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Peanut M&Ms. Or, as I refer to them, Mine-oh-Mines. What is it about these colorful melt-in-your-mouth, not-in-your-hand candies that has them spark to life—like in the commercials—when I travel?

At home, a guilt-free KIND bar is enough to satisfy my sweet cravings, but as soon as I enter an airport, a rainbow runway of these candies leads me to the departure gate.

Do you have different cravings when you travel? 

If so, you’re not alone. Many of my clients tell me about their healthy living veering off course when they travel, but why? And how do you avoid the usual self-chastising when you return home? What can you do to make sure your homecoming doesn’t feel like a crash landing?

These are some of the questions I considered during my recent trip with my husband Carlos to the West Coast. A deeper craving for nature, a more relaxed pace, and a certain feeling of expansion fueled this trip. I love Philly, but sometimes these packed row homes, alleyways, and narrow streets feel like they’re closing in on me. The trip to Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon was filled with hikes, catching up with old friends and making new ones, and delicious coffee. I returned to Philly with a well-fed soul.

I mention this craving for expansion because I find that it underlies much of our rebellion against tightly wound food rules that are a product of our even more tightly wound lives. For many, overeating on vacation—or in “real life”—acts as a surrogate for this expanded feeling, a rewarding exhale after a demand filled day.

Then comes vacation…

Since we manage to keep it together so well in “real” life, time away becomes an unconscious permission slip to “blow off some steam.” Rationalization kicks into high gear: But there’s no healthy options at the airport! Just one more dessert. Another glass of wine? Sure, there’s no work in the morning! 

Of course there’s nothing wrong with taking it easy on vacation. But what I’ve found is that these choices are often more triggered by a need to release the pressure that builds within us like a teakettle throughout our days. Not monitoring our food choices, coupled with the physical relaxation that comes from sugar, salt, and fat, silences that inner whistle before it becomes a fire alarm.

In Truce with Food, we work to unravel these deep (often unconscious) crevices that make us feel so tightly wound around food and in our lives. Targeting these areas makes consistent healthy eating so much easier—and probable. 

When I was in the throws of my own constant food monitoring and weight frustrations, I’d convince myself that I was actually going to be healthier when traveling since I was more likely to find myself in a bikini and around strangers (who I assumed would judge me).

Ha!

Although it didn’t feel funny at the time.

Once my inevitable vacation overeating would surge, I’d strike a deal with Future Ali: Once I return home, I’m committing to no sugar. No carbs. Lots of veggies. Lean protein. Doubling up on the workouts. Instead of relieving this internal pressure during vacation, having this dreaded strict plan in the future only increased my anxiety.

The result?

Knowing deprivation waited for me at home, I ate like it was my last meal…for the entire vacation. And of course, this led to more guilt that didn’t allow me to fully enjoy myself.

Of course, there’s a better way.

Okay, okay, on this latest trip, I did indulge in the previously mentioned M&Ms (and thoroughly enjoyed them) but overall my eating didn’t veer much from the usual. Rather than dreading a return to the East Coast I returned with optimism—even with jet lag—and not feeling like I was “starting over” with my healthy lifestyle.

So, try this next time you are traveling for work or pleasure. 

1. Stop bargaining with your future self. Enjoy the present. Give yourself permission to not have to eat extremely clean when you return from vacation. This will decrease the pressure you feel emanating from a future “perfect” you.

2. Taper your blood sugar down gradually when you return. Whether from time zone changes or indulging more, be mindful of the connection between your blood sugar and emotions. If your blood sugar drops dramatically, you’ll be left with more cravings (and frustration) and you’ll feel more depressive and anxious. I tapered down from the delicious Portland coffee to black tea. In my usual routine I drink green tea, but going back to green tea immediately after coffee would have made me exponentially tired and reaching for sugar (likely more M&Ms) as a energy crutch.

3. Sleep, sleep, and sleep. Want a detox? Sleep! Your body detoxes itself when you’re sleeping. I made sure I got 9-10 hours of sleep and that my work load would be light during the week of my return. Also, never underestimate the effectiveness of a power nap.

4. Get back to lots of veggies and/or green smoothies right away. These smoothies never fail to make me feel cleaner after the inevitable string of eating out while away. When my digestion and stomach feel clean, I naturally want to make healthier choices.

5. Set a date to get back to your exercise routine. Make sure it’s a date that accounts for the possibility of getting slammed by “real” life upon your return. Along with the pile of mail, a return home usually comes with facing some of the stuff you needed a break from. For me that included the time and energy intensive process of selling a condo, a full inbox, and some work that had piled up. The idea of exercising in the heat of a 90-minute Bikram yoga class felt more stressful than restorative. Rather than putting that pressure on myself, I set a date on my calendar that would allow me enough space to regroup (and get me excited about working out again).

6.  Step away from the M&Ms. That is, have a healthy dessert for the first couple days back. If I wouldn’t have had something healthier on hand (sea salt dark chocolate with almonds), my cravings would have been more intense and, most likely, I would have had to surrender to them the next day. Instead, I allowed myself the dark chocolate for a couple of days and then once my blood sugar was back to normal, I didn’t have any cravings.

Our bodies and minds don’t like extremes. Yet our culture and nutrition climate tell us that if we aren’t “gearing up” for a detox, nutrition plan, or workout routine, then we aren’t doing it right. Yet the reality is quite the opposite.  

I want to end by encouraging you to bring some freedom and lightness to your post-vacation routine. Who knows, it may just make you feel more open to other ways food and your weight can be more relaxing than you previously imagined.

Until we meet again, safe (and healthy) travels to you…

Be well,

Ali        

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I’m really proud to be one of the Front Line Voices in this edgy and much needed campaign. Read about it below and then access the free audio series and hard hitting ads to help you start thinking differently about beauty.

Are You Ready To #StopTheBeautyMadness?

If you’ve had enough of standard-issue beauty, there’s good news. There is a powerful new campaign of 25 ads, a blog, and dozens of featured “frontline voices” to take on the voices in our heads that say we are not thin enough, not pretty enough, and just plain not enough.

arewethereyetThe campaign at Stop the Beauty Madness is a social change project offered from Be Who You Are Productions, Inc. Robin Rice, President of Be Who You Are and Creative Director of this campaign, said “it was time to take matters into our own hands. The beauty industry is not going to change, but we can change how we think., how we talk. But most importantly, how we judge ourselves and each other.”

Senior Blogger and Community Relations Coordinator Lisa Meade is a long time crusader for body acceptance. “We need to stop believing that we are somehow broken or in need of someone’s product to make us look or feel better. We need to create our own definition of beauty and embody it and see each other’s beauty as all encompassing, rather than limited to a select few.“

The 25 hard-hitting ads tackle some of the grittiest, profoundly unsettling realities of 21st century beauty ideals. In one, a young girl stands pondering: “So you think I’m worthless but if I take off my clothes you’ll tell me you love me? Okay, sure.” In another, a girl’s body with a missing torso asks “Are We There Yet?”

Robin Rice designed the ads to make us all wince at ourselves and our beauty-hyped culture. “All I did was take the thoughts in our heads and put them on a woman or girl who was likely to have had the same kind of inner experience. It’s so universal, it’s scary.” While Rice does not go easy on us, she doesn’t preach either. “I’m simply using the campaign to ask the difficult questions, and then asking other women to ask those questions, too. No one person can have all the answers, but no one person has to. If we all just start asking the hard questions, something new will emerge.”

The campaign is intended to create much needed conversations on ageism, racism, fat shaming, body image, eating disorders, sexuality – you name it – all with the aim to #stopthbeautymadness that we’ve all come to know and hate. With the help of FrontLine Voices including supermodel Emme, pioneering activist Jean Kilbourne, Women For One founder Kelly McNelis, 16-year-old Valerie Weisler (Nickelodeon Halo Effect Award finalist), Sonya Renee Taylor of The Body Is Not An Apology and many more, the campaign is launching to nearly one million social media connections, encouraging all women of all ages, shapes and sizes to share the ads using the hashtag #stopthebeautymadness.

There is also a free, 10-week thought provoking audio series featuring many of the FrontLine Voices listed on the website. These interviews will inform and encourage the listener to question and shift their relationships with body image, beauty standards and the culture.

The Facebook page at www.facebook.com/stopthebeautymadness are requesting fans share their highly imperfect but always-gorgeous and empowering selfies. To learn more, visit www.StopTheBeautyMadness.com.

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With summer lovin’ can also come body loathing.

A part of you knows you shouldn’t be hooked by the parade of cover lines blasting from supermarket aisles. But, as your mint chip ice cream chugs down the checkout lane, you take the bait and flip through another article promising a “hot beach bod” (supposedly waiting on some mythical beach). When you glance up, it’s too late: The ice cream is already bagged like a secret stowaway.

The cold reality is that with summer here, most women aren’t “where they’d like to be” with their weight or body. Unfortunately, many women feel this way year-round, but this dissatisfaction flares with the threat of a bikini.

Pulse rates rise and the countdown begins.

But, what if this year could be different? What if you could replace shame with inspiration? What if you could cool off the countdown?

You can. To do so requires a more integrated approach that acknowledges your mental, physical, and spiritual dimensions.

Follow the three tips below to set you on a healthier path to changes that’ll extend beyond the summer season.

1. Mental: Reframe what’s going on inside your mind.  

Your idea of “motivation” to lose weight is often a form of shaming or punishing yourself. “I’m going to cut out all sugar and carbs. I’m going to double up on exercise” is what I often here from clients. These extremes inevitably lead to a backlash. Studies have proven that shaming people into losing weight doesn’t work. A trainer yelling at a reality show contestant may work for TV, but in real life that trainer should simmer down. What all this yelling does is reinforce what another study found: When people view exercise as a punishment, they overeat later.

So, what to do instead?

Measure your efforts not your outcomes.

Weight loss isn’t a linear process and you need to learn from setbacks. By measuring your efforts versus the scale or even body measurements, you shift into what psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck calls “growth mindset.”

This mindset is one where you understand weight loss and body confidence exists on a learning curve and requires practice, not something that will happen instantly from reading one article, taking a pill, or when hitting a certain number on the scale. What you think of as “setbacks” (like overeating at night or missing a workout) aren’t failures, but learning opportunities. The key is to figure out what happened so you’ll know next time what doesn’t work for you.

Dweck talks about adding “yet” to remind yourself that you are in the learning process. For instance, “I haven’t stopped overeating at night…yet.” This opens up the possibility to view this stubborn challenge from a different angle.

In a growth mindset, you ask different questions: What is so appealing about doing this alone? At night? What in my day made me feel so tense that this overeating is providing a teakettle-like release?

Over time, these discoveries build confidence because you’re regaining control. The results are lifestyle changes that could end these behaviors for good.

2. Physical: Find healthy food that’s delicious.

Most people still equate healthy food with deprivation. You will feel the most tempted and deprived when your blood sugar isn’t balanced. Over and over again, I see my clients not eating enough fat. Full fat foods are healthy choices. Examples of smart choices you can enjoy and not feel guilty about include: KIND Bars (my favorite is their new caramel almond sea salt bar), guacamole, and full-fat Greek yogurt. The key in all of these is low sugar, high quality protein, and fat.

3. Spiritual: Stop projecting happiness into a future body.

Many of my clients believe their challenges will clear up—or they’ll at least feel more capable of handling everything better—when they’re looking good in a bikini.

But that’s not what happens.

Instead, those roots insecurities (maybe a few less) are still waiting along with that new bikini.

Hey, I get it. It took me over 15 years to break from this sort of thinking.

Here’s what I suggest trying instead. Think of one feeling that you are projecting onto this future bikini-wrapped self. Now, take a smaller dose of the feeling and “gift” yourself with that right now. This is the opposite of punishing yourself.

For example, some of my clients skip attending a pool party or “forget” to bring a bathing suit. They literally and metaphorically sit on the sidelines of life as a way to punish themselves. And rather than learning what would make them feel more comfortable in their weight loss process—as there are likely more situations like this in their futures—they’ve labeled themselves in a fixed way, usually as fat or ugly. These labels have deeper implications that won’t diminish with a smaller number on the scale.

Does this sound familiar?

Instead, try to embody growth mindset by finding a bathing suit or outfit that makes you feel the best you can now. This subtly but powerfully reduces the pressure off future weight loss and makes life feel better in the present. These experiences also fill you emotionally so you’ll have fuel for your weight loss goal. There’s an exponential effect because when you change how you act in the world, even subtly, the world responds.

The old, curmudgeonly dieting me would countless objections to this last suggestion. But the utterly exhausted and exasperated me of ten years ago didn’t feel like she really had a choice. Back then, I didn’t understand growth mindset or how subtle and “small” changes could be powerful, but I knew there had to be a better way than the usual dieting cycle. So, I started to taking one day and experience at a time to learn what I was really seeking with my weight loss. Today, I’m filled with gratitude for my younger self who took a chance on getting back into the dance of life, even with an extra 30 pounds.

I hope you’ll take your own food and weight loss as an invitation to learn rewarding and meaningful life lessons.

That would be true summer lovin’.

Be well,

Ali

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I’ll make this quick—there’s sun out there to soak up!

First, I wanted you to know about “Gluten-Free Haters Have It All Wrong,” an opinion piece I recently wrote for Be Well Philly. It’s garnered a lot of social media attention since going live and sparked a lively debate both online and off. I hope this is because I’ve added to the conversation and not to the noise. As I’ve often said, we don’t need more information, we need more understanding. Check it out, add your voice, and help spread the word.

Also, I’m excited to tell you about Tara Gentile’s LIVE THE FUTURE/the show, which kicks off June 9th. This show aims to bring together leaders across all aspects of life to discuss what’s already changed, what’s shifting now, and what we can expect in the future. The goal is to bring you new ideas, inspire you to make fresh changes, and open your eyes to emerging possibilities.

It’s completely free and no sales pitches. Its focus is on telling great stories and delivering quality information. Tara is brilliant, so I know her questions will be thought-provoking. I’m being interviewed on how the future of health care has already arrived. Among other topics, we cover why counting calories is sabotaging your weight loss. Other experts will discuss topics from financial planning to creativity.

I plan on listening to these episodes while I stroll through nature (hopefully lots of beach time this year since I’m finally not in graduate school)!

Lastly, I want to thank you for being a part of this community. Your attention is a privilege I’ll never take for granted—be it today, tomorrow, or into the future.

Here’s to your health and summer fun!

Be well,

Ali

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Can you believe summer is just on the horizon? Hopefully for most of you that means reading and relaxing at some point near a body of water.

Reading and learning are two great loves of my life and I’m eager to share my top three book recommendations from my nightstand pile. Books have always been a key component in teaching me how to take control of my health and feel empowered.

One day soon I hope to bring you news of my own book, but in the meantime, these recommendations have been inspiring my thinking. After all, Truce with Food is subtitled The Thinker’s Diet. My hope is that they empower you as much as they have me.

One caveat: More health information isn’t always helpful. It often leads to diverting your focus away from the harder work of figuring out why you aren’t eating real foods or making necessary changes. While there appears to be an explosion of health books from Grain Brain to The Body Book, the foundation of each of these worth its salt (no pun intended) is to eat whole foods. The hook for each is different simply to address various pain points. But all roads should lead to your local farmers’ market, your own garden, or the perimeter of your grocery store. That is, most of us know what we should be doing, but the question is why aren’t we doing it?

That’s why I tend to gravitate towards reading that inspires philosophical and psychological shifts for me and feed the work I do with my clients. The books below provide the intellectual architecture to not just address the what, but the how that leads to lasting change in behavior.


The Disease Delusion: Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life by Jeffery Bland, PhD.

Once you read this book, you will more clearly see how much control you actually have over your health. Liberating? Yes. Added responsibility? Definitely.

Jeffery Bland is considered by many to be the father of functional medicine (a branch of medicine that addresses the underlying causes of diseases using a systems-oriented approach and engages both patient and practitioner). Truce with Food and all my seven years of health coaching have roots in functional medicine. The approach in this book that has my synapses firing the most is how Bland reunites philosophy with medicine, just like it used to be in the good ole’ ancient Greece days, when poetry and metaphor were used to complement science and not thought of as separate disciplines. And even better is he has Western science to prove what the more intuitive medicines like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine gathered from intuitive knowing and the cycles of health and life.

This reframing enables science to shift its focus from simply trying to control disease—with medication or assuming disease is genetically predetermined— to understanding how the environment we live in—which includes factors like diet, stress, pollution, etc.— interact and cooperate (or not) with our cells. In practical terms, this means you don’t have to accept an inheritance and legacy of heart disease, cancer or even something like hypothyroidism and depression.


WomanCode: Perfect Your Cycle, Amplify Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive, and Become a Power Source

Truthfully, I read this book last summer, but wanted to wait until I had a chance to experiment with the lessons and see the benefits in my clients. And now the paperback is out.

WomanCode is grounded in functional medicine. It also brings menstrual, fertility, and other endocrine challenges like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome center stage with compassion. Historically, women’s health issues have been ignored (no our bodies aren’t the same as men), trivialized (you’re just emotional and need to calm down) or worse, made to be a condition (i.e. pregnancy and menopause) rather than a significant experience.

Thematically, I love that WomanCode acknowledges that nutritional needs are dynamic and change from week to week as a woman’s hormones change. Truce with Food teaches a mindset around food because nutrition needs change all the time.

My biggest take-away has been how to adapt your exercise based on where you are in your menstrual cycle. Knowing when it’s time to do more intense working out versus more time in the yoga studio or with long walks helps make sure your energy and moods stay up, while also helping eliminate sugar cravings from excess exercise stress on the body.

It’s made a huge difference in making my workouts work for me and feeling like they are something I’m doing for myself rather than feeling like I’m grinding it out.

Also, Alisa has a Woman Code program for those who want more support in supporting whatever menstrual-related challenges they are having. This is an affiliate link. I rarely—this is only my second time—act as an affiliate. I have genuine enthusiasm for Alisa’s work and that’s why I’m recommending it here.


Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life by Thomas Moore

I’m rereading this one. In Truce with Food, we discuss psychology and soul goals. Your personal goals are the ones where reframing and thinking about things differently can get you really far.

Soul goals are what life or your deepest self is asking of you. These goals usually aren’t logical, involve a lot of uncertainty and trust, and satisfy our deepest cravings for what we want from life. Weight loss goals are usually a mix of both. Each type requires a different healing path.

This book provides a tremendous introduction into the language of the soul (hint: it’s metaphor, symbols, and stories). It even has a chapter devoted to the body, which I think anyone who is struggling with health or weight will appreciate. Like the books above, Moore’s philosophical outlook is a welcome departure from the usual “do this, don’t do that” dogma that comes with so much health information.


Lastly, I want to conclude by saying that I’m excited and grateful that the latest round of my Truce with Food group program SOLD OUT! I’m inspired by this amazing group of women and the shifts they are already experiencing this early in the program.

Some of you have asked how you can sign-up for the next round starting in September, stay tuned for more details coming this August.

In the meantime, happy summer reading!

Be well,

Ali

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(Download or listen to an audio version of this post here.)

 

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Over the last two posts, I’ve addressed the mental and emotional landscape responsible for drawing the battle lines between “good” and “bad” foods (that ultimately leads you to rebel) and how you won’t be navigating your way through these “mind” fields with shopping cart lunges.

Today I will focus on the top four mistakes people make that keep them stuck in a “battle” with food and themselves. But before I get to that, let’s linger for a moment on this word: Battle.

Before coming to me, my clients often have internalized these battle and war stories. Through our process-oriented work together, they realize these are not just words. What kind of behavior do you expect if food is treated as an enemy that needs “tracking” and “monitoring”?

What else happens in this war?

In order to inflict damage we dehumanize “the enemy.” If we become “our own worst enemy” in our “battle of the bulge” then we feel it’s okay to “beat ourselves up.”

Okay, I know that’s a lot of quotation marks, but the point here is that how you frame something—the often unconscious ways or stories— is important not only because it determines the path you take, but the type of information you will seek out. 

And, more often than not, we get stuck in these “trenches.” Why? Because if we are honest with ourselves, we are usually more concerned with being right (about the stories we’ve been telling ourselves) than happy. 

I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way.

Without further ado, here are the top four mistakes people continue to make in trying to lose weight. 

1.    Believing Self-Acceptance = Resignation. 

I’m here to tell you not to accept yourself (well, not in how we traditionally talk about this). Let me explain before the body image police chase me down. This topic arose in my last Truce with Food group. One participant explained that numerous therapists had told her she had to accept her body. But she just couldn’t. And in Truce with Food, I definitely believe in self-acceptance because paradoxically what you embrace often dissolves.

But, I define self-acceptance differently than most experts and traditional advice.

When most people hear “you have to just accept yourself,” what they feel is resignation. Ugh. I have to just be happy with this weight. I’ve been defeated. I might as well eat whatever I want. There’s no point in overriding these honest feelings with mantras. Saying, “I accept myself” while feeling completely different only leads to further lack of self-trust in the GPS system of your emotions.

What to do instead?

Own the body dissatisfaction and frustration. To me, this is the opposite of resignation. This is when the real work begins. Work that starts with a careful, non-judgmental exploration of the conditional statements like “once I lose weight, then X” or “I’ll feel confident when my clothes fit better.”

I guide my clients in these explorations, in figuring out if these statements are true. More often than not, clients cling to the story they’ve told themselves for years because they’d rather be “right” than happy.

I challenge you to replace the idea of self-acceptance not with resignation, but with bravery.

2.    Assume Your Weight Is Something that Needs Fixing. 

Holding onto this belief implies you’re somehow “broken,” deficient, or less than. My clients and group participants often arrive with years of shame in their body image confirmed (they believe) by their failed dieting attempts. Shame is about being wrong. And if you are inherently wrong, how can you make things right?

Your weight is not a deficiency. Your body is not your enemy. It’s a symptom that a lighter life is waiting. You don’t need something outside yourself (i.e. a new diet or guru). What you need is someone to coach and gently guide you in becoming the heroine of your adventure. Anytime you sense you’re striving to find THE ANSWER, the magic bullet, remember there isn’t one.

This is a process. In an era of detoxes and “quick” fixes, process may not be popular, but it gets results.

3.    Thinking Your Weight is a Logic Problem. 

You’re smart, you aren’t missing anything. If weight were a logic problem, you’d have solved it a long time ago. Life is not logical or linear. It’s full circle. It’s holistic. It isn’t your duty to track calories or read yet another nutrition article (although reading these posts is always a good idea ;-).

It’s okay to not know. Not knowing is often the first step in making you open to going deeper.

I challenge you to entertain that maybe, just maybe your weight loss goal is immune to the willpower, problem solving, and discipline that makes you successful in all other areas of your life. What would that mean for you and how you see yourself?

4.    No “show hands” or why drama isn’t the answer. 

The April issue of The Atlantic had an article “Hoop Dreams” on how NBA teams are doing something called “tanking.” Why? The way drafting works, the worst scoring teams get first dibs for their top draft picks. These teams are operating under the false assumption that one supremely talented player can save them.

So, what’s the problem?

History shows this never works. Instead, a mediocre team that builds upon their strengths and targets their weaknesses has a much better shot at the championship. The article says this also happens in business when a tanking business brings in a “savior” CEO. Inevitably, this practice backfires. The sought after CEO loses his reputation as a high-performer.

Instead, these teams and businesses should realize that making the tougher, “smaller” decisions leads to success. 

It took me years to realize that whenever I would say “diet starts tomorrow” and overeat at night, I was tanking myself because I assumed that it took “gearing up” and lots of drama to lose weight. That one thing—a diet, a supplement, a new juicer— was going to come along and save me.

But in actuality, my long-term results were always the result of more subtle, less dramatic decisions along the way. I paid attention to my blood sugar, healing my digestive system, and exploring where my true passions were.

Whether you are guilty of one or all of the above mistakes, the more you course correct now, the more you will understand the magnitude of this difference. It’s a difference that needs to be embodied to be fully understood.When you do, true and lasting results occur.

This is the heart and soul of Truce with Food.

Be well,

Ali

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