April 29, 2013

Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind

 Recycling Blog Photos--Good for the Earth,
 and Cheaper than Getting Sued for Copyright Infringement!

There is a lot of advice out there about how to lose weight, some of which is helpful and some of which is just plain creepy. Anyone else catch that recent tip about infesting yourself with roundworms?

So this isn't a post about how to lose weight. Instead, this is just a few of the 9,700 thoughts I have about the psychological aspects of weight loss.  It's my impression that a determined, focused, lifelong quest to shed excess pounds and keep them off can make most normal people at least slightly bonkers.

Including me! I have certainly not figured out the perfect formula for craving only healthy food in reasonable portions and enjoying complete happiness and joy with every aspect of my physical form. Yet, as usual, not being a perfect role model won't stop me from offering up a few words of advice, 'cause I'm hypocritical like that.


Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Herbal Magic Weight Loss and Nutrition Center, and per FTC requirement I am revealing that they compensated me with actual money (yippee!). Feel free to click on their links below if you're curious. Hint: they are not the obesity-fighting worm people.

But hey, I'm little and cute and will help you lose weight!

Three Thoughts for Retaining Your Sanity While Trying to Lose Weight

1. Manage Expectations

The problem with weight loss is that for most people, it's really freakin' hard.

If you expect yourself to stay on track every single day of your life and never mess up and keep making progress week after week after week... well, good luck with that. And do I make this same obvious point nearly every time I write a blog post? You bet I do.  Many of us need constant reminding.

So how do you use the Biggest Loser type success stories and inspirational weight loss bloggers and impressive "before" and "after" weight loss photos for encouragement, without setting expectations so high that you end up feeling discouraged and weak and lame?

My suggestion: Go ahead and indulge in sparkly shiny amazing expectations!  Envision continual breathtaking awesomeness if it helps you motivate yourself.  But then when you miss your targets, settle for any sort of forward progress, however halting or sporadic.

There is no reason to be all logical and consistent about goal attainment. You can go back and retroactively redefine "success" to be whatever you did, and praise the hell out of it, even if it was all about "learning experiences" and not about calories or pounds or inches.  You're training your mind for the long haul, which will include failures as well as successes.  Staying with it and not quitting is going to be a lot easier if you don't catastrophize and beat yourself up all the time.

And if you've hit a weight loss plateau?  Revisit Shadowduck's insightful post and read some of the comments therein.

2. Gals: Tame, But Don't Demonize, Your Vanity

Does this collar make me look fat?

We all know the sanest, healthiest motivation for weight loss is to be healthy and strong and fit, not just to try to "look hot." It is best to love your body for what it does, regardless of size, and stop trying to live up to hilariously unrealistic ideals perpetuated by our looks-obsessed media and popular culture.

And yet... we are human.  We are affected by those images.  Even if we believe passionately otherwise, it's hard not to internalize the constant brainwashing that the most important thing about a woman is the way she looks.  And she's supposed to look young, skinny, and flawless. So as much as we talk about staying slim for our health, it's hard not to be additionally motivated by vanity.

Which is fine when all is going well, because the two goals are served by the same healthy behavior: eating nutritious nonjunky food in reasonable portions and exercising.

But what about when it's not going fine?

Feeling 'ugly' and getting all depressed, stressed, and angry because we feel unattractive...  that's a bad idea.  Mental health is part of physical health, and having body image issues messes with your head, big-time.

But here's the thing: feeling crappy because we don't look like those magazine women, and then feeling crappy on top of that because we even care that we don't look like that... it doesn't help.  We just end up feeling twice as crappy as the women who are only obsessed with looks and don't even realize they shouldn't be.

And hey, it's human to want to look nice.  We want our homes to look nice, our kids to look nice, our work environments and clothing and even our mp3 players or grocery tote bags to look nice.  It would be unrealistic to carefully choose the perfect napkins to match your dinner plates and yet not give a crap what stares back at you in the mirror when you venture a peek.

So how to arrive at  a "reasonable" level of vanity that lets you appreciate success in both terms of both health and aesthetics, but that doesn't put your appearance at the center of your identity?

Suggestion: Think Like a Dude!

Guys don't obsess about looks and weight loss, though most would probably prefer to look buffed and strong and handsome rather than large and flabby and dorky.  Some make an effort to improve their health and appearance and some don't.  Some succeed and some quit. But, for most guys, looks and weight are not their entire identity.

They figure out what they are willing to do or not do, and then they do it or they don't do it, and then they just say, f--k it, there's a game on, and let it go.

Picture an average male of your same age and physical shape.  Would he say things to himself like:

"Oh my god I look like a whale in this outfit,  I can't go the hardware store until I find something more flattering!"

"I'd love a steak, but I'll just order salad for dinner so I don't look like a pig in front of the rest of the guys. I can stop for ice cream when no one is looking."

"I can't party on the pontoon boat with all my pals, I'd have to wear a bathing suit in public!" 

Seriously gals, you are a lot more than what your ass looks like in a pair of jeans. And you are going to regret the hell out if it if you don't figure this out until you are 95 by which time a pair of Depends is gonna have to fit in there too.

So try picturing yourself as a happy-go-lucky guy, who is going to make an effort not to croak from a heart attack prematurely, but is not going to spend a whole bunch of precious brain energy and time obsessing over what size pants he's wearing.  Life is short!

3. Seek Support and Help and Encouragement

One of the best things you can do about weight-loss induced stress or despair is discover that it is normal. You are not alone.  And there are tricks and tips and strategies to better your chances of success and keep you feeling good about yourself no matter how distant your goals seem or how sucky your progress is.

There are free things like blogs and forums and best friends. Reach out!  And if you're open to try to fit additional support into your budget there are all kinds options, like, gosh, wellness coaches! Or weight loss centers that have various nutrition programs! Or reality TV programs with big prizes and millions of people to cheer you on or laugh at you depending on how you handle yourself! Some options may be slightly less realistic than others.

Are you at peace with your weight and/or strategies for weight loss or maintenance? Or are you a little bit nutty? 

Photo of dog in mirror: jk3us

65 comments:

  1. Managing goals and expectations is so important. When I set out to lose weight, I knew a goal of 100 pounds was just too overwhelming for me to focus on. So instead I made my goal "lose 50 pounds in 10 months." THAT worked for me. Once I lost 50 I kept going and lost the rest!

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    1. Wow, that's amazing Lisa!!!! Hope the maintenance is going well, but you sound like you can do anything you put your mind to!

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  2. I'm a healthy weight. I'd prefer to be down a bit for the sake of my heart, but I am fine as I am elsewise. I wish we respected healthy weight instead of worshipping skin and bones. We are a silly species. If we have ourselves a proper famine in the land we'll all be wanting to be rubenesque again.

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    1. We are indeed a silly species Leah! And I suspect you're right about the famine thing, though I hope we don't get to test your theory... I'm a gal who likes to EAT!

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  3. love this :-)

    Following you on bloglovin, follow back? <3
    Camilla Christine /// http://www.fitspoblog.com/

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    1. thanks Camilla!

      bloglovin is one of about 1,000 things I should probably sign up for but haven't...

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  4. I love your sense of humor!
    For the most part I'm fine with my current weight/shape (I usually go more on shape since I only weight at the DR's office). However, I know many people who have struggled for years to achieve their "happy" weight. And, for many, it's not a matter of over-eating (my sister is a classic example) - I think it is just a matter of figuring out the best method of weight loss for their particular body type.
    Hmm...I wonder if my sister reads your blog - she should!!!

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    1. Thanks Kim! And you are in awesome shape with all the challenging exercise you do; glad it means you don't tend to obsess about weight like so many women do.

      And if your sister is curious about the blog... warn her that it is very WEIRD here! :)

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  5. I think you hit all the points most of us do not think about. Managing expectations being #1 especially! I try not to use the scale as a measurement of weight loss, but rather how my clothes fit... particularly if I can get into something I haven't worn for awhile!

    There is no better feeling than having to buy DOWN A SIZE even if you don't know your weight!

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  6. I wish I knew what weight is right for me. I've never been there. I might be there now. I might not be there now. I don't feel a 'little bit nutty'...I feel I am full blown walnuts! (or pecans, or Brazil nuts, or pistachios, or almonds, or.....)

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    1. I'm gonna have to steal that one Sherri, "full blown walnuts" is awesome!

      Hope you find that elusive happy place of contentment with body and lifestyle; sure seems like you are doing all the right things!

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    2. I shall allow you to steal but I am using it and a comment I made on Shadowduck?s post a few days back, for my blog entry later today. So does this mean I am stealing first? :D

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    3. And among all the stealing I'm sure nobody will notice me filching the awesome "shadow-duck" picture you used on the post, Sherri. Bizarrely, I've been using this name for over ten years and that interpretation of it had NEVER occurred to me! #8-D

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  7. Think like the most happy go lucky guy. Bart Simpson? Sponge Bob? Beetle Bailey? Slacker! Slacker and slacker! Hmm maybe their is something to that. I'm disturbed I can only think of cartoon characters! Very disturbed!

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    1. Good point Cindy, I think we need to embrace our slackitude!

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    2. So long as you stop before you get to Garfield, Cindy!

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  8. Really? Herbal Magic? I would have said that one of the keys to a positive weight loss effort is to stay away from companies like that, which charge a fortune, make you buy supplements of dubious value, put you on a crash diet and, by many accounts, discourage muscle-building exercise.

    Personally, I use a plan that consists of gradually ramping up the proportion of my vegetables in my diet and gradually decreasing the proportion of sugar and white flour, with an occasional calorie counting day to keep on track. All combined with, as much as possible, ignoring American television and magazines in favour of British TV (which features normal looking women) and occasionally looking over fat positive blogs, to remind myself how adorable people of all body shapes are.

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    1. Sorry. That was judgy of me. Too many vegetables and not enough sugar, maybe :)

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    2. No worries Trabb's Boy! Love your healthy approach.

      Monetizing a blog is a tricky business, and I've gotten a bit more open-minded about sponsorships over the years with the thought that readers can make up their own minds about what's a good fit or not. I happen to have pretty darn discerning readers, so I figure they know how to evaluate claims made by sponsors and see if it's something they're interested in. But on the other hand, it's also fair game if a sponsor uses this forum to promote their products for readers to express their opinions about those products! So thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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    3. More power to you, dahlink. My knee is a bit of a jerk like me sometimes.

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    4. Trabb's Boy, nothing jerky about ya and in fact your honest take is refreshing. Don't you dare stop! There are times where conflict of interest, diplomacy, and/or greed keep me a bit muzzled but that's why I appreciate readers with critical thinking skills. :)

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  9. LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just shared.. any progress no matter how slow is STILL PROGRESS! :) The whole post - the truth! We are bombarded with how we should look & act as women & it takes its toll.. I still fight this from my younger days & does not seem to get better now. Lip service but still the same sh*t... :)

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    1. As always, love your honesty and humor Jody and thank you so much for sharing the post!

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  10. Think like a dude is rarely good advice ;) except in this instance. Always good ideas over here.

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  11. Did the nutty yo-yo thing for 30 years, and this advice is very good indeed.

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    1. Nutty yo-yo should be an ice cream flavor messymimi!

      Or, oops, maybe not... ;)

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  12. Yes, I totally agree with the above after having been the original yo-yo queen ...it is great advice!

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  13. Death Ride GrandmaApril 29, 2013 at 7:07 PM

    Yeah, I'm at peace. That seems to come easy to me. I somehow missed the whole sense of needing to look how someone else said I should - have no particular artistic talent or ability to notice details, which probably helps a lot.

    Your suggestions are great, as always. Nice and practical and realistic. That weird ad I keep seeing that says something about going from about size 16 to size 8 in a very short time, alongside a picture of someone - no, not just anyone, it's never a guy - looking as if she's losing about 2/3 of her original self should have to list your suggestions somewhere the way drugs have to list their purpose & side effects. But no, it shows up everywhere & your ideas don't. No wonder we're a little mixed up.

    By the way - this is about your snorkel post - I am so glad to see that I am not the only one who wears a wetsuit to swim in the tropics!

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    1. I'm not a bit surprised you've had such a sensible approach to all this DRG! You seem like someone very grounded and not easily brainwashed or pushed around by silly cultural expectations.

      Oh good, I felt a bit dorky posting the photos in a wet suit... yet by the end of the swim I was totally cold and shivering even with it on!

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    2. Crabby, if a thirteen year old boy (many years ago) could beg for a new wetsuit for his birthday, it can't be dorky to wear one, can it?

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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  14. Yet more indications that I somehow haven't noticed I'm a man.... I just never noticed all the pressure to look a certain way. I hear a lot about it nowadays, but it's still swooshing right over my head. Maybe because I put all my effort into resisting the pressure to conform mentally. I spent a lot of my school days saying "Huh? What????"

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    1. Mary Anne, you are another role model, like DRG, for women who want to stop being bullied by insanely stupid standards for what we are supposed to look like and act like.

      Hooray for strong independent women who don't worry about conforming!

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  15. I need to start thinking like a dude - you hit the nail on the head with that one. I'm both at peace and a little nutty, depending on which day you ask. ;)

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  16. Wonder why I never thought about the "think like a dude" option? It is so true what you say. Women tend to read and research everything they can get their hands on in search of the perfect solution. We have the knowledge, yet we don't apply it consistently. ("we" as in me).

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  17. Think like a dude is awesome!

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  18. Awesome blog! I'm only new to this world but am loving it - think like a dude....very funny! But you forgot to mention about ‘dudes’having a laugh with their mates about their paunch and giving it a slap as they openly proclaim it’s 'the roof over their tool shed'

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    1. Ohh! Or how about when they say with pride "it's all bought and paid for"?!? This is usually said while patting said fully paid for tummy.

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    2. Yeah, that's always amazed me how guys will laugh at themselves and even tease each other about big bellies... I can't imagine women laughing and razzing each other for excess poundage, it's simply Not Done. The result would be tears or frozen silence and would probably end a friendship.

      I do find gender differences fascinating!

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  19. All great points, Crabby, and important to remind ourselves of often. Hilarious turn about men and their body image - oddly enough, tho, going to the hardware store is the one place I cut myself some slack with how I look.

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    1. Interesting Gigi! And yeah, actually, come to think of it, the Lobster and I have wandered into hardware stores covered in dirt or paint wearing ill fitting "work clothes" when in the middle of projects, probably a bad example! It's sort of understood that it's a "get stuff done" and not a "be seen" destination.

      (But then I adopted the "think like a dude" approach to my appearance since about age 2...)

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  20. I'd add "Measure what matters, ignore what doesn't."

    Do you feel better and healthier? Are you seeing progress in your fitness routines?

    Weight is the easiest but often the worst thing to measure, especially on a day to day basis. Factors like whether you recently drank, ate, pooped, or urinated, what you're wearing, etc., can cause daily fluctuations that have nothing to do with whether you're making progress. Worse, exercise routines that emphasize building muscle can make you gain weight.

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    1. Love this approach Ann, as the only reason to measure is to motivate better behavior. If it leads to discouragement (as is often the case with scale numbers) then it ain't gonna help. Unless, like Theresa below, you can just use it as additional info in a nonjudgmental way.

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  21. Bahahahahaha! Trying to fit a pair of Depends in my pants?!?!? Bahahahahahaha! No, incontinence is not a laughing matter but the reframe is delightful. I love this whole post. Thank you for reminding me that it is OK to be illogical and inconsistent about goal attainment. The past couple of years have been filled with “learning experiences”. And ya know what?!? I’ve come a long way, baby!

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    1. Thanks Theresa!

      I'm beginning to think those learning experiences are really what life's about rather than the supposed "goals" and "results" that we're pursuing. There will always be new goals and more striving, so the less we beat ourselves up for progress (or lack of same) and the more we pay attention to process and try to be happy each day, the more we're winning the Real Game.

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  22. I like to use the number on the scale as a data point. I try (and am usually pretty successful) at not attaching emotion to the number but to just say “Oh, that’s where I am this week” and work towards adjusting behaviors accordingly. It can be a good reminder to schedule a little more exercise time…and a little less snack time. OR it can be hugely validating. As in – the numbers have gone down and I was mostly on track with my health goals. You don’t say?! ;)

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    1. Great way to approach the Evil Scale Theresa!

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  23. Awesome post as always Crabby :)

    I'm pretty much at peace - but that might be because I'm at the I-don't-give-a-rat's-ass age. But at times I waffle and feel insecure if I'm in an unfamiliar situation. I do love the idea of thinking like a dude. I always notice I'm most comfortable when surrounded by other people who are comfortable with themselves.

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  24. Joyce, if I could totally not give a rat's ass AND look like you? Ah, that would indeed be awesomeness.

    But I do give a lot less of a rat's ass than I used to, I'm guessing about comparable to a dude--thus the suggestion. Maybe I give, like, one third of a rat's left cheek. :)

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    1. Me too! That's the best thing about being 50+ - I don't care very much what anyone thinks about anything I say, wear, or do. It's awesome. I just warned my kids that given how "free to be me" I feel at 50 I will no doubt be hell on wheels come 80!
      Gaye

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  25. Love "think like a Dude" - nice to know I've been doing something right all this time!

    I think perhaps part of the reason guys often take weight issues less personally is that the whole caveman "problem solver" mentality kicks in. Double chin? Jeans too tight? It's just another problem to be solved, like a dripping tap or a blown bulb. And like the leaky tap or the blown bulb, we may or may not actually get round to doing anything about it, but it certainly isn't going to keep us awake at night!

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    1. Love this Shadowduck, what a great way to think about it!

      Thinking of a workout that didn't happen or a pig-out at a buffet as though it were a light bulb that needs replacing, and not a damning indictment of our character for being weak and pathetic... sounds kinda sensible! Either way, we fix it or we don't, but we don't achieve much by trying to yell at the lightbulb and make it feel ashamed of itself.

      Unless those smart engineers are making MUCH fancier lightbulbs these days...

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  26. So do you think they make Depends with butt boosting inserts? :)
    Gaye

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  27. My expectations usually trip me up. The perfectionist attitude of "I'm going to do it without any slip ups" is not the way to go. Gotta ease up on that.

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  28. annnd thats the title of my ebook too!

    but methinks Ive lost mine--nonweight related :-) -- but still shed.

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  29. Having been a woman in a former life it all gets so confusing for me!

    None-the-less, with great bloggers like you and Diane (Fit to the finish) out there, I do have occasional clarity on the subject.

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  30. Seriously weight loss is not a simple issue ,the entire patience and mind gone stuck with all schedule and diet food.but what else we can do ?we just need hold our breath till our target weight.

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  31. Wow!!! What a post. You made my day man. Never ever seen such post on weight loss, this would be a great help for those who are desperately trying to loose their weight. Thank you for this insightful post.

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  32. The best thing I have found is to have a weight loss buddy. It's a lot easier to do it with someone.

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  33. I find that entering some type of competition always helps to motivate me to keep going and meet my goals.

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  34. I loved what you wrote in point 2 - 'the two goals are served by the same healthy behavior: eating nutritious nonjunky food in reasonable portions and exercising'. I think one of the greatest challenges we face around feeling good about ourselves is realising that strong and healthy does equal attractive. Strong and healthy also equals healthy aging!

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  35. Great post! I think people get so frustrated when they don't reach their end goal within the first couple months. It is key to set reachable goals every month, so you do not get discouraged. When you reach your goals, you will keep pushing.

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  36. I totally agree with "think like a dude" attitude. Most guys, just like me, are not so obsessed with losing that much weight the soonest compared to girls who are conscious all the time with what they eat to what they exercise and end up getting to stressed with the idea.

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