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Embrace the Journey Blog & Videos


Carbs for Thought

Spring 2017

​Portions are everything when it comes to lasting weight loss. I grew up loving rice ( thanks in part to my Liberian roots) so there was a time the broccoli portion size would be the size of the rice in this pic!  However with knowledge comes change & with time I have transformed my relationship with rice to

✅Decrease portion size (<1 cup cooked rice)

✅Fill up on veggies & lower carb options

✅Eat mostly brown rice instead of white rice due to the health benefits 

Resource: Authority Nutrition, "Brown vs White Rice-Which is Better for your Health?"


Thoughts on Tilapia

Response to Facebook Post

Pictured is my Thai Inspired Baked Tilapia. Made in <20mins and served with sautéed kale and mushrooms. You may be questioning my choice of tilapia since this once beloved flavorful white fish has gotten a bad reputation in the past few years. This led many people to turn their back on tilapia as a healthy food option . For awhile I was on the anti- tilapia bandwagon but I have to admit I missed tilapia so I decided to do some research.

Here's a short  summary:

Good about Tilapia

✅Better for environment it can be raised easily


✅Affordable Lean Protein


❌Low in Omega3 which helps fight heart disease

❌It can be "dirty" depending on the source. Per article avoid tilapia from Columbia 😳

(Best sources: USA, Peru, Canada see Washington Post article for full list)

So in short while salmon, tuna & sardines are best fish for heart health due to ⬆️Omega3; in moderation tilapia is a good lean, low calorie, protein source. As a #foodie I like it because it is easy to season and versatile. I consider it the "chicken" of fish meaning there lots of recipes you can make with it. Bon Appetit!

Resource: The Washington Post, "Tilapia Has A Bad Reputation. Does it deserve it?" Published October 24, 2016  

July 4th

Surviving the Summer Cook-Outs (Social Eating Guide)

Summer 2017

Social eating has always been one of my weak areas. Eating is a big part of most social events. So when I started my weight loss journey I quickly realized that I need to improve my interaction with food during social gathering. Here are my tips for ​

Conquering Social Eating (i.e. Cookout Healthy Eating Plan):

✅Before Event

-Eat regular meals (don't starve till event which can lead to overeating)

-Drink enough water (1oz/ kg if you don't have medical conditions)

-Exercise the day of


-Focus on friends/family not food

-Avoid grazing: think then eat

-2 drinks max (soda/ alcohol)

-Portion control plate

-Avoid seconds; Aim for one plate only


-If you chose to indulge at the cookout, let it stop after the cookout. The next day resume healthy eating & fitness

-If you have leftovers, reduce large portion into individual portions. See for recommended serving sizes.

July 4th

Recovering From  Indulgence

Getting Back to Healthy during Coronavirus Pandemic 

If you overindulged during the start of COVID19 & still haven't returned to eating healthy-it's okay.

Rather than panic & freak out, choose to learn & grow from the experience.

Take time this weekend to:

Assess why you ate unhealthy

o Was it planned?

o Did you think about what you were eating as you ate?

o Were you more focused on food than spending time with family/ friends?

Ask yourself why haven't you returned to your diet/ healthy eating plan

o Is your healthy eating plan too restrictive?

 If so you're less likely to continue. It's okay to treat yourself occasionally. I use the  2015 Dietary Guidelines of <10% added sugar a day (~35-50g/day depending on your weight), or splurge one "big treat" a week.

o Do you like the healthy food on your current diet?

 As a foodie I firmly believe healthy food should be delicious. If your healthy eating isn't yummy make the changes needed to make it better:

• Stop saying/ thinking healthy food is gross

• Find healthy recipes that taste good. I feature several of my tasty healthy on my Instagram account. Also on my Instagram post about this entry I include several accounts that feature delicious healthy food.

 Act today, not tomorrow.

o Procrastination prevents progress. Even if you decide not to return to your healthy eating plan until the start of the week, choose to make small changes today.

o For example:

 Stop drinking sweetened beverages

 Limit yourself to one alcoholic drink this weekend

 Say no to that second plate

 Get your mindset ready to eat healthy again.

Remember to obtain and maintain your happy weight requires a lasting lifestyle change. There will trials and triumphs on your weight journey but learning from your setbacks and choosing to keep going is an invaluable component maintaining for success.


Making West African Food Healthier

Summer 2017

Liberia's 170th Independence Day, July 26th, is just around the corner. As a "fit foodie" & first generation Liberian-American, it's a great opportunity to celebrate by highlighting healthy eating & ethnic food specifically West African food. I took this picture late last month while attending the Gbeyhei Self Reliance Group fundraiser. I enjoyed celebrating my heritage and of course the food! No I can't pretend my pictured plate of torborghee (spicy Liberian dish made with greens, palm oil and an assortment of meat) with white rice or that fried chicken wing is healthy. But one way to decrease the damage on your diet is focus on portion size. Pictured is one cup of rice I also used half a cup of soup & opted for seafood or poultry instead of red meat. A better fried chicken option would have been half a breast with the skin removed but I have a weakness for wings so I chose to go for it this time.

While you can't change what's already been cooked you can pay attention to your own African or ethnic cooking.

For healthier African / ethnic cooking consider the "3 S's: Saturated Fat, Sodium, & Starch"

Saturated Fat

Omit Palm Oil: our beloved palm oil which is at the center of many West African dishes is high in saturated fat which has been linked to heart disease & even stroke. Opt for healthier oils such as olive oil or even canola compared to palm oil.

Decrease Red Meat: High intake of Red Meat (beef, goat, lamb) is associated with heart disease. Opt for fish or lean white meat (chicken, turkey).


Bouillon cubes (i.e. Maggi): This is the secret ingredient in many African dishes. Unfortunately one small cube of Maggi can pack more sodium than a teaspoon of salt. Overtime high sodium can worsen high blood pressure & heart disease.


Decrease portion: In general a half cup to one cup of rice is considered a serving. Add more vegetables or a salad to help satisfy your hunger.

Choose whole grains: Choose brown rice, quinoa, bulgar, etc instead of white rice. In the short term whole grains help you feel more full. Eating whole grains long term has been associated with many health benefits including decreased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke.

Through my weight loss journey I learned you don't have to completely give up your favorite foods but you can modify them to make them better fit your healthy lifestyle. Happy Independence Day Liberia!

What the Health

"What The Health?" -Meat: To Eat or Not Eat ?

Meatless Monday 

​I have receiving several inquiries about my thoughts on the documentary "What the Health?" If you haven't seen it yet I won't bias you with my editorial comments. In short it's about the filmmaker's summary of the merits of a plant based diet (restrictive vegan) in preventing most major diseases (I.e. high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer) and how the documentary producer feels major guidelines agencies suppress this information because of their financial ties to the food Industry.

For those of you who follow me on social media you know for 2017 one of my goals was to increase my plant based intake so I started participating in Meatless Monday.

Why I participate in Meatless Monday?

Added health benefits through decreased saturated fat - most of our saturate fat comes from animal based intake. High levels of

Better for the environment- keeping up with the growing demand for meat has placed a large strain on the environment.

It tastes great- I love the opportunity to challenge myself to create delicious plant based meals like the mushroom bean burger pictured.

At this point in my life, I must admit a completely vegan diet seems daunting but the benefits of a plant based diet are undeniable. While I haven't consumed red meat or pork in almost 20yrs I still love chicken. My goal is to gradually increase my plant based intake. While vegans such as in "What the Health?" will advocate for absolutely no meat consumption, it's hard to undo thousands of years of eating patterns. More research needs to be done on what is the ideal balance of meat consumption.

For now most scientific evidence points to

Avoiding processed meats

Limiting red meat

✅Increasing plant based intake to at least 50% a day

If you are planning on transitioning to a plant based diet it is important you do so the right way to eat healthy and prevent nutrition deficits. Harvard Health provides a useful guide on safely transitioning to a plant based diet.

What the Health

Bite to Basic Weight Loss: Breakfast Counts

Fall 2017

I have a confession. I never liked breakfast. I know this is weird to some people since I have friends who'd eat breakfast foods all day if they could. However on my weight loss journey I learned starting the day with a healthy, filling breakfast is essential to obtaining and maintaining your happy weight.

According to the National Weight Control Registry, 78% of successful weight loss maintainers eat breakfast daily.

So despite the mixed reviews it appears breakfast is important to weight regulation.

Part of the reason it decreases the amount of time you spend fasting so that your body can release key weight regulating hormones.

So what should you eat?

✅Protein: Aim for 20-30grams/ breakfast

✅Whole Grains: Goal 6oz (96g)/ day

✅Water: Drink Water in the morning (1/3 of recommended daily intake; 1oz/kg if healthy)

-Both proteins and/ or whole grains help you feel full and stay full longer due to gradual release of energy.

-Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Common breakfast beverages like coffee and tea are diuretics meaning they cause you to lose fluids. If you drink coffee and tea without water you risk being mildly dehydrated during the day and feeling hungrier than you really are.


Breakfast Ideas


🥓If you eat meat, aim to eat non processed meats, free of chemicals such as nitrates. Processed meats have been linked to cancer and is listed by the WHO as carcinogens.

They are also high in saturated fats which can increase your risk of heart disease so they should be limited

🍳Eggs, specifically egg whites are a good source of protein. Egg yolks contain most of the cholesterol found in eggs so aim for less than 7 eggs/ week if you are decreasing your cholesterol intake. Dairy sources such as yogurt and cheese are also good protein sources.

🌱Beans are a good source of protein for plant based diets

✅Whole Grains- I aim for at least 32g/ meal.

🍵Steel cut oats

🍞Sprouted grains such as Ezekiel bread

Whole grains still count as carbs but unlike refined carbs such as sugar, white flour pastries, white bread, etc they release energy slowly.


☕️Common breakfast beverages like coffee and tea are diuretics meaning they cause you to lose fluids. If you drink coffee and tea without water you risk being mildly dehydrated during the day and feeling hungrier than you really are.


Reduced Sugar Cranberry Sauce 

Thanksgiving Season

I’ve always loved cranberry sauce. However as I’ve grown more health conscious realizing how much sugar is in this tart holiday treat has made it harder to enjoy guilt free. So this year I experimented with my own reduced sugar recipe rather than dumping in 1 cup of sugar (~200g/ carbs) as traditional recipes call for or opening a can of cranberry sauce.The result was quite tasty so, of course, I had to share with you.! Without further ado, enjoy the recipe below: 

Reduced Sugar Cranberry Sauce 


✅1 package of fresh cranberries (12oz bag)

✅1 can pineapple tidbits in 100% pineapple juice

✅1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce 

✅2 tablespoon of honey or agave nectar

✅2 packets of stevia (~1/2 tsp)

✅1/4 cup sugar

✅1 tbsp coconut oil (optional)


1️⃣Drain pineapples. Save juice. Pulse pineapple in food processor till just crushed.

2️⃣Combine all ingredients including pineapple juice in medium sauce pan on medium heat to boil and cranberries pop open.

3️⃣Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15mins.

4️⃣Remove from heat and cool till ready to serve.

Store in air tight container

(Decreases carbohydrates by ~50% compared to traditional cranberry sauce recipe. To further reduce sugar  double stevia and omit 1/4 cup of sugar )


Healthier Celebrations 

Tips for social events 

For many that means fun & FOOD! Here’s a few tips to help you stay on your #weightlossjourney ✅before ✅during & ✅after the cookout. (Delicious easy recipe listed after health tips!) 

Cookout Healthy Eating Plan

✅Before Event

-Eat regular meals (don't starve till event which can lead to overeating)

-Drink enough water (1oz/ kg if you don't have medical conditions)

-Exercise the day of


-Focus on friends/family not food

-Avoid grazing: think then eat

-2 drinks max (soda/ alcohol)

-Portion control plate

-Avoid seconds; Aim for one plate only


-If you chose to indulge at the cookout, let it stop after the cookout. The next day resume healthy eating & fitness

-If you have leftovers, reduce large portion into individual portions. 



Dr. Bollie’s 4️⃣th Red, White, & Blue Chicken Salad on Kale Salad


Chicken Salad

2 cups roasted chicken breast, shredded or diced

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/8 cup mixed raisins

8oz low-fat pineapple Greek yogurt (divided 2/3 and 1/3 third)

2 tbsp mayo (optional)

1- tsp Dijon mustard to taste


1/4tsp Penzy Northwoods Fire Spice (contains chipotle pepper, paprika, garlic, rosemary, black pepper and cayenne)* can use these spices to taste if you don’t have this mix.


Kale Salad

2 cups kale, cut finely

1 English cucumber diced

2 celery stalks chopped

3 mini sweet red peppers, sliced thinly (divide amount in half)


Dressing for Kale Salad

2 TBSP apple cider vinegar

3 TBSP water

1/3 (2oz) pineapple low fat Greek yogurt

1/8 tsp coarse Black pepper

1/8 tsp kosher salt (optional)



1. Mix dressing ingredients in large bowl until thoroughly combined

2. Add kale salad ingredients. Fold in till completely covered with dressing. Salad will be lightly dressed since the chicken salad is very rich. Set aside so that dressing “cooks” the kale. This will help soften the kale and make it more flavorful.

3. In a different large bowl combine the ingredients for the chicken salad as listed. Season to taste.

4. Take 1 cup of kale salad and place on plate. Top with half a cup of chicken salad. Garnish with red peppers

Refrigerate unused portions

What the Health

Healthy Snacks to Help Overcome Emotional Eating 

Quarantine your unhealthy snacks

This week I’ve seen so many stories about Mariah Carey’s weight gain. While most of the emphasis on her size little focus is being placed on the why. Reading between the lines it’s clear that Ms. Carey like many of us is an emotional eater. As an emotional eater in recovery, I can empathize with her. While sources report that she’s happy with her weight for many of us if we want to obtain and maintain our happy weight our relationship with food has be to one where we are in control- not our emotions. Also even if we are happy with the extra pounds with time it can have major health consequences if our BMI is >30 kg/m2.

Pictures is one of my tools for controlling emotional eating- favorite healthy snacks specifically “Mood Foods.” In addition to staying well hydrated and controlling stress.

My favorites are:

• Green apples

• Nuts- almonds

• Dark Chocolate

To gain control of emotional eating I had to master:

Examine your eating

o Acknowledge that emotional eating is occurring

Express your emotions

o Address the emotions you are feeling rather than covering the unpleasant feelings with unhealthy food

Exchange emotional eating for a positive action

o Food: I started by using healthier substitutions for the foods I was craving

o Fitness: Exercise boost our natural “happy hormones” & can help decrease negative emotions

o Friends/ Family: Spend time with positive people who understand you

o Faith: It is important to have a way to center yourself. Even if you aren’t spiritual/ religion. It’s vital to have a way to connect with your soul/ inner self.

o Professional Help: There are many therapist trained in treating emotional eating. Your doctor/ health care provider can also help treat underlying conditions that may contribute such as anxiety, depression, or OCD. 

What the Health

Bite to Basic Weight Loss: Lunch More, Stress Less 

Healthier Lunch Time 

Stress has been associated with high cortisol levels which can lead to weight gain over time. As an emotional eater, I knew I had to control my stress levels in order to reach my happy, healthy weight. ​

Since my work day is very busy, I realized lunch time is not just about food but also stress relief. On my weight loss journey I found that I needed to take control of my lunch in order to decrease my stress during the day and be successful in my weight loss. 

For me that includes:

✅Pack my own lunch

✅Pick mood foods

✅Prioritize leaving my work space


✅Pack my own lunch

-There was a time I enjoyed the surprising of guessing what would be brought in for lunch. However after having fried chicken for one week then scrambling to find healthy alternatives I learned the hard way packing my lunch was essential. To make it easy I:

-Cook double portions for dinner

-Keep easy freezer meals (frozen leftovers) on hand

-Use my quick meal ideas (see previous post)

✅Pick Mood Foods

I also realized the contents of my lunch had a big impact on the rest of my day.

High carb/ high fat meals take a lot of energy to digest thus can make you feel sleepy. Once I realized this I started limiting the carbs I ate before 3pm I also picked energizing "mood foods" instead of unhealthy options that made be sleepy thus irritable for the rest of the afternoon.

✅Prioritize Your Break

The lunch break was intended to revitalize workers after a busy morning. However in our busy society lunch is sometimes disregarded as a time waster with many opting to work through lunch. However I've learned the hard way that even a short break is helpful for stress relief. As a busy clinician I'm often short on time but I always try to take some form of a break even if it's just ONE minute:

ONE min: Pause & Take a slow, deep breath OR Take a 30 sec walk down the hall

FIVE mins: Sit away from your desk/ work space*

TEN mins or more: go outside or to the break room

*I have a designed "lunch seat" in front of the window 10 feet away from my desk.

Have a great week!  

Sylvia  Gonsahn-Bollie

Bite to Basic Weight Loss: To Snack Or Not?  

Tips for Healthier Snacking 

Confession-I'm a life longer snacker. In fact I'd rather eat a snack a times than a meal. In my weight loss journey I decided to embrace this rather than fight it. Fortunately some weight loss data supports snacking so the idea of snacks is not detrimental to weight loss but what we choose is. While there is conflicting data on whether snack is harmful or helpful to weight loss. I have found that following the basic principles discussed below helped me still lose weight with snacks included in my eating plan.

Successful snacking depends on knowing the:

🍐Why: Think before you snack.

Weight loss depends on being mindful are you snacking because you are hungry. Not because you are bored, mad, sad, etc. 

🍏When: Time your snacks

Depending on our meal contents it take 2-3hrs for 75% digestion so this is when we typically have a dip in energy.

✅Plan on having a snack 2-3hrs after your meal (breakfast & lunch). Avoid snacking within 3hrs of bedtime. If you find you are very hungry before bedtime likely you aren't eating or drinking enough in the day time.

🍐What: Stick with Healthy

Calories can be a good guide. I aim <300calories


Stick to the basic healthy principles

✅High Protein

✅Whole grains

✅Stay Well hydrated- ask am I thirsty or hungry?

My Top 5 snacks

Mood foods

-Mini Sweet peppers

-Sugar snap peas

-Kind Almond/ Coconut Bars (or homemade

-Raw almonds (100 calorie portion)

-Apple Slices

See here for additional healthy snack ideas

This week set a goal to makeover your snack habits.

✅Snack mindfully- Think before & while you eat

✅Choose Healthy Snacks (See blog)

✅Stay Well hydrated- ask am I thirsty or hungry?

What the Health

Top 10 Quick Meals

Eating Healthy throughout COVID19 Pandemic 

​One of the keys to success on my weight loss journey has been having a ready supply of “quick meals”. During the time of the Coronavirus pandemic this has been a time-saver. This list is versatile and can be used by non-cooks as well as those who enjoy cooking. Notice there is a mix of meals that are cooked at home and those that incorporate eating out. For now, it is considered safe to eat out and while you can't dine in restaurants you can still carry out. Many restaurants have adopted safety procedures. 

 This week I joined the #SistasStayingWell Chat on Thursday, April 10th. We discussed general wellness. One of the questions is  had several questions about what to eat when you’re busy.

Here’s a list of my top 10 healthy (or “Healthier” quick meals) and the average amount of prep time.

1. Kroger EZ Bake Salmon with steamed vegetables (Time: <30mins)

2. Rotisserie chicken (skin removed) with Taylor Farms Superfood salad +/- Baked sweet potato (Time: 10mins)

3. Taylor Superfood salad with baked sweet potato & organic canned white beans (Time: 10mins)

4. Herb baked chicken with vegetables & cauliflower rice (Time: <60mins)

5. Homemade Southwest Salad: Dole Chopped Salad, Organic Canned Black Beans (Time: 10mins)

6. Baked Portabella mushrooms with  tasty vegetables (Time: 45 mins)

7. Chik Fil-A Superfood Salad with grilled chicken nuggets (Time: 5mins)

8. Chik Fil-A Grilled Market Salad (Time: <5 mins)

9. Zoë Kitchen Family Meal: Grilled Chicken breast, roasted vegetables, salad (Time: <5 mins)

10. Panera Salads +/- Turkey Chili (Time: 5-10mins)

Personally I find it too tempting to go to many of the fast food places where I grew up eating (I’ve been conditioned to eat only fried foods there). However many have committed to providing healthier options. So if you do end up there here are some resources to make healthier choices:

  •  McDonald’s
  •  Wendy’s (This a great article from a series on CNN about finding healthier options at fast food restaurants)

The Power of Embracing  Change

“ Change can be uncomfortable but is rewarding

when you embrace change.” Dr. Sylvia MD, circa January 2017

I wrote the statement above when I was learning to appreciate change. I was tired of fighting changes I couldn’t control. I needed to learn to not only accept change but enjoy the journey also. I was tired of saying “I hate change!”

After all as a child I was carefree, adventurous prone to getting into trouble due to my over abundance of curiosity. I welcomed new ideas and looked forward to opportunities to try something new. However somewhere along the journey I decided change was a bad thing and fought for consistency in the form of complacency. If I be honest it probably started when my parents separated at age 11. That’s when I realized that not all change was fun and carefree. Clearly I’m not an 11 yo girl anymore so I have had to adapt to change through the years. But I found with the exception of educational transitions such as graduations, anytime I felt uncomfortable I would proclaim “I hate change!”

This is how I felt when I was starting my weight journey. I was in a season of many changes:

-Newish mom (son was 14 months)

-New job (fresh out of Chief residency, a new attending)

-New City (moved from DC to Richmond, VA where we had few connections)

-New body (40lbs overweight & overwhelmed)

I realized I needed to change my relationship with my body & how I was treating myself because my weight was starting to impact how I counseled patients. I felt so guilty advising on living a healthy lifestyle and weight loss when I was doing neither. My lowest point came when my mom and I went to try on clothes one day. I picked up my “large size” clothing. As I tried to jiggle on the pants they wouldn’t even go past my thighs. All this happened right in front of my Mom, my fashion icon & beauty queen. I was so ashamed. “Just go get a bigger size” she laughed. To her it was a joke but to me it was a judgement. So much of my identity had been wrapped in my weight no longer being able to fit that size made me question “what makes me beautiful?” I decided that day to work on restoring my health...and my pant size but I did it all wrong. I tried to produce positive change with a negative mindset which seldom works. I was beating myself up for what I should have done & didn’t do and setting unrealistic expectations. I was lamenting to a good friend, Kay, expecting her to co-sign on my negative self talk. Instead she said “Be nice to Sylvia. I like her.” This simple switch in thinking changed my mindset. Gradually I committed to making small changes over time:

-switch one unhealthy item per day then per meal

-Exercise even 1 minute each day

-Reduce one stressor a day

-Increase my bedtime until getting 7-9hrs/ night

It took time- 12 months to be exact but eventually I:

-learned to love exercise & even completed a marathon. I still run regularly today

-enjoyed healthy food. Master moderation so I can still indulge occasionally

-returned to my pre-maternity weight

Most importantly, I learned to embrace change & love myself throughout the whole process.

If you are dealing with how to adapt to change. I recommend adjust your:

-FEELINGS : Rather than just saying “I hate change!” Ask yourself “What am I really feeling?” For me change evoked fear. Fear that something bad would happen as it did when my parents divorce. However I’ve learned not all change is bad. For instance on my weight journey I’ve had to make many changes. Though they were uncomfortable during the transition phase they ultimately help me feel better.

Remember “feelings are a great dashboard but a poor gps”. Meaning they can tell us something is

going on but can lead us in the wrong direction if not addressed properly.

-FRIENDSHIPS: Find people who can loving support you through the uncomfortable stage of change. If you don’t have people in your immediate circle, look for support groups and seek professional support. I always say every woman needs 3 things outside of their Faith: a hairstylist, manicurist and a therapist. Psychology Today is a great source to find local therapist. For weight management you can even hire an obesity medicine physician/ specialist such as myself to offer comprehensive weight management support.

-FOCUS on small changes at a time rather than being consumed by the big change. One of my favorite quotes by Arthur Ashes says “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can” Even the pyramids started with one grain of sand. All you have to do is make one small positive change each day.

I’ve learned first hand we have the power to use change to our advantage. It depends on our willingness to choose to embrace the changes we face rather than fight them or feel forced into then. Say “I am powerful. I choose to embrace change” Now go, conquer your weight journey one small change at a time.

If you would like to work with Dr. Sylvia MD to reach your last weightloss plan to happy, healthy weight forever. Click here

To see the Facebook live video of this blog entry Click here.