Cue a Wider Lens to Determine Wellness

What does it mean to be truly “well?”

Not long ago, confused about what it meant to be “well,” I devoted myself to “wellness.” I drank the detox skinny teas and exercised with the purpose of earning and burning food. Being “well” was synonymous with physical wellness and doing it “right” meant achieving one look.

But wellness isn’t a destination that you arrive at after drinking celery juice, achieving six-pack abs, seeing a certain number on the scale or even just eating your veggies. Yet as the year ends, you’ll be barraged once again with more “wellness” ideas.

Wellness is the ever-changing state of thriving in all areas of your life. It’s multi-faceted with “deep health” dimensions that are interconnected and include (but aren’t limited to) physical, mental, social and existential wellness. If those aspects of deep health seem a bit esoteric to you, let me describe each in more detail and how they impact your overall well-being.

Reclaim physical wellness

Maybe like me, the physical dimension defined how you “do” wellness. And while it’s an important factor, you might also be confused about what it actually means (thanks, diet culture).

Physical wellness involves feeling vibrant, energized and thriving. It’s nourishing your body regularly with balanced meals, physical activity and a good night’s sleep, while reducing behaviors that challenge your health such as smoking, drug use and excessive alcohol consumption. And here’s the critical distinction: Physical wellness focuses on the functioning of your body, not how you see yourself in a mirror.

As a “Be Body Positive” facilitator, I’ll remind you of the four universal body truths: Your body is supposed to look different, your body will change, your wellness isn’t your weight and most importantly, you are far more than a body.

Be kind to your mind

Did you know that over half of the people in Teton County reported being lonely? This statistic is significantly higher than the national average before the pandemic (24%), according to the 2021 Teton County Behavioral Health Report.

The World Health Organization defines mental health as “the state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stress of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to community.”

So how might you strengthen your mental health?

Try engaging in regular physical activity, prioritizing sleep, learning coping tools for life challenges, taking mindfulness breaks throughout your day or connecting with a trusted friend or family member.

Additionally, The Mental Wellness Collaborative hosts free monthly community discussion groups such as “Thriving Through Midlife,” “Redefining Wellness” and a parent connections group.

Social connection is key

Another factor of what it means to be truly well focuses on the human need of belonging.

Deidre Ashley, LCSW and executive director of Mental Health and Recovery Services shared in her recent column “Sound Mind” that social connections are as vital as physical activity, while feeling isolated is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Ashley shared a quote from Brene Brown that warrants repeating:

Ruth Rathblott, author of “Singlehandedly” and keynote speaker at the 2023 Womentum Leadership Summit shared this message about connection: “Unhiding is the key to connection.”

Born with a limb difference, Rathblott hid her hand for 25 years. “Everyone is hiding something,” she said, “but embracing that secret part of yourself can change everything. When we do this, we create a beautiful safe space where everyone can feel seen and loved for who they are and know that they belong.”

When asked to anonymously write down what they were hiding, attendees of Rathblott’s workshops have shared their mental health issues, financial problems, age, weight, political views, addiction, neurodiversity and more.

So why do we all do it?

“It’s that primal shame for being different and the fear of being rejected for our differences,” Rathblott said. “It’s such a universal experience, yet we all feel like we can’t talk about it and it’s time to change that.”

Sharing your authentic self with just one person can have a powerful impact on your social wellness.

What it means to be truly well Connection

A meaningful life matters

Existential wellness is seeking meaning and purpose as well as identifying your values and priorities.

Consider, what makes life meaningful to you? What do you want?

Bonnie Wan, tackles in her upcoming book, “The Life Brief, A Playbook for No Regrets Living.” Wan shared her pathway to help us dig deep to determine what we want from our lives and how to get there with clarity, creativity and courage.

“When you have the clarity of your essence — who you are, what you stand for, what you believe in and your ambition distilled in a way that sticks, in a way that you remember it, you can call it in and call upon it whenever you need,” she said.

To strengthen your existential wellness, explore coaching or mentoring or simply journal to get clear on what makes life meaningful to you.

Wellness is far more than physical health, and it’s certainly not flat abs. Taking a wide lens approach to wellness not only helps you understand the state of your “deep health,” it helps you clarify where you can make the biggest impact toward wellness and flourishing.

Consider mental, social and existential health as key domains of what it truly means to be well this holiday season and into the new year.

(Originally published in the November 22, 2023 edition of the Jackson Hole News and Guide).

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Think you are addicted to sugar?

It’s that time of year where Halloween candy is everywhere and you might think you are addicted to sugar.

And that used to be a big problem for me. I felt like I had no control around those little bite sized candies.

I used to think I was addicted to sugar.

And maybe you feel this way too.

But over the decade that I’ve worked with nutrition clients, I’ve learned that cravings for sugar are caused by a multitude of factors.

Six reasons you think you are addicted to sugar

  • You consistently eat unbalanced meals which creates unbalanced blood sugar levels (so your body is “smart” and boosts cravings for carbohydrates and sugars as the quickest way to boost your blood sugar.)
  • You don’t eat regular meals throughout the day. You skip meals on purpose or because you’re busy. You’re trying to save calories so you eat very little at breakfast and lunch so when you get home you feel ravenous and sugar sounds extra palatable.
  • You’re dieting, restricting calories and carbs which means you may not be getting the proper energy. Plus, you will often crave the foods that aren’t on your plan.
  • You’re white-knuckling it to completely avoid sugar because diet culture labels it as “bad.” So when it is available, you feel out of control around it.  It’s “forbidden fruit.” You’re human and you want what you can’t have. Did you know that research shows a key difference between a dieter’s mind versus a non-dieters mind? A non-dieter will eat a cookie (or two) and move on. A dieter will obsess (physical and mental struggle) over whether to have the cookie or not and how many is too many. Ugh.
  • You don’t allow yourself to have anything sweet without guilt or shame. Don’t forget that humans are born with a sweet taste bud.
  • You lack sweetness in your life, so you crave sweet foods which only temporarily fulfills this need.

So what does the research say about sugar addiction?

Research from the European Journal of Nutrition states:

“We find little evidence to support sugar addiction in humans, and findings from the animal literature suggest that addiction-like behaviors, such as bingeing, occur only in the context of intermittent access to sugar. These behaviors likely arise from intermittent access to sweet tasting or highly palatable foods, not the neurochemical effects of sugar.”
– “Sugar addiction: the state of the science.”

Think you are addicted to sugar? Think again.
Think you are addicted to sugar? Think again. Photo credit: Jennifer Rollin, Eating Disorder Therapist

If you think you are addicted to sugar, consider these key nutrition skills:

Seven Tips to Beat Sugar “Addiction”

  1. Learn to build balanced meals and snacks with quality protein, fat and carbohydrates. When you’re eating mostly carbs or sugary foods or drinks and you’re not eating enough quality protein or fats, you will experience blood sugar highs and lows (crashes). And when you crash, your body will crave carbs (sugars) to boost your blood sugar back into the normal range.
  2. Eat these balanced meals regularly, spaced throughout the day to avoid getting overly hungry (hangry).
  3. Ditch the diet culture BS and learn to listen and honor your individual hunger needs. They change every day depending on your activity level. Yes, you need to eat enough calories and quality carbohydrates. If you don’t, your biology will kick in, in the form of cravings, to get you to eat more.
  4. Learn to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger. And if your hunger isn’t physical, pause and consider what you are really needing right now? Read more: 3 Reasons why you can’t stop stress and emotional eating (and the solution)
  5. When you choose to eat something sweet, eat real sugar, not artificial sugars. If a package says it’s sugar-free, be wary as this often means they’ve replaced sugar with a fake sugar.
  6. When you choose to eat the cookie, ice cream or other sweet, slow down and savor it. When you feel guilty, you may tend to eat these foods quickly, “to get rid of the evidence.”
  7. Feed your sweet taste bud. Yes, really. Are there sweet foods that you enjoy that are higher quality? I love fresh raspberries, apples and dark chocolate. Create a list of these foods and have them readily available.

If you’ve always thought you are addicted to sugar, but now see that your cravings may be caused by a lack of critical nutrition skills, practice these seven tips. Need help, reach out! Tanya

P.S. Like what you’re reading? Join my free newsletter Reclaiming Wellness and have wellness tips sent directly to your inbox!

Five steps to reduce stress

One of the biggest threats to your health and well-being is unmanaged stress. The great news is that you can learn five steps to reduce your stress load and become more resilient to whatever life throws your way.

Building a stress resilience practice provides you with a secure grounded foundation making you more likely to succeed in changing OTHER THREATS TO YOUR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING.

“Stress is the most common factor that drives people to breathe, drink, and eat in unhealthy ways. We prefer to think of this factor as distress. Times of anxiety, depression, anger, and boredom stress our abilities to cope. These times are like fevers: They signal that something is wrong with our emotional, mental and physical well-being.”
– Janice and James Prochaska, Changing To Thrive

When you don’t have stress resilience skills, you may cope with life stressors in ways that make you feel better in the short term but don’t support your long-term health. You may find yourself spending too much time on the couch, reaching for food for comfort and wine to unwind, sleeping poorly and then waking up exhausted and doing it all over again.

If you identify with any of those behaviors, I’m going to pause for a moment to make sure you’re not berating yourself.

All human behaviors are trying to solve a problem – to feel better. But when those behaviors are your main or only coping strategies, it’s critical that you learn and practice supportive ones.

Even if your stress levels are low right now, I recommend you proactively develop a practice to provide you with a solid base FOR WHEN LIFE INEVITABLY BECOMES CHALLENGING. 

Five steps to reduce stress

So how much time is supportive in reducing your daily stress load?

Reduce stress as a daily practice

The criteria for healthy stress management is intentionally spending 20 MINUTES DAILY to let stress leave your body and mind.

And no, you don’t have to sit for 20 minutes to meditate unless that’s your preference. Taking mini breaks throughout your day to breathe, connect, and move your body is effective.

So often we live our lives like it’s an emergency. We don’t stop to pause and think about the importance of having a strong stress reduction routine. Or maybe we’ve never considered how our lack of stress management tools has led to unwanted lifestyle behaviors.

Shift your mindset about stress resilience

I encourage you to think of stress resilience like your bank account.

Are you only making withdrawals from your account?

You feel wired, tired and burnout.

Or maybe you are making some deposits, but they’re inconsistent or merely equal to your withdrawals. Thus you’re just breaking even.

You’re merely surviving.

A healthy bank account requires more deposits than withdrawals. It requires a positive balance.

The same goes for building a healthy stress resilience account.

To THRIVE, you need more deposits than withdrawals.

And by exploring the five steps to reduce stress, you can build a your stress resilience practice and a robust balance!

If you don’t have a net positive stress resilience practice, it’s time to build one.

It’s FOUNDATIONAL to your health and well-being.

Yet it’s often the critical factor missing from your self-care routine. ♡ Tanya

Hey there friend, like what you’re reading? Join my fresh and fun newsletter, Reclaiming Wellness, where I share bite-sized pieces of wellness wisdom to help you live happier and healthier. You can expect non-diet nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress and body image tips as well as recipes and other insights to ignite your growth and personal development!

Taming Negative Self-Talk: Neuroscience and Your Wellness

You’ve likely encountered that nagging voice inside your head saying, “I can’t do this” when you’ve tried to improve some aspect of your wellness: eating more veggies, moving more, getting more sleep, or maybe meditating. Or maybe you’re critical of yourself when you look in the mirror. But don’t get disheartened. There’s some exciting neuroscience research that can help you understand and counteract that voice.

Tame Your Brain and Negative Self-Talk

The brain’s adaptability is one of its strongest features. However, with repeated negative thoughts, our brain strengthens specific neural pathways, making such thoughts occur more frequently. Think of this like a hiking trail: the more it’s traveled, the clearer it becomes.

Now, this isn’t just a metaphor. A study published in Nature Neuroscience found that neurons in our brains that fire together (think thoughts or behaviors) wire together, solidifying certain patterns and responses.

Moreover, when we entertain negative thoughts, parts of our brain, especially the amygdala, get into overdrive, releasing stress hormones. Prolonged exposure to these hormones can lead to complications like heightened anxiety levels and mood disorders.

Strategies to Harness Your Brain’s Potential

1. Positive Affirmations: A study from the Journal of Positive Psychology highlighted that individuals who practiced positive self-affirmations were more open to behavioral change. So, try to start your day with a positive statement about your health journey, such as “I am taking action to make today a great day.”

Taming negative self-talk with neuroscience


2. Mindfulness and Meditation: A comprehensive review in JAMA Internal Medicine suggested that meditation can improve anxiety, depression, and pain. By recognizing negative thoughts early, you can prevent them from taking control. There are tons of ways to be mindful. Try pausing to take a few breaths, or focusing on your senses – what you can see, hear, smell, taste, touch, or listening to a guided visualization. Find what works best for YOU!

Mindfulness to retrain your brain


3. Reframe and Challenge: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques, which revolve around challenging negative patterns of thought and reframing them, have been shown to be effective in various conditions, including anxiety and depression. Next time you think, “I always give up,” try reframing it as, “Each attempt brings me closer to my goal.”


4. Neurofeedback:  Also known as EEG (electroencephalogram) biofeedback, neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback therapy focused on the brain. The core idea behind neurofeedback is to provide real-time data about brainwave activity, allowing individuals to learn how to modify their own brain waves. Research from the Journal of Neural Engineering has shown positive results, especially concerning mood regulation.

5. Get Moving: A review in Health Psychology Review indicated that movement can have a positive effect on mood by releasing neurotransmitters like endorphins. The next time you feel stuck in a loop of negative thoughts, consider taking a short walk or doing a quick workout.

Use neuroscience to tame negative self-talk

Along your health journey, remember that evidence-based techniques are at your fingertips to combat negative self-talk – whether you have a perfectionist personality or tend to focus on what you don’t like about your perfectly imperfect body. Start with one and let the momentum build. Embrace the intersection of your own determination and the wonders of neuroscience, and trust that every step forward is progress backed by science.

Want some support to take your mind body health to the next level (no matter where you’re starting at)? Shoot me an email and tell me about yourself and your vision for your Best Self. ✨ Coach Tanya

Are you living as your Best Self?

Are you truly who you want to be? Is this the life you really want?

How would you answer those questions?

Think about your daily life.

Are you thriving, or going through the motions?

Are your days full of work, relationships, and activities that are true to your authentic self, or do you feel trapped on a treadmill of responsibility?

If you dream of a better life, now is the time to turn your dream into a reality. And the tools you need are within your grasp, to design a life that is fulfilling on the deepest levels.

I invite you to identify who you are when you’re being your best self.

It’s a foundational piece of your self-care.

Self-care doesn't mean the same thing.

The following exercise is designed to help you identify your “Best Self” and “Anti-Self” personas and develop actionable steps to become more aligned with your Best Self.

Be Your Best Self Exercise

Grab a notebook or journal, pen and find a quiet space. Give yourself the gift of time to explore who you are when you’re being your best self.

5 Steps to Identify Your Best Self

Step 1: Identify Traits of Your “Best Self” by reading over the adjectives below.


2. Visualize: Close your eyes and visualize a typical day in the life of your “Best Self.” What are you doing? Who are you with? How do you feel?

3. Best Self Story: Write a short paragraph that encapsulates who this “Best Self” is, incorporating the elements you’ve visualized and the adjectives you’ve listed.

Step 2: Identify Your “Anti-Self”

  1. Review the words list above. Think the opposite and create your list.
  2. Anti-Self Triggers: List situations or triggers that often lead you to behave as your “Anti-Self.”
  3. Anti-Self Story: Write a short paragraph that encapsulates who this “Anti-Self” is.

Step 3: Compare and Contrast

  1. Analysis: Put the descriptions of your “Best Self” and “Anti-Self” side by side. What stands out to you?
  2. Interactions: Write down instances where your “Best Self” and “Anti-Self” have clashed. What was the outcome?

Step 4: Actionable Steps

  1. List Obstacles: What is preventing you from being your “Best Self”? List these barriers down.
  2. Develop Strategies: For each obstacle, write down at least one strategy to overcome it.
  3. Set Goals: Based on your strategies, set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) that will help you transition from your “Anti-Self” to your “Best Self.”

Step 5: Commit to Change

  1. Accountability: Share your discoveries and action plan with a trusted friend, family member, or with me as your coach to hold you accountable.
  2. Review and Revise: Set a time (like Sunday evenings, the first of the month) to review your progress and adjust your goals and strategies as needed.


After completing the exercise, reflect on the following questions:

  1. How do you feel after identifying your “Best Self” and “Anti-Self”?
  2. What was the most surprising discovery you made during this exercise?
  3. What will be your first step toward becoming your “Best Self”?

Becoming your “Best Self” is continuous process, but with self-awareness and actionable steps make the path clearer.

If you want to define your best self and take action, but vitamin “T” for time is a challenge for you, I invite you to book a “Design Your Future Self 2 Hour Power Session” and we can explore your Best Self together. Get started by shooting me an email!

Coach Tanya

Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty

What if you could declare your own authentic beauty and experience beauty as a creative, dynamic process?

What if you could inhabit your body with more joy and confidence?

These are the two goals of “Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty,” the 4th competency of The Be Body Positive Model.

The Be Body Positive Model was created by Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott, founders of The Body Positive. It’s a comprehensive framework that aims to promote self-acceptance, healthy body image, and overall well-being.

The model comprises five interrelated competencies, each addressing a fundamental aspect of fostering a healthy relationship with oneself and one’s body.

The 5 Be Body Positive Competencies

  1. Reclaim Health
  2. Practice Intuitive Self-Care
  3. Cultivate Self-Love
  4. Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty
  5. Build Community

These are the fundamental skills I teach in my role as a licensed Be Body Positive Facilitator. When you practice these on a daily basis, you can learn to live peacefully and healthfully in your body.

Proficiency with these skills allows you to care for yourself from a place of self-love and appreciation, leading to alignment with your purpose and life goals. 

Rather than dictating a restrictive or prescriptive set of rules to follow, The Be Body Positive Model uses practical tools, inspiration, and support to empower you to find your own way to lasting health and greater happiness.

Furthermore, research reports empowering benefits.

A Stanford University pilot study showed that The 5 Competencies of the Be Body Positive Model had a positive effect on participants’ self-reported guilt, beliefs of thin ideal, body satisfaction, and social determinants of body image. Among these, “Declaring Your Own Authentic Beauty” stands as a pivotal milestone in the journey towards genuine self-love and acceptance.

Click here to watch THIS IS BEAUTY, a one-minute youtube video of empowering messages from participants in my recent “Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty” workshop.

The Four Benefits – Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty

Declaring your own authentic beauty goes beyond mere appearance. It is an empowering process that encourages you to acknowledge and embrace your true self, beyond the external façade.

It involves recognizing and accepting your inherent worth, strengths, and uniqueness, while shedding societal judgments and unrealistic expectations. By encouraging you to look beyond the superficial, The Body Positive inspires a profound connection to the essence of who you are.

1. Break Free from Societal Norms

In a world obsessed with the “perfect” body, declaring your authentic beauty is an act of rebellion against society’s narrow beauty standards. By acknowledging that beauty is diverse and not confined to a specific mold, you can liberate yourself from the shackles of comparison and self-doubt. This newfound freedom allows you to celebrate your individuality and embrace the beauty within yourself, irrespective of societal norms.

My Beauty Is...Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty

2. Build Resilience and Self-Confidence

When you declare their authentic beauty, you cultivate a sense of resilience that shields you from the harsh criticisms and judgments of others. By finding value in your unique attributes and recognizing that your worth is not tied to external validation, you can develop a profound self-confidence. This newfound self-assurance allows you to navigate life’s challenges with greater ease and grace.

My Beauty is My Monster Thighs. Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty

3. Enhance Your Mental and Emotional Well-Being

The journey of embracing one’s authentic beauty is inherently transformative, leading to improved mental and emotional well-being. The Body Positive’s approach nurtures a positive self-image, which can help reduce the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders that often result from negative body image issues. By embracing your authentic self, you foster self-compassion, self-acceptance, and a deeper appreciation for life.

4. Cultivate Positive Relationships

The process of declaring one’s authentic beauty not only transforms you as an individual but also enriches your relationships with others. As you become more accepting of yourself, you extend the same compassion and understanding to those around you. This creates a ripple effect, fostering a supportive and nurturing community that celebrates diversity and individuality.

Expand your imagination to behold authentic beauty in yourself and others. ♡ Tanya

Five Transformative Benefits of the Body Positive Approach to Health and Wellbeing

Maybe you’re curious about the benefits of the body positive approach to health. But let’s be honest. The pursuit of health and wellbeing has become intertwined with the pursuit of a perfect body. From social media influencers to glossy magazine covers, the pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, there is a powerful movement that challenges this narrative – the body positive approach. Rather than fixating on achieving one specific “ideal” shape or size, the body positive movement advocates for being the healthiest version of your unique self, in both mind and body.

So let’s dive into why it’s critical to shift away from striving for one specific size or “ideal” image of health and well-being. I hope you find it empowering.

Five Benefits of the Body Positive Approach to Health and Wellbeing

1. Cultivates a Positive Mindset

At the core of the body positive approach lies the concept of self-acceptance and self-compassion.

Instead of berating yourself if you don’t fit into societal’s perfectionist ideals, a body positive mindset encourages you to appreciate and celebrate your body for all that it does. This shift in perspective fosters a positive relationship with yourself, leading you to improved mental wellbeing and reduced stress levels.

When you learn to be more accepting of your body, especially as you move through life stages, you can free yourself from the shackles of comparison and self-criticism, allowing space for self-growth and personal development. 🔥

2. Encourages Health as a Holistic Concept

The body positive approach doesn’t dismiss the importance of health and wellbeing.

Instead, it redefines the concept of health beyond mere physical appearance.

Health is seen as a holistic state, encompassing physical, mental, emotional, existential and social well-being.

This inclusive view promotes balanced and sustainable lifestyle choices that prioritize overall wellness rather than obsessing over numbers on a scale or clothing size.

By recognizing that health is multi-dimensional, you are more likely to adopt habits that nourish both your body and mind.

3. Break Free from Diet Culture

Current approaches to health often revolve around restrictive diets and intense workout regimens, perpetuating a harmful cycle of yo-yo dieting and disordered eating behaviors.

The body positive approach advocates for intuitive eating and listening to our body’s needs. You learn to trust your instincts and respect your body’s cues. This liberated relationship with food fosters a healthier attitude towards eating, reduces the risk of developing eating disorders, and promotes a sustainable and enjoyable way of nourishing our bodies.

4. Boost Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem

In a world that often equates beauty with self-worth, adopting a body positive approach can be incredibly empowering. When you embrace your body and celebrate your uniqueness, you cultivate a strong sense of self-confidence and self-esteem.

This newfound self-assurance radiates into all aspects of your life, from personal relationships to professional pursuits.

By rejecting the notion that your worth is contingent on your appearance, you liberate yourself to pursue your passions and dreams without the burden of body-related insecurities holding you back.

5. Foster a Supportive Body Positive Community

The body positive movement thrives on the idea of inclusivity and support. By embracing this approach, you become part of a larger community that champions body diversity and challenges harmful societal norms.

Engaging with like-minded people who prioritize self-love can provide a valuable support network, allowing you to share your experiences, seek guidance, and together we can celebrate our collective victories.

In a world that perpetuates perfectionist health and beauty standards, the body positive approach to health and wellbeing emerges as a refreshing, empowering and transformative perspective.

By redefining health as holistic well-being, you can break free from the harmful grips of diet culture and body shaming. You can lead a fulfilling life with compassion, joy, and gratitude for the incredible vessel that carries you through this beautiful journey called life.

Ultimately, that’s my goal as your coach, to partner with you to be your healthiest self in mind and body.

Want to reap the many benefits of the body positive approach to health? If so, let’s have a conversation. ♡ Tanya

Why Calorie Counting Apps Warrant Warning Labels

You grab your phone, tap on a calorie counting app, type in your personal data and out spits your calorie cap for the day. It seems like it’s a benign approach to your nutrition, but is it?

As a former exercise professional and eat this, not that nutrition professional, I thought so. My days were spent measuring out spoonfuls of half and half, scrolling through brands and portion sizes on MyFitnessPal, and worrying about how many calories I was allowed to eat. At the end of the day, depending on my final calorie count, I felt good about myself, or not. I was swimming in diet culture that claims your wellness equals your weight and worth. And like a fish in water, I couldn’t see the harms.

Over a decade later, I clearly see that calorie counting apps are diet culture tools and believe they should come with warning labels.

In brief, calorie counting apps make nutrition seem like a simple numbers game; they’re inaccurate, disconnect us from our own body’s signals, detract from eating as a nourishing experience, create a hyper focus on food and weight (that can be potentially dangerous) and ultimately they don’t promote actual health and well-being.

Let’s dive deeper into those five diet app warnings.

Warning: Calorie counting disconnects you from your body’s internal cues such as hunger and fullness.

That’s problematic because you we born with “interoceptive awareness,” the ability to listen and respond to the direct messages of your body to meet your physical and psychological needs. As an infant, you cried when you felt hunger pangs and refused food when you felt full.

But over time, external food and body messages from family, friends, and cultural ideals may have caused you to over-ride those innate signals. For example, a well-meaning parent may have insisted that you clean your plate when you were full. Or perhaps you ignored hunger to stay within your recommended calorie limits on a diet. If you continued to tune those signals out, you may have lost your body’s trust to meet its needs, so those signals get muted.

Don’t worry, you can tune back into your body’s cues. One approach is called Intuitive Eating, a mind-body eating framework with ten principles that work by either cultivating or removing obstacles to your body awareness.

Ditch calorie counting, the benefits of Intuitive Eating
Ditch calorie counting, the ten benefits of Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating is “a journey of self-discovery and connection to the needs of your mind and body. There is nothing to count: this includes no counting of calories, carbs, points, or macros,” says co-founder Evelyn Tribole. 

And please be very leery of an app’s recommended calorie intake. It’s likely inaccurate for you.

Warning: Every body burns calories differently.

Though you’ll still hear the message that your weight is simply a math equation, in a 2020 Harvard Health article, “Stop Counting Calories,” Dr. Famina Cody Stanford says that the calories-in, calories-out is not only out-dated, but wrong.

The three main factors that influence how your body burns calories include food type, your metabolism and the organisms living in your gut, called your microbiome. Thus, “you can eat the exact same number of calories as someone else, yet have very different outcomes,” says Stanford.

Not only is every body different, but we are nourished by far more than the calories in food.

Warning: Food is more than fuel.

Christy Harrison, author of The Wellness Trap agrees. “Human beings aren’t machines, and our needs for food can’t be quantified with mere numbers. Calorie counting… not only wildly underestimates the energy we need in general, but it also completely fails to understand what it means to be a human being. Calories say nothing about what makes us feel satisfied physically, mentally, and emotionally,” says Harrison.

Focusing on calories may separate us from enjoying eating as a nourishing lifelong human experience. We celebrate over food. We grieve over food. Yet we may avoid eating out with friends, attending birthday parties, or enjoying traditional family dinners to control our allotted calories for the day.

For many, eating has become another “to-do” to check off a list. Fast and distracted eating is common. And if we’re spending our days scrolling through an app to track calories, can we truly be present in our lives and with others?

Imagine bringing presence to your plate, slowing down (if even a little) to notice the taste, texture and aroma of your food and connecting with the company at your table, even if it’s just yourself.

Nourishment is more than calories and nutrients.
Nourishment is not just nutrition.

Furthermore, calorie counting apps may come with unintended consequences.

Warning: Likely to foster a preoccupation with food and your body and may contribute to disordered eating.

A 2021 study by Eikey, 2021, connected diet app use with a fixation on numbers, rigid diet, obsession, app dependency, and extreme negative emotions that can increase the risk of or exacerbate eating disorder behaviors.

Mary Ryan, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, puts these apps in the category of scales.

She says that for some people they may seem benign or even helpful, for a time. But for many people, calorie counting apps “provide yet another way to harshly judge themselves and contribute to lower feelings of self-esteem, self-compassion, and self-efficacy when they don’t ‘achieve’ some particular calorie goal.

“In my view, we already have plenty of ways to beat ourselves up. We don’t need another one” says Ryan.

And finally, calorie counting isn’t a health promoting behavior.

Warning: A focus on calories and weight as the main measure of your health is problematic.

Wellness is far more complex than weight.

Healthy behaviors include getting back in touch with your body’s cues, practicing the basics of good nutrition, and ultimately taking a wide lens look at all the factors influencing your well-being. Consider the healing power of sleep, stress management, movement, social connection, mental health, and purpose in life.

While a calorie counting app may seem like a benign approach to nutrition, take caution and consider a “do no harm” approach that allows your mind and body to be its healthiest, not what diet culture says it “should” be. Tanya

Boost your existential health, live with purpose

Have you considered your existential health lately?

When you think of your health, you might focus primarily on how you’re eating, exercising, and sleeping – all important aspects of your physical health.

But my guess is that you’ve probably never heard of existential health or its benefits.

What is existential health?

Existential health is related to your sense of purpose and meaning in life and is linked to greater health and longevity.

“Being inspired by things in your life doesn’t just help your emotional well-being — it may keep you healthier,” author Kelly Bilodeau reports in her Harvard Medical blog, “Will a purpose driven life help you live longer?”

So you might be wondering how exactly does boosting your existential health support you and how can you nurture this important aspect of your wellness?

Benefits of boosting existential health

1. Promotes better self-care.

Simply put, when you have a sense of meaning and purpose in life you’re more likely to engage in health promoting behaviors. That’s powerful!

2. Reduces stress.

Eric S. Kim, PhD, a research scientist in the department of social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that people living with a strong sense of meaning and purpose are more resilient to life stressors.

3. Reduces inflammation.

Research shows that nurturing your existential health specifically protects you from heart, circulatory, or blood conditions (JAMA 2019).

So what can you do specifically to nourish your existential health?

existential health, the purpose of life is to life a life with purpose

How to boost your existential health

Having a sense of purpose is something you may naturally find throughout your life AND it’s also something you can nurture to boost your health and longevity.

Consider what makes life meaningful to YOU and skip the natural human tendency to compare yourself to others.

Take some time to self-reflect:

1. Identify your values, priorities.

Who are you? What matters most to you?

I am the kind of person who:
And it’s important to me that:
Because: (your why)

Ask yourself these three questions five times or until you can’t think of anything else to write down about your priorities and values in life.

Here’s one example: I am the kind of person who values family and friendship. And it’s important to me that: I nurture these connections by checking in regularly because: connecting with others is what matters most to me.

2. Identify your strengths.

What do you enjoy doing? What are your unique gifts? Yes, you have many strengths so take the time to write them down and ask a friend or family member to help you identify them.

3. Nurture a growth mindset.

A growth mindset is the belief that anything – a capacity, an ability, a personality trait, can be improved with sustained effort. So now that you’ve identified your values, priorities and strengths, how might you grow and build upon them?

4. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

Reflecting on what you’re grateful for can guide you on how you might contribute to the world and “pay it forward,” within in your family, community, or on a larger scale!

Existential health is one of the six domains (physical, mental, emotional, environmental and relational health) that make up your whole health and well-being, known as your “deep health.” Deep health comes from gentle nutrition, sufficient movement and rest, a supportive environment, real human connection and healthy emotional expression.

“And it comes from living with purpose and joy, and using your life as an expression of these things” says Krista Scott-Dixon, PhD and Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD about deep health.

Each aspect of your health impacts all the other domains. So by living into and nourishing your sense of purpose and meaning in life, you can boost your overall health and longevity.

How might you nourish your existential health, if even a little bit, today? Tanya

Use change psychology, not a diet, to improve eating habits

Diet plans make us believe we’re the problem if we failed to improve our eating habits on their diet. But key principles of “behavior change psychology” teach us that it’s how diets approach eating habit change as the real issue.

So there’s nothing wrong with you if you’ve “failed” on a diet, or a meal plan. You’re not flawed if you “cheated; nor are you a willpower weakling if you couldn’t establish perfect eating habits in twenty-one days.

Armed with the wisdom of change psychology, I hope you’ll stop berating and blaming yourself, show yourself compassion and make an empowering choice to get off the dieting treadmill for good.

The Seven Myths of Changing Your Eating Habits

Let’s debunk the seven myths of how to change your eating habits, starting with one of the most common ones:

1. Just tell me what to eat

In a 2021 study on human behavior change and dieting, Stanford University scientists confirmed what we already know about human behavior: what we say we want isn’t what we actually want or need.

In the first four weeks of the study, participants received all their meals and snacks. Yet even when eating healthy was made “easy,” participants still struggled to follow the plan, reporting adherence on average of a seven out of ten. Then, in the next eight weeks of the study, participants shopped, prepped, and cooked their own diet compliant meals. And as expected, adherence dropped further to fifty percent.

But what’s the real “ah-ha” from the study?

Participants were given the choice to continue food delivery or shop, prep and cook on their own. And they all declined food delivery. (Mainly, they preferred more variety in their meals and snacks).

And there’s one more stunner.

While participants “were eager to receive shopping lists, recipes, and sample meals,” and “expressed strong intentions of using these materials,” they rarely used them. In the end, participants only made small adjustments to their typical diet.

Ultimately, diets don’t solve the complex challenges that humans have.

2. To improve eating habits, “Just do it”

Next, we might believe that changing our habits is as simple as “just do it.”

Dr. John Berardi, founder of Precision Nutrition and nutrition advisor for companies like Apple and Nike and pro and Olympic athletes, offers a great analogy to illustrate why diets and strict meal plans aren’t effective strategies for change.

He compares giving someone a diet and telling them to “just do it,” to giving a beginner exerciser a heavily loaded weight bar and saying copy me to do a snatch, an advanced exercise. A diet involves complex skills too, forcing you to make a bunch of difficult changes all at once and then sustain them perfectly.

But that’s not how we set someone up for successful change while learning any new skill.

Instead, simply the process of change. Start where you’re at with an assessment of your current nutrition skills. From there, build the ones that you need (versus a one-size fits all diet) with practice, through specific consistent actions that you’re ready, willing and able to do within the context of your life.

Even if you could write a book on nutrition, consider approaching change as if you were that beginner weightlifter. Don’t load yourself with a heavy bar and a complicated exercise that you may not have the ability to do yet.

3. Where’s my willpower?

While willpower is commonly considered a limited resource, current research shows this to be true – only if we believe it to be true.

Willpower, like a muscle, can be strengthened.

With a growth mindset, the belief that anything can be improved with sustained effort, you can build resilience.

4. 21 days, now what?

Additionally, I bet you’ve probably heard that it takes twenty-one days to build a habit.

But James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, disagrees.

James Clear, Atomic Habits, improve eating habits

So again, focus on consistency while developing any new skill like improving your eating habits; no perfection is necessary.

5. Coach, kick my butt

So next, while you may think you need coach “hard-ass” to motivate and keep you accountable to improve your eating habits, think again.

Change psychology research shows it’s human nature to resist being told what to do. Even if we insist it’s what we want and need, that rebellious teenager in you can emerge.

Instead, look for a health coach specializing in behavior change, a “non-judgmental guide, trained in motivational interviewing, appreciate inquiry and allyship” recommends Sandra Scheinbaum in a 2022 Forbes article.

While support facilitates the change process, an effective coaching relationship is collaborative and compassionate. A coach is someone who believes in you and harnesses your natural strengths to support change by nurturing self-efficacy.

6. Just set a smart goal

Furthermore, while we think we just need a clearly defined goal to shift our eating habits, what actually drives successful change is deep clarity on why it’s important to you, beyond your superficial why.

Try “The Five Whys” exercise developed by the Toyota company. Ask yourself why your goal is important to you five times, until the clearest reason emerges, one that honors your personal values and priorities.

Change thrives with a clear purpose.

7. On and off the wagon

And finally, for some reason, (um thanks diet culture), we think we need to be perfect, or we failed when trying to improve our eating habits.

We’re either “on the wagon” or off.

Maybe you’ve seen the image illustrating how change really works – a scribbled line with loops up and down. Yes, change is that messy.

Improving eating habits, change is messy

So instead, what if you kept “the wagon” rolling along with consistency?

What if we normalized and expected bumps in the road?

What if we saw obstacles and challenges not as failures, but as feedback, opportunities for learning and growth?

Now that’s an empowering and effective approach to change rather than labeling yourself a failure, feeling guilty or ashamed for “cheating.”

So the next time you think you want or need a meal plan or diet to improve your eating habits, challenge yourself and remember that’s not how human behavior change really works. ♡ Tanya