5 Careless Ways You’re Harming Your Marriage

Written by Salina Jivani

No one ever said marriage was easy. Yet when you tie the knot and promise yourself to someone for eternity, never in your wildest imagination can you anticipate all the hurdles, roadblocks and disagreements that will wedge their way between you and your loved one at some point or another.

Though we know that happily ever after isn’t always…well, happy, and that the occasional (and even daily) bickering is inevitable, it’s not okay to ruin your chances of marital bliss by practicing some routine no-nos. Commit one of the below five offenses, and you’re just setting yourself—and your marriage—up to be on the rocks for the long haul.

You play the brutal blame game

Saying “I told you so” is sooo tempting! And it’s especially gratifying when your partner did something wrong because they didn’t listen to you. Come on, we’re human! So yes, if you do this occasionally, we may turn the other shoulder, but making a habit of constantly pinning the blame on your partner for everything and anything that goes wrong is plain wrong, not to mention annoying.

There’s only so much he or she will tolerate of your constant blaming. And after that? Well, they’ll eventually tune you, and your accusations, out. Meaning that soon, your words will fall on deaf ears. Yeah. Picture talking to a wall.

So, if you want those “I told you so’s” to result in actionable improvements in the future where your spouse learns from his or her mistakes, make sure you’re picky about what situations truly warrant blame. And even then, be tactful about how you address the situation (i.e. don’t let the neighbors hear). Because if you don’t, your words will soon lose their impact—and then you can throw any hope of seeing changes out the window.

You fight over menial things

I remember growing up around parents who fought over anything and everything. From who misplaced the grocery receipt to how much more money the other spent. And I saw how money broke apart our family—in the worst ways possible. I vowed that when I got married, money would never be a topic of argument in my household. And for the most part, I’m proud to say it’s not.

Why?

Don’t get me wrong. Money’s important, but it’s not the end all and be all of the world. What’s here today won’t be tomorrow. If you’re financially stressed, sit down and try to have a calm discussion about what’s wrong (are you not making enough? Is your spending excessive?) and how you can fix it. Make sure you both come to a compromise about what course of action needs to be taken to remediate your financial woes. If it helps, write it down and take baby steps toward your end goal.

He embarrasses you in public

Sometimes spouses can be…well, embarrassing. Come on. You know what I’m talking about. You go out in public and all of a sudden, to your horror, you witness them have an open-mouth-insert-foot moment, and you can’t help but cringe inside while pasting a tight smile on your face.

We’ve all been there. And that’s okay. But how do you react when your sig-fig says something completely crazy? Do you sit tight and wait till you’re out of public eye to chastise him or do you tear him apart right there in front of everyone? It doesn’t take a genius to guess which of those options is the no-no.

No matter how humiliated you feel, putting your spouse down in public will only negatively impact people’s perception of you both, and probably do more damage to your relationship than your spouse’s goof up (we assume!). But more importantly, it’s going to hurt your relationship with your spouse.

In these cringe-worthy cases, the best thing to do is to laugh off their goof-up, or ignore it and change the topic. Remember: the bigger you make it in front of people, the bigger it’ll be when it’s just the two of you hashing it out.

You don’t talk about your issues

I’m going to go back to the example of my parents (can you tell they had an “ideal” marriage?!). They NEVER talked out their issues. Well…can’t say never. They did all the time—in front of their friends, the neighbors, the world. The rest of the time, they were too busy trying to out-do giving each other the silent treatment. In the early years of their marriage, that silence lasted for just a few hours, then a few years down, several days. And by the time they were filing for divorce nearly 35 years later, they could literally go months without talking and barely notice.

If you’re notorious for giving each other the cold shoulder instead of trying to work through your problems, stop! It takes a lot to put your pride aside sometimes and approach your spouse—even if you both know they’re in the dead wrong. But if you feel your marriage and love are worth the vows you took, make open communication a regular part of your make-up routine (among other amazing practices!). Once you get in the habit of talking to each other instead of going silent and shoving your issues under the proverbial rug until the next big argument, it’ll become easier to do so. And the more you can communicate, the more you can improve and compromise and understand each other. It’s a win-win all around—so why not?!

You never take his side in public

We’ve all been in that awkward situation where you’re asked or put in a position to choose a side between your spouse and your parent. It’s not a pretty place to be (and that’s why someone needs to create tele-transportation—soon!). There may be times when your spouse is in the dead wrong, but how you repeatedly handle situations when it comes to choosing between your spouse and someone else can mean the difference between strengthening your relationship or deteriorating it.

If you constantly side with the other party—even when your spouse is in the wrong—you’re only serving to humiliate them and lose the respect of your relationship in the eyes of your audience. If the other party constantly sees you on the opposite side of the fence from your spouse, it’s likely they’ll see this as a sign that’s it’s okay to continue making you pick sides against him or her. And they might even think it’s okay to bad mouth your spouse to you or in front of you.

Remember that in front of people and in situations where the two of you may be pitted against each other, the way you handle the situation relays a lot about the strength of your relationship. If you show people that you’re a unified front, they’re a lot less likely to try and break you apart. But if you show them you’re already at discord, it’s likely they’ll only serve to drive you further away.

In the end, if your actions feel mean-spirited or don’t give you a warm-fuzzy feeling inside, it likely means that your approach is wrong. Think with a clear head, take a few minutes away from each other and ask yourself how you’d like to be treated by your spouse in a similar situation. It really is just as simple as that…sometimes 😉

3 Fun and Simple Places to Enjoy the Holidays in Georgia

Written by Salina Jivani

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…and that means there are a ton of equally wonderful events to help you celebrate this season of love, peace and charity.

Luckily, Atlanta’s one of those cities that’s always bustling with great, fun things to do for anyone and everyone. Whether you’re single, hitched or have a family in tow, you can choose from a whole slew of options this season. To get into the swing of the holiday spirit, be sure to be sure to check out these happening events.

2016 Macy’s Pink Pig

Macy’s is popular for their annual Christmas Tree lighting every year at Lenox Mall, but if you’ve missed that this year’s event and have little ones that you’re looking to enjoy something exciting with, worry not. You’ve still got a chance to make it up to them with the Macy’s Pink Pig event. A fun ride through a life-sized story book, the Pink Pig has been around since the 1950s and is still an adventure the wee ones look forward to. Hurry, while it’s still around, it won’t last—January 1st is the last day to enjoy!

Holiday lights

If you’re fascinated by the glimmer of Christmas, you’ll love the Garden Lights Holiday Nights display in Atlanta’s Botanical Gardens. But don’t stress if you have no time (or patience!) to make the trek to see some amazing holiday displays—no matter how spectacular they may be (and they’re pretty spectacular, if we may say so ourselves!). Plenty of local places are equally as reputable for their lovely lighting, including Callaway Gardens, Stone Mountain, Centennial Olympic Park and Lake Lanier Islands. Pick one of these more proximal locations to enjoy the holiday décor with less of the travel.

Atlantic Station

One of the most beautiful, high-end, bustling places in Atlanta wouldn’t be all the rave, all the time if it didn’t have at least something spectacular to offer this holiday season, right?

Beginning November, Atlantic Station opened its doors to Atlanta’s largest outdoor ice skating rink! If you’re looking to celebrate the holidays in a fun, festive way, this is the perfect opportunity to inject a little romance, or even family fun, into the season. Whether you decide to make it a daytime trip or a nice, mesmerizing evening under the stars, you won’t regret it.

But wait, is your holiday season already jam packed? Don’t worry! You’ve got plenty of time. The rink is open throughout the holidays till Valentine’s 2017 (hint-hint for proactive V-Day planners!).

If any of these don’t like something that might appeal to your interests, you can always surf the web for other great ideas or visit the Atlanta events website listed here (http://www.atlanta.net/events/seasonal/christmas/) for a list of annual events throughout the year.

Seasons greeting and happy holidays!

Traveling Down 2016’s Fashion Memory Lane

Written by Salina Jivani

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It’s the month of snow, chilly weather and holiday cheer. It’s also the last month of 2016—a year, just like any other, that will never return. But, luckily, that fate may not apply to every style that made it big this year’s fashion books.

As we inch forward into the last days of December, we thought we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least take a moment to reflect back on the most smashing trends of the year. Ones that may see the light of 2017 and still some that may be left behind only to be picked up in the future, like so many others trends of times past.

So without further adieu, here we go:

Chokers: Oh boy, did chokers make their presence known or what this year? And isn’t it amazing how incredibly stylish and sexy they make your neck look, whether you have one like a swan’s or a tree stump’s? This is one look we definitely still see around as the year comes to a close…and seems like this is one that might actually stick it through the new year.

Leopard print: Leopards, leopards everywhere. There was a time when animal print was so faux pas, style icons anywhere wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. Yet this year carried forward a trend from 2015 where leopard print tops, skirts, shoes, socks, even undergarments were snatched up like trees in a wildfire. We’ve got to admit after having had this print completely out-of-sight, out-of-mind for so long, it was a welcome treat to our eyes and a special addition to our wardrobes.

One-arm tops: We’ve seen them everywhere this year, yet they’ve never failed to look utterly exquisite, sexy and chic all at once. One-arm tops made a reappearance this year and—dare we say—they’ve never looked better. The trend surfaced in the warm summer months with one-arm shoulder straps and asymmetrical dresses, only to be carried forward into the chillier season in the form of one-arm blouses and sweaters.

We’re excited to see what exciting vogue and fashion statements are yet to be made in 2017. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long to find out, with the new year eagerly awaiting just around the corner. Or perhaps Santa will lend a helping hand and seek the aid of his fashion elves to deliver us the perfect outfits for the new year…a girl can always hope!

(Pictured chokers from CreationZ From A Dove  available online at www.creationzfromadove.com)

How You Could be Suffering from Anxiety and Not Even Know

Written by Salina Jivani

Anxiety mental health symbol isolated on white. Mental disorder icon designMy grandmother was nuts. We used to laugh at her seemingly endless and silly list of worries. Everything from having to eat lunch at precisely noon to taking a shower to something as simple as going to the bathroom would stress her out. She would share stories about her bowel movements with intense seriousness and gravity and it seemed her entire universe started and ended in the bathroom. Ironically, that’s where she ended up passing away. That’s right. On the royal throne.

Jokes aside, what we should have known was that she suffered from something called anxiety disorder, which, unfortunately, is no laughing matter.

When you think of an anxious person, you probably conjure a picture of someone whose legs are restless, forehead is beaded with sweat, hands are wringing, and possibly someone who stutters. But anxiety is actually a lot more than just that, and maybe even a little different. Affecting nearly 14 million people in the U.S. alone, anxiety disorder is one of the most common types of mental illness in the U.S., but many people don’t even know they have it.

What is anxiety, really?

Have you ever had to prepare for a huge deadline? Or present something in front of a large audience? It’s normal to sweat over these kinds of common work situations. After all, no one wants to be a failure or be perceived as a dumb-dumb.

But while the average worry-wart spends about 55 minutes sweating over such scenarios, those with anxiety spend almost five times the amount, or over 300 minutes in a single day, worrying about the same exact issue. Anxiety is when you feel an overwhelming sense of worry or experience nervous behavior or internal unrest to a degree that it affects your everyday activities.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone.

Surprising signs of anxiety

It could be stage fright. Or perhaps you feel like all eyes are on you when you’re in a room. Suddenly you feel nervous. You can barely concentrate on your surroundings and in your mind you’re constantly berating your every action, your every word.

Anxiety is painful, yet many people who have these feelings of constant doubt, internal uncertainty and overwhelming anxiousness in seemingly simple situations don’t even realize what they’re suffering through.

And that’s because common symptoms aren’t what you might expect them to be. Common signs of anxiety include:

Chronic indigestion
Problems sleeping
Shortness of breath
Tingling or numbness in extremities like your hands and feet
Dizziness
Heart palpitations
Irrational fears
Self-consciousness
Panic attacks
Compulsive behaviors
The worst part about anxiety is that it affects your everyday life. You dwell on your problems and fears to the point where you can’t lead a normal life and move beyond what’s consuming your thoughts. People who have this disorder may feel like their life comes to a standstill anytime they’re faced with something that causes them this kind of extreme discomfort.

How to get cured

Anxiety disorder is a form of mental disease, so the cure for it is much like how other mental illnesses like depression are treated—with medication and psychotherapy.

Going back to the story of my grandmother, we know she was suffering through anxiety and she took regular medications for it. But the one day she ran out of her dosage or forgot to take it was hell to pay in our home. She would go nuts and drive everyone around her nuts, to the point that my father would go berserk and lash out at everyone around him. Not fun times for sure. But the bottom line is, if you decide to go the medication route, remember that every medication has its side effects and can cause dependencies. So if you don’t take your medication or happen to skip a dose, it’s likely you’ll feel a significant change within yourself.

If you’re looking for a more natural route, some specialists might recommend remedies like yoga and acupuncture.

Whatever you decide, make sure you do your research and consult with a specialist first. However, the most important thing you can do—and the most crucial step—is recognizing that anxiety disorders are a true illness and should be treated with as much care and attention as any other.

3 Traits of Extremely Smart People

Written by Salina Jivani

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We’ve all come across someone who seems to be super-humanly smart. You know the one. That person who appears to have the power to predict the success of every decision. Everything they do seems to be exactly right, they overcome the most impossible of situations with ease, and, heck, even the way they talk or express themselves is nothing short of suave with a mix of genius. They have a good head on their shoulders and sometimes, just sometimes, you wish you could dissect their brain to see exactly what it’s made of (because likely it’s not what the rest of us mere mortals have in our own brains). Believe it or not, intelligent people do share certain qualities and traits that set them apart from the rest of the pack. Here’s a list of just three of the many characteristics you might notice in these wise owls.

They’re not know-it-alls

Intelligent people don’t pretend to know everything. In fact, they’ll probably be one of the very first to admit when they have no clue what’s going on. Instead of viewing their lack of knowledge about a subject or topic as a setback, they view it as an opportunity to brush up on a vaguely familiar topic or even about something that’s otherwise completely alien to them. This is what sets them above the rest—they continuously try to quench their thirst for information by acquiring more and more knowledge.

They’re funny

Think of what you’d expect and intelligent person to look like and your mind will probably conjure an image of a bespectacled person who is timid, robotic and has zero personality. But this stereotype is extremely off base—in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Intelligent people are usually extremely funny and have a great sense of humor. Think back to the person you admire for their brains, and it’s likely you’ll realize that they find humor in the slightest situations and possess a strong wit or a prominent funny bone.

They’re open to novel ideas

Smart people don’t limit themselves to only a specific set of ideas or beliefs. Their minds are broad and open to a myriad of thoughts and they’re all about exploring new thoughts or ideologies. Often, they consider different viewpoints and are open to weighing their options before deciding on a firm solution.

Going back to that person you believe to be highly intelligent. Observe what traits they have, pay attention to their behaviors and notice their outlook and perspectives on topics. Adopt their positive traits after careful analysis. By doing so, you’ll be embracing yet another trait of a highly intelligent person—embracing the best of traits from those around you and making them your own.

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Beautiful Struggle

image1) How did the Beautiful Struggle movement begin?

Beautiful Struggle came from my own personal Life struggles with insecurities. I wanted to be able to offer Products to help women enhance there beauty and share a movement to stop insecurities!

2) What products and services do you offer you clients ?

Beautiful Struggle Offers Luxury Hair, EyeLash Extensions, Accessories and Custom T-Shirts

3) Tell us about your Women on the Rise Expo

Women on the Rise is a series of Expo’s that will tour the country inspiring and helping men and women achieve greater heights. It’s an event where people can share stories, provide exposure to their growing brands while support one another’s business endeavors. The event will travel to many locations throughout 2016 and 2018 with hopes of creating an annual expo.

4) Who or what inspires you the most to keep the beautiful struggle movement going ?

My Nieces and Nephews Inspire me the Most but My Purpose is to help all young adults with insecurities

5) What methods are you using to effectively market and brand your business.

I Mostly use Social Media because thats the GO TO now a days for people to shop and be apart of anything New.

6) What has been one of your biggest obstacles as an entrepreneur My biggest Obstacle is getting my brand across in a Positive and inspiring way that stands out from MOST!

7) How does someone go about being apart of the beautiful struggle movement ? beautifulstrugglelove.com visit the site. Also Beautiful Struggle offers a Distributor Program where you can be your Own Boss having a Luxury Hair Line. We will also have Distributor seminars on buying whole sale and becoming your own boss.

8) What is the biggest impact that you want your business/ movement to have on it’s followers. I want my followers to GET and BE inspired by knowing their worth with Beauty… I want to help and pull all women and men out of insecurities

9) What can we expect next from the Beautiful Struggle brand

Be expecting Multiple Sales through out the year of 2017! Follow My Social Media for all future Sales, giveaways, videos, and Movements

3 Ways to Brave the Cold Stylishly This Winter

Written by Salina Jivani

imageWith cold weather comes the overwhelming urge to cuddle up under the covers and hibernate till warmer weather resurfaces, bringing with it the sunny days of bikinis and halter tops. Unfortunately, most of us work, which means hiding under the covers for the next five months is simply out of the question.

But don’t worry. Even though the sexy season of summer is now behind us, you can still make the most of winter fashion by flaunting some happening styles that will keep you both toasty and en vogue.

This winter’s fashion won’t disappoint you. Here are three must-haves that’ll keep you styling and comfy all at once.

Turtlenecks: They’re around pretty much every winter season, but this year turtlenecks are sporting a new style. Throw them on under one of your summer dresses and you’ll be in sync with this year’s winter trend. What better way to save on a winter wardrobe, cling on to the not-too-distant memory of summer and stay warm and snuggly throughout the winter months?

Leggings: These stretchy pants initially made their reappearance two seasons ago by Phoebe Philo, and it seems like they’re here to stay for a while. To the glee of many women who love the comfort and allure of these trendsetters, leggings are back again in the fashion books this winter. Throw them on under a dress or a long, baggy top and you’ve got a good mixture of comfort and style—a dream come true for any fashionista who wants to look amazing without freezing in the name of fashion.

Boots: We can’t forget the most important accessory of them all, right? And let’s just be honest, we all look forward to winter because of one reason and one reason only…boots! The highlight of winter, boots can transform even the sloppiest of outfits from an utter fail to a complete traffic stopper. There’s something completely sexy about strutting around in something that modestly covers the curves and contours of your feet while still managing to make your legs utterly irresistible, lean and taut. This winter season in particular, platform boots are all the rave…so don’t miss out!

Bonus: We couldn’t stop at three, so we thought we’d throw in number four—for fashion’s sake. A quick peek at fashion sites, and you’ll see that trench coats are a big must-have this winter. Stylish and most effective at keeping you warm all around, trench coats are most definitely a great investment, if not for the sake of style then certainly for the total warmth they’ll embody you in—from head to toe!

We don’t know about you, but we’re definitely rejoicing that the most popular fashion choices this season are all about making you look your best while keeping the frost bite at bay! Cheers to looking great and staying healthy this winter.

How to Snag The Best Black Friday Deals–Every Time!

Written by Salina Jivani

imageHoliday shopping is the best part of the holidays, except for the damage it can wreak on your pocketbook. But that’s why Black Friday and Cyber Monday exist—right? To help you save tons of money?

Hmm…not really.

Though it’s no secret great deals have a tendency of lurking around the corners this time of year, particularly because stores are eager to turn a profit and get in the black, many consumers mistakenly assume that every deal they stumble across during these sales are the absolute best of the entire year. And many retailers take advantage of this false pretense and disguise rip offs as amazing “deals.” To make sure you enjoy your holiday shopping while protecting your wallet, here are some tips to follow.

Make a list—check it twice

Every year after Black Friday, store return counters overflow with gifts and coveted door busters that just days ago people were playing tug-of-war over. Why does this happen? Because consumers get excited in the moment and end up buying things they never really needed…or even wanted.

To avoid this, make a list of exactly what items you want to purchase. And be specific. Hunting for a tablet? Think about what size, brand and specs you’re looking for. Activity tracker? What features and style do you want?

If you make a list and are specific about exactly what it is you want, you’ll be less likely to splurge on something you’re not very keen on buying, which will keep you from the dreadfully long return lines immediately following Black Friday.

Do your research

No, we don’t mean you need to write an entire research paper before you go shopping. But we do recommend you go online and read the reviews about the product you’re looking to purchase. By doing your research ahead of time and considering customer feedback on the item you’re interested in, you’re less likely to be disappointed or dissatisfied with your purchase—especially if you’ve wasted a ton of time standing in a long line to buy it.

Do a price comparison

Most people love the thrill of Black Friday shopping—fighting the crowds, the thrum of late-night joviality and holiday spirit all around. Oh, and of course the shopping! But in the excitement of it all, it’s easy to get distracted and get ripped off by one of those fake deals we mentioned earlier.

To avoid getting fooled, make sure you start your research early on—at least a few weeks before the actual sale date. Compare prices among different retailers—both online and in store. Sometimes online deals trump anything you can find at a store. But do be mindful of shipping costs, because sometimes they can be heavy and, ultimately, a deal breaker.

If you are doing the majority of your shopping at one store but find a particular item that’s cheaper at another store, find out if the first store has a price match program. Often, these retailers will price match if you can provide a circular or online ad showing the discounted price at one of their major competitors.

And make sure you don’t limit your price comparisons to only before Black Friday. Once you make your purchase, it’s likely that some stores will drop their pricing, making it possible for you to get an even better deal—or at least have the store you purchased from price match the lower price from their competitor.

While you’re out snagging incredible deals on Black Friday—don’t forget, Cyber Monday is just around the corner. So if you didn’t find what you were looking for over the weekend, you could still have another shot at a great bargain!

3 Movies You Won’t Want to Miss This Holiday Season

Written by Salina Jivani

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The best part of the holidays is indulging in decadent meals and spending valuable time with loved ones, whether that means playing family games or cozying up to a good movie. And like any year, 2016 comes with its own share of flicks you won’t want to miss this holiday season. Here are a few you’ll want to keep on your radar as the year comes to a close.

Almost Christmas: Released November 11*

A fun, laughter-filled Christmas comedy, Almost Christmas is about a retired man who invites his four children home for the holidays after having lost the love of his life just the year prior. He hopes his children’s company will make the holiday complete, but finds that Christmas isn’t nearly as joyous as he’d hoped. His children are constantly at each other’s throats and their bickering is endless, making for an entertaining and stress-induced holiday season.

If you’re looking to tucker in with a hilarious movie with just the right tinge of holiday spirit, you’ll want to make sure you carve some time out for Almost Christmas.

Office Christmas Party: Releases December 9*

You’ve probably seen the ads for this movie—and if you haven’t, words don’t do the trailer justice! Imagine work politics clashing with the most happening holiday party of the year. What do you have? Office Christmas Party!

When a CEO threatens to close down the branch where her party-animal brother works, she knows no good will come out of it. But little does she expect he’ll go to extraordinary lengths to save his job and those of his coworkers.

Starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, this is sure to be a movie that leaves you rolling on the floor and feeling very much like you just crashed the best holiday bash of the year.

Moana: Releases November 23*

Okay, so I lied. This one isn’t holiday related, but who can say no to a sweet Disney princess movie? And this one’s the first one about a Polynesian princess! Made by the same people who created “The Princess and the Frog,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “Aladdin,” Moana is a perfect pick if you’ve got little kids who’ll be home for Thanksgiving break, which is when this movie is scheduled to release.

*All release dates are tentative and subject to change.
Whatever it is you decide to do over the holidays and however you decide to celebrate or relax, we at VEU wish you a very happy, safe and peaceful holiday season!

The Simple Secret To a Slimmer Waistline

Written By Salina Jivani

Slim waistWe live in a society that’s fixated on calories, from food packaging crammed with nutritional facts

where calorie takes the lead to large light-up menus at fast food restaurants where calories counts compete for space among the smorgasbord of pictures and pricing.

And it’s this fixation that’s got us all going stir crazy over every morsel of anything we put in our mouth. I’ll say I’m equally, if not more, guilty than anyone out there.

But perhaps my story’s a little different than everyone else’s. Until my late teens, I never paid any attention to food and had a naturally slender figure of 125 pounds on my 5’ 7” frame. But my lack of interest in meals cost me to lose a lot of weight and people soon started asking me if I was anorexic—which to me was a huge insult that called for immediate action.

So I went to the local Walmart, bought several bags of fun size chocolates and started stuffing face.

The weigh scale didn’t budge. So I ate more and more and more until I felt absolutely sick. But alas, I’d gained five pounds—and the compliments began. I remember the feeling of elation. Of feeling like if a little bit of weight got me this much attention, more would make me feel and look even better.

So I ate more and more and more, until I’d gained 15 pounds. By then, my unhealthy eating habits were second nature. Chocolates took the place of meals and fast food options began to be the healthiest picks of my day.

Soon, I found that where I fit comfortably into my clothes before, I was now struggling. And then came the reality check: a picture of me and my boyfriend where I actually looked heavier and bigger than him! Being that he was no small guy, I found this utterly embarrassing. Even my dad, who never commented on my weight, mentioned in passing to my mom that I’d seemed to have stacked on a bit of meat.

And there I was back at square one again, listening to people, being hurt by their opinions and wanting to ignite immediate change in my body. So I went on a diet and started counting calories. And I did for the next 10 years.

Until 2016. That’s when I decided I needed to make a lifestyle change, and not stick to a process that made me feel like I was constantly ball-and-chained.

But with this decision to put an end to my religious counting habits came consequences. It didn’t take long for my weigh scale to begin an outrageously slow ascent, fooling me into thinking it wasn’t real “weight” that I was gaining. Perhaps just water retention or that extra salt I’d ingested through that family-size bag of potato chips I’d indulged in. But I was wrong. Soon, I’d put on 10 pounds.

But this time around (after more than a decade of calorie counting) I knew that I was under NO circumstances ever going to resort to calorie counting again. I was tired of being imprisoned to my calorie counting app. I was tired of feeling like a prisoner in my own kitchen. And I was tired of not relishing food just because some stupid number limited me from enjoying it.

So as the weight wheedled its way back up on my hips and thighs, a newfound resolve cemented itself into my brain. I wasn’t going to count calories anymore, but at the same time, I was not going to starve myself. Something about this thought sparked a realization in my mind. I’d become so focused on calories and stuffing my face during binges, I’d forgotten how to eat.

What do I mean?

Well, the secret to weight loss for a lot of us dieters is actually quite simple if we stop focusing on calorie counting. In fact, it’s as simple as…eating when we’re hungry.

What?

Wait, don’t give up on me yet. Hang tight just a second.

I know you’ve heard it a million times, but in all reality, if you’re overweight or obese, it’s likely to do with your eating habits.

Remember when mommy used to sit you down on that dinner table and force you to eat every bite of your chicken before you were allowed to take your tush off that chair? Yeah, well, it’s likely her good intentions, no matter how noble they were, that taught you to suppress, at a young age, the hunger and fullness signals our bodies naturally emit.

And it’s a vicious habit that’s hard to beat.

In the past week, I’ve been listening—actually listening—to my tummy. Gauging it for signs of hunger, before actually taking a bite of food. And I’ll say it’s already helped me lose two pounds!

Simple tricks to determining hunger

If you’re not sure you’re eating when you’re hungry (or don’t even know what that means anymore) here are some simple :

1) Close your eyes and focus on your tummy. Does it feel empty or full?

2) If you think it’s empty, drink a glass of water and wait five minutes.

3) If you still feel a rumbling or emptiness—you’re ready to eat!

Other rules to keep in mind

Remember that just because you’re hungry doesn’t give you a free ticket to pigging out until you feel like puking! Keep reminding yourself that you’re no longer restricting calories or any types of food and that you can eat anytime you’re hungry. This really was key for me. Once I understood that restriction was off the table, it was easier to focus on my tummy and how much food I really needed to feel satiated.

If you feel you’ll go overboard, here are some things you can try:

1) Always start with a healthy meal. Don’t reach for the sweets when you hear the rumble!

2) Use a small plate and break your portions up with healthy helpings of veggies and leafy greens. Then leave enough space (about the size of your fist) for an entrée of your choice.

3) Eat slowly! Don’t engulf your food. Savor every bite.

4) Give yourself twenty minutes after you eat to determine if you need more. That’s about how long it takes for your tummy to know whether it’s full.

5) Reach for fruits first when the sweet tooth kicks in, but if that doesn’t cut it for you don’t stop yourself from enjoying dessert.

6) Remember to continue listening for signals from your tummy that say: That’s enough!

Like any new practice, this may take some time. Give yourself a week to a few weeks to get into the swing of things. Just trust in the tummy and you won’t go wrong!