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Letting Go of Punitive Dieting

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Days of Punitive Dieting are gone forever. Thank heavens! Starving is just not a smart strategy. Often it doesn't work at all, and when it does work, it doesn't work for the long run. I've read it and I've lived it. Today I want to think about some of my past experiences and old punitive diet strategies that I am letting go forever:

* at one year of age and 31 pounds the doctor put me on my first diet, skim milk
* in fifth grade I unsuccessfully tried to lose using Metracal (precursor of Slim Fast)
* in 9th grade I ended up in the hospital with a mysterious malady that I believe was caused by not eating
* in 10th grade I lost 60 (from 172-112) pounds by pushing my food around on the plate so my parents didn't realize I wasn't eating much. it took me nine months to lose it, "maintained" less than 2 weeks, and gained it all back in 3 months
* freshman year in college my roommate and I rented a machine that was suppose to make you lose weight. It had a strap that went on your backside and jiggled! Like that is going to work!
* junior year of college became a devotee of Adele Davis and "Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit"; ate no sugar for over a year, hung out at the health food store; did not lose weight
* I joined Weight Watchers for the first time in 1968; was not successful first try. In 1970 joined WW again and lost 20 pounds in 14 weeks before going to India as a Peace Corps Volunteer in applied nutrition
* Lost weight gradually and pretty healthy during my 2 years in India and one in Fiji when I was growing my own vegetables and eating whole grains and beans. Quickly started gaining on return to US.
* Foolishly fell for the low carb craze in 1975. Lost no weight on low carb, but ate a ridiculous amount of bacon, eggs, and cheese
* In 1978 got really sick on the "protein-sparing fast"; I lost 21 pounds in 28 days to hit goal and immediately gained it back
* In 1979 I remember trying all kinds of diets (cabbage soup diet, grapefruit diet, food group diet, some kind of expensive injections, etc.) and finding that diet number 7 worked for me - it was Weight Watchers again.

After that, I never again tried truly drastic diets. I tried Curves and South Beach with temporary success. Somewhere upon the way I finally realized at an emotional level what I had known intellectually for a long time, punitive dieting doesn't work. It took coming to SparkPeople to discover healthy eating as a feasible way of life. And I must say for me it is probably the combination of Weight Watchers and SparkPeople that makes it possible.

Now, instead of dieting, I aim to eat healthy.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BESTSUSIEYET 7/16/2010 6:21PM

    I remember the 'jiggle' machine - think Mom had one for a while when we were kids. Bad idea -- but so was her ultimate solution for low energy and staying slim with 6 kids & hubby: Dexadrine (got it from the doctor, so it must be OK, right??!! Thankfully I've never gone to that extreme!) My fist son weighed in a 9#2 3/4 oz, and was 16# at 4 months -- AFTER the Dr. replaced his formula with 2% milk at 2 months old. I ate the cabbage soup, too -- and LOTS of grapefruit. Oh, how thankful I am to have found SparkPeople and learn that healthy foods in healthy amounts are BEST! Thanks for sharing a blog that many of us identify with! You have a knack for that, friend! emoticon

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WATERMELLEN 7/3/2010 7:28PM

    "Punitive dieting doesn't work": amen sister to that!

But have to say, I completely relate to your "diet bio" --

What works for me is eternal vigilance, tracking and above all focus on HEALTHY! Appearance is only a temporary motivator: feeling good is the permanent incentive.

Thanks for your comment on my milkshake blog -- I say, coffee 4ever!! Really love the stuff -- and it's at least a little bit healthy!!

emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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WALKINGANNIE 7/1/2010 4:02PM

    Yes this has been a lifelong quest.

Your blog says it all. SP works because its sensible. Dieting doesn't because it isnt.

(You didn't mention the frozen cigarettes. I'm still intrigued!)

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JOHAL52 7/1/2010 11:33AM

    Oooh, thanks for the recap! I remember Metracal (yuck, pooey) and those little chocolate squares that were supposed to suppress your appetite. Precursor to the modern ones, eh? And that jiggle belt? I remember that too. Was probably responsible for some of my lumps and bumps back there.
Here's to healthy, sensible eating now!

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BITTYGIRL51 7/1/2010 8:05AM

    What a great re-cap. Many of us have traveled a very similar road...thanks for reminding us.

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MONTY68 6/30/2010 9:06PM

    Hi Marsha
Well some of those sound familiar, my first attempt at losing weight was in 1959 while in college, I ended up in the hospital, my diet consisted of salads, and a small soap, the Doctor figured about 700 calories, Over the years I did most of them and some of my own ideas and probably lost over a 1000 pounds, problem was I gained back 1100. I don't remember the last diet, 3 years ago, I didn't go on a diet, I learned how to eat.

Thank you for sharing, I am sure there are a lot of memories came up today.
You found the answer and are a fantastic example on what to do. Once again, Congratulations.

Monty emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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AQUAGIRL08 6/30/2010 8:53PM

    Maybe the combination of WW and SparkPeople works because it isn't a diet but a lifestyle change instead. What ever you're doing, it's working for you and that's all that matters. Good job Marsha!

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AMANDAJCD 6/30/2010 4:44PM

    I'm so glad that (most) pediatricians have realized you just don't put a baby on a diet! Wow, that's sure a list. I remember the cabbage soup diet.

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OPHELIA105 6/30/2010 3:11PM

    Gosh what an amazing journey - so pleased you finally reached your destination!


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DONNABRIGHT 6/30/2010 2:33PM

    That is quite a journey. The ups and downs must have been hard to bear. Thank goodness you are where you are now!

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KALIGIRL 6/30/2010 1:01PM

    My sis is using the WW/Spark combo and I think it's doing great things for her too. She likes the ease of WW points and the support of Spark.

As I slowly gain confidence that what I'm doing is the 'best' for me, I don't even think about 'dieting' anymore.

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CLOVERR1 6/30/2010 12:33PM

    GOOD post. (One I can relate to!)

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HAPPYSOUL91 6/30/2010 12:13PM

    Ok, you got it together, really liked your blog. While reading, I started to think of all the "old diets" that I have been on and how I gained the weight back because I thought a miracle occured and the weight wouldn't find me.

Glad WW & Sparkpeople works for you and like me, it takes a combination of healthy ways both eating, thinking and physical activity to accomplish the goal.

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Observations While Packing

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Small clothes, and especially small summer clothes, take up less space in the suitcase than larger clothes. However, the athletic shoes take up a whole bunch of space. -Marsha

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KALIGIRL 6/30/2010 8:13AM

Isn't that the truth?

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MONTY68 6/29/2010 11:23PM

    Hi Marsha
Isn't life good in our new bodies. Something like packing a suitcase that at one time we might have had to sit on it to close it. You will discover more and more things as you go on that just are not like our old way of having to live.
You have the best vacation possible, You truly deserve it.

Monty emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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JHADZHIA 6/29/2010 11:10PM

    I wear all my bulky stuff so the thin stuff fits in the suitcase. I find the planes and airport's air conditioning to be too cold anyway, so I actually wear layers. Good suggestion wearing running shoes and putting the sandals in the case!
Enjoy your trip!!

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WATERMELLEN 6/29/2010 7:31PM

    It IS fun packing smaller clothes -- and wearing them too!! The space that the runners take is worth it -- since they make the smaller clothes possible!!

So nice to hear from you on my re-runs blog: thanks!

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HAPPYSOUL91 6/29/2010 5:22PM

    Put the athletic shoes on your feet and pack your sandals. Have a ball and be safe

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BITTYGIRL51 6/29/2010 4:04PM

    Happy Trails!!

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WALKINGANNIE 6/29/2010 3:55PM

    Win some, lose some!

emoticon emoticon

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SLIMLILA 6/29/2010 3:45PM

    I agree those walking shoes take up a lot of room - but less when they are on your feet. Enjoy yourtrip to see your family. Despite the job situation being upin the air still I am in the city with little grand kids adn will be going to see my oldest and her 2 kids on July 11. Safe travel and enjoy your visit!

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SLENDERELLA61 6/29/2010 3:26PM

    I'm on my way to visit my mother in South Dakota. She will turn 83 on July 10th, so we are celebrating. I'm visiting my stepkids in Virginia on the way back. Thanks for asking, Fran. -Marsha

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FRAN0426 6/29/2010 3:16PM

    Tou have that right. I always over pack, so really like packing a summer time travel bag over a winter one. The athletic shoes do take up a lot of space. So where are you going?

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DONNABRIGHT 6/29/2010 1:53PM

    I have noticed that, also. That is one of the reasons we like to travel by car - you can always throw the sneakers in the trunk!

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Planes, No Trains, and an Automobile

Monday, June 28, 2010

As I get ready for my trip to South Dakota, Virginia, and back to Florida -- a total of 5 plane flights and 600 miles in a car -- I am really very thankful to be the size I am now.

I remember back about 10 years ago I had a plane flight to a conference in Las Vegas. My seat was by the window. I weighed over 200 pounds and filled up the seat totally. The person beside me was even bigger. We were jammed in a small space for several very uncomfortable hours.

I just know at my current weight I will be more comfortable. As a kid I loved to travel, but I've somewhat lost the enthusiasm. I am feeling pretty relaxed and confident, though, about it this time. Knowing that my body will fit in the space is one of the reasons.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JHADZHIA 6/29/2010 11:11PM

    emoticon emoticon
Here is to the freedom to move!!
Well done!! You have come a long way, baby!! :))

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KALIGIRL 6/29/2010 1:10PM

    I agree. Allows us to give others a little 'extra' room.

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AQUAGIRL08 6/29/2010 11:47AM

    I don't need a seat belt extender but it is a tight fit in an airplane seat. Enjoy your flight(s). We will miss you on our first mall walk or two. Relax - you've earned the time off!

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HAPPYSOUL91 6/29/2010 9:56AM

    I couldn't agree more, fitting in plane seats, restaurant booths, car without extender is truly a benefit of losing weight.

You will have a great time, getting in and out of seats!

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EMBRACE_SUCCESS 6/28/2010 10:18PM

    It does make a huge difference! It's always one time where I really NOTICE just how much I've changed. Have a great trip!

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MONTY68 6/28/2010 8:44PM

    Hi Marsha
Thank you for the reminder, I am so use to how I feel and move, that I tend to forget what I was. I have to say, I can do things that I couldn't do. I love when you write, so many great examples of how the change comes about and your focus of making sure that who you have become, will be your life forever. You are a fantastic example of how to do it.

Monty emoticon emoticon emoticon

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WALKINGANNIE 6/28/2010 4:55PM

    Another Spark bonus!


Hope you enjoy the trip.

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DONNABRIGHT 6/28/2010 4:34PM

    emoticon The benefits we don't think about are amazing, aren't they??????

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Staying My Favorite Size

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I was asked, in response to a previous blog, if I maintained my weight loss wouldn't that mean I would stay in the same clothing size? (Hope I got that question about right, Monty.) Actually, I don't think the answer is yes. To stay the size I want to be I will not only have to maintain the weight, I think I will also have to keep up the pilates and strength training in order to have compact, dense muscles.

However, since I plan to continue the workouts, I don't plan to test my theory. Thanks for asking. -Marsha

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KALIGIRL 6/28/2010 1:52PM

    I agree - I'm hopeful to build muscle (add weight) and stay the same size.

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HAPPYSOUL91 6/28/2010 12:00PM

    I can gain or lose 20lbs and stay in the same size clothing...little tighter without a doubt or looser but still the same size.

Glad to read that you will continue with exercise as that helps the most not only on a visual level but a health level

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DONNABRIGHT 6/28/2010 10:40AM


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MARYMAC45 6/28/2010 10:19AM

    I agree it is the exercise that is necessary to maintain size. Enjoy your week!

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AQUAGIRL08 6/27/2010 9:47PM

    Good answer Marsha! Diet and exercise go hand in hand!

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RHONDAHONDA2 6/27/2010 5:26PM

    awesome keep up the good can do emoticon emoticon

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WALKINGANNIE 6/27/2010 5:23PM

    When you put your mind to achieve something you do it Marsha so you will stay at your favourite size.


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MONTY68 6/27/2010 5:03PM

    Hi Marsha
I think that makes sense and that was the question. I guess for myself. I have not lost any weight since I I started walking, but jeans which were 36 now are 34 and I took my belt off and they almost fell off. Think I am going to go to walmart and try a 32.
But your answer for you is clear and I know that you will maintain your beautiful size 4.

Monty emoticon emoticon emoticon

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SLENDERELLA61 6/27/2010 4:58PM

    To answer Ophelia's question, this is a US size 4. According to --
rsions -- a US size 4 is equivalent to a UK size 6 and a French 34.

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OPHELIA105 6/27/2010 4:39PM

    HI Marsah! I think you are right - I think it's the toning that affects size as well. I have just read your blog 'wardrobe and hunger'

I am a size 10 and still have difficulty beleiveing I am - although u know what uk size are like - still a 12 in trousers. I'd never thought I would see the day when a size 12 seemed a little on the roomy side.

I have bought a Next jacket today which is a szie 6 and I can get into it - this is way off my reality scale.

As for a size 4 - I didn't even know clothes went that small - this is uk size 4?

You have done tremendously well and I think I am finally understanding what you are already know - this is a lifetime's work. But the rewards are worth every sacrifice!

Have a great evening!

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Wardrobe and Hunger

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I bought a whole wardrobe at size 10 because I thought I was done losing. Then I bought a whole wardrobe at size 8 because I thought I was done. I didn't jump on buying 6's because I didn't think I'd stay there. But when I got down to a 4, the 8's were just too big. I'm still not convinced I can stay a 4 but I sure am trying. I like being a size 4.

I read on a Weight Watcher message board that I'm at the 4 percentile. (The info was not sourced so I don't vouch for accuracy.) In women over 50 who are 5'6" tall, 96 percent weigh more than my weight of 128. Isn't that amazing for someone who was off the chart the other way as a child and teen?

I don't sense that maintaining at a size 4 is really any more difficult than maintaining at an 8 or 10. It seems like whatever point or calorie goal I set, I usually want 10% more on most days and 50% more once or twice a month or so.

So far I'm absolutely unable to eat intuitively. I have tried to track my hunger and satisfaction as Weight Watchers recommends. My hunger is just not indicative of what I should be eating. I'm less hungry when I'm working out. The more I sit, the more I want to eat. Isn't that backwards? So I have to decide what I should be eating and eat it. My stomach doesn't have a clue.

Anyone else undertand this phenomenon? Anyone get in touch with their true hunger after having repeated difficulty? If so, how did you do it?

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BESTSUSIEYET 6/27/2010 8:15PM

    Hi Marsha - thanks for your kind words about our vacation! I was amazed at how little we ate during the day, and yet I didn't walk around feeling hungry! I remember thinking I'd LIKE a little trail mix now -- but it wasn't my tummy talking. Keeping those snacks to little ones was key, I think. I wasn't starving by dinner time either.

As to your question -- I think I'm getting to a point where I feel full and tell myself to stop. Sometimes it's with just a bite or 2 left on my plate; sometimes earlier in the meal. I don't always listen, but am learning to do so. I don't like the FULL feeling that used to end each meal. I wish I could tell you HOW I'm doing that -- but I don't know. I am just glad that I'm starting to wise up! God Bless You as you continue your Journey to Health!

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SLIMMERJESSE 6/26/2010 11:20AM

    WOW! That's amazing. I don't think I was every a size 4-even as a kid!

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MONTY68 6/24/2010 5:39PM

    Hi Marsha
Again, I want to congratulate you on your success, I understand sizes a little and I think a size 4 would be very small, I have a question, You did comment that you weren't sure that you could stay a size 4, so my question would be if your weight stayed the same, wouldn't the clothes size stay the same? Is clothes size different then maintaining weight?
As far as my hunger goes, I eat 3 meals and then snacks at night and always tracking to stay within my range. I am usually on the low end, Recently instead of eating fruit, I now put it all together and I call it a smoothe, everything that goes in is tracked. I do eat what I want, I don't even think of it being what my stomach wants. I am comfortable with what I choose, and I feel that I could eat anything as long as I have allowed for it. To give an example of what I wouldn't do, my neighbor gave me 9 creamed filled chocolate brownies a 1/2 of a cherry pie. I did not eat one bite and I did dump them into the garbage, I just didn't want them sitting around screaming at me to eat them. I don't know if that is something that only happens to some one on maintenance or would a number of people feel the same way. I think for me, would have been if he brought one brownie, I would have analyzed my calories and maybe ate it.
So again, again you have done wonderful and I really think that you will continue to stay at the same weight and size.

Monty emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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HAPPYSOUL91 6/24/2010 3:38PM

    Great job on the sizes. I have mouth hunger 99% of the time and my stomach just don't know this, which is a problem.

Body sizes are so different, I weigh 131 and it is a size 10 for me

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WILD4STARS 6/24/2010 2:55PM

    Unfortunately my stomach is ruled by my taste buds. There are certain things that I just can't eat, not even one bite.

Thanks for the Gold Star Spark Goodie, I am wild for stars!!
emoticonMake it a great weekend and Happy Sparking.

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SLENDERELLA61 6/24/2010 2:46PM

    Annie, Thanks for the source. It actually says I'm at the 3rd percentile! So cool. Thanks again. -Marsha

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WALKINGANNIE 6/24/2010 1:30PM

    Oh yes Marsha, I understand the phenomenon.

According to the calculator at

I'm in the 2nd percentile. I find this astonishing but I'm in the same position as you. I can't do this alone. My stomach still needs much more training before I can risk letting it dictate what I eat. I can't imagine being free of tracking.

The good news is that tracking is an available option. I regard it now as beeing a prop for my impaired appetite in the same way as my reading glasses aid my imperfect eyesight. I'm very glad of both support mechanisms!


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KALIGIRL 6/24/2010 1:29PM

    I'm with you - still trying to figure out what to eat since I'm adding new healthy endeavors to my journey. I nibble all day, so really don't get hungry. Would be interesting to go back to three meals and see what the body says.
Congrats on the size 4!

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    Oh, I have no answer because I also have a stomach with no clue! I'm not sure if it is because of going 50 years with eating for comfort, eating because it was there, eating because it tasted good, eating because I wanted to get my money's worth, or just eating out of boredom, but my tummy just doesn't give me many indications unless I've way overeaten and it's too late to do much about that! That is where the nutrition chart saves my hide! I have to use it, and probably will for a long time to come, unless I memorize things enough to have the structure without going by my proper "hunger." Well, I gave you no answers, but at least you know you're not alone! emoticon

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DONNABRIGHT 6/24/2010 12:14PM

    Great article - thanks again!

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JHADZHIA 6/24/2010 11:46AM

    Congratulations on your sizes! Well done! Strange, I weigh a little less than you, but I am in size 10 or 12's and I am very fine boned. I got into a size 10 bathing suit yesterday, was a little loose but needed to get into it easy because of my broken elbow. I can't help you with whats going on with your hunger. I feel hungry after my power workouts and that is when I eat a good breakfast. I don't feel like lunch, but have it any way. The only time I feel hungry again is after I get home from the bridge club (maybe its stress hunger lol), too soon for supper so I usually have a snack to make up calories I need for the day.
If you are used to sitting and snacking in front of the TV or whatever, that is a powerful habit and hard to get out of. You may have been conditioned to that response, that as soon as you sit, its time for a snack. I got that way with my popcorn. Every night would come home, plunk in front of the TV and have a popcorn. So I gave up the popcorn, and later also the TV. Don't miss the TV, but will have the odd popcorn at my Mom's. Sparks also suggests its from boredom too. I hope you can solve it, we would all like the answer to that one!

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MERALO 6/24/2010 11:15AM

    I understand the phenomenon but my problem is the reverse...I just don't eat all day and then I inhale everything within a few feet because I'm so hungry. It's taken me months to train myself to eat 3 meals a day (I still don't snack, I just can't get myself to do it) but ever so easily I can slip back into the old habit of not eating all day.

Tracking my food when I do this is hard because I actually don't remember a lot of what I eat and when I do, it's really high-calorie stuff. With conscious effort every day, I plan my day-time meals and force myself to eat them quietly...then I find the evenings are a breeze. I don't trust myself yet to just wing it...I'm still fuelling my body thoughtfully and in a pre-meditated manner.

And WELL DONE on that new size'll maintain it just fine...

Comment edited on: 6/24/2010 11:15:33 AM

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