A Difficult (But Necessary) Step for Losing Weight 40+

difficult-and-necessary-step-for-weight-loss-40+

This post is inspired from some recent experiences with clients and workshop participants. At first glance, these people looked very different. But they had one thing in common. While they had hired me/ came out to listen to me speak, they both completely refused to take in what I had to share. They hired me for my expertise, then subsequently refused to take it.

Did I take it personally? No. Human behaviour is fascinating. We’re always a little bit of two minds about change – there’s a part of us who wants to change. And, a part of us who doesn’t. In both of these cases, the part of them that didn’t want to change won.

Why am I sharing this with you? I mean, it doesn’t make much business sense to share my failures with you. I’m sharing it with you because there’s a lesson to be learned. A lesson that you can apply to any aspect of your health, but especially for those of us 40+ folks who are looking to have a healthy weight.

The first step to making any change in life is letting go of our past habits and beliefs.

Elsa from Frozen has it right – let it go! Even Oprah is talking about letting it go in her O Magazine this month.

Letting go of past habits, no matter how much evidence we have that they aren’t working for us, is difficult. This is especially true when you want to lose weight and you’ve been on diets in the past that haven’t worked. It’s amazing how often clients hire me because they’re at their heaviest ever, yet they’re still doing habits from past diets. Diets that obviously haven’t worked (at least long-term). Or, the diets worked when young, but they don’t work for us 40+ folks.

The most difficult step in losing weight in middle-age is letting go of past habits. Giving up things like:

  • Weighing yourself daily.
  • Counting calories.
  • Writing down every morsel that you eat.
  • Eating zero carbs.
  • Aiming for a magical number on the scale from your 20’s – pre-busy life, pre-kids, etc.
  • Denying yourself the pleasure of favourite foods.
  • Nutrition mis-information that you’ve accepted as fact.

You see, when people come to me they are hardly blank slates. What I’ve found is that once people let go of these past habits, weight loss follows. I’d call it magic if I wasn’t so science-based.

So I leave you with an important question: what do you need to let go of in order to achieve your happy weight?

Bust through nutrition mis-information with my e-newsletter (recipes too). Click here now.

Should I Take a Multivitamin?

should-i-take-a-multivitamin

I write this blog to be of service to you. So I love it when readers write in with topic ideas. What’s on your mind that I can answer? I want to thank the community member who asked me to address: should I take a multivitamin. Here’s what I think about multivitamins.

First I need to tell you that when it comes to nutrition, one size doesn’t fit all. We each have different nutrition needs – based on our sex, age, physical activity, health concerns, etc. And, our eating habits vary widely. That’s why for my 40 Days to a Happy, Healthy You weight loss program, the first thing I do is a nutrition assessment of you. It’s from the results of my nutrition assessment that I create your individual action plan. So, without doing an individual nutrition assessment, I can’t really answer whether you, specifically as an individual you, should take a multivitamin.

However, I can share my thoughts on multivitamins for adults in general for you to consider.

I do recommend a daily multivitamin if you’re a woman of childbearing age.

Who is that? Girls and women from first period to last period. The reason is that it’s estimated that 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. Also, the risk of spina bifida is greatly reduced (although not 100% preventable) when women take 400 micrograms of folic acid (also called folate) in those first few days of pregnancy (i.e. before most women know that they’re pregnant). An unplanned pregnancy can be stressful enough. An unplanned pregnancy with a child who has a significant medical condition that could have been prevented – significantly more stressful. Even if you don’t ever get pregnant, folate is a B-vitamin that’s good for our own health too.

Sure, you could take folate on it’s own. But multivitamins designed for women under 50 will have 400 micrograms of folic acid in them. Getting some extra vitamins and minerals (e.g. iron, calcium) along with your folic acid is probably a good thing.

I do recommend a daily multivitamin for women and men 50 and up.

Why? For the vitamin B12. At first, low B12 causes you to feel tired, lethargic, dragging. Often people think that they may be feeling this way because they have low iron. But it’s rare for men to have low iron. And, it’s rare for women who aren’t menstruating to have low iron. If your vitamin B12 levels get even lower, it causes permanent cognitive impairment. Let me repeat and clarify that. If your B12 levels get too low, you get memory loss that doesn’t return even if you raise your B12 levels back up again. Yikes! Why the concern after 50 years old? After 50, many of us have a decreased ability to absorb the vitamin B12 that we get through food. This is particularly true if you take medications for acid reflux (heart burn), and is a side-effect of a number of other medications. Getting vitamin B12 in the form of a supplement doesn’t require the same stomach function as vitamin B12 through food. We don’t have recommendations on how much you should get in a supplement. It’s somewhere around 2.4 micrograms daily.

Sure, you could take vitamin B12 on it’s own. Some people choose to get vitamin B12 shots (injections). But multivitamins designed for adults 50+ have vitamin B12 in them. Getting some extra vitamins and minerals (e.g. calcium) along with your vitamin B12 is probably a good thing.

What if I’m not in those two groups?

Then I don’t have strong feelings either way about whether you should take a multivitamin.

Want to know more about what vitamins you, as an individual, should take? Check out my Individual Nutritional Assessment Service (including individual action plan) today.

Tackle your emotional eating this #NutritionMonth

emotional eating

Does a big slab of chocolate cake make you feel better after a really bad day? Do you turn to carbs for comfort? It’s common to use food as a way to make yourself feel better when you are sad, angry, stressed or tired. But there are better ways than emotional eating to deal with those feelings.

[Note: In the spirit of full transparency, this is my personal take on a blog post created by Dietitians of Canada in honour of Nutrition Month. This post hit close to home with my experience with clients I help with my 40 Days to a Happy Healthy You weight loss program, so I knew I had to share it with you].

I often work with clients who identify with this problem. Whether you are dealing with stress eating, mindless snacking or using food as comfort, this year’s Nutrition Month 2017 campaign has a solution. Plug your problem into their three-step approach to Take the Fight out of Food. Here’s an example of how it works.

Emotional Eating: Spot the Problem

Jamie works full-time while raising a family and has a typical busy lifestyle. He turns to food for comfort when he is stressed at work or frustrated at home. He wants to learn better eating habits.

Emotional Eating: Get the Facts

Jamie hears about me. He learns that craving food when he’s stressed instead of hungry is called emotional eating. We work together to spot the patterns in his behaviour and identify his triggers, such as:

  • Craving foods that are high in calories, fat and sugar (his weakness is bags of chips - especially at night)
  • Eating too much without realizing it
  • Feeling even more stress and anxiety after eating too much

Jamie learns about mindful eating as a way to manage his emotional eating habits. Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating using all senses: really seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling and feeling food. So instead of eating a whole bag of chips when he’s stressed, he can learn to be more mindful of his choice – perhaps eat a smaller portion and enjoy every bite, or choose a more nutritious snack.

Mindful eating can help him become more aware of the reason why he’s eating. It will teach him to eat when he’s hungry and stop when he feels full. Jamie learns that with my help, he can become more aware of his emotional and physical responses to food. With practice, he can manage his stress-related eating and pay more attention in the present moment when he’s making food choices.

Instead of turning to comfort food, he can learn to fight stress by doing something he enjoys, such as taking his dog for a walk, playing street hockey with his kids, reading a book or cooking.

Emotional Eating: Seek Support

Jamie finds lots of help from his dietitian - that's me. :)

Crave-Worthy Healthy Recipes

Crave chocolate when stressed? Check out these recipes for healthy chocolate treats: Chocolate mint whip and chocolate chia pudding.

Don't Monitor Your Body

dont-monitor-your-body

Ok, I admit that I’ve been procrastinating on writing this post for a couple of weeks now. I feel compelled to address this topic. Because it’s absolutely fundamental to being healthy. To having a healthy relationship with food, a healthy relationship with your body, being a healthy eater.

It’s something that I know as truth. But I’m struggling to articulate the concept clearly. I’ve been procrastinating until I have the perfect words to express it. Did you notice that I didn’t send you a message last week? Yup, I was deep in procrastination.

Why am I procrastinating so badly? Because it’s such an important concept that I want to communicate it clearly and you’ll understand completely.

The perfect words have not revealed themselves to me. Yet. However, I feel compelled to act. I can no longer keep this concept to myself. Or, shall I more accurately say, keep this concept between myself and the clients who work with me one-to-one in my 40 Days to a Happy, Healthy You program.

So here I go with my attempt to communicate this truth with you. And what I’ve decided to do is share with you, each Friday on Facebook, others who I see are walking on this path too. For clarification. For inspiration. Because maybe I don’t have the perfect words to express this to you. Maybe one of these other folks will create the “ah-ha” moment for you.

So what’s this concept that has me so worked up that my perfectionistic tendencies have me paralyzed?

Experience your body. Don’t observe it.

As women in our culture, we’re so disconnected from our bodies. We’re taught that our bodies are something to observe, to monitor, to control. How do we know what our bodies are doing? We weigh ourselves on a scale. We look at ourselves in a mirror. We read the labels on our clothes to see what the size is. We write down what we eat (on paper or in an app). We wear trackers to count our steps, to record our heart rate.

NO! Our bodies are our selves. They aren’t something separate from us. They ARE us. Mind-BODY-soul, that’s what makes a human being. Okay, you may not believe in souls, but the mind and body are still there. How can we know what our bodies are doing? We’re aware while we’re doing it. We feel emotions. We feel sensations. The concept of mindfulness captures this, except it’s named badly. Because I want you to get out of your mind and connect with your body. Perhaps it should be called “experience-fulness”.

Want to see “experience-fulness” in action? Watch a baby dance to music. They aren’t thinking “step left, step right, I know my body will look attractive if I bend in this direction”. They aren’t thinking at all. They’re feeling the music, experiencing the music, enjoying the music, and their body responds.

Consider the flip-side that I see so often when working with women.

When I’m working with women, the hardest things for them to do is to stop weighing themselves every day and stop writing down what they eat every day. They hold on to these so tightly because how else will they know if they’re being “good”, doing the “right” thing? The answer is so obvious, yet so different from what we’ve been trained to do. Take the actions that I’ve given them in their action plan. If they did them (i.e. experienced it), then they’ll know that they were “good”, did the “right” thing. The action-taking, the experience, is the proof – not some monitor.

Or, take for example the phrase that I hear women say so often: “I forgot to eat today.” NO! Eating isn’t a cognitive thing. Remembering to pick up the dry cleaning is a cognitive thing. You can forget to pick up the dry cleaning. You body sends you the feeling of being hungry to stimulate you to eat. You can’t forget to eat. You can disconnect yourself from your body’s sensations and not eat.

Liberate yourself from the shackles of monitoring your body to experience the joy of health.

P.S. Join me in Facebook for inspiration.

Remove this Sentence to Keep Away Your Diet Self-Saboteur

keep away your diet self-saboteur

Okay, fair warning. It’s rant time. I’ve got something stuck in my craw again and I’m throwing off my sunshine & rainbows positivity hat and going deep.

There’s a sentence that I hear people say when they’re talking about food. People say it all the time. But just because people say it frequently, it doesn’t mean that it’s true.

So, what’s this phrase that has me all hot and bothered?

“I can’t have that.”

Unless you have a serious food allergy and will go in to analphyactic shock, you can eat a food. But you may choose not to eat it.

If you’re vegan, you choose not to eat animal products because of your ethics. If you are Jewish, you may choose to eat kosher because of your faith. If you have food sensitivities, you choose to avoid eating those foods because you are choosing to avoid the symptoms that they cause. If you are on a diet/cleanse/meal plan that doesn’t allow certain foods, you are choosing to follow that diet/cleanse/meal plan.

Why am I going on and on about something that just seems like minor semantics? Because the way we think about food, also called our relationship with food, can either help us be healthy or it can work against us. Changing “can’t” into “choose” is one path to creating a healthy relationship with food.

There are two reasons why saying “I can’t have that” works against you:

  1. We’re all rebels. Making something taboo, off limits, a ‘can’t-have’ naturally drives us towards it. There’s nothing to make you want to eat ice cream more than to say that you’ll never eat it again. Saying, “no thank you, I don’t choose to have ice cream today” doesn’t trigger your inner self-saboteur in the same way.
  2. Be active in your life. “I choose” is active language. It’s empowering – you’ve made a choice. It re-confirms a commitment that you’ve made. In contrast, “I can’t” is victim language. Something is being done to you. As an adult, you have the power to choose what you eat and when you eat it. Don’t give away your power. You can turn to experts to give you advice on what to eat, but the ultimate choice, responsibility, power, remains with you. Foster this power. Each time you say “I choose _______” you are reinforcing your power.

With your newly opened eyes (and ears), read the two responses in the following scenario. Even better, read them aloud. Can you hear the difference? Can you feel the difference?

Scenario: Someone offers you a tray of cookies.

You respond: “No thank you. I’m choosing to eat less sugar.”

versus

“I’d love a cookie but I can’t have one.”

Keep away your diet self-saboteur – remove “I can’t” from your lexicon.

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Choose Food for What IS in It

choose food for what is in it

Choosing food for what isn’t in it has been the gateway to a whole lot of ridiculous food trends. I’m old enough to remember when everyone was talking about avoiding eating cholesterol. Like weeds, up sprung “cholesterol-free” labels on all sorts of foods in the grocery store. Highly processed foods like cookies, crackers, sugary breakfast cereals all had “cholesterol-free” emblazoned across them. People heard that cholesterol meant heart attacks so choosing low-cholesterol foods must be healthy choices. Right? Boy were people wrong. These foods were just as unhealthy as they were before they were marked with “cholesterol-free”. What’s worse, is that many people were happily scarfing down huge portions of these foods because they were cholesterol-free.

An example of this type of thinking/ behaviour: before, I might have had a couple of handfuls of potato chips but now I can eat an entire large bag because they’re cholesterol-free.

It sounds ridiculous when I break it down this way but it was happening. A lot. A particularly amusing label that I remember was bananas sporting “cholesterol-free” stickers. Why is this amusing? Because cholesterol is a fat made by some animals. That’s why it’s found in red meat…and us. Bananas, are a fruit (not an animal). They never did contain cholesterol. Bananas hadn’t changed. But here they were now labeled “cholesterol-free” and people were flocking to them.

I’m seeing this now with the gluten-free trend. “Gluten-free” is announced across all sorts of foods. Many of which never contained any gluten in the first place (thus, like bananas and cholesterol). These foods range from healthy choices to unhealthy choices. People are choosing them because “gluten-free” now equals “healthy” in many people’s minds. But the presence or absence of gluten has nothing to do with it. A chocolate cupcake isn’t a healthy choice suddenly because it’s gluten-free. It’s still a treat to be enjoyed once in a while – not by the dozen.

I’m not commenting on whether eating cholesterol was healthy or unhealthy. Nor whether people should eat or avoid gluten. That’s completely beside that point. What I want to draw your attention to is that when you choose foods for what isn’t in them, you leave yourself at risk for falling for these marketing traps.

Instead I want you to turn it completely upside down. Choose food for what IS in it. Your body needs to be nourished. You need to fuel it with good food and all the vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, energy and other nutrients that it needs. Make most of what you eat be foods close to the way that Mother Nature made them (i.e. minimally processed) where all the good stuff hasn’t been removed through processing. Sometimes enjoy foods that you eat solely for pleasure.

Respect food for what it can offer. Respect your body and feed it well. Yes, in a world where we’re almost constantly told to hate our bodies, this act of choosing to nourish yourself can feel like a small act of rebellion. And so, I say it again:

Choose food for what IS in it. You’re worth it.

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Truth or Myth: Eating at Night Makes you Fat

eating at night fat

One of the myths that seems to have real staying power is that eating after 7pm will make you fat. I can’t tell you how many times people “confess” their eating “sin” to me that while they try not to eat after 7pm, they just can’t stop. I have good news for you. There isn’t anything magical that happens at 7pm. We aren’t Cinderella – our metabolism doesn’t turn back into a pumpkin when the clock strikes 7pm. (Sorry, couldn't resist using the pumpkin analogy there - I'm writing this on Hallowe'en afterall).

Hey, I understand why this myth persists. People love to learn that there is a simple, all-powerful reason why they can’t seem to lose weight. That there’s some secret that slim people know.

What’s more, when the so-called “simple” secret is unattainable for most of us, it empowers the diet industry by feeding in to the dieting-shame-guilt cycle that most women are stuck in. I.e., it’s your fault that you can’t organize your life well enough to eat before 7pm. And, you’re too weak to have the willpower to not eat again afterwards.

I have good news. Eating at night doesn’t make you fat.

If it did, every single person in Spain would be obese. Their tradition is to eat late at night. Last month in Barcelona, Granada, and Gran Canaria, I was amazed to see families with young children (we’re talking toddlers and preschoolers) out eating at cafes at 11pm.

Now me saying that doesn’t give you free reign to sit on the couch for hours every night mindlessly scarfing down entire bags of popcorn, chips and candy. Because that habit will cause weight gain. But it’s not the time on the clock that’s the problem here. Mindlessly eating loads of junk food day after day isn’t a healthy habit no matter what time the clock says.

So, what’s the solution? The solution depends on the root cause of your night-time hunger. First, do a little self-assessment. Why might you be hungry at night? It’s likely not your lack of willpower. There are a number of reasons. Some include:

  • We humans digest food and naturally become hungry again in about 4 hours. So, if you eat dinner at 6pm and you go to bed at 11pm, you likely will be hungry around 9:30-10pm.
  • If you watch TV, all the food ads will stimulate you to want to eat.
  • If you have skipped meals, or made some common eating mistakes earlier in the day, you may be experiencing rebound low blood sugar (which causes cravings for high-salt, high-fat, high-sugar, highly processed foods).
  • If your days are constant stress and you don’t have a lot of tools in your self-care toolbox, you may be craving comfort foods as a method of self-care.
  • If you live alone, you may be eating out of boredom and loneliness. (See note above re: comfort food and self-care).
  • Our bodies are amazing at learning patterns. You may have a learned association of eating at night even if you aren’t hungry.

Understanding these common causes of out-of-control eating at night, you can see how these are some steps to take to turn things around:

  • Don’t sweat it if it’s after 7pm by the time you get home from work/ the kids’ extra-curricular activities and get a healthy dinner on the table. Drop the guilt over how you’ve “failed” because you can’t make it all happen before 7pm. There is no problem with eating your dinner after 7pm. Instead, offer yourself a huge “congratulations” for making it all happen!
  • If you eat earlier and there will be more than 4 hours between dinner and bedtime, plan a healthy snack. It’s a great opportunity for a serving of vegetables or fruit paired with some protein-rich foods. An apple and cheese is a favourite evening snack of mine. So is edamame with raw carrots.
  • Turn off the TV. Choose other activities to wind down at night.
  • Build up your self-care toolkit.

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Is Your Cereal as Healthy as You Think?

is-your-cereal-as-healthy-as-you-think

Is your cereal as healthy as you think? Lots of cereals that are marketed as healthy don’t have a lot going for them. They’re marketed for what they don’t have in them, “low fat”, “low calorie”, etc. Many famous "healthy" cereals fall into this category. Many people are surprised to find out that their favourite cereal is actually contributing to their weight gain.

Instead of choosing a cereal for what it doesn’t have in it, I want you to choose your breakfast for what it does have in it. Choose to nourish your body instead of depriving it.

One of the most common things that I do when working with people is change their breakfast. You will likely benefit from changing your breakfast if you:

  • Find yourself hungry again by 10am (and looking longingly at those donuts and croissants).
  • Crave sugar mid-afternoon.

Choose a breakfast that naturally has lots of fibre so that it is slowly digested. Grains and pseudograins that are minimally processed have most of their fibre attached. Puffed cereals are digested quickly. Flakes are digested at a medium pace. Look for intact grains that take lots of chewing. Steel-cut oats are a fantastic example. So is making a cereal out of quinoa or buckwheat.

Ready to take your breakfast bowl up another notch? Or, not ready to switch cereals but want to reap the benefits of a healthier breakfast? Help your breakfast last longer by adding nuts and seeds (or their butters). Their protein and healthy fats will help you digest your breakfast even slower, keeping you full longer.

An example of a breakfast that has all this (and tastes delicious too) is overnight oats. Discovering overnight oats changed my mornings - I no longer crave muffins and pastries mid-morning.

Looking for more characteristics of a healthy breakfast, check out this article.

The Perfect Afternoon Snack (for Adults)

The Perfect Afternoon Snack (for Adults)

It’s not just kids who need snacks. We adults need them too. Today I'm sharing the perfect afternoon snack for us adults. Why? It takes approximately four hours to digest food and start getting hungry again. Planning a healthy snack between lunch and dinner can prevent that late afternoon hungry-angry feeling (commonly called ‘hangry’). ‘Hangry’ is created by low blood sugar. Your low blood sugar will also cause you to search out (i.e. crave) sugary, fatty, salty foods. It’s a natural reaction, not a lack of will power.

The secret to healthy eating is prevention. Prevent becoming ‘hangry’ (and heading straight to the convenience store for processed foods) by planning a healthy snack before you get to that point.

So what’s the perfect snack? In truth, there isn’t just one perfect snack – one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to nutrition. Here are the elements of three styles of snacks. One of which will likely be the perfect fit for you.

The Perfect Snack Option 1: Just Produce

This is best if you have a relatively short time between lunch and dinner. Or, if you are very sedentary and don’t need any more calories from a larger snack. A piece of fruit or some raw veggies may be just enough to tie you over for about an hour until dinner.

The Perfect Snack Option 2: Produce + Protein

This more substantial snack provides both some quicker energy from the fruit and veggies and some longer, slower burning energy to keep you going for a few hours. This is my personal mid-afternoon snack. Here are some fantastic combinations to use as inspiration:

  • Strawberries and edamame
  • Carrot sticks/ baby carrots and hummus
  • Apple slices spread with almond butter

The Perfect Snack Option 3: Produce + Protein + Whole Carbs

This option is so substantial that it’s practically a mini-meal. Most of us don’t need this much food at snack time. But if you’re very active and/or in your young 20’s, it might be a good fit for you. Some ideas for inspiration:

  • Smashed avocado on rye crackers with a handful of cashews
  • Natural peanut butter and banana sandwich made on sprouted grain bread.

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.

4 Ways to Stop Cravings

4 Ways to Stop Cravings

I received a request to address cravings. Now the community member didn’t specify what she was craving. But I’m assuming that it was high fat, sugar, salt foods. Because it’s highly unlikely that her craving for kale concerned her enough to reach out :) The scientific literature doesn’t have a very thorough understanding of cravings – why we get them or what they mean. So, I’m going to share with you 4 ways to stop cravings: two ways to stop cravings from the literature and two ways that I’ve discovered in my life.  

4 Ways to Stop Cravings: Sleep Deprived

This is a surprising cause of cravings. But there is evidence that the more sleep deprived we are, the more we seek out high fat, sugar, and salt foods. So if you want to get rid of cravings, create a plan to get more sleep. What can you take off your “to-do” list? Turn off that screen and hit the hay.

4 Ways to Stop Cravings: Going Too Long Between Meals and Snacks

When our blood sugar drops, we’re driven by our bodies towards high fat, sugar, and salt foods. Did you skip lunch and now you find yourself in the fast food restaurant on the way home from work? It’s because of a biological drive – not a lack of willpower. Don’t try to work against Mother Nature; you won’t succeed. Instead, eat when you’re just starting to get hungry. For most people this is approximately every 4 hours. Now this doesn’t mean all-day grazing. But, it may mean planning and eating a healthy afternoon snack to prevent the afternoon trip to the vending machine.

4 Ways to Stop Cravings: Increasing Protein and Decreasing Sugar at Breakfast

I was always a toast with jam for breakfast kind of woman. But I also always craved candy every afternoon. A couple of years ago I switched my breakfast to plain yogurt, usually Greek, topped with hemp hearts and fruit. This winter I’ve been on the overnight oats bandwagon, adding this to my yogurt mixture. I’ve found that my craving for sweets has gone from daily to a couple of times a month. Which is a huge change! Switch up you breakfast and see if it decreases your cravings.

4 Ways to Stop Cravings: Have Other Tools in Your Emotional Care Toolbox

Often we crave high fat, sugar, and salt foods as a way of numbing our emotions. I became such a cliché after my divorce, literally drowning my sorrows in tubs of ice cream. You don’t need to be a dietitian to know that a couple of tubs a week isn’t healthy. So I decided to create other ways to take care of my emotions. Now I have a lot of tools in my toolbox. Tools like a gratitude practice, yoga, surfing, trail running, art therapy, and the occasional tub of ice cream. Ask yourself the tough question of whether you’re really craving that food because you don’t want to deal with difficult emotions. Take the time to develop alternative tools to take care of yourself.

Have you found effective ways to stop cravings? I'd love you to share them in the comments section below!