Get Tips and Advice from the guides at Mountain Trek. Nutrition, Hiking, Sleep, Detox and Fitness are just some of the topics we cover.

Our Nutritionist’s Take On Keto, Whole30 + Intermittent Fasting

With 2019 rounding the corner, it’s time to think about New Year’s resolutions. Is this your time to try a new fitness class? Are you still thinking about that popular nutrition program everyone’s talking about? “Quick fixes” that jolt our systems are tempting to turn to, but we encourage lasting lifestyle changes; no program is worth doing if you can’t do it for the rest of your life.

In anticipation of the New Year influx of diets, we asked our resident nutritionist Jenn Keirstead to weigh in on a couple of popular wellness fads. She details how restrictive programs can lead to yo-yo dieting–rapid weight loss following by a rebound that sees you gaining everything, and sometimes even more, back–and why you should invest in long-term health.

Ring in the New Year successfully by setting fads aside and signing up for a week or two with Mountain Trek in South Carolina this February.

Ketogenic Diet

The Ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used primarily to treat epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates.

At its core, this is an extreme version of the low-carb diet. When you deprive your body of all carbohydrates, your body must use ketones as fuel. To put your body is a state of ketosis, around 80% of your diet must come from fat.

What we like:

  • Promotes healthy fats: In the 90s, fat got a bad rap, but it’s crucial to our bodies. Fats, (animal-sourced or otherwise) can offer an excellent variety of fat, protein, and vitamins. However, it’s extremely important to source the highest quality. Look for certified organic, grass-fed/pasture-raised, or visit your local Farmers’ Market and talk to people responsible for raising your food.

Besides promoting a diet ample in healthy fats, there’s not much else that is terribly healthy or sustainable about this highly restrictive eating style.

What we don’t like:

  • Cuts out key nutrients: The Ketogenic diet is one of the most restrictive diets on the market. Your diet is limited to 15-20 grams of carbohydrates/day — the equivalent of a small handful of baby carrots. This leaves out most fruits and vegetables, which can deliver crucial nutrients.
  • Unsustainable: This biggest issue with this diet is what will happen once the person adds carbohydrates back into their diets. Hint: you might gain some of that weight back.

Whole30 Diet

The Whole30 is a 30-day fad diet that emphasizes whole foods and during which participants eliminate sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy from their diets. The Whole30 is similar to but more restrictive than the paleo diet, as adherents may not eat natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

Whole30 has gained popularity due to its “challenge program” style, which is designed to restart your body and change how you think about food. This diet is described as a whole foods approach to eating, and I’m certainly an advocate of eating real food.

What we like:

  • Introduces a variety of whole foods: An advantage to experimenting with a diet such as this is that you’re introduced to many new, healthful foods. Whole food types diets tend to involve more time spent in the kitchen. Cooking from home can be a wonderful way to gain more control over the quality of your food, which of course, is a fantastic advantage to your health.

What we don’t like:

  • Cuts out food groups we love: The challenge is not just to eliminate processed and packaged foods from your life for 30 days — You are also instructed to avoid beans/legumes, starchy vegetables, dairy, grains, sugar (including natural sweeteners), and alcohol. From our vantage point, moderate amounts of beans, legumes, dairy, and grains are good for your body — and unless you plan on never eating them again, you risk putting the weight right back on once you reintroduce them.
  • Too rigid: One of the common cautions you’ll hear related to Whole30 is how restrictive it is. It’s a diet based on highly rigid rules and “slip-ups” are unfortunately unacceptable. If you “slip” you start over. The rules may make it feel impossible to be successful on a diet like this, and like many challenges or diets, that can be detrimental to one’s self-esteem. Restrictive behaviors with food may also trigger disordered eating in susceptible individuals.

Intermittent Fasting:

Intermittent fasting, or intermittent calorie restriction, is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting during a defined period.

Intermittent fasting includes everything from periodic multi-day fasts to skipping a meal or two on certain days of the week. The theory is that this type of diet will help decrease appetite by slowing the body’s metabolism.

What we like:

  • The body should take some breaks between eating: Fasting can be beneficial, however we believe it’s best done in the evening, continuing on throughout the night while you’re sleeping. An earlier dinner allows for 3-4 hours before bed without food, which helps support proper digestion and — as an added bonus —potentially a much deeper sleep.
  • You’ll feel hungry when you wake: Another benefit is you will feel hungry when you wake, and therefore be encouraged to eat during the earlier part of the day, when you’re more likely to burn the calories off. Studies also show that our hormones, enzymes, and digestive systems, are biologically best prepared for food intake in the morning and early afternoon.

What we don’t like:

  • Can cause overeating: There’s a strong biological push to overeat following fasting periods. Your appetite hormones and the hunger center in your brain go into overdrive when you are deprived of food.
  • Unbalances blood sugar levels: Skipping meals and restricting calories during the day, can lead to unbalanced blood sugar levels, which not only promotes low energy levels but the desire to overeat at the end of the day when the body is gearing down for sleep. The idea of “rest, not digest” is a concept that assists in the digestion of your food hours before bedtime, so that your body can fall into a deep, restful sleep, on an empty stomach. This also promotes hunger in the early morning, when your body needs the calories the most.

In a nutshell, fads deliver quick results – they don’t provide long-term solutions. Rapid health resets can be beneficial, but know what you’re getting into. Find a wellness approach you can commit to, if not for life, for the foreseeable future.

If you are looking for long-term change in your health and wellness, join us at Mountain Trek this winter or spring. In February, we’re bringing the program to the amazing Hotel Domestique in Greenville, South Carolina, and, starting in April, you can find us at The Lodge in gorgeous British Columbia. Book now to give yourself the gift of health and wellness.

5 Steps To A Merry, Healthful Holiday

The holidays are a time for family, warmth and indulging — but too often people go totally off-track and end up messing with their sleep habits, getting lax on their fitness regimen, or putting un a couple of unwanted pounds from holiday festivities.

However, with an empathetic attitude towards the self and a solid plan, you can enjoy the holidays without going overboard. Check out our top tips for a healthful holiday and go into the holiday season with confidence!

Step One: Make A Commitment To Be Kind To Yourself

Like we’ve discussed before — no major lifestyle change is successful without empathy for the self. When we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves (never having carbs again, exercising every single day), when we inevitably falter, our sense of failure and shame often results in giving up entirely. Smaller, incremental changes are the key to long-term success.

No one is perfect: creating space for your own imperfections will allow you to both enjoy the holidays to their fullest as well as stay conscientious about your health priorities.

Step Two: Map Out Your Holiday Season Events

Holiday parties? Check. Cookie swaps? Check. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas, New Years’ Eve, school parties, work parties, and more — get them all on your calendar. Then, take a step back and identify which events you really want to indulge in, and which you can approach with moderation in mind.

Make sure to prioritize in indulging in the things you really love: Do you make cookies as a family every year? Do you and your spouse adore the company holiday party each year? Don’t rob yourself of your favorites.

By that same token, don’t “waste” calories on events that aren’t a priority. Creating this balance will help manage holiday indulgences.

Step Three: Create + Stick To A Plan During The Week

In order to offset indulgences at events, be sure to stick to a nutrition, fitness, sleep and stress plan during the week. With whirlwind events and cold/flu season, it’s the perfect time to prioritize your health. Meal plan your weekday meals, schedule/make time for fitness, and create time for relaxation — whether it’s luxuriating in a bath or setting a goal for weekly meditation.

Step Four: Plan Health and Wellness Themed Activities With Loved Ones

Think about ways you can spend time with loved ones that involve treating your body, mind, and spirit. Go on a long walk or hike with a friend instead of a boozy brunch, a yoga class and a steam at a local gym instead of happy hour, snowy winter walks after dinner with your spouse instead of Netflix, and more.

Step Five: Develop A Strategy For Eating Out

It’s hard to stay on track while eating out! Check out our secrets for navigating restaurant menus. Our favorite tip: determine your simple carbohydrate priorities. Plan to pick either bread, dessert OR alcohol — this allows you to enjoy yourself without going overboard.

Want to go into the holiday season feeling really confident? Schedule your post-holiday reset and detox with Mountain Trek. Join us for a winter retreat in South Carolina in February 2019, or starting in April 2019 for our British Columbia season — book now and prioritize peace of mind for 2019.

Struggling With Your Fitness + Nutrition Regimen? Ask Yourself These 6 Questions.

Oftentimes conversations about health focus solely on physical needs, but in order to achieve true vitality, we must look beyond the basics of water, food, shelter, and sleep. Humans have mental needs (creativity, learning, meditation), emotional needs (relationship, sharing of feelings, feelings of belonging), and spiritual needs (need for inspiration, contemplation, beauty, and context). Checking in with the self to gauge whether your emotional, mental and spiritual needs are being met is a crucial step in achieving total wellness.

Without a solid emotional, mental and spiritual foundation, even the best, most well-organized nutritional and fitness regimens can become totally ineffective. If emotional, mental and spiritual needs are not being met, you’ll feel stress and a lowering of willpower. Anyone that struggles with emotional eating can attest to that!

If you have a stressful job and like to unwind with a glass (or three) of wine each night, you might be negatively impacting healthy sleep and healthy weight. However, if the mental and emotional stress of your job doesn’t change, how can you expect this pattern to? Often, people are too hard on themselves, and understand their coping mechanisms as failures. All humans use coping mechanisms to deal with stress. Getting to the source of those stressors is the key to unlocking true vitality.

If you’ve been struggling with “staying on track,” ask yourself the following questions.

Mental Health
Do you have a creative outlet of focus that brings joy to your daily work?
Are your ideas and talents welcome in your line of work?

Emotional Needs
Do you have people in your life with whom you feel close enough to share your dearest hopes and fears?
Human contact is incredibly important to wellbeing — are you getting touched, whether through intimacy or massage?

Spiritual Wellbeing
Do you set aside time regularly for solitude and contemplation?
Does your daily life contribute to a larger vision you have for your life?

If you want true change and balanced health and the journey towards transformation, it starts with this self-reflection. If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, take 20 minutes to journal about what you could do to create more time for yourself. Could you benefit from going to a painting or dance class? Taking more time to connect with loved ones? Thinking carefully about whether your work aligns with your personal values? If you want true change and transformation, begin this journey of introspection and self-reflection.

Much of Western culture teaches us that tending to the self shouldn’t be our priority. However, when we honor our own mental, emotional and spiritual needs, we unlock access to our wisest, truest selves. This self-acceptance and self-love is the most solid foundation available to us for a lifetime of health and wellbeing.

Time for a more immersive return to the self? Join us in gorgeous, vibrant fall for some of the best foliage views in the world at our health, wellness and stress retreat. Click here for rates and dates and to plan your trip!

Captain Ainsworth’s Classic Fall Soup

Captain Ainsworth’s Classic Fall Soup

This soup is named for the founder of our rural area, Ainsworth Hot Springs. We imagine a hot pot of earthy soup like this would have fed the miners toiling away on the nearby mountains a century ago. We’ve innovated with a little coconut milk to build a creamy base and added protein. Our Captain Ainsworth’s Classic Fall Soup serves 4.


  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1 cup butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced
  • 4 oz chicken breasts
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 1/2 cup finely chopped Swiss chard
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup onions, diced
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 cup veggie or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup yam, diced


  1. Cube the chicken breasts, lightly sauté or bake, and set aside.
  2. Saute the onions, garlic, celery, and jalapenos in a soup pot with the oil until just translucent then set aside.
  3. Combine the stock, allspice, squash, yam, and celery in another pot and lightly boil until cooked through and tender.
  4. Puree the soup stock until smooth.
  5. Add the onion-celery mix as well as the chard, the chicken, and the coconut milk. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Season with salt to taste.

The Rise of “Forest Bathing” — And How Forests Reset Your Hormones

Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health And Happiness by Dr. Qing Li invites you to the world and art of Japanese “Shinrin-Yoku,” or “forest bath.” Dr. Li — one of the world’s leading experts on how time spent in deep nature improves health and lives — writes beautifully and persuasively about the stress of our modern, digital, electric existences, and how spending time in a forest is the answer.

The book takes you on a gorgeous journey through Japan’s forests: home to 62 certified forest therapy bases, between 2.5 and 5 million people walk Japanese forest trails each year. Dr. Li illustrates a core concept of what many ancient cultures instinctively knew: people were meant to be outside, breathe fresh air and commune with nature. It’s not just about feeling balanced and de-stressed — it’s now been scientifically proven that time spent in nature increases immune function, sleep, and many other factors that impact the quality and length of all of our lives. Time spent in deep nature balances your hormones, helps you sleep deeper, and even boosts your immune system — one study found that after a three-day, two-night forest trip, people’s white blood cell count went up by 53%!

It’s exciting to see one of Mountain Trek core tenets of health and wellness gain attention in the public consciousness. The cornerstone of our program is balancing hormones to help your body function optimally — only then can you achieve natural health and functional fitness.

Digital detox and time spent in deep nature work together to meaningfully realign and reset your body, mind, and spirit. In deep nature, you find a wealth of negative ions, healing essential oils, and a sorely needed respite from digital devices. Outside, the forest engages all of your senses. The complex, delightful scents of the forest don’t just relax us and put us in a better mood — it’s proven to lower cortisol.

Prioritizing time spent outdoors should no longer be considered just a leisure activity — Dr. Li’s books adds to the growing scientific community calling for more time spent in the forest for your health’s sake. Whether you plan a walk or hike in a local park or even just step outside during your lunch break, you’ll be reducing stress and supporting your own vitality.

Need a reset? Join us for a week at Mountain Trek, where you’ll be immersed in the forest more than three hours every day, eat organic spa cuisine, and rebalance your hormones for a more optimal life. Don’t miss August when we hike high into the alpine and get some of the most gorgeous, rewarding views of the season. If you’re an autumn lover, you can’t miss September and October — with cooler temperatures and stunning fall foliage, it’s some of our favorite hiking of the year. Check out our rates and dates page for more information. Go ahead — you deserve it.