Holiday Guide for Food Combinations and What to Avoid

A study was published that an average person is expected to gain 8 pounds during the holidays so now I have coined a new term!  Forget the Freshmen 15 – I am now going to call the holiday weight gain the Inevitable Eight!

Fear not – some of this weight gain can be due to water retention and bloating and this can be from combining the wrong foods together.  So here is a list of typical foods that you would normally eat during Christmas that may cause you to feel bloated, sluggish, and tired.

1)    Turkey and Roasted Potatoes

  • Protein and Starch – Avoid!

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Furthermore, turkey is typically full of stuffing that can be made of different starchy carbs that can also cause indigestion. Therefore, try to avoid mixing protein and starchy sides like mashed/roasted potatoes together as the digestive environment of your stomach cannot fully break down protein and starch when eaten at the same time.  Proteins digest best when acid levels are higher while starches digest best when alkaline levels are higher so when they are both in your stomach, your organ can never get alkaline or acidic enough to break down everything effectively.  This can lead to weight gain, bloating, gas, and fatigue!

2)    Fruit-Based Sauces ex. Cranberry with Protein (Turkey/Chicken)

  • Fruits are best eaten alone!

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According to food combination guides, fruits should always be eaten alone on an empty stomach.  This is because the simple sugars found in fruits are so easy to digest that they will not stay in your stomach long.  However, when you eat this food group along with other proteins, fats, and starches, the stomach now needs more digestive power to break down everything.  The fruit will then stay in your body for so long that the sugar will begin to ferment causing you to bloat.

3)    Antipasto Platters

  • Fruits, Meats, Carbs, and Dairy à Recipe for Disaster!

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A typical appetizer before the main meal for many but this is just plate of disaster for your digestion.  Again, fruits should be eaten alone.  Meats is best eaten with leafy vegetables and for many diets, anything with dairy is not suggested and the cheese on this platter is one of the most difficult foods to digest.  That is why many people are lactose intolerant and find themselves always bloated and feeling sick and they may not even be aware of their intolerance to dairy.  The casein found in dairy has also been found to increase the risk of cancer and the saturated fats found in this food group can lead to a greater risk of heart disease.

4)    Pies, Cakes, and Pastries

  • Dairy, Fruits, Saturated/Trans Fats, and Carbs – Need I say more?

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I know that pumpkin pie topped with loads of whipped cream or blueberry cheesecake looks delicious but these desserts can wreak havoc for your digestion and your waistline will definitely not thank you! I’m not saying avoid dessert in general but try to stick with the fruit platter after waiting a few hours post meal.  Again, bring or make your own dessert if you want to have a healthier alternative such as gelatin-based dishes!

5)    Seafood + Meat

  • Concentrate on One Protein!

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Your dish should have one concentrated protein so avoid mixing seafood, tofu, and meats all together as this will make your stomach work extra hard to break down everything.  Your stomach will be so busy trying to break down all these different meats that this can cause fatigue, crankiness, and bloating.

Counting the days till Christmas!! Good luck my lovely foodies!

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What to Eat First: Protein, Vegetables, or Carb?

The last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with how my body reacts to eating either protein or vegetables first.  I wanted to see if it would affect my digestion and whether eating either food groups first would decrease my bloating.

Let’s play out a few different scenarios…

Imagine you were me…

You sit down at the dinner table and you are given this plate of food.

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You grab your fork and now what do you do? What would you dive into first?

Scenario One: Protein First

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High protein foods take longer to digest and really put the acid in your stomach at war to break them down.  For this reason, protein should be eaten first because you want your stomache to get working on breaking down these foods before anything else gets a chance to absorb the acid.

Moreover, by starting a meal with protein, it will help reduce the blood sugar spike that typically will occur after eating most refined carbohydrates.  Therefore, when you keep your blood sugar levels stable, your body will be less likely to store extra calories as fat at your next meal.  Eating protein first may also promote weight loss as the signal travelling to your brain that you are full is faster than consuming other foods first.  By starting your day with protein, research has also shown that it is better for appetite control throughout the day.

Scenario Two: Vegetables First

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For me, I prefer to eat vegetables first because I definitely enjoy my greens.   Studies have also shown that similarly to protein, vegetables can help with keeping your weight down as your insulin spike is inhibited and you feel fuller faster.  Vegetables are full of fibre and when you consume your greens first, everything you eat after (protein and carbs) gets covered with this fibre, which slows down your insulin spikes and the speed that sugar is transported into the blood.

Greens also make you full quicker because of the fibre in them is absorbing all the liquid in your stomach.  Proteins are harder to digest so when they are eaten first, everything else after may not get enough time to get digested properly and therefore, it forces other foods to remain in the stomach, slowing down the overall digestion process.  Raw vegetables actually contain a certain digestive enzyme that helps break down proteins so you may consider eating more raw greens than cooked.

Now the question about carbohydrates…

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Personally, I try to limit my carbohydrates (unless it’s my guilty pleasure – cereal).  However, there are many good complex carbs your body needs for energy.  However, when your body receives carbs first, a message is sent to your brain that you are lacking fat and protein.  Therefore, your body may react by storing fat for use later but if protein is digested first, your body feels comfortable that it has enough reserve for basic functioning.

Carbs is quite a complex food group (no pun intended haha) and you should only really eat this food group with vegetables.  It is not a group of foods that goes well with protein because of the way it digests in your stomach.  Therefore, I’ve listed some basic food combining rules by the Life Empowerment Institute below for your reference.

  1. Do not eat proteins and starches together. Your body requires an acid base to digest proteins and an alkaline base to digest starches. Proteins and starches combine well with green, leafy vegetables and non-starchy vegetables, but they do not combine well with each other.
  2. Generally fruits should be eaten alone or with other fruits. If fruits seem too sweet, then eat a handful of nuts (80% fruit, 20% nuts). Fruits digest so quickly that by the time they reach your stomach, they are already partially digested. If they arc combined with other foods, they will rot and ferment.
  3. Melons digest faster than any other food. Therefore, you should never eat melons with any other food including other fruits.
  4. Do not mix acid and/or sub-acid fruits with sweet fruits at the same meal. Acid fruits, such as grapefruits, pineapple, and strawberries, can be mixed with sub-acid fruits, such as apples, grapes, and peaches, but neither of these categories can be mixed with sweet fruits, such as bananas, dates, or raisins.
  5. Eat only four to six different fruits or vegetables at one meal.
  6. Fats and oils combine with everything (except fruits) but should be used in limited amounts because while they won’t inhibit digestion, they will slow it down.

Wait the following lengths of time between meals that don’t combine.

  • Two hours after eating fruit.
  • Three hours after eating starches.
  • Four hours after eating proteins.

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It all comes down to bio-individuality.  For me, I enjoy eating my vegetables first as I’ve experienced less bloating and my digestion is much better.  If eating protein makes you feel better, then do what works for you! However, I do find some truth in different food combinations and it is something worth exploring.  Try keeping a mental diary of how you feel after mixing certain foods and tailor to what you think works best for your own body.

Does Sweating More Mean More Calories Burned?

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When I first started working out, you would have never found a drop of sweat on my body.  To be honest though, I was one of “those” women frolicking on the elliptical with my earphones plugged in to my favourite TV show thinking that 30 minutes was good enough for the day.  Although it was relaxing, I never really felt that I worked out and as I amped my exercise intensity, I started sweating and feeling fatigued afterwards.

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As exercising got increasingly obsessive and I was drenched with sweat after my run, I used the amount of perspiration generated as a basis of how hard my workout was.  Given, I was on that bloody treadmill for 2 hours a day so obviously, I was bound to sweat!  But do you ever notice that there are lot of people at the gym who looked like they were killing themselves but didn’t jump off the machine or put down those weights drenched in their sweat?  Does it mean that you burned more calories than them?

I had this question come up as I finished my workout today half soaked than I typically would be.  This is because after my injuries a few days ago, I’ve really been trying to take it easy on my body.  Anyways, so I did some research and wanted to see if there was a positive correlation between sweat and calories burned.

Verdict?

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The reason why people sweat is because your body wants to cool off when the temperature reaches too high.  As such, this biological reaction does not actually indicate that you are burning more calories.  The general range of sweat glands one has is between 2 – 4 million and therefore, the more sweat glands you have, the more sweat you produce.  Moreover, women typically have more sweat glands than men but men’s glands are more active and that is why they seem to sweat easier.

Other factors that may cause more/less sweat are the types of clothes you are wearing as synthetic fabrics trap more heat and what you’ve eaten or drank during the day as alcohol and caffeine can increase perspiration.  If one has more fat, this would act as an insulator so you would more often than not see a larger person sweat more during the same exercise with a lower weight person.

Essentially, the number of calories burned all comes down to how intense you’ve worked out during the duration of the exercise.  You could have dropped a few pounds after the buckets of sweat but this is only water weight.  As soon as you re-hydrate yourself, the chances are that those pounds will come right back on.

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What you can do to track your calories is to get a heart rate monitor as this can track how fast your heart is beating.  The more intense you work out, the faster your heart rate should be and this can give you a more accurate picture of how many calories are burned.   Don’t use the amount of sweat as an indicator – see how you feel after 30 minutes of a light jog vs. 30 min of a high intensity interval training and you can guess which one has burned more calories.

The Diary of an Injury-Prone Running Addict

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If it’s not my knee, it’s my back.  If it’s not my back, it’s my groin.  If it’s not my groin, it’s my _________.  You can pretty much fill in the blank with any body part and I’ve probably injured it this year.  I don’t remember the last time I ran without pain.  The last few weeks, I have been running with knee braces and downing Glucosamine because I’ve been having pain in my knee joints and just yesterday, I believe I twisted my hip flexor from increasing the incline too much on the treadmill and trying to run even when I knew something was wrong.

Is it possible to just exercise freely without fear of hurting myself?  Evidently for me, it’s not in my cards.  Why? Because I’m just stubborn.  I can’t seem to allow myself a single rest day in fear that everything I’ve worked for will be reversed.  I don’t even remember the last time I gave my body a chance to recover.  My irrational thoughts lead me to believe that if I do not exercise, I won’t allow myself to eat the things I enjoy.

I know all of this sounds nuts – even writing this makes me realize how senseless I’ve been.  The worst part of this is, I know what I’m doing is wrong and I know how to fix it, so why can’t I convince myself that my body needs fuel and rest to recover?  Hmm… it’s an uphill battle indeed but other than overtraining/overuse, what are the other causes for chronic injuries?  Let’s explore a few…

1)     Warming Up and Cooling Down

I never realized how important warming up was until I started doing it and realized how much it helps with injury prevention.  However, what I have failed to do is the latter part which was cooling down.

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Static vs. Dynamic Stretching

Many runners simply static stretch before and after their run but studies have shown that static stretching should only be done after your run.  What’s more effective for injury prevention are dynamic stretches – simple movements such as lunges, running on the spot, swinging your legs so you can prepare your body for running and improve your range of motion to increase inflexibility.   Once you have cooled down, then you can do some basic static stretching to make sure your muscles are loosened up.

2)     Proper Diet and Refueling

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Often, runners do not have an appetite after their workout but it is imperative that they refuel their body with the right nutrients and amino acids to feed the muscles for recovery.  Try to fuel up as quickly as you can post-workout and even if you don’t feel like eating, try making a smoothie or protein shake.  Your daily diet is also important to make sure you are getting the right balance of nutrition to keep your energy levels up and physically strong to sustain your workout regimen.

3)     Cross-Training

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More often than not, many runners fall to their comfort of simply getting in a good run and calling it a day.  However, studies have shown that by only doing cardio, we aren’t building up the core and our body will start eating into our muscles for fuel.  By having more muscle mass, we actually increase our metabolism and can burn calories throughout the day.  Therefore, incorporate other ways of training by lifting weights, doing body weight exercises, or taking up other sports to stay active.

4)     Getting a Good Night’s Rest

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Sleep is not for the weak  – as you may have heard.  For our body to fully recover, we need to prioritize our bedtime as this is the moment when our muscles rebuild and adapt to our running workload.  By being more alert, you are also less likely to injure yourself by doing something careless because of your lack of focus.  So try and get in those 8 hours everyone recommends!

5)     Rest and Chill Out!

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I need to chill out.  I’m feeling burnt out more than anything.  Rest days are crucial and it can range from 1-3 days a week depending on your fitness goals.  However, just make sure that on those days you do take a rest that not only do you physically relax but mentally, try to free yourself of any negative thoughts and go out and do something you enjoy.  For you to achieve your fitness goals, as strange as it sounds, your rest days are crucial because your body needs to recover and rebuild.  You will realize the benefits the day you return back to the gym as you will notice that you should have much more energy and you are less likely to feel burnt out.

To all my injury-prone runners out there, let’s say farewell to injuries once and for all!

Reasons for Chronic Fatigue and What to Do About It

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Regardless of how many hours of sleep I get at night, I still wake up feeling exhausted as if I haven’t slept all night.  Does this happen to you?  I want my caffeine but decided to cold turkey my addiction because of what it does to my body and have been taking Vitamin B instead.

Here are some top causes and tips on how to fix them:

1)     Your Diet

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You are what you eat.  This is completely true and in this case, you will feel the effects of what you eat/don’t eat.  It could be that you are eating far below your recommended intake and therefore, there isn’t enough fuel for your body’s engine to run.  On the other hand, you may be eating but choosing the wrong foods such as sugar and simple carbs to get that quick energy fix.

Remedy:

Instead, go for nutrient-rich whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean protein that will not only supply you with all the daily essential vitamins and minerals, but it will keep you full longer.  Therefore, you will avoid gorging on unhealthy snacks throughout the day to try to keep your energy levels up!

2)     Sleep

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Of course this factor has to be mentioned!  I mean we are talking about fatigue right?  Well, let’s delve deeper into the quality of sleep rather than the number of hours.   Everyone is different and some can thrive only on 4-6 hours of sleep while others need 8-9 hours every night.  For me however, I think it’s more important that I feel refreshed and awake regardless of the number of hours although I would try to aim for at least 6-7!

Remedy:

If you find it difficult to fall asleep, it could be related to your diet so try to avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.  Your diet may also be lacking essential vitamins and minerals to help promote sleep such as Magnesium, Potassium, or Vitamin D.  You can get more information here on a recent post I did.

I have also tried not watching anything too dramatic on television or doing any stimulating activities that can get my brain going.  I’ve also decluttered my bedroom and kept it simple, clean with a cooling temperature and found this really helps.  You should really make your bedroom a place for sleeping…. And maybe other things 😉 but that’s beyond the scope of this article!

3)     Exercise

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The amount of exercise you do and the time of the day you do it can affect your sleep.  Try not to do any vigorous exercising within 3 hours before your bed time as you get your blood pumping and it would be difficult to fall asleep.  You need time after a workout to wind down!

How about the number of hours you exercise?  If you do TOO much, you are more likely to feel tired everyday because you are never giving your body a chance to recuperate.  Too little exercise is also not ideal.  So what should we do?

Remedy:

Contrary to popular beliefs, studies have actually shown that those who lead sedentary lifestyles feel more fatigue than those who have a healthy exercise routine.  Exercising can actually boost your energy levels so for now, try 30-40 min at least 4 days a week to get you going.  Try sticking this out for at least a month and trust me, you will start noticing a difference.

Some other factors to consider:

4)     Depression

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There may be something going on deeper than you realize and if you think you may be feeling this emotional disorder, you should speak to a professional as soon as you can.  People who suffer from depression tend to feel fatigued as the quality of their sleep could be suffering.

5)     Thyroid Problems

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The thyroid is a small gland at the base of your neck that controls your metabolism.  If you have hypothyroidism, it can slow down your body’s ability to convert food into energy so an underactive thyroid can make you feel tired and run down.  You should see a doctor to test your thyroid and make sure that this isn’t the cause of your fatigue.

6)     Anaemia

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Being anaemic myself for a few years, I completely understand how the lack of iron is one of the leading causes of fatigue in women.  Our menstrual cycles every month causes us to lose too much blood putting us at risk for iron deficiency.  Red blood cells carry oxygen to our tissues and therefore, when we lose too much blood, our body isn’t get the fuel it needs to run.  I have taken iron supplements but I don’t recommend it as it can cause skin and digestion issues.  I would try to incorporate more iron-rich foods such as lean meat, shellfish, beans, and dark green leafy vegetables!

Let’s say goodbye to chronic fatigue once and for all!

Good luck guys ❤

Myth or Fact: Does Birth Control Cause Weight Gain?

Well, today marks the first day of my journey on the quest to getting my period back after suffering from secondary amenorrhea for the last year and half.  I’ve been prescribed sets of pills two times already in the past year but my fear of the weight gain as a side effect has led me to continuously avoid taking it.  So at last, after having no period for the last year and a half, I should be having one in 20 days? Honestly, I don’t know how to feel and what I’m feeling right now.  It’s been 3 weeks since I got these new set of Alesse pills but I’ve always made an excuse that it wasn’t the right time but today, I was reminded once again it was Sunday and I should start my first pill.

And so I did.  It took an hour of Googling the probability of gaining weight after going on the pill and after hearing both sides of the story,  I took that pill, put it in my mouth and reluctantly swallowed it.

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Hmm… now I’m writing this blog with lower pain in my back, somewhat irritable, and that looming thought of that fear continuously creeps into my head.

So what’s the deal?  Does everyone who goes on the pill gain weight?

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Well, based on my research yes, many women do suffer from this effect BUT it is not directly because of the pill.  Many of the studies have shown that people often gain weight because of just the natural progression our body goes through from age.

So why do we gain weight?

1)     We Just Naturally do as we Age!

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As we grow older, our metabolic rate tends to slow down; there may be changes in the diet or a lack of exercise, and etc.

2)     Hormonal Fluctuations = Increase in Appetite

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Similar to PMS symptoms, the pill can cause us to have certain cravings or increase our appetites and thus, weight gain is likely.

3)     Water Retention

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When we PMS, our body retains water naturally and similarly when we start taking birth control pills, our hormonal fluctuations can cause us to retain excess water.  So remember to lower your sodium intake and drink lots of water to reduce some of this bloating that can occur.

So now that we know this, why are there so many distressed women on countless blogs blaming this pill for their widening waistlines?

I mean just look at these posts I found…

I gained about 16 pounds in 6 months. It was during those six months that I was on the pill. Once I stopped taking the pill, the pounds went away”

“I have been on the pill for about 5.5 years; during that time I have gradually gained 15 pounds that it is IMPOSSIBLE to lose”

“The pill made me bloated and puffy – water retention for sure. I definitely gained 5 pounds on it and hated it.”

How could I NOT be worried?

Well, I want to believe that it is still a myth and based on a lot of studies, it is somewhat safe to conclude that taking birth control does not DIRECTLY lead to weight gain.  Lifestyle changes is a huge factor as well as the hormonal fluctuations that happen similar to what happens to your body when you PMS.   Also, everyone reacts to certain pills differently so find the one that is right for you and you shouldn’t be experiencing any significant side effects.  Typically, pills with lower estrogen levels should have minimal side effects.

For more information on myths about birth control pills, this is a really good website I found that debunks 10 common myths about birth control.

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/birth-control-myths

Stop Controlling Food When Life Feels Out of Control

Have you ever wondered why eating disorders even exist?

I mean, there could be hundreds of reasons but have you ever wondered what caused you or someone you know to develop an eating disorder?

I pondered this question the last few days after noticing I have been reverting back to my old ED days and realized that my obsession to control my food intake may be because everything else in my life is so uncertain.

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Career, relationships, and the future – it seems every facet of my life right now is in such a grey area and although nothing is ever really black or white, it would be nice to feel like I have some sort of direction I am working towards.

So could this anxiety lead me to take my obsessive controlling behaviours towards my intake of food? Maybe.  Most probably actually… what are the other causes of eating disorders?

1)     Culture

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Coming from an Asian background, I know all too well the pressure of being thin.  What really fuelled this whole sickness was coming to Hong Kong and realizing everyone is a size zero.  It is unfortunate that this image of beauty has been so engrained in our culture that it seems impossible now to convince people that curves are beautiful.

2)     Family Relationships

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It could be that you grew up in a family that emphasized the importance of physical appearance.  Their slight joking remarks about you looking chubby or pudgy growing up may have caused deeper wounds than you think.  Studies have shown overly controlling parents who get too involved in a child’s life, refusing to give them privacy that the child turns their aggression and anger towards themselves by either binging or staving.

3)     Personality Characteristics

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If you have a Type A personality like me who seeks perfectionism, this can translate to an addiction to look a certain way.  Typically high achievers, people who tend to develop ED are model children who try to please others but feel insecure about their own self-worth.

4)     Traumatic Events

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Unforeseen dramatic events can cause someone to self-sabotage by restrictive eating or binging and purging

  • Ex. Breakups, deaths, debilitating injuries

Knowing these triggers, we can at least know what has influenced our obsession controlling behaviour towards food and what can we do now to redirect our energy towards something more positive.

1)     Appreciate the Twisted Turn of Events

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For me, I try to keep reminding myself that whatever happens or has happened, happened for a reason.  It could be something enlightening or super depressing but what we gain from learning from these events will better prepare us for what’s to come in the future.

2)     Meditate

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As I have mentioned before, the 4-7-8 breathing really has helped to relax me and keep me grounded.  Every night, take 15 minutes to stay silent and free your mind from all the negative thoughts and breathe in positivity.  Tomorrow is a new day and be appreciative of what you have and that is life itself.

3)     Offer Help to Others

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By assisting others with their issues, you are too busy to dwell on the negativities in your life and instead, you are helping others with their circumstances.  In turn, you may actually benefit from your own advice and as well, you will feel a sense of accomplishment for focusing on helping others in need.

4)     Get Rid of Your To-Do List

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I used to write down everything I have to do for the day and when something doesn’t get done, I tend to get very irritated and annoyed at the fact that I wasn’t able to accomplish all my tasks.  Forget it – life is too short to worry about all these petty details.  Set aside what is important to do and focus on those priorities.  However, don’t feel like you need to conquer the world all in one day.  Relax and live a little!

5)     Be Proud of Who you Are

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Can’t stress this enough.  ED sufferers never believe in self-worth and often feel that they are not good enough.  Hence, they feel the need to appear a certain way to compensate for all those insecurities they have by controlling what they eat.  You may be struggling to find a job or your constantly questioning the viability of your relationship, or you just don’t know what you want to do in life.  Yes – I know exactly how you feel.  Forget what you don’t have and focus on what you do have.  You probably have a loving family that supports you or you have an amazing giving personality that your friends all love you for.  Be proud of who you are and know that you are amazing.  Life may seem like it is in the dumps right now but stay optimistic because it will turn around.

Remember, don’t turn to food as a way to regain some control back in your life.  The first step to bettering your life starts here.  Break a leg! (Not literally of course.. haha)

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