Program of Attraction

The weight is coming off quickly now and people are taking notice. I won’t lie, it’s flattering when someone comments on my progress, but it kinda messes with my head too.  If I’m not careful, I’ll get a false sense of security, and that my friends will give the devil a foothold and there is no way I want to play footsy with that con artist ever again!

The best part of the attention is when someone asks for advice.  I am by no means an authority on weight loss… weight gain maybe, but not weight loss. Actually, I know how to lose weight, I just can’t keep it off – whenever I lose it, I find it again with interest. Regardless of which direction I’m going on the scale, I am an experienced traveler on the diet highways and byways, so I guess that gives me some credibility when people ask for directions on their journey.

I’ve tried countless programs before conducting my experiment last year, when I tested 12 diets in 12 months, but it wasn’t until I committed to a Twelve-Step program for food addiction in February, that people noticed a shift in me that goes beyond the scale… that is what people are attracted to, and that is what they want for themselves.

Initially, people are disappointed to learn I haven’t discovered the magic pill that melts away the pounds, or scored a Get Out Of Diet Jail Free card. Nevertheless, they listen attentively when I tell them about what my new program has done for me. While not everyone is a food addict, the principals of the program are sound for anyone wanting to regain a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

Many of those who have approached me in the last few months have also decided to abstain from flour and sugar and they’re seeing great results.  I love getting updates from them after they step on the scale… “I’m down 5 lbs. this week!”, or “I’m starting to feel better.”, or when they send photos of their abstinent meals…

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Although I have yet to arrive at my destination, this journey has been worth it on so many levels. Thank you for your support along the way, and no matter how busy I am, I will always make the time to help those of you searching for your after.

And The Winner Is…

I want to thank all of you for your words of encouragement and support throughout this experiment. Being accountable to you during 12 in 12 helped me stay the course, and for that I am truly grateful. The objective of the experiment was to find the right diet for me, and I believe I have done just that.

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I doubt I would have come to my conclusion had I not tested a variety of plans. Each offered clues to what my body liked and disliked, and what practices I’d commit to given my lifestyle.  The experiment also helped me identify areas of imbalance, such as not getting sufficient rest, and ignoring the mental, emotional, and spiritual issues that led to me becoming obese in the first place.

Throughout the experiment, I was asked several questions, but two came up repeatedly – how do you stop cravings, and what diet works best? If I had the answer to the first question, I’d be rich! Personally, whenever I tested plans that had me eliminate sugar from my diet my cravings subsided dramatically.  As for which diet worked best, the answer varied depending if you meant which one gave me the best results on the scale (Answer: Paleo), or if you meant digestively (Answer: Whole Food, Plant-Based), or for my lifestyle (Answer: the ones that kept it simple). What I can say with certainty is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ diet because we are all different.

When I started this journey, I thought I would find the answer by simply connecting the dots.

Connecting the Polka DotsInstead, I found the answer where the dots interconnected based on the criteria I valued most.

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Therefore, the winner of the experiment is not any one diet entirely, rather a combination of several plans that resonated with me. I call my personalized plan, THE BEST OF THE BEST, and this is what it will look like.

Meal Plan

My body responded best to Paleo on the scale, but my heart, conscience, and digestive system wants to be Whole Food, Plant-Based (WFPB).  As contrary as that sounds, I will be doing both, the term for which is FLEXITARIAN – go figure!

Therefore, I will:

  • Adhere to Paleo’s protocol of not consuming grains, dairy, or legumes when I eat animal proteins.
  • Aim to have a WFPB meal at dinner, allowing me to digest more efficiently before bedtime.
  • Snacks will primarily be fruits, nuts, and seeds.
  • Both Paleo and WFPB omit dairy and flour, which is doable for me, as I do not tolerate them well.
  • I won’t be weighing and measuring my food – it’s not always practical, and I hated doing it. I will however, gauge portion sizes using the hand technique.

Hand measuring

What about sugar?

When I tested plans that had me cut sugar (Twelve-Step Program for Food Addiction, Paleo, WFPB) I saw tremendous benefits. I stopped getting hot flashes, my cravings subsided, and I was able to taste the subtleties in foods again. However, diets anchored in ‘always’ or ‘never’ are my downfall, leading me on a self-destructive path of binges and regret – I feel like I failed, and ultimately fall off the diet bandwagon.

Therefore, when it comes to sugar I will:

  • Allow myself one teaspoon of sugar in my morning coffee.
  • Adopt the practice of enjoying one or two desserts a week, like in The Mediterranean Diet. This way I won’t feel deprived, and will be less likely to binge.

Rest

As someone who suffers from insomnia, I know firsthand that a tired body doesn’t burn calories as well as a rested body.

Therefore, I will:

  • Aim to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night by continuing with The Hormone Diet’s protocol of powering down devices 2 hours before bed.
  • Refrain from eating after 7 PM, not only to aid digestion, but to recharge my cells.

Supplements

Several plans recommended supplements, however, The Gabriel Method’s regimen worked best for me.

Therefore, I will take:

  • One probiotic daily
  • Two digestive enzymes with breakfast
  • Omega-3 once a day
  • One multi-vitamin (that includes vitamin E) and a multi-mineral.
  • In addition, I take Vitamin D during the winter months.

Exercise

If I were grading my efforts during 12 in 12, I’d flunk myself when it came to exercise. I only incorporated regular physical activity when I tested The Biggest Loser and The 8-Hour Diet; otherwise, it was hit or miss. I think it’s because I hate the monotony of the machines at the gym.

Therefore, I will:

  • Channel my inner child and start playing again. Along with getting my 10,000 steps in a day, I’m going to participate in fun activities like hula hooping, jumping on my mini-trampoline, belly dancing, and going for walks along the lake to keep me active.

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I don’t want to dread exercise, I want to look forward to it. Hmmm, maybe the next phase of the journey will have me testing various exercise plans!

Feeding My Mind and Spirit

Lastly, the mental, emotional, and spiritual lessons I tackled in the last quarter of 12 in 12 had the biggest impact on me. That’s why my customized plan will devote the same amount of time for soul work as for physical activity. I must exercise both for optimal health!

Therefore, I will:

  • Delve deeper into Marianne Williamson’s A Course In Weight Loss. Taking my time to work through the 21 spiritual lessons.
  • Continue with the meditation and visualization exercises from The Gabriel Method. However, I will be recording my own morning and evening tapes, personalizing them for my needs.

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And so my friends, this concludes 12 in 12. However, the journey continues! I invite you to join me in the new year here on Searching For My After, where I will continue with The Best Of The Best chronicling my next step towards a happier, healthier me. SIZE 10 HERE I COME!!!!

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What A Difference A Year Makes

A year ago today, repulsed at my 253.8 lbs. self, I decided to give dieting one last try – I vowed to get to my goal weight once and for all, or resign myself to a life of stretchy pants.  Equipped with an album full of before photos and a library bursting with diet books all proclaiming to have the solution to my plus-sized problem, I set off on a quest for my after shot, which has eluded me in the last three decades of searching.

As with any expedition, I needed a guide to help me navigate along the way. In my case, I enlisted twelve such experts in the past year, each claiming they knew the route to the size 10 Shangri-La that my size 22 self, sought. Each guide took me through the scenic and diverse landscape of the diet and exercise world – some covering familiar territory, others foreign.


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Month 1 – Tosca Reno, creator of The Start Here Diet asked me to (1) dive inward and identify my emotional triggers for overeating, (2) uncover my hidden foods and eliminate them, and (3) ease into exercising by moving a little.


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Month 2 – I attended weekly Weight Watchers meetings and used their unique accounting system, which assigned a point value to food and exercise. Everything had to be weighed, measured, and tracked, before I could eat it.


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Month 3 – Paleo channelled my inner CaveMare and had me eating like my hairy knuckled, grunting forefathers did before me. Brontosaurs burgers – good. Grains, dairy, legumes – bad.


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Month 4 – In his plan Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type, Dr. Peter D’Adamo categorized the foods and exercises for each of the four blood types as either beneficial, neutral, or avoid. My ‘O’ blood type meant saying au revoir to crispy bacon and my morning cup of joe.


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Month 5 – The Mediterranean Diet had me returning to my cultural roots, enjoying unprocessed foods and beverages from Italy and the surrounding region, as well as incorporating simple daily activity, like walking, and social interaction to boost mental and emotional health.


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Month 6 – I joined forces with the beautiful and inspiring Michelle Riccio of Tit Happens, who coached me through the Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet. We ate ‘face-free’, unprocessed, unrefined, nutrient rich fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats.


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Month 7 – My friend and fitness trainer, Nikki Kamphuis, got me moving when I tested The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start program, which models the hit show’s format of eating a 1,500 calories a day, coupled with daily exercise.


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Month 8 – The creators of The 8-Hour Diet, had me watching the clock, stating I could eat whatever I wanted within an 8 hour period, so long as I ‘ate my eight’, and started my day with a minimum of 8 minutes of exercise.  Outside of these 8 hours, I had to fast.


marilina-chibi-hormone-paleo 001Month 9 – Toronto’s own Dr. Natasha Turner claimed I could optimize my fat burning potential with The Hormone Diet. I went to her clinic for one-on-one care and was given a customized a food and supplement plan which addressed my hormone imbalances, as well as my unbearable hot flashes.


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Month 10 – I attended weekly meeting at various Twelve Step Programs for Food Addicts, a fellowship that has members abstain from addictive foods containing flour, wheat, and sugar.


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Month 11 – Jon Gabriel, creator of The Gabriel Method guided me through visualization and meditation exercises claiming they would turn off my FAT Programs.


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Month 12 – In A Course In Weight Loss, I worked through Marianne Williamson’s 21 spiritual lessons designed to address compulsive overeating by replacing fear with love.


I want to thank all my guides for navigating me to today’s weigh-in. In the past year they’ve helped me cover more ground than any previous attempt, bringing me closer to taking my after photo, which up until now, seemed as plausible as taking a selfie with Sasquatch.

When I stepped on the scale this morning, my eager little fat cells cried, “Are we there yet?! Are we there yet?!”

“At 195.2 lbs. No. Not yet, but we are halfway to after”, I replied. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s great! The point of 12 in 12 was to test a variety of diet claims to see which worked best for my body and my lifestyle.

What A Difference A Year Makes!

In my next post, I will share just how my body responded to each plan, and which I will I continue with for the rest of this journey… and look at that, just in time for resolution season!

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A big thank you to the talented Jennifer Wood for taking my final before and halfway to after photos, the gifted Nathan C. Younger for his fabulous illustrations, and the compassionate Ann DeLuca, my life coach, who help me work through the last quarter of the experiment, which delved into the mental, emotional, and spiritual landscape of this journey.

If you enjoyed this post, or found my yearlong experiment interesting, please share!

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Results for A Course In Weight Loss (the final plan of 12 in 12), click here.

For my Week 52 Food Journal, click here.

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Solo Act

There’s no lovelier place to enjoy the final dog days of summer than up at a cottage. I don’t have one, but my sister does, and she graciously offered it to me so I could have a week of solitude to write.  This isn’t the first occasion I’ve been up here on my own… pretty brave for a gal who used to sleep with a baseball bat next to her bed after her divorce! Each time I come here I get cozy and set up a workstation on the table overlooking the lake.

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Evenings are breathtaking up here.  And at night, it gets pitch dark, with only speckles of light flickering like birthday candles from the cottages across the lake.  However, the real glory is when you look up at the night sky, celestial jewels twinkling as far as the eye can see!

So here I sit, in seclusion, clicking away at the keys, every now and again gazing out the window at the happy cottagers zooming about in their motorboats, or skipping past on their sea-doos. But there is always one sight that intrigues me every time I come up here….  Who lives on that island smack dab in the middle of the lake?

Look at the photo again… you can see it just left of my laptop. Can’t spot it?  How about now as I zoom in from the deck, and again with an aerial view from Google Maps? They say that no man is an island, but clearly, you can buy one.

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You might be asking what this has to do with the food plan I’m following this month. Actually, isolation has everything do with addiction. All the material on 12-Step programs state that ‘addiction is a disease of isolation’, and I can attest to this firsthand.

Whenever one of my triggers sets off a cycle of bingeing, I go into isolation mode, leaving me to self-medicate with the drug of my choice in secret. I back out of social engagements, screen calls, or don’t return them, all so that I can wallow in the shame of my disease. It’s times like these, I wish I had my own island too.

The last thing I want to do is go out and be surrounded by people who I fear are judging the outside me, without knowing what’s happening with inside me. I also fear losing control around certain foods when eating in public.  Once, someone thought they could teach me a lesson in moderation by jabbing my hand with a fork as I reached out for a second helping. I became a hermit after that experience and didn’t come out for 3 months… 15 lbs. heavier.

Then there is the isolation that comes from not attending your 12-Step meetings – a clear sign of a relapse, or at least heading towards one. Members know the signs all too well, after all, they’ve been there, done that. That’s why it’s recommended to get a Sponsor – someone who REALLY knows what you’re going through, and takes a personal interest in your recovery WITHOUT judgement, or jabbing forks.

“Isolation is a process of gradually, eliminating recovery-related actions.”  

Kay Sheppard, From the First Bite, A Complete Guide to Recovery from Food Addiction

But how does one susceptible to retreating to the solitary island of self-abuse, trust not only the process of recovery (in my case, abstinence from flour, wheat, and sugar), but expose one’s innermost wounds and weaknesses to fellow addicts, as well?

Apparently, the first step is a doozy… admitting your powerlessness over your substance of choice, but once you take it, you won’t be alone.

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.”

Johann Hari, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.

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To view my Week 41 food journal, click here.

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Thank you 🙂

12 In 12 Does 12 And 12

It’s no secret I have a love/hate relationship with food. I loooooove sweet, salty, and fat laden treats, and when I partake (okay, okay, when I scarf them down by the paw-full) I hate myself for not exercising any restraint.  Some days I can control myself, but on others I’m like the Energizer Bunny – I keep going and going and going until I wind up in a food coma.

About a decade ago, I experienced extremely stressful circumstances I couldn’t get out of. For a year-and-a-half, I continually stifled my mental and emotional anguish with food, and before I knew it I gained 70 lbs. Only my inner circle knew what I was going through, while others saw the happy Mare I wanted them to see. I painted on a smile when I left the house every morning, and when I returned at the end of the day, I was a wreck. I could barely get the key in the door for the jitters. The only thing that quelled my pain was food.  I would binge anywhere between 3,000 to 5,000 calories worth of food in less than an hour. Some days I stood in front of the fridge, coat still on, purse hanging from my arm as I wolfed down my edible painkillers.

I had hit my rock bottom and I knew if I didn’t get help soon, I’d die of a heart attack. I reached out for help, but encountered roadblock after roadblock. As a last resort, I called the hospital to see if they had an eating disorder program.  They did, but they only catered to bulimics and anorexics, because binge eaters, as I was told, were “too hard to treat”. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe the medical community would allow some of us to drown.

One day, after a long, cold winter, I came out of hibernation and bumped into a neighbour I hadn’t seen in months.  Her shock over what I had done to myself was obvious. I expected her to say, “What the hell happened to you?”, but she didn’t.  Instead, she invited me to join her at a 12-Step meeting for food addicts she was going to that evening.  I had heard of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), but I never thought anybody could be addicted to food. I began to cry. She thought she had offended me, but she didn’t…. She was an answer to prayer.  That night I skipped my binge and went to my first meeting.

I was very moved by the vulnerability of the small group of people, who by the way, came in all shapes and sizes, like my petite neighbour. Looking back, I’m surprised my head didn’t fall off for all the nodding I did that night. I recognized myself in everyone’s story. I had found my tribe.

They believe individuals who suffer from the disease of food addiction get physical cravings to certain addictive substances, primarily flour, wheat, and sugar, and the only relief is through abstinence from all foods that contain these ingredients.

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Abstain from flour, wheat, and sugar?! You might as well ask me to cut my right arm off. Abstain means, goodbye, arrivederci, adieu, hasta la vista baby, NOT “until we meet again next Christmas, my beloved panettone”.  NOT, “we got a date next Halloween, candy corn”. It means parting ways FOREVER like a character in a Shakespearean play dying a painful, agonizing death from a dagger thrust in their heart.  Oh well, I figured it was better than dying with a fork jabbed in mine, so I gave it a go.

I followed the program faithfully for the first three months.  Surprisingly, it was easier than I thought. But like any brand new shiny experience that piques my interest, the novelty eventually wore off and I ended up doing what I do best when it comes to dieting – I gave up.

Years went by and I lost and gained on other plans. Then three years ago, I sought out the group only to find out they had disbanded.  I located a similar group and joined them for a while. (I was vegetarian at the time, so it made following their “guide to clean abstinence” challenging as meat is a staple in the program.) Eventually I stopped going there too, not because I found it difficult to follow as a herbivore, but because I resented being there. I didn’t want to label myself as an addict, even though I answered ‘yes’ to every question on the self-assessment tool. I just wanted to be someone who had a problem with moderation.  All I needed was to find the magic pill to fix the all-or-nothing part of me.

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It wasn’t until recently that the medical community began acknowledging the addictive qualities of these foods as well. MRIs have shown that eating high-sugar foods light up the same parts of the brain that are triggered by cocaine or heroin use. In another study, well-fed rats continually crossed an electrified floor to get Froot Loops.  However, these same rats, when hungry would not risk crossing the electrified floor for regular food pellets. Some days I identify with those rats, but I’ve got to focus on the ills associated with sugar in our diet, like decreased immune function, increased risk of diabetes, and how sugar feeds cancer cells.

Addiction is serious, and I don’t want to diminish the good work these groups do by ranking their success according to what I achieve on the scale in just one month. Weight loss is not their focus, recovery is.

“Weight loss is not a goal of this program, but it is a reasonable expectation. Weight gain is a symptom of the disease, and weight loss is a symptom of recovery.”

–Kay Sheppard, Food Addiction; The Body Knows

For the sake of my 12 in 12 experiment, I will follow the protocol, abstain from these addictive ingredients, and begin to work the Steps, which I expect will raise issues that my addiction has wanted me to suppress for over three decades.

You cannot work through the 12-Steps in 30 days; it has to be ongoing. Most importantly, I will respect the anonymity of the various meetings I attend, and will not disclose anything discussed. You can get a sense of how the program works by reading the AA Big Book, and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (12 and 12), the only approved literature for all recovery from addiction programs.

The wonderful thing about 12-Step groups is that they offer support to every suffering addict who desires recovery – there’s no “they’re too hard to treat” here! They know what you’re going through, and they walk alongside you because they are on the same journey… and you’ve gotta love a group that starts and ends every meeting with a prayer!

God,

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Grant me patience with the changes that take time,

An appreciation of all that I have and am,

A tolerance for those with different struggles,

And the strength to get up and try again,

One day at a time.

To learn more about the plan I’ll be following for Month 10, click here.

The Results Are In

To find out how much I lost last month when I tested The Hormone Diet, click here.

 

 

 

Just Call Me Loser

I’m baffled by my pound a week weight loss while on the whole food, plant-based diet given my “output” was twice as much as my “input”. I was secretly hoping for results similar to magician Penn Jilette, who lost an astonishing one pound a day following Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian diet, a plan similar to the one I followed.

However, if I took the scale out of the equation, my digestive system LOVED this plan the best! So did my conscience – I get verklempt thinking of all the little animals still frolicking in the pastures because I put my knife down.

Nevertheless, the point of my 12 in 12 experiment is to find a weight loss program that will give me the results on the scale, and one I think I can sustain for the long-term.

This leads me to believe that at least one of the following variables were in play last month:

  1. My daily choices were out of balance (i.e. not enough plant-based protein and too much healthy fats).
  2. My body doesn’t respond to a plant-based diet as part of a weight loss regime.
  3. After being on a diet for the last 6 months, my metabolism is slowing down and heading for a plateau.

If I were to guess, I think it’s the latter, and that means I have to make adjustments to my diet, exercise, or both.

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I don’t think the problem lies with any of the diets I’ve tested so far, as they range from 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, so exercise (or lack thereof) must be the culprit.

Since starting 12 in 12 I haven’t incorporated much exercise into my day. In the first quarter, I simply focused on the diet. In the second quarter, I challenged myself to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. Now that I’m entering the third quarter of the experiment, it is time to kick it up a notch and sweat the small (and big) stuff around my hips, belly, and bootay! Let’s face it, just like Meghan Trainor, this girl is all about the bass, and if I want to get it in shape, I have to call in another trainer to help make it happen.

For a second month in a row, I’ve been blessed with an earth-angel to walk alongside me on my journey. This month my new friend, Nikki Kamphuis, will help me ease into an exercise regime. Nikki is a personal trainer and a master trainer with Lebert Fitness. She’s going to ensure that I maintain proper form to avoid injury, and will work around my medical issues.

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There are so many plans out there that incorporate diet and fitness – it was hard to choose one. I reviewed the following plans that made bold claims:

  • The Shred Revolutionary Diet claims you’ll lose 4 inches and 2 sizes in 6 weeks using Dr. Ian K. Smith’s concept of “diet confusion”
  • Choose to Lose operates on a 7-day carb cycle solution designed by “transformational specialist”, Chris Powell
  • The 3-1-2-1 Diet created by celebrity trainer, Dolvett Quince allows you to eat AND cheat, promising a 10 lb weight loss in 21 days

Although these plans are designed to help you get off plateaus, I found their diet and exercise formulas a bit complicated, so I’m going with a well-known, easy to follow program that fits neatly into my month-long trial.

The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start program mimics the successful reality TV show, minus spending 6 hours a day at the gym with fitness trainers barking at you, and a big cash reward at the end.

I’m a huge fan of the show (pun intended), and now I’ll get to experience it for myself as an at home contestant. Woohooo – let’s do this baby! It’s time to lace up my sneakers, dust off my Thigh Master 2000, and become a LOSER myself!

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To learn more about the Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start program, click here and you will be directed to the 07. June 2015 section.

The Results Are In

To find out how much I lost during Month 6, when I tested the Whole Food, Plant-Based diet, click here and you’ll be directed to the Measure Up section.

 

Mother Of All Mothers

This is the first Mother’s Day I was sans offspring to shower me with praise and adoration. Although there was an element of suckage to this, I’m actually thrilled that the fruit of my loins are in remote corners of the world, sinking their teeth into the tukhus of life, as they experience incredible adventures I could only dream of when I was their age. Nessa is teaching English to impressionable young souls in South Korea, and Telli is exploring the archaeological ruins and gelaterias in Rome…. Atta girls! I must have done something right!

Although no one was home to make me a delicious whole food, plant-based breakfast in bed this year, I was not alone as my family gathered to celebrate motherhood at my parent’s place with, you guessed it, food… lots of it!

My poor family, I make their heads spin as each plan in 12 in 12 varies considerably and they never know what I can and can’t have from one month to the next, so they cover all the bases. When I was doing Paleo, I missed out on homemade cannelloni, pasta, pizzas and breads. This month, I’m missing out on rigatoni drenched in homemade sugo and spicy oven roasted sausages. But no matter what plan I’m on, I noticed it never excludes fruits and vegetables.

imageAnd that’s when I realized, as I was enjoying this lovely whole food, plant-based meal, one mother gets overlooked every year, which is quite sad since she is mother to all of us.

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Like most mothers, Mother Nature is a giver – she nourishes us with her bounty, and captivates us with her beauty – that’s why I decided to spend my Mother’s Day appreciating all that she does for us.

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Mother Nature is always speaking. She speaks in a language understood within the peaceful mind of the sincere observer. ~ Radhanath Swami

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To view my Week 23 food journal, click here.