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I do love articles like this that blow common knowledge out of the water.

From the cite:

In the case of fatty foods, that confident voice belonged to Ancel Keys, a prominent diet researcher a half-century ago (the K-rations in World War II were said to be named after him). He became convinced in the 1950s that Americans were suffering from a new epidemic of heart disease because they were eating more fat than their ancestors.

There were two glaring problems with this theory, as Mr. Taubes, a correspondent for Science magazine, explains in his book. First, it wasn’t clear that traditional diets were especially lean. Nineteenth-century Americans consumed huge amounts of meat; the percentage of fat in the diet of ancient hunter-gatherers, according to the best estimate today, was as high or higher than the ratio in the modern Western diet.

Second, there wasn’t really a new epidemic of heart disease. Yes, more cases were being reported, but not because people were in worse health. It was mainly because they were living longer and were more likely to see a doctor who diagnosed the symptoms.

To bolster his theory, Dr. Keys in 1953 compared diets and heart disease rates in the United States, Japan and four other countries. Sure enough, more fat correlated with more disease (America topped the list). But critics at the time noted that if Dr. Keys had analyzed all 22 countries for which data were available, he would not have found a correlation. (And, as Mr. Taubes notes, no one would have puzzled over the so-called French Paradox of foie-gras connoisseurs with healthy hearts.)

So are we depriving ourselves of lovely, tasty fat in order to chase a pipe dream? Science says so.

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I think so. If you look at the science, there really isn't a correllation between fat intake and fat on the body. It's become popular to think there is. Didn't the problem with obesity come about around the time of the USDA food pyramid? The government didn't have our best interests in mind; the food pyramid was pushed to sell more grain from American farmers.

Personally, I think it started with the massive overconsumption of soda. When I was a kid (admittedly, eons ago) an ocassional can of soda was a real treat. Now it's part of every meal. Hey, they have to use up all that American-grown corn syrup somehow!

Well, okay, that and fast foods--another rare treat that has become a staple. If we got rid of fast food and pop, people would probably become thin again.

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Yeah, the NYT had an article about dietary cholesterol, particularly in eggs, only a week or so ago as well (I'm not sure if someone mentioned it here). I think my favorite part is the historical context that they're going through to explain why people believe what they do.

Hooray for these kinds of articles! I hope there are more! :biggrin:

Oh yeah, and to answer your question: yes, I'm sure we are.

Edited by feedmec00kies (log)

"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

eG Ethics Signatory

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Overweight correlates with calories.

Fluid calories do tend to be overlooked, especially if the calories are not from fat. Fat fills us up and keeps us feeling full. Sugar or alchohol calories dont do that. Soda and lemonade etc feel the same as water in the tummy, but not on the thighs.

Does overweight correlate with increased risk of heart attack? From what I've read, yes. Perhaps because the heart has to work harder at every pump. However, I know someone started a topic here a while ago disputing that obesity correlated with health issues. So debate may still be possible. Americans are A) living longer than ever before B) fatter than ever before. Could be that #A) is inspite of #B) or it could be that #B) is irrelevant to #A). (Or possibly #B leads to #A but I dont think so, personally).

My personal favorite was "the old wives tale" that athletes need more meat than the rest of us, for top performance. Before it was studied, scientists declared this millenia-old information to be 'an old wives tale' and purely false. Then someone did the study, in the 80's or 90's. Ooops! Turns out that athletes do perform better if they have more protein in their diet than the average person. And then a follow up study and Oh My! Turns out athletes utilize animal-source protein better than other sources of protein. And the old wives walked away chuckling and smiling and polishing their fingernails on their lapels.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I'm a firm believer that the real culprit is simple carbs. Sugar, white flour, potatoes, alcohol.

I find that the French version of Adkins (less severe) works for me and anyone else I've persuaded to try it.

This diet is a regime of eating protein, fats and COMPLEX carbs. Seems to me this is pretty much what our fore bearers ate.

They didn't have refined sugar, white flour or potatoes. They did have alcohol, but probably couldn't afford that much. Or, like most French, drank sparingly.

In any case it certainly works for me.

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I'm a firm believer that the real culprit is simple carbs. Sugar, white flour, potatoes, alcohol.

I find that the French version of Adkins (less severe) works for me and anyone else I've persuaded to try it.

This diet is a regime of eating protein, fats and COMPLEX carbs. Seems to me this is pretty much what our fore bearers ate.

They didn't have refined sugar, white flour or potatoes. They did have alcohol, but probably couldn't afford that much. Or, like most French, drank sparingly.

In any case it certainly works for me.

I'm not too sure. While I enjoyed the NY Times articles tremendously this morning--I always found the anti-fat partisans in America to be ridiculous and annoying--I'm equally skeptical about the new anti-carb camp. And it's always problematic to argue on the basis of what our ancestors supposedly ate, since they also most likely worked in the fields for twelve hours a day, lived on cheap staple crops like potatoes, drank a few liters of coarse homemade wine or beer every day (literally), and died at the ripe old age of 40. If they weren't fat, it was because they were starving or disease-ridden.

It seems clear that the American obesity epidemic started around 1980. True, the USDA food pyramid came out around then. But think back to that time--1980 was a nexus for many different developments, probably all of which have caused waistlines to expand. Before 1980, there were few or no VCRs, no MTV, no cable movie channels, no home video games. If you wanted to watch TV, your choices were pretty much limited to the three networks, PBS, and a couple of static-clogged UHF stations. Widespread use of the Internet was fifteen years away, and even home computers were still a rarity. There were far fewer options for eating out--even the major fast-food chains like McDonalds and Burger King had a fraction of the outlets they have today. There were also very few of the feedbag sit-down chains, with their deep-fried globe onions, 32-ounce steaks and triple-decker chocolate brownie sundaes for dessert. I don't even remember 2-liter soda bottles being too prevalent at the time.

All of that changed drastically over the 1980s and 1990s. Granted, I'm sure that the anti-fat message had something to do with obesity. But I think it's dubious to argue that the onset of low-fat, high-carb processed foods caused the obesity epidemic. Americans weren't getting fat because they were eating sweetened zero-fat yogurt thickened with seaweed gel. They were getting fat because they were eating more than they ever had before, and they were spending more and more time sitting on their expanding butts in front of the TV or at a computer.

Edited by StevenC (log)
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Anyone interested in this debate should read Nourishing Traditions, which details a lot of the way all ancient societies ate.

We live in an era in which the modern food industry, born in 19th-century packinghouses, weaned during WWII and hitting its rebellious stride in the 1950s, has grown into a hungry entity that consumes people as much as we consume it.

Food industry lobby pours billions into politicians, children can indentify Ronald McDonald before they leave the crib, our pores are clogged with corn syrup and we're freebasing rocks of processed white flour cooked with baking soda.

Whether the result of idle time, availability or a decades-long psychological experiment played out in random snippets of Taco Bell, Mountain Dew, Applebees and Dunkin' Donuts commercials, hiding in our subconscious until they unite to form a sort of mentally parasitic Voltron -- we're hard-wired to consume calories now, now and ... now.

You need gas, so what the hell, you're thirsty and why not peek inside the attached convenience store. Next thing you know you're numbly groping one of 1,235 possible items on the ubiquitous and constantly expanding Wall of Beverage. Oh and those jalapeno cheese-filled pretzels by the cash register are warm, so ...

If you work, like many of us, at a place with more than, say, 75 employees, it is often someone's birthday, company anniversary, quitting party, baby shower or gout recovery celebration. Or, someone baked too many batches of peanut butter cookies, or perhaps had a few dozen aluminum trays of Thanksgiving leftovers. So in order to reach your office, you must pass the Filing Cabinet of Highly Processed Edibles.

Vending machines, when you work on deadline, are not as much a means of combating hunger as they are of procrastinating.

From time to time, I have angry epiphanies and vow to cleanse myself of bad eating habits. And I find the only system that works for me is to go whole-food. Stop eating refined sugar. Stop eating white flour (and limit almost any flour, but I do use spelt). Stop drinking calories (OK, except on weekends. Quitting drinking just not worth it). Start eating more plants like fruits and leafy greens. Eat high-quality fats and meat. Ah yes, and steel-cut oats. Don't worry too much about counting calories, but make sure the ones you do consume accompany loads of nutrients.

And when I do this, I shed pounds quickly.

When you kick the factory-foods cycle, the corn syrup, the flour and most of the other modern shortcuts, you do find you're not hungry all the time. You know when you're full. You don't wake up feeling like death in the morning. Your energy levels are balanced.

And yet, with all this positive evidence, I still fall back into the old ways. I blame Grimmace.

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fwiw, I eat almost no processed food. No sodas, no corn syrup that I can think of, no bad cakes, no fast food at all, about 4 beers a week on the average and I'm fat. Not obese, but clearly "robust".

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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Does overweight correlate with increased risk of heart attack? From what I've read, yes. Perhaps because the heart has to work harder at every pump. However, I know someone started a topic here a while ago disputing that obesity correlated with health issues. So debate may still be possible. Americans are A) living longer than ever before B) fatter than ever before.  Could be that #A) is inspite of #B) or it could be that #B) is irrelevant to #A). (Or possibly #B leads to #A but I dont think so, personally).

The reason people are living longer has to do with medicine and sanitation. If everyone also ate well and exercised people would be living even longer. Obesity IS a very bad thing...

I can see it in my own family history... My ancestors who were slim and in good physical health all made it into their late 80's and early 90's. Those who were obese, all died a decade or two earlier... Not to mention obesity has a terrible effect on quality of life in the present, and always leads to more doctor visits, complications, etc...

And fat is not necessarily a bad thing. We do need it. However, excess fat, processed goods, too much processed sugar, etc..., in fact, an excess of pretty much anything is bad. Eat natural, a good variety, and you'll be healthy.

Oh yeah, and lots of exercise. Most people eat far too much food for their level of physical activity.

Edited by Mikeb19 (log)
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BTW, this isn't the first time The New York Times has weighed in on the apparently dubious link between eating fat and getting fat.

In fact, IIRC, the Times' previous widely publicized effort -- a Times Magazine cover story in 2002 suggesting that Dr. Atkins was right after all -- triggered a boomlet in low-carb products. A few of those remain with us today.

Although rancho gordo's experience stands as a cautionary tale, I also suspect that keeping the proportion of highly refined, processed food in your diet to a minimum and especially consuming alcohol and beverages containing sugars in moderation will probably matter more than anything else you do in avoiding obesity.

Anything, that is, but exercise. If you're not doing that, that should be the first change you make before any other -- unless you're obese enough that you should see a doctor first before starting an exercise routine.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Maybe it's not fat that's the problem; it's processed fat or things made with fat. I don't think buttering your veggies is the problem, I think it's eating pastries or whatever that are made with fat. All of those things are overabundant in carbs as well.

I say, eat the succulent fat under the skin of the whole roast pig at that luau, and skip the doughnut.

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Eat the donut, skip the muffin.

Dunkin' Donuts Banana Nut Muffin

Est. Calories: 350

Dunkin Donuts

1 Glazed estimated Calories: 190

1 Jelly-Filled estimated Calories: 205

1 Cinnamon estimated Calories: 260

And for more fun Calorie comparison, click here

Muffins & most other quickbreads get their "moistness" from fat.

Donuts have a lower fat dough, and most of their fat is from the frying.*

Unexpected results like this make it fun. I'm pretty sure that french fries have less fat than the way my good friend prepares his baked potatoes (butter, sourcream and cheddar cheese).

*In the interests of full disclosure, I didnt put my favorite, the apple fritter, up there. Those nifty little bumps and ridges seem to hold a lot more fat than the average donut shaped donut.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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. . . .

It seems clear that the American obesity epidemic started around 1980.

. . . .

Except that there's not much statistical evidence to support the idea that there's an obesity epidemic. Overall, the population has gained a bit of weight, but between 1991 and 2004, the average American gained only six to seven pounds, and skinny people are as skinny as ever. The overall picture is skewed because most of the gain is at the upper end of the range. From Gina Kolata's 2004 article in the New York Times:

Dr. Friedman points to careful statistical analyses of the changes in Americans' body weights from 1991 to today by Dr. Katherine Flegal of the National Center for Health Statistics.

. . . .

Only with the massively obese, the very top of the distribution, is there a substantial increase in weight, about 25 to 30 pounds, Dr. Flegal reported.

There's also impressive research on how effective dieting really is, indicating that perhaps our cultural definition of obesity needs revision. In July 2007, Kolata summarized a series of studies:

The implications were clear. There is a reason that fat people cannot stay thin after they diet and that thin people cannot stay fat when they force themselves to gain weight. The body’s metabolism speeds up or slows down to keep weight within a narrow range. Gain weight and the metabolism can as much as double; lose weight and it can slow to half its original speed.

She goes on to tell about a 1990 study conducted by Dr. Albert Stunkard of the University of Pennsylvania and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, using the gold standard for population studies -- identical twins raised separately:

The identical twins had nearly identical body mass indexes, whether they had been reared apart or together.

. . . .

The researchers concluded that 70 percent of the variation in peoples’ weights may be accounted for by inheritance, a figure that means that weight is more strongly inherited than nearly any other condition, including mental illness, breast cancer or heart disease.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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The twin studies are interesting.

Recently, there's been discussion of identifying "obesogens" - chemicals which have a long term effect on the weight of a mouse. (An exposed mouse gets much fatter than a litter mate which is not exposed). As more information is obtained about these (like whether they matter in people), it would be interesting to correlate exposure potential to national weight charts over time.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Society has changed so much from when I was young it's almost hard to recognize. Fax, cable/satillite, PCs, the internet, e-mail, cellphones - you name it we have it. We've made it easier to work & play and it may have had an unintended consequence, we physically move less. We evolved from a much less sedentary lifestyle. Compare life in 1950 to life in 2007, you may have had grocery stores but you bought meat from a butcher, vegatables from a stand, bread from a bakery, milk was less processed and better for you. Our bodies evolved over thousands of years - our lifesytle has changed markedly in the space of less than 60 without the time to adapt.

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I'm a firm believer that the real culprit is simple carbs. Sugar, white flour, potatoes, alcohol.

I tend to agree. If you look at how we eat those simple carbs it is also usually with loads of fat, or if a low fat version we delude ourselves into thinking we can consume huge portions with no ill effect. Curious as to when you say the French version of Atkins- do you mean an actual plan or a lifestyle or? Did notice a lack of emphasis on white products in your lovely EG blog- what whole grain products do you favor?

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I'm a firm believer that the real culprit is simple carbs. Sugar, white flour, potatoes, alcohol.

I tend to agree. If you look at how we eat those simple carbs it is also usually with loads of fat, or if a low fat version we delude ourselves into thinking we can consume huge portions with no ill effect. Curious as to when you say the French version of Atkins- do you mean an actual plan or a lifestyle or? Did notice a lack of emphasis on white products in your lovely EG blog- what whole grain products do you favor?

French version I was referring to is the Montignac method. I first tried this in 1990 with his book "Dine Out and Lose Weight". I was at 207 lbs when I started, got back to the 180 lbs where I should be in about two months. (Note that I was living in the Uk and traveling around European countries and visiting the States on a regular basis during this time; eating in top restaurants) I pretty much stayed between the 180 & 185 as long as I more or less kept to the method. Several friends who went with Montignac had similar results.

Living in France I'm lucky in that if I want bread I have a choice from any of several bakeries. One makes a 'multi-cereal' that's excellent another a terrific Rye bread.

Fortunately, I don't have much of a sweet tooth so giving up almost all sugar is not a big deal.

Wine, however, is another matter.

After a very indulgent summer I'm over 195 lbs so will get strict with myself at the end of this month. (we have a succession of friends coming to stay over the next couple of weeks so I will continue to eat wrong things & drink more wine than I should) I'll report results just before Thanksgiving.

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I think the key to losing weight is less volume - then you can eat whatever you want. I've lost weight (nearly 30 lbs) through eating virtuous foods and exercising vigorously, but gained almost all of it back. Then I tried eating only when I was hungry and stopping when I was full, which results in a lot less volume. Again, I lost about 30 lbs, and 3 years later, I think I've gained about 3 pounds back. It's pretty easy too - no foods are off limits and I'm never hungry but not "allowed" to eat.

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Very interesting article!

At this point in my proceedings, I'm exceedingly sceptical of labeling any nutrient "bad" or "good" -- either fats or carbs. (Interesting that nobody's declared protein to be "bad" yet!)

What I'm finding much more helpful is to consider each food's unique nutritional benefits and drawbacks, including its relative nutritional density compared to other food choices. For instance, a very basic consideration is that fat supplies 9 calories per gram, while protein and carbohydrate both come in at 4 calories per gram. In other words, fat is more than twice the caloric "hit" of protein or carbohydrate per unit weight. That's not a values judgement--it's a hard fact, that needs to be reckoned with when choosing how to allocate one's daily calorie allotment in a weight loss scheme.

Against that, though, one must consider that fat is indeed a necessary nutrient--not only as fuel but for other important metabolic functions (for instance, I find it pretty awesome to consider all the different roles omega-3 fatty acids play in the body).

And then there's all of fat's roles in satiety, carrying of flavor, and making many traditional and beloved foods look and taste "right" -- ignoring these roles won't mess with your nutrition per se, but they can definitely mess with your head, which is not conducive to staying on a weight loss routine.

So I guess we're kind of back at "everything in moderation," then, aren't we? :biggrin:

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Let's not forget or ignore the role human genetics plays in this. My dad (actually my step-dad, no blood relation) was skinny as a rail his whole life. My mom and I, well, Rubenesque, zaftig, *healthy* come to mind as adjectives for our build. Pretty much we ate the same things, if anything, Mom tried to slip extra fats into Daddy's snacks and lunches because he was so thin. Never worked. Mom & I, we'd gain weight just looking at the stuff. She'd make Daddy a milk shake with whole CREAM for dessert, he'd love it, and never gain an ounce. We got it by osmosis from being in the same room.

All of Daddy's family were tall and thin. All of Mom's were tall and stout. Her mother, father, sister and brother all qualified as heavy. I don't know much about my birth father's family, but the pictures I have of him show a body type pretty similar to Mom's.

I'm certainly not saying that if I ate less sweets and carbs, drank less wine, and exercised more I wouldn't be a thinner person. Not at all. But I do believe I have a genetic predisposition to be heavier than average, based on my familial history.

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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A good read. I kinda wonder, though, is this article about diet, or anthropogenic global warming?

Edited to clarify: I see parallels between the atmosphere and factors he describes that cascaded to the point that we all "knew" that fat in our diets was going to kill us, and the anthropogenic global warming crusade: the politician champion, media support, the opinions of dissenters discounted because of the source of their funding, and fact determined by consensus.

The similarities seem so obvious to me that the fact he doesn't outright compare the two makes me wonder if there isn't a message intended. Or maybe not.

Edited by Dignan (log)
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Maybe it's an inexorable process in which we cavalierly change (subtract nutrients from, add chemicals to) a natural diet into one we can't live on or with. I don't think that's what you meant by anthropogenic but perhaps it could be considered so.

I think people are killing themselves by taking fat out of their diet. I think we could eat lots more fat and be healthier for it, but the fat cannot have hormones and antibiotics in it, must be from healthy animals. Perhaps that's impossible at this point.

On the other hand we could eat lots of good fat, and if it was poured over biscuits or potatoes, it would be lethal.

It's very interesting when people talk about making school lunches healthier their aim is always to make them low-fat. We're killing our kids. We don't know anything about what's healthy.

The more fat we eat and the fewer refined carbohydrates, the better shape iwe're in, the more our weight is normalized, the happier and more energetic we are, and the higher our HDL cholesterol is. Those are all good things.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Eat the donut, skip the muffin.

Dunkin' Donuts Banana Nut Muffin

Est. Calories: 350

Dunkin Donuts

1 Glazed estimated Calories:  190

1 Jelly-Filled estimated Calories:  205

1 Cinnamon estimated Calories:  260

My brother is still annoyed with me for 'ruining' his In N Out experience by pointing out that his mere beverage of choice had a bit more calories than the "real" food of the meal:

double-double: 670 cal

chocolate shake: 690 cal (ouch!)

http://www.in-n-out.com/nutritional_info.asp

I still take my Double Double protein style, but I will definitely concede that it is not the same experience as the soft pillowy bun.... *sigh*

"You can't taste the beauty and energy of the Earth in a Twinkie." - Astrid Alauda

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Food Lovers' Guide to Santa Fe, Albuquerque & Taos: OMG I wrote a book. Woo!

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I weigh 230 and recently had to have a heart valve replaced - they always prep you with an angiogram, to see if your arteries are clogged as well- and if they are, they do two operations on one cut. My doc was absolutely sure that I'd have to have at least one by-pass done. However, the angiogram showed no plaque buildup at all. Now, even I find this amazing, since I've never shied away from foods with high fat content - in fact our butter use is probably about 2 lbs a week. I should be the doomsayer's prime example, but apparently my arteries are lined with teflon.

Conclusion? This issue is obviously much more complex than many would have us believe.

jm

John Murren, aka Forest Gleaner

######

"Self-respect: the secure feeling

that no one, as yet, is suspicious."

H.L. Mencken

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Ok. I'm going to put this to the test.

On Thursday, November 1st I'm going to start a diet.

In my case it will be the Montignac Method. This is a no simple carb diet that I know from past experience works for me.

You can read about my plans and see my daily progress on my Blog.

I invite anyone who cares to to diet along with me by any method they feel comfortable with.

NOT a competition, more a mutual support group. I feel that by going 'public' I'll have more incentive to stick with it.

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