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    Small Changes You Can Make If You Gained Weight During Quarantine

    So 2020 has been a ride, huh? Comfort food recipes are trending on Google, you haven’t worn pants without a drawstring since March, and workouts look more like laying on the living room floor and forcing ourselves to go through a yoga video on Youtube. The most thrilling part of the past six months was perfecting a banana bread recipe or when the new season of Selling Sunset came out, and you’ve totally ditched your Fitbit because it’s way too judgmental RN (the only steps we’re getting in is to and from the kitchen, so that 10,000 step goal is pretty much a distant memory). It’s no surprise that “Quarantine 15” is a trending phrase and weight loss is a trending topic these days.As a health coach, I’ve found that many clients will feel uncomfortable saying they’d like to lose weight, as if it’s materialistic or wrong. On the flip side, other women feel like they’re supposed to want to lose weight, even if they feel great as they are, because weight loss and diet culture are so normalized. So here’s my preface: instead of shaming yourself for whatever goal you do or don’t have, listen to your body, respect other women’s health goals, and know that what makes you feel good in your body is going to be different than anyone else. 
    Now that we have that out of the way, if weight loss is your goal after gaining weight in quarantine, here are 11 small changes you can make to help you feel like your best, healthiest self (yes, even after doing nothing but watching reruns of The Office on your couch for the past six months):

    Source: Chelsea Victoria | Stocksy

    1. First of all… chill out. 
    Weight gain does not mean anything besides just that: you gained weight. It doesn’t mean you’re less attractive, strong, or lovable. It simply means the entire world is going through a very scary time. Your routine and any sense of normalcy have changed, and it’s only normal for your body to change with it. Stress over weight gain is just as bad for your body as pandemic-induced anxiety, so don’t feel guilt or shame. Instead, know that your body is doing what it’s supposed to. If you want to lose weight because you feel less connected to your body and just overall less healthy, then I commend you for knowing your body well enough to identify what it needs. But prioritize losing the shame around weight gain over losing the weight. 

    Source: Daria Shevtsova | Pexels

    2. Don’t ignore cravings. Instead, find healthier alternatives.
    Cravings are not mistakes or punishments, and they’re not there to sabotage your weight loss or health goals. Cravings are actually one of the ways our bodies try to communicate with us what they need. Plus, if we have a major craving for delicious fajitas and force ourselves to eat another boring salad instead, it can lead to bingeing, restrictive eating, and an unhealthy relationship with food. Now that will sabotage your health goals. 
    Instead, find alternatives with nutritious whole foods to nourish your body. For example, if you have a sweet tooth, grab a square of dark chocolate after dinner. If you’re craving chips or fries, DIY sweet potato fries by tossing sweet potato slivers with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and baking them in the oven. If heavy comfort foods are more your medicine of choice, score a frozen cauliflower crust from Trader Joe’s to top with tomato sauce and organic cheese, or try chickpea pasta or spaghetti squash. For any other craving, check out these recipes to find a healthier alternative. 

    Source: Eli Sommer | Pexels

    3. Take a work break with movement instead of an Instagram scroll
    You know those moments when you mindlessly reach for your phone to scroll through Instagram or Tiktok after finishing a major task you’ve been working on for hours? Either your brain needs a break, or you need a few minutes “off” to transition into the next task. Instead of reaching for your phone, get up, and move. Do some stretching, go through a yoga flow, or do ten jumping jacks to get blood flowing. Not only will movement help you refocus and reenergize better than an Instagram scroll ever would, but it’s also an easy way to fit in more movement and motivate yourself to make better choices for the rest of the day. 

    4. Drink more water
    Drinking more water is a tale as old as time, but there’s a reason it’s the most basic, universal health hack in the book. For me, drinking a big glass of water first thing when waking up, sipping on a reusable straw throughout the day (I’m partial to these pretty gold ones), and having three drinks at a time to achieve optimal hydration (like lemon water and green juice with my coffee), has made a drastic difference in how my body feels. If I get hungry soon after eating, I drink a big glass of water rather than going straight to the pantry to mindlessly snack (more on that below!). Of course, if I’m still hungry afterward, I’ll eat something nourishing (the body knows what it needs), but I’ve also learned that a lot of hunger cues are actually thirst. Try drinking even more water every day and just watch how much better your body feels. 

    Source: Lauren Naefe | Stocksy

    5. Go on a walk every day
    Intense workout plans don’t always help us achieve health goals because they’re hard to keep up. You might run out of time to fit in a workout and forego exercise altogether that day, and we will all likely have days (or weeks) where we feel too tired to even start a 60-minute HIIT workout. Instead, shift your focus to living less sedentary and moving more often. Whether workouts are a part of your daily routine or you haven’t worked out since your gym was open in spring, make it a goal to go on walks every day. Take your dog for a walk in the morning, go on a walk while listening to a podcast on a work break, or grab your significant other for a stroll in the evening. 

    Source: Annie Spratt | Unsplash

    6. Every time you snack, ask yourself why
    Back to the cravings: yes, they can tell us what our bodies need, but it’s not always about food. More often than not, whenever we mindlessly snack or crave (like snacking while working or watching TV), it’s because our bodies are lacking something else, whether it’s a break, excitement, comfort, or joy. Every time you subconsciously reach for the bag of chips or Cheez-Its, ask yourself if you’re hungry or not. If you are, then great! You’re listening to your body’s cues. Proceed with the snack, or make a snack that might feel more fulfilling and satisfying.
    If you’re not hungry, ask yourself what void your body is trying to fill. Are you stressed and your body’s telling you to take a break from work, or are you looking for a way to comfort yourself because you’ve been feeling extra anxious lately? Maybe it’s the lack of anything exciting to look forward to, so you’re supplementing with cheesy, delicious snacks that don’t really fill the void. If you identify it is emotional snacking, try to feed your body in other ways: take a work break and go for a walk, plan a fun movie night with your roommate, or just give yourself a little extra love. 

    Source: Nabi Tang | Stocksy

    7. Stop weighing yourself
    You’ll see the most drastic changes when you enjoy healthy habits for both the mind and body, rather than thinking you have to do them for weight loss. You’ll stop hating yourself when the scale isn’t moving quickly enough, and will naturally look, feel, and be better. This is not woo-hoo self-help advice; being healthy for benefits like mental health and energy is what made the most drastic changes in my body (oh, and it was actually sustainable). When you’re focused on a number on the scale, you naturally feel more stressed, restricted, and disappointed. Instead, focus on how you feel to measure where you are, instead of relying on an objective number to tell you how you’re supposed to feel. 

    Source: Marc Bordons | Stocksy

    8. Turn workouts into a social activity 
    One of the most common sources of stress during this time is that we lack connection. Happy hours are restricted to Zoom, you gossip with your work wife over Slack instead of over lattes, and you run away from people at the grocery store who get too close–it’s against our nature as human beings to be so unconnected, leading to stress and anxiety. Kill two birds with one stone by turning workouts into social activities. Not only will you feel happier with more social connection, but you’re more likely to work out since you’ll have a friend to hold you accountable. Try going on socially-distanced hikes, doing group workouts with your quarantine crew, or meeting up with your sister to go through a workout series together.

    Source: @josie.santi

    9. Eat more vegetables with every meal
    In my humble opinion, one of the most effective changes you could make is learning about foods and the effects they have on the body. When you’re aware of the nutrients and benefits that come from whole foods, you start to see them as medicine and fuel, rather than in categories of “good” or “bad” foods that you’re either supposed to eat or not supposed to eat (and just like bad boys and the cookie jar, we want it more when it’s off-limits).
    Focusing on eating more vegetables can not only help you feel your best and crave fruits and vegetables, but it can also subconsciously crowd out processed and sugary foods (totally guilt-free). Do you typically have eggs for breakfast? No need to shift what you’re used to or enjoy. Instead, add some spinach to an omelet or put some avocado on top. Do you eat pasta on the regular? Throw in some kale and asparagus, and you’ll never feel deprived, while simultaneously giving your body nutrients that keep it healthy.

    Source: @barre3

    10. Invest in your health
    There’s a reason pricey programs work (if only temporarily): when people invest money into it, they’re more likely to stay motivated and on track. If you decided at the beginning of quarantine to workout with Youtube videos or some yoga flows on your own and find yourself never making time for exercise, it might be because you don’t have anything on the line. Try investing in an online subscription, a new pair of leggings, or a pretty yoga mat or pair of dumbbells. Likewise, invest in healthy produce. Because fresh produce goes bad much quicker than a box of mac n’ cheese or a frozen pizza, you’re more likely to go for a meal incorporating the fruits and veggies, if for no other reason than you don’t want your money to go to waste. There’s nothing more worthy of time and money than your most energetic, happiest, healthiest self, so start prioritizing it. 

    Source: Thais Varela | Stocksy

    11. Ask yourself the “why”
    You already know that setting goals are important when it comes to your health. Health goals are commonly to “lose weight,” “work out more,” or “eat cleaner,” and while these are all fine health goals, they don’t really mean anything. Ask yourself why you want to reach that goal. Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to feel more confident, to feel less sluggish, or to heal symptoms? Not only will reflecting on the “why” behind your goals be so much more motivating to keep in mind throughout the process than weight loss could ever be, but you’ll be able to assess whether or not you actually want your goals.
    If your goal is to be more confident, will losing weight truly help? And even if you know it would, what other things can you work on while simultaneously trying to lose weight to help reach that goal? Shift your goal from feeling good about your body to feel good in your body. You’ll realize that what you actually want is a holistic process that isn’t just about your diet or how much you’re exercising, but about how much joy you’re feeling. 

    What changes have helped you with weight loss or achieving your health goals? More

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    10 Books to Read That Remind You Everything Will Be Alright

    Sometimes being an adult means realizing that you have no idea what you’re doing.  A lot of us have experienced moments where we are completely out of our depth and have no idea how or who to ask for advice and/or comfort.Taking care of our health—mentally and physically—should be a priority, but it’s sometimes hard to figure out and balance that with everything going on in our lives. How do we get through the day? 
    A lot of people have different ways of coping, such as praying, watching Netflix, working out, and exploring new hobbies. In addition to doing all of this, I’ve been asking friends to share some books that remind them that everything will be alright. This list is full of books that have inspired and helped people in my life and across the internet. Sometimes the wisdom of others is just what we need to get us through another week in quarantine. 

    Marie Kondo
    The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

    Japanese cleaning guru Marie Kondo swept through American pop-culture with her show on Netflix. Our minds are often impacted by our environment, and with the coronavirus keeping us all inside, this is a perfect time to really declutter your home. Cleaning and clearing your environment will help inspire a calm, motivated, and peaceful mindset.

    Shonda Rhimes
    Year of Yes

    Even if you never watched any of her shows, Shonda Rhimes has become one of Hollywood’s most recognized producer-writers. Her first book is a poignant, passionate, and hilarious book about taking opportunities, looking past failure, and chasing dreams. She writes about how saying “Yes” changed her life and how it can change your life as well.

    Terry McMillan
    It’s Not All Downhill from Here

    “It’s Not All Downhill From Here” is a refreshing story of the strength and resilience of ‘’everyday’ Black women. Loretha Curry’s life is going well until a sudden loss turns her world upside down. Loretha will have to gather all of her strength to keep on thriving and to pursue joy, healing, and life in abundance.

    Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

    I stumbled upon the Netflix movie on a random weekend over a year ago and was surprised by how heartfelt and inspiring it was. Juliet finds a letter from a man she’s never met who found her name written inside a book. The more they exchange letters, the more she is drawn into the eccentric world of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie society, and learns about their hopes and dreams, their books, and the impact of the German occupation on their lives.

    Michelle Obama

    We often look at prominent women like Michelle Obama as always having everything together and that life must be as perfect as it can get.”Becoming” is a beautiful, inspiring memoir that reminds us that even a First Lady of a country like the United States can be just as human as us—unfinished.

    Cheryl Strayed
    Tiny Beautiful Things

    Hearing other people’s stories and being able to learn from them is one of the best ways to help ourselves get over a slump, or find wisdom and courage to change things in our lives. “Tiny Beautiful Things” is a collection of some of the best of Chery’s Dear Sugar advice columns from “The Rumpus.” Chery’s words are heartwarming, compassionate, and insightful and might be exactly what you need to hear.

    Toni Morrison
    The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations

    As one of the most celebrated and respected American authors of all time, Toni Morrison was well-known for her striking imagery and genre-defying prose and unabiding wisdom. In this book, she gives us a collection of her essays, speeches, and meditations where she writes about social issues, such as woman empowerment.

    Leslie Jamison
    The Empathy Exams: Essays

    This book is an incredibly thought provoking essay collection about something we all need more of: empathy. Regardless of where you are in life or what you’re going through, or if the news has you feeling hopeless about the future, learning and actively practicing empathy will help you be able to understand how you should care for the people around you and yourself. More

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    Why Losing Weight Didn’t Make Me Love Myself More (And What Actually Did)

    Every woman has a different story about the relationship she has with her body. Many of these “body stories” are dramas full of ups and downs that could rival Game of Thrones, while others are more like a happy rom-com. But most often, our body stories are individualized, private, and can stop us from feeling true self-love and acceptance. As a health coach, I’ve had the privilege to learn about and help heal other women’s stories. While every woman’s body story is vastly different, here’s mine:I was one of the lucky ones. My mother never commented on my weight or the way I looked. She called me kind, smart, and talented, and never once referred to the size of my body. I grew up with the mentality that who I was defined me, not what I looked like. However, even my mother’s values and limitless support couldn’t totally protect me from how the rest of the world told women they were supposed to be.
    Body insecurities are normalized to the point that we bond with other women over poor relationships with food and putting ourselves down. I still try to channel Cady Heron in the Mean Girls scene where the only thing she could think of that she didn’t like about herself was bad breath in the morning, after the other Plastics picked apart their appearances (#selflovegoals). But the truth is that along with the strong, beautiful, funny, talented, smart women I’ve been friends with, I thought more like Regina George or Gretchen Wieners when looking at my reflection. 

    Each woman’s insecurities look a lot different. For me, my insecurities looked like the occasional, I wish this body part different, or I wish I looked like her, or Sure, I could probably afford to lose a few pounds. I’ve always called myself confident, but I was more confident in my personality than in my body. Bathing suits always made me a little self-conscious, and I was painfully aware of the pounds I gained from cafeteria food and slapping the bag at frat parties my freshman year of college (full disclosure: my freshman 15 was not just 15 pounds, and it lasted much longer than freshman year). 

    I’ve always called myself confident, but I was more confident in my personality than in my body.

    I spent my early 20s eating all the late-night pizzas I wanted and going to daily spin or Orange Theory classes, thinking it would counteract the over-indulgences (it didn’t). I attempted diets here and there, but enjoyed sushi takeout and Taco Bell too much to make any dramatic changes for the goal of weight loss. Instead, I felt a constant underlying pressure to eat better before every formal or felt guilty for “over-indulging,” whether it was dessert at the cafeteria or drinking too many glasses of Two-Buck Chuck.  

    Source: @josie.santi

    The year after I graduated from college, I moved home and started my career. I went to bed early to wake up with enough time to exercise before work, ate dinner with my parents instead of ordering takeout or going out with friends, and my weekend mornings looked like an omelet and coffee at home instead of my usual french toast and mimosa brunch. My clothes started fitting more loosely, and people started telling me I had lost weight. I like to say that I “accidentally” changed because I wasn’t even aware that anything looked different.
    If I had lost weight, shouldn’t I feel better about myself? I thought I shouldn’t have any more food guilt, and I should be happier about my appearance. It’s what I had thought for so long as the missing piece I never had the willpower to achieve, and yet, I didn’t feel any better. Flash forward a few years, and I’m more confident than I have ever been (while being a few–or 10–pounds heavier than that first year out of college). Here’s why I learned weight loss isn’t a prescription for self-love, and what made me love myself instead. 

    There’s always going to be another five pounds
    When I did lose weight, it was not the immediate sense of gratification I had expected it would be. I felt the same amount of self-consciousness, whether it was thinking I still looked bloated, noticing cellulite, or finding a new imperfection. We often think that as long as we hit a certain weight or pants size, then we’ll be happy. But more often than not, this isn’t true. Even if we get a six-pack, we would focus on the size of our thighs, or maybe start hating the bags under our eyes. There’s always going to be another imperfection when weight loss is the ultimate goal.

    There’s always going to be another imperfection when weight loss is the ultimate goal.

    Self-love is a skill, not a circumstance
    I always thought that once I had the perfect body (LOL as if that exists), all my problems would go away. Since I grew up from the 20-year-old girl tracking her calories on MyFitnessPal and light-heartedly laughing with friends about how weak our willpower is when it comes to cheese boards on wine night, I learned that a number on the scale is never the problem. The problem is that we don’t feel like we’re good enough, and that doesn’t change, even if the number on the scale does.
    Just like happiness, confidence is a skill, not a circumstance. It doesn’t come when you achieve a certain weight or pants size, because it’s something that has to be consistently worked, like any muscle. Thinking that you’ll feel more self-love when you lose a certain amount of weight is distracting you from the real problem of not feeling good enough as you are. Practice and prioritize self-love first in order to achieve a body you feel good in, not the other way around. 

    Practice and prioritize self-love first in order to achieve a body you feel good in, not the other way around. 

    Source: @josie.santi

    Everyone feels better in different body types
    While our culture trains us from an early age to believe there’s only one type of “attractiveness” we are supposed to strive for, this just isn’t true. It’s marketing, not biology. In reality, every woman does (and should) feel like her best, sexiest self in a variety of different body types. When I did lose those extra “college” pounds, I remember telling my therapist that I should feel better about myself, but something about the weight loss made me feel less feminine and confident.
    Yes, I desperately missed those same curves that I had wanted to get rid of for years. The point is that we all have different body types for a reason. Every woman’s “ideal” body should be totally different than anyone else’s. We’re often so distracted by achieving what society has told us is “perfection” that we don’t stop to think about what would actually make us feel our very best.

    Every woman’s ‘ideal’ body should be totally different than anyone else’s. We’re often so distracted by achieving what society has told us is ‘perfection’ that we don’t stop to think about what would actually make us feel our very best.

    “Weight loss” is not a sustainable way to live
    Although dieters might feel a sense of satisfaction in seeing the numbers on a scale go down, each pound lost likely requires sacrifice and suppressing cravings. The focus is on less, less, and less. Food becomes an enemy and a stressor, not something to nourish us. Restricting food, resisting cravings, and making life changes (like avoiding social settings that center around food, for example) takes a toll on mental and physical health. Yes, I lost weight, but I also dealt with a lot of anxiety that left me with less appetite, and I focused on my career much more than I focused on enjoying time with family and friends. Weight loss didn’t make my life better; it only happened because I wasn’t living my best life.
    Even though weight loss was the aftermath and not the cause, it was the one time I was “successful” at losing weight, and it did not make me any happier. I realized that nothing is worth the price tag of enjoying my life for the messy, happy series of moments it is. Those extra inches on the waistline is where life happens. It’s the extra glass of rosé on a summer rooftop, or a slice of your favorite chocolate cake when you go home to visit your mom. I realized that constantly hoping to lose weight demoted these moments to be worth nothing more than a pants size or number on a scale.

    Source: Felicia Lasala for The Everygirl

    …and 5 Things That Did Make Me Love Myself More

    I changed my goal to be healthy, not skinny
    I used to think of nutrition through the lens of calories, carbs, fats, and proteins. I obviously knew food was necessary for survival, but I also understood and saw food through labels like “good” and “bad,” or “healthy” versus “unhealthy,” because it was all about how it would make my body look. My entire outlook changed when I learned about using plants as medicine and how to eat to change how I feel. Now, my goal is to be healthy for optimal energy, to live a long life, to be my most vibrant self, and to feel happy. When I started eating to be healthy instead of skinny, I started loving my body for what it could do, instead of what it looked like.

    When I started eating to be healthy instead of skinny, I started loving my body for what it could do, instead of what it looked like.

    I focused on strength, not weight
    No, the transformation was not all mental. As much as I believe in screwing the man (in this case, damaging diet culture and societal pressure on women), and as much as I wish this is 100 percent about internal mindset, the truth is that’s just 90 percent of it. The other 10 percent of achieving self-love came from how I felt physically in my body. I’ve always loved exercising and knew I felt better overall when I was consistently moving, but I would also work out for calorie burn. I loved classes that tracked how many calories I burned, as if that’s what made a tough workout worth it.
    When my self-love changed, so did my workouts. I learned there are thousands of reasons to work out, but weight loss isn’t one of them. Now, I work out to make my muscles stronger and to feel more powerful in my physical self. I started eating to get more energy and as fuel for workouts. I became addicted to feeling powerful and strong, rather than hoping to feel smaller. 

    Source: @josie.santi

    Actually prioritizing self-love
    This one sounds like a no-brainer (you felt self-love by prioritizing self-love? Revolutionary!). But surprisingly, so often when we are hell-bent on losing weight, we’re promoting weight loss over self-love, thinking that the two don’t conflict. Instead of restrictive eating, calorie counting, and labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” prioritize self-love by being compassionate to what your body wants. Eat intuitively, not restrictively. Prioritizing self-love means you choose to leave behind whatever is unhealthy for you, whether it’s relationships, jobs, or your own beliefs and habits that aren’t letting you be happy.

    Prioritizing self-love means you choose to leave behind whatever is unhealthy for you, whether it’s relationships, jobs, or your own beliefs and habits that aren’t letting you be happy.

    Knowing that the way I looked was not an accomplishment
    I’ve always been a big self-improvement girl: self-help books are my guilty pleasure, and my daily affirmation is always about showing up as my highest self. But perhaps the greatest shift in my self-love came when I stopped associating being a better version of myself with having a better body. Now, when I feel insecurity come up (because it still does, I swear!), I remind myself that my best self has nothing to do with a breakout, a patch of cellulite, or gaining a few pounds.
    When I notice myself looking in the mirror and thinking something negative, it’s a sign that I’ve been too focused on myself. My fix? Call up a friend to see how they are, donate to an organization, or tell my boyfriend what I love about him (you’re welcome for my selflessness, boyfriend). Not only does it help me to get outside myself, but it reminds me that I do like the kind, compassionate person I am. Now that’s a real accomplishment. 

    Source: @josie.santi

    Focusing on what makes me “big”
    I think everything clicked for me when I realized I was constantly trying to shrink myself, rather than feeling justified for the space I take up in this world. Instead, I want to love what’s big: in body, in personality, in love, in altruism, in voice, in confidence, in aspirations. In the end, weight loss is not the secret to success, a relationship, or happiness; it’s an endless goal that keeps us from achieving everything we want in life because we don’t think we deserve it yet.
    I had been so focused on being smaller for so long that I forgot to love what’s big in me. Now, I consistently remind myself to love everything from my loud laugh to my lofty goals. My advice to you, dear readers, is to love your bigness so much, the world can no longer point at you and call you small.  More

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    8 Outdated Rules for Healthy Eating That We’re Ditching

    We grow up learning a lot of food rules that we believe as fact. Maybe you’ve experienced some form of self-prescribed dieting, or you depended on rules to make healthy decisions (I know I certainly have). You try your best to eat healthy because you know you’re supposed to. But imagine a different approach to healthy eating, one that isn’t focused on numbers, news, or the latest diet trend. Instead, imagine knowing your body so well you know what it needs and feel guilt-free eating what it wants. The truth is that a lot of those food rules we have always believed as fact are stopping us from achieving true health and food freedom. Here are eight of them that we’re completely getting rid of (and three that we’re living by instead). 

    Source: Social Squares

    1. Some foods are “good” and some foods are “bad”
    Every food is predefined into labels of “good” and “bad” by our culture. We grow up understanding that a stalk of celery is a “good” food, a slice of pizza is a “bad” food, and there is always an “evil” nutrient we turn into a public enemy (like carbs, saturated fats, or sugar). However, when we put a moral value on foods, what’s meant to nourish us becomes associated with guilt. Of course, some foods have more nutritional value than others. A plate of spinach will provide your body with more nutrients than a Twinkie, but you’re not “bad” when you do want to eat a Twinkie. Rid yourself of food guilt and listen to your body to decide what you need (not what you “should” or “shouldn’t” eat). 

    2. You should eat everything on your plate
    As children, many of us were praised for joining the clean plate club and guilted if we didn’t. We had to sit at the table until we finished eating, or we were told wasting food was wrong. As well-intentioned as our parents may have been, this mentality sticks with us as adults. We base serving sizes off of what’s in front of us, instead of what our bodies need. Rather than eating a portion that someone else recommends (whether it’s your mom, a restaurant, or the recommendations on the box), eat until you’re satisfied. Newsflash: we’re not supposed to eat until we’re full, and certainly not until we’re “stuffed” (Thanksgiving dinner is the exception, of course). Eat slowly and mindfully, so you’re aware when you’re no longer enjoying your food and just eating out of habit because it’s in front of you. 

    Source: Social Squares

    3. Avoid fruits and white potatoes (they have too many carbs)
    “Carb” is not a dirty word; it’s actually an important nutrient that the body needs for many crucial functions like energy. Even carbohydrates like potatoes and fruit are loaded with essential nutrients that will help the body to thrive. White potatoes (yes, the kind found in hash browns) are full of vitamin C, fiber, and contain more potassium than a banana. Fruits are one of the most plentiful sources of vitamins and minerals, and offer a wide range of health-boosting antioxidants. Bottom line: you should never be afraid of or avoid any whole foods from the earth. That’s what we’re meant to eat, and our bodies will respond accordingly. 

    4. Read the nutrition labels on everything you eat
    You should absolutely be informed about everything you eat. I do believe everyone should know how to read a nutrition label (and if you don’t, HMU). We shouldn’t be tricked into believing a bowl of a certain cereal is a nutritious breakfast when it has more grams of sugar and artificial ingredients than a candy bar, so that part I stand by. However, the outdated food rule I’m thinking of actually comes from Mean Girls. Regina George asks the other Plastics what percentage fat is from the calories of a food she’s thinking of eating. Even though the line, “whatever, I’m getting cheese fries,” is iconic, this is when we should stop reading nutrition labels.
    If you’re going to indulge, enjoy it without having to see how many calories or grams of fat it will cost. This just leads to more food guilt and an inability to be intuitive. Rather than reading every nutrition label to eat healthier, we should be aiming to eat more foods without a nutrition label at all. Stop worrying about the numbers, and start focusing on nutrients (but more on that below!). 

    Source: @kayla_seah

    5. You shouldn’t eat dessert every day
    Life is short, so let them eat cake! (Yes, I did just combine two well-known sayings that make perfect sense together, thank you very much.) A lot of us have a sweet tooth, or for others, eating something sweet signals that the meal is over. And guess what: both are OK. If you crave dessert but don’t let yourself eat it, or if you eat it and then feel endlessly guilty afterward, this will only lead to bingeing and a bad relationship with food. If you want dessert, eat it (yes, even if that means every single day). The trick is to find things that satisfy your sweet tooth while also giving your body added benefits and better nutrients. Try nut butter and apple slices, dark chocolate, or meal-prep one of these delicious plant-based desserts for the week. 

    6. Have five small meals a day instead of three larger meals (or that you have to have three meals a day)
    I first heard the advice to eat five small meals throughout the day when I was in high school. The suggestion came from a good place; you definitely shouldn’t wait to eat until you’re so hungry you feel weak (or worse, hangry). But thinking that multiple small meals a day would be better for me than three larger ones, I wouldn’t let myself eat as much as I wanted or wouldn’t feel hungry for my next meal if I did eat a “bigger” snack (AKA a small meal). My body was constantly confused and never really satisfied. Since then, I’ve learned that three meals work perfectly for me. I never feel the need to snack, and instead just eat enough filling, fiber-rich foods so I’m satisfied until the next meal. 
    My point is not that you should eat three meals a day. Many people don’t like to eat breakfast and prefer two meals a day. Other people feel best when they’re snacking throughout the day, and some people are more energized when eating five smaller meals. Instead of promoting one over the other, my point is that you should eat when you’re hungry. Find the amount, time, and method of eating that works best for your body and lifestyle. 

    Source: @sivanayla

    7. You should resist cravings
    I always recommend intuitive eating and listening to your body, but a lot of people will tell me that if they “listened to their body,” they would only eat boxed mac n’ cheese, pizza, Doritos, and cookies all day. Even if that’s what you think your body wants to eat, you’re listening to the ingrained food rules that have taught you certain foods are “off-limits” and, therefore, more attractive (it’s true for bad boys, and it’s true for food). But when you forget the aforementioned food rules and stop thinking cravings are the enemy, the truth is that you’ll crave a combo of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and yes, some “less nutritious” food here and there, which–believe it or not–is absolutely OK. 
    Your body is incredibly smart (I promise). Cravings are how your body is communicating with you that it needs something, not an attempt to sabotage your health goals. Whatever you’re craving, get creative and DIY an option that will be more nutritious and make your body feel better. Feeding cravings actually helps give more clarity to what our bodies need—because if we don’t feed them, they’ll only get stronger. 

    8. We need experts to tell us how to eat
    If you feel overwhelmed by which diet to try or which expert to listen to, that’s not on accident. In order to sell you on limitless products and programs, you have to feel like your health is not in your control. The truth is that bodies are not one-size-fits-all, and therefore, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet. Every body is different, with individualized nutritional requirements. Just like we all have different personality traits, we all have different food needs. What works for one person (even if they are an “expert”) may not work for you. Get curious about nutrition, educate yourself on how to eat the best nourishment, and talk to your doctor about what diet and lifestyle is best for you, but listen to your body more than you listen to outside advice.

    1. Count nutrients, not calories
    When we count calories, we approach eating from a place of lack and deprivation. But when we’re aware of the nutrients that foods have and what those nutrients do for our bodies (give us energy, boost skin glow, reduce inflammation, etc.), we come from a place of abundance and nourishment. Focusing on eating more plants and whole foods filled with nutrients can also subconsciously crowd out processed and sugary foods (totally guilt-free). Think of adding more foods into your diet (like adding leafy greens to two meals a day or eating berries with breakfast), rather than subtracting foods (like no dairy, no processed foods, etc.). 

    Source: @loveandlemons

    2. Eat your colors
    My entire wardrobe may only consist of neutrals, but when it comes to what’s on my plate, I like to load up on every color of the rainbow. The colors of plants come from the different phytochemical antioxidants they contain. Eating fruits and vegetables in a wide variety of colors ensures we’re getting a wider variety of antioxidants. If your meal is looking as monochrome as your stay-at-home #OOTD, add a little color with fruits and vegetables. For example, if you’re having pasta, throw in some cherry tomatoes (red) and kale (green). If your salad is just a lot of leafy greens and avocado, good for you for getting in your veggies, but consider adding in some sweet potato and purple cabbage for a wider variety of nutrients. 

    3. Make mealtime sacred
    Many of us think we’re supposed to eat purely for health and are cursed by the pleasure aspect that comes with food (lust and gluttony, after all, are two of the seven deadly sins, and things I feel regularly when a truffle mac ‘n’ cheese is in front of me). “On-the-go” is a popular recipe trend, and a rise in fast food over the past 50 years is no coincidence: we want to eat as quickly as possible. But the truth is that we don’t just eat to survive. We eat for enjoyment, for social connection, for meaningful ritual, and these days, we often eat because we need a break (Find yourself stress snacking during work? Your body might be telling you to take a break).
    I get it: sometimes busy mornings call for tossing back a smoothie, or you need to take your lunch on-the-go. But whenever you can, make your mealtime sacred. Turn off the TV, close the laptop (yes, that means taking a real lunch break), and actually enjoy the food you get to eat. Use mealtime as a mindfulness practice, a way to reconnect with loved ones, and a much-needed break.  More

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    10 Ways to Carve Out Alone Time When You Don’t Live Alone

    With the pandemic keeping us close to home—and close to roommates and partners—for the foreseeable future, many of the introverts among us are desperately seeking true alone time. With roommates and partners always around the [literal] corner, we’re looking for ways—any ways—to find time and space for ourselves, particularly when living in a small space. So, here are 10 ways to carve out that alone time you desperately need, even when you don’t live alone.
    1. Communicate that you need alone time
    It’s easier said than done, telling someone who you live with and enjoy spending time with, that, yes, you need to get away from them… or you’re going to lose it. But, communication is the ever-present key to successful relationships. So, break it to your partner, your roommate, or whoever occupies your space: I need alone time. Bring it up as you would any plan, “So, I’m thinking Monday evening I might schedule some quiet time to journal.” Emphasize that it’s a solo activity, not something you are going to do side-by-side. Keep it casual so your friend or loved one doesn’t interpret it as a referendum on your relationship.

    2. Wake up earlier
    It’s the secret introvert parents have been employing for years. If you get up before everyone else, you can grab a few minutes of peace and quiet to yourself. Wake up just 30 minutes earlier, make a cup of coffee, read a book, or even catch up on Instagram if that’s what fills your cup.

    3. Set up agreed-upon spaces during the workday
    If you’re an introvert, being on Zoom calls all day can you leave you starved to recharge. Add in an ever-present partner and there’s no solace. Do what you can to carve out your own designated spaces during the day and you’ll find yourself basking in those quick breaks between meetings when you can grab a few moments alone. And, yes, I get it: my husband and I live in a small condo, so I know it’s not always as easy as running off to opposite ends of the house, but even a division of bedroom/ living room can do the trick.

    4. Take a daily intention-setting walk
    Put on your mask and get out of the house. It’s good for the soul to get some fresh air, plus, it gives you an excuse to slip away from everyone. But, don’t simply walk, make it a time when you can reconnect with yourself, set intentions for your day, and assess where you are right now. Put on an inspiring podcast or the new Taylor Swift album and enjoy your best company: you.

    5. Incorporate quiet movement
    Yes, working out is an awesome way to spend time on your own. However, if you’re looking for a way to exercise and recharge, think about incorporating intentional, quiet movement like yoga into your routine. Plus, chances are slim that a roommate will crash your daily restorative and meditation session in the way they might join in on a virtual Zumba class. I mean, it’s just a bit more awkward to invite oneself to a dimly-lit, quiet room than a workout with a pounding playlist, right?!

    6. Be intentional about your alone time activities
    Look, if you need your alone time to consist of catching up on Bravo, you do you! Just be intentional about it. Don’t find yourself with precious solo moments and then wonder where they went. If you’re a planner, write down exactly what you plan on doing with your time alone. Keep a note in your phone of the books you’d like to read next time you’re enjoying an introverted afternoon. Or, rediscover Pinterest and make a “Me Time” board with recipes to bake, topics to journal, plants to parent, or movies to watch.

    7. Practice solitude within a crowd
    One of my favorite ways to find quiet moments alone is to find myself in a crowd. You’ve probably heard melancholy messages of being alone in a mess of people, but you can also find a sense of peace and solitude when surrounded by strangers. I love going to the Farmer’s Market or a bustling (socially-distanced) park all by my lonesome and enjoying the freedom to slowly stroll about, taking it all in.

    8. Create morning and evening rituals… and shut the door
    Now’s the time to start indulging in that 12-step skincare routine. Maybe you pick up a bubble bath and book habit. Slather on a 10-minute face mask. Light a candle and write down your intentions for the week. Explore your spirituality through reading and spirituality. Slowly sip your evening tea and savor the aroma. Whatever your pampering or relaxation routine might be, make it your morning or evening ritual. It’s an excuse to shut the door and escape from the world for just a bit.

    9. Get into bed earlier
    On the opposite end of wake up earlier, you can also get into bed earlier. Leave your partner or roommates in the living room after dinner and head back to your bedroom, even if it’s still light out. Brew a cup of tea, then crack open that book you’ve barely been able to put down.

    10. Set up weekly happy hours or date nights
    OK, you might still be worried about the hurt feelings that you’re convinced you’ve left in the wake of #1. So, to prove that you still love their company, set up a weekly dinner or date night. Maybe it’s a Friday evening cheese board or a Saturday afternoon cocktail experiment. Perhaps one of you tries a new recipe each week and cooks dinner for the group. Or, you even instate a biweekly book club to discuss all the reading you’re doing by yourselves. Whatever your new tradition looks like, your roommates or partner will have an easier time accepting your introverted request knowing that you also love spending time with them, just so long as you get your alone time, too. More

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    5 Ways to Handle Feeling Overwhelmed and Unmotivated

    I don’t know if it’s COVID-19, hormones, or maybe the stars, but I feel like I’m going through a “mid-life” crisis—if there is such a thing at 32. Currently, I’m back in my hometown, living at my friends’ home, unemployed, and contemplating a career change during a pandemic. Most days, I’m fine but then there are many days where I feel like WTF. I’m generally a confident, well-put-together person, but this pandemic has enlivened me in some ways and caused me to feel deeply insecure in others. I’m unemployed, uninsured, and unsure about which direction my life is going. Some days my anxiety overwhelms me, and I spiral into an emotional, irrational frenzy. Typically, this frenzy leaves me feeling unproductive and unmotivated. It’s so easy to see all that is wrong instead everything that is going right. This time off work has allowed me to strengthen relationships, return to my creativity, open a business, destress, and honestly examine if my current career is something I really want to do. I’m learning to trust the process and recognizing these moments of uncertainty will become clear as I continue on my journey. In the two months I’ve been out of work, I’ve learned how to better handle my stress by doing a few things to bring me back to center and get my head out of the clouds. 

    1. I allow myself to feel my feelings.
    I don’t focus on trying to make myself feel better. I sit with my feelings, whether positive or negative, and examine where those feelings come from. Are these feelings rooted in reality, or have I allowed my imagination to get the best of me? What are realistic, healthy ways to move myself from a negative to a positive space, in a healthy way, while still affirming the validity of sadder emotions? I do a lot of this emotional processing through journaling. I love to write my feelings out. Journaling allows me to fully express myself while simultaneously documenting the moment. I usually journal when I’m feeling especially frustrated, angry, or sad. Journaling helps me identify my emotions and process them. I just sit there with my journal and write. Sometimes I write for five minutes. Sometimes I write for a couple of hours. However long, I don’t stop until I’m “done.” Journaling helps me chart my progress. I can always look back to see how far I’ve come or where I’m stagnant. 

    2. I surround myself with people who support me.
    My family and friends are the best. Since being in this weird space, none of them have ever made me feel low because I’m not working. They fully support me in my creative endeavors and are glad to see me operate with some passion. They uplift and affirm me when I’m feeling down, and hey help me pull myself out of overwhelmed places by reminding me I am accomplished and capable. I live with my family now, so it makes it easier to access them. Some of my friends are available through text and calls. I make sure to connect in any way possible. I also make sure to be honest with them about my feelings, fears, or issues. In order to be supported in the way I need, I feel I have to be honest with them about my highs, as well as my lows. They’ve seen me through everything.

    3. I rest.
    For many, rest is a radical concept. I don’t know about you, but I always feel such an internal pressure to be productive. Honestly, I feel guilty for resting because there is always more to be done. With so many things unchecked on my to-do list, I feel like I don’t deserve rest, but I’m learning rest is necessary and well-deserved. When I need rest, I force myself to take it. I create and enforce a boundary with myself by declaring the day as a non-work day. I’ve worked since I was 16. I’ve been a Masters level Social Worker in a few of the busiest emergency departments for the last four years. I’ve done a lot of hard work, loved on a lot of people, and I deserve this time just for me. For all the mental, emotional, and physical labor I have done, I deserve to rejuvenate. Rest feels foreign, but that in and of itself is problematic.
    I take off the pressure of productivity by finally allowing myself the space and time I need to relax knowing it’s for my good. I’ve forced myself to be productive when I was burned out and exhausted, and my work suffered because of it. Resting allows me to take a break, then come back happier, clearer, and generally more excited. Some days rest looks like being a couch potato while other days it looks like a fun day out with friends. Rest looks different for each of us, but as long as you’re rejuvenated afterward that’s all that matters. 

    4. I have fun.
    Yes, we’re in a pandemic, and “outside” is sort of closed, but that doesn’t mean life has to be boring. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, that means I’m off balance. I try to find things that will bring me some sense of joy. It could be something as simple as potting new plants, doing some sort of arts and crafts, or dancing to a bomb playlist. This will be different for each person, but the point is to do something that brings you joy. Do something that, even if for the moment, shifts the atmosphere and likely your attitude right along with it. Do something that is not a chore. 

    5. I sought professional help.
    Yes! That’s right … I’m in therapy. Therapy not only helps me to sort out what’s happening currently, but it’s also helping me process my past and how that affects me now. Therapy has been a godsend, especially since I’m uninsured right now. I found my therapist through a site called Open Path that my friend, Zee, told me about last year. Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is a nonprofit organization that “serves clients who lack health insurance or whose health insurance doesn’t provide adequate mental health benefits. These clients also cannot afford current market rates for therapy (between $80-200 a session).” Open Path helps “members access their choice of affordable in-person care from a vetted mental health professional.” You have to pay a one-time membership fee, but after that your therapy is between $30-$60 per session, depending on the provider. I picked my therapist from a list of available therapists in my area. I’d never met her before, but I felt comfortable from the first day. We’re doing telehealth appointments due to COVID, but I still find it effective.
    My therapist is helping me reframe some of my ideologies and shift my paradigm into a much healthier space. This has been particularly helpful when it comes to feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated. Therapy is helping me realize I’ve been in uncertain times before, and I prevailed then just as I will now. 

    Feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s good to fully feel your feelings, but it’s not OK to stay in an unhealthy space for long. The world is weird right now and that is having a trickle-down effect on a lot of us. Take care of yourself. Find some ways to still enjoy life. Sometimes our circumstances can get the best of us, but it’s still very important to find some ways to move from an unhealthy space into a healthier one. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something to ensure you are healthy and hopeful. Be gracious with yourself and remember you are doing the best you can.  More

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    7 Ways to Practice Self-Care During Tough Times, According to Experts

    #Selfcare is trending on social media, and yet, putting that trend into practice is not as easy as posting a picture on Instagram. Our health can easily become last priority when greater things feel more urgent. It might even feel selfish to do a face mask and turn off the news when the world is changing and our communities need us. In fact, Rachel Ricketts, an international thought leader, speaker, healer, and author, uses a totally different term. She said, “I prefer to refer to soul-care, which is the act of caring for ourselves in a soulful, nourishing, healing way, so that we can best show up for the collective. It is an act of communal care, which is the opposite of selfish.” In other words, forget about bubble baths and candles (although those things are still enjoyable!). Really caring for yourself means recharging your energy and prioritizing mental health for not only yourself, but for the betterment of the community.
    Ricketts explained, “The difference is most notably in the intention: am I partaking in an act or behavior solely to serve myself, or am I doing so to serve the community (which of course includes, but is not simply about, you)? Soul-care focuses on those most oppressed and how we can best heal our own hearts, and get to work creating change to dismantle the systems of oppression causing harm.” Whether you call it soul-care or self-care, think of it the same way: prioritize taking care of yourself so that you’re able to fully take care of others. 

    Why is caring for ourselves so important when overcoming social injustice?
    “Unless and until we have faced our own inner shadows, wounded inner child, and race-based traumas, we cannot create effective or sustainable collective change that prioritizes those most oppressed (and when we try to do so, we wind up causing more, not less, harm),” Ricketts said. “Racial justice work is healing work, and the healing work starts with you and it starts within. It is from this space that we create and cultivate critical collective change.”
    Jasmine Marie, founder of black girls breathing who just launched a campaign to make virtual breathwork sessions free for Black womxn, agreed. “I think even for those of us who’ve been immersed in this work beyond just this year, you can feel the shift,” she said. “It’s impossible to keep doing this work without taking care of yourself. I’ve had to relearn what my body, mind, and spirit needs during this time, versus what I needed before. There’s lots of unlearning and learning, so self-care is a must.”
    You know the old saying that you can’t pour from an empty cup, so why do we continue to try? Aside from sharing resources, educating yourself, and doing what you can to make changes in your community (go vote!), prioritizing mental health and protecting your energy is essential for making lasting changes in the world. Here are seven ways we can all care for ourselves during a time when it may feel selfish to do so.

    7 ways to practice self-care right now:

    1. Set boundaries
    On a daily basis, Ricketts recommended to, “Acknowledge your privilege, set boundaries, and learn to say no.” Setting boundaries is essential to a healthy life, but it’s a skill that many of us never learn. Sticking to specific limits can help boost self-esteem, force you to routinely check in with your needs, and serve as a reminder to put yourself first. Marie agrees that setting boundaries is crucial. “Create boundaries with how much news you allow into your world on the daily,” she recommended. “Log off. Go on social media breaks. Tune inward and ask yourself what you need.”
    Since emotional boundaries are not as obvious as physical limits like road signs or fences (though wouldn’t that be nice?), they can be hard to enforce. Start by considering what you can tolerate, and then what feels draining or overwhelming in order to set limits. Acting on boundaries might look like turning off the news and taking a social media break two hours before bedtime, or it might look like saying no when a family member asks you for a favor that you know will make too stressed. It also looks like taking responsibility for your own emotions, but not taking responsibility for the emotions of other people. No matter what boundaries look like to you, you’ll be conserving emotional energy for much more important things. 

    2. Move 
    Working out for calorie burn is so last year (or like, last decade?). Instead, work out for mental health, and move for the sake of caring for yourself. Exercise, in general, can boost your mental health and help ease stress, so fit in some kind of movement every day that you look forward to, whether it’s a dancing around your living room or going on a hike. For self-care bonus points, try calming activities that focus on relaxing the mind and slowing the breath, like restorative yoga. Ricketts loves yoga with Dionne Elizabeth and Marie counts long walks as one of her go-to self-care practices. 

    3. Meditate
    There’s a reason that meditation is one of the most talked-about practices in the wellness world—this sh*t is powerful. Meditation is effective for self-care because it takes our focus off of the world around us, and puts it back on ourselves. Taking a breath (literally) re-energizes you so you can bring your best self to everything you do, whether it’s tackling your work day, chasing after kids, or fighting social injustice. Ricketts recommends breathwork sessions with Maryam Ajayi, or you can check out black girl breathing for virtual classes. And if sitting still isn’t your thing? Try one of these ways to meditate that involve movement, instead. 

    4. Rest (no, not just sleeping)
    “Burnout is an epidemic for everyone, but no one more than Black and Indigenous women and femmes (especially queer and trans women and femmes). Learning how to rest is imperative for our mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being,” Ricketts said. “Rest is more than sleep. Rest includes time offline, a break from feeling like we need to do it all or be helpful, turning phones off, prioritizing our peace, sitting in silence, spending time with people who nourish us (and avoiding those who do not), and doing absolutely nothing.”
    Think of yourself like the battery pack on an iPhone. If you just recharge for only small spurts at a time, your battery will always stay in red. In order to get all the way to full-charge, you must regularly turn the iPhone off and give it some time plugged in. Getting six hours of sleep and watching TV while scrolling through Instagram for 30 minutes a day does not count as restoration. Turn off technology, do something enjoyable and creative (like reading or painting), invite your best friend over, and give yourself permission to do less. 

    5. Check in with yourself frequently 
    Taking good care of yourself doesn’t have to mean long digital detoxes, consistent yoga flows, or never saying “yes” when you mean “no” (even though those are all good goals). Self-care can sometimes be as simple as feeling intuitive to your individual needs, and checking in with what you really want.
    We often look for outside validation for just about anything (does anyone else need to know what everyone is ordering before making a decision on which entree they want?). Instead, ask yourself what do I really want, and how do I really feel, so often that it becomes habit. Marie recommended, “Check in with how you feel. Validate internally before seeking external advice on your specific and particular experience. This practice is life-changing and will help you show up in all areas of your life.”

    6. Ask for help
    Remember that self-care is not just a buzzword, it’s health. “Therapy” should not be a dirty word, and we should not need to wait until severe symptoms or intense crisis to ask for help. Instead, think of therapy as an investment in your wellbeing. To find a therapist that’s right for you, click here, or check out online mental health resources like Therapy for Black Girls and Sista Afya.
    Beyond professional help, also make sure to ask your boss, coworkers, family members, and friends for help. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to depend on and connect with other people. Marie includes seeking help from other practitioners, having good conversations with friends, and allowing her tribe to support her, as some of her go-to self-care practices she does on a regular basis. 

    7. Seek out resources in a community setting
    If you haven’t gotten the gist already, self-care is not just about yourself; feeling a part of a larger community is crucial for optimal self-care. Even though the global pandemic might make it more difficult to feel community in the sense we’re used to (*sigh* does anyone else surprisingly miss crowds?), online resources are stronger than ever. Seek out resources that not only help you heal and take care of yourself, but make you feel like you’re not alone. 
    For some examples, check out Rickett’s Racial Justice Resources and her Spiritual Activism webinars and workshops, which she said are “rooted in the inner, healing work required for external, collective change.” To hear from more Women of Color on their favorite acts of self-care you can try for yourself, click here. 

    How do you care for yourself that has made the most difference? More