Category: Wellness Tips

Finding healthy strategies that are actually sustainable can be a challenge. How many times have you tried to drink more water, exercise more, or eat more vegetables but just can’t seem to stick with it? The first (and most important) step is that you must test drive new healthy changes to find the ones that are right for you. Don’t commit right away! Find changes that work with the strengths of your personality, and also help keep your weaknesses in check.

Everyone falls on the spectrum somewhere between a type-A (numbers, details, budgets, lists, organization) and a type-B (free spirit, go-with-the-flow) personality. Someone on the more extreme end of the type-A spectrum might be very good at self-discipline. Too good, in fact. If they choose a very detailed, overcomplicated-because-they-love-control method of keeping their food in check, they may tend to become obsessive. They track grams of carbs, proteins, and fat, and monitor every calorie down to the very last crumb. They thrive on this control until one day – whoops – we pass over healthy and slide down that slippery slope into disordered eating. Eating is no longer fun but a competition. A highly structured eating plan may not be a good idea for someone who is ALL the way at the type-A end of the spectrum.

Let’s try the other end of the spectrum. An extreme type-B may avoid the control of number-tracking like the plague, so they go for a much more flexible method. Too flexible, in fact. So flexible that they free-spirit their way in the opposite direction of their goals. Their personality is so extremely type B that they need a more structured (but not overly restrictive or controlling) method if they’re going to get anywhere. They just need a little more accountability.

 



 

In reality, most people do not fall at either extreme but instead somewhere in the middle. When you’re in the middle, you have some of the strengths of each personality and possibly some of the weaknesses too. No matter where you are on the spectrum, it takes a little honest introspection to know which might be some of the best approaches for you.

Use this flowchart to help you decide which strategies might work well for you:

 

how to make realistic healthy changes

 

Daily Food Group Checklist

Using a daily food group checklist can help you make sure you’re getting a wide variety of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber in the right amounts, but without the detail of a food tracker. Visit this website to calculate your daily needs and get a list of your personalized daily goals for each food group. Make a simple checklist or tally mark for each group each day so you can meet your goals without too much time investment.

 

Healthy Meal Plan

While I’m not a huge fan of meal plans made by people other than you, getting into the habit of making your own regular meal plan is a great way to set yourself up for success. If you already have the plan and the ingredients (possibly prepped and ready to go!), you are much more likely to eat more healthfully than if you were playing it by ear. Check out this post for a step-by-step guide and free printable to help make meal planning simple and easy.

 

Food Trackers

Food trackers are some of the most detail-oriented options for providing structure, accountability, and awareness. They can be as simple as a food journal with pen and paper or as complex as some websites and apps that have barcode scanners and track your calories, macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. While these tech marvels are nifty, they have their pros and cons, so make sure to test it out first to see if it’s a good fit for you. This post has some reviews of apps and websites to help you create healthy habits. One important thing to remember for tracking: it’s a tool for you, not a rule you must follow. Only track for as long as and to the extent that it is useful and helpful to you – and absolutely no farther! Most of my clients end up settling in to a routine of tracking every other week or a few days a week. Tracking every day forever is pretty exhausting!

 



 

MyPlate

MyPlate is the visual put forth by the USDA to provide nutrition recommendations, and it replaced the Food Guide Pyramid in 2010.

 

Personally, I feel that MyPlate is much more user-friendly, since it does away with memorizing portion sizes and numbers of portions. Instead, it provides a evenly divided plate that builds in a bunch of nutrition recommendations in (so you never have to think about them!). It balances your carbs, proteins, and fats, while helping ensure you are meeting vitamin, mineral, and fiber goals. And you can do this anywhere – you can hit every food group at a fast food restaurant, mini mart, grocery store, or in a packed lunch. It’s so simple my kids have been doing it for years! Just take this mental picture with you and try to make as many of your meals (especially lunches and dinners) resemble MyPlate as possible. A good rule of thumb for breakfast? Include at least 3 different food groups and make one of them protein. You can read about my experience following a MyPlate plan, as well as some of my tips for following it starting with this post.

 

Intuitive Eating

This is a method of allowing your body’s hunger and fullness signals to guide what you eat. Often this begins by practicing mindfulness of your body’s cues. This approach helps separate moral feelings (like guilt or pride) from simply honoring your body’s needs for fuel. You can read more about intuitive eating here.

Hopefully these guides and resources help you find the best healthy changes to test drive for your life. Let me know if you have other ideas of healthy changes, or which strategies have worked the best for you!

 

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Eating Well in Less Time Wellness Tips

best ways to save time and be healthy

 

In this series, we’ve covered several tips that can help make eating well simpler and easier. From meal planning to food prep, these strategies can help you make the most of your time. There is one more thing that is absolutely vital to finding the most efficient, time-saving way to be healthy. Without this, you may be able to bumble along, finding some success along the way, but never truly be healthy or happy, and certainly not save yourself any time.

When I work with clients, I always try to help them find skills and strategies that are sustainable for them in the long term. By long term I mean lifelong (or at least until a major life change comes along). To do that, we test changes one at a time to make sure that they actually fit that client’s life/personality/budget/preferences/family/etc.

I encourage clients not to commit to new health changes right off the bat – don’t get married, date first! There are several ways to approach being healthy, just as there are many fish in the sea. Don’t just find any old fish and marry it! It might be smelly or taste too fishy or its scales may clash with your décor. You have to get to know it first and spend time with it in a lot of different situations before you know if that fish is the fish for you. If it’s not, toss it back and find another. This process of trial-and-error is key to your long-term success.

 



 

You might think:

That sounds much more time-consuming than following a plan I found online/10 years ago/on a commercial/from my co-worker, friend, or family member.”

You might be right, in the short term. Complete ready-made plans are very appealing. You don’t have to think about them – just follow the meal plans they give you and it will seem so, so simple. You’ll start moving toward your goals and feeling well. You can fight, claw, and scratch for weeks, months, or sometimes even years. But then…the meal plans get boring or expensive, you get tired of making yourself different food than your family, or you just want a single darn slice of bread! Following restrictive plans designed by strangers (who didn’t have you in mind) only works for so long.

I can not stress this enough:

You can not succeed forever with a cookie-cutter plan.

You must test drive individual changes to see how well they fit all of the factors that make up your individual life. Date them. Don’t get married blind!

 



 

So now you’re thinking:

Okay, I get what you’re saying, but how is this going to save me time? Test-driving individual changes sounds like a long process.”

It certainly can be, and I won’t sugar-coat that. But I can promise you that in the long run, it is a straighter line to lifelong health, happiness, and weight maintenance than using diet plans that you can’t (and shouldn’t!) continue forever.

The effects of these diets on your metabolism and your mindset can create a physiological cycle that works against you for the rest of your life. Unsustainable restrictive diets are training your body to store fat,1 and training you that being healthy is a miserable process. I can’t even begin to count the clients that I’ve seen who are chronically undereating (a sad lesson taught by a myriad of ill-fated diet plans) and have lost x numbers of pounds and gained x + 20 over and over again throughout their lives.

Research documents this. Restrictive, not-tailored-for-you “diet plans” consistently lead to weight gain.2

 



 

So how does fiddling around with these diet plans save you time in the long run?

Resist the temptation for a “quick fix.” Daily at my practice I see the results of years and years of “quick fixes” that never actually fixed anything in the long run. It takes work to heal their metabolisms and get them on a healthy, realistic track. One of my clients spent years exercising and following a low-carb diet (that he despised, by the way). It is taking months of proper eating to get his metabolism convinced that it’s safe to lose his 80+ pounds of extra body fat. I am certain that he would not say that his time on that diet saved him any time in the long run.

In fact, I am certain that every single one of these clients would tell you the same thing:

Stay away from restrictive diets. Test out individual, realistic, and sustainable changes that work for you.

If you need help finding realistic changes to make, stay tuned! I’ll be posting tips about finding changes to test drive that are most likely to work with different personality types. If you’re still overwhelmed, find a dietitian to help guide you through the process! It’s what we’re here for. Don’t waste your time with tantalizing promises of quick weight loss that are ultimately followed by disappointing regain and a messed-up metabolism. Invest your time now in a life that is much healthier and much happier down the road.

It can save you years – and that is quite a lot of time, don’t you think?

 

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References

  1. Cooper, E. The Metabolic Storm: The science of your metabolism and how its making you fat. Seattle Performance Medicine. 2015. 2nd edition.
  2. Lowe, M., et al. “Dieting and restrained eating as prospective predictors of weight gain.” Front. Psychol. Sept 2013. Accessed August 12, 2018. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00577/full.

 



Eating Well in Less Time Wellness Tips

 

When it comes to eating well, the general school of thought is that you “should” make everything that goes down the hatch from scratch. Not necessarily! Convenience foods can have their place in a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthfully is a spectrum…a multi-faceted, complex, and very personalized spectrum.

 

finding a place for healthful convenience options in a busy life

 

It’s important that you find a place in the midst of all these factors that works with your lifestyle, not against it. If you want to eat entirely home-cooked-from-scratch but you’re a single parent with 2 jobs and 3 kids, it might be a challenge to bake your own bread every week. It’s important that your food choices fit well with your entire life, and remember that it’s not all-or-nothing. Have you ever felt like it’s not worth trying to be healthy if you can’t “eat clean” 100% of the time? That’s bogus. Sometimes you sacrifice a little nutrition for sanity. If the alternative is doing nothing, then doing something is definitely a better option!

Also remember that your place on the spectrum is a fluid concept that can change from month to month or even day to day. If life happens and pushes you towards processed for a few days or a week, it’s not the end of the world! Hang in there and keep doing the best you can. When things calm down, you can head back in the direction you want to go.

In the meantime, whether you’re very busy every day, extra-stressed for a few days, or your entire life is just a whirlwind, having healthy convenience options can make eating well much, much quicker. Here are a few of the most useful, versatile, and cost-effective convenience foods.

 



 

Prepped Proteins

Eating healthful proteins can be one of the most challenging areas to maintain when you’re busy since many proteins need preparation (not to mention all those times you forget to take something out to thaw, darn it…that’s not just me is it?). Prepared proteins can be just the ticket to ease this burden.

Into this category fall canned meats like chicken, tuna, and salmon, canned beans, and frozen pre-cooked meats or meat alternatives. Cans of meats or beans can be tossed in with a salad, eaten with some whole grain crackers, dumped onto nachos, or mixed in with pasta, rice, or a casserole. Since they are all already cooked, just dump and mix!

 

Bagged Salads

Several brands have begun making pre-made chopped salads complete with dried fruit, dressing, sliced nuts, or other toppings. Most have a delicious Asian sesame version, fruit-and-soft cheese version, and more. The flavors are delicious and these salads certainly are convenient. If you’re unlikely to make a salad on your own or are tired of your lettuce getting slimy because you never get around to chopping it up, these can be a lifesaver! Use them as a side dish or top them with a prepared protein and add a piece of fruit for a complete meal.

 

Tomato Sauces

These versatile beauties are great to have around for any time you haven’t had a chance to meal plan. With a few spices, they can quickly turn into a pasta sauce, chili base, or pizza sauce on a pita or tortilla pizza. Try to find a “No Salt Added” version to reduce the added sodium – then you have control over the salt that is added.

Check out my recipe for a 5-minute Heart Healthy Pizza/Pasta sauce using canned tomato sauce! 

 



 

Frozen Vegetables

So many of my clients tell me that their biggest challenge with eating healthy food is that preparing vegetables can be so time-consuming! Washing, peeling, chopping, and cooking vegetables is just enough work that it discourages them from actually eating vegetables! For days when you didn’t get to your food prep and you just don’t have the time to take those veggies from whole to roasted, a bag of frozen veggies can be such a lifesaver!

These come individually (think frozen broccoli, carrots, or peas) or in pre-made combos like stir-fry blends, California blend (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots), and Normandy blend (zucchini, carrots, yellow squash, broccoli, and cauliflower). Keep a few of these in your freezer and have a veggie side dish in 2-3 minutes with no prep at all.

 

Quick Oats

When your morning doesn’t allow for the process of simmering steel-cut oats, quick oats can get you a dose of whole grains in a flash. Microwave them with water for a minute or pour boiling water over them. Mix with some fresh fruit, a scoop of peanut butter, and a couple teaspoons of brown sugar or stevia and you are good to go! Homemade instant oats contain less sugar, more fiber, and more nutrition than the instant packets and take the same amount of time.

 



 

What are the go-to convenience foods that help you maintain a healthy lifestyle?

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Eating Well in Less Time Wellness Tips

quick and easy health tips for busy moms

 

For the next article in my series on Eating Well in Less Time, I’m sharing a guest post with you from Scott Reid at Focus Performance. Scott is helping out today with a list of health hacks (related to both nutrition and fitness) for busy moms. Enjoy!

 

Busy moms are often running around after children, working, running the household and trying to do 15 things at once – which can mean the person they need to look after the most is often the last one to get any attention – the mom herself.

Moms are notorious for putting themselves last, but if a mom is not in tip top condition herself she won’t be able to look after everyone and everything else which she has on her to do list. That’s why we have compiled a list of health hacks which busy moms can do as part of their daily routine to stay healthy.

You can also check out these motivation tips related to fitness from Focus Performance.

 



Adapt your routine

 

If you used to work out every morning before heading out to work, but are now tied up getting children up and dressed and heading out for school before your workday starts, then don’t just give up on your work-outs.

Try moving your routine around to adapt to your new situation. Make time to work-out in the evenings instead, or if you have help at home then assign 2-3 mornings where you don’t have the child responsibility and can work-out instead.

 

Try new exercise programs

 

If you used to go out running for hours every evening to keep fit but can’t do this post-baby, try some different types of exercise programs instead. Perhaps join a gym which has a day care so you can take your children with you, or invest in a jogging stroller and take your baby out while you jog.

It might be that you can go to a mom and baby yoga class or even try exercise DVDs at home instead of what you used to do. It’s all about adapting to fit your work-outs in with your new lifestyle rather than just giving up and not bothering at all.

 



 

Walk more whenever you can

 

Walking every day can really make a difference to your waistline, without costing a penny. If you have a young baby, walk out with the stroller, or walk them over to day care instead of driving. If you are at work, try walking out at lunch time and you really will see the difference.

 

Join local mom fitness groups

 

Check out local fitness groups aimed at or run by moms where there will be day care facilities or stroller options available. It’s a great way to improve your health while also adding to you and your child’s social life and fun as well.

 

Batch cook healthy meals for the freezer

 

Try planning your time so that you have space on the weekend to batch cook healthy meals which can then be frozen, ready for the week ahead. Perhaps on a Sunday evening while the children are asleep, try batch cooking things like chilis, curries, sauces and burger mixes which can be frozen and then microwaved in the week.

 



 

Make your health a priority

 

Don’t make excuses not to do the healthy food cooking or to skip your exercise routine. Make your health a priority and never feel guilty for putting yourself first when you need to. A healthy mom, leading by example, leads to healthy happy children and families.

 

Do family fun days for exercise

 

Family fun days like going out cycling, swimming or even a day in the park playing baseball, is great fun and gets everyone exercising together. If everyone joins in it can become a real family effort and make being healthy and exercising just part of what the family does for fun, rather than being seen as a chore.

 

Get your shopping delivered

 

Save time by getting your shopping delivered rather than having the stress of dragging your young children screaming around the shops. It also gives you control over your cart with no temptation for impulse purchases or bargains – you can select only health options to add into your basket and keep the food shopping under control.

 



 

Be kind to yourself

 

Take it easy and be kind to yourself – when you have a lot to juggle and deal with as a new mom it can be quite daunting to be careful, listen to your body and just ease yourself into the new health routine. Don’t rush and don’t try to do too much too soon.

 

Don’t be too goal-focused

 

Trying to stay healthy as a mom is a challenge in itself, so don’t set yourself weight loss or inch loss goals for this type of program. Just aim to complete your exercise regimen and keep up the healthy eating so you are looking after yourself and being a good example.

Being a busy mom and keeping healthy can go hand in hand as long as you are willing to adapt your routine to fit your new circumstances. Be kind to yourself and don’t try to take on a hugely ambitious fitness challenge – but with these hacks you will be on your way to staying healthy.

 

Scott is a sports and fitness writer and writes full time for Focus Performance. When not in front of his computer or spending time in the gym you can see him hanging out in his favorite coffee shop devouring the latest Stephen King novel. 

 

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Eating Well in Less Time Wellness Tips

 

Have you ever watched a cooking show where they try to pass a delicious healthy recipe off as a “20-minute meal”? You get all excited, ready to take notes and make this healthy kitchen masterpiece a reality, until you notice that as they are cooking, somehow all of their vegetables are already magically diced, their meats trimmed and cut, and their herbs and spices pre-measured? And then – big surprise! – the whole dish is done in 20 minutes or less! All they had to do was dump this, brown that, stir this in, and the whole creation was complete.

If you’ve had this experience and you’re anything like me you feel lied to. This was not a 20-minute meal. This was a 20-minute meal preceded by 10-15 minutes of peeling, chopping, dicing, and measuring which, again, if you’re anything like me, is the least enjoyable part of cooking.

Many of my clients struggle with this – they buy fresh veggies with perfect intentions of using them. But after a long day the thought of all that prep before they even get to cooking sends them, defeated, to that bag of freezer ravioli (or the corner fast food joint) and their produce one day closer to the garbage.

 



 

So how can we bridge this gap? We want our food to be healthy, and we need it to be quick and easy. Can we have both?

My answer is pretty much, yes. I’m not going to lie to you and say it’s not going to take any time and I certainly can’t hire a magic kitchen for you like the Food Network hosts have, but I can share the trick that has helped make healthful cooking SO MUCH FASTER for me.

That “trick” is food prep. Food prep is different than meal prep, where you actually cook and portion out individual meals in ready-to-go containers. If you have sufficient time and don’t mind eating the same meal for a few meals, meal prep is a great option! If you like a little more variety or can’t spare an hour or more for meal prep each week, give food prep a try!

 



 

Basically, you are your own magic kitchen. When you bring your groceries home, set all your produce (and your meats, if you really want to go for the gold!) on the counter. Put everything else away.

Now you get out your cutting board and knives (once!), and some containers. Chop, slice, and dice your little heart out. It usually takes 10-20 minutes, depending on how many veggies are in the recipes you’re using that week. Put them in containers based on the recipe they’re for. If we are having burgers, I slice tomatoes and onions, lay out lettuce, and put a handful of sliced mushrooms on a plate. If we’re having stew, I cube potatoes, chop onions, and slice carrots and seal them in a container. Then you clean up your cutting boards and knives (once!) and you’re done chopping for the week.

Note: Make sure that if you trim and cut raw meats, you prep them after you’re done with all your produce and that you store them in separate containers if they are uncooked!

Aren’t they pretty?

Now, when it’s time to cook, you can pull your container out of the fridge, dump this, brown that, stir this in, and your healthful meal is ready to go – just like the cooking pros!

For a demonstration of food prep and a recommendation for one of my favorite food prep kitchen tools, click here!

Have you ever tried food prep? Do you like it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments!

 



 

Related Posts

 

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Eating Well in Less Time Wellness Tips

To Diet or Not to Diet

 

Floating around social media the last few days I’ve seen several articles on either side of the “diet” coin:

“Why you shouldn’t diet in 2018”

“Top 6 Diets of 2018”

“Don’t diet this January”

You may have a goal to be healthier and take care of yourself this year – many people do, and that’s great! So, should you “diet”?

A lot of nutrition and fitness coaches will tell you that diets never work and that you need only listen to your body, feed it when it wants food, and don’t when it doesn’t (often called intuitive eating). That works really well for people who are in tune with their bodies, have normally established hunger cues, and like to eat healthful foods. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many of the clients I work with. These habits and hunger cues can be learned, but it takes time and it’s a frustrating road for a lot of people. Everyone is different, which is why I’ve learned to avoid all or nothing statements like “diets never work.”

 



 

At some point, this kind of comes down to semantics.

You can call it a diet, you can call it a lifestyle change, you can call it an eating plan, but ultimately what matters is whether or not it works with and for YOU.

I’ve seen people try strict diet plans that don’t fit their lifestyles, fight tooth and nail to stick to them, and feel totally defeated when they can’t seem to make it work. I’ve also seen people try to eat intuitively without any boundaries or guidelines and flounder, frustrated that they don’t seem to be making any progress.

On the other hand, when people find the right balance of structure and freedom to fit their lifestyles – it’s magic. They have a plan that is tailored to work with their unique personalities, budgets, families, and favorite foods. They are achieving their goals and they’re happy and feel great doing it. This is the elusive magical unicorn of healthful eating.

 



 

It can be a daunting task to find your own magical unicorn, so I’ve compiled some tips to help you out. Without further ado, here are 5 ways to know if an eating plan is right for you:

1. It’s not miserable/exhausting.

It makes me sad that I even have to say this, but it happens all the time. People put themselves through psychological and physical torture because they think it’s the only way to achieve their health goals – not so! The right plan will not make you sad and miserable, or be so labor intensive that you can barely keep up. If you love all kinds of food, for example, paleo wouldn’t be a good choice – you’ll be miserable saying no to so many things you love. If you have eaten breakfast your entire life and are hungry every few hours, intermittent fasting probably isn’t for you (you can read about my experience with that here). If you hate numbers and don’t like tedious tracking, don’t count calories! You’ll hate it!

Choose or design a plan that works with your individual preferences and quirks.

2. You’re not hungry all the time.

We’re trying to make your body healthy and happy. Constant underlying hunger is not conducive to either of those goals. ‘Nuff said.

 



 

3. It doesn’t restrict your social life.

Your eating plan should work beautifully into your social life. You should never skip out on girls’ or guys’ night because you are “on a diet.” You may end up ordering differently than you have in the past (or not!) but your social life is a huge part of a healthy life too. Don’t let an overly restrictive eating plan intended to make you healthier screw up other aspects of your health. You can read about my experiences with a social life-crushing diet here. It’s not worth it, trust me.

4. It includes all the foods you enjoy except legitimate allergies or intolerances, at least some of the time.

There is absolutely no reason to cut out entire categories of foods to lose weight. Certain medical conditions excepted, you should never have a list of foods you’re “not allowed” to eat. First of all, psychologically, you’re setting yourself up for the trap of only wanting what you “can’t” have. Second, why be more restrictive than is necessary? The ideal plan is the least restrictive plan that still heads you toward your goals. You may eat certain things less often and in smaller portions, but avoid plans that label foods as “good/allowed” and “bad/not allowed.”

5. You’re making progress.

Obviously, your plan needs to be making you healthier or what’s the point? Now I need to stress something very, very important here. Very important. Huge. Please don’t skip over this:

Progress comes in many forms, and most of them are not on the scale.

Please, please, please don’t gauge your success or failure only on your weight. A healthful eating plan should improve your health in so many other ways: Are you eating more vegetables? Do you have more energy? Do you sleep better? Is your skin clearer? Do you find yourself snacking less after dinner? Do your clothes fit better? Is your mindset more positive? Do you have less pain?

All of these are potential benefits of improved eating habits, and they’re nothing to sniff at! Be aware of them, because weight can be a fickle mistress, but health is so, so much more than weight.

So before you start a new eating plan this year, make sure it fits these criteria. As always, if you feel overwhelmed or lost at the idea of trying to find an eating plan that works for you, find a dietitian who can help you find a plan that fits your life. If you’re in Washington state, I’d be honored to work with you! Click here if you’re interested.

Have a happy, healthy new year!

 



 

Goal Setting

It’s day two of my goal-setting giveaway challenge! It’s not too late to join in – visit Dietitian on a Diet’s “Giveaway Alert” post on Facebook or Instagram to play! Yesterday we were dreaming big, today is a little less fun but just as important.
Today’s challenge: Assess your current reality. Where is this area of your life at right now? Be honest, but also be fair to yourself. No need to be more critical than is true. Acknowledge the good parts as well as the parts where you’re not where you’d like to be – that’s where we find the best goals.
IMG_4286
Yesterday I told you about my dream to have a cookbook. The current reality is shown above…I have a folder of chicken-scratch recipes and recipe ideas. Several of them have been tested and finalized and I am really proud of them! Several others need more work or need to go from ideas to actual recipes. I have a vague idea of how I want to layout the cookbook but I need to “brain dump” some of those ideas onto paper and play with them.
Your turn: head over to Dietitian on a Diet’s Facebook or Instagram and lay out the true current reality of where your goal area is right now. Be kind to yourself, be honest, and lay it out there!

Goal Setting