Bellingham Athletic Club

Protein – The Master Building Block

Most people know protein as an important component for muscle growth, but it is necessary for much more than that. Protein is kind of like the master building block for the body and supports many vital functions including the immune system, digestion, blood sugar regulation, and more.
When choosing sources of animal protein, it’s important to opt for grass-fed and pasture-raised as often as possible. Why? Well, for one, animals raised in those environments have access to more complete and natural diets. Maybe you’ve noticed on egg cartons the words “vegetarian fed” or seen the difference in eggs produced by vegetarian vs grass-fed chickens. The vegetarian eggs are pale yellow and mild in flavor in comparison to the natural eggs which are vibrant orange and taste wonderful. Part of the reason for this is that chickens are omnivores and meant to consume bugs in addition to grasses, etc. Animals given a full spectrum of nutrients provide more nutrition to us!
Here are some of protein’s roles:
• increases satiety
• building blocks of enzymes, neurotransmitters, hormones, etc.
• building blocks of muscles, organs, skin, etc.

Appropriate sources of protein include:
• beans and legumes
• eggs from pasture-raised chickens
• nitrate-/nitrite-free meat from grass-fed or pasture-raised animals
• sprouted grains
• seeds like quinoa
• full-fat yogurt/cottage cheese

Fats Misconceptions

Fat is one of the most misunderstood nutrients. Fortunately, fat-phobia seems to be coming to a close, though the implications of it have taken a toll on the health of millions. For years people have been told that dietary fat leads to physical fat and all sorts of other ailments, but it isn’t true! As a result of this human experiment, inflammatory diseases have INCREASED, making us sick and overweight.

Two of the biggest culprits are highly processed and hydrogenated oils like canola/vegetable oil and margarine. Fat from these sources behaves differently than fat from sources that are less processed and taken care of properly, so it becomes problematic for your body to use.

An example of this is in our cell walls. You are made up of ~37 trillion cells, and each of those has a cell wall. Cell walls are flexible, strong, and play an important role in keeping cell contents safe and secure — and they’re made of fat!

When you consume processed fats (hydrogenated oils), they become integrated into your cell walls, hormones, and more; however, they don’t behave the way natural fats do. Cell walls made from processed materials lose their flexibility and integrity, so the body begins to malfunction.

Here are a few roles of fat:

long-lasting energy (these calories burn slowly, so you don’t get hungry as quickly)

building blocks of hormones and cell walls

absorption of fat-soluble vitamins

Healthy sources of fat:


butter from grass-fed animals

eggs from pasture-raised chickens

wild-caught fish / fish oil


high-quality oils – avocado, coconut, olive, etc

full-fat yogurt or cottage cheese from grass-fed animals

Shelby O’Hagan, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)
Rebel Yum Nutrition

Be needed and stay connected

We are social creatures and need human interaction to thrive. We can cherish family, rebuild neglected friendships, join clubs, and stay open to meeting new people. There are many opportunities to work for the betterment of our community. Any activity that gives us a sense of nurturing the world around us will help us as we help others. Even plants and pets can offer us the kinds of relationships that help us stay engaged in life.

Understanding Carbohydrates

Carbs have been given a bad reputation by the diet industry, and it’s unfortunate because they’re so important for long-term, overall wellness.

There are two big issues with the way we consume carbs:

1) The sources most people want to eat are highly processed fake foods.

2) People have trained their bodies to run entirely off those sources, so they feel unsatisfied, hungry, and lackluster.

Carbohydrates are a quick-burning calorie that don’t provide energy for long. When most meals/snacks are processed carb-based, you end up hungry soon after or, even worse, HANGRY. Feeling hangry is a sign of poor blood sugar regulation which is not a good thing! Popular diets like Paleo and Keto are part of the movement to eat more fat, a slow-digesting calorie that leaves you feeling fuller for longer. The benefits of fat don’t make carbs any less valuable!

Here are just a few roles carbs play for us:

source of quick-burning energy

provide essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals)

support regular bowel movements (oh, hey there fiber)

Healthy carbohydrate sources:




sprouted grains

Shelby O’Hagan, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)
Rebel Yum Nutrition

Eat for the long haul

Like machines, our bodies must have the proper fuel to function. We need to drink lots of water, eat at least five helpings of fruits and vegetables daily, take a multivitamin, and talk to our doctors about additional supplements we may need. Above all, we should not go long periods without eating: low glucose levels in the blood may be responsible for some dementia in later life. We can stay lean with physical activity and balanced eating, rather than dieting.

Challenge your mind

A great deal of the mental ability lost with age can be attributed to lack of use, (just like our physical selves). Our mental function depends on neural highways, which like neglected roads eventually become unavailable for use. But we can continue to learn and grow new connections (or highways) in our brains throughout our lives. Any type of learning can provide this stimulus: courses, conversations with friends, learning a language or even word games can keep us mentally sharp. By keeping physically and mentally active, we are two times less likely to suffer from dementia.

Nutrition in the New Year!

I hope your holiday season was joyful and that you’re excited for 2020. January marks a time of inspiration, aspiration, and intention, especially in terms of diet and exercise. Here are my Top 3 Nutrition Guidelines to keep in mind on your journey towards better health.

Plate Your Veggies First

Whenever possible, go for veggies first (especially those greens!) and then plate your protein, fat, and other carbs (bread, pasta, etc). This doesn’t require measuring, counting, or calculating, it’s simply a hack you can use to get your veggies in and keep your blood sugar stable.

By prioritizing getting your veggies in first, you’re not only getting vital vitamins and minerals but fiber and hydration too! Contrary to popular belief, protein doesn’t have to be the star of the show! Instead of plating around a piece of meat, plate around a big serving of vegetables. Better yet, include some plant-based protein such as beans, lentils, or quinoa for a double-whammy!

Snack on Fat

Do you need snacks between meals? What do you usually choose? One of the quickest and easiest snacks you can have (which is great for busy workdays/environments too!) are nuts and seeds. Unlike a single piece of fruit or packaged granola bar (which is almost always loaded with syrups and sugars despite the “healthy” labeling), a small handful of nuts or half an avocado can fuel you for hours. That’s nice, steady blood sugar from meal to meal without energy slumps or sugar cravings! 🙂

Focus on One Meal at a Time

When deciding what to make or order to eat, consider what you’ve already eaten (or plan to eat that day) and try to fill in any nutrient gaps. Did you go out for pancakes and mimosas? Make sure you get some veggies and whole food sources of fat and protein in your later meals! Are you having pasta for dinner? Maybe add some chopped spinach to your eggs in the morning (I call those sneaky greens because they wilt down so much you can get a whole serving and hardly notice it!) or add broccoli florets to your pasta. A not-so-nutritious snack or meal doesn’t ruin anything…you can clean it up next time you eat.

Shelby O’Hagan, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)
Rebel Yum Nutrition

Ginger Molasses Cookies

The holiday season is about sharing good times with the people you love, and sometimes that means sharing desserts. Here’s a recipe I absolutely love for the holiday season. It’s super flavorful and uses several ingredients that make these cookies even easier to love.

Sprouted grain flour provides more fiber, protein, and micronutrients than regular all-purpose flour. It’s easier to digest and lower in gluten!

Grass-fed butter provides omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, and vitamin K2.

Pasture-raised eggs naturally provide omega-3 fatty acids and significantly more vitamin E, and vitamin A. Chickens are omnivores and should not eat strictly vegetarian diets!

Blackstrap molasses provides vitamins and minerals including iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin B6, magnesium, and selenium.

Adapted from a recipe on


4 cups (20 oz) sprouted grain flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1.5 teaspoons ground cloves

1.5 teaspoons ground ginger

1.5 cups (12 oz, 3 sticks) grass-fed butter, softened

1.5 cups (11.25 oz) granulated sugar plus extra for rolling cookie dough in (you can swap this for coconut sugar or even do half and half!)

2 large, pasture-raised eggs

.5 cup blackstrap molasses


Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a couple large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and creamy ~2-3 minutes. Add molasses and eggs, and mix until well-combined ~2-3 minutes.

Stir dry ingredients into wet, and mix until combined.

Dough can be rolled and baked right away, but your cookies will be slightly thicker and chewier if refrigerated for a bit. If you like them that way, chill for 20-30 minutes (or up to several days) before rolling into balls.

Roll dough into balls (around an inch) and then dip and roll in extra sugar. Space cookies an inch or so apart on the cookie sheets and bake 8-10 minutes. Be careful not to over bake if you want a soft, chewy cookie.

Move cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely. These cookies stay soft and chewy at room temperature for several days in a sealed container, or you can freeze them!

Shelby O’Hagan, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)
Rebel Yum Nutrition

5 Ways to Relieve Back Pain So You Can Sleep Better

5 Ways to Relieve Back Pain So You Can Sleep Better and Improve Your Life

by Cheryl Conklin

Living with chronic back pain involves daily challenges. From getting out of bed in the morning to getting comfortable when you go to sleep at night, back pain can be very frustrating. Fortunately, there are five ways you can relieve pain and enjoy better sleep—improving your mood and quality of life, too.

Start a Pre-Sleep Stretching Routine

Many back problems are related to muscle or ligament strain, Mayo Clinic explains, and symptoms may worsen at bedtime. The good news is, stretching each night or practicing simple yoga poses can help relieve muscle tension and help you wind down for bed.

People who do yoga regularly also report feeling more relaxed and peaceful overall. Part of it is the deep breathing routine, experts note, which helps reduce your fight-or-flight stress response.

If back pain—and other life challenges—are stressing you out, yoga can be a calming influence. It can even help you produce more oxytocin and endorphins—your body’s happy hormones.

Make Time for Exercise

Exercising is healthy for your body, but you might shy away from it while you deal with back troubles. But if your doctor agrees it’s safe for you to exercise, working out could help strengthen your core muscles and lessen back pain and tension.

One study found that people who exercised over six weeks experienced more effective pain relief than those who attended physical therapy for the same period. Specifically, core stabilization exercises were influential in reducing pain perception.

Even adding moderate exercise like walking or swimming to your routine can also expend energy that would otherwise keep you up at night. Getting your body moving can help work out stress and prepare you for deeper and better-quality sleep.

Swap Out Your Mattress

An old, lumpy mattress does nothing to help your back pain. In some cases, your bed might be contributing to chronic back problems—especially if it’s too firm, Harvard Health notes. Harvard’s experts note that “very hard” mattresses contributed to inferior sleep experiences.

Clearly, the right mattress can make a significant difference in both your sleep quality and comfort level.

Consider your sleeping style and shop for a new mattress that suits you. For example, people who sleep on their sides tend to prefer Purple mattresses. Conversely, WinkBed mattress options offer extra spinal support for back sleepers.

Make Your Sleep Routine Regular

A regular sleep routine has plenty of benefits for your health—such as a lowered risk of certain diseases. But making sure you get regular—and adequate—sleep can also decrease your sensitivity to pain. One study found that “extending nightly sleep” helped adults reduce their pain sensitivity and increase daytime alertness.

Also, keeping a regular schedule helps solidify your body’s natural rhythms. Your circadian rhythm—AKA, your internal alarm clock—regulates your sleep and wake periods. Catering to your body’s instinct to sleep when it’s dark and get up when it’s light out can help you prep for more restful sleep.

Plus, sticking with nature’s plan can help you feel drowsy at bedtime—even if your back pain typically keeps you up. Overall, you’ll sleep more deeply once your body recognizes and accepts regular sleep patterns.

Improve Your Sleep Posture

Sleep posture—which the University of Rochester Medical Center says is a real thing—can have a significant impact on your pain level and sleep quality.

To keep your body aligned while you rest, use pillows or other positioning devices to keep your spine in its natural curve. Also, keep your body in alignment when you turn or roll over, instead of twisting or bending.

Getting quality rest is vital for your everyday functioning—and for improving your back pain. With these five tips, you can get deeper, better sleep, and start feeling more like yourself again.