Healthy Diet Changes: Little Changes Can Lead to Big Results

A Healthy Snack of Tomatoes and CheeseHave you noticed how hard it is to make healthy diet changes, especially lasting ones? Intellectually you know that if you cut out certain foods, you’ll see a difference the next time you step on a scale. You know that if you make healthier food choices, you can reduce your risk of  conditions like diabetes or heart disease. Yet when that candy bar calls to you from the office vending machine at 3 in the afternoon, sometimes your best intentions fly out the window.

The clients that I see succeed over the long term make small healthy diet changes to habits they already have. They focus on tweaking one habit at a time rather than making drastic changes. Here are a couple examples:

Half & Half to Low Fat Milk in Coffee. If you like this creamy additive in your morning java, you might try whole milk. If you use 2 tablespoons to eachCoffee_can_Be_part_of_a_healthy_diet cuppa joe, you’ll save about 20 calories as well as reduce fat grams. If you drink two mugs a day that adds up to 280 calories a week. That’s the equivalent of a Snickers bar. If you switch to 2% milk, you’ll save even more.

Instant oatmeal to unflavored oats. Those pre-packaged sleeves of oatmeal packs a sugar punch. The Maple & Brown sugar version has 9 grams of sugar, while its slow-cooked alternative has 1 gram. By adding fresh blueberries or ½ a banana, you’ll get the sweet without the same glycemic hit.  You’ll also increase your fiber intake by adding fresh fruit to your oatmeal :-).

Fatty cuts of beef to lean cuts of beef.  There is a lot of saturated fat in regular ground beef and several popular cuts of steak.  You can shave off lots of calories from fat (without losing much in iron or other nutrients in beef)  by switching to leaner steaks (such as flank steak or filet mignon) or to extra lean ground sirloin.


Where could you make small changes to your favorite foods in order to decrease your calories (or sodium, fat, sugar)? Don’t be surprised if it takes several months for your taste buds to change. But once they do, you’ll be amazed!  Your taste buds really do change— you’ll be more sensitive to the sugar, salt or fat content of your food once you’ve gotten used to eating foods with less.

My clients have commented that the old foods they used to eat and love just don’t taste as good now. Or, less of it satisfies them. That’s the trick to staying on track with a healthy diet.  Small changes over time reap BIG, long term dividends down the road!

What little changes have YOU made that are paying you big weight loss dividends now?

Share your successes in the comment section!


Committed to your success,





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Coffee image


10 Reasons Why You May Not See a Weight Loss – Part 2

Eat 5 to 9 fruit and veggie servings a dayLast week we looked at 5 reasons you may not be losing weight (even though you may be trying!).

Here are 5 more reasons you might not be seeing the weight loss you desire.

6. Skipped Meals

When one of my bootcamp clients complains that they aren’t seeing weight loss results, I ask if they are skipping any meals. Why? Because chronically skipping meals actually slows your metabolism, causing your body to store calories rather than burn them. I also see that when a meal is skipped, a dieter will actually overeat at the next meal because they are hungrier than usual.

7. Sugar & Simple Carbs

Added sugars and lots of processed white flour-based products can sabotage your weight loss goal. There are literally hundreds of products that contain sugar with deceptive names like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup. Sugar and other simple carbohydrates turn off the hormones responsible for releasing body fat and turns on the hormones to store fat. Effective and healthy weight loss regimes have the opposite effect on the body.

8. Adult Beverages

Alcohol stimulates the appetite and slows down metabolism. While alcoholic drinks taste good, they are loaded with empty calories.  So reflect on the Cocktail imagenumber of drinks you have each week. Personally, I plan for (and then thoroughly enjoy) one or two glasses of wine a week. Limiting your alcohol consumption can help your weight loss efforts.

9. Five A Day

Are you having fruits and/or vegetables every time you eat? Most veggies are lower in calories and help fill you up. When you feel satisfied, you’re more likely to stick with your weight loss program.

10. Failing to Plan

The adage “fail to plan and you’re planning to fail” is true for weight loss as well. Are you planning and preparing your meals ahead of time? If not, you are more likely to get off track. By incorporating items you really enjoy in your meal plans, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Can you think of any other activities that throw your weight loss efforts off track?  Have you found solutions for them?

Share them here!

Committed to your success,




Image credits



10 Reasons Why You May Not See a Weight Loss

  1. Fresh tomatoes are great for a weight loss program!If you’ve been struggling with weight loss, there may be a good reason as to why. In my bootcamps I see all types of clients. Some want to lose baby weight while others just want to tone up and get firmer. Whatever your fitness goal, consider these 10 reasons you may not be seeing the results you seek:

1. Too Many Calories

As with most weight loss eating programs, you’re probably trying to reduce your caloric intake. Even if you’re carefully measuring and planning your main meals, extra calories can sneak in with snacks. It’s all too common to under-estimate the number of calories consumed on a daily basis. Research shows we underestimate our food intake by about 30% on average.  I suggest that you journal what you eat every day whether in a notebook or via an electronic tool like MyFitnessPal.  Portions count, so make sure you REALLY know how much you’re eating.

2. Too Few Calories

What!!??  I know this may sound contradictory to #1, but not eating enough can be another reason why you’re experiencing weight loss.  You need to create a caloric deficit by reducing your intake slightly. If you go too far below your maintenance calories and your body goes into starvation mode. It’ll do the opposite of what you want… shedding muscle and storing calories as fat. Why? Because it wants to protect you, saving energy for future use. So, by not eating enough supportive foods on a daily basis, it lowers the amount of calories your body burns.

Kettlebells are great for strength training3. Not Lifting Weights

Cardiovascular exercise burns calories, but it doesn’t boost your metabolism quite the way strength training does. Doing some kind of resistance training like lifting weights is critical to building and maintaining muscle and tone. If you’re not lifting weights while trying to lose body fat, you may actually lose muscle over time. Plus, your metabolic rate will decrease, causing you to burn fewer calories.

4.  Too Little Exercise

If you’ve cut the calories to a healthy deficit and you’re doing resistance training, then the last alternative is to increase the amount of calories you burn. If you’re still not losing weight with 20 minutes of exercise three times a week, then you need to ramp it up. Very few people are successful at losing weight and keeping it off without exercising almost everyday. Make it a rule to be active at least 30 minutes a day.

5.  Unrealistic Expectations

Slow and steady wins the race in weight loss. Often I see that my clients have unrealistic expectations, wanting to see instant results. Focus on progress, not perfection. If your workout motivation is waning, think back to why you started this journey. Revisit your goals and get back in touch with your “why.”

I’ll be back next week with 5 more reasons your weight loss efforts may be stalling.


Committed to your success,




Image credits:

Tomato image

Is a Food Addiction Curbing Your Weight Loss? Part 2

The_Brain_and_weight_lossIn part 1 we talked about foods that may trigger an addiction and their affect on weight loss. Now let’s talk a bit about the brain science behind it: dopamine. Dopamine is a simple organic chemical that the brain produces. It plays a major role in the brain system responsible for reward-driven learning.

In a groundbreaking study at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, researchers looked at the connection between brain dopamine and obesity. They found that obese people had lower levels of dopamine in their “reward” areas than those with a normal weight. Lower level of dopamine is also seen in drug addicts (e.g., cocaine) or alcoholics. This study suggests that those suffering from obesity have different brain chemistries when dealing with food. Unlike other types of addition where you avoid the drug, you can’t avoid food.

So, can certain food really be addictive? Some of my clients would say “absolutely!” When a craving becomes overwhelming or you can’t stop once you’ve started eating it, then it’s time for self examination and other weight loss strategies. Once you’ve identified your triggers, here are some ideas on how to handle the situation:

  • Avoid the troublesome food. If it’s not in your environment, it’s not there to tempt you and derail your weight loss efforts. Ask those close to you,Food_addiction_spiral like family and friends, for their help.  DON’T stock your cupboards with unhealthy food that you have a hard time eating in moderation.
  • Avoid mindless eating. Be deliberate about what you put on your plate and where you eat. Eat sitting down (as opposed to on the run or standing at the kitchen counter). Set a placemat at the dining room table for each meal. Put your fork down between bites. Chew and really taste your food. You’ll probably find you get fuller faster, and enjoy what you’re eating more.
  • Identify your triggers. Anxiety caused by stressful situations can cause you to reach for those “comfort foods.” Boredom, loneliness and anger can also trigger stress eating.  If you know your trigger, it’s the first step toward acknowledging it and overcoming it.
  • Divert your attention from food.  Might I suggest some exercise like dropping in on a bootcamp session 😉 ? Not only will it distract you from eating, it’ll work out any nervous energy. Many times, exercise clears your head, allowing you to find a solution to the problem that originally triggered your stress.  Other activities that keep your hands busy like knitting, crossword puzzles can keep your mind occupied when it turns to food.

If you’ve struggled with over-eating and have found solutions to your personal triggers–share your success stories here!


Committed to your success,




Photo credits:  Brain image,  candies

Is a Food Addiction Curbing Your Weight Loss? Part 1

Sugary_foods_can_be_addictingAfter years of helping people lose weight with fitness training, I have seen firsthand that many clients have trouble with certain kinds of foods. In most situations my clients are rational:  They eat “splurge”  foods in moderation and limit unhealthy choices from their environment. Yet, they struggle with things like bread, pasta, or sweets. Now there’s science to explain the brain chemistry and how it impacts willpower and weight loss.

We’re bombarded with calorically dense foods or ones that tip the scales with chemical additives. It’s no surprise that more than one third of Americans are obese. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report (January 2012), obesity doesn’t discriminate by gender and 17% of youth suffer from obesity. But why are we overeating to the point where we risk our health to hypertension and type 2 diabetes?

The key may be in how some foods hijack the brain. According to Kelly Brownell who directs Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, “the Our brain may hold the key to understanding eating behaviorfood industry obviously manipulates the qualities of its food to maximize desirability.” There’s even surprising evidence suggesting that some foods may alter the brain like an addictive drug.

Ask yourself, what foods do you find difficult to limit once you start to eat? For me, it’s sweets (chocolate, cookies and other sweet snacks). For one client it was pasta. She found it difficult to limit her portion to the recommended serving of one cup. It was sabotaging her weight loss, so she eliminated it from her diet. By doing so, she has seen a difference at the scale as well as her energy level. Consuming starchy carbs like pasta can be great if you’re preparing for a marathon or gearing up for an intense bootcamp training session. However, it can make you feel tired and sluggish once you’ve left the dinner table.  Sometimes it’s just better to avoid a “trigger” food altogether and make a different food choice.

Do you have any food triggers that may fast-forward you into over-eating?  Share your thoughts (or solutions you’ve found!) below.

In my next post, I’ll share some information about brain dopamine, food addiction and weight–and how you can overcome food additions.


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Foodie cupcakes

Fat Loss Made Easy–Tips from lifeSport Fitness Boot Camp in San Jose

Tips for getting greater fat loss results in the next 12 weeks

Body fat measurement at San Jose boot campI recently held a free assessment day for members of our lifeSport Fitness boot camps in San Jose, Campbell and Los Gatos.  Because the scale doesn’t tell the whole story, it’s important to track other measurements such as body fat and girth to really get a clear picture of what’s happening once you start to do boot camp workouts.  So, we offer free measurements for our members to keep them focused and on track.

At lifeSport Fitness, we work hard to make every boot camp workout extremely effective for fat loss:  We do LOTS of strength training. We do interval training to increase the calorie burn of the workout.  We make sure to train the whole body in a functional manner in every workout.

That said, my coaches and I can’t out-train a client’s poor diet 🙂.

If you don’t eat enough, you don’t fuel your workouts well and you might lose muscle over time.  If you eat too many calories, you won’t shed body fat.  And, if you eat about the right amount of food, but it’s nutritionally unbalanced or down right non-nutritious food–well– you’re probably not going to feel very good AND you probably won’t shed fat.

Bottom line, nutrition accounts for a LARGE margin of your results. You need to eat often and eat nutritiously to fuel an active body.  You also need to be aware of portions and quantity.

I gave a “tips” sheet to our members at our assessment day to give them ideas for getting to the next level of fat loss at their next assessment, and I’d like to share it with you.

If you want to be leaner in the next 8-12 weeks, you should:


LOG your food intakeJournaling your food helps your weight loss plan

If you (or I) don’t really know what you’re eating, you don’t know what needs to be changed, and I don’t know how to coach you on changes you should make.

Start a free account at  Your journal is only as “honest” as you are, but you’ll see your calories, protein, fat, etc all listed there. This particular website is “smart phone friendly”.  You can scan food packaging and it will automatically upload the food item to your journal.

Increase your vegetable intake by AT LEAST 50%

This will fill up your plate, decrease your calorie consumption and increase your overall nutrition by a HUGE margin!  The greater variety of colors on your plate, the better!


If you're trying to lose weight, don't drink your calories!Pay attention to the calories you drink

These are very often “forgotten” calories—but they may be the ones that are ending up on your waistline.  Big culprits here:  Blended coffee drinks, alcoholic beverages, juices and other sweetened drinks.



If you eat out more than 3 times a week, work on decreasing that number

Restaurant food is chock full of calories, fat and salt.  It’s really hard to lose fat if you’re eating large fatty, salty or sugary commercial meals on a regular basis.


Plan and schedule your workouts outside of camp

If you’re actively trying to shed fat, I suggest doing some form of cardio exercise (longer, lower intensity workouts, as well as shorter High Intensity Interval Training cardio workouts) 5 times a week.  Strength training should be done 2-3 times a week.  When pressed for time, do your strength/cardio together circuit style.


DON’T diet

This fails every single time.  Diets are temporary.  Your lifeSport Fitness boot camp coaches and I want  to teach you how to lose fat and keep it off by changing your food habits and your lifestyleIf you start on some sort of fat loss plan you can’t live with—you’re doomed to fail.  Deprivation just doesn’t work long term.


Make small changes over time. Focus on what TO eat, not what NOT to eat.  Have indulgences now and then.  THAT’s real life. Yes, the fat will come off more slowly this way, but it’s more likely that you’ll stick with the new habits.


Committed to your success,




Image credits:

Pen and journal

Blended coffee drink

Workout Motivation – Tips to Getting Back on Track

*Colorful_tenniesWorkout motivation can change over time. It’s been four months since the holidays wrapped up with New Year’s Resolutions. In January many of my San Jose boot camp clients began their exercise program energized and super motivated. They woke up early to join fellow boot campers for a rigorous and fun workout. They also started a healthy eating program, increasing the number of fiber-rich foods like fruits and veggies into their diet. They were vigilant in drinking water and getting enough rest.

Now… fast forward a couple of months. They lost several pounds and/or inches by working out regularly. They feel better because they have more energy. Their clothes fit better. But after a while they hit a weight loss plateau. Or, they feel deprived of some of their favorite foods.  Or, sleeping in is getting more tempting each morning.  Or their work schedule has changed. Or……you get the point: They lose focus.

Here are 5 Tips to reclaim your Workout Motivation:

Plan For Exercise

Before your work week starts, make sure you schedule exercise throughout the week. Sunday is a good day to do some pre-planning: meal menus and strategies that allow for working out during meeting-packed days. By being purposeful about your workouts and committing to specific times, you’ll see long-term success.

Revisit Your Goal Sheet

When I begin working with a new client, I have them complete a goal sheet. Typical questions include: what’s a short-term goal and accompanying time frame? What actions will you put in place to achieve your goal? What kind of challenges do you need to overcome in order to reach your goal? If you haven’t already, fill out a goal sheet. If you have one, great! Now it’s time to revisit it… even prominently placing it somewhere where you can see it at home or work. By reviewing your goal sheet often will help keep you focused.

What’s Your Why?

There’s a fundamental reason that initially provide your workout motivation. Why did you decide to embark on this journey? Remind yourself why you want to exercise and keep positive.  Journal about your motivation so you can look back on it from time to time. Another powerful tool is visualization. Think ahead to what your life would be like once you achieve your goal(s). How do you feel? What’s different? Visualization is a technique that many Olympic athletes use to train and maintain focus.

Let’s Make Deal

Sometimes it’s about having fun. Play a game by giving yourself a specific weekly challenge. When you follow-through on that challenge, give yourself a treat. Have some fun in your approach to making exercise an ever-changing adventure by giving yourself personal challenges.

Exercise Buddiesworkout_buddies

Find a workout buddy to whom you are accountable. Knowing someone is waiting for you at the gym or local track can be reason enough to get out of bed and follow-through for early morning workouts. For those competitive A-Type personalities, this can really ignite your workout motivation where you can exchange progress reports.

So how do YOU keep your workout motivation in tune? Please share your tips that have kept you on track in the comments section!



Image credits:

Running Shoes

Hopscotch buddies

Healthy Snacks That Help You Lose Weight

Healthy Snacking for Weight LossSome people might read the title of my blog post here and wonder how snacking in between meals can be a good thing if you’re trying to lose weight. Can healthy snacks between meals really help you LOSE weight?

I say……..YES!  Here’s why:  Eating a small, healthy snack may help you eat LESS at meal time. And, it may also eliminate blood sugar peaks and valleys that can trigger binge eating. Overeating at meal time and binge-eating are  common causes of weight gain. The key to snacking in between meals is to snack smart!

Over-eating causes weight gain
Binging on simple carbs can cause weight gain!

3 Healthy Snack Tips

1-  Make sure the healthy snack contains a source of protein. Eating a little protein will help you feel more full.

2- Eat a snack low in sugar.  This will prevent a spike in blood sugar and subsequent crash in blood sugar later on.

3- Keep the snack small:  150-200 calories for women, 200-300 calories for men.

I like to see a mix of protein and carbohydrate in snacks, and perhaps a little healthy fat.  Healthy snacks should hold you over to the next meal, raise your metabolic rate a little bit (digestion requires calories!), and keep you from having large swings in blood sugar. Studies show that metabolism affects weight loss as it affects how you burn calories.

Here are my suggestions for healthy snacks:

  • Apples slices with almond butter
  • String cheese and almonds
  • Mini carrots and hummus
  • Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
  • Prograde Protein shaken with ice and non-fat almond milk
  • “Ants on a log” (Celery sticks filled with a little natural peanut butter and dotted with a couple of raisins)
  • Prograde Craver (careful!  These healthy snack bars are addictive!!!)
  • Cashews and dried cranberries
  • Lara Bar
  • Tomato and low-fat mozzarella slices drizzled with balsamic vinegarA Healthy Snack of Tomatoes and Cheese

If you’re trying to lose weight, make sure you have healthy snacks on hand at home, at work and in the car.  If you find yourself hungry without something healthy to eat, you ‘re MUCH more likely to make a poor choice.

Set yourself up for weight loss success by planning ahead and snacking smart!

Do you have a favorite healthy snack not listed here?  Please share your favorite snack ideas in the comment section!


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Tomatoes and cheese

Apple image

Image of woman eating

Fast Weight Loss Myths Busted

Weight_Loss_HelpHaving run a fitness boot camp in San Jose for nearly a decade, I hear countless fast weight loss myths and lies. Unfortunately many clients have fallen victim to misconceptions about what will help them take the weight off healthfully and permanently.

Here are three top fast weight loss myths… and the real skinny behind them:

Weight Loss Myth #1: To lose weight, you must do MORE cardiovascular exercise.

While it’s true that we have to move more in order to change the shape of our bodes, more cardio is not the primary key to fast weight loss. In actuality, it comprises only part of the solution. Before starting boot camp, my clients typically have exercised at a moderate, “steady state” pace like on a treadmill or walking around a local track. They sustain a moderate and consistent pace and go for a long time. For example, they are able to talk comfortably with a friend. This kind of workout increases heart rate and the calories that you are burning, but both of these things return to normal once the workout ends. A moderate cardio work out doesn’t task the metabolism much, letting it go back to resting once an exercise session is complete.Treadmill_workout

If you’re trying to create a new metabolism — one that burns calories during and after a workout — interval training is your best bet. Interval training combines periods of hard intensity with periods of recovery. It’s caloric benefit outlasts the workout, creating a chemical reaction in your body that burns calories long after the workout is over (we call this “afterburn”).  Research has shown that in addition to burning more calories during and after a workout, interval training seems to make us better at burning fat for fuel during those other, more moderate cardio workouts.

Weight Loss Myth #2: To lose weight, you need to diet.

Fast Weight Loss MythsWhile it’s true you may need to reduce caloric intake (eat less), my clients actually have better results by changing what they eat. A “diet mentality” is temporary. A diet is something you go “off” and “on.” By returning to previous unhealthy habits, long-term weight loss or maintenance isn’t realistic. Deprivation isn’t a sustainable lifestyle. Anyone can diet and lose weight, but to keep it off requires a different mindset.

By focusing on more nutrient dense foods, you’ll concentrate on foods you can eat (as opposed to focusing all the time on what you can’t eat!). Eating small meals more frequently, especially featuring proteins and a little healthy fat, you’ll find that you stay satisfied longer. Combining a healthy eating approach with an exercise regimen, those unwanted pounds can melt off and stay off.

Weight Loss Myth #3:  Weight Loss can be found in a bottle.

Billions of dollars are spent each year on supplements, medication, and magical shakes in the hope of fast weight loss. Many promise “take this product and lose weight effortlessly.” The truth is that many of these products can be very dangerous, especially for those with high blood pressure, as they use stimulants to artificially raise metabolism.

That said, there is one supplement I do recommend that my clients add to their diets: fish oil. Research indicates that Omega 3 fatty acids may help turn on fat burning enzymes in our body, thereby allowing us to release stored fat for use as fuel. Fish oil  has so many positive attributes that it’s one of the few supplements I recommend my clients take because of the multitude of health benefits is provides.

In general, though, no pill or shake is going to do the work for you.  Long term fat loss can’t come from a bottle.  It comes from ramping up your metabolism through proper eating,  increasing muscle mass with strength training, and ramping up your cardio workout intensity with interval training.

These are just three of the fast weight loss myths I get asked about a lot.  I’m sure there are other myths out there!

What other fast weight loss myths have  you heard about?

Post your comments below and let’s bust another myth!


Committed to your success,





Treadmill photo courtesy of S.L.Y.:

Carrot photo courtesy of Malia:

Scale photo courtesy of 05com:

Burn MORE Calories with Nordic Walking!

Two women doing Nordic WalkingOver 8 million people actively participate in Nordic Walking in Europe.  If you enjoy walking for fitness and you’d like to burn more calories on your walks, you should check out Nordic Walking!

There are a few misconceptions about what Nordic Walking really is.   It all started in the mid-1990’s in Finland. The Finns are avid cross-country skiers. To keep in shape during the off season, they pioneered that piece of gym equipment called the Nordic Track. Although you don’t see a lot of Nordic Track machines around anymore, one of the off-shoots of their design is the Nordic Walking pole.

Nordic Walking poles are telescoping and are adjusted to the individual such that the forearm is horizontal to the ground. The poles are high strength aluminum or even carbon fiber. They are feather light. The proper technique is to slightly drag the poles and keep them behind you at a 45 degree angle as you walk normally, with a left/right arm swing. You slightly push the pole into the ground to help propel you forward. This little action brings the triceps into action. By getting resistance into your walk, you involve muscles that normally would not get exercise. Even speed walking utilizes only about 70% of the body’s muscles. Nordic Walking increases that to 90%. To feed these muscles, your heart pumps more blood, raising your heart rate (this is good). More oxygen is need to produce the energy you need, so you burn more calories.  One additional benefit of using poles – you carry a level of protection against snakes, dogs and other hostile critters!

To validate the benefits of Nordic Walking, the prestigious Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas did a study comparing normal walking with Nordic Walking.  Comparing the two forms of walking, their study revealed that Nordic Walking burned an average of 20% more calories, with some individuals consuming up to 46% more than the walkers. Their heart rates went up 6% and oxygen intake increased up to 20%. All this with no perceived extra exertion and no knee or joint pain. In addition, the back is supported and causes the walker to be more upright.

Interested in giving it a try? LifeSport Fitness has arranged with San Jose local, Rick Deutsch, to teach and Introductory Nordic Walking Class along theRick Deutsch, Nordic Walking instructor Los Gatos Creek Trail.  Rick is an American Nordic Walking Association certified instructor. You might know him better as Mr. Half Dome, as he is rather famous for having hiked to the summit of Yosemite’s Half Dome 30 times!  Rick teaches Nordic Walking on the # 1 rated cruise line, Crystal Cruises. He’ll have loaner poles for the 1-hour sessions so you can experience the benefits of Nordic Walking. This 1-hour classes will be held at  6 pm on Wednesday, August 17th. The cost  $25 and pre-registration is required. We can take up to 10 people at the session.

To register, log on to  to secure your spot!


Committed to your success,