Trust your gut: Interview with the Kombucha Mamma!

Hannah's Homebrew Flavoring StageTalking to Hannah Crum is like experiencing the product she promotes: You are left with a strong, condensed version of a multi-facetted personality and you can’t help but react to her. Hannah, affectionately known as “The Kombucha Mamma,” is an entrepreneur, educator, advocate, Master Brewer and soon-to-be author. Since 2004, she, along with husband/partner Alex, has been brewing Kombucha and educating others about the bacterial benefits of that fermented drink. Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea, using a symbiotic ‘culture’ of bacteria and yeast (referred to as SCOBY). Hannah discovered the “elixir” in a clothed vat in the San Francisco home of a college friend in 2003. She reacted so strongly to the drink that it became a lifelong passion and career path. From workshops in her home in 2004, Hannah launched a blog in 2007, and opened a store in 2010. Today, Kombucha Kamp caters to thousands of customers who receive personalized attention; every e-mail sent to Hannah & Alex is answered. She will also take your order and answer all your questions about the white, pasty near-lichen that transforms into a potent, bacterial-filled drink.Hannah Crum The Kombucha Mamma for Kombucha Kamp Kombucha has detractors. The health benefits that it purportedly generates have not been well documented to date. There is potential contamination stemming from home fermentation. That process also produces trace amounts of alcohols which are however oxidized into acetic and other acids. This is why Hannah and Alex launched in 2014, Kombucha Brewers International, a nonprofit trade association committed to promoting and protecting commercial Kombucha Brewers around the world. The association educates about the fermentation movement and engages with organizations such as AOAC International, a forum dedicated to the development of chemistry standards. Conscious that more evidence is needed about the benefits of fermented food and drinks, Hannah and her husband will soon publish a 400+pages book that will address the science and research behind Kombucha, including published studies on fermented products.

So, why is what Hannah doing important to you, personal trainers?

  1. Because you are holders of essential information about human health and well-being;
  2. Because you are expected to impart that information to clients, in a way that let them assess what they should put in their body;
  3. Because the human body contains over 10 times more microbial cells than human cells. As such, the human microbiome may play a role in auto-immune diseases like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and others;
  4. Because a poor mix of microbes in the gut may aggravate conditions such as obesity, and;
  5. Microbial presence in the human body can modify the production of neurotransmitters, which influences how the brain functions, or not.

Hannah has followed her passion for more than 12 years but she is still walking an uncharted path. As such, she is an innovator, a “trail blazer” that advances our knowledge and collective understanding of the human body. Want to learn more? Go to KombuchaKamp.  You will receive helpful e-mails for five days on how to start preparing Kombucha. You can then decide if it is for you. By talking to Hannah,  she left me with a strong, condensed impression, like Kombucha.

At Free Form Academy, we want to enhance knowledge about fitness, nutrition, human development and business. This is why we initiate and post discussions with leaders who have an established and recognized expertise in those fields. You want to share your knowledge with us? Please contact us at:

3 Tips to Eating Healthy from Author and Gardener Celeste Longacre


To talk to Celeste Longacre is to discover a path to healthy eating. This passionate gardener’s knowledge on how to grow, prepare and preserve vegetables and other nurturing food is quite vast. It was acquired over 35 years of producing organic food. Yet, the development of her expertise started innocuously enough. In 1971, Celeste read a book by Adelle Davis titled: “Let’s eat right to keep fit”, which proposed that physical and emotional well-being could be achieved through proper diet. This book had such an impact that Celeste began experimenting with organic gardening on a parcel of land borrowed near her brother’s house. She has been experimenting ever since, to the benefit of those seeking her advice on healthy living through healthy eating.

And healthy living seems to begin at four o’clock in the morning during the summer months….That’s when Celeste starts her day, by spending one hour in reflective silence; a kind of meditation that allows for the planning of the day ahead since gardens, as living entities, have ever-changing requirements. This is followed by breakfast and a visit to the garden to tend to its needs. Afternoons are dedicated to writing for her web site as well as for the Old Farmers’ Almanac.  Celeste finishes her working day at around four o’clock in the afternoon. Winter months provide the luxury of waking up around six o’clock, visiting the gym more frequently and vacationing.

A view from Celeste's garden
A view from Celeste’s garden

Gardening tasks are dictated by the time of year, by what is being cultivated and by what needs to be preserved for the months ahead. Celeste has monthly lists of things to do, from insect control to the freezing or canning of a wide variety of vegetable and fruits. Celeste is busy. And yet she seems to be driven by this incredible passion for what she does. When talking about her garden, she radiates a tranquil energy that I found compelling.

I wanted to hear Celeste’s views on the various trends she sees in the world of food. She was generous with her insights. She sees, per example, a growing interest of younger generations in sustainable eating and living. She sees as a positive trend, the resurgence of farmers’ markets, which provide healthier alternatives than process food found in supermarkets. She believes in the need to encourage farming on a smaller scale, as the security of the food supply may be at risk if left in the hands of a few mammoth-like food producing corporations. The existence of community and urban gardens is also something she views as a positive development. When asked about key issues that people should pay attention to regarding their eating habits, she provided the following advice:

  1. Introduce more probiotics and enzymes in our regime: this is a missing piece in today’s eating habits;

  2. Significantly reduce sugar consumption: we need to get rid of what has become an addiction;

  3. Stay away from processed food.

This is advice that personal trainers would be wise to consider when dealing with their clients. While clients may demand complete nutritional plans when undertaking a fitness program, simple, targeted messaging about healthy eating habits may go a long way to start them on the right track. And remember: you have to lead by example.

You can learn more about gardening and preserving your own food by purchasing Celeste’s Garden Delights: Discover the Many Ways a Garden Can Nurture You at:

At Free Form Academy, we want to enhance knowledge about fitness, nutrition, human development and business.  This is why we initiate and post discussions with leaders who have an established and recognized expertise in those fields.  You want to share your knowledge with us? Please contact us at:


Eating well without stress

123RF/Markus Mainka



You just opened the fridge to get a small snack. Suddently, you are gripped by mild anxiety.  What should you eat?  It seems that today, eating well has become a stressful endavour frot with dangers.  Omega-3, fibres, sugar content, carbohydrates, whole or processed food.  Is it possible that we are just overwhelmed with too much information about food?  Let’s explore how to eat well, without stress.


In its August 2015 edition, the magazine “L’actualité” is exploring the issue of overinformation regarding food.  The phenomena is called (loosly translated) the nutritional white noise.  Claude Fischler, a French sociologist and anthropologist, contends that a crisis exists between humans and their relation with food, thanks to the ever present preoccupation over what we should eat, and the always expanding choices of food.  Valérie Borde, author of the featured article, researched her preferred guilty food – chocolate. She found that in the last 10 years, almost 3000 studies have been published about the effect of chocolate on health.  Overall, she found more than 80,000 studies dealing with nutrition!

Over the years, researchers and scientists have established a clear and unassailable link between poor eating habits and chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease or cancer.  In fact, they have been so successful in their messaging that nutrition is now seen almost as a religion.  Today, your self-image is linked to what you eat, as much as to how you look, what you do or how you interact with others. Some researchers feel that the science of food may be over exploited  or, at least, can no longer provide useful help to consumers.  There is so many recommendations on eating habits and nutrition that we, as receivers of that massive quantity of information, tend to oversimplify. Veronique Provencher, nutritional professor at Laval University, is studying this phenomena.  She contends that, as we have too much information and not enough time to process it, we unconsciously categorise food in two “buckets” only: what is good for us and what is bad for us.  We then proceed to eliminate completely what we perceive as bad, and overconsume what we believe is good.  Yet, food is more complex than that.  Chocolate is an example.  It has been dubbed as a good food for the heart, hypertension, anemia or to prevent cognitive loss. Yet, it is full of sugar and saturated fat.  So depending of where you sit in the nutritional debate, chocolate can be a miracle food or a poison….

And the field of nutritional research may be overcrowded….It is occupied by genuine scientists, but also by pseudo specialists.  There are 4,250 books registered at the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec dealing with nutrition!  Some of these books have been authored by people who have simply tested some kind of regime on themselves and have decided to write about it.  Nutrition is a lucrative business…

As personal trainers, you are in the line of fire regarding nutrition.  Your clients are often seeking your advice on what to eat, or not to eat. Your expertise carries weight, and responsibility along with it.  The article of L’actualité offers some advice about eating well, without stress. Let’s consider some key points, critically:

  • Physical activity is not a remedy to poor nutrition.  If you eat poorly, no amount of physical activity will aliviate the effects of bad eating habits;
  • Bio and organic is better and we, at Free Form Academy, are promoting it. But incidence of organic food on health is still being researched.
  • All calories are not the same.  They also provide more than just energy. So let’s be careful about blanket condemnation.
  • Lots of studies out there, but few of them are authoritative.  Meta analysis are best, because they compile many studies together.
  • Intuition is good!  Instead of listening to everybody, we should trust our instincts about what we eat.
  • No food should be banished.  A piece of cake can be good, but not the whole cake, every day!
  • Detoxification or fasting is controversial.  There is a debate about its benefits. Be aware of it.

The joy of training introverts

123RF/Bjorn Alberts


Introverts tend to have a bad reputation.  They are often seen as shy, reserved, uncommunicative and sometimes, arrogant.  This reputation is undeserved.  Training introverts can be a source of joy and discovery, if you know how to interact with them and learn to appreciate the unique qualities of their personality traits.

Susan Cain wrote in 2012 a New York Times Best Seller titled Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.  In this book, the author first charts the rise of an extrovert culture in the twentieth century to explain how we have come to undervalue introverts.  She outlines the main differences between extroverts and introverts and in doing so, breaks the preconceptions we may have about quiet people.  Contrary to popular belief, introverts are not anti-social.  Instead, they recharge their batteries by being alone, in opposition to extroverts, who need to recharge them when they have not socialized enough.  It is a matter of how you replenish your energy supply, not about how you interact with people.

We have come to associate extroverts with success and energy.  We perceive big talkers as leaders.  In opposition, introverts are seen as less intelligent and socially handicapped.  Cain is able to demonstrate how these perceptions are false and how heritable traits play an important role in how we develop as introverts or extroverts.  So it may be, as the author suggests, that cool is overrated….

But how is this information helping you as a trainer? Let’s examine some key personality traits of introverts and propose ways to deal with them.

Forget social talk after your training session…

It is not that your introvert client does not like you.  In fact, introverts are as likely as extroverts to engage with you, be likable and provide you with good feedback about the work you are doing with them. But don’t expect them to linger in the gym after their training session to talk with other people. It is simply that introverts tend to expand energy in social settings, which requires quiet time by themselves to replenish their energy supply.

Get comfortable with silence…

Introverts prefer to work independently. They concentrate on the tasks at hand and are likely to negatively react if you are constantly cheering their every move during their training session.  Instead, provide them with clear and concise instructions about the exercise they need to perform and just let them go.  You don’t have to talk to them.  The added bonus is that introverts pay more attention to the progress they are making then to the end goal.  They will create a great partnership with you if you can engage on the process of their training, instead of talking about the ultimate results that their training may achieve.  Use a language that is process-oriented instead of goal-oriented. But more importantly, use less words than more.

Don’t push…

Introverts tend to be very disciplined.  They have well developed abilities to make plans, and to stick to them.  They are also more sensitive to their environment and more attuned to others’ feelings and behaviours.  In your interactions with introverts, you will likely find it easy to build an exercise program with them.  Once done, introvert clients will find inner motivation to engage in their program.  However, introverts also tend to be more sensitive to other’s feelings and behaviours. It means that they will monitor how you react to their progress.  The strategy that works best is therefore gentle encouragement.  Don’t get the brass band out when they have reached an important milestone in their program; instead, just low key, quiet praise will support them tremendously.


And what if you are an introvert trainer?  Well, you know what to do.  Just go home and relax after you day’s work.

Exercise and Weight Loss: The Shocking Truth

123RF – Edward Olive


We are always scanning for the latest information that will advance knowledge about fitness, nutrition and other topics of relevance for improved health and wellness. But our latest find regarding exercise and weight loss is challenging, even to us, who are always ready and willing to be challenged….

What if we are to tell you that physical exercise does not make you lose weight? A bit shocking wouldn’t you say?  Yet it is the assertion made by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa. During a presentation given to participants at a recent conference of Physical and Health Education Canada (, professor Freedhoff really debunked the generally accepted belief that if we exercise regularly, we will lose weight. Referring to a slew of scientific studies, Dr. Freedhoff’s contended that there is no relationship between exercise and weight loss. His conclusions are difficult to refute; the science is there.

Now, what do we do with THAT? All personal trainers might as well head for the unemployment line, right? And what about fitness studios and clubs? They might as well declare bankruptcy right now! Well, maybe not. Professor Freedhoff’s remarks need to be examined a bit more.


  1. Exercise remains the world’s best drug to improve your health

    No “ifs” or “buts” about it. Dr. Freedhoff is clear about this in his remarks: Exercise is the most important, modifiable, determinant of health. The important message here is that you will be in better health if you chose to exercise, since it is a choice that you control. Exercise is a proven remedy against most contemporary illnesses such as heart attacks and diabetes.

  2. Exercise, by itself, has little or no impact on weight

    Using objective results of multiple studies, professor Freedhoff contends that there is no realistic means to prescribe exercise to prevent people from gaining weight. One of those studies followed two cohorts of men over 20 years to measure the effect of exercise on their weight. Results are surprising: men reporting an exercise regimen of 150 minutes or more a week on average – which is a lot – all gained weight, but only .4 pounds/year less than those exercising only 90 minutes a week. It is a marginal difference per year (of weight gain, let’s not forget) between the super active and the less active participants involved in the study.

  3. The narrative about a “balanced life style” is used for promotion

    The narrative about healthy life styles has been hijacked by some food providers to link certain products with health benefits, including weight loss, even if there is no evidence to support it. A good example may be chocolate milk, which is touted as the recovery beverage of choice after exercise. Yet, the benefits are more nuanced. The caloric and sugar content of chocolate milk are much too high, but it contains seven to eight grams of good protein per serving, which may support muscle recovery after intense workout. So while chocolate milk may bring benefits to athletes, it may not be the case for the rest of the population. The food industry is sometimes telling only part of the story when they associate certain products with a healthy lifestyle.


Are there lessons that fitness specialists can draw from Dr. Freedhoff’s information? We can suggest only three:

  • Stay critically informed

    With access to so much information generated by technologies, remain critical of what you learn. What passes as information may sometimes be promotion;

  • Always promote the importance of good nutrition to your clients

    The benefits of proper nutrition as a healthy way to control weight are well documented and it remains a critical element in the trainers’ tool kit;

  • Be careful about the narrative when engaging clients

    The psychological and physiological benefits of exercise are undeniable. Stressing those benefits to clients that have difficulties exercising remains critical. But in light of the insight provided by Dr. Freedhoff, it may be time to reconsider the link made in the past between exercise and weight loss. Both those concepts may exist separately, but not together.

Note: For more insights on Dr. Freedhoff’s work, please visit his web site at Any inaccuracies or omissions that may have been made when highlighting his work in this blog are mine.