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By Gina Cousineau

How many times have you woken up on a Monday morning stating, “Today is the day I am going on a diet”? Perhaps you were nursing a hangover from too many indulgences including food, drink, and play, and decided, “Today, I will make a change.”

Summer is here, and as we come through the pandemic, we have a renewed appreciation for socializing and enjoying activities, once again, like eating out and vacationing. Unfortunately, for most, the pandemic brought habits that have shifted our life course, led by unhealthy food and lack of exercise.

Just because we are free to move about once again here in the U.S. doesn’t mean we can shed those unwanted habits (and pounds) without some type of game plan.

The summer holidays—starting with Memorial Day, followed by Fourth of July, and ending with Labor Day—are welcome reprieves from the daily grind and seem to be an easy excuse for overindulging.

As a dietitian, I could not ignore the overconsumption of food and beverage surrounding me as we set up shop for a day down in the harbor for the Fourth. And given that these holidays usually involve a long weekend, that one day of splurging can easily turn into three.

So, it is at this time that I have to ask: Was it worth it?

As a culinary nutritionist, my daily job is to motivate and teach my clients to build a healthy relationship with food in the midst of the chaos. I am a huge believer in using “food as medicine,” meaning real wholesome food as close to nature as possible and preparing/cooking with a little forethought, which can bring both joy and health into every morsel we consume.

I firmly believe it doesn’t have to be all or none, but how do we sift through the $6 billion diet industry and ignore the pills, potions and extreme diets that only provide a temporary fix for our problem?

I propose you consider the “Blue Zones” in the world that produce the most centenarians, people who live more than 100 years. One happens to be in Loma Linda, California. While there are several thoughts on why this has occurred, the easiest to incorporate into your lives are moving daily, consuming a variety of foods in their most natural form, and being part of a caring community.

While most of my clients have struggled with their weight for most of their adulthood, and now see the repercussions of their behaviors, they come to me to help them shift the trajectory of their lives.

That being said, not everyone has the ability to have a dietitian at their disposal, so here are my easy suggestions for improving your weight and health:

  1. Attempt to remove all sugar-sweetened beverages from your life. They provide no nutritional value, add unwanted calories, and increase our risk of lifestyle maladies such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, colorectal cancers, and more.
  2. Try to avoid highly processed and ultra-processed foods that live in packages on shelves for years on end. Those foods are formulated so you can’t eat just “one.”
  3. Think “healthy plate”: ¼ plate whole grain/starch, ¼ plate lean protein, and ½ plate of veggies, with a little fat mixed in to the preparation/cooking, for both joy and health.

If you can attempt to make these moves most of the time, enjoying treats and splurges on occasion, you, too, can move more toward living in your own “blue zone”.

Gina Cousineau sees clients virtually and in person out of her San Clemente office. Her extensive education—a BS in dietetics and MS in integrative and functional nutrition—chef training, and 30-plus years as a fitness professional allow her to help clients lose weight and improve their health. You can reach her at, 949.842.9975, and on Instagram and Facebook @mamagslifestyle. Register for her complimentary weekly newsletter at

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