Weighty Matters

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Cheer Every Effort

The other day in a conversation with a friend I heard myself say, “I only rode my bike for seven miles last night.” My friend gaped at me and I heard my words as if with someone else’s ears. I looked at her and said, “I need to change the way I think and talk about my exercise.”

She vehemently agreed. Really. I only rode my bike for seven miles?? Only? On the one hand, it’s funny that I would think any physical exercise is less than, that I would diminish any effort. Two years ago I could barely walk up stairs and had to help myself by pulling up on railings. The slightest walk had me breathing hard. I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in more than 15 years. On the other hand, it’s not funny at all that I introduce negativity into any of my thoughts about my effort. By the way, that evening that I rode seven miles capped a day that started with 45 minutes of brisk walking. I was hardly slacking on my physical fitness routine!

I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Negativity breeds negativity. I can’t afford to let that mind set or energy develop. If it grows, and takes hold, it could easily mess with my emotions. When my emotions get messed up, I reach for food.

So I’ve committed to framing the messages that I give myself in positive terms and removing the diminishing qualifiers. There will be no more “only did this much” nonsense. I will cheer every effort, every exercise session. Whether I reach 10,000 steps, 15,000 or more, I will declare, “Booyah!” and celebrate.

For the record, I’ve been super active this weekend. My apologies to all of you suffering the series of snowstorms, but the weather’s beautiful in the Florida Keys. A little cool by our standards but sunny with light winds. Yesterday the dogs and I did two miles/45 minutes of a nice walk along the beach road. Later in the day I added a six mile bike ride just because it was so nice in the late afternoon.

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up to participate in a 5K walk/run to raise money for the organization that provides services and a food bank for people in need and oversees a homeless shelter and meal program. I’m not competing to win anything, but I don’t want to be last in my age group. I’ve declared myself “in training” for that walk. Pyxi was limping last night and this morning and she appears to have strained a muscle in our walk yesterday so I needed to keep things easy on her today. The dogs got a shorter walk and then I headed out for the Seven Mile Bridge and walked about 3.25 miles.

After doing some stuff around the house, I realized that it was again a beautiful afternoon, so I rolled out on my bike for 10 miles.

I find that I dearly love these outdoor exercise sessions. I don’t want to lose these feelings so the more that I do things that I enjoy, the more my enjoyment grows. No “only” about it.

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Springsteen Saturday

I’ve raved written here before about my decades long love and admiration for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. No, it isn’t love as in I-was-the-person-he-should-have-married-crazy-stalker-fan love. It’s entirely because since I was 17 years old, Bruce’s songs have inspired, encouraged, resonated and deeply touched my emotions.

The last time I saw him and the band in concert was September 2012 up home in New Jersey. It feels like shortly after, he launched an International tour that’s gone on forever. We, i.e. his U.S. fans, have waited ever since for him to book more dates here at home. Our hopes rose when he recently released a new album, High Hopes.

We have been rewarded. Earlier this week he announced U.S. dates. To my utter joy one of those dates is a night in South Florida. The tickets went on sale this morning at 10 a.m. I pre-cautioned my Tai Chi instructor that I’d need to leave class early. My computer was booted up and I was sitting at Ticketmaster.com, refreshing the concert date page by 9:59 a.m. so that I wouldn’t miss out. Who’s going to see Springsteen? *points to self* This woman! Booyah!

I’ve probably said before that my favorite Bruce song is Thunder Road. (The fact that the protagonist in the song sings to a woman named Mary is purely coincidental.) In the song, the man urges Mary to go out with him, to believe in him, to show a little faith, that there is magic in the night. He can’t promise to be her hero but he is determined to win in the game of life.

When I was 17, that song was an invitation to pursue my dreams, to reach out for them with both hands and an open heart. To not be afraid but to leap and believe that the net would appear.

Now that I’m 56, Thunder Road still resonates but now it’s a reminder that I still have dreams and goals. I have promises to fulfill to myself. I am still in the process of living my best life.

One of the many things that always impressed me about Springsteen’s music and message was the fact that even when a song was filled with swagger, his characters weren’t pie-eyed optimists. They didn’t expect life to hand them their dreams but at heart they believed they could earn the dreams they wanted. By contrast, when his songs dealt with characters in despair, their pain was that much more cutting.

There are many themes, many characters and many stories — uplifting and positive or dark and sad. For me, the message I listen to the most is the one that reinforces earning my dreams and goals. I have to pay my way to reach them. In terms of my continued weight loss and recovery this means dedicating time, energy, spirit, and physical effort. That’s the payment recovery demands and I’m willing to pay. After all, I got high hopes.

Give me help, give me strength
Give a soul a night of fearless sleep
Give me love, give me peace
Don’t you know these days you pay for everything
Got high hopes
I got high hopes
I got high hopes
I got high hopes

– Bruce Springsteen

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Unfocused and Unproductive

Ever since Wednesday, I’ve had problems focusing on tasks. I appear to either get distracted by outside forces or manage to distract myself. As a result, I feel unproductive in all areas of my life.

I loathe not being productive. It drives me crazy. I am an efficient, get-it-done person. This doesn’t mean that I can’t kick back and relax. I don’t need to be accomplishing tasks every second, minute and hour of every day. Au contraire, I can spend hours on a warm day lolling on my porch and reading a good book.

So what’s the difference? Why is it roiling me up and emotionally affecting me now? Simple. It’s because I’m not making the conscious choice to relax and let the world spin around without me. I feel like it’s somehow out of my control. That’s the danger zone. When I feel like some area of my life is not within my control, I generally see an increase in my eating impulses. It’s like when one thing’s off kilter, it drives the rest of my life out of balance, too. Or, when one thing’s off kilter, I feel like my life is out of balance which stresses me out and triggers the desire to eat.

Crazy stuff, huh? Conversely, I can have a dozen projects going at once, be in charge of keeping them moving and in balance, and that won’t stress me out in the least. When I set the projects in motion, I’m golden. Now, if someone else has put the plates on the wobbly poles and then made it my responsibility to keep them spinning, that’s different. Again — it’s the balance between what is mine to control and what isn’t.

None of this actually makes good sense to me. You’d think that if I had an area out of my control, I’d work harder to keep other areas in line and functioning according to plan. As I ponder this whole thing, I wonder if I have a knee jerk reaction, decide that lack of perfection is an unbearable character flaw, and then punish myself by compulsively eating.

This is really messed up thinking. Then again, nobody claimed that those of us with disorders are the last bastions of rational thought at all times. Nor do I pretend that rational thought and rational behavior go hand in hand anyway.

So for right now, today, I’m trying to mitigate the damage. I’m telling myself that it’s okay for me to once in a while be unfocused and unproductive. Okay, I can’t accept that completely. Unfocused and not-quite-as-productive-as-I-usually-am will have to do. My life is not going to crash and burn. The sky will not fall. All is and will be well. I’ll get to that “being well” part sooner if I resist the urge to let my eating disorder pile on the pressure. I really don’t have to inappropriately eat over the whole thing.

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A Little Nostalgic

First off, today’s been better. I was able to release the stress and, overall, have a much better day. Two friends and I had lunch together at work. Sounds simple, but sometimes our schedules are all over the place and we can’t synch up long enough to sit down and eat at the same time. I’m glad that it worked out today.

Throughout the afternoon I was thinking about how fortunate I am to have really good friends. When I got home and opened my mailbox, I took out a letter with a return address that immediately made me think even more about friendship. The letter was from a woman whom I call Aunt Lucy even though we aren’t related. She was my mother’s best friend. They went to nursing school together. They served as Army nurse cadets on a reservation on the West Coast when they were 20. They were in each other’s weddings. Over the decades and many, many miles apart, they never lost touch.

Back in 1995, my brother, sister-in-law and I planned a surprise party for Mom’s 70th birthday. Even though Aunt Lucy and Uncle Jake lived in California and we were in New Jersey, we sent them an invitation. The night we received a positive R.S.V.P., I almost cried I was so happy. I knew this would be the most fantastic present for Mom. Three years later, when Mom was so ill, it broke my heart to call Aunt Lucy and tell her the sad news that her lifelong friend’s condition was terminal. They came East to see her and also to visit Lucy’s sister in Virginia.

In the years since Mom’s passing, we haven’t seen each other, but we’ve always exchanged Christmas cards. Actually, Aunt Lucy always penned a holiday letter for all of their friends. I loved reading them over the years when I was growing up and continued to love the tradition as an adult. This year, she didn’t get it done for Christmas, so she turned it into a Valentine’s Day card, dotted with colorful little hearts. Two typewritten pages caught everyone up on her activities. Jake passed away a couple of years ago but Lucy remains active at her retirement community and in her church. Her sons, daughters, and many grandchildren are spread out all over the country but it sounds like she travels at least a few times a year to see them here and there. I hope that when I’m 88 or 89, I’m half as active and able. I sure as heck hope that I’m sharp enough mentally to write a two page letter!

As always, she included a handwritten note at the end of her typed all-purpose letter. She mentioned my weight loss and my precious dogs — having seen the photos on my holiday card. She spoke of Mom and asked after my brother and his family, my aunts and theirs. She said that she’d love to hear more about us.

Before she signed up with her love, she said how much I look like my Mom and that she thinks it’s wonderful.

This whole letter just filled up my heart with emotion and love. I know how much Aunt Lucy and her friendship meant to my mother for more than 50 years. After walking the dogs and eating dinner, I sat down and wrote back a long letter to her, giving her more news about me and my family. In her handwritten message to me, she’d said how good it was to get my card and know that I still remember her. I wanted her to know that I not only remember her, but that she also has a very special place in my heart.

The letter is sealed, addressed, stamped and ready to go. Now I’m feeling quite nostalgic. I’m thinking about the years of friendship she and Mom shared. I’m also thinking about the friends in my life that I’ve known for ten, twenty, thirty, forty, even fifty years.

I feel so blessed right now tonight. If I’m still alive in 30 plus years and still in touch with any of them, imagine how blessed I’ll feel then!

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Stress and Stomach Issues

You know how some people get stomach pains or other gut issues when they’re stressed out? I was never one of those people. I’m fairly sure that’s because I filled my stomach with food when I was stressed. Eating to suppress feelings is common behavior.

I bring this up tonight because I’ve had a funky stomach for most of the day. Around noon time I really started feeling bad and thought I either had an impending attack of food poisoning or that I was coming down with some sort of stomach bug. I ended up leaving work and coming home. When I got here I pretty much stretched out on the recliner for awhile without any energy — not unlike a starfish on a rock at low tide. After dozing in the chair for awhile, I roused myself enough to move to the bedroom for another hour.

After a couple of hours, I realized that whatever was bothering my stomach wasn’t progressing. I just continued to feel crappy without actually getting sick. Instead, it felt like I could feel my pulse in my stomach which was achy and annoying. It took awhile for me to figure it out.

I had a very stressful morning over a particular situation. I can’t go into the details but it was no small thing. Nothing that at the moment I could shrug, be philosophical about, and just let go. The more I thought about the whole unfolding of the situation and my reaction, the more I realized that it affected me emotionally to the point that the emotions manifested themselves into physical symptoms.

No lie. Part of me is completely confident that a milkshake will absolve the discomfort. Part of me knows that the milkshake will not absolve a damned thing. It will only be a counterirritant in that it will actually make me sick which would most likely distract me from the stressful situation.

Tonight I think I’m still more stressed out than not and that’s why my stomach is still knotted up and achy. It’s a good reminder of the importance of developing better methods of dealing with stressful situations so that the anxiety doesn’t create physical discomfort. By better, it goes without saying I don’t mean using excess food. Numbing or stuffing down the feelings are not effective methods and do more harm than good. For me, I think I’m going to draw a hot bath and soak some of it away.

What’s your favorite method for coping with stress?

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Addictions, Relapse and the Never Ending Struggle

Many of us were shocked by the news of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sudden death. I didn’t know he was a heroin addict. I’m always sad when I hear that someone, anyone, dies because of their addiction. Aaron Sorkin made a great point. Hoffman didn’t die because of an overdose. He died because of the drug – period. A friend of mine who is a cop and rather hard line, posted to Facebook that this was not a tragedy. I politely disagreed. I think whenever someone has an addiction, it’s tragic. When that addiction results in their death, even more so.

Toda on This Week (ABC Sunday News Program), they had a segment about the growing use of heroin. I was surprised to hear that it is actually less expensive to buy heroin on the street than it is to illegally obtain prescription drugs like oxycodone. Oxycodone addiction is no joke either and one of the speakers spoke of it as almost a gateway drug to heroin. Some people start on oxycodone when it is prescribed as a painkiller for an injury, surgery, etc. When they get hooked but can then no longer get their doctors to prescribe them more because the condition has resolved, some seek out street heroin.

There was another commentator on the show who looked like the least likely heroin addict ever. Clean cut, perfect suit and tie, Harvard grad, eminently successful. He’s been in recovery from his addiction for years and baldly stated that he knows he could at some point relapse and be back into his addiction. They interviewed someone else who said the same thing. The doctor-expert pointed out that every addict or alcoholic he’s ever spoken to never describes themselves as recovered. They say “recovering”.

I don’t think of one substance as being more powerful or more addictive than another. I don’t care if the addiction is to cigarettes, alcohol, pot, painkillers, heroin, cocaine, or food. They’re all equal. When one is addicted, it becomes a never-ending struggle, with them for the rest of their lives.

That’s how I feel about food. I know that to someone who doesn’t get that food or the behavior of compulsive eating is as much of an addiction as any drug this can sound silly, but it’s deadly serious to me. I jumped off the wagon last night at a friend’s birthday party. One of the fabulous local bakers supplied cupcakes and cake for the party. The frosting was to die for. I would have been okay if I’d had one cupcake because I’d been terrific with my food plan, adequately exercised, and planned for it. I got sucked in by the delicious, buttercream frosting. I ate frosting off of another slice of cake and an additional cupcake. Hands down, that is 100% addictive eating behavior.

Less than half an hour later I felt sick to my stomach from the sugar rush and I was emotionally distraught at my relapse behavior. Granted, an overdose of cake frosting was not going to kill me on the spot, like an o.d. of heroin, but what if I was a diabetic? It could have sent me into a danger state. Constantly repeating the behavior absolutely could eventually kill me if it leads to a prolonged period of relapse and eating, spiraling into weight gain and so on.

I woke up this morning determined to get straight. I ate half a banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter for breakfast and got on my bicycle. I pedaled for more than two hours and achieved my personal distance best of 21.34 miles! A few hours later and I feel like my body is still burning calories.

I have a lot to do around the house today and am concentrating on eating light and healthy while I work. It’s truly important when I slip to get back on track as soon as possible. The longer one stays in relapse, the harder it is to get straight again.

Recovering means staying on track one day, one meal at a time. I know I’m repeating myself and have talked about this in previous blogs, but it’s the reminder that I need to give myself today, right now.

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My Olympic Musings

I usually love opening ceremonies of Olympic Games. For some reason I’m having trouble focusing on the ones showing tonight from Russia. I keep getting distracted and then pulled back because I hear something completely wrong. For example, I was sure the announcer said, “150 bald guests have joined the dance”.

Instead I’m entertaining myself right now thinking of some events I’d like to try. Not having a death wish nor a desire to injure myself to the point of incapacitation, I think I’d need some help with some of them. In no particular order, I’d like to try:

Ski Jump — Providing they could rig it up with some harnesses and safety lines like they use on novices trying trapeze. Oh, and some kind of soft landing, please.

Bobsled — They already make them for two people, so I’d just need an experienced buddy to do the important, skilled tasks like steering and braking. I just want to experience zooming down the course.

The fact that I’m giving even a fleeting, “It would be really cool to try bobsledding just once” thought will no doubt surprise anyone who knows me. I’m not a big thrill seeker. For example, I honestly don’t have any desire to try an elaborate, mega-steep, super fast roller coaster.

You know, with practice, I could actually do the biathlon. I cross-country skied once back when I was 18 and my older brother lived a year in Colorado. Mom and I flew out to visit him and we went cross-country skiing. Let me tell you, it was hard work considering that I wasn’t in good shape, we were at a far higher elevation than I was used to and I was still a smoker. I bet I’d not only be better at it now, but I’d also enjoy it more. The high point of that long ago experience was meeting John Denver’s wife Annie. Back to the biathlon, I also already know how to handle a rifle although, granted, I’ve never done so on skis in snow. Minor point.

Even in good shape and at my lighter weight, I don’t want to ice skate. We used to skate when we were kids. Let’s just say that I was much, much better on roller skates than thin metal blades. (Allow me to digress: One of my early career aspirations was to compete on a roller derby team. Don’t ask me why I came up with that dream. I have no idea.)

I was the goalie of my high school field hockey team. I bet I could do it for a woman’s ice hockey team, but I sort of like the idea of keeping my teeth.

Downhill or slalom skiing? Hmmm. Not so much. I used to ski on a regular basis up to my college years. Honestly, the older I got the more I preferred hot laced drinks at the bar after we left the slopes.

Looks like I’ve narrowed it down. Bob sled, ski jump, biathlon. Let’s go. Who’s with me?

Is it possible that I really am turning into one of those “live on the edge” types? ;-D

What event would you like to try?

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Biggest Loser Winner and CVS

For the last couple of days I’ve seen lots of press and social media posts about two things: How skinny the winner of the Biggest Loser looked on the finale and that CVS announced they will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Both of these topics have triggered reaction, that’s for sure.

I didn’t see all of the Biggest Loser finale on Tuesday night. I was so tired that I set it to record on DVR and went to bed early. So, I didn’t actually see the woman who won until her picture started appearing on Facebook. Wow. She sure as heck did lose a lot of weight! I’m of two minds about the results. On the one hand, she wanted to change her life from one of morbid obesity and while so doing, she wanted to win the competition. Obviously she succeeded. On the other hand, sweet goodness, she went from morbidly obese to downright skinny in a few months. Is she too skinny? Is she now an unhealthy weight? Maybe. Overall, what you and I think doesn’t matter. Determining what’s enough weight loss and what’s too much is up to her and her medical advisors. Also, even if she isn’t a healthy weight now, she was a fierce competitor and she wanted to make sure that she lost a greater percentage of body weight than the other two guys. Now that she’s won, if she wants to put back on a few pounds, she can.

Whether it’s a participant on a weight loss reality show or someone else who has had bariatric surgery, I have resolved to not judge their journeys. It honestly is not my place to assess what they’re doing and decide whether what they’re doing or have done is right. If I go down that road, then I’m no longer assessing the reality of their situations, I’m making a judgment based on what I think. Their journey or their goals and what paths they travel to get there, are honestly none of my business. I have more than enough on which to focus with my own journey, goals, and paths. They can take care of themselves.

When it comes to CVS, I applaud this gutsy decision to deep six tobacco products. I always found it ironic that you could walk to the back of the local CVS for the medications to help when you’re sick and then at the front pass by the shelves of cigarettes, guaranteed to wreck your health. I hate cigarettes and smoking. I regret that I ever smoked and celebrate the fact that I quit. I don’t get obnoxious about it with friends who still smoke. There’s an ashtray reserved for them on my porch. They understand that there’s no smoking allowed in my house. I also don’t do things like exaggeratedly wave my hands in front of my face when I walk by people smoking. I don’t fix them with my most effective death glare. Smoking cigarettes is a personal choice. I don’t lecture them about the consequences.

If anyone asks me what my mother died from, I’ll likely say lung cancer and strokes caused by her 50 year addiction to cigarettes. That’s the reality of it and it makes me sad every day. When she was alive, and before her cancer diagnosis, we shared the family home up in New Jersey. Mom and I had an understanding. If she needed something from the store, I would happily run out and get it for her — except for cigarettes. I absolutely refused to buy cigarettes for her. That was something she had to get on her own.

I used to shop in CVS a lot more frequently. They had my monthly prescriptions on file so I ran in at least once a month to refill. It was also my store of choice to pick up snack foods when I didn’t want to go to a full supermarket. Once I got off of all my prescriptions a little more than a year ago, and since don’t do a lot of snack foods anymore, I have a lot less need for CVS. There’s also a Walgreens a block away. Believe it or not, the new announcement has inspired me to shop CVS more frequently. I might even look for excuses to go. As long as they maintain the “no smoking” policy, I want them to succeed. I don’t want them to lose their other, residual product sales as a result of the tobacco products ban. Shopping there more often is a way to positive reinforce them for their bold move.

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments on either of these topics!

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Keeping Off the “See-Food” Diet

I can’t emphasize this point enough with myself. Stay mindful. It is incredibly easy to fall off the food plan wagon in an instant if I don’t stay vigilant. I’ve done mostly great since returning from my cruise and been really happy that I continue to lose weight, but I also saw that I was giving into impulse when around foods that are not on my plan.

I went to friends’ for a Super Bowl Party. There were a lot of different foods set out and I wanted to taste almost all of them. That’s okay, as long as I do it mindfully without stuffing in the food faster than I can think about what and how much I’m putting in my mouth.

Oddly enough, it is more difficult for me to refrain from compulsive eating or snacking at home than it was when I was on the cruise. That sounds surprising because there is so much food available all of the time on a cruise ship. However, and this is a big however, it is only available in the restaurants. So, out of sight, out of reach and, mostly, out of mind.

Here at home, food is as accessible as my kitchen and fridge. At work, we have a kitchen and people love to leave out treats and snack foods. Sometimes just seeing food out triggers a “want” in my head. That’s where the vigilant mind comes into play. “Want” is not “Need”. “Want” is not “Should Eat”.

I do not want to slip up and halt my terrific momentum. I’ve talked before about hating to write down my food, but I know it’s a very helpful tool. The goal is to be willing to write it down in the morning, before I eat, rather than rely on logging it after my meals. It’s a good way to stay mindful. If the food isn’t on my list, then the choice is simply to not eat.

The smart phone makes it easy. I can do this either in myfitnesspal or on the Notes feature. I chose Notes today. Breakfast – a fruit/protein smoothie. Mid-morning snack: granola/sunflower seed mix. Lunch: Egg salad on baby lettuce with two small toast crips. Mid-afternoon snack: apple slices with natural peanut butter. Dinner: Lentil soup and salad. Evening snack: Greek yogurt.

I packed my day time snacks and lunch so I’m prepared at work. I feel strong and confident that I can stick with this food plan today and not give into the “See food – eat it” compulsion.

My takeaway from this is that it is always important to protect and nurture my recovery. I have to keep using the tools even when I’m rolling along. Sometimes it might feel easier but it never really is easier. Ongoing success requires ongoing work.

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Plateau Over? Breaking Out of the Food Rut

Not only did I lose weight while on the cruise, but that trend has continued in the week that I’ve been home. I am cautiously optimistic that my lengthy plateau might be over! Here’s what I think has happened. While on the cruise, it’s true that I averaged three to five thousand more steps in physical activity per day and that burned more calories. However, I also ate a greater variety of food items without increasing the volume. I think it’s entirely possible that some of my plateau problems happened because I got into a food rut.

Almost every day I start with a fruit and protein powder smoothie. At lunch I often have a small container of yogurt or soup. Dinner is usually a meat protein of some sort. Snacks might be nuts or an ounce of cheese or fruit. That’s probably more fruit with fruit sugars and fruit carbs than I should have in a day too. On the ship, because the variety was so easily accessible, I ate more veggies, eggs, and other protein types. Yes, I had some additional carbs, but didn’t overeat on them. So, looking back on my food plan, I think I thought I was eating a good, balanced plan, and it certainly worked like a champ for me for many months. I believe that my body might have gotten too used to the routine.

Going on the cruise shook up the food routine. Since I’ve been back, I’ve made an effort to increase my veggie intake, cut back on the fruits, and incorporate more protein and fiber from non-meat/non-dairy sources. I’ve also, of course, kept up with my exercise. This appears to be working and I’m down another couple of pounds. Booyah for me!

If I can continue to see progress over the next week, then I’ll really be positive that my plateau is over and I’m proceeding full speed ahead toward my goal weight. I’m in the position of truly being in the home stretch, at least when I think of how far I’ve already come. I would dearly love to knock off these last 35 pounds by sometime this summer!

Have any of you ever experienced a food rut? Does this sound like a possible explanation?

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