Tag Archives: Body Image

Scale the 3rd Week Wall with These 3 Big Ideas

Is your fitness routine fading?  Is that promise you made to yourself getting harder to keep?  Welcome to the “3rd week wall.”  There’s something magical about making it through the third week, and its common to get stuck just as you thought you were doing great.  Don’t get down on yourself.  Instead, read ahead for some tools and tips to help you clear this hurdle and go even farther (first published in Living Well, 2013).

We know what they’re going to say: eat better, exercise more.  As soon as health experts open their mouths, we hear their advice like an overplayed pop hit. Our eyes glaze-over. Our minds go numb. Yet, knowing the latest research hasn’t kept us from a nationwide Obesity and Diabetes epidemic. Why? Is there a missing link between what we’re learning and what we’re doing? Or, is it how we’re learning?   Maybe we need easier ideas, something we can do right now that translates all that advice into real results. We need tips that can come alongside us, not create more conflict with our already-busy lives. While we’re at it, let’s demand something we can do and still be ourselves. Make it not too far out of reach but still inspire us to be our best selves.   In that spirit of uncomplicated accomplishment, here are three revelations which can revive any mission to become and stay healthy.

First, Take a Step Backwards

Alyssa Schrock, Mrs. Montana 2013, recognizes that gap between knowledge and know-how. At a young age, she was diagnosed with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. “Here’s a pamphlet, go figure out a plan,” she quips, mimicking the limp advice she received from her doctor. “No one took the time to explain, ‘This is how you cope. This is what you do.’ As a result, it’s taken me all of fifteen years to learn how to manage my illness.”

Today, Alyssa lectures and educates others about how to navigate health challenges by developing a personal care plan. “I like to work backwards by starting with the end results.” Asking people to envision a fuller life, Alyssa poses questions like, “What do you want?” “Why are you doing this?” “What do you want it to look like?” For her, the answers included reducing her prescription medications, becoming strong enough to care for her family, and increasing her overall stamina. With those kinds of long-term desires in mind, Alyssa then considers short-term actions. “They need to be small steps, things we can do right where we’re at today,” she explains. Every time she progresses to the next step, Alyssa claims a win. It’s those tiny victories which keep her focused, so much so that she now has energy to support others. “I still have tired days when I have to remind myself this is normal for me, but I’m feeling good enough now that I can make my bubble bigger by reaching my arms out to the community, so that others won’t have to walk out of a hospital with a pamphlet and no idea what to do next.”

Think Big, Then Think Even Bigger

Just as Alyssa has learned how supporting her community helps her stay healthy, we may need to unite our health routine with a larger purpose. Often times, we find more motivation when connect with the “why.” Nurturing wellbeing can be an expression of our commitment to something bigger. This bigger picture provides fresh purpose to pluck us from stuck places and create momentum again.

The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center of Missoula – one of the nation’s first women’s only gyms which started 30 years ago – takes that bigger purpose to heart. “TWC women don’t separate caring for their health from caring for the Missoula community; to them, it’s all connected,” explains Camie Evans, Manager and Co-Owner of the club. Their latest investment is a saline pool and hot tub. Recently, The Women’s Club converted to a salt water system. “We hear how important environmental stewardship is to our members, and they’re happier when they know their workout supports their values” says Cathy Schwenk, Facility Maintenance Leader. “We’ve been looking at a saline system for years, but it’s only recently that the technology has become compatible with our facility. We like to say, ‘We’re going green, so your hair won’t have to.’”

Get off the Guilt-Go-‘Round

I once heard a young mom with a large family lament her sedentary lifestyle. “I know I need to get me and the kids exercising more, but it’s not easy,” she groaned. “They say this town is such an easy place to be active, but you either have to have lots of time or lots of money, and I don’t have either.” I nodded my head. She indeed was one of the busiest moms I knew. I also knew, however, that there was a public trail system just minutes from her home. Spotting the gap between what she said and what she could do, I surmise her frustration served more as a deflection of guilt.

Come to think of it, criticizing the sometimes conflicting health advice we receive is an effective deflection, as well. Resistance can cover up guilt over not being healthier. Here’s the good news: guilt doesn’t work, so you can let it go. Guilt is a disconnecting force which short-circuits our best intentions.  Guilt acts like static to our souls; keeping us judging ourselves and arguing with those judgments.  It fuzzes that heart/mind connection where creativity and motivation abide.  So let go of guilt about not exercising enough or eating bad food.

You can create a vibrant lifestyle when you cultivate these ideas. First, begin with your vision for a healthier you. Then, support that vision by connecting with a bigger purpose. Finally, release energy-sucking guilt. Now you can harness all that energy you’ve been using to simply survive the stuckness and shift your focus into drive.

Take Home Tip

We need tips that can come alongside us, not create more conflict with our already-busy lives.

 Explore It More By Following the Links Below

100 Pounds eGuide:  “Just Show Up: Why Movement Matters.”

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7 Ways I Got My Body Back

January 2nd (and the Monday after New Year’s) are HUGE days for anyone wanting to lose weight.  I’m rebooting this post as a way to encourage anyone shooting out of the starting block today.

Seven years ago, I had a dream which I’ve never really been able to shake. I always wondered what it meant. I think I’ve finally figured it out. At the time, I was working with a therapist. I shared the dream’s details with her. I described the dug-out pit I occupied and how it resembled a sunken site of an old, archeological dig. We surmised why the pit’s fence – which ran along the top of the ground above me, at shoulder height – seemed more like a military perimeter. With its bulky timbers reinforced by steel rebar, I wasn’t going anywhere. Why did it need to be so strong? More intriguing, however, were the holes underneath the fence. Someone had dug out gaps underneath the fence. Just enough space for a torso appeared along the edges every ten feet. Why had no one filled them in? Had hope carved out each escape route, and I hadn’t bothered to replace it? Maybe there was no point, since a pair of army boots stood patrol on the other side of every hollow. Why the necessary precaution? Who was out there, standing in those boots, and why did I stand inside, alone? I felt trapped. My solace was the open, blue sky above me. Puffy, white clouds paraded over me. This brings me to my biggest question…

Why didn’t I just fly out?

All notions of “flying dreams” aside, this seems a legit question. I acted as if the sky was a roof. There wasn’t anything holding me back, except me. In thinking of the top seven lessons I’ve learned throughout my weight loss journey, that’s the clincher. I see this self-limiting pattern over and over. Each of these seven ideas healed some element of whatever, or whyever, I was my biggest obstacle.

  1. Food can transform from currency into contentment. For most of my life, I’ve used food as currency. Food to feel my value. Food to reward my effort. Food to stand in for any desire I could not fill. The problem with this strategy is that I never experienced fullness. By using food as currency, I limited the amount of joy and contentment I could feel because food can only do so much. In addiction terms, I could only get as high as my next hit. I couldn’t stop this limiting cycle until I felt my intrinsic worth. I needed to connect with that unearned merit which abides at depths universal to us all. A Biblical poet put it best: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” (Isaiah 55) When I experienced my natural worth — which I cannot earn or have enough of anything to pay it back with — that’s when food transformed from currency to contentment.
  2. I do not have to lose 100 pounds before I feel better. When I first decided to lose 100 pounds in 1 year, I thought I wouldn’t be happy until I dropped all that weight. In reality, I felt better after shedding just 15 pounds. I can remember having more energy, feeling less pain, and sleeping better within weeks. The 100 pound goal gave me enough hope to launch my journey, but it didn’t have to power me all the way. In fact, the inherent restriction of my goal, as it was defined by a total number of pounds within a given time frame, became a burden. That expectation felt heavier than the extra pounds I was carrying. In order to continue, without the heavy restriction, I had to trade big expectations for tiny victories. It’s those everyday wins which took me the rest of the way, bringing the finish line to me.
  3. “Set Point Theory” isn’t as sexy, but it makes more sense. “100 Pounds in 1 Year” sure rolls off the tongue, but without the pressure of numbers, I made space to learn an amazing lesson, called “Set Point Theory.” Basically, it’s what keeps lost pounds from never coming back. Researchers have found that a slow burn — no more than 5% of total body weight every three months – keeps weight loss below our starvation radar. If I lose weight any faster, then I could be wasting my time and shooting my future self in the foot. According to Set Point Theory, in order to lose 100 pounds in 1 year, I would have had to start out weighing over 500 pounds. Indeed, that’s exactly where some folks start. For others, however, patient, compassionate weight loss and a return trip to the calculator and will avoid return trips to the diet isle.
  4. Weight loss is not a straight line but a meandering path through the woods. If I zoom out on my journey, taking a Google Maps view, I see lots of pitfalls and rabbit trails along the way. At first, I hated these obstacles because they slowed down my weight loss. But the hurdles just kept coming. They didn’t slow down until I slowed down. Turns out, I needed the hidden meaning in every detour. I learned to sink into the sand because there was probably something in there for me. If I tried to skip over it, I usually came back to it, anyway. I could only go as fast as my heart and mind could handle. Ironically, once I geared down to soul speed, I found oodles of freedom to play and experiment. Pit stops became hidden treasures and weight loss an adventure in living. My self-limiting insistence on a linear, start-to-finish highway to happiness seems silly and unrealistic to me now.
  5. Relationship brings results. So often, I’ve turned to tips and strategies for results, but copying other people’s fitness success works more like trying to push a button from behind by yanking on the circuitry. Tactics like counting calories, logging hours of exercise, or tracking total steps, these aren’t what cause fitness. They’re what comes after; after the choice to just show up, after frustrating days of missed workouts, and after the next day when I decide to pick up where I left off. All of these moments create a relationship, which is what really brings results. By sticking only to what worked for other people, I actually limited my options. When I drilled down to healing my relationship with myself, that’s when the power kicked in. I found out that I could trust my gut to lead me to my next, best step. Granted, it didn’t feel great all the time. I had walked around like a floating head for years; I was that disconnected to my body. It was scary to reconnect with my heart and mind through my body, even painful at times. But by staying authentic, no matter the circumstance, no effort was wasted.
  6. Get thinner but never stop getting thicker. I want to get thick, in my soul I mean. I want to slather on layers of life. I got into this journey by opening up to desire. I don’t want to stop now. I want to stay engaged with the juiciness of the Big Wow that infiltrates every part of every day. I think back to my days of eating drive-thru in my car on my lunch hour. I remember how utterly bored I felt with my life. To me, becoming thinner has happened more out of a sense of fullness, rather than depriving myself of joy (with food or otherwise.) By feeding awe and curiosity, I continue to uncover reasons to keep making healthy choices.
  7. I decided that I Already Have My Body Back. After losing 62 of my 100 pounds, I came to a crossroads. You may remember a recent blog when I slammed the proverbial table and declared, “I want my body back, dammit!” You know what came up after that release of pent-up angst? A quiet voice humbly whispered, Why not just decide to have it, then? This challenged me. What do you mean? I retorted. I can’t JUST DECIDE.   Turns out, I can. There’s this tune from The Antlers, called “Palace” (totally the sound track to my journey.) One phrase slays me: “…the day we wake inside the secret place that everyone can see.” That’s what this is. It’s inhabiting the beauty I’ve kept hidden from myself but which everyone around me has always seen. It’s the decision to fly out of the pit. This is possible because getting down to my real self wasn’t like peeling layers of rotten flesh from an onion. Not at all. It felt more like connecting with the orb inside. I kept nurturing myself. The onion grew bigger, got brighter, until its paper skin could no longer hold the glowing bulk and had to break off and fly away to make room for more. Granted, I couldn’t have gotten here before now. I needed more than a nice idea to try on. I needed to experience my body in healthy ways. I needed to trade out old clothes for new. I needed to climb mountains. I needed to see muscles flexing in the mirror. Now, though, I am ready to be who I’ve always been.

Take Home Tip

 

Why not just fly out?

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

For more in-depth, down-and-dirty-details of how I learned these lessons, check out the 100 Pounds eGuides

Listen to “Palace” by The Antlers

7WaysIGotMyBodyBackVisionBoard100Poundsin1Year

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Dear Phat Girl: 3 Ideas+1 Big Ass Principle to Prevent Overeating During the Holidays

Dear Phat GirlDear Phat Girl,

The Holidays are just around the corner, and I’m already cringing at all the food and sugar and drinks there will be. I want to enjoy the season, but I’ve got a history of overeating. I’ve tried all the advice you read in magazines like counting calories, eating off smaller plates, and having a salad before a party. Thing is, I’m smarter than the plates or the calories, and I know how to bend the rules. Isn’t there something else I can try that will work better – preferably with alcohol? Thanks for your advice.

 Sincerely,

 Stuffing the Stuffing in Newport, CT

 Dear Stuffing the Stuffing,

I’m reading your email and doing a halleluah jig! I love it when all of our best efforts have failed us. Why? Because these sorts of letdowns reveal how bankrupt most quick tips are of any real power. That realization is the beginning of change. Truth is, the end of one experiment is often the beginning of a new route not thought of before. It’s through repeated trial and error that I’ve discovered the kind of success that trumps the tricks and leads to lasting results. In this regard, there are no failures. We’re all just learning as we go, peeling the layers away and (sometimes) crying over our onion. Sounds like you’re ready to go deeper and make a hearty, life-stew out of those onions.

Before I reveal the recipe, though, I’m glad you mentioned the Big Three tips for portion control that have been chewed-to-death. You’re right. We are smarter. (Really? Who knew? WE DID!) The truth is, when I want more food, I’ll find a way to get it. Counting calories? Heck, I’ll just do two work outs – tomorrow. Smaller plate? No worries, I just go for seconds. Become Vegetarian before the Christmas Party? Hah! There’s plenty of room in my gullet for red wine and a lick off the ol’ cheese ball. Like I said, we’re smarter than any diet rules.

That’s why I’m working on a new eGuide called, “Ditch the Diet.” Without diet rules, I’m left to my own wanderings and designs. I have to learn to follow my gut instincts. So far, my gut hasn’t failed. It’s not that I’ve totally surrendered and become a fudge whore. Rather, I’ve discovered why I eat, which has changed how I eat, which has transformed what I eat. I want the same for you, so let me start you off with three ways to trust your own gut and bypass the overeating drama throughout the Holidays and beyond.

  1. Make friends with food. The Holidays are about celebration, and when we go to work in the dark and get home in the dark, we need a reason to celebrate. When I realized most of my Holiday snarfing was out of this simple – yet critical – need, then I embraced the buffet.
    Practical Idea: Give yourself permission to celebrate with food. See the spread as a gift rather than a burden. Then rejoice with a few of your favorites. Relish them. Let them sing Christmas carols to you as all that merriment melts on your tongue and drizzles all the way down.
  1. Less is more. When I feel deprived, I eat more. When I feel content, I eat less. Contentment, however, comes in many packages. Self-care is one form. When I discovered my tendency to put myself last in the storm of holiday busy-ness, I started tracking my contentment level. Turns out, a lot of my overeating stemmed from a latent sense of neglect. I literally came to the table starving for attention. As I learned to cull the herd of holiday to-do’s, I made space to do something special for me each day, however small. My contentment level rose and my overeating lessened.
    Practical Idea: Brainstorm tiny things that bring you joy and unwrap these moments like a petite present to yourself each day. You’ll be less inclined to stuff the stuffing because you’re already full on the inside.
  1. Give Baby Jesus a break and stop demonizing your food. When I label a food “bad,” I judge myself a “failure” when I eat it. Feeling weak or lazy is the quickest path to giving up, which means I’m primed for a gorge session. I can reroute this whole vicious cycle by ending the good/bad labelling of food and asking instead, “How will this bite make me feel?” At the very least, this makes me more honest with myself. At best, I create just enough space inside to make an intentional choice and accept the consequences.
    Practical Idea: Next time you’re holding a paper plate of goodies, examine each one and imagine how it will make you feel. The next step will be entirely, deliciously yours.

 You may notice a common theme in these ideas. They all create connection. In fact, they’re less about food and more about you reconnecting with you. Carrying too much weight can, over time, cause you to disconnect from your body and your heart. It’s no wonder, then, that when they need attention, they’ll use food to get it. The good news: your rich relationship with food can be your best teacher. This year, sideline the snappy tips — which only serve to keep you disconnected, anyway – and ask more of your food than the same old “should I/shouldn’t I” scuffle. Let food serve as your guru, your mentor, your minister. When the new year arrives, you will have gained so much more than the ten pounds everyone else did while staying in the struggle.

Take Home Tip

I’ve discovered why I eat, which has changed how I eat, which has transformed what I eat.

 Explore It More By Following the Links Below

More ways to make friends with food inside the 100 Pounds eGuide, “Eat to Thrive”

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Yo, Phat Girl, I Gots Ta Ask..

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When Food Talks Back

Here’s a chapter from my weight loss eGuide, “Eat to Thrive.”  If you like what you see, feel free to download the entire eGuide at the link below.

It’s the end of week 22, and I’m confident that the scale will be down another two pounds when I weigh myself tomorrow.  I’m writing at my laptop; sitting at Bernice’s Bakery and enjoying a pastry filled with cream cheese and blueberries.  The pastry feels soft and silky in my mouth; like biting into a satin pillow.  Why am I so confident, even as I take another swig of robust coffee with 100% cream?  I think it’s because I’ve found a secret.  I’ve discovered a key to losing weight that goes beyond pounds and inches.  I’ve found a way to change my mind, as well as my dress size.  It’s this turn of the tumblers inside, more than food or exercise regiments, which has delivered the most results.

I admit that most of my habits aren’t really about food or exercise.  They’re about what’s going on inside my head.  Before I started my 100 pounds journey, I snarfed McDonald’s because I was bored.  I gorged on doughnuts because I wanted a reward for pushing so hard.  I crashed on the couch because I was exhausted from the low-level barrage of negative, judgmental thoughts boiling in my brain.  My mind was my biggest barrier to improved health.  I’ve heard this sentiment echoed among professionals, too.  When I asked Certified Personal Trainer, Lani Bolenbaugh, “What do you think are the biggest challenges facing people who want to lose weight?” she immediately answered, “Their minds.”  Unfortunately, most weight loss plans place the mind a distant third behind food or exercise.  Diets like “The Zone,” “Atkins,” and the recently-popular “HCG” target food as Enemy #1.  Workouts like “Insanity” and “P90X” promote extreme exercise.  While I see benefits to these programs, I notice that they rarely address the mind.

I decided to bring my “mind revolution” to life with a visual concept.  It looks like this:

triangel hierarchy of weight loss approaches

As you can see, I’ve turned the typical weight loss approach upside-down.  Mind becomes 60% of the whole; exercise 30%; and food a small 10%.  How can this work?  Because my daily routine stems from thought patterns in my heads, that’s the only sensible place to start.  To see my patterns clearly, I have to work backwards, like this:

My body is shaped by habits.

My habits grow from my experiences.

My experiences are created by thoughts.

Food Talks to MeFor example, last Thanksgiving, I weighed 44 pounds more than I do today.  I constantly felt heavy, like I was moving through invisible sludge.  I ate McDonald’s drive-thru three to four times each week.  When I ate fast food, I experienced relief.  The food became a comfort.  In fact, it subconsciously spoke to me.  It’s no surprise that these thoughts led me to pack on the pounds.

To make a difference in my life, I needed to start with those thoughts.  But, not in an attacking, “my mind is my enemy” kind of way.  Instead, I started with a positive thought.  The first thought is often the most important – and the hardest to authentically believe.  In her book, “Secrets of a Former Fat Girl,” Lisa Delaney puts it perfectly.  She explains that, to lose weight, we need to let go of judgment, rules, or programs, and foster the belief that we can lose weight.  I’m a person who can be healthier is a powerful starting belief.

How we get there, and however long it takes, is nobody’s business.  For example, before I began my journey, I spent six months doing some pre-weight loss heavy lifting with my beliefs.  I practiced “stopping.”  Any free time I had, I spent in bed, being still.  I didn’t always sleep.  I’d be too awake with worries like…

I should be doing laundry or the dishes.

I’m being too lazy.

How will the bills get paid?

You know what, no one had to wear dirty underwear.  I didn’t regress to larvae stage.  The bills got paid.  PLUS, I learned a massive lesson.  One afternoon in bed, I lay awake.  By now, I had gotten rather bored of all the “shoulds” in my head, and I’d gotten passed any guilt.  I began to truly rest inside.  In that moment, I felt a light shining, starting from within and expanding to fill the entire bedroom.  I say “felt a light” because I couldn’t see it, but the warmth and clarity enveloping me absolutely lit me up.  I imagined angels dancing over me in some invisible place, celebrating my existence.  And I knew – I knew that I knew that I knew – I was of great value, even as I lay in bed, doing nothing.  I was of so much value that not even I could take it away.  It was the kind of knowing which comes from such eternal truth that I immediately believed it of everyone.  You, me, we are all of infinite value, just by being alive.

That sounds foo-foo, but this idea had a real-world impact on my life.  Now that I had an awareness of my permanent value, I had something to compare all my worries to.  I realized how much time I wasted arguing with thoughts that aren’t even true.  Once I saw these thoughts as time-suckers that didn’t even help me, it became easy to see beyond them.  That meant it became easier to channel that worry into action.  I got lots more done.  Instead of fretting over chores, I just did them.  When I wanted to rest, I napped.  Then, I’d wake up refreshed and ready to do some more.  I paid the bills quicker, instead of letting them stew in a to-do soup.  Everything got easier.  Life got easier.  Eating healthier became easier.

To get off the weight loss rollercoaster, I had to spend some time in my head.  Even so, I can drum up a worry about that:

If I spend so much effort on my mind, then I’ll become obsessed.  I won’t be moving.  I won’t be dieting.  How will I get results?

This seems logical, but reality doesn’t work like that.  When I was heavier, I was already obsessed.  I thought about my size, or compared my body to another woman’s shape, at least once an hour.  Little things would constantly remind me of my girth:  the butt-squishing seats in the movie theater, the chafing of tight waistbands, and the rubbing of my inner-thighs when I walked.  I obsessed about my size all the time.

Today, I spend a minimum of energy focusing on my weight, partly because I’m doing something about it and partly because my value is no longer attached to my size.  All this freedom, and I haven’t even lost the whole 100 pounds yet!

Action dispels fear.  Movement creates momentum, even when all of the action is on the inside, under the covers.  In fact – especially on the inside, because the same thinking that caused me so much worry can be retrained to work double-time in my favor.  After a few months of seeing beyond my worries, that habit-forming pattern which caused me to gain weight began to work in reverse.  I considered the possibility that I could get healthy again.

Not too long after, I felt like moving, just 10 minutes in the pool.  I started reading about health.  I joined a support group to help me continue examining my thoughts.  Soon, I began having fresh experiences.  I felt lighter while doing water aerobics in the pool, I didn’t feel so alone in my struggle, and I cultivated a deep acceptance of who I already was.  It didn’t take long for others to notice a change.  Coworkers noticed my energy boost.  I made friends with the gals at my favorite smoothie counter.  The more I moved, the more momentum I created, the cleaner I ate, and the easier every day became.  Eventually, I realized what my heart had known all along:

I am a person who likes to be healthy.

Today, I rarely visit McDonald’s.  I’m aware of my triggers, like stress and lack of sleep, and I anticipate ways to work around them.  I feel like I can affect my life again.  I’m more myself than I’ve been in a long time.

Eat to Thrive eGuide, 100 Pounds in 1 YearLike?  Want some more?  Download your “Eat to Thrive” eGuide at the 100 Pounds Store now.

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Why I Already Have What I Desire, No, Really, I Do

 

Trigger: /ˈtrigər/ (verb) Cause (an event or     situation) to happen or exist; to touch off.

60 pounds lost so farDo you have a trigger?  No, the better question is, “What is your trigger?”  I can’t imagine anyone NOT having some sore spot that opens wide when the perfect storm of circumstance fires an arrow fast through all those layers of self-protection and hits a hard-core bulls-eye, as if the armor didn’t even exist.  Has that ever happened to you?  It has to me.  In fact, it’s happening right now.

I’m writing this post at Bernice’s coffee shop, seven hours after my trigger hit.  I still feel a residual burning in my stomach.  I’ve tried all my go-to work-arounds:  talking it out, deep breathing, asking for hugs, fresh-squeezed juice, looking at the big picture, exercising into exhaustion.  Yet, I have a cup of coffee and a cream cheese Danish next to my computer.  Hold on a sec… just took another gooey bite.

Damn, that tastes good.

This is my world of emotional eating.  This time, I’ve not quite descended into the gorging nightmare that used to be my stress response, as I have collected some back pocket understanding along this journey  For example, I know I’m a “sensual” comfort personality type; meaning, when I stress out, physical comforts like food or massage can chaperone me back to sanity.  Knowing this, my danish doesn’t have near as much guilt sprinkled on top.

Hours before, however, I got a big bite of stress.  I knew pulling out the get-er-done stick wouldn’t work because that’s what caused my panic in the first place.  There was too much to get done already.  Too many people wanting too much time.  I couldn’t keep all my commitments, let alone the promises I’ve made to myself.  No time to work out.  No time to write.  No time to do the things I know to do in order to shape my dreams into reality.  My brain went flat line, overheated by the pressurized push and pull between responsibility and desire.  My body kicked into fight or flight, and I couldn’t do either.  I spent the day stewing in a toxic brew of cortisol, which – I also know – is the ideal way to stay fat (learn more at my post, Chronic Stress and Weight Gain).

This I know for sure:  if I want to outgrow my emotional eating — learn, heal, or do anything worth doing — all I need to do is begin to desire.  I’m not talking about craving a danish.  I’m talkin’ Big D Desire.  I’m unpacking that secret box, the one we all keep buried in our heart’s closet of best intentions, collecting dust like unused sports equipment.  Desire laden with regret as hard and cold as a bowling ball.  For years, I moth-balled my desires.  Then I decided to lose 100 pounds in one year.  That was a big deal for me.  Surrendering to this desire was scary, vulnerable, and very, very brave.  Desiring is a courageous thing to do.  To understand why, all I need is to notice how much I distract myself from doing exactly that.  In my worst years, I chose denial over desire because I thought that would keep me from my pain.  On most days, though, it’s much easier to ignore Desire and stay too busy with everyday life.  That’s why Desire is enough to get the healing process started.  I don’t have to go diggin’ and scrubbin’ for something to fix inside.  Keeping myself in that desirous space will bring plenty of opportunity for profound work.

Most of my life, in order to keep me too busy, I’ve used my Story.  Just like everyone has a trigger, everyone has a Story.  It’s the play of thoughts and emotions we act out, sometimes knowing what we’re doing, sometimes not.  In our Story, we are — at once — the lead, the audience, and the critic.  The stage is our life.  The circumstances may change, like this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park players, but the script reads the same.  This morning, my Story had me as its captured audience.  It would have had you hustling to the popcorn machine during intermission.  Would you have ordered extra butter?

As I was getting ready for the day, familiar thoughts appeared like titles for each act.

Act 1: There’s too much to do.

Act 2:  I can’t do it all.

Act 3: I am not enough.

I can slather a balm of sooth-sayings atop those cutting thoughts.  There’s lots of understanding responses to every Story.  The problem is, a Story must stick to the Story.  Caring words are often rewritten to bring the play back ‘round to plot.  It’s like having an OCD automaton for a script writer.  For example, if I believe I’m not enough, then I’ll edit the kindest thought and boomerang it around in my head until it establishes that, once again, I am not enough.  I’ll prove my point, even to my own detriment.

How does this relate to pounds on the scale?  Consider, if I believe I am not enough, plus I’m a sensual comfort personality type, then I’ve got two options when it comes to my relationship with food

  1. Eat until I’m stuffed, creating a physical sensation of more than enough
  2. Keep weight on, building an actual barrier of body fat between me and the world, thereby making up for the weakness of my lack

There’s only one way I know to short-circuit my Story.  Compassion.  Self-understanding is a form of forgiveness which can disarm the toughest triggers.  Ironically, it’s also one of the last tools we think of when it comes to weight loss.  Jean Fain, a psychotherapist at Harvard Medical School instructor, talks about the importance of compassion in her book, “The Self-Compassion Diet.”  She explains, “Most plans revolve around self-discipline, deprivation and neglect.   Self-compassion is the missing ingredient in every diet and weight-loss plan,”  OK, Jean, I’m going to experiment with compassion right now, in this coffee shop, with this post.  Here goes…

First, compassion begins by asking me to resist the temptation to label my Story as a villain.  “Why not choose gratitude?” it suggests.  I can thank my Story for serving a needed purpose.  O.K.  I’ll try it out…

I want to be enough.  I can see how my Story of “I am not enough” holds the promise that someday – maybe even this time – I will be enough.  Thank you, Story, for keeping that desire alive.

O.K.  So far, so good.  Next, compassion dares me to believe that I already have my deepest desire.  This is hard to see.  No, actually, it blows chunks.  Here’s what I want to say to that lovely nugget of wisdom…

Don’t tell me I am enough when, obviously, I’m not.  You can’t tell me what to do.  Everyone is telling me what to do.

Compassion isn’t putting up a fight.  It’s just there, quiet, letting me rant.  I’m staying angry.  I’m imagining a backstory of tiny offenses to support my victim identity.  I’ll do this until I’m ready to not do it anymore.

Intermission

After all that, compassion still won’t condemn me for my tantrum.  This level of unconditional acceptance calms my defenses, and I feel safe enough to look deeper.  At these depths, stuff just seems to leak out unguarded, like it almost wants to be seen.  If I’m honest with myself…

I want to be not enough.

It’s what I’m used to.

It’s what I’ve always known.

If it wasn’t this stress today, I would find something else tomorrow.

I think I am addicted to my Story.

Compassion is nodding, not with condemnation but with caring.  I hear, in a soft, motherly voice, “That’s not all you are.”

I want to lean in.  If compassion had a shoulder, I would rest on it.  Finally, the acid in my veins is disintegrating.  I can take a deep breath.  This time, each expanding inhale reminds me that compassion is right; there is more to me than this.  I am looking around.  I remember my day.  I see a new reality…

I did get a workout in today.

I am writing, right here, right now.

I will encounter understanding when I explain why I had to ditch out.

While I’m being honest…you should know that I just deleted two paragraphs that I had spent 15 minutes writing.  At this point, I’m tempted to lift my struggle up into a hopeful, insightful bundle of lessons learned and bridges crossed.  If I could send this post to you via snail mail, I would wrap it in a pretty bow.  That’s what I was doing with those paragraphs.  Then, I thought…does it have to always end on an up note?  Sometimes, sure, yeah.  This time, though, I would be cheating you and me both out of a truer truth.

No matter how stressed I feel, how enlightened I might sound, or how messy the space between those two extremes becomes, one thing remains:  I am.  I am not enough, or I am enough.  But I always am.  I am stressed, or I am at peace.  Still, I am.  What if I am is the point of it all?  What if I don’t just set the standard in my life, but I am the standard?  If that could be true, then there is no such thing as falling short or not being enough.  Neither is there such a thing as wanting too much or being too this or too that.  I am is the benchmark.  I am is flexible, too.  It measures exactly enough while still holding limitless potential.  When I start arguing with that paradox, or devising a method to skip over it, then I get into trouble.

My methods usually depend on judging some part of me “good” or “bad,” then making adjustments from there.  In contrast, compassion refrains from judging.  It sees me as whole, even as I birth another sub-species of angst in the diverse ecosystem called “me.”

Where do I want to end this?  No bows in sight, so I’ll just say that I am.  There is no right me.  There is no wrong me.  Sure, I can gain more traction with some choices more than others, but always, I am.  What I really desire, what I truly want, if for this I am to taste sweeter than any cream cheese danish.

Take Home Tip

This I know for sure:  if I want to grow, learn, heal, or do anything worth doing, all I need go do is desire.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges

“The Self-Compassion Diet” by Jean Fain

You Already Have What You Desire, No, Really, You Do

Enjoy more Vision Boards at pinterest.com/100Pounds/lose-100-pounds-in-1-year/

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.  She also writes a blog about what it means to be true to ourselves at RadicallyAuthentic.wordpress.com.

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Filed under Food, Principles

How Can I Keep Going When I Want to Stop?

Here in Montana, the temps have topped seventy degrees, and we’re on the back end of spring runoff.  This is a time of joyful sacrifice for us Montanans.  Winter’s cache of precious snow funnels down mountain draws, babbling all her secrets into spring streams.  If we’re lucky, we’ll have enough moisture to keep summer fires at bay.  These hidden waterways zigzag through thickets, playing tag with the forest.  Their refreshing touch awakens berry bushes, which will turn snowmelt and sun into August fruit.   Rivulets pool in the plateaus.  Streams become creeks, creeks join rivers.  In town, our Clark Fork River swells in a muddy rise.  Spring fishing surrenders to the slurry for a while.  No use casting a fly, anyway, not until after the tube hatch (flotillas of sun-burnt floaters lazing the days away in their inner-tubes).  This is the between time, the waiting hour, unless – of course – you go rafting.

Spring runoff attracts adventure rafters like Salmon Flies pull trout to the surface.  Rafters need not be out to catch a fish, mind you.  The water is challenge enough.  As rivers rise, so does the force of all that water.  Underneath the speedy swell hides a myriad of dangers, both seen and unseen.  Where a slight hump appears on the surface, a sunken boulder the size of a Volkswagen could be pushing the water up and over (I know one spot where I can dunk my head under and hear boulders thudding down the riverbed, like muffled thunder.)  More visible – but no less dangerous — are giant cottonwoods felled by hungry beavers.  These trees act like a sieve, siphoning everything under water-logged trunks and into tangles of immersed branches.  They can suck anything under.  Beneath deceptively smooth spots in the river, underwater whirlpools can catch you unaware.  Like underwater tornadoes, whirlpools yank everything into their murky holes.  That’s why, this time of year, I stay close to the shore.  That’s why some people don’t.

Some brave souls gush at the idea of riding that wild water.  One summer, many years ago, my husband Frank ventured onto a local stretch of river known as Alberton Gorge.  In late summer, the gorge provides sport for dogs, kiddies, and all manner of summer sprites.  During spring runoff, however, one crucial juncture asks each boater to measure their courage for the day.  Where the mountainsides draw together and narrow the river’s breadth by half, a tall haystack rock squats between the flow.  There are three reasons this matters:

The narrow channel creates a super-swift underwater current, which any good guide can float you above in a class 3 adrenaline rush of whitewater hustle.  That’s fun for some, except for number two.

Squeezed by the gorge, all that water has to go somewhere.  Spring run off creates enough momentum to lift the river up and over the haystack rock.  On the other side of this batholith, the current plunges with all the wild gravity of a wilderness waterfall.  Force alone can bore out the riverbed below.  You’ve got a Montana black hole, also known as a “boat eater.”

Like it splits the river, the haystack rock splits your chances of getting through the gorge still in your boat.  As waves roll back onto themselves at the foot of the rock, in a vertical whirlpool, the edges of this wonky current can snag an edge or oar.  Even the best guide has felt their aft tugged into current.  Oars go flying as the boat yanks backwards, sideways, and upside down, all at the same time.  Hence, the required conference before Frank’s group headed into the gorge…

“Guys,” the guide grunts in his best this-is-serious-stuff tone.  “How are you feeling today?”

Frank thought his question weird, since the sky was blue and the water perfect, but no one answered.

“We’ve got a decision to make,” the guide says.

The group of six looks around at each other, anticipating a man-up moment.  The guide drops an oar into the last calm water they’ll see for a while.  He raises his free hand and points down river.

“Up there, we’ve got a moment of decision.  There’s a tight rise with a big rock waitin’ for us.  We can eddy out now and portage this puppy trailside, no harm done.”

He lifts his shoulders and raises his eyebrows, wiping his face clean of any judgment and giving his clients an out, like a good guide should.

“Or?” one rider with trendy sunglasses goads.  Eyes dart back to the guide.

“Or,” the guide pauses.  ”We can deep throat that sucker and find out why they call it the Alberton Gorge.”

A robust round of “hell yeah’s” circles among the men.  With only two minutes between them and the rock, discussion ensues.  Some grouse over having to haul the raft up steep trail.  Others express everyone’s desire to meet the challenge.  After all, wasn’t that what they came for?  Everyone offers the guide their approving nod.  In enthusiastic response, he grabs both oars with a ruddy grip and points the raft downstream.  A smile widens underneath the bent brim of his weathered cowboy hat.

“Here’s the thing,” he says.  “If we’re gonna do this, we got to do it full force.  There’s no halfway with this.”

Everyone’s lips purse in agreement.

“Last week, I steered a boat of football players through this hole, and we all went swimming.”

Silence, then the familiar rrrriipppp of tightening straps on lifejackets.  The guide continues, stiffening the oars to create a little drag and buy extra training time.

“Right now, fifteen feet of river is running over a ten foot tall rock underneath.  You can’t see it, but it’s there.  It’s a bearcat rise, but what goes up must come down, and there’s a steep drop on the other side.  It’s a mess, a wet, rough, and rowdy mess.  If we’re gonna get through it, we gotta dive.”

Eyes dash among the crew.

“That’s right,” the guide answers.  “I said dive.  We got to punch this raft deep into that water.  When I say ‘go,’ you’re gonna have to lean into this baby with everything you’ve got.  You gotta punch into that wave, ‘specially you guys up front.  Push her nose down, then push some more.  We had all better be under water, or that wave will flip us over.”

The guide pauses, putting a silent exclamation point on his instructions.  Everyone tests their lungs with a gulp of air.  As the guide lifts his oars to set the raft going again.

“When we pop up,” he continues between committed pushes into the current, “we’ll be on the other side.”

Frank grips the side rope at the front where he sits.   Across from him, the other point man stretches his legs taunt to wedge himself solid into the sides of the raft.  Granite walls rise up.  The air cools.  Shadows blanket the water, making it harder to read the river.  The sound of rapids bounces all around, like a natural echo chamber.  Frank smells green moss as they pass rocky banks dampened by a constant spray coming off the speedy edges.  The boat traces the river’s edge as they make the final turn.  Then, Frank sees it.  Not so much the wave as the fountain it spews five feet into the air, as if a geyser decided to burst from the middle of the Clark Fork.  The guide pushes one oar and pulls the other, steering straight for the geyser.

“Get ready!” he yells over the white water’s rumble.   More hands clench more rope.  Everyone leans forward, mustering guts and momentum.  The fountain of foam gets bigger, closer to eight feet high now.  Frank eyes the current, following surface rivulets as they stretch long and thin in submission to the flow.  He braces.  Wait for it, he says to himself.  “Wait for it,” the guide bellars.  The river feels anxious, too, yanking them from side to side, even as they float faster.  Frank balances his weight between push and pull, trying to move with the water.  Out the side of his eye, a wet shine on one oar flickers then disappears.  The raft lunges.  Frank leans in.  The nose of the raft lifts, as if arguing with everything the guide just said.  Frank squints.  The geyser spray sparkles in cold pelts.

“Go!” the guide blares.

The boat rolls forward, high-centers for a half second, then tilts into a downward fall.  Frank thrusts his body over the nose.  Whitewater is everywhere.  He closes his eyes.  He sucks air.  Behind him – he hopes – the crew has got his back tight.  Then, they hit wet thunder.  Under water, inside the whirlpool, liquid static fills his ears.  He forces his eyes open.  They sting from the shock of cold and sand.  They’re still sinking.  They go deeper.  A swampy green engulfs tiny shards of sunlight.  He’s in a black hole.

Seconds later, the light turns bright again.  He feels less weight but more wet as the air lifts the river’s weight.  He opens his mouth.  Droplets blink from his eyes.  As he gasps for more air – consciously this time — he looks around.  Heads, their bodies disappeared under water, float alongside him.  They rise in unison, even as they slow into calmer waters.  With the raft still half-sunk, one man curses his lost sunglasses.  The guide tamps down his cowboy hat.

What does rafting have to do with losing weight?  I’ve encountered daunting obstacles along my 100 pounds journey.  Just like in spring runoff, some hazards hide underneath the current of my conscience.  When I realize I’m about to be siphoned under by another craving, or caught in a whirlpool of frustration, I wish I had a guide to teach me how to punch through the moment.  Either that, or permission  to leave off my struggle and hope for calmer water on the other side.

I get conflicted inside, like I’m trapped in the vortex of a boat-eater.  I’ve lost pounds then gained them back over weeks of sinking depression.  I’m still here, though.  I’m beginning to believe my hurdles cannot be cleared by floating over the top (ignoring them), ditching out to the side (avoiding them), or hoping I’d remember how to swim if my plans got turned upside down (wishing them away).  Nope.  I must punch into them.  I must learn to lean.  When I sink into their source and become willing to get lost and disoriented in my swampy darkness, then I come face to face with my demons.  I peer into that black hole.  It’s scary to punch into the white water of life, but so far I’ve popped out on the other side, every time.

Take Home Tip

It’s scary to lean into the white water of my life, but so far I’ve popped out on the other side, every time.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

Learn About Alberton Gorge

Watch a trip through the Alberton Gorge

“River” Slang from Urban Dictionary

Where’s the Vision Board for this post?

Well, I knew this day would come.  My favorite picture editor is obsolete.  I’m spending some time learning a new editor.  So, hopefully more Vision Boards will be up coming, as soon as I learn the ropes on this new program.  Meanwhile, you can enjoy more Vision Boards at pinterest.com/100Pounds/lose-100-pounds-in-1-year/

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.  She also writes a blog about what it means to be true to ourselves at RadicallyAuthentic.wordpress.com.

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Filed under Principles

Am I a Food Vampire? When Cravings Bite

Ronald McDonald VampireI’m sitting in the drive-thru of McDonalds.  Again.  Doesn’t matter how long I’ve been on this journey – or how many pounds I’ve lost – I will come here.  Like Mr. Smith in The Matrix drones, “It is inevitable.”  Sooner or later, I will crane my neck out my car window, loud-talk at a weatherized screen, negotiate with the tinny voice scratching through tiny dots in the metal speaker panel, and order up the fattiest, saltiest hit my money can buy.  I will suck down the Diet Coke.  I will snarf the fries.  I will scratch for the last fraggler (urban slang for that last fry at the bottom of the bag).  After I’ve quieted my craving, I’ll sit plump in my seat.  I am a food vampire, way too full and still not satisfied.  In that moment, I feel disconnected from my body, cut at the gut like a woman sawed in half at a magic show.

As I described in my post Frenemies, I’m familiar with the lowball surrender that cravings tend to create.  When cravings spike, with their smells, flavors, and images looping in my head, they trigger an almost reptilian desire.  I rethink The Fix over and over, between answering e-mails, after meetings, sitting in traffic, and washing dishes.  Cravings rarely go away.  Instead, they squat in my thoughts and poke at my taste buds.

There are many schools of thought on how to handle cravings.  Most focus on food as the enemy.  They seem designed to fight the feeling of harassment and looming attack that cravings threaten.  These tactics aim at avoiding cravings at all costs by outsmarting the hunger.  In truth, I suck at Ninja-style warfare on food.  Worse yet, when I’ve tried that, and I still end up at McDonald’s, then I sink into tired apathy, like an aged hippie with worn down dreds.

Here’s a new thought:  what if cravings don’t go away because they’re not supposed to?  Perhaps there’s more to cravings than I think.  There’s only one way to find out:  stop resisting and start snarfing.  Yes, you read that right.  I just advocated overeating.  Why?  The first step in discovering what’s inside my craving is to stop resisting it.  If I embrace my hanker and eat through my cravings, through my mind talk, then I might get past it.  I could begin to hear new things.  I could listen for what my body is trying to tell me.  Could cravings become a portal to a parallel universe where I possess greater understanding of my body and myself?  I wanted to find out.

Before testing my theory, I researched some legit reasons for food urges.  Just Google “What are food cravings?” and scroll through the links.  Three of the most common answers describe cravings as:

  • Psychological:  the food equivalent of quicksand, waiting for me to slip off an emotional edge
  • Biological:  food flags waved at the first detection of deficiency
  • Cyclical:  time keepers of hormone cycles, triggered by lunar, seasonal, or age-related changes

Now I had a mini-checklist of triggers.  When my next craving hit, I would reach for that food right away, skipping all the arguments of “to eat or not to eat.”  Then, I would check-in with what could have sparked the obsession.  After several go-rounds with my theory, here’s the pattern of questioning I have distilled…

1. Was this craving emotional or biological?

When talking about cravings, it’s first important to differentiate between biological food cravings and emotional food cravings.  I’ve had those moments, post-craving, when I’ve just eaten everything in the house and am still not satisfied.  That confused, unknown spot is what registered dietitian Debra Waterhouse demystifies In her book, Why Women Need Chocolate.  She explains, “The major difference is that biological cravings are based on your body’s needs, and emotional cravings are based on your heart’s needs.”  I used her guidelines for the following check-ins:

  • Is my stomach mawing or brain going flatline?
    • Yes=biological
    • No=emotional
  • Is it a craving or an emotion that’s intensifying?
    • Cravings=biological
    • Emotion=emotional
  • Can any non-food satisfy my craving?
    • Yes=emotional
    • Maybe, not sure=could be biological.  Go to question #2.

2. Could I be deficient in anything?

I first examine my sleep.  Was it a rough night?

  • Yes:  A nap is my primary craving.  In fact, digesting a two-cheeseburger meal with large fries and a Diet Coke is a sure way to make me nod off.  Hmmm.  Maybe my body knows that and is trying to get me to take a snooze.
  • No:  Could I need a different nutrient?  According to Journal, the five top food cravings are chocolate, salt, refined carbs, caffeine, and fat.  Could these nutrient imposters be pointing me towards a deeper need?
    • Yes:  Most likely, I’ve left off eating something good for me.  For example, after one craving, I realized I hadn’t gotten my Omega-3’s in like usual.  Maybe my body actually wants those Omegas.  Allie LeFevere, a Holistic Nutrition Practitioner who blogs at allielefevere.com, offers a helpful list linking specific cravings with possible nutrient deficiencies (see Explore It More below).
    • Maybe, but not sure:  Try on question #3

3. Am I in the Middle of a Cycle?

Is the moon waxing or waning?  If you’re like my husband, then the new moon may have you rummaging for calories in the middle of the night when you cannot sleep.  For me, seasonal changes trigger cravings, particularly when the barometer drops, temperature fluctuates, or sunlight patterns change.  Are the seasons changing?

  • Yes:  As January in Montana sinks us into our darkest, deep-freeze days, I crave chocolate just as dark.  Thank you bod, for trying to coax me through winter.
  • No seasonal flux?  Could there be a larger cycle at play?  For example, I just turned 40.  Is peri-menopause swaying my diet with refined carbs or salt?  Note to do more research.

With this pattern of questioning, I’ve changed my mind about cravings; they can be a blessing in disguise.  When I embrace food urges as a way to monitor my body’s deeper needs, then I view this whole process as nourishing, rather than punishing.  After all, everything in nature reaches for what nourishes it.  As I write this, my daffodils bend towards the spring sun.  I’m like those flowers.  I can’t help but reach for what nourishes me.

Take Home Tip

When I embrace food urges as a way to monitor my body’s deeper needs, then I view this whole process as nourishing, rather than punishing.  After all, everything in nature reaches for what nourishes it.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

Frenemies:  When Food is Both Friend and Foe

Why Women Need Chocolate, by Debra Waterhouse

The Science Behind Food Cravings

Healthy Substitutes for Unhealthy Food, by Allie Lefevere

Ronald McDonald Vampire

Enjoy more Vision Boards at pinterest.com/100Pounds/lose-100-pounds-in-1-year/

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center. 

Design note:  Shelby creates collages from found images on the web and gives them her own flair.  Kudos to the following sources:

  • Ronald McDonald Vampire:  forums.techguy.org
  • Brick wall: freedesignfile.com

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Filed under Food