Fit for Life: Clean & Lean

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“Fit is not a destination…


 it’s a way of life.”



I absolutely, positively love this quote.


It perfectly encompasses my philosophy on health and fitness. Health is not something I, nor you, should take lightly, and it’s certainly not something you can put a timeline on. That’s because when you commit to making a change and beginning a journey to a fitter, healthier, happier you…there is no finish line. Your health isn’t a race with a final destination–it’s a movement. It’s an awakening.  And the changes that bring you the most success are the ones that become so natural, so intrinsic and habitual, that they become a part of your very being.


Don’t get me wrong… getting to that point in your health is hard. Just like breaking a bad habit takes time, forming a new one takes practice and time–especially when you are working to change something that you’ve been used to doing every day. But that’s why you need to start small. Choose a side salad over a side of mashed potatoes. Cucumber slices and hummus over french fries or chips. A cup of chia pudding or fruit salad over a sundae or candy. A bowl of oatmeal or a smoothie over a doughnut (or even worse) no breakfast at all.


But whatever you do, please remember. Don’t beat yourself up. After all, (and I’ll say it again and again until you believe it) no one is perfect! You did read my last two posts, right ;) ? Now that doesn’t mean you get a free pass or shouldn’t push yourself too hard, however. After all, part of change means being comfortable with being uncomfortable, pushing your body to the limit, sometime saying “no,” sometimes saying “yes,”  feeling the pain, and acknowledging, yeah…change is tough! But I want it.


 Isn’t the fact that’s it’s tough exactly what makes change so darn rewarding?


I guarantee once you begin to make healthy lifestyle changes and you see how happy and amazing you look and feel on the inside and out…that’s the only proof you’ll need. You’ll forget all about the race to the finish and instead, you’ll never want the journey to end :) .






















Now, I know that these past few days I’ve talked a lot about detoxing your body, eating clean, powerful foods, committing to make healthy lifestyle changes, and holding yourself accountable for those changes. I can only hope that you’ve found my posts insightful and motivating and most importantly, I hope you feel you are ready to tackle your health head on! I obviously think doing a detox is a great way to kickstart your committment to change, (namely because it forces you to battle those ever-addicting and hard-to-beat food cravings all at once for a short period of time), but I do acknowledge that not everyone can afford to, nor do they want to, spend the money on an expensive detox program. If you’re one of these people and you’ve been thinking about doing a detox, or if you’re just finishing up a cleanse/detox and you’re looking to continue eating clean–I’m here to tell you there are other options.Thankfully by choosing organic, clean, detox-worthy foods, you can gently clean up and “detox” your body day-to-day without purchasing a hardcore cleanse.  But before I get into the food, let’s start off with a list of reasons about why it’s so beneficial to detox in the first place…


Photo Credit: Fashion Salade




Benefits of a Detoxing:

  1. Gain more energy!
  2. Improve digestion/give it a rest
  3. Lose stubborn bloat
  4. Return body to an alkaline state (read more about the health benefits of a low-acid/high alkaline diet here and here or in the Beauty Detox Solution–one of my favorite books!)
  5. Improve immune function
  6. Generate new cells
  7. Kick that sweet tooth (I have a secret…when you start eating healthy foods, you won’t crave sugary, processed junk anymore! Pinky swear.)
  8. Develop a taste for fresh, healthy foods (that’s what happen when you cut out sugar!)
  9. Fight cancer cells
  10. Get clearer skin, brighter eyes,  & healthier hair
  11. Improve function of your body’s organs (namely your liver, which works  to metabolize fat and proteins, filter the blood, remove toxins, regulate glucose levels, and store vitamins, iron and glycogen)
  12. Purify your blood
  13. Increase mental clarity
  14. Reduce inflammation
  15. Feel  light, glowing, & amazing!
  16. Fall in LOVE with your body! (Because you feel and look so darn great :) )


The following foods perfect detox-worthy choices. They are full of vitamins and antioxidants, rid the body of toxins, cleanse the colon/liver, boost digestion, are great sources of fiber, act as diuretics, reduce inflammation and boost your metabolism.


While this list is not 100% exclusive, these are some of the top detox-foods (and are some of my personal favorites!). Feel free to do some extra research on your own if you’re looking to extend this list.


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Foods to Choose:

  1. Acai berries
  2. Apples
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar
  4. Artichokes
  5. Asparagus
  6. Basil
  7. Beets
  8. Blueberries
  9. Broccoli
  10. Brown Rice (in moderation)
  11. Brussel Sprouts
  12. Cabbage
  13. Carrots
  14. Cayenne Pepper
  15. Chia Seeds
  16. Cilantro
  17. Cinnamon
  18. Collard Greens
  19. Cucumbers
  20. Dandelion Greens
  21. Fennel
  22. Garlic
  23. Ginger
  24. Grapefruits
  25. Kale
  26. Legumes
  27. Lemon/Warm Lemon Water
  28. Lemongrass
  29. Nuts
  30. Papaya
  31. Onion
  32. Oranges
  33. Parsley
  34. Pineapple
  35. Probiotics*
  36. Seeds
  37. Sprouts
  38. Strawberries
  39. Sunchokes
  40. Tea (caffeine free!)
  41. Quinoa (in moderation)
  42. Vegan Protein Powder**
  43. WATER!!!
  44. Watercress
  45. Wheatgrass


*Technically not a food…but GREAT for your gut!

**Look for an organic, natural, rice, hemp, chia, pea, & seed blend (my favorites are Garden of Life- RAW Protein and VEGA Protein

(Read more about detox foods here)



The following foods should be avoided/limited if you are looking to kindly detox your body.


Photo Credit: Envision/Corbis




Foods to Limit:

  1. Alcohol*
  2. Artificial Sweeteners
  3. Bananas*
  4. Caffeine (coffee &tea)
  5. Carbonated Beverages (bloat)*
  6. Corn**
  7. Dairy Products (if not vegan)*
  8. Dried Fruits
  9. Edamame
  10. Eggs (if not vegan)
  11. Gluten (wheat, barley, rye)*
  12. Fast Foods
  13. Fried Foods (unhealthy fats and oils)
  14. Non-organic fruits/veggies/protein***
  15. Processed Foods (anything flavored or chemical based)
  16. Juices (if not fresh squeezed/juiced)
  17. Processed Soy Products
  18. Carbonated Beverages (bloat)*
  19. Salt
  20. Sugars (especially those including high fructose corn syrup)
  21. Tobacco (duh!)
  22. Balsamic Vinegar*
  23. White Rice


* These should be eliminated if doing a strict detox, otherwise they can be enjoyed in limited quantities.

**Corn and Edamame have risk of being GMOs. Corn is hard to digest and is also high in sugar (like bananas). If eating edamame, be sure it is organic.

*** See next list for more details about organic vs. non-organic foods



It’s important to choose certified organic foods during a detox because the whole point is to rid your body of toxins and chemicals. Unlike organic produce, non-organic foods are often grown using pesticides and other chemicals that could be harmful to our health and increase toxins in our bodies.


Even worse? Non-organic foods run the risk of being genetically modified. You can read all about GMOs and organic vs. non-organic foods in my earlier post. The following list of fruits and veggies, which are known as the “Dirty Dozen,” should be purchased organic as much as possible due to the risk of high pesticide levels:
















The “Dirty Dozen:”

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported)
  8. Sweet Bell Peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries
  12. Lettuce
  13. (Plus: Green Beans, Kale/Collard Greens)*
*These items have recently shown an increase in pesticide levels as compared to earlier years. While not officially in the dirty dozen, it’s worth keeping an eye out and buying organic when you can.


While buying organic is always a safer choice, we all know it’s not always financially possible! The following fruits & veggies are deemed the “Clean Fifteen” due to their low pesticide residues. I still am an advocate for all things organic, but if you can’t buy the organic versions of these guys all the time…it’s okay :) . Read more about the “Clean 15″ and “Dirty Dozen” here.

Photo Credit: Health Magazin



















The “Clean Fifteen:”

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn*
  3. Pineapple
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  12. Sweet Potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms

* GMO sweet corn does not need to be identified as such in stores. If you are concerned about GMOs…go organic!


I find it super helpful to print these lists out and stick them on my fridge or in my wallet, that way I’m constantly reminded about what foods I should be incorporating into my diet and what foods I should be limiting. Now you don’t have to go buying every single food on the “Foods to Choose” list tomorrow, however, if you make a concerted effort to add two or three of these foods into your diet and remove one or two of the unfriendly detox foods from your diet this week, you are well on your way to a healthier you! As you begin to feel more confident about changing your habits, you can feel free to incorporate more of the fresh, heathy, detox foods into your meal routines and eliminate the detox-sabatoging foods. It may be difficult not to cheat at first, but I promise–once you give your body a break from unhealthy foods, your cravings will diminish. All you need to do is commit to healthy change. After all, the power is in YOU! :)




Healthfully Yours,


Ashley Michelle






What the GMO?!

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  Sound familiar?


Now, the last thing I want to do is get all “preachy-preachy” on you (Remember: I will always empower you to make your own choices based upon what’s best for your body and health) but I wanted to cover the importance of going organic in this post because I’m concerned people don’t know enough about the risky production of nonorganic crops using GMOs.

And I don’t blame you!

With all that’s wrong in the world these days…who wants to worry about the groceries they buy right down the street at their neighborhood supermarket?


Sadly…there’s a lot to worry about :( .


(Looks healthy...right?)




And I’m not just talking about the chemical-laden, processed junk that ends up in packaged foods (you already know that stuff is bad!).  What is most worrisome is that you might already be working hard to follow a healthy diet FULL of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains (like in the photo above)…but chances are you could still be unknowingly ingesting dangerous chemicals and toxins like pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).


So. What’s a GMO you ask?

Allow me to explain.


Genetically modified organisms (GMOs, or “transgenic” organisms) are the product of a laboratory process in which the genes from the DNA in one species is removed and then artificially injected into the genes of a completely unrelated animal or plant. Farmers genetically modify crops to increase their resistance to pesticides, herbicides, toxins, and viruses in order to increase production and ultimately, profit.  These foreign genes forced into the organism can come from viruses, insects, bacteria, animals and even humans. Genetically modified products include foods/ingredients, vaccines, medicines, fibers, and feeds.

In 1994 one of the very first organisms–a tomato–underwent genetic engineering for consumer purposes. The tomato, called Flavr Savr, was designed to ripen on the vine, stay firmer than regular tomatoes (for easy transport), and to have a longer shelf life.  During the same time period, a tomato was injected with genes from an Arctic fish so that the tomato plants could survive a frost– thankfully these “fish tomatoes” never made it into food stores.  Later, a major biotechnology company discovered a bacterial gene which could make crops resistant to herbicides. This resistant gene was then forced into the genes of crops such as soy, corn, cotton, and canola. This was done only after the company accidentally discovered that a certain bacteria in a chemical waste dump was surviving even if exposed to herbicide. Now, soy, corn, cotton and canola are all victims of GMOs for increased production purposes– in fact, they have become some of the worst offenders.

This same company eventually released herbicide resistant and genetically modified soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton, and now over 1 billion tons of pesticides are used in the U.S. every year. Shockingly, 91% of all soy, 90% of all sugar beets, 88% of canola, 85% of all corn,  and 71% of cotton crops in the U.S. are commercialized and genetically modified crops.  People eat these ingredients every day– modified corn and soy are in almost every single processed food in the U.S. In fact, processed foods make up more than 80% of GMOs out there and a whopping 70% of all foods in supermarkets are genetically modified. I bet if you went and looked at some of the food labels in your very own cabinets…you’ be surprised how many contain these “genetically modified” ingredients.


So, now you might be thinking… “what’s the big deal? WHY are GMO’s so dangerous?”


Unfortunately lack of research (because concern about the effects of GMO is still quite recent) is a substantial problem in itself. The reality is, we don’t know how harmful the long-term effects of GMOs will be.


What we do have, however, is evidence suggesting GMOs can lead to…

  • Accelerated aging
  • Decreased immunity
  • Infertility/reproductive failure/birth defects
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Allergies
  • Dysregulation of genes that handle cholesterol synthesis, cell signaling, fatty insulin production, and protein formation.
  • Changes in the spleen, kidney, and gastrointestinal system.
  • Increased antibiotic resistance (meaning that certain antibiotics and medicines may not work as well against infection for people who eat genetically modified foods over time).
  • Increase in plant, animal, and human diseases/mutations
  • Increased number of pests/bugs
  • Super weeds (as a result of becoming used to pesticides)
  • Mineral-leeched, stripped soil
  • Hazardous levels of chemicals and other products used to grow GMOs in the soil, water, and air.

And this issue goes one step further. If an animal is fed genetically modified feed and then a person eats that animal, they too will have inadvertently ingested those GMOs. Think about what and how commercial livestock and animals are fed and taken care of (if you haven’t already, please check out Food Inc.). Like humans, an animal’s organs, muscles and tissues absorb and make use of everything they eat– just like the human body (this includes good nutrients as well as toxins, pesticides, and other chemicals found in their feed). Then humans go and eat that animal’s meat and pass along whatever absorbed toxins the animal ate into their own bodies.


See the vicious cycle?


Another issue with GMOs is the cross-contamination risk to other crops. This is especially problematic for organic farmers who work so hard to stay that way, yet they may not be able to control a genetically modified seed from a neighboring farm being picked up by the wind and contaminating an organic crop– especially since it’s a 3-year process to convert land back over to organic status once considered non-organic.

Insects are also beginning to build up a resistance to presticides. For instance, mosquitoes have already begun to develop increased resistance to DDT. Other insects could start developing a resistance to GMOs as well, which will make it difficult to control insect damage and infestation.

Allergies are one more extremely harmful side effect of GMOs.  When genetic material from one organism is introduced to another, there is the possibility that the GMO material can trigger allergic reactions in those who have allergies–which brings me to a completely different problem.




In fact…even though 92% of Americans want the FDA to label GMOs and genetically engineered food…they are still refusing to do so.

Something’s pretty fishy about that…don’t you think?

This is especially dangerous because those who are at risk of severe allergic reactions may not know which foods to avoid. For example, if someone with a severe peanut allergy ate a food that was genetically modified using allergenic protein from a peanut, that person would be put at risk because there’s  no label stating this. There is speculation that this is why peanut allergies are so common among young kids these days.

Many countries in Europe have already banned genetically modified foods, including Greece, Germany, France, Australia, and Luxembourg. However, the USDA has deregulated the use of many genetically modified crops. It doesn’t seem to make much sense, and fortunately people are starting realize that it’s their right to know exactly what they are eating. Because no one can be 100% certain how to completely remove genes from a species of GMOs once they are introduced, GMOs are starting to gain a lot of negative attention from those in health fields who find them harmful and risky.


Scary huh? So what’s a person to do?





There is only one label you should be worrying about– and that’s the USDA Certified Organic seal.

If a food has the USDA Organic label, then this ensures the product is made up of 95% organic content, has not added sulfitesand has been processed according to the USDA standards. Food that is 100% organic is labeled as such; 100% Organic :) . Organic produce has a 5-digit PLU (price look-up) code that begins with a 9.

When a product says it is “made with organic ingredients” however, this means that the product contains only 70% organic ingredients and therefore cannot have the USDA organic seal on its packaging. A four-digit code that begins with a 3 or a 4 means the produce is probably conventionally grown.

Lastly, don’t be fooled– natural DOES NOT MEAN organic! Natural foods may not contain preservatives or additives, but they are not regulated and can be grown using GMOs and pesticides. A five-digit code that starts with an 8 means the product has been genetically modified.

(Click here for more detailed information on the National Organic Program and here to visit the Non-GMO shopping website).


Now, I know there’s a lot of information in this post, but I hope it gets those wheels in your head turning. Everything I’ve discussed is just the tip of the iceberg. While “organic” has had a certain “crunchy-granola” stigma attached to it in the past…it’s certainly becoming more and more mainstream now that people are learning about the harmful food industry practices out there.  After all, you probably wouldn’t actively choose to buy an apple that was injected with hormones to make it grow larger or choose to spray down your food with chemicals before you ate it would you? I know I sure wouldn’t!

And that’s exactly why I’d like to know where my food comes from– so that way I can avoid these unadvertised GMOs! And yes… while I know organic foods can be more expensive than mass produced products (thank goodness it’s farmer’s market season), I think it’s a small price to pay so that you know what you’re getting is 100% healthy, good-for-you food.

I’m not expecting to change the world (although I’d like to!), but if you come away from this article wondering about or having learned just ONE new thing…I’ll be happy.



When it comes to your health…you’re worth every penny! :)



Healthfully yours,

Ashley Michelle



P.S.- To sign the petition or to learn more about the movement to get genetically engineered products labeled, please click here.



Time magazine

Livestrong: Risks and Side Effects of GMOs

Natural Awakenings Magazine: The Truth about GMOs: Plant pathologist Don Huber Reveals the Risk

Extraordinary Health Magazine: USDA Certified Organic: What are your Products Wearing?

Huffington Post: Explained-What are GMOs

Human Genome Product Information: What are Genetically Modified Foods

Consumer Reports