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Diet Food

Sunday, March 25, 2012

We don't use the word "diet" here at Spark People much. Not a word I like much either. But I do use it, myself. And I've recently blogged on the topic.

For me it's always going to be necessary to diet. Permanently.

And it's going to be necessary to tolerate -- even savour -- being hungry. Every day. Human beings are meant to experience hunger. Thin people do experience hunger. Because hunger signals that I'm ready for my next meal. And hunger signals that I will enjoy that meal even more.

However, in that context, I've been thinking about commercial "diet food". The whole focus of diet food and diet cooking is on eliminating hunger. It's a billion dollar industry. And hunger cannot be eliminated if weight is to be lost and cannot be eliminated if weight loss is to be maintained. It's a delusion.

Those 100 calorie pouches, the special cookies that are calorie reduced, the baked instead of fried chips. I don't buy that stuff. In my experience when I did, I just ate more of the calorie reduced foods until I'd had six reduced-calorie cookies instead of two regular cookies, amounting to the same number of calories, or maybe more. Self-delusion. Although (never wishing to be boringly consistent about anything) I do use sugar substitute moderately, Splenda being my favourite.

And I've been thinking about diet recipes too. There is a big focus here at Spark People and in a million cookbooks and magazine articles on lower-calorie versions of favourite foods with the promise that they are "just as good" or even better, more flavourful. The calorie reduced cheesecakes made with low fat cream cheese and sour cream, the fudge brownies with applesauce instead of butter, the ovenbaked "fried chicken". And yup, I've contributed a few of those recipes too. None of them do taste quite as good as the original. Because they don't appeal to all of the senses -- the mouthfeel of fat, the crispiness of fat, the crunchy sound of caramelized sugar, the smell of butter-soaked popcorn. So maybe if I had a slightly bigger portion of the cheesecake it'd be good? No? Delusion again. I've had to come to the conclusion that cheesecake is not for me. Fried chicken is not for me either.

With the way I'm eating now, increasingly I don't use recipes. As for the requests for my "soup recipes": I would love to help and I'm flattered to be asked but I don't really have any. My soup is comprised from whatever's in the cupboard and the freezer and those veggies in the fridge that need to be used up from last week's salads.

But what I'm learning is that out-and-out "diet foods" -- commercial product, or my own "makeover" versions -- are seldom satisfying. Although I 'm not totally consistent, primarily and increasingly I'm finding that my omelettes and oatmeal and soups and my salads (staples of my diet) are tending to be "real food". By which I mean, not commercially calorie-reduced or revamped versions of higher fat originals.

Real oatmeal, old fashioned type: not the prefab pouches. Of course there aren't any calorie reduced radishes or tomatoes or bell peppers or arugula. All those raspberries and blueberries and apples are by definition "full calorie". I do often choose lower fat or fat free dairy products (yogourt, feta, milk) but I'll eat full fat old cheddar and full fat butter rather than processed cheese slices or ersatz margarines. I will eat full fat cashews or nut butters and avocado and salmon: all good fats. Provided I have them in controlled quantities. Very controlled. And not every day.

I can't have some of these real foods in sufficient quantities such that I'm not going to feel hungry. I do feel hungry. Every day.

Hunger is not an emergency. And no amount of "diet food" will prevent me from feeling hungry anyhow, if I am going to sustain my calorie range. And maintain my weight.

No amount of exercise will permit me to eat whatever I want either.

I am going to be hungry. I am going to savour my hunger, savour my meals. Real meals. Because real food is more satisfying to me.

Gotta grow up and accept this. No whining. No regrets.

Less is more.

Don't misunderstand: I'm not "lecturing" on this topic, not at all.

This is a new core belief I have deliberately adopted, and I'm repeating it here primarily for my own benefit. Repeating it until I believe it, act upon it and realize the results.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NAVYMOM133 3/28/2012 2:14PM

    Excellent blog!! I couldn't agree with you more!! Here's to putting single-ingredient foods together and making a true meal!

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TRAVELGRRL 3/27/2012 7:20PM

    Believe it or not, I do not feel hunger every day.

Is it true that your stomach shrinks with time? That's the only reason I can think of that I am NOT hungry every day!

I agree with you on the diet foods -- most are worthless.

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CRYSTALJEM 3/27/2012 12:15PM

    Real food, what a concept. I agree, I've tried the "diet" foods and treats and have shared basically the same experience as you. I've found the best for me is to eat the "real" (original recipes/treats) stuff in moderation and then stick much more to the "whole" (fresh) stuff in quantity. When I don't keep that balance, my pants tell the story....

My scale hasn't been budging much, just wobbling back and forth, but I'm feeling better, I'm looking better and I'm firmer. I think I'm going to post a picture on my wall in the bathroom of a scale with the number I realistically want it to read of use that for my motivation (repeating it until I believe it) However, as long as I believe and feel that I'm moving in the right direction, I'm not going to focus heavily on the number.

Great blog as always. Have a blast of a day. Hope its spring like where you are. CJ

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KALIGIRL 3/27/2012 11:33AM

    "Repeating it until I believe it, act upon it and realize the results."
Can't do better than that!
Namaste my friend.

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TRYINGHARD1948 3/27/2012 4:54AM

    Vegetables, a little meat, sweetness when we work hard for it, sounds like the stuff that brought us to where we are. I owe my Mum a huge thank you for her knowledge of food.

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NANCY- 3/26/2012 10:29AM

    Real Food!
Commercially chemically processed "diet food"
I can understand folks wanting the recipe for your soups, cooking real food is so different than opening a box or a bag. Right now I am learning how to cook real food for my family which requires using recipes before I can tweak stuff to our liking. Then like you I will not really have a recipe.
WTG for knowing what you must do for you!

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DDOORN 3/26/2012 10:07AM

    I'm with you on this topic...no 100 calorie packs for me as well. No egg-white only stuff or rubber fake cheese either! Real food please! :-)


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_LINDA 3/26/2012 2:10AM

    I so absolutley agree with this. I could never tolerate anything but real cheese. Most of what I eat is unprocessed. I do not use salt, sweeteners of any kind and only use pepper, garlic and chilli pepper seeds for spices. Real foods rule!!

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FREELADY 3/25/2012 10:51PM

    What a great blog. You said so many important things here . . . and expressed it so well! Thanks for putting these valuable perspective down so we can get a real solid handle on it!!

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FREELADY 3/25/2012 10:51PM

    What a great blog. You said so many important things here . . . and expressed it so well! Thanks for putting these valuable perspective down so we can get a real solid handle on it!!

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MEADSBAY 3/25/2012 10:26PM

    I'm 100% on your team!
Real food in smaller amounts for me, too.

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DBCLARINET 3/25/2012 9:22PM

    Another blog full of wisdom and refreshing tough-love!

I remember a long time ago, when I was young and had a raging high metabolism and didn't understand a thing about "diets," wondering why people would want to eat nasty SnackWell's when they could just eat a little less of the real stuff. Then I got older, went to college, started gaining weight, and started understanding the whole thing.

Fortunately, I grew up in a household where my dad baked chicken with the skin on and real butter was kept in a box on the counter. Yeah, we did the processed grains, instant oatmeal, quick cereals, and whatnot, but I don't remember piles upon piles of "diet food" hanging around the house.

I've been a lot happier since going to as unprocessed a diet as possible. I just feel so completely satisfied by my meals, and I'm discovering how hunger is the best spice. Food tastes so much better when I'm actually hungry for it.

So thanks again for another awesome post! I'm still inspired to keep it real!

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MOBYCARP 3/25/2012 8:40PM

    I thought I was the only person on the site who was totally unattracted to the multiplicity of fancy recipes. I do better figuring out how to prepare real food for one.

It's been a gradual process. I'm not using much butter any more; I might not use any for a couple of weeks. And after a half year, I finally weaned myself off the toaster pastries (generic Pop-Tarts). But I couldn't do it all at once. And most of those Spark recipes would require me to dive into lots of aspects of real food that are unfamiliar, all at once, to prepare one dish. No, thank you.

In the process, I've found some things that work for hunger control; but they bear no resemblance whatsoever to reduced-calorie recipes for the high-calorie stuff. They look more like, change what I eat to something different, and be sure to get enough water, bulk, and protein in.

And yeah, sometimes I just have to live with a bit of hunger till it's time to eat again. But that doesn't happen every day.

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CARRAND 3/25/2012 5:18PM

    I totally agree. I avoid low fat, or fat free processed foods. If I want sour cream, that's what I have. I just don't have it very often. Low fat dairy products can contain things like modified food starch, which I can't eat because I'm gluten intolerant. I always read the labels, or buy food like fresh fruits and vegetables that don't need labels. I avoid things like blueberry breakfast bars, even if they're gluten free. Real oatmeal with fresh blueberries - now that is good food. Natural oatmeal is gluten free if it is processed in a gluten free environment. The little packaged instant oatmeals usually aren't gluten free, and honestly, the real stuff doesn't take that long to cook. I think a lot of "diet" food isn't really food at all.

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DONNACFIT 3/25/2012 2:33PM

    Hi thanks for another great blog..love your blogs..

it made me think of something I read someplace that your body craves good nutrition..so if you're getting your calories from not "real" foods..your body is still craving the nutritional needs of a balanced diet..feed it the fruit, veggies, proteins, grains and fats..and we are satisfied...who knew the body was so smart!!

Like that study that if you eat only junk food to required calorie limit you lose weight but it didn't say at what cost and if you were hungry or not...

Food for thought emoticon

Your soup ideas always inspire me and I make soup..and almost everything, like you..with whats around and might taste good together. This week in my challenge team we are measuring everything....good to do once in awhile to see how close the eye balling has been :)

Have a great Sunday :)

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PHEBESS 3/25/2012 2:12PM

    Amen to REAL food! I too would rather eat less of the real stuff than eat "diet" food full of plastic and petroleum by-products - bleah!!!

My lunch was oatmeal (old fashioned) to which I added raisins and almonds (just 18 almonds) - yum!!!

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ONEKIDSMOM 3/25/2012 1:49PM

    Like this blog, a lot. I believe in "real food", in moderate portions. Although I do purchase food from Jenny Craig or Healthy Choice or the WW Smart Ones... because I live alone and don't want to eat the same thing all the time, and they are appropriately portion sized for one with my calorie range... I avoid the snacky 100 calorie packs. Got the same problem with them as you do.

The foods I use to supplement: real foods, real veggies and fruits. Skim milk.

I like the dictionary definition of diet, myself: "what you eat". As in "the diet of the koala bear consists of eucalyptus leaves".

Spark on! Eat less. Savor and enjoy it more. emoticon

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Soup: Asian to Cajun!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Slurped up my last bowlful of a stellar peanut butter chicken last night: it had lots of Asian vegetables (water chestnut, snow peas . . . ) and buckwheat noodles, and big chunks of garlic and ginger. Plus Thai green curry paste. Loved it!

This week's soup will be Cajun black bean and sweet potato with celery, shredded carrot , green pepper and brown rice. It smells very very spicy! And it's colourful -- chock full o' vitamins.

Good thing too: the miserable cold I've been fighting off has wrestled me to the ground (sniffles, streaming eyes, generally achy/breaky), and my taste buds will be requiring powerful flavour if I'm to taste anything at all.

Now I'm heading off to sit in a steaming hot tub. Exercise will have to wait a bit . . . and I'm not worrying about that too much, I always do return to the gym. And weight loss maintenance for me is at least 80% control of nutrition.

It was a busy week, and lots awaits me on my desk: but I'll get through it. No need to work this weekend. I'm lying low.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NOLAZYBUTT110 4/12/2012 2:03PM

    You should try Greek chicken soup with lemon and cayenne pepper in it. It gets rid of colds and flu any time! Its my old standby when I get sick or even deal with allergies.... try it you will love it. We love all kinds of soup, but have not tried that one you had yet! Maybe you can share the recipe? We (me and Hubby) have soup at least once a week. see my recipes. susana

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NANCY- 3/25/2012 10:31AM

    Soup is a great way to soothe what ails you. Hope you feel better soon.

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CRYSTAL_MOM 3/24/2012 7:54PM

    Ok, you get me drooling, but where are the recipes? I love asian and cajun. Now, I am in want with no recipe to fill the need.
Hope you are feeling better. I am just starting to get over the sinus thing and cough that I have been battling.

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TRYINGHARD1948 3/24/2012 7:35PM

    Sounds delicious Ellen, hope you feel better soon.

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CANNIE50 3/24/2012 6:40PM

    I am glad to hear you are extending yourself some T.L.C. while you fight off a nasty cold. Good thinking because you will certainly feel better faster by giving yourself what you need to bounce back. emoticon

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PHEBESS 3/24/2012 6:31PM

    You need to write a soup cookbook - they always sound delicious!!!!!

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_LINDA 3/24/2012 3:38PM

    Wow!! Those two soups sound fabulous!! Sorry you are battling a cold :(( Its good you are taking care of yourself and not working or working out. Just pamper yourself and get better soon!

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FREELADY 3/24/2012 1:57PM

    You always give me such great cooking ideas. Both those soups sound fabulous.

Glad you're taking gentle care of yourself. It's good for me to listen to you having confidence in yourself that you're on a steady path. I'm working on that trait! Thanks!

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DONNACFIT 3/24/2012 11:06AM

    Hi..love your soup blogs..today's the day for me to make soup too..just not sure which kind it will be...

Take care of yurself..too much puddle splashing??

Get well soon...the work will always wait emoticon

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Red Rainboots

Friday, March 23, 2012

The robins are singing wildly outside my window. It's a dark rainy morning after days and days of sunshine and warm warm temperatures. There are tiny daffodils and snowdrops and crocuses and a few early hyacinths in bloom outside my back door, enjoying the rain too I'm pretty sure.

Robin in the rain
Such a saucy fellow
Robin in the rain
Mind your socks of yellow
Running through the garden
With your nimble feet
Digging in the garden
With your long strong beak
Robin in the rain
You don't mind the weather
Showers only make you gay
But I bet the worms are
Wishing you would
Stay away
Robin on a rainy day
Don't get your feet wet
Robin on a rainy day!

My mum had been a public school teacher before she married, and she had a huge number of songs for every possible occasion . . . all of which I sang to my own kids, and none of which I'll ever forget. Anyone here know this one?

I'll be wearing my impossibly cute red rubber ballet flats today and splashing through the puddles. Singing. A rainy day in spring: what's not to like??

And now: here's the link with a great trumpet solo, sung by the beloved Raffi (whose records I played endlessly for my kids when they were little: but did not know he had a version of this one!!)

Thank you so much, Nancy: what a treat!!


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LUNADRAGON 3/24/2012 10:52AM

    Fun! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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SLENDERELLA61 3/24/2012 10:41AM

    Glad to see you still enjoying nature and celebrating it!! No, that's not one I know. I do know the "Red, Red Robin" and "Rockin' Robin." My mum was an elementary school teacher, too, (before she became a professor) but could not sing with a darn.

Congrats on that Best Dressed Casual Award. I know you are looking sharp again today! Take care. I'm planning to buy a new laptop or IPAD just as soon as I get taxes done and know where I stand financially. In the meantime, just doing the best I can, but missing all the support. Take care. Think of you often. -Marsha

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TRYINGHARD1948 3/23/2012 11:58PM

    The joy of Spring is wonderful, new life and returning friends. Delightful blog.

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CANNIE50 3/23/2012 11:02PM

    Such a cheery blog - love your descriptions. emoticon

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ID_VANDAL 3/23/2012 7:14PM

    Is there anything at all that is not on YouTube?

That was a cute song!



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CARRAND 3/23/2012 5:31PM

    The rain boots sound wonderful. I like the song, too. I'm not familiar with it, but I'll bet the kids love it.

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PHEBESS 3/23/2012 11:52AM

    Love the rubber rain ballet flats! Too cute!

I don't know that song - we sang something different, something about all the birds are here again, the robins singing, something something. Don't remember beyond "All the birds are here again......." and the melody for that line.

Serious brain fade!

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PENNYAN45 3/23/2012 11:31AM

    Cute song!
How wonderful that you sang songs to your kids when they were growing up.
I remember when elementary school teachers used to sing and play music every day in class. (Perhaps those were Canadian classes, though.)


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NANCY- 3/23/2012 10:34AM

    Cute song... uTube had a Raffi version.
Each moment is an opportunity, I love the way you enjoy them.

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DONNACFIT 3/23/2012 10:13AM

    Hi..thanks for the song reminder..we sang that in school when I was a kid :)

When my kids were little I taught a weekly Playschool for the community and have a huge number of goofy kids songs from the 80's...Raffi anyoone? haha

happy spring...the birds are singing here too, green is starting to turn green and new plants are just starting to poke through the ground..plus all the ne calves...

my rubber boots are caked with manure and not nearly as cute....

have a great day :)

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DDOORN 3/23/2012 9:05AM

    Tuning into nature...love it! Enjoyed the squonking of geese heading back up north while riding along the river on my way to work this morning.


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_LINDA 3/23/2012 8:38AM

    Wow! How awesome is that flowers blooming, and robins singing! I have never heard of this song, how sweet :) Singing was not a part of my life growing up. I have heard some birds singing, but the robins haven't got it going yet. As the snow moves in 3-5 cm today, I doubt they will feel like it ;)
Enjoy sloshing around in the rain with those too cute boots!

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KALIGIRL 3/23/2012 8:24AM

    Don't know the song - but love the idea of rubber ballet flats!

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EMGERBER 3/23/2012 7:45AM

    I know this song well and many others to as I also work with young children. Yes we all are welcoming spring, enjoy your day!

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GROEDER 3/23/2012 7:43AM

    Cute song!! Enjoy the rain and have fun in the puddles!!!!!

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Why Don't More of My Friends Sign Up for Spark People??

Sunday, March 18, 2012

TUFFMUFFIN, aka DH, comments humourously on my "Best Dressed" blog with respect to my "success" in inveigling friends to make clothing donations to me. He points out that people give me their clothes when their own weight has increased, such that their clothes no longer fit 'em. And he advises, sagely, "The secret therefore is to make friends with those not inclined to Sparkpeople ways."

He's kidding. I don't deliberately focus in on making friends with those who are gaining weight. Surreptitiously feed 'em up!! No matter how enticing their wardrobes might be!!

However, he made me think.

Why have I been so unsuccessful in "recruiting" friends to join SparkPeople? Which would have meant that they could have kept their clothes and worn them themselves?

I don't know.

Until TUFFMUFFIN himself signed up a couple weeks ago (AND he's already lost 3 pounds!!) I had influenced not one person -- not one at all -- to become active on SparkPeople.

Let me hasten to say right away: this wouldn't be information I'd offer up. I don't proselytize, "Let me tell you about SparkPeople." Kinda delicate: hard to interpret any other way than, "I think you need to lose weight". And: most people absolutely don't want to hear that. Not at all. So it's generally a topic I don't broach. (I quickly learned when I was looking for new "homes" for my own size 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, and 10 clothes, as I was downsizing . . . . expensive clothes, in many instances . . . . that there were not going to be any takers. There is apparently no tactful way of offering up clothes "that I'm now too thin for" . . . that corresponds to offering up clothes "that I am now too fat for". So I finally took mountains of them to the thrift store . . . . ).

A few of those who knew me when I was 230 have asked how I lost the weight. But that was more than a decade ago. Old friends have got used to me at my current size, and the majority of more recent friends and acquaintances have never known me fat.

But, quite a number of recent acquaintances have asked me about how I stay (relatively) thin. People at the gym, for example. Or work colleagues. Or clients. Or just casual friends.

When asked, I have mentioned Spark People. Probably at least 100 separate times, maybe more. But (before TUFFMUFFIN signed up, and he really doesn't need to lose much weight, if any -- a couple more pounds at most) only ONE person was interested. That would be my totally wonderful hairdresser, who has cut my hair for over 25 years. And yeah, he does use the site . . . but only the nutrition tracker. Nothing else.

My sister tried it. Did not like it. Waaaaay too complicated. Overwhelming. Weight loss shouldn't require so much effort. My daughter tried it. Ditto. And same with everyone else to whom I've mentioned SparkPeople. They've maybe been kinda shamefaced, reporting back, but they've been definite. Unanimous. "It's not for me."

How come? SparkPeople offers an amazing range of services. And information. And supports. And incentives. The nutrition and fitness trackers, the weight tracker, recipes, the meal planners, the exercise videos, the teams, the points, the goodies, the friends . . . . You can use as much or as little as you choose, of all that's on offer. So what's not to like?

I don't know.

I like it. Obviously. I've been here almost three years!

SparkPeople is not nearly as "in your face" as fatloser.com. Or even Judith S. Beck's "Diet Solution". Or Susan Estrich's "Making the Case for Yourself". But although SparkPeople may be kinder and gentler: people I know don't sign up.

And then, in addition to those who say they're desperate to lose weight and never sign up at all, I'm also still struck by the number of people who "fade away" on SparkPeople. Some of whom have apparently not lost any weight. But just given up. Some of whom have lost weight and so think maybe they don't "need" SparkPeople any more. Not realizing that maintaining is even tougher than losing. (Some of these "former losers" do return, having left and regained, for a further shot of support. Which is inevitably given once again, unstintingly and unquestioningly.)

Weight loss is not easy. Weight loss maintenance is even more difficult. And probably the right question to ask would be, "Why is Spark People so successful in helping people lose weight and keep it off", rather than "Why don't more people sign up?"

Gotta say, however, that I still wonder. Being fat is no fun: unhealthy, uncomfortable, unsightly. And if that sounds harsh, I don't mean it that way . . . . heaven knows I've lived it. Live in fear of reliving it!

I'm thinking: would some kind of preliminary screening questionnaire help? To assist people in signing up for just those services initially that are going to work best for them? So that they don't get overwhelmed? So it seems less complicated? For example, the nutrition tracker is key for me. I'm not a very good "team" person, or "challenge" person . . . but there are people here for whom that's the heart of the Spark program. And others for whom the running is the big thing. Or the message boards. It probably depends upon time available and personality.

Obesity is an epidemic. SparkPeople is free. It works. Why oh why don't more people make use of this amazing SparkPeople resource?

Has there been any research done correlating those who are most active in various areas with those who self-report most success in weight loss or maintenance?

Any thought about a "graduated introduction" to SparkPeople services? Maybe earn eligibility for beyond-basic services by earning points . . . for example, log in 30 days and you get the meal planner, log in 60 days and you get the exercise planner?

But keep it simple to start. Would that help?

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FROSTIERACES 4/12/2012 4:23PM

    I wish more of my friends were on Spark as well as I keep up with Spark friends like I would my bestest friends and family. I think it's a great aspect of keeping myself grounded and accountable for goals I want to achieve. It's a pretty personal place at times...reading, venting, listening, sharing, celebrating so much of our lives...


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NOLAZYBUTT110 4/12/2012 2:29PM

    how I been enticing people to join Spark people is by telling them about the delicious recipes.and not worry if they do ir not join; even after the fact many said they stayed because of the recipe and calorie/ food tracker. And many are intimidated to join just to see your pages. But I tell my friends I know about the many Delicious recipes and are convinced once they join how they wished they started sooner. I have some friends that joined but are so shy, they wont even tell me their screen name they chose because they are so shy about how much they need to lose... weight that is. But are glad they did join. You just have to get them to try a few of those recipes and tell them then its.. "How I am losing while enjoying " tthose new recipes! It works!
Making losing weight is easier when you can share it with a friend. Some just need a little nudge in the right direction.... share a recipe with them! sure would love to try that Asian soup (hint, hint!) .... susana

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PENNYAN45 3/23/2012 12:53AM

    I found SP for myself when I was desperately looking online for an alternative to Weight Watchers, which I would typically join and drop out of after a month. I wanted another program that would be more effective for me for the long term.

I was most amazed by the success stories on this site. At first, I spent hour after hour just reading about people's successful weight loss -- going from blog to blog. I found it to be fascinating. I had never before had this kind of access to other people's personal struggles with weight loss.

I felt that I had found a community of people who were all working on the same food issues that I was working on - and this was a first for me. This was a community where I could learn and share.

And it was this human touch that appealed to me the most. People - perfect strangers - were welcoming and supportive. They offered advice and encouragement. They shared their thoughts, their weaknesses, their strengths.

I was impressed with the different personalities. I was drawn to their stories. I enjoyed their humor, I admired their insights and their intelligence.

It was months later that I discovered the trackers and other resources available on this site. The trackers became important tools for me.

But it is my friends who remain the most important aspect of SP for me. Those friends bring me back and help to keep me on track toward my goal.

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TKADEEPBREATH 3/22/2012 10:58PM

    When I first started SP, I was such addict. Seriously . . . I tracked carefully and weighed everything I ate. I learned the first year so much and I told everyone that would listen about it. I always introduced it as a health and fitness network. I think for many it will be a little overwhelming. Others have tried and don't keep up with it, then want to complain about extra weight. Go figure.

Still there are those that simply don't think they can make the commitment and just don't. Face it, you have to be committed for it to work. I agree, it's hard to maintain once you have reached your goal. Too much temptation out there . . . and peanut butter . . don't know where that came from, but it's easy to get too much of a good thing.

SP is the best. Even though I'm "slack" on the social aspect lately, it has taught me how to eat. I'll always be thankful for that.

Great blog . . we are a worthy fellowship . . that's my vote.

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CANNIE50 3/21/2012 1:50AM

    I have referred a number of people, a handful have actually set up accts, and, as far as I know, none are active. That is not to say they will not someday return, however. That is how it was for me. It took me a couple false starts, a year or two, and about 20 or 30 additional pounds to finally dive into SP with both feet, and really make use of the site. I vowed I would spend as much time as it took to really "get it". I know there are also people who are so worried about revealing anything about themselves "in public, to strangers", especially about weight which is so shame based. But, don't give up - I am sure you will see a successful referral or two yet. You certainly are a walking recruitment - you best dressed woman, you emoticon

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KALIGIRL 3/20/2012 9:23AM

    Interesting question.

I most definitely would NOT join SparkPeople today. It is too ad oriented and the trackers (while they give more information to those of us who have been here a while) are far more difficult. Who knew you had to click on a grey screen to find a food entry...)

That aside, I believe the old adage, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink". The wonderful thing about this and any other healthy website is they offer tools and information. It's wonderful when each of us finds what works for us!

Comment edited on: 3/20/2012 10:08:31 AM

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CASSIES 3/20/2012 5:45AM

    Everyone needs to find there own way through this highly charged issue. I believe there has to be an internal shift......I really can't describe it better than something "clicks" and then a person will do whatever it takes buy using whatever method works for them.

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 3/19/2012 11:40PM

    Some of my friends, acquaintances, and relatives have signed up. Very few have stuck around.

I figure some things work for some people, and others work for others. There are a lot of people in my exercise classes who just LURVE weight watchers. For some reason that program has just never resonated with me. I've never lost or kept of any appreciable weight with it.

So I figure everyone has something that works for them. For me a big part of this working is the folks in At Goal and Maintaining and the ones over in High Intensity Thinkers.

Heck, I don't use any of the actual trackers over here any more - everything I use is on my iPhone and iPods these days. (And it's the nutrition tracker that I originally joined for way back in 2009. Go figure.)

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ID_VANDAL 3/19/2012 5:20PM

    Good questions and good comments from everyone! I sometimes just think that while no one really wants to be overweight or yes FAT they just aren't uncomfortable enough to make the effort to get the excess weight off.

However you are a great example of how good life can be when you are at a healthy weight. Some people just don't see that I guess.

Glad you had your success and so glad you are here sharing it with us who still have a ways to go!



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NANCY- 3/19/2012 10:31AM

    Changes are scary.
When I was first told about the site I dismissed it... but a seed (um, spark) was planted.
sometimes folks just like to stick with the familiar.
I have shared links from Spark Recipes. This whole site is a fabulous resource which we can tailor our use to meet our needs.

My acquaintances have probably said the same thing about Weight Watchers, Curves, etc. and my not signing up.

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LISALGB 3/19/2012 9:23AM

    I have invited several friends to join, too. I always get this blank stare in return. I don't get it either - these are people who claim to want to lose weight and do it in the privacy of thier own homes. Well, here's your sign!! My step-daughter, who needs to lose at least 100lbs recently joined a pricy gym and hired a personal trainer two times a week. Yet, her eating habits haven't changed. I tried to gently encourage her to join SP to have use of the trackers and nutrition info. She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language or something.

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DBCLARINET 3/19/2012 7:42AM

    I think people need to be in the right place to use SparkPeople. It requires a certain willingness to step out of your comfort zone, and I don't think most people are really that adventurous. Most people would rather stick with the status-quo than face the unknown.

I am not sure how I feel about a graduated approach, but when I joined, I had enough time that I just spent all my free-time devouring this site and I'm a lot more interested in fitness and nutrition than the average person. Maybe the best approach would be to introduce someone to the nutrition tracker first. That for me takes the longest time, even with my list of favorites and recipes and whatnot; to a newbie, I think it's pretty daunting. But start them with the simple task of tracking what they currently eat so they can see where they're at, and THEN introduce SparkPeople eating plans.

I have never introduced anyone to SparkPeople. I don't want to imply that someone is fat -- as someone who is in permanent maintenance mode, saying "This works for me!" doesn't hold any water for someone who has real weight to lose. I have had conversations in the locker room about weight loss, and the general consensus is that counting calories is just too much work.

I DO like that enough people are dieting now that there are better options available. I was soooo happy to order a 6oz. sirloin at Chili's and get just steamed broccoli on the side -- on the menu it even had a big "NEW!" label next to it. I know Mars is going to stop making King-Size candy bars because they're just not selling.

I don't know what that means for our non-tracking friends. Does it mean there is going to be a huge divide between those who would rather order the 6oz. sirloin to watch their waists and those who will go ahead and order the 10oz. that comes with the mashed potatoes so they don't have to feel "deprived?" I don't know. It's like there's a certain sect of the population that appreciates quality foods in reasonable portions, and then there's the much larger population that just wants more. I hope that the appearance of smaller portions at staple chain restaurants means that the cultural tides are turning, but then again, out of 35 people, I was the ONLY one who ordered off the Lighter Choice menu -- everybody else got huge burgers, sandwiches, and tacos with no clue what kind of garbage they were putting into their bodies.

You've hit on a really complicated topic here! Truthfully, I think SparkPeople would be so much easier if our culture exhalted moderation and quality food, but instead it promotes gluttony, leaving a lot of people feeling that a diet means deprivation. So sad; they don't know what they're missing!

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CARLIALICE 3/18/2012 9:45PM

    I just started SparkPeople and so far I like it. I used to keep track at bodybuilding.com but the men there made me nervous. I asked on Facebook if anyone used SparkPeople but the only people who answered said that it was just to much work. Granted they were all people who are in very good shape so maybe it's not what they need.

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DDOORN 3/18/2012 9:21PM

    Yeah, the "fade aways" make me feel sad. And you're so right re: the obesity epidemic and SP being free...head-scratcher, but you might be onto something re: a graduated, step-like process. I do think a number of folks feel like they have to sink or swim in an ocean of information and tools.

Why not pass your thoughts on to the Coaches or SparkGuy? I'm sure they'd appreciate the input!


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_LINDA 3/18/2012 8:12PM

    I got my sister to join, and when she lost her weight, she was outta here. She has been successfully maintaining without the use of the trackers -she does no formal exercising, but chores around the farm and her heavy cleaning janitor job keep her in shape. She actually stopped tracking only a couple of months into it -said she didn't need it any more, she got the general idea. She is astonished that I still track today! The other people I referred, I can't say if they joined or not, no one put me down as a referral because I didn't give my user name out.
If people ask me how I lost the weight, then I tell them about Sparkpeople, but never mention it otherwise..
It is really overwhelming the mass of e-mails you get at first. They should just explain a few simple facts, like its all about calories in and out and the trackers will help you see this. When I joined, it was just to use the trackers -I wanted a quick way to track my food- I was doing it manually with pen and paper and looking up each thing I ate on the net. About two weeks into it, I started noticing the other features, and one by one, got into the rest of the site. Easing into it would be the best way for sure. In my opinion, learning to track is the most important first step -it gives you that eye opener just how many calories are in the things you eat. The majority of people have no clue..

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TRYINGHARD1948 3/18/2012 7:08PM

    As Fatloser says you have to be prepared to do whatever it takes, 100% and then add, this is for life Baby. It's all too hard for some people. Changing lifelong habits, like eating for pleasure instead of eating for health is a huge mind change. Learning about, buying, preparing and cooking new foods and dishes takes time and who has any of that. Staying within a healthy weight range and exercising for health have to be a top priority, we have to be willing to make the changes and it seems most people think it is not that important, or they think it is too late to change. Such a shame. I'm not sure about a graduated introduction. The site is easily negotiated to reach the areas anyone is interested in, but as with all new things it takes time to learn.
Great blog, as always, thought provoking.

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CARRAND 3/18/2012 7:06PM

    I've told a lot of people about my success with Spark People. Some of them sound interested but I don't think they sign up, or stick with it. Only one woman at my gym came up to me the other day. (I talked to her about SP about 6 months ago.) She told me she finally signed on and loved the site and was losing weight. I have one sister on SP. She introduced me to it (Thank you, thank you!). We have another sister who could use and enjoy SP but she won't sign up. She just complains that she is now the "fat one" in the family. I think SP is best for people who are ready and already committed to changing their lifestyle to get healthier. You can't force it.

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MEADSBAY 3/18/2012 6:36PM

    You are preaching to the choir here, honey!
I've only influenced a few people and they didn't keep it up at all.

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LEAHKAY21782 3/18/2012 4:51PM

    I feel the "too complicated" or "too much work" lie in the excuses territory. If you're REALLY at that point where you REALLY know in your heart you are unhealthy and need to lose weight, then you're REALLY up to do anything to change it. Perhaps they're just not to that "point" yet. Because, in all honestly, it's not that complicated.

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TRAVELGRRL 3/18/2012 4:42PM

    What a great question! I'm glad you were able to get TUFFMUFFIN to join -- It would have been hard on the old ego if your powers of persuation didn't even reach to your own DH!

I love your ideas about a "graduated revelation" of Sparkpeople resources; I'm sure this is something the Sparkfolks would be interested in hearing. Certainly it must be a concern that they have thousands of of inactive members sucking up storage space!

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PHEBESS 3/18/2012 3:39PM

    I've been asked a lot what I did to lose 40 lbs - and I tell people "I ate less and exercised more." Most people aren't interested after that - sounds like too much work.. A few joined SP, but haven't been very active.

I think people just like to keep doing what is familiar, and what is easy. Never mind making a lifestyle change that gives you more energy - sounds like too much work. We tend to look for an easy out.

At least, that's my impression.

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Voted Best Dressed (*blush*)

Friday, March 16, 2012

OK, not on any famous list or anything. Not even close.

But: the charming young woman who sells me my newspapers most mornings at my local convenience store (and who is herself quite the fashionista) told me today that the staff there talks about their regular customers all the time.

Who's pleasant (and who's not).

Who smiles (and who doesn't).

And who's best dressed!

She told me: there was no debate about that. It's me!! "Different outfit every day, always so put together. Stylish . . . " She went on and on in this vein. But I was too embarrassed to take it in . . .

So I just laughed. Thanked her but laughed. Told her I don't spend much money on clothes. It's old old stuff I have had forever. Or stuff from the discount store deep sale rack. Or stuff from liquidation stores. Or stuff from thrift stores. Or stuff that girlfriends have given me. FREE. That's my favourite price point of all. Free.

Today's outfit? Cheap cheap cheap cheap.

Camel cuffed pants, ($8, discount sale rack, at least 8 years ago). Cuffed pants in size 6-8 tend to migrate to the deep discount rack because a lot of women would have to have them shortened to wear them: I just wait for them to go on sale!! And then further on sale!!

Quilted camel double breasted jacket, leopard print lining. (High end designer type item, buttons different ways, really like this one: $20, discount sale rack, again at least 5 years old).

Silky white tie blouse. Old old old. (Free)

Camel lace stockings. Old old old. (Free)

Patent camel T-strap peep toes, high heeled. ($12, sale rack)

A camel leather "harness" type belt with gold hardware. ($5, discount sale rack)

A gold chain. (Free, gift)

Leopard print hat. (Taupe, camel, black: $5, sale rack)

Taupe crinkle raincoat. (At least 20 years old and bought on sale then -- but classic high end)

Taupe leather handbag. (Liquidation: $40, well-known brand: retails for at least $200)

Taupe leather gloves (Free, gift)

Amazing . . . today there were no thrift items. But total cost? Less than $100 excluding the coat . . . price of which I cannot remember, but heaven knows it's "depreciated" to nothing over its lifetime! Still in good shape though.

So what's the most expensive item I "wear"??

Hair cut: get it trimmed every 6 weeks at a top end salon. And then it requires very little attention beyond daily shampoo/blow dry. Maybe a few hot rollers while I put on minimal makeup. We wear our hair all day every day, so a good haircut is a good investment I think. (But: no colour, streaks or otherwise).

By far the most expensive item: the $50,000 body!! (Joke, of course). Based on the entirely notional value of all the time I spend at the gym when I could be and should be working and billing!! Exercise costs me a ton of bucks!!

But time at the gym means I work smarter when I am at work.

Time at the gym also makes everything I wear fit better. Makes me feel better, carry myself better. And it's the reason I can "get away" with all those cheap/thrift/hand-me-down clothes!!

So yeah. Worth it.

"Best dressed"? The compliment was much appreciated. Although it's beyond hilarious.
Still, let's be candid. A little shot of vanity never hurts to keep the motivation high!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FROSTIERACES 4/12/2012 4:17PM

    All I can say is...I want PIX!! :) of your stylish outfits on that skinny fit you! Seriously... happy for your compliments Ellen!

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TKADEEPBREATH 3/22/2012 11:08PM

    Hey you go GF . . good for you!! I'm sure she's not wrong. You're right it is fun to get a compliment like that.

Very entertaining post . .. emoticon emoticon emoticon

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TIFFANIE150 3/21/2012 2:55PM

    Great post

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CRYSTALJEM 3/18/2012 11:57AM

    That is just awesome. I know the kind of spring that kind of unexpected compliment can put in your step for the rest of the day at least. Just goes to show, it's not the price, it's how you put it together on you!

A nice reminder to that those words and gestures we don't even think about live well beyond our few minutes in the store... the opportunities either taken or lost to make someone else's day... who might just in turn, make ours with an unexpected compliment down the road when we need it the most.

Enjoy the glow... you definitely deserve it. CJ

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TUFFMUFFIN 3/18/2012 11:49AM

    I happen to know that part of Watermellen's secret, apart from being loved by her friends, is that those friends' weights are on the upswing. So their old thin clothes become surplus. The secret therefore is to make friends with those not inclined to Sparkpeople ways.

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KALIGIRL 3/17/2012 7:50PM


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CARRAND 3/17/2012 7:36PM

    Your outfit does sound wonderful, and very stylish. Just shows that it's not the cost that makes a person "best dressed". You investment at the gym was well worth it in a lot of ways!

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TRAVELGRRL 3/17/2012 5:45PM

    Being in a larger size it seems to me that "deep discount" and good quality consignment buys are usually NOT in big sizes!

It could be my perception, but judging from the percentage of obese North Americans, more people are getting rid of their TOO SMALL clothes rather than getting rid of their TOO BIG clothes!

One day soon I hope to be small too so I can scoop up those bargains too. Another goal!!!

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MEADSBAY 3/17/2012 2:24PM

    That is so awesome!
It's funny how even the kind words from (relative) strangers can perk us up.
LOVE your point about the hair-
I need a trim badly.

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NANCY- 3/17/2012 8:39AM

    You have talent!
It is so lovely when unexpected compliments come your way... I wish you many more becasue you deserve them.

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_LINDA 3/17/2012 2:49AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
From the way you have described your odd outfit, I could guess that you are great at putting things together! Would sure be nice to see a fashion show!
Of course, have a toned bod to fit in those clothes just makes it the topper!
Shows how well you have done with your healthy lifestyle!
Keep up the fabulous work!

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CANNIE50 3/16/2012 10:46PM

    emoticon emoticon But of course....... I love your point about the hair. I went shopping yesterday, still in workout gear (with workout hair), caught sight of myself in a mirror emoticon emoticon and was a bit horrified. I had let it go too long and it showed. I marched right into a place that took walk-ins, took a deep breath and a chance, and had the girl with pastel colored hair and loads of tattoos, do my hair. She was lovely, it looks far better, and I feel better. At the age of 52, I simply cannot get away with neglecting to care for my hair. I think at 50 and beyond it becomes very much about grooming, exercise, and committing to not dressing as a frumpster. Regular exercise means I move in a way I simply would not if I were sedentary. I simply feel better in my body. Anyway, I didn't mean to go on about me. This was a really fun blog to read.

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TRYINGHARD1948 3/16/2012 10:00PM

    Congratulations, you are role modelling wonderfully, not only on Sparks, but obviously everyone you meet can see what living healthy can achieve, as well as being an astute clothes shopper. emoticon Ellen.

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OOLALA53 3/16/2012 9:38PM

    I wanna see a pic of you in this outfit! emoticon

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DONNACFIT 3/16/2012 9:32PM

    Congratulations on the compliment!! I love it when you describe your wardrobe..it always sounds so classic...and beautiful...

We are the exact opposites..except that I am tall also..but my work wardrobe involves chore clothes and rubber boots..even when I dress up it's just jeans and a t-shirt...

Thanks for always bringing a bit of "class" to my day :)

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TBANMAN 3/16/2012 9:30PM

    But of course, dahling? Who else! emoticon

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PHEBESS 3/16/2012 9:17PM

    Well of course you are their best dressed customer!!!!!! That's probably what they call you too, you know - "Oh, here's the best-dressed lady again!"

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FREELADY 3/16/2012 9:04PM

    I just love this blog. You made my day.

I would vote for you, too. When I'm in maintenance, (or when I grow up, whichever comes first....) I want to dress JUST LIKE WATERMELLEN.

Seriously, I'm so glad the employee spoke freely so you could hear this much-deserved feedback! You are adding some elegance and style to their daily world!

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DBCLARINET 3/16/2012 8:57PM

    Erm, I buy stuff on sale or at thrift stores all the time! And when I see something at the consignment store, I wait... and wait... and wait... It definitely doesn't matter how much you spend on the clothes, it just matters how you wear them!

I've been caught in many a discussion with my husband or my friends about how just because you can only afford to shop at Marshalls doesn't mean you have to LOOK like you can only afford to shop at Marshalls. Obviously, you are shopping proof that well-chosen pieces can go a long way!

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DDOORN 3/16/2012 8:48PM

    Yep, that's my 1st reaction to the title...heck it ain't the clothes (although I'm sure your tastes are superb), it's the body filled with that savored life that wears such clothes with such class! :-)

What a wonderful and I'm sure well-deserved compliment!


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NEWKAREN43 3/16/2012 8:46PM

    This reminds me of a commercial...Hear the booming voice "upscale handbag, $200...Haircut, $65...body? PRICELESS!" Yep, because we are...Hugs to Ellen for being "best dressed" when what's underneath (and more importantly inside) counts far more...K.

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