroduce foods gradually: At the right time—which is different for everyone—slowly reintroducing foods in limited quantities helps in negotiating desired foods back into the regular diet in a strategic manner.
  4. Pay attention to how you feel: Food plays a powerful role in how we feel. As we eat different foods, it is important to understand how our body responds to them—positively and negatively.
  5. Note what impacts your intake: There are many reasons we consume food beyond the simple provision of nutrients and energy. Food can impact us on a variety of levels—emotionally, mentally and physically—and it is extremely important to be aware of those effects.

My approach as a dietitian is to help you live a richer, fuller and more active life by building awareness around how your environment, friends, family and circumstances impact your food choices and how foods make you feel. Understanding your body and how it responds to certain foods empowers you to make choices more suitable for overall health goals.

Once you experience the energizing feeling of altering your diet, chances are you will be eager to give up the foods that do not make you feel that way, even when they are foods that are loved.

In the end, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all food rules for weight loss. Following well-documented and effective guidelines, like the ones above, is an effective approach to working towards weight goals. With that being said, remember the number one, most powerful thing you can do in your weight loss journey is to develop an awareness of how food intake impacts you and makes you feel. This awareness will become your internal compass and has the ability to positively impact food choices and govern eating patterns.


Liz’s tips for achieving weight loss and maintenance goals:

  • Remember there are seasons in your weight loss journey. Rather than get frustrated because you have eliminated a food you love from your diet, consider that food temporarily on hold until you transition into your next season and can reevaluate if it fits your plan. You may be surprised by how your view, and even your taste buds change over time.
  • Pick and choose the foods that bring you joy. If you love chocolate, allow yourself one piece of chocolate each day, but limit the amount you eat.
  • Adjust your focus towards the foods you enjoy that make you feel awesome, rather than pouring energy into thinking about all the things you cannot or should not eat.
  • Refocus your energy into something other than your diet. By distracting yourself with your favorite hobbies or moving your body, you can distance yourself from an overwhelming focus on food and diet.
  • Be patient with yourself… changing what is your ‘normal’ takes a significant amount of energy and effort. Over time you will see change, but only with continued, consistent efforts.

Take your first step towards getting healthy from the inside out today! Visit Healthful Life MD online to learn more about our comprehensive weight loss solutions and schedule a free consultation with our in-house physician, Dr. Abby Bleistein. Or call 720-336-5681 and we can answer questions and help get your complimentary appointment on the calendar.


Spring Fennel Salad


  • 1/4 cup pistachios
  • 1 large fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
  • 6 stalks of celery, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems
  • 1 cara cara orange, segmented


  • 3 Tablespoons Champagne or White balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive oil
  • pinch of sea salt
  • Zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast pistachios 5 minutes until oil and fragrance just begins to release. Mix dressing ingredients. Toss salad ingredients, cooled toasted pistachios and dressing.

Serve and enjoy!

What you need to know about your gut health

What is The Microbiome?


I recently read a study in the medical journal Gastroenerology, that has inspired me to geek-out a little on you to discuss the microbiome.  The microbiome is the collection of foreign cells, predominantly bacteria, that reside on and within us.  In fact, there are 100 trillion of these inhabitants in our bodies—about 3 pounds of them!  The microbiome can be beneficial to us, when we carry the right bacteria, or in some cases detrimental, when we carry the wrong bacteria.  New research has implicated these bacteria in disease processes as diverse as asthma, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.  The bacteria contribute to our immune system, gut health, and energy balance.


In terms of energy balance, studies on the microbiome suggest that obesity is impacted by the types of bacteria in the microbiome.  Specific types of bacteria are associated with harvesting excess energy—weight gain—and others are associated with reduced weight.  One study, using a mouse model, examined the idea of transplanting the microbiome of genetically obese mice into lean mice that were raised in such a way that they had no bacterial exposure, and therefore, no microbiome of their own.  The transplantation of the “obese” microbiome induced obesity in the lean mice, with no change in diet.


Certain bacterial species are also involved in up-regulating cells of the immune system, protecting us from harmful bacteria.  Other species produce butyrate which keeps the cells of the colon healthy and has an anti-inflammatory effect.  In examining the types of bacteria present in the microbiome of lean, healthy subjects, compared to obese subjects, the healthy subjects have a more diverse population of bacteria.  Lean, healthy subjects have increased populations of beneficial types of bacteria, while obese subjects have decreased populations of beneficial bacteria. In fact, obese subjects have more of the energy harvesting bacteria leading to a propensity to continue to gain weight.  They also carry more bacteria that have endotoxins, toxins that enter the body and lead to inflammation that may contribute to coronary disease and insulin resistance.


Nutrition has a significant impact on the types of bacteria that colonize our guts.  Diets high in sugar and fat decrease the diversity of the microbiome and also lead to predominance of species that harvest excess energy and species that produce endotoxins.  The bacteria that predominate with these diets also lack the anti-inflammatory effect of the beneficial bacteria and they do not up-regulate the protective immune functions either.


We also know from studies, that the microbiome is changeable.  In fact, changes in diet can lead to a change in the microbiome within 48 hours.  


The study I referred to initially, explored what we know about beneficial bacteria in the microbiome and the impact of nutrition on the system.  The study was small, only 22 cases and 20 control subjects, but the results are interesting and suggest the need for further research.  Researchers added inulin, a favorite “food” source of healthy bacteria, to the diet of 22 children ages 7 to 12 years old who are affected by obesity, and gave a placebo to 20 similar children as a control group.  After 16 weeks, with no changes to their diet, the children who received the inulin showed decreased weight, body fat percentage, triglycerides, and inflammatory markers compared to those who received the placebo.  Examination of the microbiome of the subjects demonstrated a significant increase in the beneficial species of bacteria in the inulin-receiving subjects compared to those who received placebo.  The researchers concluded that the prebiotic, the inulin,  selectively altered the microbiome leading to the improved health outcome measures.

This study, and others, suggest that we can improve our health by promoting the diversity of our microbiome and encouraging the growth of the more beneficial species of bacteria in our guts.  Here are some things you can do to welcome these healthy bacteria into your life:


  • Eat less fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates
  • Add prebiotics to your diet: fiber from whole grains, fruit, and vegetables
  • Avoid chemically processed foods
  • Eliminate alcohol consumption
  • Eat probiotic foods such as yogurt, kimchee, sauerkraut, and pickles
  • Decrease stress—the unhealthy bacteria tend to increase in the presence of chronic stress
  • Get adequate sleep, at least 8 hours nightly—decreased sleep leads to overproduction of the energy harvesting bacteria in the microbiome
  • Exercise regularly—studies indicate that exercise increased the diversity of the microbiome and may increase the colonies of bacteria that produce butyrate


Dr. Abby

Lentil and Egg Stew


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, 5 finely chopped, 1 whole
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for frying
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups French or black beluga lentils
  • 1 (3×2-inch) piece Parmesan rind
  • 1 bunch large spinach, tough stems trimmed
  • 4 large eggs
  • Red wine vinegar and grated Pecorino (for serving)


Pulse onion, fennel, carrots, and chopped garlic in a food processor until soffritto is finely chopped. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large pot over medium. Add soffritto, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 10–12 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally and adding a splash of water if mixture is browning too quickly, until golden brown and very soft (it will look almost like a purée), 10–12 minutes. Add lentils and 6 cups water. Lay Parmesan rind on top (it may stick if it falls to the bottom). Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until lentils are tender, 35–45 minutes, depending on type. Taste and season with more salt.

Meanwhile, place spinach in a glass bowl and add a splash of water and a pinch of salt. Microwave on high until bright green and slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Squeeze firmly to expel excess water, then cut in half. (If you don’t have a microwave, add the spinach directly to the pot and let it wilt slightly before making divots for eggs.) Thin stew with water by 1/4-cupfuls if needed to loosen. Scatter wilted spinach across the top.

Using the back of a spoon, create 4 divots in surface of stew and drop an egg into each. Cover pot and simmer stew very gently just until eggs are set, 8–12 minutes.

Carefully divide stew and eggs among bowls, add a splash of vinegar to each, and top with Pecorino.

Do Ahead: Stew (without eggs and spinach) can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.

YIELD: 4 servings

Recipe courtesy Epicurious

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