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Good New Days

The good news about tough times is that they don’t have to continue forever. Each day is an opportunity to do better than the day before, to make healthier choices, to reframe our mindset, and rebalance our emotions. It’s another chance to reconnect spiritually with whomever or whatever we decide is our Higher Power.

Today wasn’t perfect for me, but it was so much better than the last week. I’m relieved and, trust me, when i went to bed last night I anticipated a complete suckfest. As tired as I was, I could not shut off the mind chatter. Situations, worries, and drama kept repeating in my head. I believe that’s what psychiatrists call “inefficient worrying”. Whatever the name, I experienced it to the point where it took two hours and a change of scenery for me to go to sleep.

Change of scenery sounds weird, but sometimes when I can’t fall asleep in my bed I get up and go out in the living room to my recliner. For some reason, when I do that I can then drop off. My sleep in the chair usually only lasts for an hour to an hour and a half, but when I sort of wake up and return to my bed, I immediately fall asleep again and go through until morning.

Despite only getting about five hours of sleep, my mind was clear when my alarm went off. I spent some time connecting with my spirit. I said the Serenity Prayer. I mused on the things that I need to disconnect from and let go, then made the conscious choice to turn them over. With a calm mindset and a serene spirit, I actually experienced some good energy — like I’d relieved myself of things dragging at me. So I went out, jumped on my bike, and rode eight miles before breakfast. I rode to the beach and had the pleasure of seeing bright brush strokes of lavender, rose, and gold sweep across the sky. It was glorious.

The positive state of being remained throughout the work day and when I got home. Situations that last week threw me completely off of my game, today rolled off me without causing me difficulty. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that my food and eating through the day were also on point. I feel off some tonight and that’s my bad. I didn’t make my house “clean”, meaning I still had some junk food around

That’s one of the worse aspects of being a compulsive eater. I don’t have to be in a poor state in order to eat off plan. Sometimes I eat compulsively just because the food’s present. Anyway, it’s gone now. With my new found balance and positive, healthy attitude, I can withstand bringing any of it back into the house. that will help pad the likelihood of stacking up some successful days.

My takeaway reminder lesson from all this is to remember that no matter how far off I slip, it is always possible to climb back up, shore up my defenses, and reconnect with what I need to do in order to not only survive but thrive. I will never lose hope.

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Stopping the Slide

A lot of what Chrissy said in her comment to my Funk-ytown post really resonated. Recovery requires attention to all three aspects – physical, emotionally and spiritually. Spirituality does not necessarily mean formal religion. It means different things to different people whether their Higher Power is God, Allah, Buddah, the Universe, or a higher consciousness of their own self. For me, mostly, it’s God. Sometimes it’s an intangible state of being I think of as my healthy-non-diseased mental state.

Whatever the case, I need to reconnect with my Higher Power in order to stop this slide. Allow me just to say that today I physically feel like utter crap and that’s a direct result of too many days in a row of eating off of my plan. Emotionally and mentally I’m still down, although I had a nice time last night — which I’ll share about later in this post.

I’m trying to take care of myself. Thanks to the forethought of arranging for a dogsitter to stay in my house last night while I went to Key West for the function, I was able to sleep in a little this morning. Staying in bed until almost 9 a.m. felt really good. I woke up to a beautiful morning, so beautiful in fact that it would have been a perfect day to take out the boat with friends. However, I didn’t rush to come back home. I realized that while I would have loved to be out on the water, I really didn’t want to be around a lot of people today. I feel like I have been surrounded by others without a break for too many days in a row. Don’t get me wrong, I like being social and enjoy the company of others at work and in my various other pursuits. It’s just that when I’m already feeling the effects of energy drain, I hit a wall.

So, today I decided that I would rather soak up some solitude hanging around the house with Nat and Pyxi. I also would treat myself to new spring flowers for my porch planters and rejuvenate my herb planter. This was another way of taking care of myself. With that decision made before I left the hotel this morning, I was in a calmer, more relaxed state of mind on the drive up home.

Perhaps that’s what opened me up to understanding why my funk and slide are prolonged. Lately, I’m experiencing a resuscitation of some co-dependency issues. Co-dependency kicks off my eating disorder because food and overeating were always my coping mechanisms. Destructive and not always effective, still, it’s how I coped.

I haven’t run up against a situation where I would experience co-dependency in the two-plus years that I’ve lived in recovery on my weight loss and health-reclamation journey. I’m not surprised that I didn’t recognize this right away, but now that I have the signs are very clear to me. Now that I know, it’s time, as Chrissy said, to jump horses on the carousel and look for help from my spiritual self and my Higher Power.

This is not something that I can resolve with an extra bike ride, although the endorphins help. I need to make the conscious decision to turn the problem, the situation, and my reaction to it, over to my Higher Power. Turning it over is another means of letting go of it. It requires admitting that the situation is not something over which I have any control, nor am I required to fix it.

My responsibility in this is to take care of myself. I need to stay aware of how the situation affects me and, when I feel its influence, not take that influence into myself but turn it over and let it go. It’s another kind of mindfulness, to realize how other people/places/things/situations can impact my health — if I permit them to. This aspect of my recovery requires help from my Higher Power, but I have to make the conscious choice to ask. Doing so will help me stop this slide and get back on the road to recovery.

Okay, now back to last night. A few weeks ago, I talked about finding a couple of new dresses for upcoming events and then also ordering some heels. Last night was one of the events. I had fun socializing with a large group of people whose company I enjoy. We talked, laughed, and danced a lot. It’s not easy to take a flattering picture of myself with my phone in a mirror, but hopefully you can get an idea. I think I looked great in one of my new dresses. (Please ignore the slightly strange facial expression. I was focused on trying to get the photo.)

newdress

This was the debut of one of the new pairs of shoes, too. First time that I’ve worn more than a kitten heel in forever. They were pretty and comfortable (for most of the night anyway). I slipped them off a few times, as did some of my friends with their heels, but I was never in pain. As I discussed in that earlier post, I haven’t owned a lot of really pretty shoes in my life. If I keep having this kind of success, I might become a late blooming shoe addict. What do you think?

Shoes

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Food Associations

I treated myself to some new technology at home in the form of an AppleTV gizmo. I also signed up for a subscription to MLB.TV. Together, these things allow me to watch Phillies games on my television. I’m a big fan of baseball and the Phillies are my team. All of the years that I lived up home in SoJersey, we watched baseball games on television all season long. Before the time that they broadcast the games on the tube, we used to listen to them on the radio. I’ve missed that practice in the years that I’ve lived in Florida when the only times I could see the Phillies were when they played the FL Marlins or the occasional game on ESPN or Fox.

Tonight’s game is on while I type this. I was thinking about the years when we also had season tickets to Veterans Stadium for 16 games each season. I always wanted a ball park hot dog at those games. That was a strong association of a particular food with a particular activity. Each of us probably has countless associations that we make like popcorn at the movie theater, cake on a birthday, or turkey at Thanksgiving. Many of us can also add family traditions, like my family’s practice of making Pizza frita (fried dough) on Christmas morning. I have friends who never go out fishing without picking up fried chicken from a particular convenience store.

There used to be a great little family-owned Cuban restaurant in town. For years I ordered the same meal whenever I went to this restaurant — pork chunks with yellow rice, black beans and fried plantains. It got to be funny because I’d go with my mom and say that I really should try something else sometime, but the favorite tradition always won out.

I’ve noticed that I also have food and eating behaviors associated with certain places, activities and other things. Cookies in the kitchen at work are a guaranteed trigger for me. It’s like I have to eat one (or two).

I don’t think that the food associations are necessarily bad, except when they are. :-) By that I mean that if I’m aware of the association and make the food or eating choice mindfully with full awareness — and incorporate it into my overall eating plan, it can be a positive activity. If I don’t use the associations as a trigger to overeat, or eat compulsively, then it’s not automatically unhealthy. The key is being mindful and aware.

Eating by rote just because of the ingrained, often long term, association can be a dangerous, slippery slope. One needs to be aware of the association or habit in order to effect positive change, or counteract the trigger. For example, I used to automatically throw a candy bar onto the belt at the supermarket checkout. There’s a reason they put those rows of candy bars in that location! It didn’t matter if I wanted the chocolate before I got to the store or not. Most of the time, I hadn’t even thought about it on my way to the supermarket. When I hit the checkout line, I had associated the experience with also buying and later consuming, the chocolate bar.

I’m mindful about it now. I still want it most times, but I can resist the trigger of the association and choose a different behavior — ignoring the chocolate, completing checkout, and leaving the store.

This reminds me of something the coaches warned us about when I went through a smoking cessation program more than 27 years ago. We learned that smokers frequently lit up cigarettes because of the place or situation and not because they had an urge to smoke right at that particular moment. I rapidly noticed that I automatically lit a cigarette whenever I got into my car or sat down at my desk. (Back in the early 80s, most offices still permitted smoking.) When I went out to a rock club with friends, invariably I’d have a drink in one hand and a cigarette in another. Once I was made aware of the practice, I became adept at identifying the “association moments”. Eventually I learned to counter them, much like I’ve learned with the checkout candy bar rack.

Not sure if I’ll have the same success in other situations. Movie popcorn is a powerful lure. I can only try and do my best, or at the very least, take a look at my plan for the day and adjust so that I can enjoy the treat. Either action — resisting or working it into the plan – requires awareness and conscious thought. Those things can trump the automatic reaction because of long term association. I can work with that.

Do you have any food associations? Care to share?

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Taking Off My Fat Suit

From time to time a news reporter or a talk show host dons a fat suit and makeup to experience life as an obese person. I think Dr. Oz recently did it but I can’t remember which news reporter(s) I’ve seen. I remember in most of the stories I’ve seen they shared that they felt awkward, stared at, scorned by others and, in general, made to feel “less” than other people. They also discovered to a smaller extent than reality, the physical discomfort of being obese.

Right now, I’m in a physical state where I’m still overweight but have achieved significant weight loss and really improved my overall body and shape. I don’t suffer with “fat eyes” to the extent that I used to. I can look in the mirror and see my real body and be happy with my appearance. The only self-love allowance I need to make is over my sagging skin and the drooping flabby belly that I still have. Some of that will go away as I lose the remaining weight and the rest will go with surgery. I’m not happy with the wrinkly skin, but I accept it as a temporary state.

This alone is a huge, healthy step forward. “Fat Eyes” is a horrid, destructive, self-esteem crushing syndrome. I don’t know if it’s akin to what people with anorexia experience, but anytime we don’t see our physical selves the way that we really are, I think we mess with our minds and how we feel about ourselves. I’m grateful that I’ve recovered in this area, too.

At least I have when I’m looking in the mirror and when I’m in situations or places or with people I’m familiar with and comfortable around. When I go into the unfamiliar, I sometimes still struggle with the mental picture of myself as an obese person. Then I start to anticipate how others see me, react to my presence, all that kind of junky stuff. It doesn’t take over, but I’ve learned that I need to be aware that I do this and proactively guard my thought process and feelings against the junk. I’m going to think of it as taking off my fat suit.

Like the reporters who only had to be fat during the time they wore the prosthetic suit that packed on the pounds, I don’t have to think or act like an obese person any more. I have the power to choose to what extent I let the old thinking and reactions affect me. And that, my friends, truly is a powerful, liberating thought.

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The Dumb Thing I Did

I did a totally dumbass thing earlier this evening. I can’t even claim that I thought it was a good idea at the time. I knew at the time that diseased thinking motivated the action and did it anyway because the desire to show the lowest number possible on the doctor’s scale tomorrow took over.

I’ve been really good on my food plan. Up until a couple of days ago when I got sick, I was consistently great with my physical fitness plan and exercise. I’ve been losing weight and have felt great about it. This should have been more than enough for me to maintain a solid recovery mindset. I decided that it wasn’t enough. I got so hung up on the doctor’s appointment tomorrow and the damned number on the scale, that I opted to push things further. Yesterday I put myself on a “full liquids” plan. This meant fruit and veggie smoothies, protein drinks, greek yogurt and low cal/low sodium/low carb creamy soup. It’s the same plan I followed for two weeks prior to surgery and then, after the first ten days of clear liquids, followed for another four weeks post-surgery. I stayed hydrated, drank a lot of green tea and felt terrific.

A little more weight dropped off as of this morning and I figured that I’d really be in good shape by tomorrow.

It still wasn’t enough. So, when I got home from work tonight and made another smoothie to drink for dinner on my way to my manicure/pedicure appointment, I got the bright idea to use a laxative. From time to time my system slows down and needs a little help. As long as I don’t overdo and use only when necessary, it’s okay. It would have been okay in this case, too, but I took more than the recommended dose — just to be sure.

An hour and a half later, my system protested. I won’t go into all the details except to say that I cramped, broke out into a cold sweat, and was miserable to the point that I needed to excuse myself several times from the appointment to use the restroom. Finally, I couldn’t sit still and cut my appointment short. Thankfully, my nail tech is also a friend. My toes/feet were done, the manicure was half done, and she’ll squeeze me in on Saturday afternoon to put the polish on my fingernails.

I rushed home and alternated between curling up in my recliner and waiting in the bathroom for a good half an hour before the reactions settled down. The whole time, I scolded myself for bringing this on by taking laxatives for the wrong reason. Right now, I’m trying to get over the negative thoughts and stop beating up on myself. I made a poor choice. I experienced the consequences. It’s over. I need to let it go. However, I also need to remember tonight’s episode and what I learned.

The next time I fixate so much on my weight that I’m tempted to do something harmful, I need to make a different choice. On a daily basis, this is not about how much I weigh to the number. It’s not about whether I please my surgeon. It’s about making good eating choices, exercising, and being healthy in body and mind.

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Food Isn’t the Problem

I have a cold. I felt like crap all day, bad enough to stay home from work. I stayed home from work but didn’t refrain from working. Considering the sneezing, stuffy head, fuzzy brain and general tiredness, I was actually very productive and got a lot done. I was not, however, physically active. For the first time in months I have gone two days without reaching my minimum commitment of 10,000 steps. I feel sluggish. Even though I have more than enough reason to have not fulfilled my physical fitness goals the last two days, mentally I’m struggling with it. I’m sure that I’ll improve as soon as I get back on the step count, but it does me good to share this stuff. Thanks for listening.

While I was working from home today I had on the television. I sort of half listened during the Dr. Oz show, but in that hour I heard something that struck home. I’m sure I’ve heard it before, but it was excellent timing for me to hear it again today. The doctors were talking about the growing number of heroin addicts and the different prescription drugs that are hydrocodone related in different strengths, the addiction problems, etc. One doctor said that in the lives of addicts, the drugs are not the problem. The drugs are the solution. What a strong, important point. From my perspective, food and my way of previous diseased eating are not the problems. They are what I used to cope or bury the real issues. They’re the ways that I tried to solve my issues.

Sometimes it’s difficult to separate out these things. Even though a drug addict might know that he/she turned to drugs for an emotional reason doesn’t mean their bodies don’t physically become hooked. Same thing with me. I can get hooked on the behavior of stuffing my feelings with food or bingeing on certain foods because of their carb, fat or sugar content. So, I can’t ignore that, while food isn’t the root problem, it became a secondary problem at some point. So, until I “got clean”, I couldn’t clear my head and emotions enough to work on the motivating issues.

Some might think that getting clean is the hard part, but the real work begins after. That’s why it was so important for me to understand that the vertical sleeve gastrectomy — the bariatric surgery — would only be a tool to help me control my overeating behavior, which I’d not been able to sustain control over in the past for any significant amount of time. The hardest work is picking through the emotional and psychological issues that make me run to food. All of the time I need to remember that I cannot rely on food to be anything more than food. It needs to not be a problem or a solution.

The work is hard, but it’s important. It’s also possible as long as I keep at it.

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Blowing Past Limitations

Okay, you know that I’m a big fan of entertainment reality shows like The Voice and Dancing with the Stars. Not only am I entertained, I am frequently inspired. Never more so than tonight’s season premier of DWTS.

One of the dancing “amateurs” is Amy Purdy. She was terrific with pro partner Derek Hough. Sharp, snappy, quick footed, graceful, energetic. Really great. Amy Purdy is a double amputee and wears prosthetics below her knees on both legs. She’s a bronze medal winning snowboarder who competed in the 2014 Paralympics while also training for DWTS.

She’s my new hero. Here is a beautiful young woman who doesn’t believe in limitations. I’d venture a guess that if someone told her she couldn’t do something because of her physical challenges, she’d laugh in their face and then show them that they’re wrong. She doesn’t have any disabilities. She’s missing her legs below her knees but under no stretch of the definition is she disabled.

Then there is comedian/actor/game show host Drew Carey. When he first became famous, or at least when I first heard of him, on his television show, he was 80 or so pounds overweight. He was diagnosed with Type II diabetes and he had to have an angioplasty procedure to open a clogged artery. In 2010, he committed to losing weight, cut out carbohydrates, did 45 minutes of cardio most days each week and ended up losing 80 pounds. When he appeared on tonight’s DWTS, he looked terrific. He talked about how, now that he’s lighter and fitter, he enjoys finding out what he can do in his body. He’s thoroughly enjoying the new freedom he’s experiencing, including the greater ease of movement. Ohhh, boy, do I ever relate!

So in one night, I witnessed the stories of a woman who refused to let anyone define her in terms of limitations and a man who experienced limitations and did something about it.

Color me inspired. This helps me remember that the only roadblocks in my way are the ones that I either manifest or that I permit to remain in my way. I, too, can blow past them as I continue on my recovery journey. That’s just what I’m going to do.

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Photographs and Memories

I was on a hunt last night for photos of a particular friend. I’m not one of those people who has old packets of photos neatly boxed in date order with labels on the boxes. So I had to dig through a lot of photo store envelopes, haphazardly piled. This meant that I went through many photos from mostly the last 13 or so years. I wish I could say that I was carrying around a warm, fuzzy nostalgic feeling after the experience, but that isn’t the case.

Mostly I’m sad. I’m huge in the majority of the photos in which I even appear. It doesn’t matter what the photo portrays, whether it was a party, a gathering of friends, a fun event, an exciting occasion — if I’m fully in the photo, I can’t see anything else or feel any of the happy that should be part of those memories. The only shots where I experience the joy are those where enough of me is concealed behind other people.

How pitiful. Miserable. I am mired in the sludgy realization that my obesity most likely robbed me of some of the happiness at the time the photos were taken and the way I looked then still steals the joy of the memory from me today. There’s a photo of me with my younger nephew at his bar mitzvah. We both have huge smiles on our faces and must have just shared some really great moment. Damn it. I know I was happy right then when the photographer took the shot, but looking at the picture years later only brings me pain and that regret.

There was one exception. I found a photo from 11 years ago of me with my dear friend Chrissy. Chrissy comments here at the blog and has mentioned her own weight loss surgery/journey so I’m not blowing up her anonymity. Anyway, in that photo, we’re both obese, but it didn’t make me sad to look at it. I was able to look objectively at where we were and be really happy that we’ve come so far. We both have achieved significant weight loss and regained a great amount of quality health. These things I can celebrate.

I need to process this and make my peace with the photographic evidence of my past. I want to reach the point where I accept and forgive myself for the effect my previous obesity has on my memories. I want to not cringe when I look at old pictures but recapture the pleasure and joy in those experiences.

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Positive Food Mind Games

Remember when I talked about buying a few high-end quality, handcrafted chocolates over the weekend and said that I planned to eat them one a night?

Raise your hands. How many of you are expecting me to say that I totally messed up on that plan and stuffed them all into my mouth the first night?

It’s okay if you raised your hand. I pretty much expected me to do just that despite my plan and great intentions. I’m happy to say that I surprised myself and that I also discovered something useful and important in the process. This commitment and practice helped me control other impulses. Let’s face it. I love chocolate. There is no way that I would willingly give it up unless you told me that eating even a single, minuscule piece would kill me faster than a dose of cyanide. Even then, I’d first ask, “How minuscule are we talking?”

I know that it is a mistake and completely sets me up to fail for me to keep a bag of M&Ms, or a bag of mini-candy bars, or anything like that in my house. I do not have the self control to limit myself on those particular versions of chocolate. If I’m at the supermarket and give into the urge to buy a small bag on my way out (You know, the bags they place right at the checkout line so you’ll see them, feel the urge, and buy?) I can tell myself forever that I’ll only eat some of the M&Ms and save the rest, but that’s complete b.s., even if I believe it at the time.

However, when I have good quality chocolate around, I absolutely can limit myself to one treat in the evening. I’ve now successfully done this enough times that I see a definite difference in my behavior pattern when the chocolate is high-end, as opposed to whether it’s the stuff I can grab at the supermarket. What’s more, when I know that I have that quality chocolate available to me for the one scheduled, permissible treat in the evening, it acts as a deterrent. I can talk myself out of other urges to buy and consume other candy or other sugary sweets like cookies, cupcakes, and ice cream. Seriously, I’ve had actual internal conversations with myself that go something like this.

Compulsive Me: What a stressful day. Ohhh, look at those cookies. They look yummy. I want one. (Hand reaches for package, about to put it in shopping cart.)

Healthy Me: They look yummy, but they’re junk. Don’t forget you still have those good chocolates at home and can have one tonight.

Compulsive Me: Oh, right! Those chocolates are so much better. I don’t need these processed things. (Hand withdraws from package.)

Healthy Me: Good choice. You’ll enjoy the chocolate so much more.

Compulsive Me: And I’ll feel better about it after, too.

Healthy Me: Smart woman!

Really, folks, as strange as it sounds, that’s my thought process sometimes. Sure, it’s a mind game to divert from the compulsive act, but it works. There are additional bonuses and benefits, too. When I buy good quality chocolate, I end up with food that has fewer calories and less sugar, but more of the healthy qualities for which chocolate is touted. I also eat less of it. That’s an extra win.

Here’s another food mind game that I discovered this week. I love certain nuts. Walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, and almonds top the list. Nuts can be a healthy, nutritious snack — as long as I don’t totally pig out on them eating multiple handfuls. With the exception of walnuts, which I prefer to use in cooking instead of snacking, I have learned that I can’t eat nuts in healthy ways if I keep a jar of them already shelled in the house. The habit is there to eat them mindlessly.

Thanks to the baseball game last weekend, I realized that I exercise good portion control if I buy the nuts still in their shells. Sounds simple and logical, doesn’t it? I can’t grab handfuls of nuts and eat them when I need to shell them first. Yesterday and today, I measured out an appropriate portion of shelled pistachios, brought them in a container to work for my mid-morning snack, and ate them in a healthy, appropriate way. I didn’t overeat and I was completely satisfied. Booyah!

My takeaway on these lessons is that while we were taught as kids to not play with our food, developing and playing positive food mind games can actually aid my plan and recovery!

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Why Slow Is Great

I’m back from my fun-filled road trip. It was a long day, with the long drive and all, but fun too. I’m tired but I just had this great realization. I’m afraid that I’ll lose it out of my brain if I wait to write this post tomorrow.

I posed my sea lion picture so some family and friends could see it. A cousin that lives across the country sent me this wonderful email of congratulations and love and also some of the things he realizes. He talked about being inspired to witness my “slow and steady commitment in a world where immediacy is pitched, pawned and prevalent”.

I’ve read his email a few times and just now, when finally having a chance to respond, I had a big “aha” moment. I need to stop whining and bitching complaining about how long it’s taking me to lose these remaining 30-40 pounds.

These months have been incredibly important, I would even call them vital, to my overall recovery. They are giving me the time I need to really learn how to consistently live a life in recovery from my eating disorder. Because I continue with this effort day after day; because my journey hits speed bumps sometimes; I am fully integrating the techniques, the mindset, the tools that I need in order to sustain the weight loss and overall healthy lifestyle.

What if I’d lost all 200 plus pounds non-stop without ever hitting a slow down? I don’t know if I would have developed the new habit of consistently exercising. The commitment to creating a physically fit body might not have grown. It could have been one of those temporary efforts like I’ve made so many times in the past. Instead it feels real. It feels part of me.

Same thing with gradually learning to make healthier food choices — not just in the small stomach restriction of quantity and volume, but the slow experimentation with different foods, with different ways of cooking, with embracing healthy meals.

Tonight’s realization is so amazingly healthy for me. I love it. For the first time, I am free of resenting the plateau and the slow weight loss. Each day is a day of progress. Each day makes me stronger. I am so grateful!

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