Posts for the ‘Health’ Category

Three Great Sunscreens

By Madeline Del Guerra, Take Control Staff

After a long Montana winter, I eagerly look forward to the glorious summers. But I’m a natural redhead with porcelain skin, so I am extremely susceptible to damaging sunburns. I love hiking with our two Labrador retrievers and enjoying quality time at our cabin on Canyon Ferry Lake. But since being in the sun is pretty dangerous for me, I’ve had to really do my research on sunscreen, and find products that really work.

Whether you’re fair-skinned like me, or have an easier time tanning, when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays for a period of time, it can harm you. Besides sunburn, ultraviolet rays can cause aging, wrinkles, can contribute to skin cancer, and can cause cataracts. To prevent sun burns and damage, it’s important to use sunscreen.

Sunscreen can be purchased almost anywhere, and it’s tempting to grab the products on promotion or near grocery check-out lanes. But out of necessity, I’ve had to do a lot of research about sunscreens. I’ve had to make sure that they not only perform the way they state on the bottle; but also protect my skin. After lots of trial and error (including a few burns), I’ve found three great sunscreens that are both affordable and very effective. All three can be found at local stores such as Walmart or Walgreens.

Blue Lizard:
Blue Lizard sunscreen is a broad-spectrum SPF, mineral-based sunscreen that protects against the sun’s two most damaging rays, UVA and UVB. Additionally, it is water-resistant, so it is a great choice if you’re spending a day on Montana’s rivers and lakes. My favorite feature is that its packaged in a smart bottle that changes color when it is exposed to ultraviolet light to remind you to reapply when its time. Cost: $10 – $15

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist:
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen is a broad-spectrum SPF that contains Helioplex Technology, which essentially shields the skin from the UVB burning rays and the UVA rays that more rapidly age the skin. This sunscreen lasts for up to two hours before having to reapply and it is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. I like this sunscreen because it is a non-greasy spray formula that doesn’t contain the sticky residue that most spray sunscreens have. Cost: $8 – $13

Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion:
Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion is a broad-spectrum SPF that is a great choice for the delicate skin of the face and neck. I like this sunscreen is because it oil-free and non-comedogenic which means that it will not clog your pores. This sunscreen is especially great for people with sensitive skin because it prevents breakouts, and is sweat proof. Cost: $9 – $12

With vacation and summer outdoor activities, you’ll feel confident using these products. Especially if you have children or grandchildren visiting, you’ll want to make sure you have sunscreen on hand.

Using Costco or Sam’s Club for Healthy Meals and Snacks

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Costco and Sam’s Club are great options for buying food in bulk, especially if you live in a rural area and make fewer trips to the store. Both stores offer a lot of healthy options that can be convenient and easy to integrate into a healthier lifestyle. This includes fresh fruit, veggies, frozen fruit and veggies, and fresh meat. Besides all of those great whole food options, they have many packaged and convenient items that can also fit your goals.

When buying in bulk, look for pre-portioned servings, or plan ahead to take the time to self-portion bulk items. Portion size is often the biggest struggle for many people. If you buy in bulk, it’s important to spend 10 minutes when you get home and portion out foods for the week or the month. This will save you time later on, and will help keep your eating on track. Products that you should portion out include snacks like popcorn, crackers, and nuts.

Items that you can buy pre-portioned include hummus and guacamole. Use as a dip with vegetables, or add to a wrap for great flavor. Since they are pre-portioned, they are quick and convenient. Another healthy pre-portioned product is chicken salad made with Greek yogurt, the brands are listed below. Prepare the chicken salad on a bed of lettuce with vegetables, add to a whole wheat pita, or eat with whole wheat crackers and a side of raw veggies for a quick and easy lunch.

When buying in bulk, and particularly with pre-packaged products, be sure to check labels for sodium content. Especially if you have high blood pressure. Watch the sodium in cured or packaged meats. How do you know if it has too much sodium? A good rule of thumb is to look for something with less than 500 mg of sodium per serving. And think about how you’re combining your ingredients — if you add another packaged component to your meal, then the overall sodium may really increase. Consider adding fresh vegetables in place of another packaged item. For example, Aidell’s chicken sausage is great with a side of steamed vegetables, or on top of a salad. Jerky can be a great on-the-go snack, but ingredients matter. The brands I’ve listed below use less preservatives and better ingredients overall. Yes, they still contain sodium, so balance it by including lots of fresh foods, and stay hydrated with adequate water.

When shopping in any grocery store, it is always important to compare products. Some labels look “healthier” than a similar product, but may in fact have more sugar or sodium. Take a minute to compare similar product nutrition facts, and review the ingredients. For example, when I was at Sam’s Club, I compared two brands of squeeze fruit and veggie packs: Gogo brand and Purify brand. Purify brand had a lot more claims on the label, making you think it was the healthier option, but in fact it had a lot more sugar. So the better option is sometimes the one you don’t expect. Other foods that you would want to compare include granola bars, snack bars, cereal, and any snack food. Below I’ve listed several good products to help guide you through the endless options.

Here is a list of products that can be found at each store to help make eating healthier an easier process:

Sam’s Club

Freezer Section
Member’s Mark Alaskan Salmon Burgers
Mahi Burgers
Gardenburger Malibu Vegan Burger
Morningstar Black Bean Burger

Dry Goods
Planters Single Serve Heart Healthy Nut Mix
Member’s Mark Freeze Dried Sliced Fruit
True North Almond Pecan Cashew Clusters
Natural Oberto Beef Jerky
Epic Chicken Bites
Good Health Veggie Pretzels
Harvest Snaps – Baked Snap Peas
Creative Snack Company Coconut Bites
Skinny Pop Popcorn
Popchips – Ridges Asiago and Black Pepper
Crunchmaster Multi-Grain 5 Seed Cracker
Annie’s Popcorn
Nature’s Bakery Honey and Oat Soft Baked Bar
Nature’s Bakery Fig Bar
Gogo Squeeze Fruit and Veggie On The Go Packs
Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
Member’s Mark Almond Butter
Dave’s Killer Bread

Sargento Balanced Breaks
Sabra Hummus – Singles or Bulk
Yucatan Single Serve Guacamole
Chef Earl’s Cranberry Almond Chicken Salad
Babybel Cheese
Dietz and Watson Natural Turkey Breast


Freezer Section
Outshine Fruit Bars
Trident Alaskan Salmon Burgers
Trident Pollock Burgers
Morningstar Veggie Burgers
Hillshire Farm Naturals Deli Turkey
Kirkland Plain Greek Yogurt

Dry Goods
Bare Apple Chips
Kirkland Unsweetened Almond Milk
Stretch Island Fruit Strips
Golden Island Natural Jerky
Crunchy Rice Rollers
Vega Protein Powder
Kind Bars
Caveman Nutrition Bars
Kashi Chewy Granola Bars – Chocolate Almond Sea Salt
Premier Protein
Nature’s Path Chia Seeds
Premium Gold Milled Flaxseed
Hemp Hearts
Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown Rice
Nature’s Path Flax Plus Pumpkin Granola
Kirkland Ancient Grains Granola with Almonds
Mary’s Gone Crackers
RW Garcia Sweet Potato Crackers
Love Crunch Dark Chocolate and Red Berries Granola
Tasty Bite Brown Rice and Lentils
Tasty Bite Madras Lentils
Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes Mix
Kirkland Almond Butter
PB Fit
Adams Natural Peanut Butter

Rotisserie Chicken Pieces
Good Foods Cranberry Almond Chicken Salad
Good Foods Single Portion Guacamole
Kirkland Hummus Cups
True Story Organic Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage
Amylu Kale and Mozzarella Chicken Burgers
Aidell’s Chicken Meatballs
Aidell’s Chicken and Apple Sausages
Teton Waters Grass-fed Beef Polish Sausages
Columbus Meats Smoked Ham and Turkey Breast
Love Beats Cooked Beets
Organic Hope Hummus


26 Tangible Practices for Self-Care and Self-Love

By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

This year, it seems as though I keep hearing the term “self-care” everywhere. “What are you doing for self-care?” I continue to be asked. What is self-care, why do I keep hearing about it, and why is it all that important anyway? Well, until recently, I hadn’t really dug into what the term really meant. On the surface I knew it meant daily practices that gave me an opportunity to treat myself well each day. But the term is really about a deep connection, and genuine respect, for yourself; and the tangible art of expressing kindness to yourself.

Self-love is not just a concept in our head but unfortunately, we’ve been taught for a long time that if we’re not constantly working hard or taking care of others, we’re being selfish. What we’re not taught, is that taking care of yourself is actually the only way we can truly care for, or give to others. If you don’t work on yourself, if you don’t take time to express love for yourself, you don’t feed your soul, and you can’t authentically show up and be loving to anyone else.

Self-acceptance, self-esteem, and self-compassion can get us through painful times in our lives, help us to bounce back from failure, teach us to love others better, and help us reach our goals. For many of us, however, self-love isn’t a given. We’re not all taught the deeply valuable art of holding ourselves with kindness, and truly treating ourselves well.

Changing our thoughts or our emotions by simply deciding to do so can be challenging, but there are ways to accomplish this through the art of choosing physical actions that support different thoughts. When self-destructive thoughts start shouting in your head, you can decide to do something — to take an action of kindness toward yourself, and behave as if you love yourself unconditionally. Doing so sends messages to the subconscious mind that you actually do love yourself, and deserve the kindness you’re experiencing.

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” – Louise L. Hay

As we slowly learn how to love ourselves better, we start to expect others to treat us with kindness as well. We start to realize that of course we love ourselves. Of course we deserve love.

So how do we live in self-love? Just like anything else: we practice.

If you’re like me and weren’t taught the art of loving yourself, the list below may seem trivial at first, but commit to putting at least 1, if not more of them into practice, every single day. You’ll see a noticeable change in your overall outlook on life. Pick one from the list and start today.

  1. Buy yourself fresh flowers.
  2. Clean your house or apartment.
  3. Organize your work space and files.
  4. Eat while focusing only on your food.
  5. Make a list of fun activities to do and post on your fridge.
  6. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself.
  7. Each night before bed write down the happiest moment of your day.
  8. Start the day with two minutes of meditation.
  9. Wear clothes you love.
  10. Put your fork down between bites.
  11. Get eight hours of sleep.
  12. Read a good book.
  13. Buy something you’ve always wanted.
  14. Be of service — volunteer, help a friend, etc.
  15. Compliment someone today.
  16. Get your sweat on. Go for a hike or long walk.
  17. Smile.
  18. When you grocery shop say, “I am choosing this for my body because I love her/him.”
  19. Stand up straight and tall.
  20. Try something new: dance classes, cooking lessons, yoga.
  21. Invite your friends over for a girls’ or guys’ night.
  22. Call your mom and tell her you love her (or your dad, sister, etc.).
  23. Play with your pet without distraction.
  24. When someone offers you a compliment, simply say, “Thank you.”
  25. Clean your fridge and fill it with fresh foods.
  26. Hire a personal trainer, life coach or counselor.

What other ways do you practice self-care? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Easy No-Cook Lunches, AKA the “Adult Lunchable”

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Packing a lunch is a great way to stay on track with your health goals. Sometimes it’s hard to get ideas for what to pack. Some office environments have limited kitchen resources, or you have limited time to cook.

Try no-cook lunches, or what I like to call “Adult Lunchables.” These are also referred to as Bento Box lunches. You’ve likely seen pre-made kid’s Lunchables at the supermarket – boxes of crackers, cheese, meat, etc. This is a healthy twist on that idea. The varieties are endless — you can pack anything you like, from the classic crackers, meat, and cheese, to more complex combinations with wraps or salads.

Adult Lunchables are both easy to put together, and easy to eat. Preparation is fairly simple — keep some go-to options on hand. I’ve put together some ideas in categories. If you pick an item from each category, it will help you create a balanced meal. The goal is to make it simple, but add variety without overwhelming ourselves.

For example, I put together a lunch with the following: 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 cup berries, 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter, and 1 cup of raw veggies. That combination includes protein from the yogurt, carbohydrates from the berries and veggies, and fat from the peanut butter. You can certainly add or subtract items and amounts to make sure you eat enough calories for your body.



  • Greek yogurt – ½ to 1 cup
  • Cottage cheese – ½ to 1 cup
  • Hard boiled eggs – 1 to 2 eggs
  • Canned Tuna or Chicken: one tin or pouch
  • Deli slices: 3 ounces, look for nitrate and nitrite-free options
  • Leftover grilled chicken or other protein: 3-4 ounces
  • Edamame: 1 cup
  • Chickpeas: ½ cup


  • Whole grain crackers: for example Triscuits (6-8 crackers) or a single serving based on the box of crackers you choose
  • Whole wheat tortilla: 8 inch in diameter, or look for high fiber options
  • Whole wheat pita
  • Serving of fruit: apple, banana, grapes (1 cup or 32 grapes), berries (1 cup of any variety), kiwi, orange, 2 cuties or mandarin oranges
  • Unlimited vegetables: carrots, celery, sliced cucumber, sliced bell peppers, salad greens


  • Individually portioned nut butters: peanut butter, almond butter, or keep a tablespoon with your designated jar and stick to 1 to 2 tablespoons
  • Servings of nuts: pistachios (40 nuts), almonds (23 almonds), cashews (16-18 nuts)
  • Avocado: ¼ to ½ of fruit
  • String cheese, or 1 ounce of cheese
  • Guacamole: 2 tablespoons
  • Olives: 10-12 small to medium sized olives of any variety.
  • Olive oil: 1 tablespoon
  • Salad dressing: 1-2 tablespoons
  • Hummus: 1-2 tablespoons

Below is a sample week with some combinations I put together to create a balanced lunch. This may also give you some ideas to build your own “Lunchable:”

6-8 Triscuits
3 ounces of deli slices
1 string cheese or sliced cheese
1 cup berries
Carrot sticks
1-2 tablespoon hummus

1 cup cottage cheese
½ cup blueberries
1 tablespoon almond butter
Cucumber slices
2 tbsp. hummus

Whole wheat tortilla
Lettuce or other salad green
Sliced cucumber, bell peppers, onion
½ of a ripe avocado
1 tbsp. hummus
Small apple or orange

Whole grain crackers
Chicken salad-made with 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt, mustard to taste, salt and pepper
¼ of an avocado
Celery and carrot sticks
Serving of grapes

Whole Wheat Pita
Tuna salad-made with 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt, mustard to taste, salt and pepper
Sliced cucumbers
1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter

Two hardboiled eggs
Grapes (1 cup or 32 grapes)
String cheese
1 cup Veggies sticks
2 tablespoons hummus

If you want something complex, especially with the summer weather, then prep ahead a veggie-rich pasta salad with healthy fats like avocado. You can also prep fresh fruits salads at the beginning of the week to accompany your lunch and save time.

For additional ideas and inspiration check out 25 Healthy and Photo-Worthy Bento Box Lunch Ideas from

What great lunches did you put together? Let us know in the comments below.


Why it’s Okay to Struggle

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Making lifestyle changes or a major life transition is hard. Every person who is working to improve their health struggles along the way, and feels uncomfortable. Sometimes we fight the uncomfortable feelings, because we don’t like it. We forget how much can be learned from being uncomfortable and struggling. Some of our greatest lessons and insights come from these moments.

This is especially true when it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle. Exercising, losing weight, or making any healthy change is never easy. It’s easy to forget this. Creating and following healthy habits is a process and a journey unique to each person. The journey will be full of challenges, but also full of success. You must be willing to embrace the tough times, and find each lesson that comes with struggle.

When you notice yourself struggling during your personal health journey, ask yourself whether or not the change or choice you made was right for you. A lot of times our goals or choices are created with an intention of what we think will be a good fit. Sometimes it turns out that the goal is not a good fit. Rather than question yourself about your motivation, take another look at the goal you set and try a different method of accomplishing it. Changing your plan doesn’t mean you failed, it just means you need a route that’s a better fit for your personality or life. Or, if accomplishing you goal via the first route is something that you feel strongly about, keep trying. Whichever route you take, you will learn, grow, and move past the struggle.

In the end, your successes will be the culmination of your struggles, lessons, and persistence. So I encourage you to embrace the process – particularly when it gets uncomfortable. The struggle will lead you to incredible personal and physical strength.

The Gym Mirror: Your New BFF!

By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

Do you ever wonder why gyms have so many darn mirrors? Many people are put off by the mirrors. They feel like the mirrors either remind them of why they needed to join the gym in the first place, or make them feel self-conscious. The mirrors at the gym actually do serve a very important purpose to you and your workout – think of them as your new best friend forever (BFF) for proper form and effective training technique.

Here’s how they work:

Proper Form

  • Probably the most important use of mirrors is to monitor form as you perform exercises, especially when training on your own. Performing any exercise incorrectly can not only result in injury, but is also a waste of training time. If you’re not doing exercises correctly, you’re not training anything so there’s no point doing it. Poor form can also lead to long term injuries from weaknesses and muscular imbalance, as well as short term injuries that can sideline you from showing up at the gym and meeting goals. Incorrect form slows down strength training progress, as well as toning and shaping of the muscles.
  • Mirrors enable you to see the back half and both sides of your body so you have a full 360 degree view of what you’re doing. They can assist you in balance as you attempt exercises that challenge your balance, coordination, and agility.
  • Proper form should always include a solid core, shoulders held down away from the ears, and slightly bent knees to maintain stability without placing too much pressure on knees. Using the mirror allows you to maintain a constant visual of your form as you move through each repetition of exercise. When parts of your body become loose or slack, it’s easily noticed and corrected through the reflection in the mirror which will help prevent it from becoming habit.
  • Your body learns correct form so it becomes natural over time to do so without thinking about it, as long as you put in the effort in the beginning to teach the body what proper form feels like.

Mental influences

  • Mirrors reflect the progress you’re making back to you. Once you get into a workout or training program you will be able see for yourself how much better you are at working through the exercises, and how much stronger you are. You’ll even start to see some muscular re-shaping and changes in your posture as you build strength to hold your body differently by standing taller and stronger in general. You’ll notice you move more fluidly and powerfully in general, which increases your motivation to stay consistent and continue showing up to exercise.
  • Mirrors can also be an excellent way to brighten up a dark space which can help energize you for your workout. If your exercise room is in a basement or small space, adding mirrors can be an easy, simply way to bring more light into the space, which helps with motivation and energy. A pleasant workout space is much more appealing and inviting, and you will be much more inclined to spend time there and feel motivated to push yourself to work hard. No-one wants to work out in a dungeon.

Let your new BFF be there for you. Any time you find yourself feeling self-conscious in a mirror, remind yourself why they are so important to you and your goals. The mirror plays a critical role in keeping proper form during exercise, and is your most valuable tool – or BFF – in the gym. Your BFF won’t let you down – take advantage, and let the mirror assist you with good form and proper training.

It’s Okay to Be the Turtle

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

A common frustration I hear from clients is disappointment about slow progress. Many feel like they should be further along, or expect greater change more quickly. However, habits don’t change overnight. It took months, or even years, to develop the habits we have, whether they are good or bad. So it is safe to assume that it takes just as long to change them.

In fact that is an important lesson we all learn in life at some point; that with time and commitment change can happen. It is perfectly ok to be slow, in fact, I encourage you to be slow. You have far more opportunity to really learn and evaluate what works and doesn’t work for you, versus rushing through a quick fix. Besides, how many times has a quick fix lasted long-term? Rarely, in fact, most of us become more frustrated and discouraged as a result of the quick fix schemes. And I get it, the quick fix is so tempting. It seems as if everyone around you is trying them, but remember to look at the long-term. How many stuck with it for the long term? Typically not long. And the reason is that most quick fix ideas are not sustainable or they don’t fit you.

Losing weight, making healthy lifestyle changes, or changing a habit is like a marathon. At first we are excited for the challenge and feel motivated, and head out fast. Then we hit mile 10 and wonder what we were thinking. Finally, we hit a hill and think we can’t do this, and then we finally see the end of the race, and we think I did it! All the while going slow, having ups and downs, but fighting through to the end.

As they say, nothing in life worth having is easy. Neither is your health. It takes hard work, patience, understanding and flexibility. So, the next time you feel like your progress is slow, take a step back and look at just how far you have come. Remind yourself of the big picture, what your end goal really is, and you will see that you are right on track to being successful. Truly the key to long-term results is creating change that makes sense for you and fits the lifestyle you envision.

Kitchen Spring Cleaning

– Organizing Kitchen Zones for Healthy Success

By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

The kitchen tends to be the center of the household, and the place where everyone congregates. A kitchen usually serves many purposes: cooking, eating, a family meeting space, and often the place where kids do homework. Given the multi-purpose aspect of the kitchen, it can be a challenge to keep its focus on its essential function, creating nutritional meals.

A cluttered kitchen is distracting, and can be a roadblock to living healthy and making good nutritional choices. So this guide is designed to help you organize your kitchen in a way that re-focuses it for its true purpose. We’ll start by removing items that don’t belong, then move on to creating zones for specific purposes.

Step 1: The 10-Minute Toss

The purpose of a 10-minute toss is to quickly move things out of the way and create physical and mental space between where we are and where we want to be. Simply go through each cupboard and drawer quickly and efficiently, removing anything you no longer use or doesn’t belong in the kitchen. It should be easy, obvious, quick decisions without much thought or decision-making.

Quick purge items:

  • Anything broken, stained or chipped beyond use
  • Anything that belongs in a different room of the house
  • Anything you don’t like

Step 2: Set Up Zones

Once you’ve cleared the obvious items out of the way, assess the overall layout of the space and where your “zones” are. Because kitchens often serve as multi-functional spaces, it’s important to set it up for multiple uses for several people at once. Each zone is centered around a particular task.

  • Cutting Zone: Keep knives, cutting boards and any items used to prep meat and/or produce near the sink and garbage where you’ll be able to clean and cut them at the same time.
  • Coffee Zone: Create a section of your counter where you maintain your coffee fixings. Coffee maker, coffee grounds, tea and other hot beverages, mugs, silverware, etc. Anything that makes a quick cup of coffee easier
  • Cooking Zone: Pots, pans, and cooking utensils should be in the space near the stove and cooktop. Include cooking spray, oils, herbs and spices in this area so you don’t find yourself crossing the kitchen to simply add a dash of pepper.
  • Dining Zone: This space is designated for eating, and centers around your table or breakfast bar. Keep silverware, plates, bowl, glasses and napkins nearby you’re able to sit down and enjoy each bite without having to get up mid-meal for something you’ve forgotten. Try designating a specific area for dining that is as far away from the food prep area as possible, so you’re able to sit down and enjoy each bite. This allows you to take your time eating, and helps avoid the temptation of second servings. Include a source for soft music in your dining area – it’s a great way to slow down, relax, and enjoy the meal so you’re not racing through and overeating.
  • Storage Zone: Keep your food storage containers and wraps in one area near your sink where you’ll be emptying dishes at the end of the night.
  • Bill & Mail Center: Create an “in” box for items you bring into the house that don’t have anything to do with food. Choose a location away from the center of the kitchen, to keep the space clean and not contaminate food as you prep. Include pens, stamps, sticky-notes, etc. to make it simple to process the paper items and move them on to their next step. Place magazines immediately into a magazine bin so they’re available for reading right away. Sometimes we don’t get back to the mail pile for a while, and magazines can stack up quickly.

These are just a few simple ideas to organize the zones in your kitchen to make it more functional and supportive to your healthy lifestyle. Different households use their kitchens differently, and we all have different interests or time available for cooking and making meals. Create the appropriate zones that really work best for you and your lifestyle. Recognize the top 2-3 zones you might use most often in your kitchen and start there.

IN CONTROL – Person of the Month: Bill S.

By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

Bill was smart with how he used the Take Control program. He saw it as an opportunity — a vehicle to get him moving in the right direction — despite his challenges with back pain. Rather than focusing on the numbers, he really had his heart set on the ability to get out and hunt.

Bill worked diligently at his own pace. He recognized that he needed to begin farther back than he’d hoped, but he didn’t beat himself up about it. He just recognized it, worked at it, and gradually saw improvement.

What made you decide to join Take Control’s Lifestyle Management program? I honestly joined on a bit of a whim. Shortly after my first health screening in 2015, I got a friendly phone call from Take Control folks telling me that I qualified for the program and asking me whether I wanted to participate. At that moment my answer could have gone either way, but the friendly voice and no-downside approach influenced me to say, “sure, why not.” I’m very glad I did.

What were your reasons/motivation for wanting to make changes regarding your health? Years of “driving a desk for a living” and a series of painful lower back injuries had left me in neglectful shape. High cholesterol runs in the family, and I knew on some level that it was something that I would eventually have to watch. My 2015 health screening revealed my total cholesterol to be at a scary 290. I was well on my way to heart-attack territory, and I was only 35. That was one of those wake-up calls that concentrates the mind. I began thinking about the many things that I liked doing and still wanted to accomplish in life. At the top of the list was home ownership (and all the physical demands that entails), backpacking, fishing, and hunting trips. My wife and I were even discussing becoming parents, and the thought of not being there to raise my (at the time) hypothetical kid was sobering, as well.

What are the biggest challenges and accomplishments in your health since you started? What do you feel was your biggest obstacle? The biggest challenge of getting started was simply getting started. Inertia is a very real thing, and deep-worn physical and mental ruts are tough to break. Beyond that, my always present, usually mild, occasionally debilitating back pain made it hard to progress in any real exercise program. My back was in such bad shape at times that even mild physical activity could send me to the local urgent care, writhing in pain and in need of medication to function on even a basic level. At the beginning of the program, setbacks were the norm, and this reoccurring injury made it feel like I was never going to be able to progress. This project felt like fighting a war on multiple fronts, and setbacks in one area would cause setbacks in another. “Exercise” presented itself as a goal, a solution, an obstacle, and something that could actually harm me from time to time, if that makes any sense. In any case, I felt stuck. Cole, my Take Control coach at the time, helped me realized that I needed to start WAY back at the beginning — physical therapy — in order to push the reset button. Slowly, painfully began the non-linear process of repairing my lower back so that I could begin very mild exercise and gradually progress from there. Progress was slow and arduous at times, but I eventually began to win back mobility, strength, endurance and confidence.

What did you do to stay motivated? There were definitely times that I wanted to give up — especially at the beginning. It’s a rotten feeling to know that you’re doing everything you’re supposed to, following all the experts’ advice, seeing tiny bits of progress, and then having everything fall apart and the lower back pain return. And when it did, I had to stop everything, literally lay on the floor, put my feet up on a chair or couch, and stare at the ceiling for hours or days on end. During that downtime, I would often pass the hours listening to hunting and fishing podcasts and videos. I started to get really excited and motivated about the 2016 hunting season, and I even dared to dream about roaming the mountains on foot looking for deer and elk — one of those unmet life goals I had often thought about in the preceding years. This was a ridiculous dream at the time for someone who, on those really bad days, needed help putting on my own socks. But I can be forgetful and stubborn, and those qualities kept me dreaming, and, unlikely though it was, I set my sights on getting well enough to hunt in 2016. I doubled down on my motivation and recommitted to doing everything the physical therapist and doctor told me to do. I had to recommit a few more times after that, too, but each ensuing setback was gradually less severe and shorter in duration. I began to bounce back quicker and develop some resiliency, which served as verifiable positive reinforcement. I was beginning to reclaim bits of my life and all of the sudden, extended hikes in the backcountry didn’t seem to be such a distant dream. During this time, an interesting thing happened. I actually stopped thinking altogether about my cholesterol or any typical training metrics one might set for improvement. I just simply thought about getting myself in good enough shape to get out in the mountains again, under my own weight, and be able to carry a pack. Everything that happened next followed from that mindset.

What have you gained through this process? No sane person would have voted me the most likely person to notch an elk tag in 2016, but in November I did just that. It wasn’t easy and it involved months of training in the gym, weeks of scouting in the mountains, and long days of hiking a lot of miles over steep terrain. But eventually sweat, hard work, determination, and a dash of luck coalesced into the opportunity I had been imagining for months. Getting the animal out was a slow process that took numerous trips over two days, but I packed every last bit out on my own back using my own two legs. That’s an accomplishment I’ll remember forever and a memory made sweeter by knowing what I had to first go through before showing up for opening day. A freezer full of elk meat is a very nice fringe benefit, but what I really gained through this was a better understanding of my body’s own resiliency and awareness of my ability to simply decide to change course. Inertia, after all, works both ways — it may be tough to get started and establish a routine, but keeping things going is relatively easy by comparison.

And the hypothetical kid my wife and I had been talking about earlier? She’s not so hypothetical now. My baby girl will be born in March, 2017. I swelled with pride at Christmas this year, as my wife and I ate Montana bull elk, knowing my unborn daughter was receiving the nutritional gift of the elk through my hard work and persistence. I’ve given her a father who is in better shape, and who (thanks to exercise, lean meat, and a statin), now has a cholesterol number that is down to a less outrageous 180. I’m nowhere near as good as I’ll be, but I’m a lot better than I was. My family deserves that and so do I.

What differences do you see in yourself and the impact it has had on your health and life? I’m still the same lazy, stubborn, flawed person that allowed my physical health to slowly deteriorate. But thanks to Cole, Kelly, and others at Take Control, I’ve identified some life hacks that allow me to recognize those challenges and work around them. One of the biggest differences is that I say “yes” more often to invitations to do things that involve physical exertion. As recently as a year ago, I would regularly turn down invitations to go skiing, for fear that my back would suddenly go out. Now, my back episodes are much fewer, less severe, more manageable, and less frightening. The resiliency I’ve built has increased my confidence to venture further out from my comfort zone, which has, in turn, created opportunities for larger successes, which again increases confidence. I’m in a positive feedback loop now that reinforces my commitment to exercising, eating well, and taking care of myself.

What advice or encouragement would you give others in our program? The main advice I have is simply to follow that old Nike tagline — just do it. No matter your starting point, just accept it, and begin as slowly and thoughtfully as your situation allows. And when you don’t feel like keeping up with your commitment, do it anyway. Eventually the changes become part of your daily routine, and from there everything gets easier. It’s probably also worth pointing out that, for me, it was far more effective to focus on a genuine aspirational motivator (“bring home elk”) that complemented my fitness goals rather than to obsess about abstract obligations like “lower my cholesterol” or “lose some weight.” In my case, those secondary benefits manifested as happy byproducts, not ends unto themselves, so consider talking with your Take Control coach about identifying your own fun, meaningful, big-picture goal.

The best part of his accomplishment was hearing the pride in his voice as he told me about his hunting trip. He recognized the consistent effort he invested in his goal and was incredibly proud and grateful to have been able to accomplish it. It’s the ultimate goal as a health coach to have someone prove to themselves that the CAN achieve the goal and to know the FEEL the pride in that achievement. Was one of my favorite coaching calls with him – I could not have been happier for him.


  • Reduced total cholesterol by 119 points
  • Decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol by 111 points
  • Maintained HDL (good) cholesterol levels
  • Reduced systolic blood pressure by 10 points and diastolic blood pressure by 20 points
  • Reduced back problems
  • Accomplished major goal of harvesting and hauling a Bull Elk on his own
  • Is expecting his first child as a healthier man
  • Now accepts friend’s invitations for physical activities


Montana Health Clubs

We’ve put together a list of health clubs in each city in Montana, so you can identify all of your options.


The Source
The Women’s Club
The PEAK Health and Wellness Center
Ridge Fitness
University of Montana Campus Rec
Access Fitness
Anytime Fitness (Stevensville)
The Yoga Fitness Center
Curves Missoula
Monkey Bar Gym Missoula
Oula Missoula
CrossFit Missoula
5 Valleys Crossfit
Zootown CrossFit
MUST Gym (Missoula Urban Strength Training)
Missoula Family YMCA
The Sweat Shop
Pure Barre

Great Falls

PEAK Health & Wellness Center
Access Fitness
Snap Fitness
Gold’s Gym
Anchor Fitness


Capital City Health Club
The YMCA of Helena
Fuel Fitness
CrossFit Helena
Crossroads Fitness
Planet Fitness
Dancing Lotus Center
Atlas Fitness
Fire Tower CrossFit
Loft Studio
Broadwater Hot Springs and Fitness



Billings Athletic Club
Yellowstone Fitness Center
Snap Fitness
Fuel Fitness
Granite Health and Fitness
Anytime Fitness
Plaza Fitness
Billings YMCA
9Round Fitness
CrossFit Billings
Apex Personal Training & Fitness
Rimrock CrossFit
Black Orchid Athletics
Pure Barre
Limber Tree Yoga Studio
The Grindhouse Boxing Gym
Sumits Hot Yoga
Pure Pilates


Ridge Athletic Club
Montana State University Fitness
Fuel Fitness
Pure Barre
Snap Fitness Bozeman
Snap Fitness Belgrade
Main Street Fitness
Access Fitness
I Love Kickboxing
True Spirit CrossFit and Yoga
Oula Bozeman
Health Balance
Club Pilates Bozeman
Mountain Yoga
Bridger Pilates
Zephyr Cycling Studio
Sumits Hot Yoga
Core 406 Pilates
Yoga Motion Academy
Bend Beyond Yoga


Fuel Fitness
Fitness Courts
Copper City CrossFit
Butte Family YMCA
Keep It Real CrossFit


Southwestern Montana Family YMCA


Flathead Health & Fitness
Kalispell Athletic Club
Cross Fit Flathead
The Summit
Access Fitness
Fuel Fitness
Yoga Hive