• Theresa Gentile

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

After counseling hundreds of clients, I’ve come up with 6 pillars that are crucial for success in your weight loss and health goals.

A client recently asked me what I think are the keys to weight loss success. His goal is to lose weight for health and mobility reasons, he doesn’t want to relapse and he only wants to do this once. It made me think about what it is that my most successful clients do that can be replicated. Below are 6 attributes that can set you up for weight loss success.

1. Anything worth your time takes time

Weight loss is a slow and steady kinda game. If you’re looking to keep weight off and prevent relapse of weight re-gain, you have to make it a lifestyle. As one of my clients says, she has made a, “commitment to her sobriety”, in a sense.

Crash diets, crazy diets, let’s-eliminate-whole-food-group diets have been shown to have a greater increase in weight re-gain at 12 months than a slower, more stable weight loss. This is because slow loss gives our bodies time to develop and cement new habits. In this way, we’re also allowing our body’s natural physiology to keep the weight off and not rebound.

Plus, I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to put in all the work of making healthy changes, I only want to do it once! I don’t want to go through the trouble of falling off the wagon, just to get back on again. It’s a lot easier to keep going.

2. Small Steps

“Every journey begins with a single step” (Confucius, philosopher).

If you want to accomplish your weight loss goals, or any goal for that matter, it would be in your best interest to tackle one thing at a time. Stop the overwhelm by breaking up a long journey into small strides.

The most successful people pick one thing and do it well.

Every small step you take gives you the momentum and proven success mindset to propel you forward. I recommend that my clients use some sort of visual to accomplish this...maybe adding coffee beans to a jar with every step made, or keeping a list of accomplishments. This will help productivity because motivation alone is often not enough to get us through tough changes to ingrained habits.

It’s also a good idea to write your goals down. Break down your goals into monthly and weekly acts.

3. There is No Perfect

You may want to throw in the towel every time you take a step backward or fail at making another stride, but if you want weight loss success, you’ll have to go with the ebb and flow of life.

Accepting and sitting with the uncomfortable gray areas will take practice. It will require you to be gentle and compassionate with yourself.

In addition, every time you fall off the proverbial wagon and are able to get right back on, it teaches an important lesson. Firstly, you learn from your mistakes. Secondly, every time you get back up, you train your brain to make this connection next time, instead of giving up.

4. Set up Your Environment for Success

According to Clear in “Transform Your Habits”, (Clear, 2015; Duhigg, 2012), “If your environment doesn’t change, you probably won’t either.”

Increase the ease to get and eat healthy food at home. Conversely, make it harder to get to the unhealthy food. If it’s possible, don’t keep unhealthy, or trigger, foods in the house at all. If snack foods or candy are around in your home, make it physically hard to get. Keep it in the basement, or up high in the back of a cupboard. By nature, we are programmed to do what is easiest.

Also, making a plan ahead of time is crucial. It will always be easier to make a choice based on a decision you’ve already planned out than attempting to come up with a new plan on the fly.

If cookies with that 3 pm coffee in the break room is a trigger for you, make a plan (and write it down) at the beginning of the week. Maybe this week you’ll bring a healthy snack to work instead. If that’s not enough for you to resist the cookies in the breakroom, maybe you can go out for a walk and get a cup of coffee where there aren’t cookies staring right at you.

This can work with exercise routines as well. Make a plan for the week for your physical activity. Then do everything to make it work. Tell your family that you’ll be running out right before breakfast for a walk, set out your clothes the night before, or invest in the right equipment and clothes that you might need.

5. Accountability

Once you take responsibility for your actions and your goals, you are putting yourself in the driver's seat. Your goals are within your control and every step you take will be in the direction of that goal.

To whom should you be accountable? Well, you could join a mastermind group or use an individualized coach. You could find either one of these in various Facebook groups, blogs, Reddit, or MyFitnessPal. You could start with a Registered Dietitian for your nutrition goals or a personal trainer for your physical activity goals.

Can you hold yourself accountable to family or friends? Of course! There are pros and cons to whether you should invite someone you know or invite an unbiased person to hold you accountable. You have to do what’s right for you.

But, no matter who you choose to hold you accountable, informing the people with whom you live is a good idea as well-meaning family can undermine your health goals if they’re not aware of them.

6. It Has to be a Lifestyle

Like I mentioned earlier, most quick fixes won’t amount to long-lasting change. To get to the root cause of your eating or health issues, you really need to identify the weaknesses and make a plan to change those habits.

With a plan, an accountability partner, and the right mindset, you can accomplish your health goals before you know it!

If you’ve been thinking about getting more serious about your weight loss or health goals, email me in the contact box below, so we can discuss if I can help meet your needs.

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Updated: Apr 29

Flaxseeds are a little powerhouse seed of nutrition. From decreasing cholesterol to decreasing cancer risk, most healthy adults can improve their health just by adding a little bit of flaxseeds to their diet each day.

There’s been a lot of growing and impressive research on flaxseed, it’s impact on health, its bioactive components and how to consume it so we can reap the most of flaxseeds’ benefits.

Flaxseeds are a plant-based food with healthful fat in the form of polyunsaturated fatty acids

(specifically, omega 3 fatty acids), antioxidants and fiber. Flaxseeds also contain protein and are a rich source of lignans. Because flaxseeds have the potential to boost health, it is considered a functional food.

What are some health benefits of flaxseeds?

Flaxseeds can help decrease cholesterol and blood pressure

Flaxseeds can help lower cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Likely through the anti-inflammatory effects of the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in flaxseeds, dietary flaxseed has been shown to decrease the progression of atherosclerosis when it is caused by high dietary cholesterol or high dietary trans-fat content.  

Flaxseeds may also decrease cholesterol due to the phytosterol content. Phytosterols have a
similar structure to cholesterol, but they help prevent the absorption of cholesterol to the

In terms of lowering blood pressure, there has been substantial effects from milled flaxseeds.

Again, it’s thought that ALA was the factor involved in lowering blood pressure.

In the double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized FlaxPAD Trial, PAD patients fed 30 g of milled flaxseed every day for 6 months exhibited significant decreases in both systolic and

diastolic blood pressure. This hypotensive effect was shown as early as 1 month after starting the flaxseed in the diet and was maintained for up to one year.

Flaxseeds may decrease cancer risk

A majority of the research in flaxseed’s role in decreasing cancer risk is with breast cancer.

Flaxseed lignans are nonsteroidal phytoestrogens whose chemical structure is very similar to

mammalian estrogens; these lignans produce estrogen-like effects in mammals. Flax lignans are metabolized by intestinal bacteria to become bioavailable in the plasma. The flax lignans may slow tumor growth.

Flaxseeds have been found to decrease tumor growth in women with breast cancer and mortality of women with breast cancer.

Flaxseeds may improve blood sugar control and diabetes

Flaxseed supplementation reduced blood glucose in subjects with type 2 diabetes in some studies and lowered blood glucose in subjects with prediabetes. More research needs to be done in this area.

Flaxseed and hot flashes and hormonal status

The estrogenic effects of flaxseed suggest a potentially positive effect on hot flashes in post-

menopausal women.

In a study of 140 postmenopausal women, menopausal symptoms decreased and the quality of life increased in women who ingested a flaxseed supplemented diet. Another large trial (199 women) of unusually long duration (1 year) on a high dose of flaxseed (40 g per day) reported a significant decrease in menopausal symptoms, but this effect did not differ from the control group that ingested a wheat germ placebo. (See article here)

More randomized, placebo-controlled trials are necessary to determine conclusive effects on

menopausal symptoms.

Flaxseeds and gastrointestinal health and the microbiome

It is now well understood that the gut microbiome plays an important role in human health.

(Read more on the microbiome in my article here) How much flaxseed’s components contribute to the microbiome is still being researched. It has been shown that flaxseed’s digestion in the intestines alters the bacterial composition favorably. And changes in specific bacteria in the microbiome may have implications in disease progression.

Flaxseeds are high in insoluble fiber, which remains in the digestive tract after eating. It then
absorbs water adds bulk to stool. This helps decrease constipation – just be sure to drink plenty of water during the day.

What is the best way to eat flaxseeds?

Flaxseed comes in whole flaxseed, ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil and partially defatted flaxseed meal. A new form available is flax “milk”. It’s a milk alternative, like almond or oat milk. Flax milk is made from finely milled flaxseed mixed with filtered water and a few other negligible compounds. Flax milk is high in ALA and is an excellent alternative to dairy milk, as it has no cholesterol or lactose. It is suitable for people allergic to soy, nuts and gluten, and it contains more health benefits than almond milk.

Flaxseeds’ high content of ALA makes it very susceptible to oxidation. This is why flaxseed can have a bitter taste sometimes.

Baking products with flaxseed, even up to 352 degrees F for two hours, does not alter the

composition of ALA in baked goods.

My favorite ways to use flaxseeds:

-Top oatmeal

-Throw in an omelet

-Add to baked goods

-Add to smoothies

-Top yogurt

-Sprinkle on a sandwich

-Sprinkle on a salad

-Flaxseed crackers

What’s your favorite way to use flaxseeds?


Pan A, Yu D, Demark-Wahnefried W, Franco OH, Lin X. Meta-analysis of the effects of flaxseed interventions on blood lipids. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(2):288-297. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27469

Edel AL, Rodriguez-Leyva D, Maddaford TG, Caligiuri SP, Austria JA, Weighell W,

Guzman R, Aliani M, Pierce GN. Dietary flaxseed independently lowers circulating

cholesterol and lowers it beyond the effects of cholesterol-lowering medications alone in

patients with peripheral artery disease. J Nutr. 2015 Apr;145(4):749-57. doi:

10.3945/jn.114.204594. Epub 2015 Feb 18. PMID: 25694068.

Parikh M, Maddaford TG, Austria JA, Aliani M, Netticadan T, Pierce GN. Dietary Flaxseed as a Strategy for Improving Human Health. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1171. Published 2019 May 25.


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Updated: Oct 3, 2020

As busy and stressful as life can get, there are so many benefits to having dinner together as a family. From social and emotional development to decreased picky eating and better grades in school, you should try making family meals a priority.

I know what you’re thinking...between work, school, extracurricular activities, friends and meetings, it’s nearly impossible to sit down together as a family and eat. And then there’s the planning, cooking, plating, and cleaning.

I know, I get it.

And this isn’t even taking the current school year into account where your kids may all have different school schedules where you wake up not knowing which day of the week it is or which kid is in cohort A and goes to school on Mondays and Wednesdays. (Or is it Tuesdays and Thursdays??!!)

But every small effort you put into this will pay off. And you’ll find it much easier if you don’t overcomplicate things.

Parents shape a children’s eating environment in so many ways. From the food choices in the home to timing and location of meals and comments around food, parents are children’s primary benchmark of food culture.

What constitutes a family meal anyway?

It’s any meal where some of the family sit down together and eat. It can be breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. And it can be any family member. Maybe your spouse always works late and it’s just you and one child at home. OK...don’t pass up that opportunity to eat together.

Let’s discuss the benefits of eating meals together as a family, why eating dinner together as a family is particularly important for picky eaters, and how to put together easy family meals.

What are the benefits of eating family meals together?

1. Improved mental health

Family connectedness (feelings of love and warmth from parents) has been shown to improve mental health and well-being among teenagers. In females, higher self-esteem has been found with more frequent family meals. Some research points to females benefitting more than males with increased family dinners and with strong family bonds. Adolescence is a crucial time for establishing routines important for mental well-being.

2. Better grades in school

Studies show that children who have more frequent family meals tend to have better grades in school. This might be due to a stronger positive relationship with a parent, increased self-esteem or less TV time.

3. Lower risk of substance abuse and teen pregnancy.

4. Better social skills

Eating dinner together has been shown to increase the quality and frequency of communication. Communication is a skill - where better to learn it than with your family that loves and accepts you for who you are.

5. Overall healthier eating and decreased picky eating

One study found that families, where mothers felt that mealtimes were an opportunity for quality time, had children with healthier diets. Children who sit down to more frequent family meals tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, less saturated fats, sugar, fried food and soda.

For children, eating is typically a social occasion. Children’s food preferences and eating behaviors are influenced by their parents, other adults, peers and siblings, as well as children's observations of others' eating behavior. The whole social atmosphere around eating helps develop a child’s eating patterns.

Children who eat the same foods as their parents are nutritionally better off. And this holds true whether or not children eat meals with their parents or not. Parents do not do their children any favors by creating separate children’s meals when children refuse the family dinner. Just take a look at the children’s meals in restaurants; they are of inferior nutritional quality. I explain some tips below on how to encourage children to eat the same meals as parents.

6. Decreased risk of overweight

There is a general finding that children (and adults, for that matter) who remain at the table until everyone has finished eating have lower BMIs than families who do not. Having meaningful conversations at dinner about their day also correlated with significantly lower family BMIs.

Additionally, eating anywhere other than a kitchen or a dining room is related to higher BMIs and overweight. This is especially true when it comes to eating in front of television.

This makes sense on many levels. For one, eating in front of television is a form of distracted, mindless eating. It also tends to be under less supervision, leading to a lower diet quality.

It seems to be that strong, positive emotions and familial connections take the place of the desire to overeat.

There is one caveat to this, though...parents who try to decrease their child’s energy consumption (especially in females) often find it backfires. Even with the best intentions, parents who try to decrease how much their child eats results in a higher body weight. It can start with mealtime struggles with elementary school-aged children, silence in a pre-teen, and disordered eating as a teenager.

Parental control around food has been found to influence children’s preference for high-fat, energy-dense foods, limit a child’s willingness to try new food and disrupts a child’s internal regulation of hunger and satiety; ie, a child’s own self-control around food. It also encourages the picky eater to continue to be so.

7. Decreased risk of disordered eating

Adolescents who have more family meals have a lower rate of disordered eating including vomiting, laxative use, binge eating, and frequent dieting. This could be due to a stronger parent-child bond, made, in part, by socializing every day at mealtime. (As long as it’s a positive atmosphere.)

Another explanation may be that eating dinner together encourages regular meal consumption, which may prevent disordered eating behaviors.

These are 7 reasons why family meals are so important to children’s development of healthy eating behaviors. Now, how do you do it?

Well, I can’t talk about family meals without mentioning the Division Of Responsibility, which is an evidence-based approach to feeding developed by Registered Dietitian Ellyn Satter.

Division of Responsibility in Feeding

The Division of Responsibility in feeding states that parents determine the what, when, and where of feeding. Children determine how much to eat or whether to eat at all. In this model, a parents’ job is to plan and prepare nourishing, balanced meals at planned times during the day. A child’s job is to determine if they want to eat it and how much to choose.

Letting children serve themselves food is even more advantageous. This puts kids in control of their own hunger and fullness cues. This tells them that you, the parent, trust that they can regulate their own barometers and not be subjected to external pressure around food.

This takes away the struggles at mealtime and creates a positive environment where kids want to imitate adults’ food preferences and will feel empowered to try new foods.

Some tips to start planning family meals:

  1. Have planned meals and snacks during the day

  2. Balance those meals with proteins, carbohydrates, fruits and/or vegetables

  3. Sit down together as often as possible; even if it’s just you and the kids. Or you and one kid.

  4. Turn off the TV

  5. Have positive discussions at mealtime. Can’t think of anything? Try going around the table and asking what the best part of everyone’s day was. Or, with younger children, ask this-or-that questions. (Do you like red apples better or yellow ones? Do you like ice cream more or cake?)

  6. Keep it simple! Don’t overcomplicate things or you won’t want to do it.

Here are some simple family meal ideas:

-Chicken cutlets, broccoli and brown rice

-Taco night with beans/chicken/meat and all the fixings

-Grilled cheese, tomato soup, glass of milk

-Broiled fish and veggies, mashed potatoes

-Turkey burgers on whole grain rolls, baby carrots and hummus

-Tuna sandwiches with apples and celery sticks (Check out some of my tuna sandwich combinations here)

In their article on why family meals are important, The Stanford Children’s Hospital says,

“Mealtime can be looked at as an opportunity or a chore.” I think this is perfect.

Keep meals simple and let the thought go that your child’s entire nutritional well-being is dependent on this meal. Keep all the comments positive - remember, a seat at the family table is a privilege. You might enjoy family meals more than you think.

If you’re not having family meals together right now, what’s stopping you? Let me know!


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Christian MS, Evans CE, Hancock N, Nykjaer C, Cade JE. Family meals can help children reach their 5 a day: a cross-sectional survey of children's dietary intake from London primary schools. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2013;67(4):332–8. doi:10.1136/jech-2012-201604.

Haines J, Gillman MW, Rifas-Shiman S, Field AE, Austin SB. Family dinner and disordered eating behaviors in a large cohort of adolescents. Eat Disord. 2010;18(1):10-24. doi:10.1080/10640260903439516

Harrison ME, Norris ML, Obeid N, Fu M, Weinstangel H, Sampson M. Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth. Can Fam Physician. 2015;61(2):e96-e106.

Litterbach, E.V., Campbell, K.J. & Spence, A.C. Family meals with young children: an online study of family mealtime characteristics, among Australian families with children aged six months to six years. BMC Public Health 17, 111 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-016-3960-6

Schwartz S, Benuck I. Strategies and suggestions for a healthy toddler diet. Pediatr Ann. 2013;42(9):181–3. doi:10.3928/00904481-20130823-09.

Skafida V. The family meal panacea: exploring how different aspects of family meal occurrence, meal habits and meal enjoyment relate to young children's diets. Sociol Health Illn. 2013;35(6):906–23. doi:10.1111/1467-9566.12007.

Wansink B, van Kleef E. Dinner rituals that correlate with child and adult BMI. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014;22(5):E91–5. doi:10.1002/oby.20629.

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