Food and Uncertainty

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Ambiguity intolerance is the tendency to perceive uncertain situations as threatening.

It makes sense – the unknown is scary. But some people have a harder time dealing with it than others.  And these people are more likely to suffer anxiety and depression, especially when faced with a particularly difficult stressor.

Uncertainty and Food

I believe that many disordered eaters suffer from ambiguity intolerance.

Have you ever turned to food to flood your brains with feel-good chemicals in order to avoid feelings of panic? Have you ever done this – even though nothing was wrong in that particular moment?

Fostering a Taste for Uncertainty

If you find yourself threatened by the unknown, fostering a healthier relationship with uncertainty might do wonders to decrease your anxiety.

Who knows, you might even develop a taste for uncertainty. This time next year you could be reading this post while wrestling a shark.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Focus on this hour, this minute, and this day. It’s only natural to feel overwhelmed by the whole entire future. Bring yourself into the present by focusing on what you can do right now. I know this is easier said than done. But try.
  2. Do things that scare you. You have to actively do things that scare you. It sucks, but you’ll (most likely) live. Last year, I jumped out of a freaking airplane! It was the worst thing ever.
  3. Improve a skill. Some people feel anxious because they have an overall feeling of never being good enough. But everyone is good at something. Take something you’re good at and get great at it. Your feelings of pride will spill over into every day life. See my post on pursuing your weird hobbies.
  4. Achieve a behavioral goal. Set a small behavioral goal for yourself, and achieve it. Like number three above, the good feelings will spill over into your every day life making you feel less anxious in general. You’ll also see that things aren’t so hard when you take them one step at a time.  Example: I will go to the gym every Tuesday and Thursday for the next two weeks.

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Losing weight is hard. Maintaining it should not be.

People say that losing weight is easy, while maintaining weight loss is hard. Well, people say a lot of things. And since I’m a person, I’m going to say a thing also.

Losing weight is hard. Maintaining it should not be.  And if maintaining weight loss is hard, it probably means that you’re eating the wrong things.

Why is losing weight hard?

I can’t imagine how losing weight can be easy. I lost weight slowly over a period of two years. I had a goal in mind, and I never faltered. I’m still not 100% there, but I am closer every day.

And guess what. It was HARD as hell. It remains hard. Because in order to lose weight, no matter how you do it, you are starving in some sense. You need your body to use what it has by not giving it what it wants. And that’s hard.

Before your body starts losing weight, you need to burn through: 1) the glucose in your blood; 2) the glycogen in your muscles; and then and only then will it begin on fat reserves.

Sure, there are harder things than losing weight. And sure, there are things you can do to make it less hard. But it’s hard nonetheless, and I have no doubt that some days you will just want to give up.

Why Maintaining Weight Should Be Easy

How did you get heavy in the first place?

Chances are you ate too much crap. But that doesn’t mean it was entirely your fault. Yes, you made bad choices.  You probably either made:

  • very bad choices over a short period of time, OR
  • slightly bad choices over an extended period of time

But in any event, you were under the influence of the food industry, and also of silly FDA guidelines which don’t make much sense. You were getting unfit in an unfit world. And that’s OK.

Sure – it make sense, from the standpoint of biological fitness, for many of us to overeat when food is abundant. Who knows – you might even be genetically or culturally pre-disposed to this issue. And that sucks.

But pre-dispostion won’t keep a mindful and well-informed person fat. Because your fitness level is based more than anything on:

  • the foods you eat; AND
  • the habits you maintain.

The foods you eat are based on availability and your habits. And if you’ve been overweight, then the chances are the you probably formed some bad eating habits. And that’s OK. It’s hard to form fit habits in an unfit world.

But now that you’ve lost the weight, you’ve had the chance to build good habits! Or one would hope.

If you’ve truly build good habits – you can relax a little. All you need to do is maintain those good habits and you should maintain your loss. Of course old ways can come creeping back. So stay mindful.

But if you haven’t built good habits – you need to keep working. Not at losing weight, but at building those good habits. Because good habits are what you need to maintain your weight without suffering. Eating well needs to be your preference! And it can be.

FAQ’s

Are there factors other than good habits that might make maintenance hard? Sure. You might have sleeping issues, or hormonal issues. Or you might be largely sedentary due to a medical condition. But habits are important. You cannot stay fit without good habits.

Will your metabolism slow with age? Yes. You’ll need to make adjustments for all sorts of reasons: age, varying activity levels, etc. But now all you need to do is fill your body with good stuff, and you will stay at a healthy weight.

Take Notice

Maybe this all seems obvious, or easier said than done.

But it’s important to take notice of the power of habit. And it’s important for you to be able to look at yourself and figure out whether you’ve TRULY formed good habits – or whether, on the other hand, those habits are superficially or weakly engrained.

Because if you think maintaining your weight is hard, then it’s likely that your good habits aren’t strongly engrained in your mind.  In this case, it might be helpful for you to think about ways that you can further strengthen your habits. For more on habits, check out my post Why Emotional Eating is Actually Habitual Eating.

Until you ACTUALLY PREFER eating and living well, your weight might always be a struggle. So learning to hack that preference by delving into habit formation might just make your life awesome.

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Lara Bars

Aside from the kind you get wasted in, I’m not the biggest fan of bars. By that I mean, I don’t (generally) eat:

  • Protein and/or Weight Loss bars
  • Cereal and/or Nut bars
  • Nutrigrain bars
  • Fiber One bars
  • Quest bars
  • Isagenix bars
  • etc etc etc bars
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I’ll make an exception for these crummy things

Reasoning

  1. Taste. Many bars taste like chemicals.
  2. Calories vs. Satiety Some of these bars have a ton of calories for just a few bites. Even those bars high in protein don’t seem to satisfy me.
  3. Ingredients. I try to stick to whole foods. Many bars have too many weird ingredients.
  4. Expense. Bars tend to be pretty expensive for what they are.

Lara Bars

Lara Bars are fruit & nut bars advertised as “food made from food.” They are one of the only bars that I eat. And even these, I don’t eat often.

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Here is what they look like before I eat them. 

What I like about Lara Bars:

  • Made from whole foods. Take, for example, the Banana Bread flavor. It has only three ingredients: bananas, dates, and almonds
  • They are vegan.
  • They taste awesome. My favorite flavors are Cherry Pie (3 ingredients) and Carrot Cake (9 ingredients)
  • Nutrition. Every flavor I’ve tried has had a great nutritional profile.

What I dislike about Lara Bars:

  • Calories. Most are around 200-ish calories.
  • Addicting. Maybe it’s me – but I find them slightly addicting.  Meaning, I could easily  eat five bars in one sitting. Not good!
  • Not always easy to find. I get mine at Trader Joe’s, and they often don’t have my favorite flavors.
  • Annoying website. Don’t even go on it, it’s not worth the agony.

In Sum

If you’re looking for a decent bar, a Lara Bar might be a good pick. Especially if you’re trying to avoid processed foods.

But be wary. I would never buy a box and keep it in the house: the temptation is too strong.

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Four Ways to Fight Apathy

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When I reached my highest weight, I felt nothing but apathy. It was as if every day was a cold rainy day, and I just didn’t want to get out of bed. At that time:

  • Getting into even decent shape seemed so far away that it felt more like a fantasy than an achievable goal; and
  • Getting into great shape was completely outside of the realm of possibilities.

The result? 

  • I fell into a complete state of apathy. And if things had gone a little differently, I might still be there today.
  • I wasted precious time dreaming of a fantasy transformation instead of slowly beginning to introduce the small changes that my body actually needed and wanted.

When does apathy strike?: 

Apathy tends to strike when the place where you WANT TO BE seems too far away from the place where you CURRENTLY ARE.

So naturally, you need to find ways to trick your brain into feeling:

  • that the road ahead of you isn’t so bad; AND
  • that you’re closer to where you want to be than you actually are.

Four Ways to Fight Apathy:

  1. Reduce your ambition. This seems counterintuitive, but it works. Try the “do one thing” rule
  2. Set SMALL Behavioral Goals. You can never control outcomes, but you can ALWAYS control behaviors. What is one SMALL behavior you can change every day for this entire week? Examples: have salad for lunch every day; do 50 crunches before bed; eat one probiotic food every day.
  3. Increase your motivation. See here.
  4. Chop up your outcome-based goals. To the extent you do focus on outcome-based goals, cut them up into bite sized chunks. This is important! See my post on Aiming for Eight.

What are some ways that you fight apathy?

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When the People You Love Hate You

Expected consequence of losing weight: People like you more. And it hurts.

Unexpected consequence of losing weight: People dislike you more. And it hurts.

Autistic to Jealousy

Like most humanoids, I experience a wide range of complex emotions: Happiness/Sadness. Anger —> Euphoria. Anticipation! Fear! Excitement! …Diarrhea. Usually in that exact order.

But unlike many humans, I have a mental defect. I don’t experience jealousy. In fact, I’m incapable of  comprehending it.  Important Exception: you better not touch my fucking man.

I know you don’t believe me – but what can I say? I don’t experience jealousy. I understand that it’s an emotion that must serve some evolutionary purpose, but seriously – I didn’t get the software update.  I also didn’t get the software that gives you competitive drive.

From the bottom of my heart – I don’t care if every single creature in the entire universe is more successful or prettier or less hairy then me.  In fact, I hope they are.

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I am by no means at peace with myself.

I want to be more successful and important than I am. If I’m not important, I will die. And nobody will miss me. I also have to be flawless. Because if I’m not beautiful, then I’m worthless. So every flaw must be eradicated, beginning with my entire face.

But my sense of competition, however unhealthy, is exclusively with MYSELF.

..And I thank god for that. Because I get to experience nothing but genuine happiness and love for all of mankind. And even for most of dolphin-kind.

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with the exception of this smug bastard

So it’s hard for me, as someone who can’t fathom jealousy, to be the victim of it.

My natural preference is for everyone in the world to have as much success as possible. The more success EVERYONE has, the more likely it is that someone will be around to help my future offspring when an asteroid comes.

I can’t comprehend anything else. I can’t comprehend the complex emotion of simultaneously loving someone AND also wishing bad upon them.  Or even weirder – wishing that I had what they have at their expense. It doesn’t make sense.

I want to reconcile these apparently conflicting concepts, but this particular emotion is more complex than my limited framework allows.  I’m autistic to jealousy.  So I’m trying in vain to rationalize something that cannot be rationalized. Jealousy is a feeling that someone has.

Since I’ve Lost Weight..

Certain people have become suspiciously nice to me. As in way way way too nice. And I know in my heart that some people (most people) love and value me more at 135 pounds than my they did at 190 pounds. And it hurts like hell.

And Since I’ve Lost Weight…

Other people have become incredibly horrible to me. As in ridiculously, unnecessarily, absurdly mean.

…I’m talking Mean Girls mean. These are people who supposedly love me. And it hurts like hell.

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I just want to grab these mean girls and say, “What the fuck guys? Who does this help? WHY ON EARTH would you want me to hurt?”

..But that’s because I’m trying to take something as complex as jealousy and make it simple.  I’m trying rationalize things I can’t understand.

Trying to Understand

I  – for whatever reason – cannot comprehend what it means to compare myself to another person. My brain just isn’t wired that way. And I should consider myself lucky, because that’s a heavy burden.

But the drinkers of hater-ade, they have brains too. And their brains, for whatever reason, ARE wired that way. So their bad attitude is not really their fault.

I have to TRY to comprehend it. And when I try,  I imagine it must hurt.  Maybe more than their actions hurt me.

And I have to try to stay empathetic! Because I have flaws too. For example:

  • I eat a lot of chocolate
  • I have a history of being flakey, and
  • I never brush my teeth before bed. Don’t worry though – I brush compulsively throughout the day.

I’m not trying to be high and mighty here. I just recognize that I have choices. I can choose:

  • to take it personally, and therefore get mad, anxious and/or hurt; OR
  • to expand my consciousness by using this as a learning experience

I KNOW I have these choices, because I’m making them right now.

But what if jealous people don’t have a choice? I mean – jealousy doesn’t sound pleasant.  Would anyone REALLY choose jealousy over happiness if they truly had a choice?

I want to be mad! But I’m trying to stay humble because I don’t know what goes on inside of anyone’s head except my own.

This, I do for my own sake and sanity. Or at least I’m trying my best.

Stay empathetic my friends! 

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Holiday Recovery

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Full disclosure: I’m Jewish. So while Christ doth not arise in my home, I recognize that he did visit many of my friends this weekend.

And when Christ arises, calories arise. So now it’s time for confession.

Tell it to me straight, glutton:

  • Did you have a second helping of ham?
  • Perhaps an extra leg of lamb?
  • A marshmallow pie?? An entire box Peeps?? A Lindt Chocolate bunny?
  • A Cadbury Caramel Egg?!?!
  • ALL OF THE ABOVE?!!!

I think all of those things are great, especially Cadbury Caramel eggs. I also think that holidays are meant to be enjoyed.

Gluttony may be a sin, but not in my book. I think it’s human nature to let yourself go every once in a while.

But now it’s Tuesday and it’s time to get back on track. Here are a few tips:

  1. Get rid of leftover candy. That’s assuming you have any left over 😉
    • I hate throwing out food, even candy.
    • If you don’t want to throw it out, bring it to work or put it in the freezer
    • But really, you should throw it out.
  2. Pencil in an extra workout this week. You don’t have to go crazy. But whatever your normal exercise regimen, add one extra session this week. This can even be moderate exercise – go for a long walk.
  3. Have a hearty salad for lunch for the remainder of the week. 
  4. Try to reduce your carbs by 50% for at least one or two days this week. If you’re still feeling bloated from the weekend, this might help.
  5. If you normally drink alcohol, take a break for the remainder of the week. Your body will thank you.

Remember: you don’t have to go crazy to make up for your “sins.” One or two holiday meals won’t make or break you. Implement one or two small changes from the above list and you should be back to your lent-sized self in no time.

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Deprivation Works. And Doesn’t.

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Of course deprivation works!

What does it mean to lose fat? It means to burn fat because:

  • you are starving to death, and
  • you are not giving your body enough fuel to do the functions it needs to do

If you ARE getting enough fuel, then you’re NOT going to burn fat. There’s no magic. You’re just NOT going to burn fat without depriving your body of what it needs – fuel.

..And that’s why losing weight feels shitty. No matter how you do it.

You can lose weight:

  • Slowly, by eating SLIGHTLY LESS than you need over a long period of time;
  • Quickly, by eating FAR LESS than you need over a shorter period of time;  and/or
  • *Optional* by increasing your need for fuel by increasing your energy output (exercise) [slowly or quickly]

You can also:

  • Set yourself up for success by understanding habit formation;
  • Set yourself up for success by removing addictive foods from your diet and life (at least for a short period);
  • Set yourself up for success by understanding how willpower and motivation actually work.
  • Set yourself up for success by understanding the basics of appetite, and also becoming mindful of your appetite.
  • Set yourself up for success by understanding the basics of metabolism

Deprivation works to lose weight, NOT to maintain it.

I CAN’T lose weight slowly.  Healthy or not healthy – I just can’t do it. I spent 20+ years trying. I can’t deprive myself ‘slightly’ day after day for months, hoping to lose 1-2 pounds per week.  I can’t continue to eat a diet of processed foods, while counting calories. It just doesn’t work for me.  I can’t do it, and I won’t do it.

I CAN lose weight quickly through “RESPONSIBLE Deprivation.”  Here is what I CAN do:

  • lose weight (relatively) quickly in spurts, and *IMPORTANTLY* punctuate these periods with periods of maintenance.
  • use methods like intermittent fasting to lose weight
  • cut out processed foods that I find addicting for long periods of time during weight loss periods

I CAN’T maintain my weight through responsible deprivation. I CAN’T maintain my weight through:

  • counting calories,
  • cutting out food groups, and/or
  • dieting.

To me, that’s not a life – it’s too much deprivation. In the end, too much deprivation will cause me to gain weight.   To maintain my weight – I eat a mostly whole foods diet. Here is how I eat. My weight maintains itself:

  • mostly plants, most days (including starchy plants)
  • mostly whole foods, as little processed food as possible
  • watch my alcohol intake
  • never eat unless I’m hungry
  • lot’s of soups and salads

We need to separate “weight loss” from “maintenance.”

Weight loss is hard! Somewhere along the line, something got messed up and now you need to fix it. The only way to do that is by giving your body less fuel than it needs. And that’s fucking hard! Your body thinks it’s dying. So it’s best not to gain weight in the first place!  (duh!). 

..but once you do find yourself in a position where you need to lose weight, then forget the weight loss myths. Lose weight however you can, and forget the lies. Just be careful of the following:

  • don’t give yourself nutritional deficiencies
  • don’t give yourself electrolyte imbalances
  • don’t physically exert yourself while suddenly eating less
  • listen to your body

Weight maintenance should NOT be hard! 

Why? Because if weight maintenance is hard, you’ll gain the weight back. You can’t deprive yourself forever. You can only do it for short periods.

If maintaining weight is hard, that means you’re eating the wrong things. What are “wrong things”? “Wrong things” = foods meant to addict you aka processed foods.

Being Fit in an Unfit World

This post is largely an oversimplification.

But my point is this: many of the things you hear about weight loss are myths and fantasies.

When it comes to weight loss, do whatever you CAN do. Because weight loss is hard, and you need to fight this uphill battle in whatever way works for you. Just be careful not to hurt yourself, and be smart.

And once you lose weight, be mindful! You can’t deprive yourself forever, so you need a system for success.

My system is sticking (mostly) to foods that human beings are suppose to eat. This means avoiding things that come out of boxes, but enjoying these things in moderation to whatever extent I find reasonable.

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Our Hundredth Post!

Holy Guacamole! This post marks 100 posts on Fat Girls Fitness.

Thank you to everyone who has been following along, liking, sharing, and commenting. The interaction with likeminded people brings so much more joy to this experience. And the recipes and tips we’re picking up from other bloggers are awesome.

As you might know, Fat Girls Fitness is a blog started by three childhood friends.

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Left to right: Dori, Valerie, Rachel

We each lost a bunch of weight in different ways. We want to share our tips, tricks, recipes, and thoughts with anyone who might be looking for some help or motivation.

If you’re still early on in your fitness journey, or even if you’re just starting out – just know this: the three of us have been exactly where you are. So you are never alone in this and you can always reach out.

Newsletter

We’ll be launching our biweekly newsletter next month, so please sign up here.

If you don’t – just know that we have only seven people currently on our list. And writing for an audience of seven is just plain sad. Don’t make us do it.

Facebook

We’re also pathetically low on Facebook friends!!!

So if you enjoy our posts (or even if you just feel sorry for us) please follow us on Facebook here.

Thanks again for joining us for the ride 🙂

-FGF ❤

Why Losing 2 Pounds/Week is a Bad Idea

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“Yes! I can finally eat cheesecake again!”

I like goals, small & big.

But there is a certain type of goal I don’t like. And it’s one I hear often – “aim to lose 2 pounds a week.”

Why don’t I like this goal? Because it predisposes you to failure. Instead:

  • aim for 8-10 pounds in a month; or
  • aim for 4 – 5 pounds every 14 days

But wait – isn’t that the same thing as losing 2 pounds a week? 

No! It’s not. Especially not for women.

I’m not trying to mince words here, I swear.  There are psychological aspects to weight loss. And aiming to lose 2 pounds a week simply isn’t a smart goal.

Reasons

  • Weight doesn’t directly correlate to fat. You already know this.
    • So you CAN gain weight while losing fat.
    • When you’re working with such a small number as “2 pounds,” there is so much room for error that you are bound to get mixed up.
    • This makes it tricky for you to track what’s working and what’s not working in terms of reaching your goal.
  • A week is a LONG time. And yet it’s a short time.
    • When you diet all week long, and then you step on the scale to no results, or even to a higher weight than you started out, it can be deflating. Which is stupid, because if you’ve been doing the right things, then you probably ARE making strides towards your goal, even if those strides aren’t reflected by your weight this very minute.
    • On the other hand, if you go two weeks without losing any weight (and CERTAINLY if you go a full month without losing any weight) – then it’s likely there is either:
      • a problem with your plan (i.e., your numbers are wrong); or
      • a problem in the EXECUTION of your plan (ie..you’re eating more than you realize)
  • It’s not how weight loss works. When I was losing weight, some weeks I lost 3-4 pounds, and some weeks I lost none.
    • If I was a fool, I might have listened to people who said “losing 4 pounds in a week! that’s dangerous!” Or, I might have listened to someone who said “if you’re doing things right, but not losing weight, then you’ve probably hit a plateau.”
    • The truth is most likely this: as long as I stayed consistent, I WAS losing FAT steadily. I just wasn’t losing WEIGHT steadily. There is a difference! As long as I averaged out to 8-10 pounds a month, I was losing fat at a healthy pace. Even though my weight loss was staggered.

A lot of people have a lot of opinions on the right way to lose weight, the right pace to lose weight etc. Some of these people have advanced degrees. So what? Advanced degrees never stopped anyone from saying “Fat is bad! Eat more carbs!”

I say, don’t listen to anyone! Don’t even listen to me.

Losing 4 pounds some weeks, and zero pounds other weeks might make sense for you. Unless you’re doing a body fat analysis every week, then there is no reason to think this reflects anything other than a steady fat loss.

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On Fasting

“In poor countries, people die of starvation. In rich countries, people die of over-eating.” – Fauja Singh, world’s oldest marathon runner (aged 101).

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Congratulations, this is what you get to eat today.

Fasting is not yet fully accepted.

Despite mounting evidence of the health benefits, there are still doctors who tell you to “never skip a meal, least of all breakfast!”

I, on the other hand, believe we were designed to starve occasionally, and even perhaps regularly. I also think breakfast is bullshit.

But anyway. I fast in hopes of longevity. We don’t have enough time in this world, and I want to live forever so I can do all of the awesome things.

Does it work? It seems that way. Right now, periodic fasting and caloric restriction are some of the only practices showing real promise in extending our lifespans and improving most markers of health.

I also don’t think fasting hurts. At least not most people. As a filthy atheist, fasting is the closest I get to a spiritual practice.

Here’s what I do

Weekly: I usually do a full water fast one day/week, but I don’t keep it regular, and I don’t track it. Some weeks I just do two VERY low cal days each week (as in 5:2 plan). Weekly fasting is VERY easy to do, I don’t even think about it I just do it subconsciously.

Monthly: Each month, I make sure I fast 2 full days, water only. Usually on the 1st or 15th of each month).

Seasonally: 4X a year I turn my 2 day fast into 3 days!

Keep in mind

Fasting isn’t for everyone, but it’s probably great for most.

If you never skip a meal, just start by doing that every once in a while. Unless you have an actual medical issue, skipping meals is good for you. You also shouldn’t fast if you’re underweight.

Contrary to popular belief, fasting does NOT increase your appetite in a manner that will lead you to gain weight. In fact, regular fasting will most likely decrease your appetite. As far as compensatory eating? It happens for some, but generally not to the extent of the caloric loss you experience while fasting.

Of course, this may not apply to disordered eaters. And fasting may not be right for you. Even so, I think IF could be great for binge eaters and yo-yo dieters.

A 5:2 plan is VERY easy to do and may alter your appetite completely. For more info, check out the book “The Fast Diet” by Michael Mosley

You can also check out this awesome documentary, also featuring Dr. Mosley.

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