Live to Eat Well, Exercise, Be Well in Mind and Body

6 Ways to Improve Your Health and Finances at the Same Time

Having too little money and too many extra pounds – few things in life are rife with so much shame and fear. While it is typical to feel alone in your shame, the truth is that few people escape money and/or weight problems. Three quarters of Americans say they have money worries, and about that many Americans, children included, are overweight or obese.

According to the Financial Health Institute, 3 out of every 4 Americans report finances are the main contributor to their stress. That stress often results in negative coping behaviors like excessive drinking, overeating, smoking, escapism (television and movies). Those stress-induced coping mechanisms then manifest themselves in nasty ways – depression, weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and more. Medical bills then stack up, creating ongoing stress, and the cycle continues. A strong argument can be made that financial and physical health and fitness cannot be tackled separately, but must be a package deal.

Instant Gratification

Inherent in the discussion of health and finances, is that greatest of American traditions – instant gratification. Sure, eating half a box of Oreos or buying that new pair of shoes feels good in the moment, but the dark side of instant gratification is the loss of impulse control, leaving us slaves to consumption, debt, extra weight, stress, and ill health. Culturally, we are not taught to pause and weigh the costs before we eat and shop. Just do it. Just eat it. Just buy it. Charge it now; pay later. That is the American way of life.

This is why financial and physical fitness have to be addressed simultaneously. If we would intentionally sit down and calculate how much money we are consuming by satiating our physical appetite for food, caffeine, and alcohol, we would be shocked. When the desire to lose weight and gain health and vitality is coupled with the desire to lose debt and gain financial freedom, it can be a one-two punch that reinforces our commitment to tackling negative consumption habits.

But no one can be shamed into being a wealthier, healthier human being. Hate and shame don’t serve as motivators; they only serve to create an oppressive weight of judgement that few people can crawl out from under. If losing weight or losing debt were easy, everyone would do it. It requires sacrifice and hard work; it is difficult and overwhelming, and there is no quick and easy solution. And it’s hard to know where to start.

So start here. Here are 6 tips and tricks to improve your health and your finances at the same time.

1. Weigh the Cost

Eating out, coffee to-go, field trips to the bakery, drinks after work, hobby-induced grocery shopping – it all costs more than you think. By signing up for Mint, a free and online financial manager that links into bank account, you can take a hard and honest look at how much money you are physically consuming and literally flushing down the toilet.

2. Create a Budget

No doubt that last foray into expense tracking has you crying into your beer. Now dry your tears, put on your big girl or big boy pants, and create a budget using Mint, that magical financial manger. After your bills are paid, your first priority is to build an emergency savings account, followed by an aggressive elimination of credit card or student loan debt. Take a look at your leftovers, and assign yourself a modest allowance for restaurants, coffee shops, and booze. Download Mint on your smartphone to stay on track.

3. Use Food As a Currency

A helpful psychological tactic in rationing daily and weekly servings and splurges is to think of food as currency, a weekly allowance, or a per deim expense account. A weight loss program like Weight Watchers utilizes points instead of calories as a helpful and playful way to monitor and budget food intake. Dave Ramsey, author of Financial Peace University, actually used the Weight Watchers model as the basis for his debt elimination program.

4. Get Cookin’

Making food in your own kitchen is only a fraction of the cost compared to eating out. And you are in complete control of the ingredients and serving sizes. Have some fun and experiment with different grains, legumes, vegetables, and spices to kick up the nutritional value. Make a big batch, and you’ll have leftovers to enjoy for lunch at work. This is good news for both your wallet and your waistline. Visit websites like Eating Well for free nutritious and delicious recipes.

5. Find Your Muse

There is a reason creative types are often referred to as “starving artists”. Looking at your forlorn budget for food and entertainment, you could get depressed, or you could get creative. This is your chance to write that book you’ve been talking about for ten years, pick up the guitar gathering dust in the corner, learn to knit, break open the sketch book, grow a small garden, and make your own natural body products. By switching from a consumption mentality to a creative mentality, you open yourself up to a world of wonder and possibilities.

6. Make Exercise a Hobby

Unless you’re enrolled at a seriously expensive boutique gym, exercise is an affordable activity. A modest gym membership runs from $10-$50 a month – many of which offer classes in kickboxing, barre, bootcamp, yoga, and more. Instead of meeting your friends at the pub or at the greasy spoon, make some new friends at the gym and get moving. And when the weather is nice, enjoy a long walk, hike, or run outside. Those exercise-induced endorphins and Vitamin D from the sun will provide you plenty of feel-good motivators to keep you on track, both financially and physically.

To conclude, it bears repeating that neither your wallet or your waistline can afford to gorge itself on whatever it wants, whenever it wants. But take heart. Remember that we’re all in this together. Few people escape the worry of money and/or weight. So, let us lose the contempt – for both ourselves and others – and encourage and build one another up instead. Follow the aforementioned tips and tricks and chances are high that you will drop the weight and gain financial freedom at the same time.




Join my Sunset Bootcamp in Roatan!

palm treeA New Fitness Class in French Cay

Ditch the gym and enjoy a Roatan sunset as you learn to exercise outdoors using everyday equipment and bodyweight exercises. Take in the sights and sounds of beautiful French Cay as you work out with friends—old ones and new! First class is free!

For more information, email Amber Johnson or call her at 3227-3034. Please bring water, a towel, bug spray, and a yoga mat if you have one!


Mondays: Upper Body

Tuesdays: Lower Body

Wednesdays: Core and Cardio

Thursday: Full Body


5-6 PM


La Cancha at the Yellow House Across from Frenchy’s


$4 Class

$35 Month

A certified personal trainer currently residing on the island of Roatan, Honduras, I have been teaching, mentoring, and training students of all ages for thirteen years. Working from French Cay, Roatan, I offer a fun and community-oriented exercise class for apparently healthy individuals or individuals cleared for exercise by a physician. Whether your main fitness goal is to lose weight, strengthen and improve joint function, tone up, improve balance, increase lean muscle mass, or train for a race or event, this class is for you! My typical US training fees are drastically reduced for Roatan clients – whether local islander or short or long term visitor. We’re talking a savings of 75% and more. Roatan is a great place to get healthy, so I hope you’ll take advantage of this fun and affordable outdoor bootcamp!

Personal Training Certifications Personal Trainer Certification – American College of Sports Medicine
AED/CRP Certification – American Heart Association

Major Muscle Groups: Arms, Chest, Shoulders


Though we have hundreds of muscles in our body, most of which are secondary supporting muscles, in order to design a good strength training program, we need to focus our attention on our primary, voluntary muscles. This means we’ll have to volunteer to use them if we want them to grown stronger and more flexible.

Ladies, stronger doesn’t have to mean bulky. Besides, more muscle means less fat. And strong is sexy! Physical strength can take a normal, insecure female and turn her into a confident and powerful woman from the inside out! Rowr. Who wouldn’t want that? And let’s not forget about that involuntary muscle – the heart. A great strength training program is great for that muscle too!

In today’s post, we’re going to focus on three of the major muscles groups of the upper body, found in our arms, chest, and shoulders.


The two primary muscles found in your arms are biceps and triceps.

Biceps_TricepsThough relatively small in size, the biceps draw a lot of attention to the upper body and using them regularly can help get rid of arm flab. You can call them guns, pythons, or weapons of mass destruction if that helps heat up your workout mojo.

The triceps make up about two-thirds of our upper arms and, when properly developed, they can aid greatly in the elimination of those dreadful bat wings or premature arm jiggle. Jiggle, jiggle….


Pectoral MusclesThough hidden under the breasts of  females, chest muscles, also known as pectoral muscles, are pretty obvious on males. (The more obvious, the more sexy. Rowr. Whew, moving on….) If you think about it, chest muscles have a pretty important job. They are the main muscular structure that protects the thoracic cavity, home to our lungs, heart, and parts of our digestive system. It makes sense that the stronger and healthier our pectoral muscles are, the stronger and healthier our internal organs and muscles will be too.


DeltoidsThe shoulder joint has the largest range of motion in the human body. Because of this, it is also the most unstable joint and is very susceptible to injury. How can we better stabilize such a flexible joint? You got it, strength training. Stronger muscles make for stronger joints. Not only that, but as a female, shoulders are my favorite upper body muscle to shape and show off. Attached to the very feminine collar bone, they can take any tank top or strapless dress to a whole other level. Bonus.

Shoulder muscles, also known as deltoids, are composed of  three different parts: anterior (front), medial (middle), and posterior (back). Often, the posterior deltoid gets left out of a upper body workout and it gets sad, but a good shoulder workout will work out all three parts of the shoulder.

To Be Continued….

Well, folks, that’s enough for today. Come back next Saturday for another lesson on major muscle groups, this time focused on those important, though often overlooked, back muscles.


Layman’s Terms: Major Muscle Groups










Jargon In Jargon Out

I recently made a trip to the local bike shop to get my bicycle tuned up and learn how to clip in and out on a road bike. The bike mechanic on staff, a passionate cyclist, was kind enough to give me a free twenty minute lesson. However, during the entire time he was talking, all I could think was, “What the *&^# are you saying?” Up till this point in my life, I thought I spoke English. As nice as this guy was, I was feeling a little irritated.

Every sport, industry, company, etc. has its own special set of jargon. From the vantage point of an average exerciser, exercise and sport science has particularly heinous amounts of jargon. Given my education and background in communications and classrooms, I learned early the need to speak to my audience, not down to them. As a personal trainer, I consider myself not just a coach, but a teacher. And the easier the material is to understand, the faster the learning curve. The more my personal training client learns, not simply obeys, the more likely he or she will enjoy, pursue, and sustain a lifestyle of physical fitness. So, let’s get to our first lesson…

 Major Muscle Groups

Mr. IncredibleHave you ever seen one of those guys at the gym who forgot he had legs? Don’t be like him; he looks weird. Ladies – all the pointless crunches in the world won’t flatten your abs like a solid full body strength training routine and a healthy diet will.

A well-rounded strength training program will hit all the major muscle groups of the body, not just a few. To keep things as simple as possible, let’s categorize the human body into three parts:


Upper Body: Arms, Shoulders, Chest, and Back

Lower Body: Butt and Legs

Core: Back and Abs

Take a moment and locate your arms, shoulders, chest, back, butt, legs, and abs. These, friends, are where all your major muscles live.

Now find your butt. (Some might be easier to find then others.) Give it a squeeze and tell yourself you’re cute. Really, Amber, was that necessary? Yes.

Pep talks by the self are fundamental to success in anything, particularly in your attempt to strengthen and change your body.

I think that’s enough for today. Come back next Saturday for Part 2 of “Layman’s Terms: Major Muscle Groups”. Have a happy and healthy weekend!


3-2-1 Launch!

Lift Off

Welcome to Food and Fitness Nook, my small corner of the health, fitness, and blogging world. My name is Amber and I am a personal trainer, wellness coach, health and fitness writer, amateur wannabe chef, nonprofit program manager by day, and dreamer by night.

The purpose of this blog is to inform, entertain, and inspire you with thought-provoking posts, yummy recipes, helpful tips and tricks, effective exercises and workouts, beautiful photos, fun videos, monthly challenges, and friendly dialogue. My hope is that you’ll keep coming back for more and send your friends over too! Readers, “I [do] think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Though food and fitness related, this blog is not an ode to weight-loss or a simple guide to a sexy six pack. Weight and body composition are such fickle, fluctuating phenomenon, and only two components to overall health. I get the weight thing, the body image thing, I really do. After spending my entire adolescence and most of my twenties significantly overweight, I managed to successfully lose 35 pounds off my 5’2” frame and maintain that weight loss by changing my diet and by engaging in consistent exercise and physical activity. (If you’d like to learn more about my story, please visit the About Amber page. And while you’re at it, visit my Food and Fitness pages to learn about my food and fitness philosophies. And just for kicks and giggles, stop by my Personal Training page to learn about my services and rates.)

However, the human experience is far more than physical. Man is a multi-dimensional being with beliefs, attitudes, and habits that influence his approach to physical, spiritual, emotional, social, sexual, occupational, financial, and intellectual behaviors. It’s all interconnected. The pursuit of holistic health requires that we acknowledge the complexity of the human experience and approach it from lots of different angles, not just one. And that is what I will strive to do – on this, my small corner of the big world wide web.

Confession. I haven’t got it all figured out yet. I am no Galadriel. I’m not a picture of perfection in a castle on top of a lofty hill, beckoning the weary soldier forward. No, I consider myself a captain – leading my platoon into one skirmish after another. I’m on the frontlines, sometimes fighting what seems an uphill battle. And I don’t win every battle, but I haven’t given up the fight. I’ve sustained some setbacks and injuries along the way, but I’m not ready to wave the white flag of surrender! If it takes me a lifetime, I will keep pushing forward.

And I welcome you to join me on the journey! My hope and prayer is that this website and blog will serve as a source of encouragement and inspiration to you as you fight the good fight to better your health, increase your confidence, and rediscover your joy. Let’s talk soon.

Your Fellow Sojourner –
Amber Johnson