Healthy Byte: Lose Weight AND Be Happy

NOTE: These exact list of things, like anything else won’t work for everyone. However, I think the general approach has a broad enough applicability to warrant consideration. If we can only implement on 1 thing to eliminate entirely that would bring us one step closer to being healthy in body, mind, & spirit, then this was worth the post.

Losing 70 pounds is tough. Keeping it off for more than a decade is even tougher. Trust me, I tried everything. Once I lost the weight, I thought I’d feel relieved and proud all the time, but what I didn’t expect were the feelings of panic and fear.

I was constantly afraid that I’d end up back where I started and keeping the weight off became an obsession. When I overindulged or wasn’t able to work out, my first thought was that I was going to gain the weight back. It was exhausting and nerve-racking.

But somehow I’ve managed to keep it off and eventually found a way to do it that’s effective, effortless and doesn’t mean living in fear. Here’s what I’ve learned about what it takes.

1. Workouts that I dread.

I used to assign value to workouts purely on the number of calories that they burn so I stuck to brutal, high-intensity workouts that sorta made me miserable and ultimately got me injured and left me feeling burned out. Then, it occurred to me that I’m more than just muscle and fat. So I started only doing workouts that felt good in my body and contributed to the overall well-being of my body, mind and spirit. Now, I actually look forward to my workouts, which means I’ve got no problem getting them in regularly.

2. Eliminating entire categories of food.

Legit food sensitivities and allergies aside, cutting out a whole classification of food is not sustainable, making it a one-way ticket to Frustration City. Our bodies were designed to take in quality fats, protein and carbs (in moderation of course) and each plays a vital role in proper bodily function. Now, over time, I’ve learned that there are certain foods that don’t make me feel the greatest — for example, gummy candies cause my skin to break out, cereal makes me gassy and fried foods make me sluggish — but will an order of fries, a few celebratory cocktails or a birthday cupcake (or two) derail my inner peace and send me into a downward spiral of self-loathing and guilt? Absolutely not. I don’t give food that much power over me anymore.

3. Thinking in terms of calories.

Calories get far too much attention considering that they only tell a small part of the story. So many other things have a direct effect on your body weight and overall health and well-being — for example, hydration, sleep and stress levels all affect how well your body’s internal processes work, including digestion and metabolism. When we focus on calories, we learn that low-calorie means better … but it doesn’t. Many of the most nutritious foods on the planet are calorie dense and many very low-calorie foods have little or no nutritional value. Remember that food is fuel, so quality and nutrition definitely matter.

4. Punishing myself for “slipping up.”

Workouts aren’t punishment and deprivation is cruel. Think of it this way: if your child or pet screwed up, is it okay to run them into the ground or withhold a meal from them? No. So why, oh why, it is okay for us to do it to ourselves?

5. Ignoring the need for recovery.

I used to wear my perpetual muscle soreness like a badge of honor and told myself that I had to work out every day in order to “earn” my calories for that day. Honestly, I wish I could get back all that time I wasted — it didn’t make me stronger, leaner or happier. Our bodies can self-heal, but only if we give them the time to do so. Pushing yourself to the limit every day may seem bad-ass, but it’s robbing your body of the chance to rebuild, adapt and grow stronger.

6. Choosing my workouts based on what I want to look like.

My current workout routine reflects how I want my body to function so that I can do all the things that make my life fun and enjoyable — like teaching yoga, running ultra marathons, playing with my 3-year-old niece and carrying all my groceries in one shot. Here’s the thing: I’ve been a size 18 and I’ve been a size 0 — and everything in between — and it didn’t change how I felt about myself. Losing 70 pounds didn’t make me any less self-conscious about my body. You know what did make a difference? Learning what my body is capable of and developing my strengths. The shape and size of my body don’t define me or affect my overall quality of life.

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Tips from Long Term Maintainers

In the health world, we’re typically inundated with research on the best ways to lose weight, from nutrition advice to fitness tips. But what if we knew the secrets to never gaining it in the first place? What if we just focused on how to stay at a healthy weight?

Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, author of Slim by Design, and Yahoo Health Advisory Board Member, and his team of researchers at Cornell Food and Brand Lab are launching the Global Healthy Weight Registry in January to gather information and discover the secrets of people who have pretty much never gained weight (other than 5 to 10 pounds).

You can join the registry here.

Currently, the National Weight Control Registry, made up of people who had lost 30 pounds and kept it off for three years, provides a wealth of information on weight loss and what makes individuals successful with it long-term. But we don’t hear much about preventing weight gain in the first place, Camille Finn, manager of the Healthy Weight Registry, tells Yahoo Health.

“We need this registry so that we can share the secrets of people who have never been overweight,” Finn explains. “We hope to discover interesting tips and tricks from people who have always been a healthy weight and share those secrets to help others avoid gaining weight.”

So who’s eligible for the registry? Finn breaks it down: “The perfect candidate is someone 18 or older who has maintained a healthy body weight (healthy body mass index) throughout their adult life, and who has not worked with weight counselors or other health professionals regarding their weight in the past.”

If you think you qualify, the next step is to take a questionnaire, which asks a wide range of questions on topics such as what you eat for breakfast, food preferences, cooking secrets, and broader topics such as hobbies and your outlook on life. Once you’re accepted — you’ll be kept anonymous, don’t worry — you’ll be sent updates on new insights and related research papers Wansink’s team publishes. Your only other commitment will be to answer a new set of questions once a year.

‘If you are not eligible, we can still keep you up-to-date on some of our findings when you sign up as a Registry Friend on our website,” Finn explains.

Once the registry gets going, the team will crunch the data in search of commonalities among healthy weight people, says Finn. Then, they’ll share these insights with both the people in the registry and the general public, so that others can apply these tips and tricks to their own lives. “We’ll write academic articles on the results and develop infographics, posts, and tweets, and share them on the website and our social media so that we can help people stay slim.”

The team has created an infographic with some of their preliminary findings on “healthy weight” registrants, which includes some interesting stats: 63 percent eat veggies with dinner every night, 46 percent eat fruit at breakfast, 47 percent never diet, and over 50 percent exercise four or more days per week.

As the registry grows, more insights like these will be revealed and guide useful recommendations that other people can follow to help maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives.

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Day 960

Yes, that is the number of days I have obsessively logged every morsel which passed my lips and every mascara running session at the gym into MFP.

I recently celebrated my 2-year weight loss maintenance anniversary and I feel that I have learned a tremendous amount through many, many bouts with trial & error and just observations. I’d like to share this collective in hopes that it’d help others. So here goes nothing!

A recent MFP friend asked how do I stay motivated to stay active in maintenance. In my haste to publish my anniversary post I think I really missed the mark on addressing the question properly. What I initially stated was that regular exercise had simply became a mindless habit which is mostly true. However, in giving the question some additional thought, I feel that I can elaborate a bit more with more practical response. So I asked myself, ‘Self, when you are dog-tired & would much prefer to veg out in front of the computer, what does drive you to go to the gym?’ The answer is in two parts.

The first is that it is a habit for me because I absolutely thrive in routines and schedules. However, to say that is the sole driver is not 100% accurate. What keeps me going is that I continue to experience measurable progress towards my fitness goals. And this one is a bit of the chicken or the egg phenomena … let me explain.

My main mark of progress when I was losing weight, like many others, was the fickle frenemy the scale. No matter if it was 2 lbs or a mere fraction of a pound loss, every miniscule step closer to my goal, the more I was motivated to carry on with what I was doing. It is not that much different to be successful in maintenance. I shifted my focus from losing weight to fitness oriented ones, ie. gain muscle definition. Although I secretly dream of looking like this,

Day 960 JE

Photo of Jamie Eason: Former NFL cheerleader & Winner of the World’s Fittest Model Competition

I know that this is something I am unable to maintain for the rest of my life. It’s not a matter of whether I can physically accomplish it. Rather it’s a matter of being able to comply with the heavy demands necessary to achieve AND maintain which is something I am just not willing to invest the time & effort into for the-rest-of-my-life. So I opted to choose something which is more realistic for me and my lifestyle.

Enter the First Lady, Michelle Obama. Day 960 MO The First Lady’s toned shoulders and arms requires effort of course. But the ‘upkeep’ is a very sustainable amount of effort without becoming burdensome. So with a realistic goal set, an adjustment in exercise regimen, all it took was consistency and time (patience). The more muscle definition that I saw the more motivated I became. Everytime I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror and see the budding toned legs, arms, or shoulders, my initial reaction was always ‘holy shit is that me?’ Immediately followed by ‘wow I never thought any part of me could ever look like that!’

So, that’s the chicken or the egg phenomena: I go to the gym and workout regularly because I am seeing positive results towards my fitness goals. And I am seeing positive results because I am going to the gym to workout regularly.

MFP Flex

6 mths Strength Training – still fairly doughy with bat wings & bra strap fat (Weights Exclusively)

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12 mths Strength Training – starting to see some definition in certain positions – the progress keeps me motivated to carry on – tweaks exercises to get the most bang for the workout buck (Bodyweight Exercises Only)

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18 mths Strength Training – muscle definition becoming more prominent – swapped out all my tshirts for tank tops & I always do my pushups in front of a mirror to check my body position but more importantly seeing my shoulder & arm muscles at work motivates me to really push myself to do ‘just one more’ (Bodyweight Exercises Only)

I mentioned previously how utterly ‘lost’ I felt initially in maintenance. The incremental progress during weight loss was suddenly POOF – gone. I felt as if my inner tube had been deflated leaving me in the middle of the ocean just floundering. Simply being intellectually aware that continued activity was ‘good for me’ was not enough of a motivator because to a certain extent, a part of me did have the ‘yay I’ve reached goal – I’ve crossed the proverbial finish line’ mentality. Embracing the reality that there is no finish line & that this is for the rest of my life sort of commitment, it was imperative that I set new goals to help me overcome a common transition pitfall from weight loss to maintenance.

Fitness goals doesn’t have to be earth-shattering or monumental in order to be effective. It can be a series of mini goals. ie. 2,000 steps in three months No matter what it is, it is a key factor to staying active in maintenance. Every now & again, when I hanker to skip the gym,  I ask myself, ‘is it really worth it?’ As one MFP friend very aptly described, muscle definition is a “herd-of-turtles-slow” process and so my answer 99% of the time is a resounding ‘NO.’ It’s just not worth it to me to undo all the time & effort already invested for one night of sitting on my duff at home for an extra hour or so. Hope this more in depth answer is helpful.

ADDITIONAL INSIGHTS

Need a Plan:

The key is that you need a plan that fits your lifestyle and goals and that allows you to follow through. The world’s greatest plan won’t work if it’s not right for you.

Key Behaviors of Long Term Weight Loss Maintainers:

Several key behavior changes that occurred over the year of follow-up also distinguished maintainers from regainers. Not surprisingly, those who regained weight reported significant decreases in their physical activity, increases in their percentage of calories from fat, and decreases in their dietary restraint. Thus, a large part of weight regain may be attributable to an inability to maintain healthy eating and exercise behaviors over time. The findings also underscore the importance of maintaining behavior changes in the long-term maintenance of weight loss.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Bread … oh how I love thee! It’s my standard go-to for lunch because it is easy, quick, and perfect for a busy morning rushing two kids out the door for school. But when I decided to get healthy, I needed to tweak it so that it is the healthiest version of my standard go-to. Instead of trying to force myself to eat new strange ‘healthy’ foods (ie. lettuce wrap in lieu of bread), I stuck with what I loved and simply swapped out components in order to make it healthier. As you can see below, simply by changing the bread, I saved 80 calories per sandwich, reduced carbs, & total fat/sugar intake. Which may not seem like a lot but multiply that by a week (400 calories) or a year (22,400 calories), it adds up really quickly in my favor.

2015 8-21 Incre Tip

Per 2 Slices Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Enriched Whole Grain  White Sara Lee 45 Calorie & Delightful Whole Grain Aunt Millie’s 35 Calorie Whole Grain Difference per Sandwich
Calories 150 90 70 80
Total Calories from Fat 14 10 5 9
Total Fat 1.4 1 1 .4
Carbs 28 19 19 9
Sugar 4 2 1 3

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Healthy Byte: Forty Pounds to Freedom (Cliff Notes Version)

WAY BACK WHEN:

EPSON MFP image

2000

This was my stats for about 3 years after the birth of my second child. In my mind, this was what moms are suppose to look like, be like. There were no time for anything else but to live & eat this way.

156 lbs BMI: 32.6 [Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater]

Your BMR is: 1319 Calories/Day

Your TDEE is: 1517 Calories/Day

Eating Habits: (actual consumption 3000+)

White or fried rice every day – twice a day (lu & dinner); Pizza & Pasta 2-3 days a week; Chips, Chip & Dip for snack 5 days out of the week; Fast Food: Burgers, Nachos, Burritos, Subs – White bread; High sugary drinks – Starbucks 5-6 times a week – Sometimes twice a day Drink of choice: White Chocolate Mocha – Grande (16 oz), Whole Milk w/Whip Cream (500 calories each), Soda, Lemonade  made w/4 CUPS of sugar in every batch = 3,092 calories per pitcher) 2-3 (8oz) cups everyday is about 386.5 calories each; Lots of fried foods; Beef almost exclusively; Food generally was drowned in gravy or some sort of sauce or condiment ie. ketchup; no veggies; no fruits, no water)

Ate Out: 3-4 times a week

Meal Frequency: Lunch & Dinner only (85% Refined Carbs 5% High Fat Protein 10%Sugar/Fat)

Habit: Ate until I couldn’t move >50% of the time

Activity Level: Zero consistent exercise or physical activity – tried to walk once a or twice a week pushing the kiddos in a stroller in the park … usually last 2-3 weeks then ‘life’ got in the way.

THEN:

EPSON MFP image

2004

My ‘baby weight’ for about the next 12 years after the birth of my second child. LOL I had tried a series of yo-yo quick fixes to losing weight. Anything from popping diet pills to joining the weight loss group at the gym. Nothing stuck because I wanted immediate results but didn’t want to be bothered with the nitty gritty details like nutrition or consistency or patience – working full time & mother of two, who had time for THAT?! In my mind, this was the price of being a working mother and I had all but made peace with it.

133 lbs BMI: 27.8 [Overweight = 25–29.9]

Your BMR is: 1154 Calories/Day

Your TDEE is: 1327 Calories/Day

Eating Habits: (actual consumption 2000+)

White rice every day for dinner only; Pizza & Pasta 2 days a week; Fast Food: ‘healthier options’ tacos, Burrito bowls, Subs wheat bread; Pork & breaded fish fillets; Limited condiments to ketchup (tomato based = veggie = healthy); snacked every night (ice cream, chocolate) after dinner because I was overall eating ‘healthier’; no veggies; no fruits, some water)

Ate Out: 2-3 times a week

Meal Frequency: Lunch sometimes & HUGE Dinner always (65% Refined Carbs 20% High Fat Protein 15% Sugar/Fat)

Habit: Ate until I was stuffed >50% of the time

Activity Level: No regular exercise or physical activity other than taking kiddos to the park & pushing them on swings about once a week.

NOW:

2015 8-11 Now

2015

I had surrendered completely to being overweight. After all I wasn’t obese – I can fit into rides at the amusement park. I can play with the kids without being out of breath. I was the average mom size. Even though I couldn’t bare to look at myself in the mirror for any length of time, avoided the camera like the plague, and dreaded clothes shopping, I ate mostly whatever I wanted with total disregard to portion size. It was my miserable-happiness. All was copacetic until I got a new job.

The new employer incentivized employees to get their annual physicals by reducing employee monthly health insurance contribution – for a family of four that was a hefty discount so off I went! My first annual physical since leaving the Army some 14 yrs prior. And boy did I get the shock of my life! My LDL was 115 (should be under 100) and my blood glucose was 101 (70-99 is norm). I was technically pre-diabetic. What a horrifying thought. Having been through training to sell diabetic medication, I saw first hand the complications of type 2 diabetes can do. Amputation, blindness, kidney, nerve, the list goes on and that scared me so bad that I downloaded MFP the very same day of the results and was bound & determined that I was going to give 110% effort in preventing the preventable. My goal was to get healthy!

95 lbs BMI: 19.9 [Normal weight = 18.5–24.9]

Your BMR is: 967 Calories/Day

Your TDEE is: 1498 Calories/Day

Eating Habits: (actual consumption 1100 – 1400)

Pizza no more than once a week; Chicken, Pork, & salmon – nothing breaded; Condiments: Fat free ranch, Fat free miracle whip, House Italian with lots of spices like cayenne pepper, paprika, chilli powder, & garlic for bold flavors; After dinner snack: if I’m hankering for a snack I opt for a toasted whole wheat english muffin w/ PB&J; Veggies with lunch & dinner; Whole Wheat everything; Fruits with breakfast & lunch; Green tea (w/fat free milk & sugar) & water only – No more than 10 calories a day from what I drink is my personal rule) Once or twice a year I have a Short (8 oz) White Chocolate Mocha Skinny (nonfat milk), No whipped cream. 175 calories and because it is a treat I really enjoy savoring it.

Eat Out: 1-2 times a month

Meal Frequency: Small Brkfst (just not a breakfast person), Solid Lunch, Good Size Dinner (75% veggies 24% Lean Protein 1% Condiments)

Habit: Eat until I am no longer hungry >90% of the time

Activity Level: Exercise 6 Days a Week: 30 minutes Cardio & 15-20 minutes Strength Trng

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Healthy Byte: Forty Pounds to Freedom (Story Version)

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
~ Maya Angelou, American Author/Poet

2 Yr Wt Loss Ani B4NAFT

9-4-9

Nine-Four-Nine, that is the number reflecting my continued cult-like diligence to logging into the calorie and exercise app – MyFitnessPal. Although that may seem impressive compared to some, that number is still very much in it’s infancy.

Nine-Four-Nine is not simply my number of consecutive days of logging, it also marks a milestone – my two-year weight loss maintenance anniversary. It was indeed 2 years ago when I reached my goal weight and have maintained 100% what I have lost. A feat which statistics had adamantly testified was out of reach for most. An impossible ordeal to obtain. And like a card player at the Blackjack table in Vegas, the odds were very much stacked against me but here I stand, 2 years-in, giving the statistics the proverbial finger.

The Key: The secret to my success? On the verge of sounding like Neo in “The Matrix” … “There is no spoon.” I wish I had an easy answer neatly topped off with a bright shiny bow, but alas, I do not. What I can offer are bits of self observations that will hopefully help ‘flip the switch’ for whoever maybe reading this post. Just be mindful that everyone is different and this is just what has worked for me.

From the Start: My initial goal had never been solely about losing X lbs in X time for X event. Losing weight was certainly a factor to measure progress but my ‘big picture’ goal was always to become as healthy as I can & as far away from developing diabetes as humanly possible. The luxury of time took a tremendous amount of pressure off.

Be the Tortoise Not the Hare: Having tried multiple times, with all the standard array of weight loss methods and ultimately failing was oddly good for me. It was good because based on all my past failures I learned that in order for the results to stick, whatever change(s) I was going to incorporate into my life to not only reach healthy but to stay healthy, had to be sustainable … as in ‘rest-of-my-life’ level of sustainability (a tall order). Unlike previous attempts I didn’t dive head first plunging into a totally new eating plan and go to the gym 5-days a week to only give up 3 weeks later because I didn’t see any results or was just burnt out. Nope! This time I had wisened up that I needed to make small incremental changes in order to banish my old habits for the rest of my life. For example, the amount of sugar I use in my tea. Over a period of a year I went from 4 TBSP →  2 → 1 → ½ TBSP → 1 TSP → all the way to what I am using now which is 1 Dash. I continue making small incremental changes even now in maintenance. I am always looking to make this lifestyle easier by maximizing efficiency. Like continuously swapping out nutritious poorer foods with more nutritious rich foods. Or an exercise which works more muscle groups at once rather one at a time. I call this the ‘most bang for the buck’ approach. For example, I only do compound exercises. If I am on the elliptical I set it to high resistance and vary my stance in varying degree of the squat position. This not only gets my cardio in, but the resistance & varying positions builds muscles. Kill two birds with one stone … so to speak.

IMAG2622

Example of small incremental changes: 4 TBSP → 2 → 1 → ½ TBSP → 1 TSP → 4 Dash → 3 Dash → 2 Dash → to current 1 Dash

Where Everyone Knows My Name: To finally understand and accept that there were really no finish line, that reaching goal was just a stepping stone to the bigger, grander scheme of things … aka maintenance was utterly daunting. Perhaps the oddest phenomena of losing weight  was the loss of support from my existing social circle. The initial banter of support somehow evolved to an aire of backhanded compliments and insinuation of an eating disorder. As my social circle shrank my feeling of isolation grew. I became disheartened with the monumental task before me. What I needed was to build a network of support. A network of those who collectively had given the statistics the same proverbial finger. RAWR! 🙂   I began to actively procure fellow maintainers as MFP friends & this was one of the two pivotal turning point in my maint journey. Having MFP Friends, although it was mostly virtual, tamed the soulless bewildering beast that maintenance can be. Maintenance became a soft little purring kitten quietly curled up on my lap. It provided an outlet to share my frustrations, to ask questions, and the simple camaraderie gave me a sense of that I am a part of something special. ❤

Drop a House on That Bitch: Two numbers was the other pivotal turning point in maintenance for me.  80/20 (Rule). To say that I was hyper-vigilant in my losing weight phase was putting it mildly. OCD came in handy to adhering to a set daily caloric number. hahaha The same approach which helped me reach goal was actually quite counterproductive in maintenance. I was incredibly disappointed that I was unable to stay 100% compliant 100% of the time … for the rest of my life. I realize that sounds rather ludicrous but the strict adherence is what helped me reach goal so naturally in order to stay there I just had to continue no? I constantly struggled with snacking after dinner and I have had my fair share of occasions where I said ‘fuck it I’m having some cookies n cream ice cream’ followed by cookies, then sweets. Just as I licked the last bit of chocolate off my fingers, a tremendous sense of guilt and failure would ensue. And of course this feeling of self disgust at the total collapse of my ‘willpower’ or perhaps it was just a genuine detrimental character flaw resurrects the super hyper vigilant sadistic controlling bitch (aka me) to be even more boisterous. It was a cycle which became evident that what I was doing was no longer working and the internal tug-of-war was a miserable existence. Then in researching nutrition for a blog post I came across an article referencing the 80/20 Rule. If this was a television sitcom exalted angels would be singing in the background complete with a beacon of light shining gently upon my little head. It was brilliantly simple. To maintain, all I needed was to eat on plan 80% of the time and then 20% of the time, if I so chose, I could indulge within reason (portion controlled). The minute I gave myself permission to eat what I wanted was the minute that I stopped craving it – it’s just human nature I suppose.

Jedi Mind Tricks: We all can borrow a page from Stuart Smalley. His daily self affirmation is “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.” As corny as that may seem Stuart is on the right track.

There is a genuine disconnect period after weight loss where the brain hasn’t quite caught up with the new physique. I’m not sure what the science behind it is is but it’s fairly common that the fatty mentality lingers on well after the weight is gone.  For example, it took me about 2 years to wear leggings because my mentality was ‘oh I can’t pull that off.’ SO the odd thing that I have done and continue to do is partake an activity of the youth … I-take-selfies! Yes I can hear the eyes rolling but hear me out.  We see ourselves everyday and it’s easy to take things for granted. By taking snapshots of myself I am visually reinforcing that I have indeed changed. Every now & again when I just don’t ‘feel’ like I’m making any fitness progress I go take a selfie. When I see my bicep getting more defined or my bat wings less wing like,  I get excited, I get pumped, and I’m super-charged to continue to do what I am doing. Self-affirmation and re-motivation is an important part of sticking with it. Another quirk I’ve developed is that I carry a photo of fat me around on my phone. It’s not very different from a child with a new toy. In the beginning they are all about it but after awhile they get tired of it and want something new. I think it’s very typical of human nature in general, not just children. Every now & again, I do get use to being the new size and grow callous to all the time & effort that I’ve invested to reach the new size. My brain would start to think, ‘hmmm, maybe it’s time to take a break from the exercise or the eating.’ This is when I pull up the fat me photo then look at the healthy me photo and on the verge of sounding self-absorbed I let myself marvel at the transformation. This visual helps remind me where I was and that what I’m doing every day does indeed matter. Because at the end of the day, we have to be our own best advocate. SO yea go on, be a bit more like Stuart, take some selfies, and allow yourself to bask in your accomplishment!

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