The Key to an Abundant & Free Life

The Key to an Abundant & Free Life

Hi guys! Today I have the privilege of sharing a post from my friend and the founder of livinglikegolden, Sarah Johannesen. I asked Sarah to share her story with finding food and body freedom in Christ, and guys it’s so good— Enjoy!

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Pregnancy and body image with baby number 2

Pregnancy and body image with baby number 2

I keep joking with my husband that this baby wants to make sure I experience ALL of the classic pregnancy symptoms I didn’t have with my first. Seriously: nausea, constipation, fatigue, and some other weird features I won’t mention here.

For the most part, my pregnancy with Judah was smooth sailing: hardly any nausea, regular visits to the chiropractor (ahem, my husband) and an overall even energy level. Of course, Judah was born 10 days late— a sanctifying experience that deserves a whole separate post in itself.

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Body Image: Why Connection Matters

Body Image: Why Connection Matters

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a body image workshop for clinicians in Chicago with Marci Evans and Fiona Sutherland (two complete all-stars in the world of dietetics and body image healing - yes I am fan girling). I learned so much from them over the two days, I'm still unpacking it all (and likely will be for next month or two!) BUT there was one takeaway message that hit me hard early on and has stuck with me since. This is it: Body image is extremely complex and very closely tied to our sense of connection.

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Is It Wrong to Want to Lose Weight?

Is It Wrong to Want to Lose Weight?

Is It wrong to want to lose weight? I find a lot of people asking this question after they learn about the non-diet approach. In an effort to eradicate the message that you HAVE to lose X lbs to be healthier or look a certain way to be accepted, the anti-diet messaging may make people feel guilty for wanting to lose weight.

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The dirty work of renewing your mind: truth mantras for health

true health mantras

A lot of what I currently do as a dietitian has far more to do with changing beliefs than food choices. If you'd asked me 6 or 7 years ago what I'd be doing in my private practice, I probably would have told you something like, "giving nutrition education, creating meal plans and keeping people accountable to their goals." And that's all great, but it's not the bulk of what I do, exactly.

Early on in my work, I found out that giving long winded explanations about human physiology and the functional components of food and then handing clients a perfectly tailored and calculated meal plan was effective about 0.1% of the time. 

What I figured out was that people often don't need to be told what foods to eat and what healthy behaviors to implement. They might need help making a few targeted adjustments and setting goals for themselves that are appropriate and manageable. But most of us are well aware of what things we "should" be doing for a healthy life: sleep, stress reduction, hydration, adequate nutrition, movement.  We've probably even read a couple books on the matter. There's a time and a place for nutrition education and therapeutic changes, but what most of us need is a mindset shift.

Focusing on healthy behavior doesn't necessarily change our unhealthy beliefs, but focusing on changing our beliefs most certainly impacts our behaviors. It follows then, that If we want new behaviors, we need to do the hard work of changing our beliefs. It's not easy, but if we're consistent and diligent, things will change. We can't always control what happens around us, but we CAN, however, control what we believe.

On any given day, at any given time our mind is constantly filled with thoughts. Sometimes, when life is chaotic there could be hundreds of thoughts streaming through our head, and at other times, when we're present in the moment and at peace, it's easy to recognize and organize each individual thought as it comes. We can't always control the thoughts that pop into our head, but we can decide whether we will blindly believe  and accept them or whether we will challenge and replace them. This is the dirty work of renewing our minds, challenging false beliefs, lies that if left unchecked, often result in more damaging beliefs and behaviors. These untruths limit us from tapping into all that we're meant to be, and if we aren't careful, can make us feel like victims, helpless to change our lives.

When it comes to beliefs about our worth, health, body, food & exercise choices, we tend to latch on to some sneaky, but insidious lies. Here are some common ones:

Lies about our worth & identity:

I am more valuable if I look a certain way

My identity is found in my pursuit of healthy eating & exercise

I am more valuable if more people accept, love and praise me

Lies about our health & body:

My health is determined by my weight and body size

If I don't focus and prioritize eating & exercise my health will deteriorate

I can't trust my body to stay healthy

My body's appearance is why people do/don't like me

Lies about food & exercise:

If I eat this food, I am being bad or good

I am a better or worse person for exercising or not exercising a certain way

This high calorie, less nutritious food will make me gain weight and develop ___ disease

I can't be trusted around ___ food

Just writing all those out is difficult. They seem ridiculous on paper, but yet they're so common! And it's okay if you have these thoughts, it doesn't make you less than. We all have thoughts like this. It's what we choose to do with them that shapes us. It's unrealistic to say, "just stop thinking bad thoughts". No, we have to challenge and replace those lies with TRUTH.

When we consistently challenge a lie and remind ourself of truth, eventually we hear the lie less and less often. The key here is diligence and consistency. We have to be able to practice being present and mindful of the thoughts that are passing through our heads, and we need to be armed with mantras of truth to negate harmful thoughts. Here are some of my favorite mantras to combat those common lies above. Some of them are scripture and some are not, hopefully you'll find one or two that resonate with you.

Truth Mantras about worth & identity

My worth is inherent, my value is not determined by people or performance

I am fearfully and wonderfully made

I was uniquely designed for a purpose that I can fulfill just as I am now

I am a daughter/son of God, my worth was established at the cross when Jesus died for me, imperfections and all.

Truth Mantras about health & body

My health is not determined by my weight or body size

Kind & gracious words are life to the body, I will be kind to myself.

One choice, one day or week does not define the course of my life.

My body can be trusted, it's job is to keep me healthy. 

I am much more than a body, and my body is the least interesting thing about me.

Health is so much more than food and exercise, it's caring for myself, mind, body, and spirit.

God is my ultimate healer, provider and comfort.

Truth Mantras about food & exercise

Food is food. It's meant to be enjoyed & to provide nourishment. It's not good or bad, it's simply meant to assist me in doing far more important things.

Enjoying food and sharing food with others is a fun and important part of life.

I move my body in ways that make me feel good, strong and energized.

My body was designed to be smarter than calories.

Rest allows my body to fight stress and inflammation, to recover and be able to continue to do the things that matter to me.

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Putting in the imperfect work

Choose a mantra that hits home with you. Write it somewhere where you will see it. When you can, practice saying it aloud. Speaking a thing aloud that is contrary to our current behavior and beliefs creates cognitive dissonance which often makes us change our thoughts and behaviors to align with the mantra! So cool! 

This work is not easy, in fact it's pretty hard, but it's important and it's effective. You won't be perfect at first, there will be times when thoughts slip through, but the more you practice taking every thought captive and aligning it to the truth, the easier it will become!

I hope this was helpful to you guys. If you have a mantra that you cling to, I'd love to hear it below! Until next time, happy fueling and stay nourished :) 



What is Grace Fueled Eating

Not too long ago I changed my Instagram username from @fueltoperform to @gracefueled_rd (the grace fueled dietitian), and while it might not have been a huge deal to the outside world, it was a significant move for me. Even though it's just a social media username, it reflects something bigger, it reflects my philosophy as a practitioner. Hopefully, if you've been following along with me on social media and/or you know me in person, you're aware that my faith is very important to me and that it colors everything in my life, including my work. This doesn't mean that I don't respect people with different beliefs or that I don't work with people who aren't Christians, but I think in order to understand my approach to eating, it's helpful to know where it comes from.

You see, I encourage people to act and live from a place of grace and trust--for eating, living and moving, to give grace and have trust for their health and their happiness. It might sound woo-woo, but the principles of this grace fueled eating (as I call it) are backed by reliable research. Besides that, these principles set people free from food worries, guilt, yo-yo dieting, and poor body image. 

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So what is grace-fueled eating? It's a way of eating that recognizes that food is not the real answer to, nor the cause of our problems. Grace fueled eating is not the perfect way of eating, because there is NO perfect way of eating. Grace fueled eating is similar to attuned eating, normal eating and intuitive eating. Only, I emphasize grace to help us remember that by grace we have been set free from having to be perfect, free from striving for position and recognition. We are already worthy and free to live a life of love and purpose. By God's grace, at the cross, Jesus redeemed our lives and set us free to shift our focus from laws to His love. We aren't made worthy by any work of our own, but by the fact that He loves us. There is now no food that can make you unclean, "for everything God made is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving." (1 Timothy 4:4). 

In fact, it's God's will that we live an abundant life of freedom and purpose, but we can't do this if we are constantly condemning and judging ourselves for food, exercise and weight.

So like most intuitive eating dietitians, I totally agree that we have to stop attaching morality to food, condemning ourselves for eating one way or praising ourselves for eating another way -- it only leads to guilt and an unhealthy obsession with food and our body. But even though the food we eat has nothing to do with our morality that's not to say the way we eat isn't related to our soul. In fact our soul, which is the immortal part of us -- our mind, intellect, will and emotions--is certainly intertwined with our physical health and the way that we eat. 

Grace fueled eating recognizes that certain aspects of the soul--mindset, body-image, self-confidence, purpose, identity and emotions--play a huge role in how we fuel and care for our bodies. Whereas the exact foods that we eat play a much smaller role in our total health than we realize. Turmoil in these aspects of our soul may outwardly manifest in a disordered relationship with food. When this happens we only see the end result, the symptom of inward unrest (not the cause), and we tend to blame the food.

In reality, a disordered relationship with food and exercise might jus be a signal for us that some unhealthy and untrue beliefs are festering on the inside, and that maybe it's time to have a new thought. Notice I did NOT say that our relationship with food said anything about our soul's fate after we die, whether or not we are worthy, loved, etc, it doesn't--just that it may be a sign that we aren't living the abundant life we're meant for.

So the good and exciting news it that our wrong beliefs about food and about ourselves can be changed overtime with some knowledge, a little practice and a lot of grace, trust and compassion. 

With this truth as our foundation, grace fueled eating means:

1. Realizing that diets DO NOT WORK and actually only harm in the long run. Diets include anything that causes you to micromanage what kinds of foods you eat, how much you eat or how much you exercise in an attempt to "control your body" or "manipulate your body size". Literally when it comes to weight loss, research proves time and time again that diets don't work and may actually cause the opposite effect. Besides weight loss, there are sneaky food laws and eating rules that mascarade as the answer to perfect health.  These too, don't work for weight loss, often aren't research based for promoting health and may actually cause harm to our relationship with food and our self-worth.

2. Making peace with food and understanding that it is good, that EVERY food group was made to be enjoyed and used for our nourishment. And that no one food can make us lose our health or condemn us to a life of disease. 

3. Making peace with your body and caring for it -- not through starving it or restricting certain foods -- but through feeding it when hungry, listening to it, giving it gentle, enjoyable movement. This also means letting go of trying to control your body size and allowing it to come to its natural size (which typically occurs over time when we remove the wrong beliefs and start giving ourselves permission to eat what we need)

4. Learning and practicing helpful nutrition habits. Wanting to be healthy and feed your body with nutrient rich foods is not a bad thing. It just has to come from a place of peace and trust. Grace fueled eating means you can nourish your body well while still realizing that there is no perfect way of eating, and that God is our ultimate healer, comforter and provider. It allows room for flexibility making it more sustainable than all-or-nothing styles of eating (like with dieting, strict meal planning or food rules). 

This is where a lot of the knowledge and training I received as a Registered Dietitian comes into play. By teaching you how to incorporate helpful, evidence based nutrition habits, my aim is always to make nourishing your bodies less stressful, more enjoyable, simple and sustainable--in a world where a lot of the nutrition guidance we receive does the exact opposite of this.

Nutrition is not as complicated as we have made it out to be, and that's coming from someone who spent years and years studying it and thousands and thousands of dollars attaining degrees and certifications in it! The really hard work begins with changing our mindset about food and ourselves. In my practice, I help people both restore a normal positive relationship with eating and exercise and implement simple, beneficial nutrition habits that help them live their lives nourished and free to think, love and do what they were called to do. This is my passion, MY "called to do" thing. If this is something you are interested in, I'd love to work with you. One-on-one nutrition counseling is where we really get to break down strongholds and set you on a path towards nourishing your body well.

Since I know that not everyone can afford one-on-one nutrition counseling, I am designing an online course on grace fueled eating to help you cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body, as well as learn the research proven tactics for nourishing your body well. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, please leave me your email below and I will notify you when it's launched!



The Opposite of Controlling Your Diet

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of control lately, especially as it relates to my own desire for control over the situations and people in my life. Like anything new that I learn, the concept keeps smacking me over the head everywhere I go, in books and posts that I read, in conversations I have, and in messages that I listen to.  In other words, this post has been a long time coming.

As a non-diet dietitian, I consistently encounter people who are rigidly managing their diet, weight and exercise in the name of health. But if we’re honest with ourselves, a lot of our “healthy habits” are just another way to get our control fix.

Many of us are terrified of releasing this control—we’re afraid of what it might say about us. We’re afraid it means we’re giving up on our health, happiness, identity, etc.. But the opposite of control is not giving up—it’s trust.

The opposite of controlling your diet

What we’re essentially saying when we seek control is,” I don’t trust that I can be happy, healthy, well-adjusted without micromanaging this thing.” Sometimes it’s “I don’t trust my body or my intuition to have my best interest.” But other times, it has nothing to do with our physical health.  Maybe it’s, “I don’t trust this challenging situation to turn out for good, so I’m going to try controlling these other areas of my life.”

The beauty of intuitive eating is that is helps us foster trust in our body and in our selves. Often, this let's us see other areas of life where we’re attempting to have control. It gives us permission to start trusting for more than just our body’s physical appearance. It gives us an opportunity to exercise our faith in new ways.

So if you’re tired of constantly controlling what you eat and how you move, know that it’s okay to stop. You aren’t giving up on health; you’re giving up on a false illusion and hopefully, trading it in for trust and a simpler way of living. If this sounds like something you’d like to do but need some help with, I'd love to work with you. Head on over to the nutrition counseling page to check out my services or contact me to set up your free discovery call.

For all the scary uncontrollable areas of life, the good news is that if you trust in Jesus Christ, He promises to work all things for your good.  In my own experience, even when I wasn’t able to see it, He has always had a good plan for me. His control has always been better than mine, and faith has always produced more than my own forced efforts.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28

Conquering Body & Plate Comparison

Last week on Instagram I shared a little something that was on my mind about comparison. 

I was surprised by the messages I received and the amount of conversation this post triggered. But really, I shouldn't have been surprised at all. Comparison is a hot topic -- and while it's always been a vice for people throughout time (especially us women) -- it's particularly relevant in today's instant, over-share culture, where we can hardly turn on our phones without looking at an image of somebody else's "perfect life".  

As a body positive, intuitive eating dietitian, I promote confidence and health at every body size. I help clients settle into an individual eating pattern that allows them to feel their best, while enjoying nourishing & satisfying food. Comparison makes this process difficult, and it's something we often address in nutrition coaching sessions. Specifically there are two types of comparison that hinder progress on the journey to becoming a healthy eater: body plate comparison.

According to Merriam Webster, to compare is to examine the character or quality of, especially to discover similarities or differences. Comparing your body to someone else's will lead you to discover similarities and differences, because we are all different, yet we're all human.  Likewise, comparing what you eat to what someone else eats will show you that you eat differently than other people. Noticing our differences isn't an issue, but the assumptions we make from them can harm us. 

For example, noticing that someone else's body is smaller or more muscular than yours does not mean that they are healthier or happier than you. Yet we commonly make these assumptions without knowing a single thing about that person's thought life, physical health, or genetic makeup, and without knowing the things that person does each day to maintain their body.  Sometimes we look to Instagram or our friend's plate at dinner and take note of the foods other people eat or don't eat; if the way they eat doesn't match up with how we eat, we make assumptions and associations, associating the food they eat with their level of success, body shape, health, and happiness. But there are SO SO many factors that play into a person's health, and while food makes up a tiny portion of that, we never know the full picture of a person's life from the outside. 

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Further, just because some food is right for your friend or family member doesn't mean it's right for you. If you skip breakfast, work out on an empty stomach and are ravenous by lunch time, a salad is most likely NOT the right choice for you. But maybe your friend eats a big breakfast, doesn't work out and craves salad, and maybe salad is the right choice for them. There are countless reasons why you might need to eat differently than your friend including personal preference, food availability, allergies, energy demands, sickness, injury, etc.. If we're ever going to be comfortable and confident in our own skin and with our own eating, we have to recognize the individual nature of human beings and the unique food likes and needs of each person; we have to stop comparing and assuming.

But how do we stop doing this in a culture that breeds unhealthy comparison? I don't pretend to have it completely figured out. In fact, the only reason I can speak to this at all is because I've struggled with it myself. But, from my experience and the wisdom of better people, I've learned a few tactics for conquering body and plate comparison, and the harmful assumptions that come along with them. 

Set Social Media Boundaries

The first tactic against comparison is to filter what's allowed into your mind. Social media is wonderful for so many reasons, but I think we all know it can also be a source of envy leading to discontentment. Set boundaries on the blogs you read, the people you follow and the amount of time you spend on social media looking at other peoples "best selves". Unfollow people that make you feel like your body is less than or that you are good or bad for eating a certain way. Instead, follow people from varying professions and with different body types, expertise and passions.  If it concerns food and health, look for body positive, non-diet messages.

Finally, just because a certain post or blog is positive or good doesn't mean you have to read it/do it. Not all good things are good for you. If you spend all your time on social media, even if it is to read positive messages, you are bound to start comparing your walk with everyone else's, AND you're most likely missing out on doing those things in life that give you real meaning. Turning off notifications for Instagram, Facebook, etc. on your phone is one practical way to keep social media from sucking up all of your time.

Practice Gratitude & Grounding

Hack away at the root of discontentment by practicing gratitude for what you have. Write down 3 things each morning that you're thankful for. Bonus points for expressing gratitude for things your body can do.  Next, pay attention to the emotional highs and lows you feel each day. We want to be people unshaken by what we see, steady and grounded. Envision "holding your seat", no matter the situation, don't jump way out of your chair in the high moments or fall to the ground in the low moments, just stay seated, grounded.  When something happens in your own life or in someone else's that threatens to trip you up, remind yourself that you can only control your own reactions; It's the steady persistence in running your own race that leads to success. 

Know Your Values & Your Calling

On the subject of running your own race, it's important that you know who you are and what you're called to do. This way, no matter what somebody else is doing or what success they're achieving, you can come back to your values and refocus on your calling. I've often heard it said that your calling is where your gifts and passions align. But I'd take it farther, your calling and where you focus your time and energy is where your values, gifts and passions align. And let me just clarify, the pursuit of a "perfect" body is not a calling, it's a distraction.  

Are you unsure of what it is that makes you unique or what you're called to do. Don't worry; Start with what you value. Write down those things that you hope people will say of you when your life is over, maybe these are things that you admire in other people. Rank them from most important to least important. Begin to filter your thoughts and actions, aligning them with your values. For instance, if you say you value family first, but spend all your free time thinking about food, or scrolling through social media, comparing yourself to other people, do your actions and thoughts really align with that value?

Discover Your Individual Healthy Eating Pattern

Stop judging your eating based off of what other people are eating and instead work on discovering what foods you enjoy, what foods satisfy you and what foods make you feel your best. Instead of asking yourself, "what would So and So eat?", start asking "what am I hungry for and what do I need?". When you throw out the food rules and truly experience the freedom that comes with intuitive eating, you won't need to compare your eating to someone else's, you'll know what's best for you is what's best for you.

If you're interested in working towards this kind of relationship with food, head on over to my nutrition counseling page or click here to contact me and set up a free 15 minute phone consultation. 



Beating Winter Body Image Blues

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The week of Thanksgiving is when the chaos typically starts. Families in town, holiday get-togethers to attend, household chores and every day duties that refuse to be put on hold, and then someone inevitably gets a cold and you get it too. Suddenly the comfortable routine you set in the early fall months has gone right out the window. You look back and it’s been 3 weeks and you aren’t sure what you’ve actually accomplished.  Now it seems like the winter blues are knocking at the door just waiting to take up residence in your home until spring.

A part from the joy of the holidays, winter can be a kind of depressing time if you let it. The weather is cold and daylight is short. The stress of the holidays can run high and take a toll on your immunity. Colds, flus and other illnesses threaten to take all your time and energy. All of these things, combined with the very real physiological effects of cold weather and lack of sunlight, can contribute to low mood and even depression. In addition and related to this, body image is at an all time low for many people.

Even if you manage to make peace with food during the holidays, if you are able to enjoy all foods in moderation, honor your hunger and respect your fullness; If you’ve worked on replacing negative thoughts that say you’re good for eating one way and bad for eating another, winter time still puts you at risk for poor body image. And poor body image puts you at risk of falling for a quick-fix diet come January and a cycle of weight loss, gain, guilt and shame come February.  I’m guessing these things are not on your Christmas list…

But why is our body image so low in the winter months?? Aside from the increased rates of low mood and depression partially attributable to the lack of sunlight, we also have to contend with paler skin, natural weight fluctuations, and decreased physical activity.  Feeling a little down just reading this? Don’t worry, you can totally beat the winter body image blues, and I’ve got some tips on how below. But first, let’s address a couple of fallacies.

Fallacy # 1: People gain 7-10 lbs over the holidays

No. This is a random statistic the media came up with to scare people towards diets and weight loss products. Research published in the New England Journal of medicine looked at weight gain in America from before Thanksgiving until after the New Year (into March). The research actually found that the average weight gain was less than 1 lb.  So let’s just all take a deep breath and take that into perspective.

Fallacy # 2: Winter weight gain is unhealthy and you will keep the weight gained, forever.

Geeze people, let’s be a little more dramatic.  Okay but really, weight fluctuations are totally normal during the wintertime. According to a study done at Maastricht University in the Netherlands our metabolism increases during the colder months making us hungrier. Putting on a little weight or eating a little more is our body's way of making sure we have enough energy, considering it takes more energy to keep us warm. This doesn’t mean eat until you are stuffed because “Aubrey told me I use more energy in the winter”, no. It means continue eating when you are hungry and stopping when full – you can trust your appetite.

We’ve already mentioned the increased rate of colds/flus/yucky bugs during the winter months. Let’s not let the stress/fear of weight changes drag our immune system down.  Just rest and continue on your intuitive eating journey, trust the process.

Okay, so now that we’ve got that covered, what can we do to protect/improve our body image during the winter months? Here are 10 tips for just that:

10 Ways to Beat the Winter Body Image Blues

1. Buy winter clothes that fit and flatter you. Choose clothes that work for your body type and that you feel comfortable in right now. Beyond that, choose colors that flatter your skin tone (this is especially important in our ‘pastier’ months).

2. If you really don’t like being pale – try a sunless tanner. Here’ a list of 10 under $20 . You could also get a spray tan.

3. While we’re on the topic of sunlight, try to get some when you can, especially earlier in the day, but really whenever possible! Try going outside for a brisk walk during lunch for a double-punch of movement and vitamin D-soaked-rays.

4. About vitamin D – you knew I’d get there. You may consider taking a vitamin D supplement, especially if your levels are low. As I alluded to above, less sunshine means lower vitamin D levels and lower vitamin D may contribute to winter blues. I get mine from Trader Joes.

5.  Get up each morning, get dressed, and do your hair and/or makeup. There is truth to the saying “dress for success”.  Dressing up and just overall personal hygiene are surefire ways to make you feel better in your skin.

6. On that topic, for the ladies, try painting your nails. I don’t know why, but sometimes a little color on my fingernails makes me feel like a million bucks.

7.  Find an at-home workout video or program you love. I’ve mentioned these before, but I love Fitness Blender and Yoga with Adrienne (both free programs). You can also do paid programs as well (like beach body on demand and others, ask around). At-home workout videos are great to get you moving and feeling better in the wintertime. It can be hard to get outside and/or go to the gym in the dark and cold.

8. Try your hand at warm, nourishing soup and crockpot recipes. Warm foods are comforting and satisfying for the body and soul :) . Plus, learning how to prepare new recipes (or any new skill) increases self-confidence!

9. Take advantage of the increased in-doors time in the evenings to read a book, journal, start a Pinterest project, or just sip some warm tea and chat. The idea is to get your focus off of your body and onto new things, ideas and others.

10. Finally, go on coffee and lunch dates with friends or start a dinner club where you alternate host houses. Remember that other people are struggling with the winter blues too. Helping others is at the heart of getting our focus off of our body!

I'm interested to hear from you guys. How do you beat the winter body image blues??