Getting Real about Obesity

*Warning: impending rant and language.

Australia is one of the fattest countries on earth and many people erroneously suggest that education is the answer to our national obesity problem. Really? Consider these two facts:

Fact 1:  In 2014, we have more education, information, awareness, policies, programs and getting-in-shape (type) resources, than any other time in history.

Fact 2: In 2014, we’ve never had more obesity.

As an educator (of sorts), of course I’m pro-education but if education was the stand-alone answer, we’d be getting collectively leaner and lighter by the day because, as a group, we’ve never had more education about nutrition, lifestyle, exercise and the associated health bits-n-pieces. We’re bombarded with it. Well, clearly it isn’t (the answer) and clearly, we’re not (leaner). Of course some people won’t like this message because it doesn’t fit well with what they’re selling or espousing but beyond the conflicting opinions, philosophies and models for change, what really interests me is what’s happening in our country. I’m interested in what I see every time I go to the beach or shopping centre. Take a look around and you’ll see that the lack of a positive correlation between education and obesity is not an idea or a theory; it’s an ever-present physical reality. In fact, if I’m being cheeky, there is a positive correlation… as education has increased, so too has the prevalence of obesity.

And no, I’m not suggesting a causal relationship (A caused B) but just that it’s an interesting observation.

I’m of the not-very-popular opinion that, as a nation of first-world privileged people with easy access to all kinds of unhealthy crap, lack of education is not our problem. We are our problem. Specifically our thinking, choices, behaviours, habits and our addiction to pleasure, shortcuts, comfort and procrastination. Of course knowledge is important but information without application is powerless, pointless and changes nothing.

Well, maybe it’s time for some courageous health professionals to stand up and say something real and relevant like…

“Hey you!.. stop doing dumb shit to your body and then curiously, wondering how you got fat and unhealthy. Come on!! Stop embracing bad behaviours and habits, stop making irresponsible choices, stop wasting your time and genetic potential, stop making pathetic excuses, stop rationalising your unhealthy lifestyle, stop being so precious, stop getting offended every five minutes, stop looking for the shortcut, stop throwing in the towel every time things get uncomfortable and once a for all… do the f*cking work.”

If you’re a health professional, feel free to omit the bad language. ;)

*Steps down from soap box… returns to hammock. 

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Traceyph January 21, 2014 at 8:51 pm

The rant paragraph is copied and enlarged for my fridge and work whiteboard, I will no longer be ‘precious’! Thanks Craig I love and appreciate your words and wisdom. T

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Craig January 21, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Happy to rant at you Tracey ;)

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Cathy S January 21, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Tough love is real love. We all need more of it.
Absolutely thrilled you’re courageous enough to dish it out Craig! :)

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Craig January 21, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Thanks Cathy :)

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Deb January 21, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Truth telling never makes one popular these days. Thank you Craig for telling it like it is.

Truth in love hurts for a moment. It’s what you choose to do with it that makes the difference. Time to stop baby stepping around the issue.

I applaude your willingness to tell the truth as hard as some may find it to hear. It is clear that you do it because you care.

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Craig January 22, 2014 at 8:23 am

Thanks Deb and yes I do (care). :)

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Blossom January 21, 2014 at 9:59 pm

This is priceless. You are so right , people don’t want to do the hard work. I have four children aged 14 to 20. I work three casual jobs that equate to 30 hours and up each week. I am also studying for a Bachelor of Primary teaching degree which equates to roughly 20 hours a week of study. I have many flaws (sweets being one of them ) however I make the commitment to do at least three gym sessions and two or three runs a week. I am not claiming to be wonder woman, I have simply made the choice to pursue these things for my greater benefit.
Sure I have weeks where it doesn’t all fall into place as I would like, but hey, I am only human:)
I get asked all of the time how I “do ” it all, and juggle everything and the fact is that sometimes I don’t feel that I do:(
Bottom line is, this is what I have chosen to do, to take care of myself, achieve a degree through hard work, and do the best I can along the way. That’s all we need to do. I can see that Craig is trying to say that if your best is not working out to well for you, then maybe you need to assess what needs to be done and start getting a little uncomfortable. The rewards will be so worth it.
(I shall retreat off my soap box now too!)

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Craig January 22, 2014 at 8:24 am

Thanks for sharing Blossom :)

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chebbieanne January 21, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Given that all the negative associations with obesity fail to address the problem in a population already demoralised by their obesity a different approach might actually work. When I needed to address my morbid obesity I never considered what I really needed was the confidence to actually lose weight effectively in a positive way. As a health professional I had more than enough knowledge and I had explored just about everything available that would not and did not work. What I needed and luckily found was someone who could actually show me how to do it. Asking for that help was my biggest hurdle. I couldn’t cut out crap in my diet because I didn’t eat fried food takeaway junk,drink soft drink, drank very little alcohol, didn’t add sugar to anything and didn’t snack. I did sit on butt way too much, ate erratically with big portions of healthy foods usually once a day, didn’t drink enough water and had long ago become resigned to my obesity. Adopting a hands on approach with confidence building through support and guidance works. Learning that fat people can’t eat what works for others and learning what is the best way to feed your body is a good start. Learning what exercise you can do and building on it produces amazing results. Prioritising time to working on your body is vital. As a society refocusing on good health rather than weight loss diets should be our aim. Banning advertising on all the rubbish that promotes unhealthy habits should be a government initiative. When I talk to my clients now I focus on their health needs through lifestyle initiatives and assure them that weight loss follows. My wonderful trainer taught me that negativity has no place in achieving optimal health.

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Craig January 22, 2014 at 8:26 am

Thanks Chebbieanne :)

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Pet January 22, 2014 at 12:19 pm

You’re awesome Chebbieanne :-)

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Jenny January 22, 2014 at 1:41 am

Maybe there is a causal relationship between education and obesity. Maybe education causes us to think too much (and do too little)? Maybe education causes us to believe we can have what we want (health, fitness, slimness) without any physical effort? Education means we just sit behind a desk and get whatever we want. Doesn’t it?

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Craig January 22, 2014 at 8:28 am

Education is as powerful or inert as we make it Jenny. Sitting behind a desk is a personal choice not a byproduct of education. :)

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GG February 4, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Unfortunatley some of the education and information we get is completely wrong.

I’s not just about getting information – it’s sifting through to the real stuff, then applying it and also seeing if it works for our body, because some people are naturally thin and whatever works for them will not work for others, while others are susceptible to things many people are not.
And so on.

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Anonymous January 22, 2014 at 2:59 am

Your blog continues to be a much-needed source of inspiration. I just don’t know what’s going to appear when I click on the link – sometimes it’s about food, sometimes about exercise, or sometimes something else completely. Today’s post has made me feel a bit guilty about being obese, which I’m not sure is totally helpful – OK it’s helpful from the point of view that I need to look at myself and think that I need to do something about it, but beyond that there’s no point going on about it. Don’t get angry with us fatties – some of us have other difficulties beyond just being obese.

2013 has not been a great year for me. Hearing voices, seeing hallucinations, and constant tiredness from the medication I have to take – my gym membership has gone by the wayside, and I must admit I’ve had the occasional chocolate digestive (or three). Sometimes there is a comfort in a chocolate digestive which can’t be found anywhere else.

Your posts are constantly encouraging me and getting me to think about things (sometimes stuff I’d rather not think about), for which I can only thank you and express my gratitude for all the hard work you put in to maintain this blog. I love how you put things in a way that makes me question, “Why didn’t I think of that before?” And what’s more, you are genuinely concerned about people. It’s a winning combination, and maybe if there were more people who could put it all together the way you do, some of the educators about diet and exercise would get somewhere further with the recalcitrant fatties.

I’ve been free from voices for about the past 10 days, and it feels like there is a health mountain to climb.

Today I started off at the mental health community centre, which I was quite nervous about, as there are lots of people who go there. But it went OK, everyone was very friendly and welcoming. And on Thursdays I’m swimming first thing in the morning, some much-needed exercise as I’ve got very out of condition doing nothing. Not my favourite thing on a cold winter’s morning (it’s winter here) but I enjoy it once I’m in the pool. Meanwhile I’m decluttering my house, not thinking of the value of what I’m throwing out, but thinking of the space I’ll create. This is quite exhilarating, and giving me a sense of relief and freedom. 2014 is another chance to work at creating a healthy environment, chipping away at it a little bit at a time.

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Craig January 22, 2014 at 8:29 am

Hi Anon, I know who you are and you have my support. Keep doing what you need to and take care… :)

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Gennie January 22, 2014 at 5:35 am

My god, so true. People are the problem they have no self control. I check out people’s shopping trolleys all the time and I am amazed at the crap most people buy. I work at a gym, part of the time, and get sooooo frustrated at people’s excuses as to why they can’t do this or that I bite my tongue everyday then come home and rant. People need to take responsibility for themselves and stop the blame game, get off their butt and do something. My rant is over, for now. Love your work.

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Craig January 22, 2014 at 8:30 am

Thanks Gennie :)

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Comfy January 22, 2014 at 6:37 am

Thanks Craig – I needed that. I’m with Traceyph I to will copy the rant paragraph and read it everyday and do the f*cking work.

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Craig January 22, 2014 at 8:30 am

Let me know how you go Comfy :)

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George January 22, 2014 at 7:58 am

Love it!!! Keep up the rant!!!!!

Regards,
George

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Craig January 22, 2014 at 8:30 am

Rant, I shall George ;)

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Priscilla January 22, 2014 at 7:59 am

Jane Fonda said something similar to your last paragraph, can’t remember if she said F*** or not, but she should have.

I love you, Craig!

Your fan in Philadelphia, PA,
Priscilla

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Craig January 22, 2014 at 8:31 am

Thanks for the love Priscilla… I always love some love ;)

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Sandy Fishwick January 22, 2014 at 8:47 am

I prefer you straight up, carry on ranting and raving because I agree with almost all of what you say and think, almost.

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Craig January 22, 2014 at 9:18 am

Almost… ;)

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Gayle January 22, 2014 at 9:07 am

I used to think that when I talked about things that have impeded my weight loss, it’s just been a statement of fact, not an excuse. But since meeting you over a year ago and attending one of your seminars, I know that it is actually how I react to the problems I have had that is the true problem. I think it’s taken me all this time to finally start trying to rectify this. Appreciate your blog immensely.

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Craig January 22, 2014 at 9:19 am

You’re welcome Gayle :)

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AB January 22, 2014 at 9:14 am

Bloody brilliant ! Thanks CH… love it :)

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Craig January 22, 2014 at 9:19 am

Cheers AB :)

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Anonymous January 22, 2014 at 9:29 am

Hi there,
A fitness professional of 20+ years here.
Yes, tough love can work. People even thrive on it, love you for it. FOR A WHILE ANYWAYS…..
My experience is that people can only have their weaknesses exposed and amplified for so long. Sure in the beginning they love you for it, “Man…my trainer, she is so baaad ass! Jillian Michaels eat your heart out”.
And while their losing weight and doing the work (for which you the trainer are the catalyst. mind you) you are the best thing since sliced…sweet potato.
Then, one day it all gets too hard. The weight creeps back on, the lifestyle changes revert, and BAM!…you’re to blame you God damn psychotic trainer!!!
If you aint qualified to fix the head, then no amount of truth, honesty or brutality is gonna stick.

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Brian C January 22, 2014 at 9:44 am

Once again you remind me of my delusions.Thanks

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Slim Birdy January 22, 2014 at 11:32 am

Agree at that ‘we’ are often the problem and at the very least need to take responsibility for our own health and wellbeing. True there is lots of education out there however most of it is contradictory.

One thing I don’t agree with though is trying to scold people into doing something and the subsequent chiming in of everyone else ‘yeah it’s not that hard people, less calories in more exercise, not rocket science.’ Or far worse insulting comments that get thrown around – not on this blog but elsewhere. As Anonymous mentioned getting mad at fat folks is not-helping-people, NOT HELPING! Likely to make overweight peeps feel worse, more depressed and why bother trying?

From my own experience and a lot of what I have seen, there are many people who do try to do something but it fails time and time again. Why? Because it’s the wrong way. Not everyone has the money to seek personal consultation by the likes of Craig who would likely set them on the right path and so they try to do the many diets out there or eat what they think is ‘healthy’ which leaves them starving and likely to pack it in and binge. Or they try and follow the advice of ‘it’s hard work, you just have to be motivated, have willpower and determination’ and do boot camps and go to gym when they desperately hate it and would rather hit themselves in the head with a plank. Case in point, I was out on my daily walk this morning passing a gym when a 20 something trainer was showing a 50 something lady overweight by about 30kgs, a section of a circuit where she had to strap a harness around her middle and run with a tyre dragging behind her. Are you kidding me? Is she likely to keep this up? Is she likely to bound out of bed in the morning thinking ‘yeah gimme more of that?’

And the funny thing is that I know you don’t necessarily mean this by ‘do the work,’ you would prescribe something that this lady could keep doing, be pushed mildly out of her comfort zone so she is progressing but not so much that she would chuck it in. And ‘the work’ may even be eating eggs and protein for breakfast and not cereal. But out here in ‘weight loss world,’ the Biggest Loser type suffering is the impression given of what you need to do, which in my experience is not sustainable and not necessary. Having been previously overweight myself, you seem to be hitting a ‘you don’t get it’ nerve in me, when clearly I know you do. Weird.

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Cathy S January 22, 2014 at 6:12 pm

I don’t think it’s about getting mad at people. I don’t see it as any different to firmly telling my kids something that is for their own good and safety….when they don’t seem to be getting the message there becomes a need to underscore the message….for their own best interest :)
Also, given I’m not 50, I’m 43 but I love doing training sessions like you describe. I’ve had a 20 yr old trainer get me to pull all his 80kg on a sled. Challenging but fun….infact the challenge of it is what makes it fun for me. I’ve been training for 7 or so years now….not likely to give it up in the foreseeable future :)

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chebbieanne January 23, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Slim Birdy I agree with you wholeheartedly. Today I discussed the training session you witnessed with my trainer. He is an ex elite athlete and very experienced trainer. He was horrified when I described what you witnessed. We discussed how that lady would not only get no benefits from that type of training but it would be dangerous for her and be of no benefit what so ever. He hoped she would stop training with that person before she suffers a significant injury. Training needs to be specific to the client not an exercise in punishment leaving the client worse off than when they started. A good trainer can help you reach your goals without trauma.

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Robbo January 22, 2014 at 12:18 pm

The same attitude seems to permeate through most of our society. You swap obesity (career, money, stress) in the article with any lifestyle related problem in our cushy lives and the answer would be the same. Take global warming, our population is full of people who blame governments for global warming yet they eat farmed meat 7 days a week and have 2 or more cars in their family and sit in front of a 50inch plasma screen TV for hours of each day. It is so much easier to deflect blame than to take it upon yourself to change yourself.

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Pet January 22, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Nice rant Craig!
As a long time chunky monkey…….. I know how tempting those ads are that promise “5kgs in 5 days” “Lose inches in just 10 minutes”…… like WOW….why wouldnt you try that? For every 10 of these short term fixes, there’s 1 sensible approach……”you can lose 1/2 – 1 kg per week”……… huh? what? no way mate…..5kgs in 5 days sounds better! The sensible approach gets lost in the all the bigger noise….. then you realise that you dont like ONLY eating celery sticks & drinking horrid weight loss drinks & you’ve only lost 1kg. DOH! Next!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Currently….. I’m feeling quite empowered that I’m taking control of my health, as I’ve got some issues that will get better esp. if I eat better. Its definitely a mind game. I have to take each day as it comes & make sure that each meal I eat & each exercise I do, takes me one step closer to a healthier me :-)

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Elly January 22, 2014 at 2:08 pm

WOW!
I wasn’t expecting that this morning lol
It is however just what I needed, thanks, its on the fridge

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Rach January 22, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Hey Craig, interesting post. Question: Where do you think the obesity crisis will stop? Will ever-improving education and nutrition knowledge eventually correspond to a lower obesity rate? Do you see medical scientists creating an anti-obesity drug?

I just can’t imagine the alternatives:

(1) The obesity rate keeps rising, until almost everyone is obese.
(2) Everyone manages to take the appropriate steps and maintain a healthy weight. In the current high-fat, high-sugar, high-processed environment, most of us just don’t seem to manage to stay healthy. You might say this is cynical, but I can’t help but think there’s some serious cultural and neurological wiring involved, and the fix is more difficult than telling people to man up.

What do you think? I’m very curious!

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Anonymous January 22, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Don’t eat shit is a good start. I have a good diet of fruit and veg, little meat and snack on this all day. No fat on this body

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Nikki January 23, 2014 at 10:33 am

Yeah, thanks Craig. I needed a bit of tough loving too. Truth hurts sometimes. I feel so disheartened that I’ve let those five kilos creep back on again. Food, wine and making time to excercise… Ahh, I need to get organised and stay organised.
Craig, I am wondering though if you have ever met anyone who wakes up in the night and eats to go back to sleep…and how did they overcome it. I’ve been doing this for about 16 years. I really want to end it and am finally considering sleeping pills to see if it helps break the habit. I personally didn’t want to go down this road but getting desperate. So wondering if you have any experience in dealing with this particular problem?

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chebbieanne January 23, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Nikki I developed this problem a could of years ago. I had dropped 44kgs and was training pretty hard. Eventually worked out I needed to eat more early in the day as by 3am my body needed some calories. If I didn’t eat I would stay awake for ages but if I did I could get back to sleep quickly. I added some carbs at dinner but mainly needed more protein earlier in the day.

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Nikki January 24, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Thanks Chebbianne,
I will give it a go.

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Shirley January 27, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Craig I love your honesty and take no prisoners approach. Unfortunately it is a losing battle. We are lazy and we love instant gratification. Very few people with weight problems are willing to put in the work to lose weight AND continue it to maintain that weight loss. All more education does it make you feel guilty. It is not going to change.

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Bernadette Blake January 28, 2014 at 11:16 am

Hi John, Yes, we do have so much information available about food and health, however many people don’t really understand this information. At a recent training I attended (run by QUIT), I was told that research has found that around 50% of the Australian population have low English literacy levels (Year 10 or below). This means that when you show them a paragraph of information, they are often unable to pick out which points are valid and important to remember. They find much of the health information available to be confusing and too complicated to understand. They often don’t question the information they are told.
E.g. One friend (age 65) recently ended up in hospital with severe diverticulitis (bowel problem) and was told to add more fibre to her diet. I asked her what she ate – rice bubbles for breakfast and sandwiches with white bread for lunch. She thought these contained plenty of fibre because the TV adds said they were good for you!
I recently told another friend (age 60) who is interested in healthy eating that I was going to stop eating gluten, so I couldn’t eat wheat products any more. She asked me which foods had wheat in them – she didn’t know.
At a Chinese restaurant, I asked the Chinese waiter if the food I wanted to order contained wheat flour. He said he would go to the kitchen and ask. He came back and said that they used plain and self raising flour, but no one knew if it contained wheat or not (it wasn’t written on the packet).
We need to find a way to educate people about health issues using very simple language. QUIT has started to produce 2 copies of some brochures – the one for people with low literacy has less words, more simple language and more pictures. Perhaps we need to think about doing this with other health info as well.
Bernadette Blake

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Jack January 29, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Hi Craig. Great message. In my personal experience, what I lacked was the calorie consumption education. I’ve been to Uni, and being employed in fulltime work for the last few years I saw my size increase as the years went on. In 2012 I got myself into the gym regularly to ensure I was on a weight loss mission, however this still made no difference. It wasn’t until three weeks ago did I start on a calorie controlled diet, to which I am starting to get my head around how I previously thought I ate well (fruits, nuts, grains, vegetables) but now know I was taking in too many calories to be able to sustain or reduce my weight.

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Susan January 29, 2014 at 8:40 pm

HI Craig,
I second you on this. It is all about willingness and changing habits. Education does play its part , however it is not the criteria here.

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david February 21, 2014 at 12:10 am

Don’t eat shit is a good start. I have a good diet of fruit and veg, little meat and snack on this all day. No fat on this body

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