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How I minimize binge triggers in my life

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Out of control eating while alone is probably one of my worst problems for controlling my size. It's particularly a danger late at night when I'm tired and should be going to sleep (around 10 or 11pm). Here's an old blog post about a typically uncomfortable case:

Since this topic has come up a few times lately, I'm listing my strategies here so I can refer to them in the future. Each individual strategy may have only a small effect, but in combination they seem to work pretty well. I've certainly had my share of episodes, although they're pretty infrequent these days. These strategies also sometimes help me keep from overeating when at parties and other social events.

I realize that I'm very lucky to live alone and not have to consider a family or a partner when it comes to availability of food. I'm not sure I could do this if I did have to consider them - I have tremendous respect for those of you who do!

1. I keep almost no food in the house. It's all at work where people would see me indulging if I binged. And its not just snack food. I am talking about any food. I have watched myself binge on raw oat grains, along with carrots, apples, or whatever else is in the house. If it's just not there then I won't be able to eat it.
2. I eat a minimum of 1500 calories per day because if I go below that for more than a few days in a row the genuine hunger will trigger a binge.
3. I rarely eat starches, grains, or added sugars. Those trigger binges later in the day. I have to limit fruit for the same reason. If I DO experience a craving for something sweet or starchy, I've found through trial and error that eating lean protein makes the feeling go away. If I eat the starchy or sweet thing I'm craving, the craving just grows stronger. Go figure.
4. I eat 150g of protein per day. That helps with satiety and thereby controls the binge trigger. www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_pu

5. To push that much protein through the system I usually try to have at least 40g of fiber per day. That helps with satiety too.
6. If I get at least 20% of my calories in fat (~50g) I seem to do better, as well. Fat helps with satiety.
7. Plan ahead. I carry protein bars for emergencies. www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_pu
And to get those macronutrient levels I mentioned earlier requires having the right foods on hand. If I don't plan ahead for my nutrition, I am setting myself up to fail. Real physiological, hormonal effects happen because of the food I eat. If I can make sure that what I'm taking in is along these lines, then I'm less likely to crave and thus less likely to binge.
8. No TV in the house. That is a trigger. Especially at night when I need to go to bed.
9. I exercise after work so the appetite suppression will kick in at night when I'm most vulnerable.
10. I rarely attend parties where they feature snack foods. Processed foods loaded with sugar, starch, fat, and/or salt sometimes trigger binges later in the day. I do not need the temptation. The longer I'm exposed to it the more likely I'll eventually give in. If I have to go to one I make sure I bring a vegetable tray with dip made out of nonfat Greek yogurt.
11. I rarely eat out. (Same reasons as above.)
12. I drink herbal tea when I want a treat. Sure, I still like mindlessly sipping something while reading, etc. This satisfies the urge without adding calories. It's a comfort thing. I'm partial to Good Earth Original Sweet and Spicy tea. www.amazon.com/Good-Earth-Ori

13. I weigh myself every morning. If I binge at night I see the effects immediately. I track the moving average so normal fluctuations won't bother me: docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?hl=e
More about moving averages for weight trackers here: teams.sparkpeople.com/hackers

14. I try to be actively engaged in weight-based challenges; I respond well to competition and it helps suppress the urge to stray from my plan. (Here's a shout out to my buddies in the current challenges where I've managed to lose nearly 8% of my weight (13 lbs) between Halloween and now.) www.sparkpeople.com/myspark/m

15. I sometimes try to wear tighter clothes if I know I'm going to be around temptations or feel emotional or otherwise off-balance for the day. It helps provide a physical reminder of my size and that I need to pay attention.
16. I have a tattoo on my arm of a kayaker to remind me that I want to be at my peak fitness and be able to continue to fit into my boats.
17. I have put images from this hilarious blog on the back of my iPhone to remind me of where the food crazies can lead. hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/

18. I try to limit consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners to the evenings. If I have them earlier in the day they sometimes trigger cravings later. If I drink diet sodas at night I'm asleep during the time a craving might happen, so it's safer.
19. I forgot to mention this earlier because it's so integral to my life - MOBYCARP's comment reminded me. I track EVERYTHING I eat. Even the binges. It's one way I can make sure I get at least 1500 calories per day. Since I like to have a standalone app that works even where there's no internet or signal, I use Lose It! They have free apps for iPhone/iTouch and Android that sync to a website when there is signal. It's what I wish the SP tracker did, but doesn't. www.loseit.com/#Products
20. If I can stop myself in time, I sometimes track the things I WANT to eat on a separate tracker (without eating them) . www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo

21. Add a negative consequence. One time I managed to avoid a binge by making an agreement with BREWMASTERBILL that I would have to send him $20 if I binged that day.
22. Stall for time. Another time I whined that I wanted to overeat and Bill suggested that I do 20 pushups. Having nothing to lose, I shut my office door and did, and it helped. So, yeah. If I can, I go for a walk. Do some crunches. Do some pushups or tricep dips. Anything to stall for time. Because if I can just hold out for about 20 minutes the feeling usually goes away. It might come back again later, but at least temporarily it goes away.
23. Get adequate rest. Things go downhill for me when I'm short on sleep, spending too much time in the car driving, trying to do to many things, etc. Some evenings I have to go to bed early and shut the cats out of the bedroom to make sure I get a decent night's sleep. The effect of sleep depletion is cumulative, at least in my case. I can handle a week or two short on rest, but if I keep it up, it eventually catches up with me - and one of the ways that happens is I find my resistance to binges is much lower; I make more unhealthy decisions.
24. Minimize alcohol consumption. Yup, it lowers my inhibitions, just like it does for the rest of humanity. And while that can be fun, it can be also dangerous if there happens to be food around...
25. Making my bed, keeping my house clean, putting away my laundry - doing the little things that help make me feel like someone loves me. Disengaging in general from self-neglectful behaviors. www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_pu

Every one of those habits was discovered to help by trial and error. I've collected them from suggestions from other Spark People, articles, etc. They all add up to constructing a world where I can live reasonably safe from binge triggers most of the time.

I'm like an addict in recovery. I have found I need to remain vigilant and some days it's all I can do just to get through one hour, then another hour, then another hour, even with these strategies. Like NELLJONES says, it's One Day at a Time. But I do think they help.

There is a whole section about managing binge behaviors in At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance Team Big Page of Links:

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

AUNTBEE6 3/23/2014 1:33AM

    Wow, I see me in almost every line. Thanks for your honesty and for taking the time! Lots of GREAT helps here for sure!!!

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AUNTBEE6 3/23/2014 1:31AM

    Wow, I see me in almost every line. Thanks for your honesty and for taking the time! Lots of GREAT helps here for sure!!!

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JOELEVENACIOUS 12/17/2013 10:15AM

    yaker here too! The level of stress comes out in these well thought out points. I feel for you and your struggle.

I couldn't help but notice that you haven't talked about what you allow yourself to gorge on?
e.g. so what is the down side of binging on carrots? Binge away on any healthy non starchy veggies.

Just curious about that one? I let myself consume large salads. I try to limit food in my immediate area too, but my wife has rights too! Stacking your fridge with salad foods would be a positive I would think,

thanks for your leadership here on this blog and team. I have learned a lot here already!

Keep paddling!

I got the feeling you were trying to keep a raging bull in a box.

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ANOLETTE 10/27/2013 12:30AM

  I really enjoyed this post, and I totally agree that turning around emotional binge eating is much like being an addict in recovery. (I have a daughter in recovery from heroin addiction, and I'm often struck by the similarities in the challenges.) That being said, I find the idea of never going to parties or out to dinner or even watching TV as depressing as being overweight. I've always believed life requires a balance. Any plan that extreme would be impossible for me to maintain for any length of time, and it just sounds so lonely. But I commend you for your success and really appreciate your ideas.

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PASCAL921 7/28/2013 6:16PM

    Thank you so much.

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SWAMSER 5/9/2013 11:40AM

    just the advice I needed today

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IAMTOLOSE 4/21/2013 9:13AM

    Wow! You put it all into words and I thank you. This is what I so needed to hear today. Hugs.

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USMAWIFE 3/30/2013 8:38PM


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SMARGED 3/30/2013 6:38PM

    Loved your blog! Lots of your triggers are mine too! You motivate me to use some of your solutions to get over them! Thanks for sharing!

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TRIANGLE-WOMAN 3/30/2013 3:08PM

    Agree this belongs in the Spark Blog Hall of Fame.

I don't understand the whole "popular blog" post thing and how things get voted there!!

..*) ♥.*)
(. .♥ (. .♥ (.*`* ♥☆.*`*♥☆
`*♥☆ Spread the Spark!!!

Comment edited on: 3/30/2013 3:08:30 PM

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AMBERDAWN64 3/25/2013 5:44PM

    WOW...that's a fantastic list...thanks for sharing in such detail...

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FREELADY 3/4/2013 1:06PM

    This one goes in my blog hall of fame.

I can't express how valuable these concepts are to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for taking the time and effort and mental energy (and probably a huge amount of emotional energy) to put all this down so we can benefit.

At what store do you find your Good Earth tea?

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KIMCOLLINGS 2/4/2013 5:23PM

    Great post. Thank you

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KYLAR_STERN 2/4/2013 4:49PM

    Thanks for your blog comment on mine, problem is I really don't want to have to use any of these methods. I've done things like keep nothing in the house, decline every opportunity to eat out ect. That was when I was being strict on my diet and fighting so needing to keep myself in range to make weight.

Now I'm back at college with friends, and just want to be able to relax. I want to go for beer and pizza with friends, that doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that either A) I eat more pizza than anyone else, or B) I want to eat everything in sight when I get back. I'm just trying to find a way to enjoy 2 slices of pizza, couple beers, and not think its a big deal. After this upcoming 4 day party, I'll be trying new stuff and seeing if it works for me to find a balance of relaxing and still eating healthy.

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JUDY106 2/3/2013 12:39AM

    This is so helpful. Thank's for sharing.

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SEEINGCLEARLY53 1/13/2013 2:54AM

    Good post, t emoticon hanks!

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KAREN91 12/16/2012 8:57AM

    emoticon emoticon Great advice and links. Thanks so much for posting this! emoticon

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MILBERTWORKS 11/18/2012 12:56AM

    I love this post - I can identify with the part of living alone - and the suggestions are perfect for my situation I have much less night binge eating than ever before. I try to keep busy with mind and hands and I don't think of eating. Keeping favorite foods out of the house is also a great idea. Thanks for the info.

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OSUBUCKI101 11/11/2012 7:43AM

    For me my weak time is right when I get home from work. I want to snack, snack and snack some more. I've found though that when I have a snack at around 3:00 in the afternoon it helps. Something like cottage cheese and trail mix or anything involving some natural peanut butter. The peanut butter really sticks and allows me the control I need when I step in the door after work and gives me the time to prepare a healthy dinner.

I love all of your ideas and will incorporate a few! Keep up the good work.

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LOGOULD 10/18/2012 2:56PM

    Wow! So much good information. I need to read and re-read this one!!!

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RAWRRACH 10/17/2012 8:36PM

    How did you create your AB FitnessLog? I love that way it shows the trends and everything, but I can't figure out how to make out for myself. I also weigh myself daily, and a chart like this would be very helpful.

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SURRENDER21 10/14/2012 7:36PM

    How do I save this to SP "favorites" so I can come back to this post again and again? I need to memorize this post. Thank you so much for compiling this list, many things on here to try.

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ANDASI 8/29/2012 3:30AM

    I very much appreciate you sending this link to me. I can sure relate to a lot of these trigers. Especialy the night and being alone. I work nights and on my days off i tend to stay up very late to the early hours of the morning and its just me and so the cravings do come.

This blog makes it so real that it is an issue and i need to really deal with it. I do well for a few days and then binge for a few days and gain all of it back. I really need to be able to return from a binge quickly the way i read people do at the next meal and not continue it for days this is the reason i dont progress. It is disheartening because i do love working out but am not seeing the benefits of my hard work. This has become a cycle for me tha i want to stop.

Thank you so much for the support and the tools you have extended.

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LAINYC 7/5/2012 2:10PM

    emoticon emoticon

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VALERIEMAHA 1/27/2012 12:14PM

    Gawd woman, deep gratidue for framing the work you're doin'...it definitely helps put your success into perspective. I cruise by your SHome now-and-then and I'm always blown away by who you are and all you've done.

My major loss back-when was a "mere" 80 pounds, but I was also seriously obese at that weight (and also tested diabetic, which disappeared with the weight loss) and I experience the same challenges and fluctuations you describe, though with less coping diligence. My age *may* account for that to a minor extent.

BTW, will you saunter over, when you have a *hot minute* (after the conference?) to give some tech info and encouragement to our friend Don?


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JENNSWIMS 1/10/2012 11:37AM

    When you say binge, do you mean 5,000 calories at a time binges that bring to mind bulimia, or do you mean more like overeating?

I love your tips. Your idea about keeping very little food in the house is interesting, because I keep tons of food in the house and make jokes that if the apocolypse were to happen we would be ok for months. I'm wondering if I'm a bit of a food hoarder, even if it is healthy stuff like dried beans that can keep for years.

Your list has really made me think today. Thank you.

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NOTGIVINGUP49 1/7/2012 5:44PM

    emoticon Tips! Thanks for sharing! Love the one "I sometimes try to wear tighter clothes if I know I'm going to be around temptations or feel emotional or otherwise off-balance for the day." I am going to try that one myself! Great idea!

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BUSY_BEE68 1/4/2012 7:12AM

    I can relate to eating too low of calories sparking a feeding frenzy. It occurs if I don't eat enough for breakfast and lunch. As I eat a larger dinner to compensate, I tend to keep going until bedtime. The tighter clothes idea is one I plan on trying. Thank you for sharing! emoticon

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MOM5INFL 1/3/2012 5:02PM

    Way to go on the binge control! I've got to tighten the reins in my home. There are way too many triggers! Cool tattoo! Makes me want one! Birdie

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    hey love your kayaking tattoo and also thanks for the tips, I have survived the festive season well, about to go away to tasmania to go crayoning, kayaking and trekking hope you had a great xmas and all the best for 2012 you rock

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DAVEINSEOUL 1/2/2012 4:52AM

    Thanks for the tips on controlling binges - they are important to keep under control.

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AMBERZADE 1/1/2012 7:44PM

    dang you work HARD!!! Congrats and thanks for the tips!!

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TAICHIDANCER 12/31/2011 7:48PM

    Thanks for sharing that with us. Happy New Year.

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KAYOTIC 12/31/2011 7:05PM

    It takes all that trial and error and time to figure out what works for each of us individually, what a great way to document what works for you! I might have to give that a try myself....

and I totally agree about the herbal tea, we make iced tea all the time, it helps me keep hydrated with flavor!

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DOODIE59 12/30/2011 10:14AM

    Thank you so much for sharing your tips.
May 2012 be your best year yet (and the first of many :))

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BATYAFA 12/30/2011 9:50AM

    Thanx for sharing these strategies.

Perhaps the most basic thing I'm learning is that yearning to binge - and constant vigilance - never end!!! Oh dear ....

Happy New Year! emoticon

Comment edited on: 12/30/2011 9:50:50 AM

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HDHAWK 12/30/2011 8:55AM

    This is a great list. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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GLOBALDAD 12/30/2011 8:38AM

    Thank you for sharing your tips. This summary is very helpful to me and I know to others as we fight the "binging addiction". I have never thought of this as an addiction but this helps put this into perspective!

Your sharing was a gift today and very helpful to me.


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KELLIGIRL523 12/30/2011 8:22AM

    Out of control eating while alone.

That is the first item on my list of things to conquer in 2012.

Great blog. Thanks for sharing.


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ONEKIDSMOM 12/30/2011 7:58AM

    Good list. As some others have said, one size does not fit all... I find I have to keep certain foods out of the house, but I also have to keep certain foods available in abundance, too! I have never binged on veggies!

Good one about not going *below* an intake level.

And I'm a tracker, too... even if I binge, I try to estimate and track. Honesty with myself is vital to this addict!

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MOBYCARP 12/30/2011 7:42AM

    Interesting list. I share some of the same strategies, but not all of them. It's interesting that some of your strategies are important to me, while others are irrelevant to me. One size does not fit all.

One key for me that didn't make your list: Track everything I eat. Even when I overdo it, make an estimate and move on. The act of recording makes it real to me, and reduces the chance of my doing it again.

Comment edited on: 12/30/2011 8:37:23 AM

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KRISZTA11 12/30/2011 4:57AM

    Thank you for sharing, great summary!

For me, the triggers are: any alcohol, leftover food of kids, emotional stress and being bored.
The first is easy to avoid, but the other 3 are rather challenging sometimes.

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FROGGGY13 12/30/2011 2:19AM

    Good strategies! The top two binge and weight gain inducers in my case are stress and lack of sleep, so I try to avoid them. I had first gained a bunch of weight after having my daughter: I weighed more when she was 12 months old than the day after she was born. It was the chronic, unrelenting sleep deficit.
Now I try to get good sleep no matter what; stress I only have limited control over. This year has been relatively good, I'm hoping 2012 will not be too stressful, either.

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MAGGIEROSEBOWL 12/30/2011 1:17AM

    GREAT blog and good tips. I too am an addict, and must be constantly vigilant, moment to moment. Right now I know I must avoid temptation and just go to bed rather than grab a piece of dark chocolate on the way up to my bedroom. I'm not hungry and I don't need it. I wish I had the luxury of being able to keep no food in the house. I found out over Christmas, if it's in my house I am tempted and usually give into the temptation. From now on, no BAD food comes in this house!

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    This blog spoke volumes to be- the careful monitoring and attention every single day is so important. You can and will maintain! emoticon

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WOLFKITTY 12/30/2011 12:48AM

    It's so easy to forget where we've started from or what strategies worked when everything is going swimmingly! This list will serve as a great reminder if you're just living "naturally" and forget, for sure!!


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DDOORN 12/29/2011 11:46PM

    Great tips and agree with most of them...not so caught up with the competition thing. Now if only I was HALF as diligent as you in FOLLOWING THROUGH with what I know works best for me!

Starting to get psyched up about cycling goals for 2012 though...big motivator to shed pounds so I can fly faster and farther! :-)


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BETTA13 12/29/2011 9:52PM

    wow. That is amazing. You are on to something.

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NEWKAREN43 12/29/2011 9:21PM

    A few of these I haven't thought of before (1, 13) and some things aren't an option as I have a family though I'd love to think just of me for a time to see if it made the journey easier (just for a little while)(5)...6 works for me too, 7 has been an issue for me during this holiday season and I didn't put together the processed foods v binging issue, I'll have to investigate that further...so, very interesting. Thank you for sharing, your blogs make me think and I like that. I also went through your pictures and they are really amazing! I would love to know how much you were working out when you were losing sizes every several weeks? I have surges of loss but then I stop (completely stop for weeks) and then I surge another loss. I'm going back to your calorie burn blog from the 23rd after the first of the year (I've had the flu so my data is all a mess). Thanks again for blogging and inspiring! Karen

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WATERMELLEN 12/29/2011 7:56PM

    Eternal vigilance and avoiding temptation because I can resist anything but temptation: that's what does it for me too.

Plus avoiding my binge triggers: potato chips, French fries in particular.

But you've given me some specific new ideas and I appreciate it. Gotta keep my protein count high: that's one area I tend to fall down on.

Imagine KNOWING Leonard Cohen! Amazing. Hate to sound star struck but . . . he's somebody I'd be star struck around for sure!

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Who's hand-rolling sea kayaks on both sides now?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Oh yeah that's right. *I* am! LOL ;-)

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MOBYCARP 12/30/2011 7:31AM


If I go watch the Flower City Challenge Paddle Tri event on 4/28/2012, will I have a chance of seeing you in a kayak?

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KRISZTA11 12/30/2011 5:00AM

I'm sure you are safe on wild waters too!

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WOLFKITTY 12/29/2011 11:48AM

    Wow! Awesome! Looks like it takes a lot of core strength.
You're pretty amazing! :D


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KAYOTIC 12/29/2011 10:38AM

    emoticonGuess that shoulder is feeling better now!

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MIRAGE727 12/29/2011 9:27AM

    Way to go, Wonder Woman. Make 2012 your best year ever! Take me to inspiring new heights!

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CRYSTALJEM 12/29/2011 9:25AM

    You make this look so easy! A friend of mine and I were talking about this over the holidays since he has just accomplished this feat. I'm inspired! Thanks.

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KELLIGIRL523 12/29/2011 7:49AM

    That is TOO cool! You are incredibly inspiring!

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WATERMELLEN 12/29/2011 7:32AM

    Hey, yay you! Gives all new meaning to "I've looked at life from both sides now . . . "

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ERIN1957 12/29/2011 7:25AM

    wow I am impressed, I so want to learn this!

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TAMPATINK67 12/29/2011 7:04AM

    That's NICE! emoticon

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BREWMASTERBILL 12/29/2011 6:58AM

    Very nice! You make it look effortless.

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TRULYVISIBLE 12/29/2011 6:47AM

  Good job. Have fun out in the waters. Great upper body workout.

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Figuring out YOUR personal calorie burn. Accurately.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I read a lot of blog posts and forum messages from people who feel confused and dismayed about plateaus and slow weight loss. Knowing your personal total calorie burn is important so you can figure out how much to eat - so you can set up an appropriate calorie deficit for losing, or set a target to maintain.

There are tools available here at SP for estimating your basal metabolic rate and calorie burn through exercise, etc. Unfortunately they can be wildly inaccurate because they are based on formulas for average humans and not based on YOU, individually.

If you like podcasts, there's a really good one by Leigh Peele about how estimating metabolism is almost more of an art than a science:

This topic comes up with such regularity that I've decided to write a blog post about it, so I can just refer people here when I see it again.


Here is how you calculate your own, individual daily calorie burn rate:

You take the calories eaten and compare it to what your weight is doing on the scale.

Suppose you are eating on average 1600 calories per day and losing about 1.6 pounds per week.

1.6 pounds is roughly equivalent to 3500 calories times 1.6 = 5600 calories. So if you're losing about 5600 calories per week, divide that by seven to figure out your daily average deficit. In this case that is about 800 calories.

So if you're taking in about 1600 calories per day and are 800 calories below your daily needs, that means your daily calorie needs are about 1600+800 = 2400 calories.

Suppose you're eating about 2000 calories per day and gaining about 0.5 pounds per week?

0.5 pounds times 3500 calories is about 1750 extra calories per week. Divide that by seven and it is about 250 calories extra per day.

Those numbers would mean that your total burn is about 2000 - 250 = 1750 calories per day.

Suppose you are eating about 2100 calories per day and have been at a plateau for about 2 weeks. That makes the math really easy. It means you're burning roughly what you're eating, 2100 calories.

This principle is laid out in beautiful detail in the Hacker's Diet online

We also have a Spark Team about this:


There are a few requirements to make this work. And you need to apply them consistently over weeks in order to figure out what is going on with your body.

1) You need to have a fairly consistent exercise routine. If you collect the numbers while training for a triathlon and then try to apply them during a 2 week cruise in the tropics, your estimates will be off.

2) You need to track your food. ALL of your food. And you need to track it accurately. If you don't know how much you are eating, you can't figure out how much you are burning. Because I love accuracy so much, I weigh everything I eat; using cups and teaspoons isn't as precise.

Here is a blog post about using a scale to track your food:

3) You need an accurate estimate of your weight. Daily fluctuations due to hydration can be as much as 2%. Weighing yourself once a week will help you see a downward or upward trend, but it won't take out the +/- 2% error problem for each measurement.

Because of this I like to use a weighted moving average of my daily weight. There are a number of free sites that can calculate this for you.




I personally like physicsdiet.com but the site appears to be down at the moment.

There are links to iphone and Android apps that do this in the links at the Hacker's Diet spark team:

Or you can use the principles of the Hacker's Diet and make your own spreadsheet as I have done over at Google Docs: docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=

However you do the tracking of your weight and food, you need to do it accurately and consistently. The better your data, the more clearly you will be able to understand the results.


So, after a week or so, figure out your average calories eaten and how much you're burning or storing based on your weight. With those numbers you can calculate an appropriate deficit. Most sources recommend a deficit of about 500 calories per day to lose about a pound a week.

We can safely lose about 1% - 1.5% of our weight per week. www.sparkpeople.com/myspark/t
During the year that I lost 160 lbs I ran a deficit of more than 1000 calories per day without much problem.

Now that I'm back in maintenance range it's even more important to have accurate estimates for my calorie needs - I have to know how much to eat!

That first example above is actually me. I've been eating about 1600 calories per day and losing about 1.6 lbs per week. My plan is to raise my eating target by 100 calories each week. So next Monday I'll target 1700 calories per day and see what happens. The week after that I'll target 1800 calories per day.

Since I started about 800 calories below my needs it should take about two months to stabilize, assuming my activity levels remain about the same. I estimate that I'll lose about 7 more pounds during those two months, and it should taper off to almost no weight change from week to week.

If I get sidelined by injury or illness my burn rate will drop. If I end up being more active than this my burn rate will go up. So I'll be watching the numbers carefully.

Here is a graph of my estimated calorie intake and burn. You can see that it varies somewhat depending on my activity.


Just for reference, this is a typical week's exercise for me:

M - Tae Kardio at lunchtime, Body Pump Class in the evening
Tu - Spinning in the evening
W - Tae Kardio at lunchtime, Body Pump Class in the evening
Th - Tae Kardio at lunchtime, Spinning in the evening
F- Rest, stretching, sometimes a deep tissue massage
Sa - Playing outside (kayaking, XC skiing, snowboarding, road cycling, etc.)
Su - Playing outside (usually kayaking or road cycling)

*I wear 5 lbs on each ankle & wrist for Tae Kardio. I take the seat off the spin bike and do the whole class standing and hovering. I lift as heavy as I can in Body Pump without losing form.

Having said all this, I need to add a disclaimer that this whole endeavor is not really about the number on the scale at all. The number on the scale is just a convenient, rough indicator. What I really care about is body composition and athletic performance.

How you control that is with WHAT you eat, and HOW you burn your calories. And tracking it is a much more difficult can of worms.

Here's a blog post about tracking body composition:

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GARDENCHRIS 3/22/2014 8:45AM

    very helpful info and laid out so even brain dead people can understand it! emoticon Thanks!

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DRAGONFLY02 8/30/2012 2:15PM

    Checking out the Hacker's Diet. Hmmmm, as an engineer I'm thinking this program might be a good fit for me. We shall see.

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DRAGONFLY02 8/30/2012 1:23PM

    Very interesting information, thanks for sharing.

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DRB13_1 8/29/2012 3:10PM

    thanks for the sparkmail & for sharing your expertise (YES, your weight loss success makes you an expert!)
I love the final statement - body composition & athletic performance. I am not defined by a number. I am prouder of completing a half marathon than having a number on the scale I think I should reach.
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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TINAJANE76 3/23/2012 1:20PM

    This seems like a very reasoned and sensible plan. I'm going to steal your ideas to help my transition!

Comment edited on: 3/23/2012 1:20:58 PM

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KELLIGIRL523 12/27/2011 8:54AM

    Confused and dismayed is a good description of me.... I'll be checking out these references. Thank you.

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ANDALEX 12/26/2011 1:01PM

    great post! once i get back in a regular routine, i think i will try this. thank you!

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FROGGGY13 12/25/2011 1:45AM

    This is great and appeals to the scientist in me. For a while now, I've known there was something off with my equations : either I am burning more than SP says, or underestimating calories. Maybe I should weigh foods. I am very nervous about regaining, but really want to know what's going on.

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MOBYCARP 12/24/2011 2:04PM

    Great blog! I was aware of the general ideas, but I'm not rigorous enough to run down the systems that you link to.

I think I'd still have issues trying to track things in fine detail, primarily from my exercise not being totally consistent from week to week; but the concepts you describe are vitally important for understanding what's going on.

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RG_DFW 12/24/2011 11:52AM

    Thanks, I've enjoyed the discourse over the last few days. Although I'm starting my tracking-in-earnest during the holidays, it becomes the start of the answer to the last thirty pounds and maintenance thereafter.

I've even started the fitness ladder... thanks for pointing me in this direction!!

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KAYOTIC 12/24/2011 8:48AM

    Great blog and links! Can't wait for the next installment....

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WATERMELLEN 12/23/2011 9:57PM

    Providing this detail and these links is a wonderful service: and your explanation is so clear, precise and logical.

Thank you!

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CCKELLY3 12/23/2011 8:18PM

    Oh boy, a bunch of new toys to play with if I decide to go a few more pounds. I've always found ways to enjoy the tracking process, mostly by the charts and graphs to show the progress as well as being able to look back at trends, which over time give real insight into how your body works best. But it never occurred to me that part of this is that I like accuracy-- just like you, I've been weighing my food by the grams for the past few years, and charting that way, and have had great success with it. So much so that even though I've been in maintenance for almost a year now, I still like to do most of my at home food that way, whether I need to or not.

Anyway, glad to hear you're doing well and on track! And thanks for the new tools and ideas of how to think about this- seriously, like new toys! :0)

Happy holiday!

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BREWMASTERBILL 12/23/2011 4:10PM

    "What does prompt me to adjust my calories is hunger. Real hunger strong enough to make it hard to fall asleep or something. If that happens I up my calories the next day because too much of that tends to lead to binges for me. "

I'm noticing this pattern in me this go around. I can keep them pretty well under control, but yesterday I ate at maintenance because the hunger was getting in the way of making a living. Today, I'm able to go back to a deficit without issue. I guess this is a point for the calorie cycling folks.

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BREWMASTERBILL 12/23/2011 4:09PM

    I think another fancy pants word I was looking for was "adaptive thermogenesis".

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 12/23/2011 4:04PM

    Yep, it's true the BMR can confound the burn when you're estimating exercise calories.

And unless I'm doing something super strenuous like cycling 100 miles in a day or something, the calorie burn estimates from the HR monitor don't track at all with the overall estimated burn rate. I still track it anyway because it helps with affecting body composition, but that's a different issue.

Usually when I dropped two or three pounds in a day it was related to hydration; because I'm using a BIA scale to estimate % body fat and that measurement is hydration-dependent, I can usually tell; a rapid drop in weight is usually accompanied by an apparent jump in % body fat (which isn't real, but just because I have less water in my system than usual).

So I don't adjust my calories on the basis of that because it usually levels out eventually.

What does prompt me to adjust my calories is hunger. Real hunger strong enough to make it hard to fall asleep or something. If that happens I up my calories the next day because too much of that tends to lead to binges for me.

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BLUE42DOWN 12/23/2011 3:23PM

    I use the Hacker's Diet log for tracking my weight daily and love being able to view the Trend rather than obsess about the ups and downs. It does have some very good information.

One thing I've found by reading SparkPeople's own articles is that the more active we are, the more possibility the calorie burn numbers will be higher than accurate.


Because those numbers INCLUDE the basal metabolic rate. We don't stop burning calories through normal living functions while we're exercising. For someone who works out 20 minutes a day, the padding is minute. For someone who works out 2 hours a day, it really adds up. (This is also why they don't have categories for things like sleeping, washing dishes, and the like. Those are part of the usual expected BMR.)

I definitely adjust on the fly, usually within my calorie range, but based on calories over the week and how much adjustment I want. When I suddenly drop 3 pounds one day and another pound the next, I start eating higher in my range. As it levels out, I drop back down to the middle. Sounds crazy to some people, but I actively work to AVOID a Trend higher than 2 pounds a week - preferring to be 1 to 1.5 pounds a week.

Comment edited on: 12/23/2011 3:25:03 PM

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CHIEFRYAN 12/23/2011 12:23PM

  Thank you for your post. You put a lot of good information in one place. emoticon

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 12/23/2011 12:05PM

    Excellent point.

This is one reason why I'm not "done" after figuring out my current caloric needs. Not only might my activity levels change, but my burn rate does seem to respond to the amount of calories eaten.

I've seen that before, in my chart:


When I eat more, my overall burn seems to increase.

Comment edited on: 12/23/2011 12:06:33 PM

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BREWMASTERBILL 12/23/2011 11:48AM

    I like it. I went a similar path when I was trying to find my maintenance calories. I ran into 1 problem that might cause some confusion (I mentioned in the HIT group many moons ago) and that is the equilibrium line is not linear. In other words, I could (from what I could tell) consume within a range of calories, say 2200-2400 per day and keep the same weight. So wth, 2400 calories is more than 2200 so what gives? I thought it was calories in/calories out. Well, it still is. I came across people with similar problems and the current theory flying around is NEAT. More calories = potentially more semi or totally involuntary action. More foot bouncing, higher core temp for example.

So just wanted to point out that little potential variable.

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Woot! Solidly back in maintenance range!

Monday, December 19, 2011


I use Physicsdiet.com to track my weight because it calculates a weighted moving average, smoothing out the fluctuations. (Depending on how much salt I have, I can fluctuate up to 4 lbs from one day to the next.)


My actual scale weight this morning was 154.8, the lowest I've weighed since March 2010 and 0.2 lbs under the center of my current goal range (155). My range is +/- 3% centered around 155 (150.4 - 159.7). It's based on the logic spelled out in this research paper: ikeepitoff.com/2011/09/maintenancede

I have a friend who thinks I'm probably going to settle out at a weight around 145. I think that's his medical opinion, but it might be his opinion as a kayaker, since he's both. We'll see.

My % body fat has been dropping nicely too.


In this general range I have gotten my body fat under 20% before and I'm shooting for that again.

So I'm continuing to aim for 150g of protein a day and continuing my heavy strength training alternating with cardio. I'm increasing my daily calorie target to about 1600 calories for now (up from 1500) to slow down the weight loss a little.

OH, and a kayak news flash. Now my hand roll is solid in the pool on my "on" side in my playboat and I got one on my "off" side last night!

And yes, I'm still paddling. Outside. In 29 degrees F.

That kayaking trip to Costa Rica next month is looking better and better. LOL

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

THETURTLEBEAR 12/22/2011 11:28AM

    Way to go! Thanks for the great links to the articles on body composition assessment options. I decided to get a scale like yours and do periodic comparisons.

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JOAN_HEO 12/21/2011 1:23PM

    Great blog and even greater results! BIG congratulations to you. I'm so jealous that you can still paddle!

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KAYOTIC 12/20/2011 10:50AM

    Fantastic! I have to admit I love those graphs....

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CTINAARTISTA 12/19/2011 3:31PM

    Great job!! I love the graphs!!! And your progress is so inspirational!

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KHAYNES_WDE 12/19/2011 12:55PM

    I love the PhysicsDiet Trackers too! Haven't logged in lately... I should!

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TAMPATINK67 12/19/2011 10:17AM

    Bonding moment - I'm a geek about tracking my data too!

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Would I even recognize me? (old pics and videos)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This is a time-lapse I took of myself, playing with my cats in the spring of 2008.
(The black and white cat is the one who died of old age a couple weeks ago)

This is also from the spring of 2008.

Here's a picture of me in December 2005.

I did have good times then. Life definitely wasn't horrible. I traveled, I had friends, I had hobbies, and I had a satisfying job. I knew how to have fun.

I still do. It's just a different kind of fun, now.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ELYMWX 1/3/2012 11:01PM

    Actually, I think I recognize the eyes and the forehead, and the smile in the pink top picture. The rest, not so much. My wife's made several comments about how when most men lose a lot of weight they become unrecognizable (myself included) but how when most women lose a lot of weight they look like thinner versions of themselves. You are, I think an exception to that observation...

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WOLFKITTY 12/29/2011 11:58AM

    Wow, right? Sometimes it is mind-boggling!

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RUSTBUCKET1 12/27/2011 11:03PM

    How impressive. You are just living life. What a joy to see your success! Thanks for sharing. emoticon emoticon emoticon

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BOATER_CHICK 12/20/2011 8:47PM

    That is great! I can't wait to go and boat with you again this coming year. No matter what we will be on the Tohickon!

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KARENDEE4 12/18/2011 9:36AM

So inspiring!

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LUVMYCRAZYKIDS 12/17/2011 9:59PM

    AWESOME!!....can't wait to be the "after" pics!!!

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YOITLE 12/16/2011 6:24PM

    Really inspiring. Thanks so much for posting this. Happy, healthy holidays! emoticon

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BLACKROSE_222 12/16/2011 5:50PM

    You have done amazing. Wow, what a transition. I'm sorry about the loss of your cat.

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JOAN_HEO 12/16/2011 1:01PM

    Talk about an amazing transformation!! Congrats on all your hard work!

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KAYOTIC 12/16/2011 10:23AM

    You have come so far, what a great visual blog....

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SALSIFY 12/16/2011 5:26AM

    You've still got the same smile!


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SPARKLISE 12/15/2011 8:45PM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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BREWMASTERBILL 12/15/2011 8:02PM

    That is awesome. I can't even imagine the people you've blown away. I only lost 70 pounds and I had one lady tell me that I should call the newspaper. She was serious. I laughed. Like, what would I do when I called the newspaper? "Hi, I used to be a fat dude, now I'm not."?

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THISISFORMENOW 12/15/2011 6:30PM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon

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MAGGIEROSEBOWL 12/15/2011 6:27PM

    Wow--I think people who didn't know you well would NOT recognize you today. What a change! Thanks too for all your encouraging words on my blogs. I appreciate your words and respect them because you are living what I strive to be--and have been doing it for a while. Sure, I know it's a struggle, sometimes we slip up, but as long as we NIP IT IN THE BUD (as Barney Fife used to say), we can get it under control and not let the problem grow into a HUGE one, like we both had before. As you pointed out--I was not just morbidly obese....I was SUPER morbidly obese. I never want to get close to that category again!

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PONYFARMER 12/15/2011 6:03PM

    Was that video all taken in one day? I love how the black cat think he/she is king of the mountain. He so owns you. LOL!

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TUBLADY 12/15/2011 6:02PM

    Amazing. What a difference a few years and some weight make.
I know whats it's like, but its so nice to see others make the change to healthy and fit.
Our lives change in so many ways.
Take care and have a Happy Holiday.
Tisha emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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WATERMELLEN 12/15/2011 5:59PM

    Really liked this blog . . . and in particular because you do not "horribilize" your past self, or your past way of life.

It's amazing what you've accomplished: but the essence of who you has not changed, only been permitted to step forward front and centre.

And how.

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TMW54812 12/15/2011 4:56PM

    You are one amazing lady! Thank you for sharing, it means a great deal to those of us still working to achieve what you have already. emoticon

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TRAVELNISTA 12/15/2011 4:39PM

    I sure wouldn't have recognized you! Your transformation is emoticon

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MIRAGE727 12/15/2011 4:17PM

    I know the feeling, Anja. I looked at some old photos of myself, then saw some new ones taken at races. Sometimes I wonder who BOTH of those people are!
Be strong! You are an inspiration. And thank you for being my VIP Team Leader of At Goal and Maintaing. You help make this road so much fun and easier!

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