5 Reasons Dieting is Hurting Your Health

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It seems like everywhere we turned in January, we were seeing information about another diet. This influx of diet spam caused everyone in our office to do a big 🤦Now, as South Carolina starts to ease COVID19 restrictions, unfortunately you can expect to see a resurgence of of diets talking about their solutions to the “COVID 15/19/30” or whatever they are calling it these days.

We pride ourselves in being anti-diet dietitians at Brittany Jones Nutrition Group. Have you ever wondered why we choose to practice this way? We speak up against trendy diets like Keto, Paleo, and Intermittent fasting because they aren’t sustainable for our clients, but also because diets are straight up harmful to our clients.

The Diet Cycle

The image above shows a typical diet cycle. Let’s walk through it using low carb diets as an example:

  • It’s Monday. You start your low carb diet, restricting delicious food items such as bread, pasta, potatoes, corn, and your personal favorite, French fries.
  • On Wednesday you start to feel really deprived. Maybe your spouse is eating French fries with their burger, but you order a salad because you are being “good.” You may also show signs of fatigue and irritability (remember, carbs are your main source of energy!)
  • On Thursday you start to really crave these foods. All you can think about is French fries.
  • On Friday the thoughts are consuming your life and eventually you give in to them. You don’t just give in a little bit. You give in A LOT. You go through the McDonalds drive through and order two supersize French fries and eat them all rapidly in one sitting.
  • Then on Friday night you feel guilty and beat yourself up for not being able to stick on your diet. You decide to start another low carb diet that is even more restrictive again next Monday. And the cycle repeats.

Sound familiar?!

What happens when we find ourselves following into this vicious cycle on a chronic basis?

Here are 5 reasons why being trapped in this diet cycle harms your overall health.

1 – Weight Cycling Increases Your Risk for Chronic Diseases

Usually when we fall into the diet cycle, we find ourselves losing weight during our restrictive diets only to later regain the weight back, and usually plus more. Then we do it all over again. This yo-yo weight pattern is called weight cycling. Research shows that weight cycling alone, regardless of your initial body size, increases your risk for cardiovascular events, osteoporosis, gallstones, hypertension, chronic inflammation, and eating disorders/disordered eating. The healthiest weight for you is when you ditch the diet mentality, break free of this cycle and learn to listen to your body’s needs when it comes to food and movement. 

2 – Dieting Harms Your Relationship with Food and Your Body

Research shows that dieting is strongly linked to a preoccupation with food and appearance, increased food cravings, and increased binge urges. At Brittany Jones Nutrition Group, we work on creating complete food freedom with our clients. Remember, all foods fit! We want you to be able to feel comfortable around all foods and get rid of the feeling that certain foods control your life. There are NO good and bad foods – and food has no moral value! Restricting foods will only lead to overeating them later. 

Diet rules also force you to ignore your natural hunger and fullness cues. They tell you that you can not eat after a certain time of day, that you have to fast in order to lose weight, and that it’s good to be hungry all day. These are all false claims that get you out of touch with your body. Our bodies are incredibly smart. They naturally crave a variety of nutrients and will tell you when they need fuel by showing signs of hunger. You do not question why you have to pee when you get the urge to pee, so why do we question our hunger?

3 – Dieting Harms Your Mental Health

Think back to when you did your last diet. How was your mental health during this time? Did you feel deprived? Did you cancel social events because there wouldn’t be something you were “allowed” to eat on your diet there? Research shows that dieting increases body dissatisfaction, reduces self-esteem, increases stress, and harms social life. Health is about SO much more than just what you eat and how often you exercise. If we neglect our mental health in order to improve our appearance, we often end up worse in the end. We are not just alive to lose weight and pay bills! There is so much more to life! Don’t miss out on the fun of life because you are concerned with appearance or eating “perfectly.”

4 – Dieting Can Cause You to Miss Out on Key Nutrients

Diets often restrict certain food groups such as fat and carbohydrates. When we restrict food groups, not only do we crave them more, but we also miss out on key nutrients! For example, carbohydrates are your main source of energy, provide fiber and B vitamins, and make your RNA and DNA. Fat is important for regulating our body temperatures and producing our hormones. All the food groups have a purpose! 

Another popular and risky diet is fasting. When we are only “allowed” to eat during certain times in the day, not only are we ignoring our natural body cues, but it is also incredibly difficult to get the nutrients and variety we need in that short period of time. 

5 – Dieting Increases Your Set Point

Do you remember learning about homeostasis in science class? Turns out our body is really good at regulating processes within our body to keep us alive. Just like it regulates our temperature, it also regulates our body size. Think of it as a thermostat for your weight. Many factors contribute into why we are the weight we are. Genetics, access to health care, access to nutritious food, environment, and movement all play a role. Where our body weight naturally falls when it is at homeostasis is called the set point. When we fall out of our set point, our body works tirelessly to do anything it can to bring it back to our set point. Our bodies do not know the difference between a diet and starvation. If we keep messing with this internal thermostat through dieting, your body views this as a famine and struggles to maintain control over your weight. During this period of starvation (dieting), your metabolism decreases and your brain releases less leptin, a hormone that triggers the feeling of being full. AKA your appetite physiologically INCREASES during a diet! After your diet fails, your body forces you to not only regain the weight back but it adds on extra weight to protect against future diets (periods of starvation). Therefore, your set point increases. In addition, people with a history of chronic dieting end up releasing less leptin overtime than they would have without the history of dieting. 

“Ok I Get it Now, but What’s the Alternative to Dieting?”

Instead of falling trap to the diet cycle, it is best to focus on finding balance. Strive for progress, not perfection! Instead of doing crazy diets that eliminate certain foods, remind yourself that all foods fit! Incorporate gentle nutrition by following the 80/20 balance and utilizing the portion plate.

Learn to listen to your body. Ask yourself: “What will nourish me and what will satisfy me?” before meals. Eat according to your natural hunger and fullness cues. Move your body in a way that feels joyful and good, rather than punishing it for what you ate.

Through rejecting diet mentality, finding food freedom, and moving joyfully, you will find the weight that is healthiest for you without sacrificing your mental health to get there.

Want to learn more? Click here to set up a FREE 15 minute discovery call with our CEO and Registered Dietitian Brittany Jones, MS, RD, LD!

-Written by Allison Walters, RD, LD

5 reasons Intermittent Fasting is a Fad Diet and Not a Lifestyle Change

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You may already know that the dietitians at the Brittany Jones Nutrition Group take an all foods fit approach, but now we are adding all times fit as well! 

As dietitians, it is very common to be asked about the newest diet trend (it makes for 50% of our cocktail party conversations). Over the past year, intermittent fasting has been increasing in popularity and interest largely due to social media influencers, celebrities, and TV shows promoting the new trend.  When a new diet trend comes out, we are easily distracted by the flashy titles and promised results rather than to refer to the research. Today we are going to discuss evidence and research behind the newest diet trend, explain why we consider it to be a fad diet, and share some of our concerns. Ready? Here we go!

What is IF?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is unique from the other fad diets because it tells you when you can’t eat, but not what you can’t eat like more traditional fad diets.  Intermittent fasting is defined as periods of voluntary abstinence from food and drink and is an umbrella term for several different forms of fasting.  First, let’s break down the different types of intermittent fasting:

  • Complete alternate day fasting involves alternating days of fasting (no consumption of energy-containing foods or beverages, i.e. only water) with eating days (foods and beverages consumed as desired without restriction).  
  • Modified fasting regimens allow for consumption of 20% to 25% of energy needs on scheduled fasting days and standard eating the other days.  The modified fasting regimen is the basis for the more popular 5:2 diet, which involves severe calorie restriction for 2 nonconsecutive days a week and no restricted eating the other 5 days.  
  • Time-restricted eating allows individuals to consume food within specific windows, which leads to fasting periods on a regular basis.  The most popular time-restricted eating is 16:8, in which there are 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating. For example, eating from 8 AM to 4 PM and fasting for the rest of them.

While many of the points discussed in this article can be applied to all forms of fasting, we will be focusing on time-restricted eating as the most common type we are seeing.  With all the hype around IF, it is important to remember everyone does some type of fast while they sleep, hence our break-the-fast (breakfast!) in the morning. This is totally normal. However, the time of this fasting can change daily based on your schedule and hunger cues, as opposed to a scheduled intermittent fasting which follows a set schedule and is typically for a longer than normal fasting period.   

5 Reasons Intermittent Fasting is a Fad Diet and not a Lifestyle Change: 

1. Intermittent fasting is not a magic pill. 

Research indicates that weight loss seen from IF is no different than the short-term weight loss achieved by other fad diets. [1]  

“But I have read that intermittent fasting improves blood glucose, lipid levels, and insulin sensitivity too?”   Most of the studies done on IF have been performed on animals (not humans) over a short period of time, measuring glucose numbers, rather than long term results.  It has long been known that a reduction of weight among overweight individuals decreases blood glucose levels, triglycerides, and blood pressure. [2]  The “mechanism” for the improved lab values seen with IF is driven from the weight loss produced by a caloric deficit, not by the time window an individual consumes or does not consume calories. More research is needed on IF to make this statement true. Keep in mind that for long term improvements in lab values, the lifestyle MUST be sustainable. If you’re only able to follow it for 3 months, your lab values are likely to return to where they were prior to the diet. Keep in mind this research also does not take into account mental health (more to come on this later).  

2. It is not a sustainable lifestyle change, and can lead to the diet cycle. 

When clients and friends ask us about the newest fad diet, we typically respond with, “Is that something you would like to do for the rest of your life?”  Even the research acknowledges the difficulty of IF due to “periods of elevated hunger on fast days, societies with constant, convenient access to nutrients, and eating patterns strongly intertwined with social structures.” [3] In other words, it is difficult for individuals in the studies to stick to intermittent fasting, even for a brief period of time.  Intermittent fasting does not allow flexibility for special events like weddings, vacations, and brunch with friends – let alone for the flexibility needed in everyday life! 

Intermittent fasting and all fad diets end up leading to what we call the diet cycle. The inevitable “slip-up” will happen where you eat during your “fasting window,” end up feeling guilty for breaking the food rule, then leading to overeating because of the guilt, and eventually give up all together. Then comes the next fad diet to take its place and start the cycle all over. So many clients we have seen have been caught in this cycle – which is why we promote sustainable lifestyle change for our clients and do not recommend fad diets! Weight cycling or yo-yo dieting also increases inflammation in the body, and increases overall risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and eating disorders.

The Diet Cycle

3. It does not teach you anything about the composition and nutrients in food.

Because IF only focuses on the timing of eating, it ignores the most important aspect of nutrition: the composition of the food you are eating!  Fans of IF say one of the biggest pros is that it is easy and you do not have to dive into the details of nutrition. However,  weight management (if that’s your goal) and creating a healthy lifestyle takes TIME. Time is needed to learn about why you need to eat a variety of nutrients – rather than following diet rules that can result in malnutrition, decreased energy levels, and more. Intermittent fasting, like many fad diets, skips all the learning that is needed to create a sustainable healthy lifestyle. The more you know how food fuels your body, and how to listen to your body, the healthier you will become – and the longer the results will last.

4. It causes you to ignore your body’s natural hunger cues.

Everyone can probably think of a time they have fasted, either intentionally or not, and the subsequent hunger pains/mood changes that came along with it.  Forcing hunger over and over again is neither sustainable nor healthy. Research shows that food restriction decreases baseline dopamine levels, and enhances a higher dopamine release in the brain when you do eat which can lead to overeating. [4] This means that you are less happy while fasting, and then become overly happy when you eat (leading to a potential binge). An important part of creating a sustainable healthy lifestyle involves being in tune with your body, and IF teaches you to ignore those hunger cues, and then to ignore fullness cues. Other side effects of intermittent fasting include feeling cold, irritable (anyone else get “hangry” over here?!), low energy, feeling distracted, and having reduced work performance – yikes! [5]  Many IF’ers skip breakfast, and according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, skipping breakfast is associated with higher BMI and increased obesity risk.  A balanced breakfast consisting of a carbohydrate paired with a protein/fat starts our metabolism for the day, and also balances our dopamine levels!

5. It can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, and put you at risk for an eating disorder.

One of the biggest concerns that we have as Registered Dietitians with intermittent fasting is its potential to lead to an eating disorder, or disordered eating.  Many people may begin IF with healthy intentions, but their behavior can become an eating disorder due to the restrictive nature of the diet trend. If someone that is driven by the number on the scale or the a desire to look thin starts to restrict eating, say, 16 hours a day, and sees “positive results” it can psychologically lead to fasting even longer, and a worst case scenario that behavior can lead to an eating disorder. Individuals can easily hide an eating disorder behind intermittent fasting as a social excuse to not eat (a warning for health providers and parents!) In a large study of 14-15 year olds, dieting was the most important predictor of a developing eating disorder. Those who dieted moderately were 5x more likely to develop an eating disorder, and those who practiced extreme restriction were 18x more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who did not diet. [6]

People with anorexia nervosa generally restrict the number of calories and the types of food they eat, and they ignore their bodies natural hunger cues. They tend to be obsessed with weight, calories, food, and dieting and often avoid social situations that involve food.

Our concern is that many of the features seen in anorexia nervosa fall in line with that seen in intermittent fasting. 

Binge eating, characterized by eating a larger amount of food in a certain time frame than most people would eat in that same window, can look a lot like IF too because of increased hunger. It’s important to note that not everyone with an eating disorder is classified as “underweight,” and are are still at risk for medical complications and disruptions in mental and social health from disordered eating.  Disordered eating is especially of concern for women of child bearing age, as preconception is an important time for women to maximize their nutrient intake and going without eating means going without important energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals. To understand the risk factors and warning signs for the development of an eating disorder, read the Common Signs of an Eating Disorder on the National Eating Disorder Association website: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/warning-signs-and-symptoms

Across the board, the research agrees that there is not enough evidence to recommend intermittent fasting and more research is needed due to the lack of long-term interventions and follow-up periods. 

Furthermore, the research has not investigated the dietary quality among fasting individuals and the social, mental, and emotional consequences of fasting.  The Instagram influencer with abs may be convincing, but we encourage you to remember the research, and to think about how it would fit into your lifestyle. The Registered Dietitians at the Brittany Jones Nutrition Group are all about focusing on your overall health, including physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social.  Would intermittent fasting be infringing on one of those aspects of health in your life? We are not promoting snacking through the night, but rather a lifestyle in which you eat enough throughout the day to enable adequate sleep at night, allowing you to wake up rested in the morning and to ‘break-the-fast’ with a nutritious breakfast and set your day up for success. 

We are all about making sustainable lifestyle changes that allows for flexibility, focus on friends and family, and enjoying the fun in food and eating!  

REFERENCES:

  1. Patterson, R. E., Laughlin, G. A., Lacroix, A. Z., Hartman, S. J., Natarajan, L., Senger, C. M., … Gallo, L. C. (2015). Intermittent Fasting and Human Metabolic Health. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115(8), 1203–1212. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.02.018 
  2. Evidence Analysis Library . (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.andeal.org/default.cfm. 
  3. Tripolt, N. J., Stekovic, S., Aberer, F., Url, J., Pferschy, P. N., Schröder, S., … Sourij, H. (2018). Intermittent Fasting (Alternate Day Fasting) in Healthy, Non-obese Adults: Protocol for a Cohort Trial with an Embedded Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial. Advances in Therapy, 35(8), 1265–1283. doi: 10.1007/s12325-018-0746-5 
  4. Roseberry, A. G. (2015). Acute fasting increases somatodendritic dopamine release in the ventral tegmental area. Journal of Neurophysiology, 114(2), 1072–1082. doi: 10.1152/jn.01008.2014 
  5. Wolfram, T. (2018, October 4). Investigating Intermittent Fasting: Food & Nutrition: From the Magazine. Retrieved from https://foodandnutrition.org/from-the-magazine/investigating-intermittent-fasting/. 
  6. Golden, N. H., Schneider, M., & Wood, C. (2016). Preventing Obesity and Eating Disorders in Adolescents. Pediatrics, 138(3). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1649 

-Written by Brittany L. Jones, MS, RD, LD and Anna Whitlow, Dietetic Intern

Measuring Your Progress Without The Scale

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“If I lose ‘X’ pounds, then I can wear my skinny jeans”
“I have to go to the gym today because I ate too many sweets last night”
“I’m doing all the right things, but I’m not losing weight!”

Do any of these statements above sound familiar? We get it, exchanging old habits for new health promoting habits is hard. It’s especially difficult when we feel we aren’t seeing progress!

Diet culture has taught us to tie our self-worth and validation with the number on the scale. If the number decreases, diet culture says that’s “good,”  and when the number goes up or remains the same, that’s considered “bad.” Many of us believe that when we reach a certain weight, we will be more loved/successful/a better person. Why is that? Have you ever considered the fact that maybe your weight has little or nothing to do with your success? Just because your weight isn’t changing does not mean you are progressing ton journey.

Your Worth is Not Dictated by

the Number on the Scale

We often tie our worth to factors that society deems to be “good.” Diet culture tells us that we need to eat healthfully and exercise often to achieve nearly impossible body sizes and shapes. Have you ever considered that there are more reasons to live a healthier lifestyle than to reach a certain number on the scale? In the big picture, numbers don’t tell you the great things that make you uniquely, you!

Say it with me: my self worth is not defined by a number on a scale! Focusing too much on a number on the scale can distract you from remembering the best parts about yourself. Consider your role. Are you a parent to a child? A best friend? A sister? A manager? No matter what, the number on the scale says – it has zero influence on how “good” or “bad” you are at fulfilling your role. We believe that if we weighed “X pounds less” then we will “be more loved,” “be a better person,” or “be what others want us to be” – but this is diet culture speaking here. Remember that these thoughts are not facts. They’re just thoughts.

It’s time to Starting looking at different measures of progress

To combat these toxic thoughts, start looking at different measures of progress. There are so many more ways to document progress during a health journey than tracking how much your body weighs. Body weight tells a how much our muscle/organs/skin/water/fat/etc weigh, but it tells you nothing about nutritional, social, and intellectual progress.

How to Track Progress Without the Scale

To keep track of progress (outside of the scale), start by focusing on sustainable habits. What is one habit that you can easily do every day (or every week) for a long period of time that will help you reach your goals? It should be something simple and realistic like making your own breakfast every day, getting in movement three times a week, or going to the grocery store at least once a week. Focus on habits that are sustainable, and more importantly, enjoyable! Incorporating new habits into your day can be really exciting especially when you are able to see improvements in your overall health.

Stepping away from the scale can be a hard habit to release. So many of us have attached ourselves so much to a number that we don’t know how to cope without it. The best way to detaching yourself from the scale is take it out of the house (or out of sight) and replace it with another form of measurement.

Check out these 10 ways you can measure your progress that have nothing to do with the scale below!

 

10 nonscale wins

Next time you find yourself discouraged by the number on the scale, try and think about other parts of your life that have made you a healthier version of yourself physically, mentally, and socially. The number on the scale is a number – that’s it. It’s your behaviors that define who you are – not the scale. Remember all the things that make you uniquely, you!

At the Brittany Jones Nutrition Group our RDs set non-scale goals with our clients, and do not weigh clients in our office. If you’re interested in learning more about focusing on health promoting habits rather than the on scale, click here to set up your FREE 15 minute discovery call! 

 

-Written by Gabby Childers, and Brittany Jones, MS, RD, LD

5 Reasons NOT to Set a New Years Resolution (and how to set an intention instead!)

 

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“This year, I’m going to __________ (insert resolutions that are hardly ever achieved such as “lose 10 pounds,” “eat healthier,” “exercise more,” and the list goes on).”

Creating a New Year’s resolution is a tradition for so many of us, but how many times have we set a resolution and completely forgot about it by March? New Year’s resolutions have a time and a place, but the majority of the time, they can actually hurt our well-being. We begin with high energy and motivation, but as soon as we mess up, we’re likely to fall back to old habits. This might make you think … maybe this year, I shouldn’t set a New Years resolution…and search for something else instead. Below are some reasons why you resolutions don’t work, and some intentions to consider setting instead.

5 Reasons NOT to set a New Year’s Resolution

1. Your goals are unattainable
One big mistake people make when choosing a New Year’s resolution is that they choose
a goal that is unattainable for their current season of life. If I say, “I want to run a
5k this year,” but I don’t have access to running routes and lack the time to run,
this goal is probably going to be unattainable for me at the moment. Choose an activity
that is realistic for your lifestyle. Setting a goal to walk for 20 minutes three times per week may be more realistic than running a three miles every day.

2. Your resolution is too broad
For example, let’s say your goal is to “spend more time with my family.” This goal has great intentions, but there’s nothing to back it up. Resolutions need support to make it sustainable in the long run. The only way to achieve a major goal is to start small. Start by picking a small action that you can start doing in the first week of the year. Here an example would be to “have a family game night at least once a week.” This goal is specific, realistic, and attainable. When creating goals for yourself, use SMART goals to keep yourself accountable and organized.

3. You aren’t targeting the root of the behaviors you want to change
It’s hard to stop habits cold turkey when you’re not dealing with the root of the issue. Let’s take binge eating for example. Binge eating is the result of something that is going on  internally. You have to learn why you are binging in the first place before you can  change the behavior. In a situation like this, we recommend working with a registered dietitian skilled in disordered eating (like Allison!) and a counselor to discover the reasons why you may be exhibiting these behaviors.

4. Your goals are “negative” based
A negative based goal is a goal that is trying to fix something that is “wrong” in your life. Having negative based goals can leave you feeling guilty and lazy for messing up or not following through with your plan. Instead of fixating on parts of your life that aren’t ideal, magnify your strengths. When you magnify or multiply what is going right in your life, you will gain the momentum and motivation you need to improve your well-being. Ask yourself, “what am I already good at?” and build your goals from there.

5. You don’t have the right mindset
Maybe you’ve made the decision to create some sort of change, but on the inside, you’re not ready to take the necessary steps in order to make that change. You haven’t made that internal shift yet. To reach your goals, you must be willing to make some changes in your lifestyle. It’s going to be uncomfortable because, well, change IS uncomfortable. Are you willing to be uncomfortable to make a change? If so take action! If the change is worth it, create space and make time in your lifestyle to implement that change. Set yourself up for success. If now isn’t the time in your life to take action towards a goal, that’s okay! Seasons come and go. Try and reevaluate your circumstances in a month or so to determine whether or not you’re ready to take the net step, and be sure to build a support team around you to help you get there.

Set A New Year’s Intention Instead

New Years resolutions typically are external actions or desired outcomes while intentions are internal power and long term change.

Think about it this way, a resolution may be, “to lose weight.” Instead let’s flip that to set you intention “to listen to my body” Later down the road, weight loss may occur because you could be eating more vegetables, enjoying your movement, and learning how to cope with stress. Instead of implementing rigid practices through goal setting, intentions focus on practicing kindness towards your body.

The purpose of an intention is to cultivate a desire you wish to live by. Start by evaluating the things you would wish to see more of in your life. From there, we need to dig a little deeper and discover the root of that desire.

When looking at areas you wish to see more of, does it come from a sense of loneliness in your life? Does it stem from feeling inadequate or not good enough? Is there guilt? Shame? Do you have low self-esteem? These are deep questions to ask yourself, and you may feel some vulnerability trying to answer them. Choose your intentions based on these feelings.

Examples of New Year’s Intentions

  • Cultivate joy
  • Stay grateful
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Simplicity (do less)
  • Self compassion
  • Be vulnerable
  • Show love to others
  • Keep an open mind
  • Share your unique gifts
  • Be brave

After deciding your intention, create small action steps that you can do to help you be more intentional this year. If your intention is to “be more present,” a small action you can do a few times a week is to practice breathing for three minutes or journaling for three minutes. This only takes three minutes out of your day, and it’s allowing you to be more intentional about staying present.

Connect with yourself and ask, “What are some things that bring me the most energy and joy in my life?” Be clear with yourself and the things you want to cultivate, and write it down on a sticky note or a notebook. Remember, there is no right or wrong when it comes to your intentions. You cannot pass or fail. Use these handwritten messages as a reminder to pick up where you left off no matter where you are in your intention journey.

Make this year the year of intentionality. Connect and discover the things you truly need for yourself. Wishing you all the best in 2020!

-Written By Gabby Childers, Brittany Jones Nutrition Intern