Stressing About Your Health May Be Ruining Your Health

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My husband has high blood pressure. Most of the time, he is able to control it. At home, with medication and considerable effort, he averages 120’s – 130’s / 70’s – 80’s. EXCEPT when it is time to go to his doctor twice a year where they will…you’ve got it…check his blood pressure. By just THINKING about having to go to his doctors office, his blood pressure begins to rise in the days BEFORE his appointment. Then we see 150’s – 160’s / 80’s – 90’s. Then he gets more worried about it because now the doctor will see that, and think it is high all the time and want to give him more medications, which he doesn’t want. He becomes so focused on it, and it continues to rise. By the time of his doctors appointment, his blood pressure is through the roof. In the doctors office, it is not unusual to see his blood pressure in the 200’s / 100’s. They call this “white coat hypertension” or high blood pressure that is induced by being nervous in a doctors office (as doctors often wear a “white coat”). But I think it is more than that. It think it also has to do with the fact that he becomes overly fixated about it NOT going high, that the resulting stress CAUSES it to go high.

Can we possibly be stressing so much about our health that we could actually be ruining our health? I wholeheartedly think so. This blog is designed to encourage people in their pursuit of good health. When I post suggestions and optimal targets to strive for, it is not intended to be the absolute, concrete, set in stone, requirement for all people. And if you don’t reach such targets, it in no way means you are a failure or doing something wrong. For instance, I often recommend that we strive for a fasting blood glucose of mid 80’s and below. That is an excellent GOAL to STRIVE for, but it doesn’t mean that it is reachable for all people. I don’t even reach it every day. If I eat dinner late, or don’t get enough sleep, or I’m stressed out, my blood sugar goes up. So what? I just take it as a lesson and fix what I can fix. The reason I check my blood sugar AT ALL is to LEARN. To see where there are adjustments that I may need to make, NOT to obsess over the exact number. It is a guide to help me know if I’m on track.

Believe it or not, I get FREQUENT messages from folks who are so obsessively concerned about absolutely every detail of their health, every point on their BG meter and every ounce on their scale, that they fall apart if their fasting blood sugar is 87 instead of 83, or if they gained 2 ounces from yesterday. I’m NOT exaggerating. We’re not even going to go into the fact that the margin for error on your meter or scale can account for several points, or pounds. Folks, please stop. This kind of stress is not only unnecessary, but could actually be sabotaging your efforts.

Stress will damage your physical, mental and emotional health faster than anything else. Not to mention that it completely ruins your quality of life, affects your relationships with others, and prevents you from living life in the present. What do I mean by that? You are not living life in the present because you are always thinking about that “one day”, that one magical future day when you will see a 78 on your blood sugar meter, or that one magical day when you will fit into your high school jeans again. It’s like people feel that when they reach that day, all of their problems in life will magically disappear and they will be happier. Guess what? I’ve reached my goal weight before. Nothing happened. There was no parade.  I felt much better.  But essentially, my life was the same (except my clothes were smaller, lol!) My fasting blood sugar was 81 this morning. Nothing happened. Still no parade. My life is the same as yesterday.

Pursuing optimal health is an extremely worthwhile goal. Who doesn’t want to have energy and vitality, who doesn’t want to see their children and grand children grow up, who doesn’t want to live to a ripe old age, feeling good and have their minds intact? We ALL want that.

And to be honest, I understand where some of the obsession comes from. I have to work very hard at being balanced myself. I have one of those personalities where I create extremely high expectations for myself. The demands I place on myself at times are not reasonable. Why am I like that? I’m petrified of being the obese, sick person I once was. My quality of life was so bad. I’m terrified of being that person again. It takes everything in my power NOT to be that person. I literally could look at a picture of a cookie in a magazine and I will gain weight and my blood sugar will go up, lol! Maintaining the health I have achieved takes hard work. My body was a train wreck when I started my journey to good health. Many years of poor eating, yo-yo dieting and sometimes obsessive exercise turned my body into a metabolic mess. I never want to be there again. So I understand your fears. I really get it, I do.

Fortunately, I have very supportive and loving family and friends, as well as an amazingly supportive online community, who help me be more balanced. Over time, I have had to learn to be more kind to myself, more reasonable WITH myself, and more forgiving OF myself. I no longer feel the need to strive for perfection, but just striving to be the absolute best that I can be. I work really darn hard, really hard! But I no longer obsess about 5 points on my blood sugar meter or even 5 pounds on my scale. I do my best and let the numbers fall where they may.

Often I run into people that are so unrelentingly rigid with themselves, that when I read their comments, my first thought is “I wonder when is the last time they smiled?” Remember, stress makes you gain weight. Stress raises your blood sugar. Stress could be hampering all the efforts you are making.

Please stop. If this is what you are going through, please, put down your meter, step away from the scale and go spend time with your kids. Visit a sick friend. Cook a meal for your parents. Take a brisk walk. Stretch and deep breathe. Do volunteer work. Do SOMETHING. Make life about something bigger than ourselves.

There is a very fine line between working very hard on ourselves and being obsessed over ourselves. Step over to this side. Work hard, be your best. But please stop letting numbers on a meter or a scale rob you of joy in life. Be kind to yourself. Be well.

Troubleshooting Weight Loss

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This article is the second article in my Troubleshooting series.  The first article contains some similar information about general health (exercise, sleep, stress, etc.) but is specific to blood glucose control.  Please see the first article “Troubleshooting High Blood Sugar” HERE.

I often get messages with people saying that they are on a low carb diet and are still experiencing problems with losing weight.  Then they ask me what to do.  Well, this raises about a hundred questions in my mind.  How many carbs are they eating and when?  Do they exercise?  Do they take medications?  How do they sleep?  Control stress?  Unfortunately, there are many barriers to losing weight and keeping it off, some of them very complex.  The answers are not simple.  At times, it may take a thorough investigation into not only your diet and lifestyle habits, but looking at medication regimens and a host of medical issues that could be at play.  Without knowing each person’s individual health history and lifestyle habits, it is just impossible for me to give a 100% answer to each individual.  Keep in mind am not a physician.  I do not have a lab.  I cannot give you opinions on your lab work as this oversteps my scope.  So, I thought I would compile a list of “troubleshooting” tips that I personally have found effective for me.  Maybe these will help you.  These are based on my personal experiences with my own weight.  Sadly,  I started dieting when I was 10 years old.  Anyways, these may or may not be 100% applicable to you.

Test Your Blood Sugar

Testing blood glucose for weight loss?  This lady has a screw loose, right?  Lol!  I don’t have diabetes so I don’t need to check my blood glucose, right?  Wrong…

Testing blood glucose is one of the most powerful tools for weight loss and preventative health. Because we know that weight gain is most often insulin driven, and high insulin levels are most often glucose driven, we are going to talk about the importance of monitoring glucose as a tool for weight loss and health. (EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT CURRENTLY DIAGNOSED WITH PRE-DIABETES OR DIABETES.)

Here is an article by Dr. William Davis, a Cardiologist and Author of “Wheat Belly” and “Wheat Belly Total Health” which will outline some basic concepts for blood glucose testing.

“Blood Sugar: Tool At Your Fingertips” HERE

If you have not been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes, we will be aiming for NORMAL, NON-DIABETIC blood glucose targets.  There is not a complete consensus on exactly what is “normal, non-diabetic” blood glucose targets, as most people without diabetes do not make it a habit of checking blood glucose (but I do!).  Therefore, I will give you what I believe are safe targets.

First, we want fasting blood glucose to be mid-80’s or lower.  One hour post meal should not be much higher.  I aim for <100 for all peak post meal readings, but I think up to 110 might be acceptable for some if it is brief and infrequent.  I prefer not to have blood glucose >100 at any time.  If you are above these targets, it indicates that you likely need some adjustment in you diet.

So, begin a blood glucose testing regimen.  This may give you a key piece of information you may have been missing.

Carbs – Too Much or Too Little

Since there is no actual definition of a “low carb diet”, let’s explore this topic first.  I personally define “low carb” as under 100g of carbs per day.  This may be an adequate range for someone who is “low carbing” for general good health.  BUT, if you are overweight or have blood sugar regulation issues, I suggest that you get more aggressive, preferably under 50g per day.  If you have diabetes or you are at high risk for developing diabetes and are trying to PREVENT it, then 30g per day may be a better suggestion.  You have to determine your own level of carb tolerance by your individual response to carbs (see article “Eat to Your Meter” HERE.)

Carbs should come predominantly from non-starchy vegetables and some nuts (limited).   I highly recommend that they not come from sugar or grains.  And be careful of low carb “treats” as well as excessive dairy.

Let’s also talk about eating patterns.  As we will talk about below, our body works on a rhythm or cycle.  I think that, just as it is important to sleep the way we were intended to sleep, I think we should also eat in a reasonable pattern.  We have come to develop these eating times based on our work schedules, or convenience factors, that may not be the best for our blood sugar and weight regulation.  I do not believe that the biggest meal of the day should be at night.  Nor do I believe we HAVE to eat breakfast.  Nor do I believe that we need 3 meals per day, although there is nothing wrong with that per se.  I also don’t buy into the new fad of using fattened coffee as a meal.  Food is not only to provide energy, but to provide nutrients.  I don’t consider coffee a nutritious meal.  So, if you wake up in the morning, and you are hungry, eat.  By all means, eat.  Eat to satisfaction.  If not, don’t eat.  If you are not hungry, there is nothing wrong with delaying a meal until late morning, say 11 or even noon.  In my opinion, THIS should be the biggest meal of the day, either early or mid-day.  Then dinner, if hungry, should be lighter and still early, say no later than 5 -6 pm.  Then no eating until the next morning to provide a long nighttime fast.  I have found that late eating increases my blood glucose and weight.  I try to never eat after 6 pm.  But I find my BEST blood glucose and weight regulation when I eat at say 10 am (my biggest meal) and then around 3 pm – only 2 meals per day, fasting for the remaining time.  I do this occasionally, but sometimes I am just hungry and need that third meal.  So my pattern is more one of “intermittent” fasting.  Either way, no eating past 6 pm for me.  Oh, and PS, no in-between meal snacking….

Is there such thing as TOO LITTLE carbs?  For some people, YES!!  And I know this is going to get all the zero carb people in a tizzy, lol.  But extremely low carb is NOT for everyone.  Please, you do not live in another person’s body and you don’t know what they experience.  I’m going to share a little personal experience that I have been having the past six months or so.  Well, I’ve had some stalling myself.  So, I added a daily, but brief (about 20-25 minutes) of high intensity exercise, and strength training 2-3 times per week (about 45 minute sessions).  And I have found that I have been doing better with my weight when I went to 40-50g of carbs some days, particularly on my strength training days.  So, I alternate between about 30g some days, then 40-50g some days.  As I have said a MILLION times before, my body seems to adjust to whatever I do on a regular basis (every day).  So, alternating the amount of carbs has helped get the scale in motion lately, and I feel a lot better.  I have heard this from others that 20-30g is too low for them, but 40-50g is their sweet spot.  So, experiment, and do what is right for YOUR BODY.  Please, no shaming others for eating more carbs than you do.  It’s not a competition😉  Surviving on less carbs does not NECESSARILY mean you have more character as a human being, lol!  IT’s NOT JUST ABOUT THE CARBS. Ahhh, that felt good to say.

Protein / Fat

For those of you that are new to any form of low carb, you may not know yet that protein and fat recommendations are a HUGE “hot-button issue.”  So if I seem a little exasperated in this next section, it is because I know the following information may stir up some folks.  So I am trying to stress the need to be more reasonable, use common sense, and do what is right for YOU and YOU ALONE.

As I belong to MANY LCHF groups, I frequently see the advice “you’re getting too much protein” or “eat more fat.”  Both pieces of advice may be right, and both could be wrong, for that particular individual.  Please folks!  Not everyone’s body is EXACTLY alike.  Some people do better with more protein, and less fat (still high fat, just not excess fat).  Don’t judge.

So, let’s address protein first.  Yes, I understand gluconeogenesis!!  If I hear the word again, I think I might just rip my hair out, lol!  Some folks have taken “moderate protein” to mean “just enough protein to keep your body from eating your own muscles.”

The minimum protein recommendation in the U.S. is about 0.36g per pound of body weight (or 0.8g per kg of body weight) for the average SEDENTARY person.  So, for example, for a 150 lb person, that is 54g of protein.  For a 200 lb person, that is 72g of protein.  PLEASE folks!  Don’t go under the minimum requirement.  And if you are NOT sedentary, if you are younger, if you are pregnant,  if you exercise (especially strength training), you will most likely need more.

There are NUMEROUS studies to show that protein has a POSITIVE effect on weight loss.  Ideally, you should be involved in vigorous daily exercise (see below), which means you may need more than the minimum amount of protein.

Now!  What about those that are concerned that their blood sugar will rise with excess protein.  The minimum protein is NOT EXCESS.  Protein is, as a dear friend recently reminded me, NOT chocolate cake.  I agree with not eating EXCESS protein.  So, if you sit down to a 12 ounce steak, by all means, cut it in half.  But please don’t get less than the minimum amount of protein for fear of gluconeogenesis.

If you are concerned about the blood sugar effects of getting the MINIMUM amount of recommended protein, than you have bigger blood sugar issues than protein.  I would suggest looking at my “Troubleshooting Blood Sugar” article HERE.

If you are on a THERAPEUTIC ketogenic diet and must keep protein low for THERAPEUTIC reasons and need to remain in ketosis or to keep ketone levels high, once again, for THERAPEUTIC reasons (such as for epilepsy or cancer), than that is one thing.  But the overwhelming majority of us are on a low carb, or ketogenic diet for more GENERAL health reasons (weight loss, diabetes, etc.) and do not REQUIRE certain therapeutic levels of ketones.

I have had MANY MANY people who belong to groups that use slightly higher protein and do TREMENDOUSLY well with blood sugar AND weight loss.  Once again, this requires self experimentation.  I personally feel terrible if I eat less than about 4 ounces (of lean protein) or 5 ounces (of fattier protein) per meal (about 25-30g of protein – or as I refer to it, a palm-sized portion).  Of course, occasionally, I only eat 2 meals.  But most days I eat 3.  On my strength training days, I definitely feel the need for 3 meals.

What I’m saying is, the amount of protein YOU decide is right for YOU, is right for YOU.  Don’t be shamed into eating less than your body tells you.

Now, let’s talk about FAT.

I have written two articles about the over consumption of fat.  (HERE and HERE).

Let’s get one thing clear.  The act of eating fat DOES NOT make you burn fat.  Eating MORE fat does not make you burn MORE fat.  It is the act of restricting carbohydrates that makes your burn fat.  And yes, that means that the fat you eat, will get burned as well, if your carbs are low.  But if you eat all the fat you need to in a day, your body will burn THAT fat, instead of your stored body fat.  Your body will burn a somewhat set amount of “calories” (although I hate that word and I do not advocate calorie counting) in a day.  If you give it more than it needs, than you will not tap into stored fat.  Overeating is overeating…PERIOD.

Let’s get another thing clear.  And I will tell you this from personal experience….KETOSIS is NOT synonymous with weight loss.  Yes, you CAN gain weight, EVEN IN KETOSIS.  Ask me.  I was starting to regain weight while eating a 20g of carbs per day strict ketogenic diet.  Everyone kept telling me to eat less carbs and even more fat.  I feel like garbage when I eat fewer than 20g of carbs because I don’t get enough vegetables.  So, that advice was BAD, FOR ME.  I finally learned that LCHF does not mean I should be on a fat feast.  Just look around in the ketogenic community.  There are plenty of other folks who maintain a ketogenic lifestyle and still have weight to lose.  So, please don’t think that as long as your ketosis, you can have a fat free-for-all, especially if you think that will get your ketones higher and that means you are burning more fat.  No, no, no.  You’ll burn fat alright, but it will be the fat you are consuming, not the fat on your body.  In other words, if you eat too much fat, more than you burn, you’re going to gain weight, regardless of how high your ketones are.  Once again, I learned this the hard way.  TRUST ME, it is possible to gain weight in ketosis, EVEN WHEN YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT.

PS, let’s address that…”not doing it right.”  Some people feel that if other people don’t succeed in weight loss, or overall health, as well as they PERSONALLY did, then the other person “must not be doing it right.”  Some people can DO EVERYTHING RIGHT and still not have the same successes as the next person.  So, please don’t shame other people or make the statement that they must be “doing it wrong.”  Most often, this is just not the case, and in fact, that person may be doing it MORE right than you, lol!  Besides, how do you know that someone is “doing it wrong” when you don’t even know how they are “doing it” to begin with?  Please, no more assumptions that others are “doing it wrong.”  

Bottom line, if you are not hungry, you should not be eating extra fat.  The majority of the fat you eat should be from your protein sources and from what you use to cook with, not in excessive amounts of ADDED fats.  WHEN you have reached your weight loss goal, YES, you will need to significantly increase fat to STOP losing weight or to MAINTAIN your goal weight.  But if you are overweight, stop eating so much fat (if you are not hungry).  Fat should be to satisfy you, not to gorge on.  This means that we really also need to re-examine exactly what true hunger is.  I can tell you that I have fasted for up to 3 days and I can honestly say that I was still not truly HUNGRY at the end of my fast.

When many of us were on high carb diets, “sugar burners,” we remember the panicky feeling when we tried to go 5 hours without something to eat.  Often we stuffed ourselves if we were in fear of not being able to get our next meal on time, so we could make it a little longer.  So, we developed a warped sense of true hunger.

When we eat adequate protein and fat, our sense of hunger should adapt.  We no longer have to stuff ourselves, or to eat excess food out of habit or for pleasure.

Lastly, I see many people eating excess fat because they feel like they have to “get their fat in” to reach some sort of magical pre-conceived macros that someone told them is THE ONLY acceptable macros for LCHF.  NEVER eat above your hunger level.  If you have belly fat, then your “fat is IN.” Once again, please use some common sense and do what is right for your body.  (This is covered very well in Dr. Arain’s video below.  Please, please take time to watch it.)

Just be reasonable about the fat folks, use common sense.

Exercise

While I am in total agreement that exercise is NOT the primary way to lose weight, and exercise DOES NOT make up for a bad diet, exercise is absolutely crucial to good health.  Just about every living person can exercise.  There are activities that everyone, no matter how limited in abilities, can do.  If you are healthy and have no obstacles to exercise, I suggest that you start a daily exercise routine.  Exercise can increase insulin sensitivity and help you lose weight, when combined with healthy eating.  I understand that for most people, exercise is not enjoyable.  Most people hate it.  We are overworked, tired, stressed, etc.  But those are the exact reasons people NEED to exercise.  Exercise increases your energy levels, helps you sleep better and helps relieve stress, not to mention all of the other benefits to your health.  We have got to stop making excuses.  I have been guilty of this.  My problem was that, as with everything else I do in life, I don’t know how to do anything moderately.  I always felt I had to do the max amount of exercise I could tolerate and then I would hate it.  I really WAS too tired for that kind of exercise.  It is so unnecessary.  A while back, I decided to find some very simple, enjoyable exercises to do.  For instance,  I do about 20-25 minutes of high intensity exercise (including warm up, cool down and stretch) that I do daily.  I also do strength training 2-3 times per week.   Exercise doesn’t have to require hours of time, or a gym membership.  Just commit to 15 minutes, then in time, try to increase to 30 minutes each day.  Since I have been doing this, I have seen a significant improvement in my BG and the scale, which had been stagnant, has begun to move.  If you are limited in ability, try seated strength training exercises, resistance bands, etc.  There is SOME type of activity that every person should be able to do.  Finally, timing of exercise can be important as well.  Exercise earlier in the day being preferable to exercise in the later evening as this coincides better with natural hormone fluctuations.  This is more of a factor with vigorous exercise.  If you exercise vigorously earlier in the day is better.  Mild exercise should be fine at any time.  But preferably no exercise within 2 hours of bedtime.  No more excuses.  As a well known adage states “just do it.”  We can’t expect results from work that we don’t do.

On the other hand, is there such a thing as too much exercise?  YES.  Chronic, long periods of exercise can keep your stress hormones up, keep you inflamed, prevent adequate muscle building (from too little rest time), and block weight loss.  You know, often, I don’t feel like exercising, but I push through it.  I almost ALWAYS feel better afterwards.  What if I don’t?  What if I go many days not feeling that great after exercise?  Maybe a little break is in order.  Be careful about getting too off track with exercise, because often when we miss a few days of exercise, it will set off a pattern of missing for a long time.  But take a few days off and rest when you need to.  Listen to your body.  It may be telling you something.  I recently took off about 4 or 5 days from exercise because I spent three days painting and my shoulder was REALLY bothering me, in fact, hurting.  I was bummed about taking the time off, but last night, I was able to get back to my routine and the shoulder feels good.

Be kind to your body.

Sleep

All of the disciplined eating or exercise may be for nothing if you aren’t sleeping well.  When you don’t get adequate sleep, hormone fluctuations may keep you from being able to regulate your blood sugar and weight.  Once again, I know we are all busy, stressed, etc.  We’ve got a million excuses of why we can’t get enough sleep.  Well, I’ll just say, if you don’t, then you will have serious health consequences.  Every adult needs 7-8 hours of continuous, uninterrupted sleep, but no more than 9-10 hours.  And it’s not just the amount of time, but the pattern as well.  Sleeping from 1 am to noon the next day is not the best pattern.  Our body works on a rhythm that should be maintained as close to its natural cycle as possible.  I suggest sleeping from 9-5, 10-6 or 11-7, something like that.  Staying up late is just not healthy folks.  I personally try to be asleep NO LATER than 10, preferably 9:00.  I wasn’t always like this.  I used to stay up very late and get up very early.  And this pattern took its toll.  I understand that shift work may prevent a healthy sleeping pattern. I have worked night shift before.  Here is an article that can help you improve your sleep quantity and quality.  (HERE)

Stress

Once again, if you are doing everything above, but have uncontrolled stress, then all of your efforts may be for nothing.  Stress also causes changes to hormone levels that can prevent good blood glucose and weight control.  It is not easy to control stressors.  We often just cannot remove them.  We must then strengthen the way we cope with them.  If you have excessive stressors in life, you MUST do something to ACTIVELY control stress.  Adequate sleep is the first key to reducing stress.  Exercise can also be a stress reducer, and not just vigorous exercise, but also just stretching and practicing active relaxation.  Some people pursue spiritual activities.  I do all of these.  I also use essential oils to help me with both sleep and stress.  What I am saying is that stress reduction is not a passive activity.  You have to think of things you can do to actively try to control stress.  Even if it means going to a private place for 15 minutes and just focusing on your breathing.   Or, maybe for you it means going to a private place for 15 minutes, putting on gloves and hitting a punching bag.  Whatever it takes, lol!  Listening to nature sounds.  Aromatherapy.  Massages.  Accupuncture.  Once again, whatever it takes.  I don’t suggest “retail therapy” because then the credit card bill will give you added stress, lol!  Stress reduction is an area that I have to focus on daily so as not to let stressors get out of control.

Drugs

There are many drugs on the market that can interfere with weight loss.  Some of them are necessary for life.  Some, however, may either not be necessary, OR a similar drug can be substituted that does not have this side effect.  If you don’t know whether a drug you are taking can contribute to weight gain, do some research.  Determine whether you need the medication or if lifestyle change may allow you to discontinue its use.  If you cannot discontinue it, find if there may be a substitute that does not carry this side effect.

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If you are doing all of these things and you are still having weight loss problems, then,  it might be a good idea to have a thorough medical examination to evaluate any conditions that could be preventing weight loss.  Check you health markers, such as your thyroid markers, cortisol levels, insulin levels, etc.  There are many tests that can be performed.  And when you get these tests, do not rely on the healthcare provider’s interpretation alone.  Many providers will tell you that everything is “normal.”  “Normal” does not mean “optimal.”  For instance, according to a lab, fasting blood glucose up to 105 is “normal.”  But it is far from optimal.  In fact, it is very problematic.  When determining “normal” lab values, they consider what an average is for all people being tested in a population.  But all people includes those with advanced disease.  So, in order to say that a blood glucose number of 105 is “normal,” the range of blood sugars considered probably contained thousands and thousands of people with diabetes.  So “normal” is not optimal, by far.  You will have to do your research about what is optimal levels of these health markers and determine what needs to be done to reach these levels.  (See my article “My Doctor Told Me I Was Normal” HERE)

Finally, I want to say, please be kind to your body.  I spent decades in various extreme weight loss efforts and it really damaged my body and my metabolism, which is why it takes absolutely EVERYTHING in my power to keep my weight controlled to this day.  I often starved myself and exercised excessively and it really took a toll on my body.  I don’t do that anymore.  I cherish this body and I am kind to it.  I listen to it.  I don’t punish it.  I DO work extremely hard.  There is a difference, lol!  I have come to accept that as long as my health markers are optimal, and I feel great, then I’m not going to obsess about what is on the outside.  If you have damaged your body by years and years of yo-yo dieting, just know that it may take a LONG time to heal.  Just be patient.  I am confident that you will have a huge measure of success with your health, in time.

You are welcome to take my weight loss course.  You may pick up additional pointers there.  For more information, go to the “My Services” tab.  These courses were designed to take those with little knowledge of LCHF and guide them towards a healthy low carb life.  But I have an entire section of the program that deals with these issues above.

So, that is it in a nutshell folks.  Hope this is helpful.

Once again, wishing you health and happiness.

Please watch this EXTREMELY helpful and relevant video:

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Here are some additional resources for you

Then, examine these areas:

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Here is an extremely informative series by Low Carb Nutritionist Amy Berger:

  • The Truth About Weight Loss (HERE)
  • Why Am I Not Losing Weight on LCHF? – Part 1  HERE
  • Why Am I Not Losing Weight on LCHF? – Part 2  HERE
  • Why Am I Not Losing Weight on LCHF? – Part 3a HERE
  • Why Am I Not Losing Weight on LCHF? – Part 3b HERE
  • Why Am I Not Losing Weight on LCHF? – Part 4  HERE
  • Why Am I Not Losing Weight on LCHF? – Part 5  HERE

And another of her great posts: Obesity Resistance vs Obesity Propensity HERE

How To a Break a Weight Loss Plateau – Diet Doctor  HERE

“15 Reasons for Not Losing Weight on a Low Carb Diet”  HERE

“Top 10 Mistakes People Make on a Low Carb Diet”  HERE

“Top Reasons for Not Losing Weight on a Low Carb Ketogenic Diet”  HERE

Wheat Belly Blog “Drugs that block weight loss”  HERE

“Why You Fall Off the Low Carb Wagon”  HERE

George Stella “Has your weight loss stalled out?”  HERE

Authority Nutrition “Leptin resistance: everything you need to know”  HERE

KetoDietApp: “Not losing weight on a low carb ketogenic diet? Don’t give up.” HERE

 

How To Find What You Are Looking For on Low Carb RN

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In the past 18 months, I have added approximately 65 pages and nearly 100 posts to this site!  These pages and posts also contain hundreds of links to similar content from trusted sites all over the world.  I am so excited to be a part of educating hundreds of thousands of people in healthy living, reversing or managing diabetes and losing weight.  I hope this site has been helpful to you.

While it is easy to find the pages you are looking for on the site, due to the easy tabs at the top of this page, it can be more challenging to find past posts.  Although there is an “Archives” section to the right side of this page, this only lists articles by date.  I felt it would be far easier to find what you are looking for either by title, or subject.

Therefore, I have now added a Table of Contents to this site.  It is located under the “About” tab at the top of this page (or click HERE).  The table of contents will list posts both alphabetically and by subject.  The subject categories are: diabetes, weight loss, low carb, general health and wellness, exercise, common sense (lol!), reviews, and miscellaneous.  Some articles may appear in more than one subject section.

I hope this is helpful to you in finding what you need on the site.

My next goal in improving the site is to have the WordPress Ads removed.  Although my site is relatively ad free compared to most sites, there are costs involved in having WordPress Ads totally removed.  If you wish to contribute to this worthy goal, please use MY ad links at the right side of this page when you shop.  I have placed ads ONLY to places I personally shop and products I personally use.  So, since most of you already shop at Amazon, Netrition, Nuts.com, Honeyville Grains, Sukrin USA, Choco-Perfection (omg yum!) and LC Foods, just click through this site first.  These are affiliate links.  They cost you nothing to use, but will provide a small (unfortunately very small, lol!) commission to this site to cover the costs associated with the upgrades I wish to make.  As always, my time, effort and genuine care…are forever free🙂

I hope this site will continue to be of use to you in you efforts at healthy living.  If you have any comments or wish me to add any content that you feel is missing, I welcome your feedback! (Contact form HERE).

Happy low carbing to you!

Cortisol – Friend or Foe?

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We hear a lot about cortisol and its negative effect on the body…so much so, that we have come to think of cortisol as a bad thing.  Similar to how we have come to view insulin.  (See my article Insulin – Friend or Foe HERE.)  But ask a person with Type 1 diabetes (no insulin) how difficult it is to manage health without insulin, and you will realize that insulin is our friend.  It is TOO MUCH insulin that is the problem.  Well, it is the same with cortisol.  Cortisol is an amazingly vital substance made by our body, and, in proper amounts, is absolutely crucial to our survival.  Let’s take a look at this amazing hormone.  What is it and why do we need it?  What happens when we have too much?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone made by the adrenal glands typically in response to stress (or perceived stress).  Cortisol levels are naturally higher in the morning to help us wake up and get all of our body processes moving for the day.  Cortisol levels can also raise with exercise, as we are taking our body temporarily out of its comfort zone.  But one of the main functions cortisol plays is in our body’s response to a stressor, particularly our “fight or flight” response.  That is why we call it our “stress hormone.”

Let’s be clear, if you are walking across the street and see a car barreling toward you at 50 mph, YOU WANT CORTISOL.  When cortisol is released, along with other stress hormones, like adrenaline, your body will be able to mount a “fight or flight” response, which is crucial to our survival.  What happens in fight or flight response?

Our liver will kindly dump some glucose into our bloodstream for quick energy.  Our heart rate and blood pressure will increase.  Our body will shunt more blood to important organs such as the heart (to have more oxygen to pump to where it will be needed) and brain (so that we can think more clearly to make split second decisions).  The body will temporarily down-regulate less important functions, like digestion or elimination.  Our immune system will be temporarily depressed.  We will be “on edge” with heightened senses, ready to make a move.  (Ever just HEAR squealing tires in traffic and feel on edge?  How many minutes did it take you to feel normal again?)

Here is cortisol in action…

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So what’s all the hubbub about cortisol?  The problem, as with insulin, is TOO MUCH cortisol.  When we live with chronic, uncontrolled stress, our body is preparing for this fight or flight response (that never happens.)  So our blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate might be chronically high.  We are on edge, moody.  We have poor digestion, stomach aches.  We have poor elimination, constipation. We will have poor immune function, be frequently ill.  Over time, our adrenal glands will tire out from the over-production of these stress hormones, leading to adrenal fatigue, possibly chronic physical and mental fatigue or depression.

So what do we do if our life is full of stressors that we have ABSOLUTELY no control over?  Sometimes, we THINK we have no control over our stressors, but for some of them, we really do.  When I used to work night shift in a hospital with critically ill patients, I knew my stress levels were too high.  I knew I HAD to stop working nights.  But my family was dependent on my working those hours.  What did I do?  I made an uncomfortable decision to put my health first and let the chips fall where they may.  I took a decrease in pay to work more normal hours.  It was uncomfortable for a time.  But in the end, it all worked out.  Adjustments were made and now I have restored health, adequate income to care for my family and a schedule that works for all of us.  Sometimes, we have to make tough decisions, leave good paying jobs, terminate toxic relationships, etc.

After we have made some tough decisions, there may still be some stressors left that there is no way out of.  Dealing with a chronic illness (ours or a family member’s), financial problems, family problems, etc.  We may NOT be able to change or eliminate all of our stressors.  So, then it will be a question of, “how can we more effectively DEAL with our stressors?”

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The best way to deal with stressors is to improve our health.  Eating healthy is the biggest part of that equation.  Eat real food, cut out as much processed food as possible.  SLEEP, SLEEP, SLEEP.  I can’t stress this enough.  Sleep is absolutely crucial to our ability to cope with stress.  (For helpful sleep tips, see my article HERE.) Exercise is also a key player, as exercise can help reduce stress. How?  Exercise increases cortisol, right?  While that is true, regular exercise can condition our body to have a better response to stress and therefore, over time, allow us to require less cortisol release.  Let’s use an example.  Our heart rate also increases with exercise, but over time, our heart becomes stronger so that our RESTING heart rate actually lowers when we condition ourselves with exercise.  None of us skips exercise because it makes our heart rate go up, right?  In fact, many of us measure our heart rate during the PEAK of exercise to MAKE SURE our heart rate gets HIGH ENOUGH so that we are getting adequate cardiovascular benefit.   It is similar with cortisol and exercise.  For instance, if you begin power walking a mile per day, your body will perceive this as a stressor and increase cortisol.  But, if you do it every day, over time, you body will perceive this as normal activity and will no longer consider it a stressor.  So your body will not require as much cortisol for this activity.  Now, if  you increase your walk to 30 minutes per day, your body might again increase cortisol, because it is out of your comfort zone.  But over time, 30 minutes will become routine.  So regular exercise, over time, will condition our body to require less cortisol for dealing with this perceived stressor.  So don’t avoid exercise under the mistaken reasoning that it will increase your cortisol, and that is bad.  Eating right, sleep and exercise are the primary keys to stress control.  I know, I know, I sound like a broken record, but what can I say, these three things are the absolute foundation to good health.

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Then, we must PRACTICE ACTIVE stress reduction techniques.  By ACTIVE, I mean that we can’t just hope that stress will resolve itself.  We have to actively do something about it.  You MUST take a small portion of your day to deal with stress.  And don’t say you don’t have time.  Turn off the TV for 20 minutes and you have time.  Go to a quiet place, maybe even a dark place, that is cool and comfortable.  Lock the door!  Deep breathe and stretch.  Listen to some relaxation music.  Use essential oils to help calm you.  Aromatherapy is an EXTREMELY powerful tool.  Don’t underestimate it.  I use essential oils EVERY DAY and they have made a HUGE impact on my life.  (For more information about essential oils, go to my essential oils page HERE).  If you are a spiritual person, incorporate some type of spiritual activity, whatever that means to you.  Or, get a massage, do pilates, take a detox bath.

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Or, maybe for you, an equally effective method of stress release is to hit a punching bag and sweat it out.  That’s great too.  Whatever it takes for you to release stress and feel stronger.  I have found that since I have incorporated strength training into my exercise regimen, I feel stronger overall and empowered.  My overall mood and sense of well being is greatly improved.

Find your stress reliever and DO IT every day, or as often as you can.

So, hopefully, we have found a new respect for this amazing and absolutely vital hormone.  But just as with insulin, we have to adjust our lifestyle to keep it from running amuck!

Wishing good health to you!

 

“Diabetic Normal” Blood Sugar Is NOT Normal Blood Sugar

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I was doing another post today about “normal” vs “optimal” health markers.  This subject was deeply on my mind, but really deserved it’s own post.   Although this one will be short and sweet, to the point!

I need to ask…does this chart bother anyone else as much as it does me?  This chart that makes people think that a blood sugar of 150 or 180 is GOOOOOOOD!?!?  Diabetic or not, blood sugar that is 2-3 times true normal blood sugar is NEVER GOOD!

There has become a double standard in blood sugar control.  We have “normal” and we have “diabetic normal.”  Why?  How can you call blood sugar “normal” that is causing organ damage, is contributing to heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, erectile dysfunction, and can lead to blindness and amputations?  Having a second standard of “normal” blood sugar, as in “diabetic normal” is giving those with diabetes the false sense of security thinking that an A1c of 6.0 – 7.0% is healthy, that they don’t need to modify their lifestyle any further because they are in the “normal” range.  This has done a HUGE disservice to those with diabetes.

Blood sugar is only normal when it is in the SAME RANGE as those WITHOUT diabetes.  There is only ONE normal.

“Diabetics are entitled to the same normal blood sugars as non-diabetics,” – Dr. Richard K. Bernstein (Type 1 Diabetic for 60+ years).  

Yes, they ABSOLUTELY are!  And that is what people with diabetes should confidently strive for.

Does that mean that every person with diabetes can ATTAIN true normal, non-diabetic, blood sugars?  Sometimes, sometimes not.  It depends on how long they have had diabetes, what damage has been done, and whether any of the damage is reversible.* Nevertheless, true normal blood sugar should ALWAYS be the goal.  “Diabetic normal” should never be settled for unless you have reached the max benefit from lifestyle change.  Often times, true normal blood sugar for those with diabetes takes considerable effort and sacrifice.  If you are doing everything you can to achieve true normal, non-diabetic blood sugars and it is not attainable, then you can rest assured that you are still doing the best you can for your health.  But if you are not putting forth much effort because you are “satisfied” with “diabetic normal” blood sugars, then, you can expect complications.

This subject is close to my heart.  I have a dear friend with A1c’s in the 6’s who thinks that this is just fine, that there is no need to give up candy+, that there was no need to exercise because her A1c is 6.8% and she has been told that this is “GREAT” control of her diabetes.  Did I mention that she can’t feel her feet?  She was told that this is just the “natural” progression of diabetes.  NO IT ISN’T.   It is the “natural” result of ABNORMAL blood sugars that didn’t have to be settled for.  There was more that she could do to achieve true normal blood sugar.  But she has been made to think she doesn’t need to.  And it is very difficult for me to convince her otherwise.

+Her nutritionist AND doctor both told her to have her candy “in moderation.”  Could someone PLEASE define “moderation?”

It’s time to stop the double standard.

Hence, I have added my comments to the chart.🙂

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If you are not satisfied with “diabetic normal” blood sugars that will lead to a host ” of complications, please feel free to read further on this website.  Or, check out these two great books (one written by a Type 1, one written by a Type 2) that are a MUST for anyone with diabetes who desires true, non-diabetic blood sugar.  It is possible!

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*Type 1 is not reversible, but one can have “non-diabetic” blood sugar with Type 1 as well.

“My Doctor Told Me I Was “Normal”

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Does anyone know why I have this blog? It is because for a long time, I was teaching folks the same thing over and over and over. And I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have a place to put down my thoughts to the same questions that I get asked dozens of time? Then I could direct folks to what I have written. Just give them a link. Such a time saver! Well, this post is going to serve that purpose. In fact, you have probably seen this “argument” many times. So feel free to use this link yourself to answer critics to a healthy, low carb way of living.

Let me say first that I try to make it a rule NOT to comment on other people’s social media pages. Most readers have come to my page because they have made an informed decision to reduce carbs to improve their health. So I am free to discuss the topic freely. Of course, if people decide they don’t agree with my page, they unlike or unfollow it, problem solved. But when you comment on someone else’s social media page, the other followers of that page may not share your views, and many LIVE to be disagreeable on social media. So I try to keep my opinions to my page (or in groups that I belong to which support this way of living.)

But every once in a while, I am feeling genuinely helpful, and I forget my own rule, and I make a comment. It will typically have to do with restricting carbs for those with metabolic disease (obesity, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, Type 2, dyslipidemia, hypertension, etc)

Here is the FIRST typical response I get…(I get this response almost like clockwork)

“That is bull! I lost 50 lbs eating plenty of carbs! I feel great.”

It’s kinda like this “if I can eat a banana and lose weight, all people can eat bananas and be healthy” thinking.

So my first response goes something like this…

“Firstly, using weight alone as a marker of health is very misinformed. There are people who are thin who are just as metabolically unhealthy as people who are morbidly obese. Millions of people of normal weight, have strokes an heart attacks.  Secondly, “feeling good” is not an accurate measure of health. I have diabetic clients who “feel great” when their blood sugar is 200, but feel lousy when it is 90. So, while feeling good is nice, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is healthy. So when I talk about reducing carbs for metabolic disease, I am talking about the need to do this to maintain optimal health markers.”

The typical response…(again, like clockwork)
“Well, my doctor said I am healthy and everything is normal.”

Ever hear that?

Normal???

Let me say that between “normal” and “optimal” there is a thousand miles. For instance, according to lab values that your doctor may use, a fasting blood sugar of up to 110 and a fasting insulin of up to 35 is still in the “normal” range when in actuality, a person with these health markers has very advanced metabolic disease, has likely had it for a decade or more, and is probably 95% of the way toward their diagnosis of Type 2. But, they will likely be told they are normal. They will be told they are normal until that one visit when “all of a sudden” they are blind-sighted by being told they have Type 2, when in actuality, that diagnosis was in the making YEARS and YEARS ago.

Folks, if you are relying on the answer “everything is normal” from your healthcare provider, without questioning it, you could very well be in for some bad news about your health, and soon. If you don’t know what your ACTUAL lab values are AND what those numbers MEAN, then you have NO IDEA whether you are healthy or not, no matter how much weight you have lost, or how good you feel. Normal labs values should not be your goal, optimal lab values should. And it often takes thorough research to find out what those optimal values are.

Finally, if you DO know for certain that your health markers are absolutely optimal, and you ARE completely free of metabolic disease, and you CAN eat a banana and lose weight, it has NOTHING TO DO WITH whether a person WITH metabolic disease can eat a banana and maintain optimal health markers. You absolutely cannot compare what a metabolically healthy person can get away with eating (for now), with what a metabolically unhealthy person SHOULD eat to stop the progression of disease, or even reverse it.

So let’s review:

  1. Weight is not a total measure of health.
  2. “Feeling good” isn’t either.
  3. You can be told you are “normal” and healthy, even if you are very unhealthy and on the verge of a diagnosis of disease.
  4. You must determine what optimal health markers are and strive for that.  Do your OWN research.
  5. Metabolically healthy people may be able to tolerate certain foods with little noticeable consequences.  (This may be deceiving. And, it may not always be that way though, so keep watch.)
  6. Those with metabolic disorders who wish to REVERSE their conditions will have more limited choices in what they should eat.

So, rather than have the “everyone should be able to eat what I can eat” mentality, how about encouraging people to eat how THEY need to eat to get healthy, instead of being offended because they made an INFORMED decision NOT to eat the way you do?  I mean, it’s hard enough to give up things you love but to then be told by someone who is “seemingly” healthy that they shouldn’t have to, that is doing more damage than good.

Only someone in their shoes can understand…

And if you are not that person, it is better let someone, who is more qualified, give advice.

Physical Activity = Improved Blood Sugar

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If you are not exercising to lower your blood sugar, you are missing out on one of the most powerful tools to increase insulin sensitivity and improve your blood sugar.

Many of you that know me well, know that I have been through some stressful, difficult challenges lately. My spouse having a major heart surgery, having to start a new job, along with my usual responsibilities of educating my children and keeping up my volunteer work. So I was getting really run down, not sleeping well and my blood sugars were slowly, but surely, creeping up. So I put my foot down and decided that my circumstances were not going to define me. I had to take better care of myself and, finally get serious about exercise.

I’m going to admit, a couple months ago, I NEVER imagined exercise could be enjoyable. I pretty much hated it. And I had ALL the excuses, even valid ones, to NOT do it…I’m too tired, I don’t have time, I don’t like to exercise, I’m too weak, everything hurts, you name it, I had made every excuse for myself to avoid it.

But since adding a small amount of regular high intensity interval exercise, along with strength training (the part I REALLY love) a few times per week, I have seen a huge drop in my blood sugars without any change to my diet. I was already low enough in carbs. If I were to lower them further, I would have had to eliminate vegetables, and I was just not going to do that. I just don’t feel good when I don’t eat enough vegetables. Well, now I don’t have to miss out on them.

In the past two weeks, I have not seen my blood sugar out of the 70’s and 80’s, my lowest being 79 my highest being 88 (post meal). As a bonus, I have lost 5 lbs, although that was not my intent, it has been a nice unexpected bonus. It has made me feel so much better, reduced my stress levels, lifted my mood and my mental outlook. improved my sleep and made me feel more empowered. It also helps me stay on track with what I am eating. I had gotten in the habit of snacking, nothing bad, some cheese here, a handful of nuts there. But exercise has helped me be more conscious of my habits overall and be more in-tune to doing the right things so as not to ruin all the effort I’m putting forth, lol!

I often get folks asking me what they can do to lower their blood sugar when they are already very low in carbs. The first question I now ask is “what are you doing for exercise?” What I am finding is that most people are not exercising and have no desire to exercise. Believe me, I understand.

But let’s get a fact out on the table…YOU CANNOT REACH YOUR FULL HEALTH POTENTIAL WITHOUT EXERCISE. PERIOD. Yes, I know exercise is not THE most important factor in weight loss and blood sugar control, but it is AN important factor. One that should NOT be left out.

Does this mean that you have to join a gym? Nope. While there is nothing wrong with that, I have chosen instead to exercise at home. Now, some may feel better with personalized fitness instruction. And some instruction is helpful to make sure you are safe and avoid injury. However, there are tons of fitness instructional videos and websites all over the Internet from very credible professionals who have willingly shared their expertise. Find some that work for you. Invest in a few dumbells, and/or a barbell, a mat, or even some resistance bands, and you’re ready to go. You don’t have to be a fitness expert to exercise. We, as humans, were MADE to exert ourselves physically. Can you imagine earlier humans, while out hunting their dinner, saying “4 more, 3 more, 2 more, last one.” No, they didn’t need a routine, they just got up, moved, ran, squatted down, pulled themselves up, lifted heavy things, etc. It’s not rocket science.😉.

I am NO fitness expert. I do have a fitness group that is used, not for any particular program, and not to help you design a fitness regimen, or give personal fitness advice, but really just for motivation. The biggest hurdle to exercise is ourselves. Once we stop making excuses, we will find a way to make exercise workable for us. Do you know how many fitness videos and websites I’ve watched and visited in the last few months? Probably hundreds. There is a lot of great instruction out there (a lot of junk too, so be discerning…when you see someone standing on top of an exercise ball about to break their neck, that should set off warning bells…move on, lol). I found things that work for me, and I do them, while each week trying to vary things up a bit to make things more challenging.

I know many of you will pass over this article. It will get very few views or likes. That’s ok. I understand. I have overlooked articles like this for DECADES! Lol! As a society, most of us hate exercise and want nothing to do with it. But you, like me, will come to the realization one day that it is just what you may be missing. So I will keep talking about it in hopes that one day, I will catch you at just the right time when you’ll be willing to give it a go! Believe it or not, you may one day, love it.

Good health to you.

PS I also want to say thanks to a special friend that has answered many of my fitness questions.  You can visit his site HERE.

Ok how about a few memes to finish this up…lol!!

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PS I decided after posting this article that I would dig through my meter and show you some of my prior numbers.  I am NOT one of those people who frets over 2 points in my blood sugar.  So I wanted to show you what was happening.  I really was starting to get back into true (pre) diabetic numbers, EVEN though I had NOT been eating more than about 30g of carbs.  I WAS however, eating late at night, snacking often (healthy snacks, but nevertheless, just eating too often), stress eating, sleeping poorly, stressed out, etc.  So I credit the exercise not only with the improvement in my BG, but in the improvement in my HABITS, stress levels and mood, which has led to a further improvement in my BG.

This was after starting my new job and having to work odd shifts during my orientation, including nights. (I cannot work nights, been there, done that…for years!)  This was the worst it got.  This was my wake up call.

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This was still problematic for me, for a fasting blood sugar…

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Getting there…

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Much better…

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Nailed it…

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These above are all fasting.  Here is my post-lunch today!  Wrap it up!  I’ll take it!!

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