Name: Kristin Kaschak
Occupation: Project Manager by Day, Nutrition Coach and Paleo Blogger by Night
In 2006, Kristin’s mother died suddenly from an undiagnosed heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy. When she started looking into the disease, she discovered that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the US. and 6 times the number of deaths caused by breast cancer.
“Crazy. Yet we don't have a whole month about it. Just one week, and one day really (National Wear Red Day) in February that barely anyone even knows about.”
Kristin is determined to change that. She is single handedly doing everything she can to draw more attention to the dangers of heart disease, educate people on how it can be prevented, and ultimately save others from the loss and grief that she and her family have experienced.
“Dilated Cardiomyopathy resulted in sudden cardiac arrest and my fascination with women’s heart health began. In looking into the thing that silently and suddenly killed my mom, I found that not only was this something that was playing a role in my life, but played a role in the lives of millions. Why had I never heard this before? Why had no one told me about it? How is it possible that we were never told that it was heart disease that was going to be our most likely battle? How could we be left so in the dark?”
Kristin has been on a long journey of educating herself on health and fitness as it relates to heart disease. As a young girl, Kristin struggled with body image and disordered eating. She did everything the health magazines told her to do and then became frustrated when she didn’t get the results she saw on glossy magazine pages. Sound familiar?
The more she learned, the more she realized that not only was her low fat and extreme cardio lifestyle preventing her from looking the way she wanted, it was also dangerous to her health.
The Missing Ingredients : Strength and Fat
In 2010 Kristin’s gym affiliated with CrossFit and she started lifting heavy stuff. She tried pull ups. She tried push ups. Prior to CrossFit, Kristin avoided these strength-building exercises because she did not believe they would put her in the “fat-burning zone”.
In true CrossFit form, Kristin soon discovered the Paleo Diet, eliminated processed food, and began researching and experimenting with food. She now runs a successful and informative blog with tips and recipes.
Q. How has your diet changed your relationship with your body?
A. My relationship with myself and with food changed dramatically. I view food for what it is now: fuel, nutrients, life-giving.
Everything I eat I see as being something that is bringing me closer to my best health. Before, everything I ate was a necessary evil that was keeping me fat (or so I thought). I see my body do things that I never imagined possible.
Walking on my hands? Throwing 150 pounds over my head? Ring dips? Never did I think these would be things I could do. Never did I think I would drink a tablespoon of butter and not be wracked with guilt. Yet, here I am! Healthier, happier, and in better physical shape than I have ever been.
Passion Becomes Profession
Q. How have you educated yourself on food and exercise?
Last year, after being the ‘go-to’ nutrition nut job at the gym for a few years, I started taking the steps to be able to help people in a professional manner. I got my CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach certificate and my CrossFit Level 1 Certificate. I started coaching at Long Branch CrossFit, our second affiliate location to Absolute Strength Gym in New Jersey. I am currently in the Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Program with the Nutritional Therapy Association and I will graduate this summer and am thrilled to be able to use this passion to help others through food. It’s amazing what we can do just with changing what’s on our plates.
Q. What are some healthy heart nutrition tips?
A1. Sleep more and drink more water.
When we sleep, we’re not only repairing physically, but we also repair psychologically. Sleep needs to become a priority. In a perfect world, we would simply rise with the sun, when we naturally wake up. 7 hours a night if not 8.
For water, it’s generally agreed upon that 1/2 of your bodyweight in ounces should be the goal per day. Start in the morning, and sip all day long to properly hydrate (as opposed to chugging a liter before bed).
A2. Eat more healthy fats and remove industrial seed oils all together!
Certain organs prefer certain nutrients as their fuel source. For the brain, it’s glucose (carbohydrate). For the heart? It’s fat. Our hearts are surrounded by a layer of protective fat, and does best when it has ample healthy fats from which to get energy. Saturated fats, like coconut oil, grass fed butter, lard, duck fat, etc. are all extremely stable sources (they don’t oxidize or become damaged in heat or light very easily) as are monounsaturated oils like olive oil.
The Dangers of a Low Fat Diet
Q. How is your interpretation of a hearth healthy diet different from the low fat/whole grain based diet that so many people have been led to believe is healthy?
A. The only thing that the low fat/whole grain diet philosophy has right is eating a lot of vegetables and in a wide variety of colors. Dark, leafy greens are some of the most nutrient rich plant foods available, though they should always be lightly cooked. By lightly cooking greens, you breakdown the phytic acid and allow for better uptake of nutrients like vitamin A, B6, Folic Acid and Calcium.
Low fat is more and more being shown to be one of the most dangerous thing that’s happened to our health in the modern era. When you look at the human body from a physiological standpoint, the need for healthy fats in the diet becomes extremely apparent.
Every single cell in the human body has a cell membrane, a wall. That wall is made of what’s called a lipid bilayer. Lipid, meaning fats! We literally need fats in order to maintain the structure of our cells! We need fats to absorb critical vitamins A, E, D, and K.
For women, specifically, a low fat diet can result in reproductive dysfunction, cardiac disease, digestive dysfunction, depression, lack of focus, weight gain, and poor sleep quality.
It’s an extremely crucial nutrient, and should make up a significant part of most diets, yet we’ve been taught to fear it. Even Alice Lichtenstein, one of the scientists guiding the governments nutritional recommendations said that low fat diets are “probably not a good idea."
Prevention and Taking Control
Q. What are some of the most important things we can do to help prevent heart disease in regards to exercise?
A. Do it! Just get moving. Get your heart pumping, get it working. Like most things, variety is important. Sprints for some high intensity work. Longer, low intensity efforts for endurance. Always check with your physician and do your own research before starting any excursive program, though, to make sure you’re being safe!
Q. What can/should women be doing to check their current heart health?
A. For anyone with a history of heart disease in their family, like me, an ECG (eco cardiogram) should be step 1 on your to do list. My two sisters and I should have been immediately tested (through an ECG), as 50% of cases are thought to be hereditary in nature. We were not told to do so until a chance encounter with a new physician pointed us in the right direction. This is why, even when it comes to your doctor, you need to take back responsibility for your healthcare and treatment. We must educate ourselves. It’s absolutely essential to be an educated patient.
This year Kristin is putting on her first women’s heart health CrossFit competition. The event is called Girls with Heart and all proceeds going to the Women's Heart Foundation. In addition to fundraising, Kristin is helping create a heart healthy community through coaching at Long Branch CrossFit and regularly updating her blog (Eat Drink WOD) with healthy and recipes and plenty of nutrition and health tips.
As our February Fashlete, Kristin is receiving a custom necklace with the words of her choice. She chose "Take It" for a few reasons…
My whole nutritional journey has led me to the conclusion that we all are responsible for taking our health into our own hands. To ignore the mainstream and get back to common sense foods. Take back the control. We need to take responsibility in our medicine. It wasn't until I found a new doctor, did my own research, and requested what I needed that I got healthy.
Careers, friends, family, food, we need to take control and take what we need to thrive. Take the day with veracity. It's what I hope to inspire people to do in my writing and in my nutritional coaching practice when I eventually open as an NTP. Everyone can be empowered and take back their own lives.
Congratulations Kristin and thank you for your compassion and contribution to the world of health and fitness! We are proud to call you a Fashlete! For more information on National Wear Red Day and heart disease prevention, please visit goredforwomen.org