My Strategies for Eating a High-Calorie Diet.

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Hi there! Hopefully, your week is getting off to a good start.

So, in my post last Thursday, I talked about how I’m going to increase my calories. While on one hand, it seems pretty easy (just eat more food?) but at the end of the day, there’s a bit of a learning curve to it. It’s a little frustrating to realize that you feel like you can’t eat another bite but you still have a lot of calories to go in a day. So, I’ve figured out some strategies to eat high-calorie without feeling like I’m stuffing myself.

Increasing Calories

My plan right now is to focus on upping my overall calorie intake, mainly through fats and carbs. I already eat 100+ grams of protein per day, so I’m not too worried about adding more protein. Specifically, this is what I’m going to be focusing on:

1. Egg yolks, oil, avocado and nut butters.

Probably the easiest way to add calories to my diet without really noticing. Fat has 9 calories a gram versus protein and carbs’ 4 calories, so this is pretty easy. This is going to mean more full eggs rather than whites, avocado slices on all the things, cooking in coconut and olive oil, and adding an extra tablespoon or so whenever I have nut butters.

Eggs 2. Avoiding low-fat and non-fat dairy.

I already tend to avoid non-fat foods, but now I’m adding low-fat dairy to that list. I’ll be focusing on full fat cheese, more cow’s milk over almond milk, and trying to find full fat Greek yogurt (I haven’t been able to find that one yet, so I’m focusing on 2% for now).

3. Buy bigger.

Simply buy larger servings of things like fruits and meat. Even buying bigger bananas than I normally would will make a difference!

Bananas Because size matters (TWSS)!

4. Trail mix will be my friend.

When I first started recovering from an eating disorder, trail mix was my go-to snack. Nuts, dried fruit, coconut, and little ‘treats’ (chocolate chips or chocolate covered dried fruit or nuts) are calorie dense, so it’s easier to get a few hundred extra calories from a few handfuls of trail mix.

Trail Mix 5. Eat my fruits, veggies and whole grains…but don’t go too crazy.

I still plan on eating a lot of these, but I want to make sure that I’m not getting ALL my extra calories from them – fibre is a good thing, but it’s possible to get a little too much. My stomach won’t be a fan of all the roughage, and I’ll feel too full to bring in some extra calories. This one’s going to be a bit of a balancing act.

6. Liquid calories.

So this pretty much is the exact opposite of every piece of diet advice I’ve ever seen…which means that it makes sense for my current situation. It’s easier to drink calories than it is to eat them! This means that smoothies and more-frequent glasses of wine with dinner will be staples in my diet. Maybe one of these days when I’m having a diet coke craving I’ll reach for a *gasp* regular coke?

Chocolate Milk I’m deciding how I feel about chocolate milk…I don’t mind it, but one glass is more than enough for me.

7. Accepting the fact that the extra calories won’t be 100% ‘clean’.

As admirable as it is to think that all my extra calories will come from healthy foods, that’s not going to be the case. In fact, there’s probably going to be more chocolate, ice cream, pretzels and the like over the next couple of months than you would normally find in my diet, and that’s FINE. If anything, this will help me get rid of any lingering ‘good food vs. bad food’ fears.

Treats

8. Think about food less.

This sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? But basically, I’m going to focus on not thinking about food as much. When I’m hungry, eat, and move on. I’ll still be meal-planning dinners for the sake of simplicity in grocery shopping, but no more thinking about what I want for breakfast the next day when I’m going to bed. I’ll decide in the moment what I’m hungry for, and won’t second-guess my body signals – when I’m hungry (or it’s time to eat), eat whatever I’m craving and move on. If this means I end up eating cake for breakfast, ice cream for lunch, or a Pop-Tart for a snack once in a while? That’s fine. That’s real life for a lot of people.

So hopefully with these changes and strategies in place, my body will bounce back quickly!

Have a good one!

<— Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed to gain weight/eat more? What were some of your staple foods during that time?

<— Do you usually listen to your cravings?

<— Do you think about food a lot?

<— Is your body affected if you overdo it on fibre-dense foods?

93 Comments

  1. I am trying to gain weight right now and it is so hard. I hate eating processed, but I really have to eat some of those things right now. I have added Lara ALT Bars which is an easy 220 calories and really upped my fats, but I am still not making much progress. I wish it was as easy as just eating more and what ever you want, but it really isn’t. People say losing weight is hard, but I think gaining is just as hard!
    Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine recently posted..Cinnamon Roasted Almond ButterMy Profile

  2. Ohhh yes. My post today correlates to the fiber dense aspect.

    You’ve listed some top tips but more importantly, number 7 and 8. It can be a double edged sword to focus on gaining weight and NOT thinking about food, but even that can be unhealthy.

    You’re doing good, buddy- Here for support if you ever need it. Or to share some cake.
    Arman @ thebigmansworld recently posted..Digestive issues? It’s time to blame the vegetablesMy Profile

  3. Not sure why that posted like that!!

    I was trying to say that liquid calories are my best friend when I’m trying to gain weight, ESPECIALLY chocolate milk. Or if I’m going out for coffee I would order a special latte instead of just coffee. Too much fibre is still a problem I struggle with even if I’m not actively trying to gain weight- I think my stomach is just too sensitive from years and years of overdoing the fibre. I try to make sure that I eat non-whole grains throughout the day. Or if I know my sandwich is going to have like, avocado and veggies on it I’ll make it on white bread to decrease the fibre. I guess I overthink things still, but it’s hard not to when you’re trying to avoid a tummy ache!
    Laura recently posted..Spill it, Sundays #4 (and my Boston adventure)My Profile

    • That sort of overthinking makes sense to me – you’re doing what you need to do to keep your stomach happy! And I wish I liked coffee, but maybe I’ll just have to do some tea lattes?

  4. Now just wait for my package to arrive, there will be a LOT of calorie dense food!!
    Seriously, this looks like a great strategy to me. And the point to stop thinking about food is just another step in recovery – one that I think we all should work on!
    When I had to gain weight, it helped me a lot to eat more times a day – not like 3 huge meals, but just every 1-2 hours.
    Lucie@FitSwissChick recently posted..THANK YOU and some last words on thisMy Profile

    • haha can’t wait! I’m going shopping for yours this weekend! And that’s what I need to do a little more – frequent snacking and meals.

  5. Great post! I did a bulking phase where I needed to eat more, and I literally ate often but big portions. Eventually I was eating a TON and still starving. Funny how that works! haha… I absolutely listen to my cravings! No need to deny my body what it wants.
    Brittany Lesser recently posted..Why Eating Enough Calories is ImportantMy Profile

    • haha I still find myself hungry at the end of the day sometimes, which feels so weird because of how much I’m eating!

  6. It seems like you are doing a really good job at this already! I think my main advice (which you are already doing/know) is to focus on the fats – even some properly raised animal fats should help
    Amy @ The Little Honey Bee recently posted..How To Kick Franken-Food to the CurbMy Profile

  7. My favourite weight gaining food: cheesecake. Eat a whole one and that’s at least 1 lb right there hahaha.

    Also Greek Gods (I’ve found it at Alex’s Homeopathy in Covent Garden) makes 9-10% Greek yogurt!
    Chelsea @ Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen recently posted..The language of foodMy Profile

    • haha sounds like the funnest suggestion I’ve heard And good to know, I was hoping to head there on Sunday (they’re open Sundays, right?)

  8. These look good hun. Definitely followed all of these at one point or another, and they worked well i think one of the biggest changes I made was to eliminate the “skinny” stuff…bagels/bread/100 cal packs etc. real stuff is what I eat now and that’s made a huge difference. I don’t think about food nearly as much as I used to anymore, either, which has been a very positive change
    Caitlin recently posted..Sugar, Spice, and Lots of Other Things NiceMy Profile

  9. Personally, I’ve never had issues with getting enough calories but I totally see where you’re coming from. I definitely think this calls for a nacho grilled cheese sandwich plus some ice cream and wine for dinner on Friday! I’ve noticed that I have the opposite issue when it comes to fiber (or fibre if I were Canadian, hehe…) – I have tummy issues if I don’t consume enough!
    Becky @ Olives n Wine recently posted..#28 Treat Yourself TuesdayMy Profile

  10. Sometimes, if I’m under extreme emotional stress I lose my appetite completely. I don’t worry about it too much, because the last thing my body wants to do is digest food. But, I’ve found eating PB is a good way to prevent death in those situations. Or greek yogurt bowls loaded up with honey, cereal and bananas.

    I’ve also struggled with IBS in the past, where everything I ate wasn’t being absorbed. It was awful. Once I healed my gut, I kept eating the way I had been & I gained weight pretty easily.

    Now, I’m at a place where I’ve been indulging in too many cake pops and lattes and my pants are getting a little too tight, so I need to reign in my sugar consumption. I think it all balances out in the end, so I’m not worried about it. Nor should you. You’ll find that sweet spot eventually, it just takes some practice.

    And yes, I would be all over the pretzels and ice cream too. Egg yolks are fun and all… but they’re not dessert. Hahaha

  11. Swapping out rice cakes and tortillas for real bread, squash for sweet potatoes, cooking oats in milk and not water are also easy fixes.

  12. These are great tips! Drinking calories is such an easy way to up the intake and I think adding extra olive oil is too. Keep it up and hopefully you won’t (or haven’t been?) thinking about food quite as much! That’s a tricky thing but so, so refreshing once you’re there.
    Erin @ The Almond Eater recently posted..Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella QuinoaMy Profile

    • This is one of those moments where I wish I drank coffee – I’d be drinking coffee with milk all day! Although probably decaf…

  13. That last point is exactly how I define “intuitive eating”. Like you said, most people would find this counter-intuitive but it’s actually been life-changing for me. Not worrying about my next meal and meal plan for the week has actually been liberating. Turns out I make smart choices even without a plan!
    Davida @ The Healthy Maven recently posted..A No BS Guide to Food PhotographyMy Profile

    • I think I’ll be fine with it too – I’m naturally inclined towards healthier foods with some treats sprinkled in, so why worry about it?

  14. I’m really proud of you for following through with this, Sam. It’s never easy to ‘gain’ especially considering your past struggles and society’s stigma against it. My favourite ‘weight gain’ strategy is nut butter by the spoonful mmmmmm!!
    Suzanne @ hello, veggy! recently posted..The Ups and Downs of Half- Marathon Training: 4 Things I’ve Learned So FarMy Profile

    • I feel like it’s going to suck over the next couple of months when everyone’s like “Shape up for summer!” and I’m over here stuffing my face..awkward, but I’ll have to deal with it. And that’s a delicious strategy

  15. I’m also trying to gain weight since I’ve stalled in my recovery process. Loved this post! I find reading for the largest apple or biggest plate in the dining hall helps me get extra calories without my mind realizing it. It’s hard to accept that I can (and sometimes SHOULD) eat anything and everything– even my ‘fear’ foods. If I find myself reaching for a low-calorie bread, I try to focus myself to grab the higher-calorie one. It’s a hard process, but I like your determination! It’s really inspiring too.

  16. This is all SO helpful. Although I stopped counting calories, it is frustrating for me to be full at the end of the day and realize I haven’t actually eaten all that much. I love your reminder of liquid calories – I could probably get my entire day’s worth of nutrients from chocolate milk and be perfectly happy.

    I do still think about food more than normal, but that is going away with listening to my cravings! I’m really finding that by giving my body exactly what it wants, whenever it wants, it has the energy (and is willing) to focus on other things.

    Good luck with everything!
    Emma @ Life’s A Runner recently posted..5 Minute Coconut Peanut Protein BitesMy Profile

  17. I think the PC brand greek yogurt has a 9% fat one..

    • I thought they did, but I haven’t been able to find it at 3 different grocery stores! Maybe they discontinued it? (or at least, stopped stocking it near me?)

      • hmm… the website says they still make a 2% greek yogurt… I usually buy the 0% but now that I think of it I don’t think I’ve seen the higher % either…

  18. I’m working on this too and a good balance for incorporating fruit for me is dipping strawberries in real whipped cream. Highly suggest it lol. Best of luck!

  19. Sounds like you have a great plan! Your first point made me think of the “Eat the Yolks” book that everyone is talking about. I know it’s the devil in the HLB community, but you might consider eating more meat. I get that red meat all the time isn’t good for you, but incorporating some more high calorie meats into your diet might be an easy way to achieve some of what you’re hoping to. It is HARD to get in a lot of calories when you’re eating all plants (don’t hate me for saying that!).
    Amy @ Long Drive Journey recently posted..Building a Better BreakfastMy Profile

    • haha I’m not one to be anti-meat, so I appreciate the suggestion! I tend to have meat with dinner, but it’s a bit pricey for me right now to have all the time. Although I randomly found myself snacking on turkey meat yesterday, so there’s that.

  20. Gaining really isn’t any easier as losing. Though this way around it’s because it can be very hard on the mind. The stance of putting on the pounds instead of losing them is still predominantly negative. That being said, yes the [not] overthinking point you made is an important one. And actually one I’m working on myself still. In the end you’re right and it’s what I see with the people around me – outside the blog world: eating whatever we’re craving independent on if it’s healthy or not -is- real life.
    My go-to foods were/ are similar to yours: nuts, chocolate, as of late trying the liquid calorie-route every now and then. When I wasn’t able to find full-fat Greek yogurt I’d buy the easiest available and stir in high-quality nut oils [macadamia turned out to be a delicious one] to upp the fat and calorie content.
    Miss Polkadot recently posted..Spill it Sunday [The Carb Edition]My Profile

  21. FULL FAT YOGURT IS THE BEST. I was going to suggest places that I was able to get it from, but then I realized all of them are US stores… if it helps any, I’ve typically had success with bigger health food stores (Whole Foods) rather than stores like Target or your neighborhood grocery stores.

    I’m also obsessed with this list in general. It’s so refreshing to read someone’s plan to eat more to ACTUALLY be healthy rather than someone’s plan to (1) eat less or (2) eat “healthier” to “be healthier.”
    Beth @ The Small Victories recently posted..Too Much Spam, Too Little Cats, Just Enough TacosMy Profile

    • Chelsea just suggested a store in London, so Imma check there. And if I’ve learned anything in the last 5 years…calorie restriction is really, really bad for our bodies. They need a decent amount of calories to function correctly!

  22. I am so glad you wrote this! I have been struggling with increasing my calories, mainly out of habit. I have my favorite meals I love and I am having a hard time branching out and thinking of ways to add more calories – other than snacking more. I eat a turkey sandwich almost every day for lunch, so I can definitely try adding more avocado, plus fruit and nuts on the side. I also think that I am treading lightly because of the fear that I am going to gain a ton of weight. I wish it wasn’t a thought holding me back – but it makes me nervous as I grab for that extra handful of nuts. Are you combating any of those thoughts and how are you dealing with them?
    Lindsay @Treat Yourself recently posted..Farro Salad – For Ancient Roman StrengthMy Profile

    • I just had a turkey wrap with avocado today and it was delicious – I definitely recommend trying that! And those thoughts are definitely challenging to deal with, for sure, but I just have to keep in mind that this is what I need to do right now for my body to heal. I’ve heard too many horror stories of former anorexics suffering from osteoporosis, organ failure, and infertility because their bodies weren’t given enough energy to function properly – I want to minimize the chances of that happening to me, so I just need to keep doing what I’m doing!

  23. I haven’t ever been in a situation where I need to eat more calories, but I can definitely see how that would be difficult, especially when you’re full and don’t want to eat more. I think you have some great strategies listed here. I really like the idea of adding in some healthy fats and buying bigger. I’m sure all those things will really help make a difference.
    Holly @ EatGreatBEGreat recently posted..I LOVE CarbsMy Profile

  24. I can relate to what you’re going through. I struggle during my intense running training to get enough calories. Generally, I won’t think about it too much until I hit a wall in my running and get REALLY tired. Then I realize I’m not eating enough to support my training. It’s a tough balance. You can’t just eat a ton of calorie dense foods and assume you’re good. You have to eat healthy and take the sweet stuff in moderation.

    • I’m naturally inclined towards healthy foods – most of my diet is composed of veggies, lean protein, and healthy fats. So going calorie dense and a little extra sweets won’t do me any harm.

  25. Sounds like a good strategy to me, dear. I especially think that those extra handfuls of trail mix will be a smart addition. I mean… who wouldn’t want to have to eat more trail mix? I know that when I was training for my half marathon I had to eat more and frankly I still don’t think I was eating enough because after the race I was craving all kinds of crazy things and in the fall I gained some weight. Not a terrible thing, but it was interesting to see happen. I’m trying to overall keep my calorie intake higher than it has been in the past because I don’t think my metabolism was regulated. Aaaaand now I want some trail mix.
    Ang @ Nutty for Life recently posted..Four Ways To Be HappierMy Profile

    • metabolisms are annoying things aren’t they? I feel like mine hasn’t been where it was supposed to be in at least a decade. Damn, now I want trail mix too…

  26. You’ve thought everything out so well..you gonna do this Sam! Since your body obviously needs the energy I don’t think it will be a tough job of getting in the calories once you start increasing intake. That said, I know -for me- the weight took forever to come..until I let go of the ‘has to be clean’ mindset and allowed myself to just eat ALL THE FOOD . Well, whatever I felt for at least…which turned out to be all the desserts = calories easily met
    Ms.J recently posted..A Promise To MyselfMy Profile

  27. I think its pretty easy for myself to eat extra calories, some healthy some not.. just when I add extra spoonfuls of nut butters, TRAIL MIX, and olive oil adds up to additional calories for me without making me full ! I would probably go overboard on the ice ream though. It sounds like you have all the right ideas I like the idea of reaching for a regular soda :). Also what about protein powders in a smoothie or your chocolate milk? I like #8 not thinking too much about it, I always find that hard as well
    Lauren @ LoveChocolateLife recently posted..This or That ? (Food Style Survey)My Profile

    • haha I do have trouble stopping at one serving of ice cream…good things that’s ok right now :-p And I usually use protein powders in my smoothies, but I didn’t think about it for chocolate milk – I’ll give it a shot!

  28. This is pretty much everything I would suggest! When I was in hardcore comp training mode, I was hitting 5000 calories every day. If I had to rely on potatoes and chicken to get it, I would have gone crazy! I ate a lot of pasta, bread/tortillas, ice cream, dark chocolate, peanut butter, avocado, butter, etc. Liquid calories definitely help too – I started drinking chocolate milk and coconut water with most meals. Mashed potatoes also help as I can eat about 1kg in one sitting. isn’t eating loads fun!?
    Tara @ Sweat like a Pig recently posted..Almost back to full strengthMy Profile

    • good thing to hear that I have the right idea! And it’s proving that my metabolism isn’t as good as I thought it was, considering that I’m already seeing some weight gain (and all on my stomach…le sigh). Did you have to deal with that at all in events training?

      • Oh yeah. I gained about 3kg but a lot of that was muscle. I didn’t really care as I was trying to get as close to the weight cut off as possible, and my main focus was getting stronger and not fitting in my skinny jeans haha. Once I scaled back to more like 3500-4000 calories, I lost the excess fat. It’s normal for anyone to gain a bit of weight when they first increase their calories, as your body doesn’t quite know what to do with the extra calories. BUT your body will adapt, and I’m sure your metabolism is just as healthy as you think it is!
        Tara @ Sweat like a Pig recently posted..Almost back to full strengthMy Profile

        • Thanks Tara! I’m noticing some weight gain (and umm, it’s not muscle) but everyone keeps reassuring me that it’s temporary until my body figures out what to do with the extra energy. It’ll be nice once I get to that point!

  29. I personally haven’t had ever had to gain before, but have increased by healthy fat intake recently and feel overall amazing. I think your plan sounds great and you will have no problem getting through your second stage and back to optimal health!
    Alisha @ Alisha’s Appetite recently posted..Family Visit + Easy Coconut Tilapia {Recipe}My Profile

  30. Great tips! I think, you reach goal!
    As for me, I never think about gaining weight. I want to lose my weight… by healthy way
    But I`m support you;)
    Marina @ Lazy for Diet recently posted..Спортивный ПонедельникMy Profile

  31. Liberte has a really good full fat version – some are 9% and some are like 12% – flavours varying from coconut (the most awesomest one), strawberry, lemon, and you name it. They also have a no fat version but really the full fat is so much better/tastier/makes you feel more satisfied!

  32. What an INTERESTING post. I’m new to your blog, so maybe I’ve missed something (e.g. the reason you want to gain weight) but your plan sounds good! I always eat my eggs with the yolks and I love nut butters, so I’m right there with you. Good luck!
    Marnie @ SuperSmartMama recently posted..Treat Yourself Tuesday #4: Birthday WeekendMy Profile

  33. This is a great mindset to have when adding in more calories! Fat is def a great (and easy) way to go about it

    Right now, actually, I am eating more than usual–teaching fitness + breastfeeding makes me a crazy hungry mama!

    • I’ve heard how intensely hungry breastfeeding can make you, so I can only imagine what happens when teaching fitness classes is added into the equation!

  34. This post could not have come at a better time for me, thank you so much for your much needed advice!

  35. Really great tips, love I remember trying to gain weight on “clean” foods in the early stages of my recovery, and let’s just say it’s not a period of my life that I look back on with any fondness. I ended up jacking up my entire digestive system because of all the bulk I was taking in, and while I ended up slowly gaining weight anyways, it was miserable. Things got so much easier (and tastier) when I switched over to more calorie dense foods, and I tend to stick to those foods even now because I find that my system is REALLY sensitive to fibre.

    PS – I always buy the biggest bananas I can find :mrgreen:
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted... an apple pie protein smoothie via my ninja ultima blender {recipe & review} .My Profile

    • I appreciate why people want to stick to mainly ‘clean’ foods but in the end, it makes the process that much more complicated and unpleasant. Give me my ice cream, and I’m happy

  36. I competed in my last figure show in October and have since really been trying to push my calories in a methodical way to improve my metabolism and minimize fat gain. It is not always easy to a) convince your mind you should be eating more and b) eat enough food sometimes! I always push to get at least 30 grams of fiber a day, but I do notice if I get in the high 40’s my stomach is terrible which is why I actively include “non clean” foods into my diet.
    Kim @FITsique recently posted..Tracking Your Macros – The Ultimate GuideMy Profile

    • I’m about the same on fibre – around 30 grams seems to be my sweet spot! And it is hard to convince ourselves to eat more when our society is so diet-driven! I mean, right now I’m literally eating twice the amount that a lot of traditional diets recommend, which is weird to think about.

  37. Amen to all of these! I always have make sure I’m eating enough since I run A LOT. It can be challenging!
    Matt @ Runner Savvy recently posted..Weekly Rundown: 3/3/14-3-9/14 and Spill It SundayMy Profile

  38. These are all great tips! I incorporated more fat into my diet for the fullness, extra calories, and satisfaction. I know you’ll do great!
    Natalie Staeckeler recently posted..Going Out of My Comfort ZoneMy Profile

  39. Love that Ben & Jerry’s photo.
    YOU ROCK. We are on the same journey here. We can both do this lovely girl.

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  41. Awesome tips! Weight gain has never been something I needed to focus on, but I can totally understand how difficult it could be to eat more than you are used to, especially when you want the majority of those foods to be clean. I think you’ve got a great perspective and will do well!
    Gabby @ the veggie nook recently posted..vibrant life cleanse program and cookbook launch and reviewMy Profile

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  45. When I went through getting my cycles back, somehow I just naturally starting eating more. I think I just became hungry to the point where I could no longer control it or wait until the next meal. I never skipped a meal, I was never anorexic/bulimic – I just didn’t eat enough. One can only keep that up for so long….Nowadays, I try to be super conscious of my mileage and when I increase mileage to ensure I keep eating to compensate. And when I don’t eat enough? My appetite chimes in full force which I just can’t ignore. Peanut butter certainly helps me in the calorie department. Oh and AVOCADO! Not just for the calories – for the hormonal balancing properties. I absolutely believe that my cycles are as regular as they are throughout my running because I eat avocado every single day.
    meredith @ The Cookie ChRUNicles recently posted..Gwyneth Always Seems To Annoy MeMy Profile

    • I just picked up a five-pack of avocados at the grocery store today! It’s quickly becoming one of my favourites as well – so good!

  46. Bigger bananas are always better.

    This is all kind of how I eat regularly now, and I can tell you I love it. It makes me feel satiated, I appreciate my food, and I enjoy it. I’m at a good weight, I’ve been maintaining it for a couple of years now, and while I’m not all muscle and six packs (well unless ice cream comes in a six pack and then sign me up), but I’m really happy with my body.

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