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Cravings: Build your defense system!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Are you a “sweet” kind of person?

Or a “salty” one?

You can’t stay away from the bag of chips?

Or you’re drooling at the sight of chocolate chip cookies?

Or maybe both? Either way, I’m sure you sometimes imagine how much easier your life could be without these cravings! How much more successful your weight loss efforts would be if you didn’t feel this mouth-watering sensation every time you looked at the source of your craving! If you still dream that one day you’ll wake up and your cravings will have stopped once and for all, stop dreaming.
This. Will. Not. Happen. Ever.

We all live in the 21st century. Over the past centuries our world created civilization from food. It wasn’t just used to fuel our bodies. We were raised in societies that used food as part of social encounters, family traditions, holiday festivities, friendly gatherings, and so on. Food was a source of enjoyment and entertainment. If you think you can suddenly fight back to all those years of living with this frame of mind, I’m afraid you’ll be met with an ugly surprise. Our human brains work in a pretty simple way: If something makes us feel good, we want more of it.

Accept it. Cravings will always be part of our lives.
Especially if we’re women and our hormones ally with our sweet tooth once in a while.
Or if we’re emotional eaters and we want to gulp down our feelings with some sweet or salty help.
Or if we just lack some strong will-power and we use the above excuses to allow ourselves to fall heads-on in the temptation which is calling our name!

So what do we do? Do we become the slaves of those food temptations that are constantly around us, putting our weight loss or weight maintenance efforts in continuous jeopardy? Nope! We build a strong defense system and fight back.

My own self-defense against cravings was actually a discussion with myself.

Plan A. At first, I would take a distance from the temptation and ask myself:
“Do you really want to eat this? Is it something you really like or you just want it because…
a. That’s what you’ve been used to do for years.
b. It has a “sweet-unhealthy” label which suits your own “sweet-tooth-person” label.
c. You’re trying to eat away your boredom, anger, sadness, disappointment.”
Usually, it worked. My sensible, non-spontaneous and patient self would find the right answer and drag me away from the craving’s source. I was amazed to find out that many of the things I thought I liked actually belonged to the second category. I had convinced myself that I had a sweet tooth and I had every right to treat my body like a sugar-eating garbage bin! The truth is I don’t like all kinds of sweets. And I’ve come to enjoy the ones I really like better. So, my self-talk worked most of the times.

But not always.

There were times I really liked something and I just wanted to eat it.

Ok, plan B. “If you can halve it, you can have it.”
My common sense told me that I had no reason to halve a healthy and nutritious banana (see earlier blog). But that rule could help me with other foods that really need portion control. Imagine you’re a donut-lover. Can you live without donuts for the rest of your life? The longer you deprive yourself of them, the more you’ll end up eating. What if you can have half-a-donut once in a while? Stop the craving without doing a big damage. Isn’t this a fair compromise?

Plan B would usually work.
But not always.

There were times that the selfish, eat-everything-in-sight, emotional-eating monster would wake up inside my head and begin its own revolution. So after everything else had failed, there was only one solution…

Plan C. Give in.

Yes, you read that right. Give in to the temptation. Consciously. Remind yourself that it’s only this one time, that you can’t do this every day, that tomorrow you’re back on the wagon first thing in the morning. Then give in. And enjoy it. Chances are that the self-talk that led you to this decision will make you eat sensibly and not over-indulge. But even if you do, it’s only one time. It’s the exception. And exceptions only exist to prove how strong our rules are.

This is how I deal with cravings. I don’t expect them to disappear and I don’t pretend they don’t exist. I just fight them. And occasionally I give in. But I choose my battles.

You can build your own defense system, too. According to your own lifestyle and to your own character. And I’m sure that this fight will only make you happier. You’ll be able to enjoy the things you really like once in a while but also feel really good for yourself that you had the power to say “no” to any “disguised” cravings like the ones mentioned above.

And, most importantly, this is something you can do for the rest of your life.

So, what’s your plan?

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CHRISTINASP 11/4/2012 9:47AM

    I enjoyed reading this. I wonder if it would work for me... Can I ask how long have you been doing this succesfully?

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GONE-BIKING 10/8/2012 10:45PM

    Thanks for sharing what works for you. I think we can all learn from one another. There are a lot of Sparkers out there with a ton of knowledge.

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BAKER1009 10/5/2012 8:40AM

    This is such a wonderful blog Elle!
I need to work on plans like this with my own cravings! Thank you for the wonderful insight and ideas!!

>P.S. Keep these blogs coming Elle, they ROCK!!!

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BLOOMINGLENA 10/5/2012 3:27AM

    Thank you so much for your advice! That strategy against cravings seems to work for me, too but I am still working on it. I believe that what MILLIE5522
does with the cravings would work for me and I will try it next time. Keeping our mind busy with something and giving us time make cravings weaker. Hope we are the winners to this neverending fight most of the times!

Have a lovely weekend!
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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MILLIE5522 10/4/2012 1:46PM

    When I first crave something (in my case its salty snacks) I tell myself that I can have it but I have to wait 20 minutes first. Then I drink something hot and find something interesting to do such as going on SP. After the 20 minutes is up, if I still crave then I allow myself to have it and make sure that I enjoy every mouthful. I eat slowly and savour the crunchiness and the saltiness. I track it of course and if I need to adjust my calories the next meal or the next day I will. This way I avoid binge eating on snacks. I have no sense of guilt or anxiety as I have given myself permission to eat them. This method may not work for everybody but it has kept me on track and I am really enjoying my new slim figure!

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ROSEWAND 10/4/2012 1:35PM

    I have found the best defense system is:

1. Make healthy low-glycemic foods the
mainstay of my diet. this changes your
hormone response. I have a better sense
of control when I am hungry and much
less likely to succumb to unhealthy highly-
processed choices. My body really now craves
veggies and fruits, nuts and cheese, and non-
fat yogurt, etc. I have reset the cues, My
body really likes how it feels when I eat
this way. And it hates how it feels when I
do not.

2. Even though I focus on healthy food
choices, I am committed to providing my
pleasure centers the best food experiences
possible. I only eat what I really, really
enjoy, savoring every bite. Of course,
this is in the context of retraining my
pleasure responses to enjoy really
healthy foods.

3. Plan an occasional splurge into your diet.
I actually go even farther and allow one small
sweet treat each day as well as a splurge one
day each week. I do make sure that that
treat is eaten in context of a healthy low-
glycemic meal so my hormones remain in
balance It is so much easier to resist any
temptation when I know resisting is not forever.

These three strategies have really given me
so much more control over my diet than I
have ever had before.

Comment edited on: 10/4/2012 1:43:32 PM

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    Great blog!!

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FITFORMYFAMILY 10/4/2012 11:49AM

    I am so, so thankful that I came to visit your blogs today. You have a way of being so matter-of-fact and so understanding all at the same time, and it's exactly what I need right now. I really appreciate that you're sharing so much great advice with us! THANK YOU!!

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Weekend's food for thought

Friday, September 28, 2012

Whatever you do, no matter how small or important, do it the best way you can.
Whatever you say, say it because you believe it.
Whatever you feel, feel it with all your heart.

Be the best version of yourself.

Have a beautiful weekend, Sparkfriends!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CLAIREINPARIS 10/2/2012 4:42PM

    Beautiful picture and blog. Thank you Elle!

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FIT_MAMA_2_FOUR 9/29/2012 11:25AM

    yes, yes, and yes!
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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    Thanks for the nice thoughts. Have a wonderful weekend too!

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HOLLYS_NEW_LIFE 9/28/2012 2:25PM

    I like it!

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DRAK416 9/28/2012 2:22PM

  Nice, Tyvm

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The “half-banana” story

Thursday, September 27, 2012

This is a story about portion control. An important weight loss and proper nutrition factor which can easily turn itself into a boomerang side-effect if you lose balance and moderation while applying its rules. If you’re one of those persons who measure everything they put in their mouth by the decimal figures of an ounce, read on.

Back in my first dieting years, I would often browse through diets I came across in magazines or meal plans that a friend would follow. I had stumbled upon a snack option many times. “Half a normal-sized banana”. I would always wonder: Why half?

When I decided to follow a specialist’s advice to help me lose weight, I visited my endocrinologist who was also an obesity expert in order to make my first meal plan. I started reading it and soon realized that it had one fruit serving for every snack. “Great!” thought the fruit-lover inside me. At the end of the weekly meal plan there was a detailed description of what one fruit serving meant: One medium apple, two large tangerines, half a normal-sized banana…!!!
The question just asked itself using my voice!
“Excuse me, why do I have to eat half the banana? Can’t I eat all of it?”
She explained to me that a whole banana counts for two servings of fruit and it would double the calories of my snack.

“Ok,” I replied, “what if I eat both my snacks in the morning and not have an evening snack? This way I could eat a whole banana!”
She answered that the calories and the fruit fiber should be equally divided between meals and that the afternoon snack is really important.

“All right then, could you please tell me what I’m supposed to do with the other half?” – I know it sounds like a stupid question but I was really wondering at the moment of what her answer would be.
- You can put it in the fridge and eat it in the afternoon.
- I hate chilled bananas which have started going black!
- You can share it with someone else in the family.
- They want to eat a whole banana, too, and they have every right to. They’re not trying to lose weight!
- Well, throw it away then!
(Oops! Anger alarm triggered! Is she really telling me to throw away half the quantity of bananas I buy?)

I wanted to start telling her about the increasing rates of hunger and famine over the world but I thought “She’s a nutrition expert, she knows about those things.” And I just ended the discussion. Already determined to break this one rule.

Don’t get me wrong, I bear no grudge against her. She’s an excellent doctor who has kept my thyroid at rest for the past decade and that was one of the two arguments we’ve ever had.

I managed to lose 17 kilos back then – which I gained back, you know the story – and I lost 19 again with Sparkpeople. Always eating a whole banana for a snack.

The moral of the story? Moderation has to be applied everywhere, even on portion control. You must be aware of how much you’re eating but one more fruit or salad serving won’t make you fat! How bad can it be compared to the cookies you used to snack on until yesterday? Food tracking is a valuable and helpful tool that will help you discover your bad eating habits but you mustn’t get obsessed with it. You don’t have to count the lettuce leaves that you’ll put into your salad! You won’t be able to do that for the rest of your life! Because if you do, you risk crossing the line. And on the other side, food obsession awaits. And it’s a very good friend with eating disorders.

Change your bad eating habits one at a time, one step at a time. I’ll never get tired of repeating it. Healthy, life-long habits that are far from tiring, compulsive obsessions can really put you among the small, successful percentage of people who lost the weight and never “found” it again. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to accomplish?

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

THOMS1 11/2/2012 7:29PM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon

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MELAYAHM 11/1/2012 12:58PM

    Yeah, who can eat half a banana? I know they're the most fattening fruit (except for maybe avocados, but I don't like them, so no problem avoiding them), but they are also the only fruit I actually like to eat, as opposed to eating cos it's good for me. Well, maybe strawberries. And grapes. And blueberries, but they're expensive here. But anyway, if bananas didn't go black, then maybe, but otherwise, forget it, might as well eat the whole thing and yeah, much better than half a packet of biscuits

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PINKANGEL73 11/1/2012 10:50AM

    Great blog! I always eat a whole banana too, in fact, shhh don't tell anyone but sometimes I eat two in one day.

A few years ago on my previous struggle to lose weight I went for a check up with my local practice nurse and got a different lady. Her advice to me as I was struggling to lose (though not gaining) was to eat as little as possible and cut down on the amount of fruit and veggies I was eating. Having spent the last few months trying to eat extra fruit and veggies and less of other things I pretty much gave up at that point.

Since then I found Spark with its wealth of info, did loads of research and used the nutrition tracker to begin with as a tool to look at my overall eating and what was causing the most problems and what worked best for me. Now I track everything and I am changing my life - slowly but surely.

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TINAJANE76 11/1/2012 4:37AM

    I've often found it really weird to just eat half a banana. Really, who ever got fat eating a whole banana instead of half of one? I think people need to focus on eating MORE fruits and vegetables rather than worrying about which ones are "bad" for you. If it really bugs you to "spend" so many calories on a banana, either don't eat them or try to find smaller ones. The ones I get only run me about 80 calories for the whole banana, which I think is a bargain for all the nutrients you get. End of banana rant. Thank you.

Anyway, thanks this blog. I think it goes to show how much we can overcomplicate things that really shouldn't be that complicated.

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FITFORMYFAMILY 10/4/2012 11:44AM

    I really just want to reach my arms halfway(ish) around the globe right now and give you a great big hug!

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HEATHOG 10/4/2012 10:11AM

    Great story! I honestly read it while eating half a banana (my youngest son eats the other half!)

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BAKER1009 10/4/2012 8:22AM

    Awesome blog Elle!
You're right on with everything you have posted here. Thanks for sharing your story with all of us!!


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STARDUSTGR 10/4/2012 4:09AM

    Great Blog Elle!!
I totally agree with you and I vote... a whole of banana!!!!!
Of course we should control our portions but we should also stay away or any unhealthy obsession.

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FIT_MAMA_2_FOUR 9/30/2012 10:55AM

    Oh, portion control...portion control. This is my very biggest struggle when it comes to my healthy, forever, lifestyle. I bounce all over. Thanks for the reminder about how important it really is.
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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FITFOODIE806 9/27/2012 1:38PM

    Thanks for sharing this great story and lesson. I'd eat the whole banana too!

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FIREFLY4407 9/27/2012 1:13PM

    This was great! Yes, we want portion control and all, but there also needs to be commen sense applied !! emoticon

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SHANTODD420 9/27/2012 12:57PM

    Thanks for sharing I always eat the whole banana as well. Need to be more aware of my choices lol.

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ZANNBEE 9/27/2012 11:05AM

    Wonderful. I always eat the full banana too. I love bananas. Love the wisdom in this blog. Another issue is with not wanting to throw away food. So many of us have problems throwing food away so we end up eating past fullness because we don't want it to go to waste. There are no hard and fast rules. We can be flexible.

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GOTTAPLAN4U 9/27/2012 9:52AM

  Good thoughts.
I would be very lucky if I were convinced I should have only half of a banana because I have 3 dogs who love banana and are thrilled to have a chunk of mine. It would be one banana well spent among us.

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LOVESTOWALK49 9/27/2012 9:10AM

    I always eat the whole banana. I also eat the whole avocado. I rather have that one piece of fruit and eat less other foods than throw it away. emoticon

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HOLLYS_NEW_LIFE 9/27/2012 8:23AM

    THis is a really great blog. You're SO right, a whole banana will NOT make you fat, it's the chocolate you dip it in ; ) I also totally agree that there is a very fine line between trying to do the right thing and obsessing which leads to an ED. On this journey, I've come close to crossing that line. Thankfully, I've had enough sense to stop that in its tracks. Again, great blog!

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BIGDOG18 9/27/2012 8:22AM


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The day that would change me.

Monday, September 24, 2012

September, 22nd, 2009.
Another terrifying reading on the scale had triggered feelings of guilt, self-hatred and panic. Getting too close to the dreaded 90's again. I had gained back all the weight I had lost using huge amounts of patience, self-discipline and money. I was back to square one again. And in serious danger of getting even further behind it. I would soon need one-digit weight gain to enter the three-digits weight numbers. 100 kilograms looked so close! I had to do something.

I thought I’d try the internet. Keywords like “weight loss” and “diet” flooded the result screen with millions of sites. I found a BMI calculator in the first one I entered. The categorization only made me feel even worse.
“A BMI over 30 puts you in the “Obese” category for adults of your height.” Obesity??? The word echoed in my head, destroying my already vulnerable self-esteem.

I was ready to try the first fad diet I could find that would promise me the fastest results. But then I came across Sparkpeople. What caught my attention at first was the word “free” - I had already paid once to get rid of the weight, I refused to do it again. At first, it looked complicated. And I was skeptical. But I chose to stay. A choice that would prove to be wise.

I found a lot on Sparkpeople.
- Information. Hundreds of articles and feedback on nutrition, exercise and healthy living.
- Tools. Trackers, videos and healthy recipes.
- Inspiration. People who had succeeded in their journeys, no matter how difficult it seemed.
- Support. People who fought the same battle I was fighting. Who were there to cheer me on when I progressed. Who would gladly offer their hugs when I fell. (Who would have thought that virtual hugs could ever mean so much?) And people who would encourage me to get back up and fight again.
- Wisdom. Life wisdom. The kind that is not written in books. The kind that is sculpted on people’s hearts according to their experiences. And I found lots of those people here who were willing to share their priceless knowledge.

3 years later, 19 kilograms lighter, 24,000 fitness minutes fitter and a lot wiser by hundreds of Sparkpeople’s stories kept securely in my heart and mind, I can reassure you that Sparkpeople changed me in so many ways. Ways that I could never imagine when I joined in 2009. Back then the name of the site sounded motivating. For some reason, it seemed like a community of people who "sparkle" with the glow of change.
Now, I know that it’s all about the spark within us. A spark that can only be lit by us. No matter how many tools and how much support this wonderful community gives you, if you don’t light the spark yourself, nothing will ever happen. It’s like trying to educate a reluctant student. Even if you bring him the world’s finest tutors, no one will manage to put the knowledge in his head.

The spark is somewhere there inside you. You are the one who will light it. When it starts fading, your supportive friends will help you rekindle it. If you really want to change, no failure is strong enough to stop you. It can only serve as a learning tool for your changing process. Your spark doesn’t know quitting.

Thank you Sparkpeople for helping me light my spark.
I wish I’ll always be strong enough to stay here and help others do the same.
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FITFORMYFAMILY 10/4/2012 11:38AM

    This is exactly why I come back and read blogs that I've missed! emoticon You truly do Sparkle now and I'm so glad you're willing to share how you got to that point. I've been here 1.5 years. I hope to be a whole lot more like you by the time I hit the 3-year mark!

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FIT_MAMA_2_FOUR 9/30/2012 11:14AM

    wow! awesome testimonial. Congrats on finding something, 3years ago, that works for you. I love SP too. Happy SP anniversary! You're a very encouraging friend. I look forward to reading your comments every single time.
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VIXSTERLU 9/27/2012 12:14AM

    So well said!!!! Congrats and thanks for being my spark friend.

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BLOOMINGLENA 9/25/2012 2:43AM

    Happy 3-year Sparkaversary! emoticon
I don't believe it all started 3 years ago! It seemed like yesterday! Time flies!

emoticon and emoticon

Thank you for helping me find the spark inside me. I wish one day I reach my destination to this difficult but inspiration journey!
You know how much I love and admire you emoticon ! You are the emoticon ! hahaha! Congratulations again! emoticon
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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FIREFLY4407 9/24/2012 4:37PM

    Congratulations on your 3 year Sparkaversary!! I wish I could have discovered Spark 3 years ago, but I'm grateful that I did eventually find it - it is indeed life changing.

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CLAIREINPARIS 9/24/2012 1:15PM

    emoticon Happy Sparkversary, Elle!!! I am so glad you found SP and that you used it to reach your goals. 19 kilos is wonderful, and it is fantastic to read how you have changed... You can even run now, YAY!!!

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BAKER1009 9/24/2012 10:17AM

    Happy Anniversary Elle! emoticon
I never realized how closely together we joined Spark!

What a wonderful, beautiful, inspirational blog! So glad you are here to share your story with others. You are right about the "spark" word. It has so many different meanings for us here, all quite wonderful.

Enjoy your anniversary today, and enjoy your wonderful health that you have worked so hard for!
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TATINE 9/24/2012 8:59AM

    thank you for this post...just what I needed to read today! the spark is there for sure!

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FITFOODIE806 9/24/2012 8:35AM

    This is beautiful. I agree, spark has been such a positive force in my life. Here's to more sparking! And congrats on your continued success in this whole healthy lifestyle thing!!

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    Happy SParkavesary!! emoticon and emoticon emoticon on your successes!

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JHUSTO01 9/24/2012 8:34AM

    What a wonderful, inspirational blog. Thanks! :)

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ZANNBEE 9/24/2012 8:18AM

    Wow happy sparkversary! So inspiring! Congratulations. So nice to know there are people like you who can show us how it's done!

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WELLNESSME09 9/24/2012 8:13AM

    Wow! love this blog,

Wishing you continued success towards your goals.

Thank you so much for sharing. emoticon emoticon

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KAREN633 9/24/2012 8:00AM

    Thanks for the inspiration

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Weekend's food for thought! (A bit early, I know!)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Since I won't be around for a couple of days, I thought I'd share some motivation with all my good Sparkfriends. A little help to make decisions when faced with everyday dilemmas. Remember it's always your choice!

Who you are OR who you want to be? (If they're one and the same, well done!)

What you want now OR what you want most?

Feelings of deprivation OR feelings of power?

Real food OR counterfeit?

Computer time OR workout time?

Today OR every new Monday?

Discipline OR regret?

Sore OR sorry?

Skinny OR fit and strong?

Perfect conditions OR your own conditions?

Strong excuses OR strong willpower?

Dreams OR hard work?

Have a nice Friday and a fantastic weekend!
Be nothing less than yourselves!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FITFORMYFAMILY 10/4/2012 11:34AM

    You are so sweet to take time out to motivate the rest of us! I really appreciate how encouraging you are!

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FITMOMMY18 9/24/2012 8:44AM

    Thank you for that little boost. I really need it after a weekend of little slip ups... :/

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    Seems we like to blog in similar ways... Great post!! Wishing you a fabulous week ahead!

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BLOOMINGLENA 9/21/2012 3:39AM

    As old people used to say: If you don't get wet, you can't catch fish! hahaha! No pain no gain! Elle thank you for pointing out the dilemmas and the right choices for being healthy and fit! What I liked is the one with the skinny girls vs FIT girls! haha! Have a nice weekend and take care! emoticon emoticon

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GONE-BIKING 9/20/2012 5:50PM

    Thank you! Keep on posting because I'm along for the ride, or run, or whatever!

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CLAIREINPARIS 9/20/2012 4:09PM

    You are great at motivating us. Thank you for a wonderful blog, Elle! And have a beautiful weekend!

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ZANNBEE 9/20/2012 4:05PM

    Love it

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HOPEANEW 9/20/2012 12:45PM

    That was an excellent reminder! Thanks for posting!!

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BAKER1009 9/20/2012 12:08PM

An awesome, inspirational blog Elle, thank you!!

But wait, where are you going?! I will miss you!!

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AEROBISAURUS 9/20/2012 10:41AM


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HEATHER3477 9/20/2012 10:16AM


That really helps!! THank you

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CAGMUAHFO2 9/20/2012 10:15AM

    Thank you sooooo much for those. I'm going to print some of them and put up on my mirror in my room. emoticon

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