Photo Food Journal: Intermittent Fasting Food

November 27, 2013

Note to readers: this post contains information about my experience with intermittent fasting. If you think this type of post might bother you, please skip it. My intention is to share my journey. That said, you can also feel free to express your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you!

[Editor's note: please see my comments at the end of this post about the update on my fasting experiment].

Hi there and welcome to another round of What I Ate Wednesdays (WIAW). As I mentioned in my WIAW post last week, my meals have changed recently as I’m experimenting with intermittent fasting for health reasons and weight management. I thought this might be a good way to briefly share what I’ve learned so far and also show what some of my food days are looking like now.

You might recall that I wrote about intermittent fasting (IF) a bit last spring. I tried it for several weeks and it worked really well for me in terms of weight management, but I stopped when I felt it triggered some old binge-eating habits. Since then, I’ve done a lot of work on my overall stress management and emotional health and felt like it was worth trying again.

The science on catabolism and insulin sensitivity is fascinating and I’ll likely be putting together some future posts on this topic. And, since I believe in putting things out to the universe, I’m making the bold statement that if there is any chance of me writing a book (several of you have suggested that to me and I can’t tell you how amazing that makes me feel), then some sort of a high-nutrient, plant-based diet program incorporating intermittent fasting or a more personal book on my experience is what I want to write about.

Besides being super effective for weight management, the largely-anecdotal research I’ve done on IF and disordered eating is really hopeful including my own personal experience. Again, I know this is a very sensitive subject and it’s probably controversial to say that not eating is helping me with my emotional eating, but that is what has happened for me.

I also want to take a brief moment to say that my disordered eating has nothing to do with my veganism. I started binge eating when I was about 9 or 10 during a very stressful time with my family. The behavior continued throughout my young adult life and was primarily focused on sugar and candy. Although some people may use dietary restrictions to justify their eating disorders, there are absolutely plenty of healthy reasons to consider veganism, primarily animal welfare, which was the driving force behind my decision to adopt a vegan lifestyle just over three years ago.

So you are probably curious to know what I’m eating now? I’m following the Fast-5 program as outlined by Bert Herring, M.D. The essence is that you eat your day’s worth of calories within a 5-hour eating “window” and then fast for 19 hours. It might be helpful to point out that most of us fast for at least 12 hours a day between dinner and breakfast, so this adds on 7 more hours to the catabolism phase when we are not eating calories and using stored energy for fuel.

What has happened for me is that I eat slightly bigger breakfasts and lunch meals and then skip dinner. I’ll show you some of my typical day’s worth of food below. Many people using this program eat later in the day, like from 5 to 10 p.m. I’m an early bird, though, so I’ve adapted it to fit my needs. As long as all calories are consumed within 5 hours, then it’s considered Fast-5.

I’ve found that this is a very easy way for me to maintain my weight, because I am only eating when I am truly hungry. Any weight loss I have had has been at a very slow pace. I have been at a stable body weight, plus or minus five pounds, for about a year now, so I am focused more on weight maintenance now than weight loss. The absolute best part of this program has been overcoming my emotional eating tendencies by putting some limits on when I eat.

Again, I hope to write more about this in the future, plus how I navigate the program when I travel or have social engagements. With the guidance of some other Fast-5ers, I’ve tried extending the eating window to 8 hours on days when I’m away from home and that seems to work pretty well. Also, it could be that this is a phase that I’m going through, but I’ll keep you updated on what’s happening.

Now, onto the food! Some of these pictures are new, some you’ve seen before.

My mornings still almost always start with a green smoothie bowl topped with cocoa powder, cacao nibs, and dehydrated buckwheat groats:

Green smoothie bowl with buckwheat groats, cocoa powder, and cacao nibs

Here’s another version:

Green smoothie with buckwheat groats

I am so happy that pomegranates are now in season; my smoothies now include the fresh arils:

Kale and pomegranate smoothie

I also like a mug of homemade Chocolate Mint Tea or DandyBlend to warm up after a cold breakfast and before I head to the gym:

DandyBlend

Since I’m only eating two meals and fewer overall calories when I’m following Fast-5, there is a heavier burden to make sure I’m getting all the nutrients I need (I still, after all, follow Dr. Fuhrman’s high-nutrient dietary guidelines). So, my second meal is usually a combination of raw and cooked vegetables, plus a protein source like tempeh, beans, or tofu, with some sort of fruit-based dessert.

Here are some pictures of some of my second meals of the day:

A crockpot dish of butternut squash and other veggies served over greens with chopped onions and homemade non-dairy yogurt:

Roasted veggies with onion and non-dairy yogurt from Carrie on Vegan.

Mock Tuna Salad served with avocado, onion, and Paprika Corn Crackers over salad greens:

Mock Tuna Salad with Corn Crackers on greens from Carrie on Vegan.

Cooked beans served with black rice, salsa, onions, and non-dairy yogurt with a corn tortilla:

Roasted veggies, black rice, onions, and non-dairy yogurt served on a corn tortilla.

Salad greens served with hummus, carrots, onion, jicama, and pineapple guava:
Salad with hummus and pineapple guava for lunch.

Baked kabocha squash served with quinoa and water-sauteed collard greens, tofu, and onions with persimmons:
Kabocha squash, quinoa, collard, and tofu serve with persimmons.

Although sometimes I can get away with having fruit for dessert, more often than not I’ve been ending my meal with a dessert like my Sweet Potato Pudding from yesterday:

Sweet Potato Pudding

Dessert hummus served with sliced apple is another favorite:

Dessert hummus with apple

I made a Sweet Kale Dip using almond butter and dried fruit recently that I served with chopped veggies and an apple. I’ve been too embarrassed to show you the picture until now. It’s disgusting-looking, I know, but it tasted awesome. The recipe needs some tweaking and I need to photograph it in a way that doesn’t make it look like baby you-know-what. So, let’s just say this it’s a work in progress:

Sweet green dip with veggies

If I find I’m hungrier later in the day, an herbal tea usually does the trick to get me past any passing desire to eat:

Tea from Trader Joe's

The natural question at this point I suppose would be, why not just eat three or more smaller meals throughout the day? My answer to that is that at this point in my life, perhaps because of my background of binge-eating, the “off” switch for eating is hard to control and it’s actually easier for me to eat bigger, fewer meals than to stop eating when I’m not really full.

I’m not sure if this is related, but I was intrigued by this video from Dr. Greger last week that discussed how fatty foods can cause a dampening of the dopamine pathway in the brain. It’s funny because the therapy program that I’ve been working with promotes natural pleasures that release dopamine such as going for a walk, appreciating the sunrise, or connecting with a friend. This is another topic of great interest to me that I’ll be addressing more in the future.

Conclusion:

That’s it! I’m very curious to know what you think of this post. How does it make you feel? Do you identify with my experimentation with fasting? Talk to me, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Again, apologies for the weird timing on the post about fasting right before Thanksgiving. Maybe it makes sense, though, to connect food with energy as opposed to comfort and think about holidays in terms of being thankful for the wonderful parts of our lives and not an excuse to eat outside of our limits? For those celebrating tomorrow, may you have a day filled with love and gratitude. Thank you for reading and for all the support you have given me. I am truly thankful to be able to pursue my interest in health and wellness and to connect with all of you through my blog and writings.

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And, if you have an iPhone or iPad, be sure to download my recipe app, Vegan Delish, featuring over 145 healthy, whole food recipes.

[Editor's note: hi everyone. This is an update from 12/4/13. I thought it was only fair to say that I'm not actively practicing the 5-hour fasting experiment anymore. While I found the program and IF to be really helpful in re-discovering my appetite, it does seem to be too restrictive for me to continue long term. That's not to say I don't think there are incredible benefits to fasting and that I won't practice it occasionally, but a more moderate approach to eating based on my hunger is the evolution of my routine. If you have any question, please feel free to e-mail me: carrieonveganATgmailDOTcom and thank you for your support].

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Carla November 27, 2013 at 7:21 am

I’ve read that intermittent fasting can be dangerous for females. Most of the studies done have been with young males, and something about the female metabolism doesn’t jive with fasting? Have you heard anything about that?

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Carrie November 27, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Great question, Carla! I’ve heard about fasting affecting female hormones negatively, although since I have a history of PCOS, I have actually had the opposite experience. I do know that fasting is NOT recommended for those trying to get pregnant or who are pregnant. I would be very interested to learn about how fasting affects normal, healthy women and their hormone levels. If I pursue writing a book about this topic, I will definitely add this to my topics to research. :)

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Deb November 27, 2013 at 7:32 am

I’m doing IF, too, to kick me off my plateau. I feel really clear and alert. I stretched my.wimdow an hour also while on a short vacation away, with a glass of wine, but still keeping to it.

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Carrie November 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Hi Deb! Great to hear from someone else using IF successfully. I like the idea of stretching the window. I tried 8 hours last weekend and it was too long, I overate just because I felt like I could. I may try 6 hours this coming weekend and see if that works better for me.

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Geoffrey Levens November 27, 2013 at 9:10 am

This is a bit long but it is a FB post where Dr Herring directly addresses the womens’ issues w/ intermittent fasting–

Bert Herring It’s important to keep an open mind, but when it comes to lab animals, men are much more similar to women than rats or mice. They are different, of course, and one can see from reports here that not only are men different from women, but women are different from women — two women do the same thing and have vastly different results. Why? Different genes, different epigenetics, different environments, different food choices, different activities, different bodies, different brains. That’s why I encourage “the study of one” — experimenting to find one’s best options — for your body in your environment. Glucose is easily tested at home, and I would balance that with periodic HbA1Cs, because decreased muscle uptake of glucose because they’re burning fat instead may make glucose have higher transient swings than one sees on a usual diet while the average level may be higher or lower over time. Like most things, fasting obviously shows the phenomenon of hormesis — a little is good, but the extreme is starvation, obviously bad. In the same way, a little water is good, but too much can be lethal. What the ideal interval is remains to be seen, but people have to be doing different things for a long time for researchers to be able to sort out what does what. I also keep in mind that lab animals are not normal animals (they’re inbred in almost all studies) and they are not in normal environments — rats and mice are kept in little cages, usually without room to roam, and fed food that is unlike the diet of their wild kin, but exactly the same with every feeding.
So, while studies may make us think, I maintain that the best source of info is what’s going on in our own bodies, in our own environment, with our own food choices. We have the technology to know that know, so I think we should collect this information (glucose, HbA1c, blood pressure, etc.) and use it to find our personal best approach. When a change makes one value get better and another worse, such as when glucose goes up and bp goes down — it’s a very tough call as to which is better in the long run, and the preferable route may be guided by personal and family history. Maybe when lots of people have done different things for decades, we’ll be able to sift through it all and get better guidelines for what’s best. The only thing that’s clear now is that the current way of eating in the current environment with the current food choices results in an unhealthy outcome for the majority of people.

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Linda5sons December 4, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Thanks for posting this, Geoffrey! Very good information. And Carrie, great post from you, too (as usual).

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Geoffrey Levens December 4, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Re-reading Dr Herrring”s comments I just remembered reading somewhere that men and women are more closely related genetically to chimps than to each other due to the X/Y chromosome thing if I remember correctly. Funny that!

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Carrie December 4, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Oh wow, how funny. That explains SO MUCH and might be the answer to all of life’s problems, ha ha. :)

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Geoffrey Levens November 27, 2013 at 9:13 am

Carrie, great post. Inspiring. I have been doing F-5 for about 6 weeks and have found very dramatic reduction in inflammation that has plagued me for years as well as improved insulin response. Plus I lost the last few pounds of secret visceral fat I tend to carry and have found no way to get rid of without losing a lot of muscle along with. The intermittent fasting solved that!

And by the way, your photos of your meals/foods…WOW!!!! Makes me want to eat what you eat! Yummmmmmmmmmmt!!!!!!

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Carrie November 27, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Hi Geoffrey! Thank you so much for the words of support and for the other comment re: Dr. Herring’s thoughts on fasting and females. I have followed your progress closely on the Fuhrman forums and am thrilled to read about your success. You made me smile when you mentioned your “secret” visceral fat. I have also found that IF is helping mobilize my stored fat in my thighs and abdomen (not so secret, ha ha), but the feeling of having a stable blood sugar (and much less moodiness and crankiness) and actually enjoying the sensation of hunger and eating makes it all worthwhile. Okay, okay, having my clothes fit better and feeling more confident in my appearance is also pretty cool. Keep up the great work and please do keep writing about your experience, it helps keep me going.

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mberkovitz November 27, 2013 at 9:20 am

Your book idea is fabulous. I think there are some real synergies in combining Nutritarian eating with intermittent fasting, and the implications for recovering from disordered eating are fascinating. Add something on exercising in the fasted state, and I think your book will get a LOT of attention.

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Carrie November 27, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Thanks!!! Co-author? :)

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Stacy November 27, 2013 at 9:48 am

Hi Carrie,
I’d be interested in knowing how you are going to handle Thanksgiving tomorrow with IF? Thanks for all the info you put out there. It has opened a whole other world for me to explore that I would not have otherwise known about.

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Carrie November 27, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Hi Stacy! Great question. My husband and I will eat our Thanksgiving meal within my 5-hour eating window. I discussed it with him and he was fine with it. If we were spending the day with friends or family, it would be much, much trickier for me and I would probably adjust my eating window so I could enjoy a meal with others. I’m still figuring it all out so I’m sure there will be learning experiences along the way, kind of like when I first went vegan or followed Dr. Fuhrman’s program and had to learn how to cook all over again. :)

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anonymous November 27, 2013 at 11:14 am

This fascinates me! I have done no research on IF, and had never heard of Fast-5, but I have a very long history of emotional/binge eating and my weight has run the gamut from obese to skinny. I am currently at a healthy, happy weight, and the way I maintain it is basically following this premise, although I didn’t know it! I don’t eat breakfast, and the entirety of my daily food intake is between 12 noon and around 6pm. I stick to only two meals, no snacking, and I am largely a vegetarian although not officially. I eat small amounts of chicken or maybe a few eggs for protein, but 90% of my food intake is vegetables. This has been very successful in maintaining my weight and I feel healthy and in control.

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Carrie November 27, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Thanks for this note! I heard Dr. Fuhrman once say that most women only need two meals a day to maintain a lean body mass, so it does seem natural to eat this way.

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Lauren November 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Hi Carrie,

I use the intermittent fasting technique as well (occasionally). I read about it Tim Ferris’s book. I usually do a 16/8 time frame (16 hours fasting). I actually find it helps with my allergies, and I do notice a difference in my digestion as well. It’s neat to read about your experience with it, and I hope you continue to write about it! :-) Have a great Thanksgiving!

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Carrie November 27, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Thanks for the note, Lauren! I’ll check out the book you referenced, I haven’t really done much research other than the Fast-5 book. I notice a direct impact on my mood when I follow the program, it’s pretty amazing. I have had much less hunger than I anticipated and I’m thrilled to have found a way to enjoy my food and not have the guilt from overeating. You have a great Thanksgiving, too! Xoxo!

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CJ November 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Carrie,

Thank you for writing about IF. I have been excited about Fast-5 and implemented it into my lifestyle on September 1, of this year. I have a history of binge eating which was really out of control when I began Fast-5. The cravings and binge eating immediately ceased and I have not had a binge or cravings since. To have that under control is worth sticking with the program. And, I love the feeling of the fasting part of my day and being in control of my choices,for the first time in most of my entire life.

I’m still not sure of the mechanics, whys and wherefores, and look forward to you sorting all of this out for me in future writings.

Again, thanks for this exciting topic.

CJ

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Carrie November 28, 2013 at 6:27 am

Thanks for the note, CJ, and for sharing your experience. I have had almost the same journey, although controlling my desire to binge before my eating window closes is still something I struggle with. Having the discipline of sticking to the 5-hours and some sort of limits to when I eat has been enormously helpful, though. Also, I think keeping my insulin levels lower with the fasting has helped my overall mood. I always feel so clear after my daily fast, it’s really incredible.

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marfigs November 28, 2013 at 3:54 am

This is a very interesting notion – I find that, because I try to consume low quantities of starches and other easy “fillers”, I have to constantly eat every 2-3 hours to maintain focus and aid my blood pressure (which dips below 60 rather regularly and leaves me beyond woozy), not to mention reach a minimum daily calorie intake. I don’t know that I’d be able to eat myself “stable” in those 5 hours a day! Do you find you get cranky outside your eating time period, or that you get distracted? I see some comments about more energy and stable blood sugars, but I guess every body is different!

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Carrie November 28, 2013 at 6:30 am

Great questions! I know this type of program definitely isn’t for everyone. I have a feeling that it works better for people who are binge eaters or who don’t feel full on smaller, more frequent meals. That’s just my experience. I had a transition period where I was getting cranky during my fasting phase (and found it hard to concentrate during the last hours before eating), but now I feel just fine and, actually, feel my best ever. :)

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Emma November 28, 2013 at 10:48 am

This was a really interesting post Carrie and I’m so glad this new routine is working for you. Lauren’s comment about improved digestion is encouraging me to perhaps give it a try myself. Poor digestion is something that has plagued me for what seems like forever and I have also read elsewhere that giving your system a chance to do its thing with a decent amount of time in between meals can improve things.

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Carrie November 29, 2013 at 6:55 am

Thanks, Emma! I would love to hear about your experience with intermittent fasting and digestion. I have heard there are benefits, especially for those suffering from disorders. You might want to check out some other resources on the topic and see what others have to say. :)

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Libby Oed November 28, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Hey =)
I am just the opposite! I eat 8 meals a day. Feeling overly full is a huge trigger for me to keep eating and binge. I haven’t done any research into the health implications but having to eat so much in such a short period of time sounds so uncomfortable to me that I honestly don’t really care! I am really glad that you have found something that works for you. I am happy with the way I eat to though. It works for me!
Hope you have a great thanksgiving!
Libby =)

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Carrie November 29, 2013 at 6:53 am

Thanks for the note, Libby! I’m glad my post didn’t make you feel weird and your comment made me think about how each of us has to figure out what works for us. Thanksgiving was nice and relaxing for me which is exactly what I needed! How about you? :)

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Libby Oed November 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Yeah we are all so different and there are so many different ways to be healthy! It is crazy when any one person thinks that they have the answer that will work for everyone. As long as you are eating enough and getting a variety of nutrients I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to eat. Your thanksgiving sounds amazing. I live in New Zealand and we don’t actually celebrate it here. Next year I think I might do a dinner with my friends though. I know it wouldn’t have the same cultural or historical significance but I like the idea of just getting together with people and celebrating all that we are thankful for. Plus an excuse to cook and eat an incredible meal is never a bad thing! Though the menu will have to be modified a bit since it is spring over here and some of the ingredients aren’t available. I love the idea of your dessert hummus! It sounds incredible! I have never had macca powder before. What is it? And if I can’t get it do you think it would work without it? Thanks so much for your help! =)

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Carrie November 29, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Hi there! Maca is a superfood, it’s good for energy, but I like it just for the malty flavor. You can def leave it out in this recipes, but you might need to slightly reduce the liquid in the dessert hummus recipe, or just add a bit more of the other flavors.

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Libby Oed November 29, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Sounds delicious! Thank you so much for all your advice! Can I ask you a question please? You say that you have struggled with binging. Do you think that putting rules around your eating helps? I am dealing with the same thing but I find that rules only help in the short term and then I get board and it makes it worse and I have to make even stricter ones. Then the cycle just continues. Does this happen to you, and if not is there anything you do that helps?

Rebecca M December 1, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Sorry I’m so late to comment! I really am so thrilled for you that you gave this another go and are experiencing such more positive results/feelings this time around. I’m happy for you, my friend :) <3

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Danielle December 2, 2013 at 2:46 pm

hi there, I am fascinated by your IF experience. i just started doing a weekly 24 hour fast on monday’s, it’s my 4th week, and so far it’s fine. i have a binge history as well, we are so similar it’s quite amazing. anyhow, i suppose i’m a bit hesitant about the fast 5 due to my physical activity – several months of the year i train heavily for long distance events so i’m working out a ton. is this okay for athletes, even amateur ones? i really like what i’ve read about it and it would be so “freeing” to know i just have 5 hours of eating to deal with :)

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Carrie December 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Hi Danielle! Thanks for the comment. That’s a great question regarding fasting and physical activity. Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer! I would recommend joining the Fast-5 Facebook group and you can ask the doctor or other members there. What I have enjoyed the most about fasting is the clear headed feeling I get, I think because my blood sugar is more stabilized now.

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Danielle December 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm

That is really awesome, blood sugar is my biggest issue as well :) I’m excited for you and to see what I learn!
xox

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Paula December 5, 2013 at 5:40 pm

I think this post was most interesting. I am working on getting healthy. This may be something I would like to look into further.

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Carrie November 30, 2013 at 6:50 am

Hi Libby! Great question and I think you have probably identified a common cycle with overeating. I think you might be right that the rules help at first, but then the rules have to get stricter unless something else changes. I find that the urge to binge happens no matter what program I’m following. So, I’m also working on the mental health aspect with a professional therapist and would encourage you to look into getting some additional help. I will add some resources on my blog, based on your comment. I want to make sure that I can point people in the right direction. One of the books that some of my friends have found very helpful is called Brain Over Binge. Thank you for the note. Xoxo.

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Libby Oed November 30, 2013 at 11:50 am

It is so interesting how similar peoples experiences are inspite of the fact we come from different cultures and parts of the world. Thank you so much for your advice! I will look at getting the book you have suggested and getting some additional help.

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