Eating

On giving myself a break

I’m guessing it was pretty clear from my previous posts that I needed to take a break from Weight Watchers. A break from counting points, a break from healthy eating, a break from passing over the pastry counter at the grocery store, the coffee shop—even the donut truck at the farmer’s market. The deprivation had built up in me to the point that I seemingly only had two choices: binge eat everything in sight or give myself a few weeks off to enjoy the foods I was so desperately craving. I chose the latter. I stopped tracking points. I stopped weighing myself every day. I ordered that blueberry scone at Starbucks, along with my first (full-fat) peppermint mocha of the season. I bought a (small) cake and cut myself a slice for dessert multiple evenings in a row. I made cookie dough and we all sat on the couch and ate spoonfuls out of the big silver mixing bowl, not giving a thought as to whether we’d save any to bake in the oven. It was wonderful. It was just like old times. I was enjoying myself, and the food.

I didn’t completely shirk my healthy habits, though. I still had a protein shake for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, low carb snacks and (mostly) healthy dinners. What I was able to do with my newfound freedom, however, was eat a roll with my salad. Or eat the leftover pizza in the fridge without feeling guilty. I still shopped the perimeter of the grocery store, but I threw in some Christmas candy and Chex Mix for good measure. I drank a glass of wine, and I went out to eat and had a margarita. It was divine. It was exactly what I’d been missing, exactly what I needed.

I tried a couple other things as well. I researched low-carb, reading a few Atkins books and Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It. I finally incorporated eggs into my diet and now I eat them at least three times a week. I started eating full-fat foods again, like butter, coconut oil, salad dressing, and cheese, and recognized that Gina’s right when she says those things are more filling, so you can eat less of them and still feel satisfied. I completely failed my DietBet, and realized that type of accountability group just doesn’t work for me. But the biggest thing I understood about myself over these past few weeks is that when I feel like I need a break from the confines of Weight Watchers, it’s okay to take one. It really is OK.

I’m planning to get back on track today, and to stay on track for as long as I can. I’ve prepped healthy breakfasts and desserts, my menu plan has been filled out, the fridge is stocked. Last week when I was feeling particularly low, I chatted online with a Weight Watchers coach and she encouraged me by saying, “Every day you track is a day you want to lose weight.” This is so true for me. During these weeks off, I haven’t tracked. And that’s because I truly didn’t care if I was gaining. I wanted to enjoy eating again, and that meant not logging every stray Oreo that made its way into my mouth. But that also meant I was gaining weight.

Another gem I came across recently: “You are no busier than a fit person.” I have not been working out regularly lately, making excuses to spend my scheduled time at the gym watching Sam’s gymnastics class instead of sweating it out on the elliptical. There are other reasons for that—we’re in a period of transition at home, with lots of changes that affect our day-to-day schedules, and I have needed the extra time to mentally regroup. But I’ve been using the excuse that I’m too busy to work out, and I’m not. I know I’m not. I just choose to use my free time in ways that don’t include exercise. And that could change too.

What I’m trying to say is, I had a great break, but I think it’s time it ended. I enjoyed not having to limit myself, but part of me misses tracking and the structure and organization it lends to my meals. Plus, I feel like there’s some power in it. When I’m tracking, I feel more of a sense of control over what I eat, and am more motivated to eat within my points. I don’t always feel this way, but a lot of the time, it really helps. Now that I’ve been through this, I’ve learned I’m someone who not only needs treats, but needs breaks, and maybe not for just a day, but for a whole week. And if I can incorporate that self-knowledge into my weight loss journey, I think I can be that much more successful.

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Eating

What I learned on my Junk Food Fast

First of all, Happy Halloween!

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Photo courtesy Target.com

A couple of weeks ago, I thought it would be a “fun challenge” to see if I could do a 10-day junk food fast. People, I’ll tell you, I lasted about a week. After I got through that 7th day I wanted chocolate so badly I broke down and made some muffins. And they were amazing. But I thought I’d share what I learned about myself during the fast in hopes it can help you if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, or even if you’re just trying to plan a week’s worth of healthy meals and stick to it.

1. Accountability works.
I’ve talked before about how I’m an Obliger, and that means it’s difficult for me to be accountable to myself. With this fast, I was accountable to SkinnyMom. Well, in my mind anyway. Knowing there was a group of Instagram followers who were trying to accomplish this goal right along with me really helped. And believing it was Brooke’s idea instead of mine made a difference as well.

2. I need treats.
I should have known this about myself, but I idiotically believed I could go 10 days without eating muffins for breakfast or having dessert after dinner. I don’t know what I was thinking! I should have pre-planned some healthy but delicious treats that I could have indulged with when the urge came. I did find some yogurt-covered pretzels, which were great, but other than that I felt too much like I was depriving myself, which is ultimately why I think I gave up on the fast three days early.

3. More specifically, I need chocolate.
I tried giving up chocolate for Lent once, and I did it, but I think only because I was still allowed to eat sweets. I have a major sweet tooth, but nothing satisfies it like chocolate. The combination of chocolate + sugar = pure bliss to me. The night after the fast I ate way too many spoonfuls of peanut butter that I’d dipped into a jar of chocolate chips (and yes, I’m definitely embarrassed to admit this!). But that was truly what I was craving. So if I ever do something like this again, I think I need to plan in a little chocolate so I don’t binge quite so dramatically when it’s over.

4. Eating clean makes a difference for weight loss.
This should be a no-brainer, but sometimes I need to learn things the hard way. At the beginning of the fast, I weighed 157.4 lbs. Seven days later, sticking to the fast the whole time, I weighed 154.8 lbs. That’s a loss of 2.6 lbs in only one week and to be honest, that’s a record for me. I generally lose about a pound a week, sometimes less, when I closely follow the Weight Watchers SmartPoints plan. But not being able to have my regularly scheduled muffins, turkey sandwiches on white bread, and bedtime Halo Top really made a difference.

So that’s it. Overall, I think the week went well. And I keep talking about “when I do this again,” but what I’m trying to get at is that I need to find ways to incorporate this new knowledge into my everyday eating habits, so I don’t have to do a fast again—I can just eat healthfully and allow myself planned, chocolaty treats every few days. Or maybe every other day. We’ll see.

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Eating

Self-sabotage

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So my weight has plateaued. I’ve been playing with about three pounds lately, losing them, gaining them back, and losing them again. These three pounds started as my nemesis, but are now a comfort. I’m so used to having them around, the number on the scale rarely shocks me anymore. If it’s excessively high, then yes, I’m shocked into clean eating and tracking like you wouldn’t believe. But when I settle back into that three-pound range, I feel fine again. Life is good. The three pounds are here to stay.

But life maybe isn’t so good. Maybe I started this program to reach a goal, and settling for a weight 15 lbs above that goal is exactly that: settling. Has my body just reached a weight it’s comfortable with? Or is it all in my mind?

I talked with a friend about this lately, a friend who’s also trying to lose weight, and we narrowed down the reasons for my stall to two things: failure and money. Both of these are rooted in that emotion which pretty much drives every part of my life: fear. If I reach my goal but I can’t maintain it, then I’m a failure. I’ve failed another diet, failed Weight Watchers yet again. I’ve failed to live up to the goal I’ve set for myself, the ideal that women in this country strive toward. I’m a failure.

And money. Yes, I’m shelling out $20/month to access Weight Watchers’ points calculator and a host of other online tools, but what about the money I’ll need to buy myself a whole new wardrobe? I’ve lost one pants size so far. Which means that most of my larger pants still fit, albeit loosely, and the smaller ones I kept around “just in case” fit perfectly. If I lose another 15 lbs I’ll have met my goal, but that will also mean I’ve lost another pants size, and then my smaller jeans will be too big and I won’t have any fallbacks. If one of the major goals of weight loss is to have a body that looks good, that means I have to dress it in a way that’s flattering. Which means I’ll have to buy clothes that fit. And a wardrobe overhaul is just not something we can afford right now.

Both of these issues are a symptom of a bigger one: fear. No one wants to be a failure, especially someone who looks so eagerly to others for approval. And yes, I don’t have the money to buy a completely new wardrobe all at once, but I bet I could get a few new pieces and fudge the rest until I do. I’m just scared of what life will look like then. Will I still have to track everything I eat, or will I instinctively know what not to put in my mouth? Will I still weigh myself every day? Will this truly be a lifestyle change, or was it another fad diet that I was just trying out for a few months? What happens when all of this is over?

Last night I sat in bed and cried to Chris that I just want to eat like a normal person again. I just want to enjoy fall. I want to bake pumpkin muffins and buy Starbucks lattes and snuggle under blankets and watch TV. I don’t want to worry about what having two muffins instead of one will do to my points. I don’t want to worry about the amount of sugar in a Pumpkin Spice Latte. And I especially don’t want to worry about trying to get 10,000 steps in when it’s freezing and dark and drizzly outside, like it is today.

I cried and I cried, I let it all out, and then I woke up today and went back to counting points. I went back to scrambled eggs and sausage for breakfast, a Mason jar salad for lunch, almonds for snack. Bunless turkey burgers for dinner and berries and cream for dessert and people if I’m honest, all the fun has been sucked out of eating. Where are the tender muffins, the spoonful of cookie dough you sneak before putting the trays in the oven, the scone at your favorite coffee shop? Where are the chips you mindlessly eat on the couch, the bedtime bowl of ice cream, the gourmet donuts from the donut truck? Food is life to me. And food is such a big part of my life, especially with Weight Watchers, when I’m tracking everything so closely. And yes I have treat meals and yes I go out to eat occasionally but my day-to-day menu is so unfulfilling I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this. So I’m asking myself these questions: (1) Why did I want to lose weight in the first place? And (2) Could I be happy being the weight I am now for the rest of my life? I feel like this plateau, after lasting so long, is no longer only physical, but mental too. There’s got to be a reason I keep doing this to myself. A reason I keep gaining back those three pounds. If I could only put my finger on it, maybe I could finally move on.

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Eating

Keeping it real

Remember those goals I made for September? Lose 5 lbs, explore clean eating, go to the gym twice a week? Well I accomplished none of them. In fact, I’m back on another plateau, and I haven’t lost weight since August. I was so gung-ho then that I thought I could just keep going. But there’s this thing with me: when I’m doing well with weight loss, I think I can just add back in all the stuff I’ve been avoiding. And I can’t. At least, not if I want to see the numbers on the scale go down.

I’ve been listening to Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before (again, better to listen than to read, just sayin’!), and according to her four tendencies, I’m an obliger. That won’t be a surprise to those of you who know me in real life. But the problem with being an obliger is that I’m really good at meeting my commitments to other people. Not so great when it comes to meeting a commitment to myself. Which is why, I think, this Weight Watchers journey has been so tumultuous for me. I will have a few months of great losses, and then a month of nothing. Lather, rinse, repeat. But if you look back on my time in the program, I think it’s kind of embarrassing how little weight I’ve lost since April. It’s been five months and I STILL haven’t broken the 20lb mark. And I should have been able to. I’m thisclose.

One of the problems is Fall. I LOVE FALL. We all know that. But with fall comes Pumpkin Spice Lattes and my instinct for nesting, for cozy blankets and spicy candles, for spending more time inside, for baking up pumpkin goodies to my heart’s content. And all of that has had an impact on my weight this last month. Gretchen (we’re friends, right?) says obligers need outside accountability to meet their goals, so I’m trying two new things this October. First, I joined a DietBet. Not completely sure what it is myself, but basically I paid $35 and bet that I could lose 4% of my weight this month. If I win, I get my money back plus whatever’s left in the pot, shared amongst all the winners. So if I don’t actually TRY to lose weight this month, I’m out $35, also known as a mani-pedi, lunch at Panera with my family, or a new sweater from Target. I’m trying to imprint on my mind how much it would suck to lose that money to my laziness. Hopefully it’ll start working soon.

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The other thing I’m trying is SkinnyMom’s 10-day No Junk Food challenge. I even made a graphic and set it as my phone background so I would have a constant reminder of what not to eat. I started the challenge today, and so far so good. I’m just not sure if I’m going to be able to survive 10 days without chocolate. I mean, CHOCOLATE. I eat chocolate every morning at breakfast and every evening after dinner. It’s what I always crave; what I use to signal my stomach that the meal is over and I should stop eating. So that will truly be a challenge. But how lame will I be if I can’t eat chocolate for a week and a half? I know I can do it, I just also know it won’t be very fun. Sigh. No one ever got into weight loss for the kicks.

Anyone what to partner up with me and be my accountability buddy? Gretchen says that’s what I need. I have a friend I go to the gym with, but what I really need is someone I have to report what I ate to. Who won’t judge but will kindly suggest that I wasn’t supposed to eat that chocolate until next Thursday, and that maybe I shouldn’t have put those Reese’s Peanut Butter Halloween Pumpkins into my Target cart. I track in my WW app but it’s so nice, it’s like, “Great job tracking this week!” and “You tracked a fruit—awesome!” I need it to be a little harder on me if I’m going to get out of this plateau and meet my goal by—dare I say it—January 1!!?!?!?!

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Eating

17 Easy swaps to make your diet more Weight Watchers-friendly

My beautiful, sweet, amazing friend just told me she joined Weight Watchers, and I found myself wanting to do everything I could to help her make the most of it. Having to completely overhaul your diet can be so discouraging, especially if you’re someone who thought she already ate pretty well, like I was. So I wanted to pull together this list of foods as a quick reference for anyone who’s trying to improve what they eat.

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1. Instead of cow’s milk, try nut milk.
The disappointing thing for those of us who grew up drinking cow’s milk with every meal is that it’s not the healthiest, nor is it low in Weight Watchers SmartPoints. A cup of 2% milk is 5 SmartPoints, while a cup of cashew milk (my current favorite) is 1 SmartPoint. I use cashew milk in my coffee because I’ve found it to be creamier than almond or coconut milk, and I actually prefer it to cow’s milk now.

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2. Instead of eggs, try egg whites.
This is a hard one to swallow, especially in baking, where the egg yolk lends chewiness and fluffiness to cookies and cakes. But, an egg is 2 SmartPoints, and THREE egg whites are 1 SmartPoint (1 or 2 egg whites are 0 SmartPoints). When a recipe calls for two eggs, I usually use one egg and one egg white. For omelets I try to use all egg whites; when I’m making waffles or pancakes, I stick with egg whites. You can buy egg whites only now; they’re in a carton next to the eggs in the Dairy section.

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3. Instead of mayonnaise, try light mayonnaise or vegan mayonnaise.
My personal favorite mayo substitute is Just Mayo Light. 1 T is 1 SmartPoint versus 1 T of regular mayonnaise for 3 SmartPoints. I don’t use it often, but light mayo a lifesaver in things like summer pasta salads, and it’s great for adding 0 points of flavor to a turkey burger.

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4. Instead of sour cream, try fat free Greek yogurt.
I’ve been doing this for a while as I’ve never liked the idea of sour cream (it says “sour” right there in the name!) and I find fat free Greek yogurt to be a great substitute. I like putting fat free Greek yogurt on my chili, quesadillas, even on fruit crisp. At 3 SmartPoints per cup, it’s a huge savings over regular sour cream, which packs 21 SmartPoints for the same amount.

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5. Instead of ice cream, try Halo Top.
HaloTop is kind of an anomaly to me. I have nothing in my formerly full-fat life to compare it to. It’s icier than regular ice cream, but if you let it sit out for a few minutes (or microwave it, like I do), the consistency improves. The flavors are a little sharper, like the Vanilla, which was a little too sweet for me, or the Chocolate, which somehow tasted powdery. I love the Mint Chocolate Chip and Birthday Cake, though. And at 2 SmartPoints for half a cup, you can’t beat it. Most of my favorite regular ice cream flavors are 8-10 SmartPoints per half cup, and if you’re doing Weight Watchers don’t even LOOK at one of those cute little containers of Häagen-Dazs—more SmartPoints than you would believe!

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6. Instead of a Starbucks Frappuccino, try a coffee protein shake.
I shared my copycat Frappuccino protein shake recipe a while back, and while I’ve been heavily into the peanut butter protein shakes these days, that one will always be a favorite. It measures up at 4 SmartPoints, while a Grande Mocha Frappuccino with 2% milk is 21 SmartPoints. Try my protein shake, or better yet, try making your own!

7. Instead of Bisquick, try Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes Flapjack and Waffle mix.
I use ⅓ cup of Kodiak Cakes mix for my morning waffle, which costs me 3 SmartPoints. I top the waffle with enough fat free Cool Whip and mini chocolate chips that I don’t really care how good it tastes, so while I’d prefer to be making my traditional Bisquick recipe (5 SmartPoints per ⅓ cup), this one is fine. Plus, the protein in the waffle keeps me full until lunch, something Bisquick never did.

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8. Instead of sugar, try honey, maple syrup, agave, ripe bananas, sucanat, or stevia.
There are so many good sugar substitutes, and so many bloggers who are using them to make incredible recipes. Check out any recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie and you’ll see what I mean. Sally’s Baking Addiction also has this AMAZING recipe for banana chocolate chip muffins that uses only bananas and agave for sweetness. They taste exactly like chocolate cake. I know, I know, I’ve said it before. But please go make these—SO YUM.

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9. Instead of flour tortillas, try an Ole Wellness Wrap.
I love a good quesadilla, and while I’ve definitely gotten away from frying mine in butter, I still want a wrap that tastes good. The Ole Wellness Wrap doesn’t have the same fluffiness as a flour tortilla, but it’s close, and at only 1 SmartPoint per wrap (versus 4 SmartPoints for a medium flour tortilla), you can afford to eat more than one!

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10. Instead of regular pasta, try whole wheat.
This may seem like a big jump for some of you, but once the pasta’s cooked and sauced, it’s hard to tell the difference between whole wheat and regular. Both clock in at about the same amount of points (5 SmartPoints for 2 oz uncooked whole wheat penne vs. 6 SmartPoints for 2 oz uncooked regular penne), but whole grains are healthier for you and take more time to digest, which means you’ll stay fuller longer. Seriously, this is an easy switch and as a grownup, you should have already been doing this anyway.

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11. Instead of white rice, try brown.
Same idea as above; the less processed the food, the better it is for you. 1 cup of medium-grain brown rice is 6 SmartPoints, while 1 cup of medium-grain white rice is 7 SmartPoints. Again, the difference is negligible, so why not choose brown rice?

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12. Instead of Butternut bread, try Sara Lee 45-calories & Delightful.
The switch here was life-changing for me. I love wheat bread, but Butternut’s Honey Wheat is 2 SmartPoints per slice, while a slice of Sara Lee 45-calories & Delightful Honey Whole Wheat is only 1 SmartPoint. This may not seem like much, but saving two points makes a HUGE difference when you’re making a sandwich and want to add many other delicious things besides bread, like meat, cheese and mayonnaise. After I discovered Sara Lee Delightful, I could finally relate to Oprah and eat bread every day without feeling guilty.

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13. Instead of chips, try popcorn.
Chris and I used to share a bowl of Chex mix every night on the couch after the kids went to bed. After that we’d have ice cream, or maybe some wine. While I love Chex mix and pretty much all kinds of chips, I knew I couldn’t keep up the habit on Weight Watchers. A cup of original Chex Mix is 8 SmartPoints, while a cup of light butter flavored popcorn is 1 SmartPoint. I realized that all I really wanted when I was eating Chex Mix was crunch and salt. Popcorn satisfies my cravings just as well, and for a lot fewer points!

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14. Instead of your favorite frozen pizza, try DiGiorno Thin & Crispy.
Pizza is soooooo many SmartPoints, and as a result I’ve only had it twice since I’ve been on Weight Watchers. Before you start feeling sorry for me, you’ll be glad to know I recently discovered DiGiorno Thin & Crispy pizzas. Their Tomato Mozzarella with Pesto is only 12 SmartPoints for HALF, which is just about what one slice of a normal pizza would be (oh, how I miss you, Papa John’s!). Plus, it actually tastes good.

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15. Instead of hot dogs, try chicken dogs.
A regular hot dog is 6 SmartPoints which is fine for dinner, but I’ve found they don’t really fill me up and I usually want at least two. Two hot dogs plus buns would cost me over half of my daily SmartPoints budget. So instead I eat Trader Joe’s Uncured Chicken Dogs, which are only 1 SmartPoint each. I’m actually full after eating only one, and my kids love them too.

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16. Instead of regular bacon, try center cut bacon.
I don’t eat bacon often, but when I do, I don’t want it to cost me too much. Center cut bacon is only 1 SmartPoint for TWO slices, compared to regular bacon at 8 SmartPoints for two slices. It definitely makes a difference when we have breakfast for dinner (or heck, bacon at breakfast), and it’s healthier for all of us.

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17. Instead of store-bought cakes/pies/brownies/muffins/donuts, try homemade.
If you follow me on Instagram you know I bake a lot, and that’s because I love me some sweet treats. What I don’t love is how many points they are! My favorite scone at Starbucks is 19 SmartPoints, and I used to eat that for breakfast with a White Chocolate Mocha (23 SmartPoints!!!). So while I haven’t figured out how to bake a lighter scone, I think I’ve mastered muffins and bars. If you’re looking for a place to start, I recommend these Unbaked Cookie Dough bars, these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies, and these Peanut Butter Banana Muffins.

Anything you would add? Let me know in the comments below!

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Everything Else

My mini makeover

Well, I got my hair cut. I scheduled the cut in July, eight weeks from my previous one, but my stylist was on vacation so it ended up being nine. After week five I was desperate for a cut. My thick hair was frizzing daily in the summer humidity, to the point where the five minutes between drying it and walking out the door was the only time my hair looked good the entire day.

Which is fine, really. I don’t need to impress anyone. I have one of those husbands that likes to tell me he loves me no matter what. I work in a basement with people who have become my friends and who accept me for who I am, frizz and all. I might meet someone important during a grocery trip to Wal-Mart but do I really care what that gorgeous girl from nursing school thinks about how I look today? No. No, I don’t.

But with my 10% weight loss, the hair appointment I knew I had coming up, and the breaking of my three-year-old glasses, I thought it would be fun to do a little mini-makeover. New hair, new glasses, maybe an eyebrow wax. Something to keep me motivated as we begin the journey into winter, which historically is my worst season for overeating (although, isn’t it everyone’s?). I began to think about short hair, pinning styles on Pinterest and quizzing my girlfriends who have pixie cuts about maintenance, products, and styling.

I never thought I could pull off a short style because I have a pretty weak chin, and have always used my hair as a sort of curtain, both to cover it up and to create shadows where none exist naturally. But losing almost 20 pounds meant some of the weight came off my face, and all of a sudden, I felt like maybe I didn’t need that curtain to hide behind anymore.

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I do feel like I need to start wearing makeup again, because now my face is front and center, people. And maybe earrings too. But I’m OK with that. As a grownup, I probably should never have stopped wearing makeup anyway, right?

The first day, buoyed by the excitement of the girls at the salon, I loved the cut. The second day, after sleeping on it, I wasn’t sure. I would catch glances of myself in the mirror and wonder what the hell I did to my beautiful hair. The third day, more glances, more self-doubt. The fourth day, today, I finally washed it and tried to dry and style it myself. And while I couldn’t get that one piece in the front to cascade effortlessly down my forehead like my stylist could, I’ll work on it. I do like it. And I’m so glad I did it.

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