Category Archives: diet

The Choices We Make

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I have a co-worker, a young millennial who has a loud vibrant personality. She is brash, unapologetic, and funny. I wouldn’t have her any other way. She recently moved offices and I miss the energy she brought to an otherwise mundane job.

Every day as she breezed out of the office, she would mockingly say over her shoulder, “Make good choices!” And we would all laugh.

Recently, I was part of a pilot group with my therapist. If I had  not written this before, I am seeing someone to help me with my binge eating. She is writing a book about how to lose weight and keep it off forever.

The group I was a part of has been reviewing her book and launching a kind of support group where we read chapters of her book and discuss the ideas in that chapter. We were her beta readers/guinea pigs. This past weekend, we all met in person to discuss what we thought of the book and make suggestions for the support system she wants to create. I am so glad to have been a part of that group.

The book is very interesting. The book is less about what we eat and more about why we eat what we eat. She really encouraged us to explore the reasons behind our eating habits.

Of course she thinks the best diet for weight loss is low carb, high protein focusing on eating fresh meats and fish, high protein vegetarian options, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Very similar to any good bariatric diet, right?

So, why can’t we stick to it? Why do we constantly sabotage our diet plans? Why do we make choices we know will not help us on our path to a healthy weight and relationship to food?

Those are the questions through both my sessions with her and the book she’s working to address.

For me, a lot of my bad choices have to do with my inability to deal with stress and toxic people. I get very stressed out when I think about the toxic people in my life, and there have been several who have entered and left my world. Some stay longer than others. It has taken me a long time to realize their behavior is about them and not me and to create a distance between me and them, even if that barrier is just a mental one.

I also suffer from a low self-image and self-confidence. Many people who know me would certainly be surprised to know this. I hide it well most of the time. It is hard for me to find good things about myself.

After I had lost about 130 pounds, a guy I am friends with complimented me on a shirt I was wearing. He said something like, “That green color looks very good on you.”

I immediately replied with how much more weight I needed to lose, my hair looked awful, pick any one of the myriad of negative thoughts inside my head.

A female friend standing nearby turned to me and said, “No! Stop, Colleen. He complimented you. Your answer is, ‘Thank you!'”

She knew what I was doing. I was not used to being complimented about my appearance. She knew this. And she put the brakes on my negative thought train. At least the verbalization of my negative thoughts.

So, I have been exploring my insecurities. My inability to deal with stress and toxic people. My negative thoughts. And why I look for solace in food.

It is hard to constantly stop myself before I make a bad food decision and analyze the why. In the past, I’ve made a decision about what I wanted to eat and then just ate it. Even if I did not eat it to excess, I still often made very bad food choices.

So, this is what I do when I want to eat the cheesy poofs or whatever food I am craving at the moment. I stop and ask myself some questions.

  • Do I need this to feel full and meet my nutritional goals? (Is this choice a need or a want?)
  • Why do I want to eat the cheesy poofs?
  • What is going on? Am I stressed out? I am feeling bad?
  • What happened today, last night, yesterday to make me feel this way?
  • Will eating this particular food help me achieve my weight loss/health goals?
  • What impact will this choice have on my calories, protein, carb intake for the day?
  • What can I eat that I like that will keep me on track?
  • What other choice can I make?

 

Sometimes I even stop and pull out my phone and enter the cheesy poofs into myfitnesspal.com just to see what that choice will do to my daily goals.

I am successful in making better choices probably 95% of the time. Do I slip? Sure. One example, I had an extra slice of toast one day. Normally, that is enough to send me into a tailspin and think the whole day is lost. But the next day, I entered everything into myfitnesspal.com, and I was only a couple of points high on my carbs. I met my protein goals and calorie goals.

So, great choice? No. Diet-killer? Not even close. I was still on track.

Another thing I do is I try not to think of my entire weight loss goal every time I eat. I do keep that goal in mind every day, yes. But for each meal or snack, I think only of that meal or snack. I might think of how it fits into my daily goals, but in the moment, I do not think too much beyond that.

I chose that approach because sometimes thinking of the entire goal is too overwhelming and seems unattainable. Today, this moment, this meal, that is a doable goal.

I get weighed every two weeks, and in that moment, I only think of my bi-monthly goals. I do sit down with the doctor afterwards and talk about long-term goals, but only a month out. Most importantly, I’m not weighing myself every day and stressing out about the numbers on the scale.

Biking and exercising also helps. I have been biking quite a bit, although the impending snow storm in our area has really put a damper on that recently. But biking takes my mind off the stress of the day, releases endorphins, and generally makes me feel better. Not to mention, it is great exercise for a weight loss plan.

The result is, of the 58 pounds of regain, I’m down 18 pounds. And my overall goal is now lower as well. So, now instead of needing to lose 94 pounds, I only need to lose 76 pounds.

So, good news all around. I am working on improving my mental health and making better choices. I’m also losing weight, exercising, and feeling better!

Will I always make good choices? No, definitely not. No one is perfect, and I know I am not. But I know that if I stay focused, I can make much better choices moving forward.

I’ll just keep my co-workers voice in my head every time I reach for those cheesy poofs reminding me to stop and “Make Good Choices!”

 

 

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Looking Back

Two years ago today, I weighed 298 pounds and was in the hospital. I had my gastric by-pass surgery October 24, 2012. It’s amazing how my life has changed! I’m not quite at my goal weight yet, but I know I will never weigh 300 pounds again!

BEFORE AFTER

I feel so much better and my life, which was once so lonely, is very full. I am happy with the new direction my life has taken. I know a lot of people look down on bariatric surgeries. I know I did for a long time. Many people think this is the easy way out. For me, where I was in my life, it felt like the only choice. I have no regrets. I am not looking back!

Edna Mode

Here is a brief list of the many positive changes

  • I can walk without pain.
  • Breathing is easier.
  • I can walk and breathe at the same time!
  • I feel very self-aware.
  • I am no longer invisible.
  • I am no longer invisible to men. (!!)
  • I feel more confident.
  • My blood pressure is normal without medication.
  • My blood sugar is normal.
  • My triglycerides are normal.
  • My heart rate is normal.
  • I don’t have to shop at plus-sized stores any more!
  • My grocery bills have gone way down.
  • My overall health is right on target!
  • I have a whole new wardrobe!
  • I got rid of all of my fat girl clothes.
  • I can use a small suitcase as my clothes do not take up so much room.
  • I am very active.
  • Because of my improved health, I can go to all kinds of fairs and festivals!
  • For the first time in a long time, I really see a future for myself.
  • I look cute in clothes!
  • There is room between me and the steering wheel of my car.
  • I can fit comfortably in most airline seats (as comfortable as one can get in those).
  • I can run a little bit.
  • I re-discovered just how awesome my friends and family are!

Sometimes this journey is still hard. I will always have challenges, and I will always fight this fight. But for the first time in my life, I feel like I am winning!

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Thrown Off Course

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I was thrown off course with my exercise plan last week. I had not been feeling great the week before that and my exercise slowed down. I was tired a lot and started having trouble taking deep breaths.

I woke up on Monday, Oct 6 with what I thought was a horrible cold. I was very sick and eventually went to urgent care. Turns out, I had a very mild form of pneumonia. Let me tell you, if that was mild, I do not ever want to get full-blown pneumonia. I missed work most of last week.

I have also had trouble getting motivated getting back to the gym. I have gotten my diet back on track and I’ve been doing pretty good.

I also have received many requests for my spinach pie recipe. I am making it again tomorrow for a thing I’m going to at my friend’s art studio. The last time I made it, I took many pictures of the process. I am going to update my recipe with some good pictures.

I know I need to get back to the gym. I think tomorrow is out as I have the full day chock full of activities already, so Sunday, definitely. That said, I am going to be doing a lot of walking on Saturday, so there will be some exercise. But I am also going to start tonight doing some things at home. Planking, sit-ups, etc. Things I have difficulty doing at the gym in some of the exercise classes that I take. I feel much better doing those at home anyway.

Anyway, I am feeling kind of blah after my bout with pneumonia. It was kind of strange to have difficulty breathing after over a year of being able to breathe without any problems at all. Plus I’ve been resting, staying in, trying to make sure I’m fully recovered from the pneumonia so that I do not have a relapse. I feel like a big fat cow. I know I’m not, but I just feel so bloated and fat. That’s not really helping me feel motivated. I know it should, but it does not.

But on the bright side, it is Friday! Hopefully, after a weekend of getting back into exercise, I will feel much better next week.

Sometimes I Forget

Sometimes, I forget what it was like to be 300 pounds. More correctly, sometimes I forget that I am no longer 300 pounds.

I have been kind of down because my weight loss has stalled. I have been struggling with feeling down, feeling angry, and feeling fat all of the time. I have tried different techniques to try to kick-start the weight loss again to no avail. I have been feeling fat and bloated and I have been pretty hard on myself as a result.

Then I have moments like I did last night.

I was going out to my weekly writer’s group. I got into my car prepared to be squeezed in between the seat and the steering wheel. Admittedly, I do not drive often. I take a bus and/or metro to work every day. I usually only drive on weekends to visit family and friends or go grocery shopping, still you would think I know how well or not that I fit into my car.

Last night when I got in, there seemed to be a million miles between me and the steering wheel. I wish I had taken a picture. I was like, “OMG look at all of this S-P-A-C-E!”

Before the 127 pound weight loss, I had a hard time with space in the car. I have very short legs and have to have the seat moved up pretty close so that I can reach the peddles. My short legs are also why I cannot really drive a stick because my legs cannot reach the clutch. I was always squeezed in pretty tight with the steering wheel pressing up against my stomach.

Now when I sit in the car, I feel like I am sitting far back. The seat is in the same place. I can reach the peddles with no problem. And the steering wheel is nowhere near my stomach! It’s a small thing, but it felt kind of awesome.

Another thing happened last night that kind of made me a little happy too. When I walked into the restaurant where my writer’s group was meeting, I caught a guy checking me out. I walked in and wasn’t too sure where the group was meeting. I stopped and looked around. I caught the eye of a guy at a nearby table. He looked me up and down and smiled. I almost cracked up. I had to turn away to keep from laughing right at him. I know that’s maybe not the reaction he was looking for, but it just struck me as funny in the moment. I always want to stop and say, “Man, if you had seen me two years ago, you would not be looking at me like that right now!”

Still, it was a nice little ego boost on a day when I was not feeling so good about myself.

So I guess my point is that although you might sometimes be feeling down about where you are in your weight loss journey, it’s good to stop and take stock of all of the progress that has been made. I might not be where I want to be yet, but I no longer weigh 300 pounds and my life has changed pretty drastically for the better.

Sept 2012 Before Surgery

Sept 2012 Before Surgery

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Breaking The Rules – Emotional Highs

Today’s post is a little bit late. Sorry about that.

I know I have a set program that I am supposed to follow, per my own rules, but I want to talk about what I have been doing the past couple of days, so am breaking them. Sort of. Let me explain.

In 2000, I moved to Phoenix. This was probably one of the biggest mistakes in my life. Phoenix was not kind to me. I was sick almost the entire time I was there. I gained over 100 pounds. It was way too hot for me. And it just was not right for me.

There are only two things that keep me from thinking it was absolutely the worst thing that ever happened to me. One, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I am not the rugged outdoorsy type. I learned that I do not like excessive heat. And I learned that I really am an east-coast city girl.

The second thing, that happened was I met my friend Cherilyn. I met her about a month after I moved there. I was working at  call center with American Express, and I was seated next to her.

We hit it off immediately. We talked nonstop. We would talk from the minute that we arrived at work until we left. We often hung out after work as well. We became very good friends. She is one of the reason I feel my move to Phoenix wasn’t a complete and utter disaster.

I have missed her a lot over these last ten  years. I have a lot of great friends here in DC, but Cherilyn is a good friend too. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have all of our good friends in one place?

I think I have linked a picture of me from her wedding previously, but I will link it here again.

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Obviously, she’s the bride. (And this one’s for you, baby sis), I’m the one on the left in pink.

That’s how Cherilyn knew me. That’s what I looked like for most of my stay in Phoenix. That’s what I looked like when I left Phoenix in 2004. And that’s what I looked like when I went back for a visit in 2007.

Now, she has been following my progress with the surgery and weight loss. She reads this blog sometimes. And she follows my updates on Facebook.  But still, I don’t think she was taken aback by what I look like now.

This is us outside the White House with her kids. She’s the one on the left in black and white next to her son. And I’m on the right with the obnoxious pink shorts. The hamlette next to me is her little girl. Her son is so cute. They took a tour of the Capitol and I met up with them after. I asked him how the tour was, he shrugged and said. “OK, but we haven’t seen the White House.” So, we had to do that first.10403230_10152875391775299_2429342450171835273_n

Cherilyn and I have lived full and complete lives in our separate respective cities. She obviously got married. She has two children.  I’ve had surgery. I lost weight. I am trying to be a writer. I blog. We are very different in many ways. Still, when we met up again, it was just like we had never parted ways.

She was so excited to see how much weight I have lost. She was even more excited that I was able to walk all over the city with them. And walk all over the city we did. Miles and miles. We walked to the White House, the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Vietnam Wall. Then we walked to the Foggy Bottom (near GWU) area for dinner. We walked so much, we wore the kids out. The kids and her hubby, couldn’t get out of bed yesterday. I have to admit, I did a little happy dance at the thought that I wore out kids.

While they were sleeping, Cherilyn wanted to see the Jefferson Memorial, so I took her on my Blossom Walk. Then we walked back over to the Smithsonian Metro station to meet her family and took them to the American History Museum. Her little girl wanted to see the ruby-red slippers worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. (They are in trouble with this one, let me tell you!) I made her see the original American Flag first. Then the shoes. Then Miss Piggy.

Then we had an impromptu visit to the Urgent Care. Her son’s eye started hurting and got a little red and puffy. She wanted to make sure he didn’t have pink-eye, especially since were getting on a plane today. We had thought to do paddle boats in the Tidal Basin or to do a Moonlight Bus Tour. We no longer  had time to do either. So, I suggested we just take the Metro out to Rosslyn and walk over to the Iwo Jima Memorial. That was one of two things left on Cherilyn’s “must do” list. Once we were in Virginia, Cherilyn suggested we go to my apartment.

We took the Metro then a bus to my neighborhood. We went to dinner at Busboys & Poets down the street. When we left the restaurant, it was pouring down rain and none of us had an  umbrella. We were SOAKED by the time we got to my apartment. We walked into the building looking like a pack of drowned rats and the guy at the front desk just cracked up. We cracked up. “I think it might rain,” I said to him and pushed the button for the elevator and we all just laughed even harder. I don’t think I have laughed that hard in a long time.

Obviously, I gave them towels and wrapped the kids up in thick plushy robes once we got inside. And I made sure they were good and dry before I sent them back out into the rain for the metro ride back to DC.  Because I rock like that. If I didn’t have a Smart Car, I would have driven them back to the hotel. I guess I still could have, I just would have had to do it one at a time.

OK, all of that to get to my point. The last few days I have been riding an emotional high. Having one of my dear friends be so obviously happy for my weight loss. The surprised gasps and hugs telling how good I look. How happy she was that I could walk all over town and they couldn’t keep up with me. Nothing feels better than having the people you care about sincerely tell you how wonderful you’re doing and how happy they are for you.

It is hard as time goes on and I get less and less of that. The people who see me every day are used to seeing me the way I am and don’t sing my praises every time they see me. I hit a prolonged plateau and haven’t lost anything for a long time.  I have to depend on myself to feel good with what I have done. It is nice that my friends celebrate my success. They should not be required to celebrate every day or every time they see me, however much I may want them to.

It has been a struggle for me during this prolonged plateau to remain positive. Still, I have to find a way to stay focused and positive on my own. This visit from Cherilyn was awesome. I enjoyed spending time with my friend and showing her everything I love about living in DC. I also enjoyed her telling me how great I look and how nice it is that I am so much healthier than I was before. It’s been a nice reminder of how far I have come. But now that she’s gone back home, I have to be my own cheerleader.

That’s not always as easy as it sounds. I know that I write some pretty positive posts on this site, but sometimes it is very difficult not to be very hard on myself. I am hoping that with the walking challenge going on at work, that will kickstart me into really increasing my activity level and start the weight loss again. We shall see.

If you want to follow my progress in the walking challenge, check my daily updates on my Skinnygirl Facebook Page.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

I am a huge vegetable fan. Two of my favorites are kale and spinach. I have a great kale and spinach recipe that I want to share since today is Wednesday, and therefore food day

Now I’m horrible at measuring things. I’m one of those awful cooks who just throws things together until they “look right”. It’s hard for me to write down a recipe accurately. This is not one of those recipes that require precision, thankfully.

I hope you enjoy it!

Spinach & Kale

1 bag raw spinach

1 bag raw kale

1/2 red bell pepper

2 cloves garlic

sesame oil

wok

red pepper flakes

parmesan cheese

salt & pepper

Wash and dry spinach and kale. Cut red bell pepper into strips. Heat wok with sesame oil. Saute garlic, kale, spinach, and bell pepper together until soft. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes. You can add a splash of soy sauce at this point too. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

It’s simple and fast. I often eat it with a little bit of grilled chicken.

Sorry if this post seems rushed today. I have friends visiting DC and I have been dragging them all over the city. Or they have been dragging me. Anyway, for today, we are going to the top of the Washington Monument and hitting a couple of museums. Since I do the museum circuit regularly with my brother, I know just where take the kids. My friend’s little girl is very interested in seeing Dorothy’s ruby-red slippers and Kermit the Frog. She seemed somewhat wary of the bug suggestion, but the thought of seeing the Hope Diamond was exciting.

I’ll post an update on Thursday.

A Room With A View: What Gastric By-Pass Surgery I Really Like

Today’s Writing 101 Assignment is called “A Room With A View” and they are asking us to look ahead and talk about a place we’d like to go. I am going to turn the assignment on its ear a bit and talk about where I have been.

One of my Facebook followers asked me to talk about what the surgery is really like because not everyone has such positive results. She is absolutely correct. So I am going to talk about my experience the first day or so after the surgery.

A day and a half after my surgery, I blogged a bit about what it had been like. Re-reading that post, I realize that I did not give many details or really describe how I felt physically, so I will talk about that some here.

The doctor said the surgery went well. He did notice that my liver was very large and covered in fat. He took a sample so that they could have it analyzed to make sure that it is OK. Bottom line, my liver is not that bad off. Mostly just covered in fat, which is getting better.

I awoke on the table, which they told me would happen. They woke me up to remove the tubes from my lungs. I had been intubated for the surgery. I remember them  yelling at me to breathe and I remember having the sensation for a long time afterwards that I could not breathe. I also had what I thought was horrible chest pains. I told them I was having chest pains. I was afraid I was having a heart attack. The nurse asked me where the pains were, and I apparently pointed to directly to my incision. The pain was unbelievable.

I was clearly briefed on all of this before hand. They also told me that I would not remember waking up. They were wrong. I remember and it was horrible.

I do not remember being in recovery. I do remember finally being wheeled to my room. The room was incredibly hot. When I weighed 300 pounds, I was much more sensitive to temperature than I am now. I could not stand being hot. So, being wheeled into an overly hot room, did not go over well. It took the hospital an hour to get someone in to change the temperature and bring me a fan. Finally, my sister, who works at one of their other hospitals, flashed her badge and raised a stink. I five minutes, the problem was solved. Apart from that minor hiccup, the hospital, the staff, etc, were fantastic. I have no complaints.

I was in a lot of pain. A lot. Of. Pain. Anybody who tells you that the surgery is the easy way out, is clearly an idiot. I challenge them to allow me to cut a 7 inch incision into their stomach to slice and rearrange their innards and see how they feel. It was just awful. All I could do was lay in bed, moan, and sleep. When the nurses told me I had to get up, use the bathroom, and take a walk, I seriously thought they were nuts.

The good news is, I did have a pain machine. I did not use it at first, mostly because the other drugs they had me on kept the worst of the pain away. Also, I thought that I had to be careful about using it. I didn’t want to take too much. The head bariatric nurse came in and told me to go ahead and use it as I needed it because they wanted me to not allow the pain to keep me from getting up and walking. And they wanted me to do a lot of walking.

So, I did use it. And I walked. The pain meds were kind of nice, I have to admit. I regretted leaving the hospital and leaving the serious meds behind because once I got home, that’s when the real misery began.

The pain meds made me sick the first day I was home. I almost ended up back in the hospital. I almost vomited. That would have been really bad as I could have done a lot of damage to the incision and staples. My sister called the surgeon at 3am my first night at home. He had prescribed some stomach medication, but they were huge capsules. I couldn’t take them. Finally, he told me to empty the capsules and dissolve them in water. I felt much better afterwards and the emergency was averted.

Life was very hard for about two weeks. I couldn’t stand on my own. I couldn’t lie flat. I slept in a large overstuffed chair in my sister’s house. And I had a hard time keeping on the food/water schedule.

That said, I did get out and do what the doctor wanted me to do. I walked. At first, I only walked to the corner and back to the house. My brother would pick me up from my sister’s and take me to Target or the library. Target was good because I could use a cart to steady myself. My sister even created a route through the living room and dining room for me so that I could walk around when I was home alone while they were at work.

Learning to eat again was painful. I was eating pureed food for six weeks. In some ways, it wasn’t so bad. In others it was So disgusting. I got really tired of hummus and now I cannot even stand it. Sometimes I can eat it, but often, I cannot even look at it. Not every meal sat well with me. My brother-in-law made grilled chicken for me and then put it in the food processor. It was awful.  I took one bite and while the chicken taste was OK, the texture almost made me hurl. Nonetheless, I couldn’t not eat it because he really went to a lot of effort to make sure that I had appropriate food that I could eat. So I ate as much as I could.

Also, I could eat something one maybe two times, then the sight of it made me sick. That did not bode well for the big pot of pureed lentils they made me. I love lentils. I eat them all of the time now, but just after the surgery, a few servings made me not want to even look at them.

I also had a lot of constipation in those early days. The worst part was, I was not allowed to push to help expel. Pushing could have strained or potentially ruptured my incision and internal staple line.

I was home after a month at my sister’s place. I was able to take care of myself. I went back to work six weeks after the surgery. I worked from home at the time, so I was able to return and not worry about the impact traveling to/from work would have on my health. I had the surgery on October 24, 2012 and by New Year’s I was slowly starting to introduce solid foods.

The first few months after the surgery was very difficult. The rapid weight loss made it a little easier to bear. I was slowly able to walk with ease and breathe. That alone made it worth it. Sitting where I am now, 127 pounds less. Able to walk anywhere I want, able to exercise, eating a little more, and feeling healthy, to me it was all worth it.

That said, the surgery does have the potential for some very serious problems. I encourage anyone considering the surgery to research and arm yourself with the knowledge of what the potential complications could be. Do what you can to make yourself as healthy as possible before the surgery. It will help a lot to prevent some of the complications.

The surgery is not for everyone. It is a huge life change. There are foods that I may never be able to eat again. I will always have to take vitamins and protein supplements. And I will always have to be prepared for adverse reactions to the food I eat. I also do not know what sort of health issues I may face in the future.

That said, to me the surgery was worth it. I was facing some seriously scary health problems as a result of my morbid obesity. The potential health problems that could result from the surgery were no more serious than the health problems I faced every day.

Looking back, the pain and difficulty during the surgery, the months of prep, doctor’s appointments, medical procedures, tests, and personal sacrifices that I made to have this surgery were worth it. I learned a lot about myself, the food I eat and why I overeat. The surgery has been a great tool to help teach me control.

I think that’s the most important thing for anyone considering the surgery to understand. The surgery is a tool. It’s not a miracle cure. You will not be all better. It will not solve your psychological problems. And it’s a temporary fix for your bad behavior.  You will be able to eat more eventually. You can go back to eating high caloric food, fattening food. The surgery only temporarily helps you control what you eat. The behavior modification has to come from  you.

I have reached a point where I can eat more and eat different kinds of foods. The surgery taught me control. The doctor and nutritionist taught me healthy eating. They prescribed exercise. They gave me all the tools I need to successfully lose weight and live a healthier, fuller life.

Now it’s up to me.