Gut Health

Q & A: How do I lose belly fat?

First clue: skip the bagels! I know. So hard!!

First clue: skip the bagels! I know. So hard!!

A very common question I get as a health coach is “how do I lose belly fat?”.

[Note: I’m not going to evaluate the validity of the question- if it matters to you, it matters to me! I’m here to support you the best I can!]

Well unfortunately, there is not a simple answer. There is a lot of information out there, a lot of it is nonsense. Please skip the “teatoxes” or anything that guarantees fast results. Furthermore, no amount of crunches will eliminate that extra cushion in the front! You may have heard that abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym– and that is absolutely true!

I believe the best approach is one with slow, sustainable progress. That’s not what most people want to hear, but that will leave you with lasting results. It’s important to remember that it is very common that belly fat is the last to go! You need to be consistent, and put in the time to even approach losing excess from your midsection!

The Shed program is designed to help you tackle this issue! You eliminate and scale back on some of the most problematic foods for your middle!

Foods that can hinder belly fat loss:

  • white or refined carbohydrates (see above bagel)

  • sugar

  • dairy

  • alcohol (beer especially can be problematic!)

You don’t need to eliminate these from your diet forever. But skipping them for a concentrated period of time will help push your body out of it’s current de facto state and will allow you to start losing.

But if you are skipping the foods above- what do you eat? Prioritize eating lots of vegetables, protein at each meal, and healthy fats! (If you are looking for guidance on this- the Shed program has meal plans included!)

You may eventually hit a plateau. There are a variety of ways to tackle a plateau– it really depends on your body and circumstances. Oftentimes you just need to change up your exercise routine. Doing more or LESS may be the solution. If you are putting too much stress on your body, it releases cortisol- which is the enemy to weight loss! If you have been doing light exercise like walking, it may be time to add an extra boost. Plateaus are really where coaching is the most helpful– everyone’s life is unique and what may be causing your plateau may be completely unique to you. (Shoot me an email if you are interested in one-on-one coaching!)

Back to cortisol– if you perpetually feel stressed– this could be your biggest issue with losing weight around your tummy. Try to find ways to manage your stress. I highly recommend meditation and yoga to bring some calm to the chaos! Other people manage their stress with running or other cardio. Just try to find something that can consistently bring you some zen!

In summary, the steps to losing that pesky tummy:

  1. Eliminate problematic foods (white/refined carbs, sugar, dairy, alcohol) from your diet for a period of time

  2. Eat a healthy diet filled with lots of vegetables, protein and healthy fats!

  3. Push past plateaus

  4. Manage your stress

  5. Have patience and enjoy the journey of changing your lifestyle for the better!

Gut Health 300

At long last, the practical final installment of the gut health series! This post is to help provide practical tips to increase probiotics and prebiotics in ya life to increase your gut/ overall health! Before you get started you may want to recap the previous posts in the Gut Health series. 



Here are some of the easiest ways to add healthy bacteria into your gut! 

  1. The easiest way to get more probiotics in your life is to take a probiotic supplement. For more info on how to pick the right one - read Gut Health 200. However, they are expensive, and if your gut is already in good shape, it may not be necessary to continue long term. I always advocate to try to get the bulk of your nutrients from whole foods, and here is no different. 
  2. Lean in and switch to the 'booch instead of soda. Kombucha - you've probably heard of this bubbly, magical drink. It is actually fermented tea, and is an awesome way to get more good bacteria in your life. Make sure you find brands that keep the sugar to no more than 4gs per serving. Bonus, if you are hooked on soda- it is a great substitute!
  3. Add more fermented foods into your life! Fermented foods such as kimchi (the national food of Korea! A spicy pickled cabbage dish) or sauerkraut (European origin pickled cabbage dish) are #shedapproved and are loaded with the good stuff. This is particularly good in the winter when fresh produce is less available (or historically was less available! That is how people would stay healthy all year round!). While Kimchi is not available everywhere, you can opt to go to a Korean mart and they are typically sold there. Many grocery stores sell sauerkraut. If those aren't in your neighborhood you can always make it yourself (Links: How to make easy kimchi at homeHow to make sauerkraut in a mason jar).  
  4. Greek yogurt (or Siggi's Icelandic style) and kefir are Month 1 #shedapproved and a great source of good bacteria. You know that watery stuff that sits on the top of yogurt? Don't pour it out or avoid it- that's where the healthy bacteria live! Be sure to mix it in fully! My one warning here is to avoid added sugar in your yogurt/kefir. Better to get the plain, full fat versions and add your own berries and honey! 
  5. Beer and Wine! Whaaaaat? Alcohol? Yep. The catch? Commercial beer is rigorously filtered and won't have the health benefits. Just another reason to try home brew! Also, don't overdo it. It negates the health benefits! Stick to one beer or glass of wine at a time (2 tops!) to maximize the benefits and prevent weight gain!  


Prebiotics keep the good gut bacteria happy and healthy! Because they need food too! The key to making gut bacteria happy? FIBER!!

  1. Freeze pre-ripe (lightly green still) bananas to add to your smoothies. You don't notice the flavor/texture difference as much as if you just ate them outright. Bonus - there is less sugar in these nanners so they are better on the waistline!
  2. Raw dandelion greens salad with raw asparagus (see recipe below!). Refreshing, light, crunchy, and yummy!
  3. Jicama chips (I mean fries. I swear I don't know where these Britishism are coming from)! So refreshing in the heat of summer. Check out the recipe below! 
  4. GG crisps/crackers. Month 1 Shed approved and LOADED UP with fiber. Be sure to look for the ones with psyllium husks (pumpkin and sunflower seed versions have this) on the ingredients list for gut friendly bonus!
  5. Any other fruits and veggies you like. The key here is the fiber, so leave the skins on (where you can - ie cucumbers, apples, etc) and eat up all the pulp you can! 

Here is a list of some of the top prebiotic foods not included above: 

  • Raw chicory root - the top source, with almost 60% fiber
  • Raw Jerusalem artichoke 
  • Raw garlic
  • Raw leeks
  • Raw onions 
  • Cooked onions
  • Whole wheat 
  • Legumes

This is by no means an exhaustive list, it's more of a prompting to get some new healthy eats in your routine! I hope you found the Gut Health series educational and beneficial. What are you going to do to add more gut friendly foods into your routine? Leave me a comment here or on Instagram! - AHS

Mexican style raw Jicama fries 

jicama fries chips mexican style tajin gut health prebiotics


  • 1 jicama
  • Extra virgin olive oil (start with a tbsp, add as necessary)
  • Tajin* or other chili lime seasoning blend to taste


Peel jicama with a vegetable peeler. Cut into "fry" shape. I made mine a bit thicker. Coat lightly with olive oil and Tajin. Eat immediately for a filling snack and/or appy!

*Tajin is a Mexican spice blend that is amazing on fruit- it's incredible on watermelon too! You can order off amazon or get it at your local Mexican store if there is one close to you! You can also make this gringo style with paprika, onion powder, and chili powder.  

Dandelion Greens Salad

(adapted from the SHED program) (serves 1) 

This salad is an amazing summer detox salad and gut health booster! 


  • 1⁄2 apple, chopped (skin on!)
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 2 cups dandelion greens
  • 3 spears of raw asparagus, chopped into 4 bites pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1⁄2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sprinkle of parmesan (optional)


Mix ingredients in a bowl and enjoy a crunchy gut healthy lunch! 

Matcha Collagen Fat Balls

shed for the wed matcha fat ball
alexandra hayden shea matcha fat balls

As a special request, I attempted Lee from America's Coconut Fat Balls. I altered the recipe slightly to fit my needs, one of which was MATCHA. Cuz matcha is always a need right?

matcha collagen fat balls food processor

I added Vital Proteins Matcha Collagen, to boot. Why? Matcha contains 137 times the amount of free radical-fighting antioxidants as other green teas and you now can eat them! AND as you know from my collagen post there are so many benefits to adding collagen into your routine. Hello healthy hair, skin, nails, bones and joints! The works. This was a fun way to try out a new way to get my collagen into the routine!

If you follow Lee, you may know she is obsessed Coconut Butter. I have yet to try the magical substance, and it is not available everywhere. That's where my good friend ghee comes in. I substituted ghee for coco butter, and it worked really well. It probably gave the balls a slightly different texture. I think it's the reason my "balls" really look more like cookies. 

Ghee is a form of clarified butter and it's kinda amazing. It's great for people who are sensitive to dairy and it has a higher smoke point than plain butter. Confused about what it is? Clarified butter starts as unsalted butter that is heated on low heat, which causes the milk solids to separate from the rest of the liquid. The milk solids fall to the bottom of the pan after the butter melts. Any foam sitting on the surface is removed. Ghee takes it one step further- after the milk solids separate the butter is simmered until all of the moisture evaporates and the milk solids brown slightly in the pan. This gives ghee a richer, nuttier flavor. 

I tried at first to fit them on a cookie sheet- my freezer was not big enough for that. So I switched to the plate. 

I tried at first to fit them on a cookie sheet- my freezer was not big enough for that. So I switched to the plate. 

Yep, that's Stolichnaya in my fridge. All about balance right? Fat balls and Stoli, what a combo. 

Yep, that's Stolichnaya in my fridge. All about balance right? Fat balls and Stoli, what a combo. 

Ghee also has a lot of awesome health benefits - one of which is being anti-inflammatory which is one of my bigger qualms with dairy in general. It also helps to improve digestion, build strong bones, and even can act as a detoxifier!  To learn more about ghee's benefits, read this article.

Back to the fat balls... got a little distracted by glorious ghee there for a moment! I also thought I had dates in the fridge- and I only had one! So to make up for it I added a smidge of honey. I thought it would make them super sticky, but it didn't in the end! The original recipe called for 3 dates – if you would prefer that to honey! Also, apologies to any of you with nut or coconut allergies- just reading the recipe may cause you to break out into hives. 

What I loved about the balls is that they are a perfect snack. If I do a smoothie for lunch and I get hungry- it's the perfect balance and it really feels like a treat! I sometimes forget they are in the freezer - and it's so awesome to find them when I am really wanting a treat and can't find anything! Also side note: I do not advise eating these as an after dinner dessert. They are obviously full of fat, and your body will not have a good amount of time to digest them before bed! Better as an afternoon treat. :)

Oh, one more thing! If you want to make these matcha collagen style like I did, Vital Proteins is having a promo this week: buy one get one 20% off. It's going on through 5/28. So take advantage if you can! You can buy here.


So without further ado the recipe is below! 

Vital Proteins did not pay me to write this post. But they did provide the matcha! If you buy through any of the links I provide, I will get a small commission at no added cost to you. :) And just in case you weren't sure, my opinions all my own. 

Matcha Collagen Fat Balls

(adapted from Lee from America's Coconut Fat Balls) 

matcha fat balls


  • 1 cup coconut shreds
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup ghee, melted
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • 1/2 cup cashews (I used roasted unsalted)
  • 2 tbsp cacao nibs
  • 1 scoop Vital Proteins Matcha Collagen
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 medjool date (pitted)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/3 c. almond milk


  • Food Processor
  • (Some say a blender can be used instead, but I haven't tested it.)


  1. Blend everything in a food processor until dough is achieved. Dough will be wet, that’s good!
  2. Roll into bite sized balls then lay flat and freeze. Once frozen, place in an airtight container and put back in the freezer for storing. They can last for a while in there! 
  3. Remove from freezer and let thaw 6 minutes before eating for optimal deliciousness!

Gut Health 200

Time to LEVEL UP friends! 

Part two on our gut health journey will walk through: 

  • how to tackle leaky gut and digestive issues
  • how to pick a probiotic supplement

I hope you find part two informative and useful! 

Leaky Gut Syndrome

Y'all ready for some more education? 

Have you ever heard of leaky gut syndrome? It's more common than you think. If you have more than one food sensitivity you more than likely have leaky gut.

The cells that line the intestine are supposed to be connected tightly together. Leaky gut occurs when the "glue" that keeps them together has been destroyed and spaces open up between the cells. Toxins, microbes and even pieces of food can get into the body - no bueno. This can create many problems in the body, and can even cause auto-immune diseases. 

Image courtesy of Dr. Axe. 

Image courtesy of Dr. Axe. 

According to Dr. Leo Galland, director of the Foundation for Integrated Medicine these are some of the top symptoms you could be experiencing if you have a leaky gut:

  1. Chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas or bloating
  2. Nutritional deficiencies
  3. Poor immune system
  4. Headaches, brain fog, memory loss
  5. Excessive fatigue
  6. Skin rashes and problems such as acne, eczema or rosacea
  7. Cravings for sugar or carbs
  8. Arthritis or joint pain
  9. Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD
  10. Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease or Crohn's

So what do you do if you suspect you have leaky gut? Well first, we get down to what could be offending foods in your diet. We tackle this with (step 1:) an elimination diet.* 

For 3 weeks eliminate the following foods from your diet: gluten (and any grains that could be cross-contaminated by gluten), dairy, corn, soy, and eggs. Some advise to also eliminate shellfish and peanuts.  After the three weeks reintroduce one category at a time (every 4 days) to observe your body's response. Eat the food several times a day for 2-3 days and observe. If you have a reaction right away, you do not need to keep eating it. 

Step 2: If you identify trigger foods- keep them out of your diet for 6 months. The body is remarkable and can remember! Give it time to forget and most likely you will be able to add those bad boys back into your diet eventually.**

Step 3: Add in foods to heal the intestinal lining! Hello, probiotic beauties! See last week's post for a for an in-depth look at probiotic rich foods. More below as well. In addition to probiotics and prebiotics, coconut oil, ghee, and foods rich in glutamine (animal proteins, beans, spinach, cabbage, parsley, etc) are great for this step as well. 

Step 4: Bask in your healed, glorious body! 

Add a probiotic supplement

vitamins and probiotics

Let's talk about adding a probiotic supplement into your life. Eating probiotic rich foods is not the easiest so unless you plan on making it a priority – supplementing is your best bet! Additionally, if you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above - you can target specific issues by what imbalance you are trying to recover from.  I won't go too depth here, but this article breaks it down by symptom. 

Buying a probiotic is notoriously difficult because there are so many out there, and its hard to be informed about every option out there. Here is what you should look for: 

What to look for in a probiotic supplement

Identify the best bacteria strains

You want to make sure you are getting diverse strains of bacteria- because we are all about well rounded gut flora! There is some debate on if "more is better", but some advise for CFUs” (colony forming units) in the billions. Instead focus on a variety of strains. A good brand will list them out. Some of the best strains to keep an eye out for are below:

B. longum

  • Benefits: maintaining the integrity of the gut wall, decreasing stress, memory improvement, helping relieve constipation

B. bifidum

  • Benefits: improves digestion of dairy foods, breaks down carbs, fat, and protein into smaller components so the body can use them more efficiently, boosts immune response, reduction in IBS symptoms and ulcerative colitis

L. acidophilus 

  • Benefits: supports a healthy balance of good bacteria to bad bacteria, immune function, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, supports nutrient absorption, improves digestion of dairy foods


An expiration date

An expiration date ensures that you are getting live strains of bacteria. Probiotics are not going to do you any good if the strains are dead. Without an expiration date listed, there is no way to tell if you are buying living strains or if they are already dead! Probiotics are not cheap, so don't skip this advice! 


Smart packaging

Moisture and heat can kill off microbes so it is important to make sure that the packaging will protect them!  You should store supplements in a cool, dark place but refrigeration is best. Some brands have developed amazing delivery systems that are shelf stable, but to be safe, opt for the fridge. 

Guys, this post was longer than anticipated, so I decided this is now a 3 part series! Our last section will tackle ways to get whole food probiotic and prebiotics into your normal routine! I hope you have enjoyed the series so far. Please leave me a comment here or on instagram if you have learned something new! Cheers! AHS

*As a reminder, I am not a doctor. I only play one on TV. Please consult with a healthcare provider when you undergo lifestyle changes.

** This is for food sensitivities. If you suspect you may have celiac disease or other autoimmune diseases, please consult a healthcare provider. 

Gut Health 101

Gut health is quite buzzy these days and it's actually one of my favorite topics. There is a whole world that lives inside of us, and many of us didn't even know existed! I am breaking this topic into two parts so that this post isn't completely overwhelming. Part one (below) focuses on giving you a general understanding gut health. Happy reading! 

What is the microbiome?

The human microbiota consists of the 10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells harbored by each person, primarily bacteria in the gut; the human microbiome consists of the genes these cells harbor. There are 10 times more cells from microorganisms like bacteria and fungi in and on our bodies than there are human cells. 

"Woah, that is wild. We are really more bacteria than we are human. But I thought that bacteria was bad?"

Well yes, there are "bad" bacteria. But there are also "good" bacteria. 

Good bacteria can: 

  • Improve digestion
  • Strengthen our immune systems
  • Manufacture the vitamins our bodies need

Bad bacteria can cause:

  • Digestion problems
  • Mental issues
  • Skin conditions
  • Illness (more rare than you think)

"What about antibiotics? They kill bacteria when we are sick- they are good for us right?"

This screenshot from the Quartz app, yesterday 3/28. Very timely.

This screenshot from the Quartz app, yesterday 3/28. Very timely.

Hmmm interesting you should bring that up! Antibiotics do kill bad bacteria – BUT they also kill good bacteria along with the bad. They often destroy healthy colonies of good bacteria. This can lead to an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut and can cause digestive and other health issues.

    Additionally, overuse/misuse has led to antibiotic resistance. Essentially, you should only take antibiotics if you are suffering from a bacterial infection. Very often, we call our doctors asking for medicine when we are sick. However, it may take time to know whether you are suffering from a viral infection (not helped by antibiotics) or a bacterial infection (helped by antibiotics). Some doctors will give you an antibiotic if you ask for it, regardless of whether they are certain if it is bacterial. The over prescription of antibiotics has caused a global health emergency. By taking antibiotics frequently, we are raising our resistance to the medicine - which means when we are really sick and need them, they may not work.

    Moral of the story: only take antibiotics when your health care provider is certain you require them (and please don't push for them).

    Additionally, the meat industry is infamous for giving animals antibiotics to "keep them healthy" often in terrible living conditions. The hormones fed to them are passed on to us. That is why if you eat dairy products it is important to look for added hormone free products (the best way to do this is purchase organic when possible) as well as purchase high quality meat products. Shopping ethically could be a whole additional post, so will table this for now. (If you are interested in learning more, leave me a comment below!)

    "How do I know if my gut bacteria are out of whack?"

    Well, there are quite a few ways. If you experience any of the following, your gut bacteria may not be in balance:

    • Digestive Issues
      • Gas, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, IBS, Inflammatory Bowel Disease ([IBD] including Crohn’s, and Ulcerative colitis)
    • Mental Issues
      • Depression and anxiety, brain fog, OCD, autism
    • Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies (check with your doctor for the lab work)
      • Vitamin D, K, B12, B7, Magnesium
    • Using antibiotics
    • Chronic, unmanaged stress (keep it calm brides!)
    • Skin Conditions 
      • Acne, Rosacea, Psoriasis, Eczema
    • Autoimmune diseases
      • Hashimoto’s,  Rheumatoid arthritis,  IBD

    Note that these range from serious health issues to very minor issues like gas or brain fog. One round of antibiotics can completely mess up your gut. There are lots of ways to tackle an unbalanced gut. The next section will outline some tips for eating right for good gut health - which is a great place to start. Stay tuned for part two for a more in depth feature on how to take it on more serious issues. 

    "What should I eat for a healthy gut?"

    The good news is that if you are health conscious at all you are probably well on your way to a healthy gut. The foundation for a healthy gut is the same as most other healthy living principles: 

    • Eat “real” or “whole” Foods
      • Did it exist when your grandparents (or great grandparents) were growing up?
      • Could you make it in your own kitchen or at least buy the ingredients to do so?
      • Will it eventually rot?
    • Eat a rainbow of foods (mostly plants)
      • The bright colors in fruits and veggies come from phytonutrients which protect against cancer, heart disease and more.
      • Generally speaking the more brightly colored the food is the healthier it is 
      • Any sustainable strategy for long term health grounded in emphasizing (and increasing) the “good” in your diet
      • FIBER! The microbiome’s BFF

    "But wait, that's not why I wanted to learn about gut health at all. What about kombucha?" 

    A perfect breakfast or snack loaded with prebiotics - underripe banana served on Pumpkin Seed GG crisps and peanut butter. GG crisps are whole wheat and many varieties use psyllium husks as an ingredient. Another great prebiotic!

    A perfect breakfast or snack loaded with prebiotics - underripe banana served on Pumpkin Seed GG crisps and peanut butter. GG crisps are whole wheat and many varieties use psyllium husks as an ingredient. Another great prebiotic!

    Oh eating a healthy diet isn't up your alley? JK, jk. There are two types of foods that you should work on incorporating into your gut friendly diet: probiotics and prebiotics. 

    Probiotics are actual live, good bacteria. They come in supplement form, or you can get them naturally in the following foods: 

    • Yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk 
    • Aged cheese such as cheddar, Gouda, or Parmesan (not the processed kind that comes in a bag)
    • Sauerkraut, kimchi and other pickled vegetables
    • Sourdough bread 
    • Miso (fermented barley or soy or rice)
    • Tempeh - fermented soy  
    • Kombucha - fermented tea
    • Beer and wine (all in moderation!)

    Prebiotics are foods that feed the good bacteria already present in the intestine. If your curious about how they work, check out this article. Here are some great sources to add into your diet: 

    • Raw chicory root - the top source, with almost 60% fiber
    • Raw Jerusalem artichoke 
    • Raw garlic
    • Raw leeks
    • Raw asparagus
    • Raw dandelion greens
    • Raw onions 
    • Cooked onions
    • Whole wheat 
    • Underripe bananas
    • Raw jicama
    • Legumes
    • Psyllium Husks
    • Other fruits and vegetables

    Whether you are in good health or not, making sure you add in probiotic and prebiotic foods into your normal routine will be very beneficial. 

    This is the end of part one. Stay tuned for the next installment! Part two will lay out the groundwork for tackling bacteria imbalances in the gut as well as more actionable steps to conquer healthy gut living!

    Please let me know if you found this to be helpful! I'm excited to share more with you soon! - AHS