It’s almost Thanksgiving here in the US, which means it’s the official start of the Holiday Season. This is my favorite Holiday and a wonderful opportunity to reflect and be grateful for all the good things in life. But at the same time, it’s no secret that Thanksgiving is also about the food, which makes losing weight or even just maintaining your weight a real challenge.
The Holidays are a difficult time for weight loss because there’s Thanksgiving dinner, then there’s leftovers that last until mid-December, by which time the next big celebrations are just around the corner. So, how do you stay on track during a non-stop season of parties all centered around food?
Tune in this week to discover some guardrails for staying on track with your health goals during the festive season while still enjoying yourself. I’m showing you how to stop resigning yourself to undoing all the progress you’ve made this year, and I’m giving you practical advice to prepare you to make decisions that are right for you during your food-filled Holiday gatherings.
Are you ready to eat, move, and think in a way that gets you strong both physically and mentally? You deserve to have both no matter how busy you are, and I can help. I’m opening up my one-on-one coaching program for new clients, and I would love to work with you. Click here to learn more about working with me.
What You Will Discover:
- Why you need a plan for approaching your Holiday dinners and gatherings.
- How to plan what you want to eat this Thanksgiving.
- Why skipping meals in anticipation of Thanksgiving dinner isn’t a helpful approach for moderation.
- How to see where you’re making food decisions from a false sense of scarcity.
- Why this episode is not about advocating that you skip all your favorite Thanksgiving treats.
- My practical tips for staying on track with your health goals during the Holiday season.
- An exercise to decide intentionally how you want to feel this Thanksgiving weekend.
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
Full Episode Transcript:
You are listening to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast, Episode #74. Are you ready for the holidays? Let me give you some ideas to stay on track this season.
Welcome to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. If you’re balancing career, family, wellness, and some days sanity, you are in the right place. This is where high-achieving, busy, working moms get the tools they need to eat, move, and think. I’m your host, physician, personal trainer, and Certified Life Coach, Carrie Holland. Let’s do this.
Hey, how are you? What’s new, what’s good? So, what’s good here, it’s almost Thanksgiving, and that means it’s the official start of the holiday season. In all honesty, Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday, even more than Christmas.
I like that it’s about family but without all the fanfare of the presents and putting together toys, and all the extra hoopla. It’s just family, and a day to reflect and be grateful for all the good things in my life. But at the same time, it’s no secret that Thanksgiving is also about the food.
So, I imagine, when you think of Thanksgiving, besides family, what else comes to mind? Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie. It’s the food, lots of food. For many of you, you’ve told me that the holidays are a challenge because once Thanksgiving hits, it’s one thing after another.
Starting with Thanksgiving, it’s followed by the leftovers that can last for what seems like forever, which leads straight into Christmas and Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Years, and the food that goes along with all of these celebrations. There are cookies, there are holiday gift baskets, there are work and family parties. It is like a nonstop season of parties all centered around food.
That can be quite a challenge if you’re trying to lose weight, or even if you’re trying to maintain your weight. The endless food that appears during the season can frankly just be overwhelming. So, how do you handle this? How do you approach the holidays and enjoy yourself, but without going off the chain?
First, you decide exactly that. You decide, “I can have a good time during the holidays without going totally off the rails.” I want you to make that decision now, for yourself. One of the most disempowering things you can do is tell yourself that it’s all over once Thanksgiving comes.
Do not decide that it’s anyone’s guess as to how it’s going to go between now and New Year’s. Don’t leave the holidays to chance. Okay? Instead, make an intentional, deliberate decision, here and now, that you are going to end the holidays feeling good.
Decide right now that just because it’s the holidays, that doesn’t mean you’re destined to put on weight and eat more pie or cookies than you intended because that’s what you’ve done in the past. No. How about you decide, very purposefully, that the holidays will be just fine, and you can manage yourself around food just fine. Because you are in control here.
Imagine if you decided that today. That’s what I’m encouraging you to do. And then, to go along with that decision that you’re going to thrive during the holidays, let me also give you some practical tips.
I want you to go into Thanksgiving, and the rest of the holiday season, feeling ready with ideas and tools and tips to make things easier for you. Because the holidays do not mean that all bets are off. All bets are not off. It does not mean that all the progress you’ve made to this point in the year is going to end.
But what it does mean is thinking ahead and being prepared, so you don’t feel lost when you’re offered another piece of pumpkin roll. How do you do that? Let’s talk about it.
First and foremost, as you head into Thanksgiving and head into the season of holiday gatherings, have a plan. The absolute worst thing you can do is walk into Thanksgiving at your in-laws house thinking, “I’ll just see how it goes,” while you hope for the best. No, absolutely not. Do yourself a favor, think through the holiday weekend and decide what your approach is going to be.
If you know you’re walking into a huge dinner, with way more carbs and fat than you’re used to eating, use that information and work through your day. Starting with how do you want to eat, before you get to Thanksgiving dinner.
So, for some of you, you have told me that you fast or eat very little all day in preparation. You don’t eat anything. Or maybe you eat a few cucumbers and some carrots, and you slug water all day in preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving feast. This generally does not go well.
Most often, fasting all day before you have your big holiday dinner usually goes in the same way that it does when you skip lunch at work. Skipping meals, for most people, just doesn’t work. It leaves you hangry. And when you’re hangry, and then you finally do get in front of food, you’re so hungry that anything and everything is fair game and you end up eating way more than you intended.
On a holiday that is built around carbs and pie, showing up hangry is not going to help you at all. You can avoid that altogether. So, how about instead you have a meal of lean protein and veggies before you head to your family gathering. Like, a salad with some chicken breast or tofu, or eggs with veggies.
It does not have to be wild. It doesn’t have to be huge. But there should be some protein, healthy fat and fiber because all of those will keep you satisfied. You can make it a smaller portion than what you’d typically do, if you know you’re planning to eat more later.
But I would argue that one of the worst things you can do is walk into your family party starving. That’s usually when you end up overdoing it, and often justifying it by saying, “I can have this, I haven’t eaten all day. This second piece of pumpkin pie? That’s taking the place of the lunch that I skipped altogether. This extra load of stuffing? That’s fine, because I didn’t eat lunch today.”
You start bargaining with yourself and justifying eating more because you didn’t eat much earlier in the day. But in the end, you often end up totally overdoing it.
Okay, so next. The next tool to set yourself up for success is to make some decisions ahead of time. Decide in advance how you’re going to treat yourself. What I mean by this is, often, at the holidays, foods come out that we don’t normally eat. There is more of everything available.
There are drinks, there’s aunt Betsy’s famous spinach dip, there’s Uncle Tom’s legendary cornbread sausage stuffing, there’s grandma’s double layer pumpkin pie with cream cheese. There is no shortage of rich, indulgent carb and fat-heavy foods.
So, here’s what I can offer you. Most big meals like this have a number of extras you don’t typically have. There’s alcohol, there’s appetizers, there’s bread, or stuffing or other loads of carb-heavy side dishes, and then there’s dessert. So, decide on one or two of those and stick with it. Decide, “Okay, I’m going to have pumpkin pie and stuffing, but I’m going to skip the appetizers and I’m going to skip the wine.”
Set up some guardrails for yourself. I love the term “guardrails,” and I got it from one of my clients. I told her I was totally stealing it, but I would give her credit because it was just that good. I like the concept of guardrails, because the idea is they’re there to keep you safe. They’re not intrusive, they’re not restrictive, but they’re there to keep you on track. They’re there to keep you from going off the chain.
If you can imagine setting up some guardrails for yourself for the holidays, you might feel better about the decisions you’re making. You can decide at Thanksgiving, “I’m going to have a great time, and this is how I’m going to treat myself without it becoming a free-for-all. I’m going to have some pumpkin pie and stuffing. But I’m not going to have rolls. I’m not going to have wine.” It means making some choices.
It means you don’t go whole hog and have everything that’s in front of you. Because often, what happens is that between the drinks beforehand, the appetizers, the bread, and the desserts afterwards, if you have all of those, you’ve had the equivalent or more of a dinner already. You’ve had a second dinner of extras before you even have the turkey itself.
But you may not realize it, because it’s spread out over the course of a few hours. But when you really think about it, from a caloric standpoint, you can very easily consume a second dinner of drinks, bread, appetizers and dessert. So, make your choice. Decide where you want to indulge and stick to it.
Now, what if you’re thinking, “Well, this is the only time of year I can have Aunt Linda’s special pecan pie. Of course, I have to have that. Along with a pumpkin roll, and the special spinach dip, and everything else I can only get a Thanksgiving.” Then what do you do?
So, that’s FOMO. That’s Fear Of Missing Out, and that is the scarcity mentality right there. We often make food decisions, especially around the holidays, from a place of scarcity. You may think to yourself, “It’s only once a year. This is the only time these pies or this stuffing or these candy corns are available.” And it may feel like a restriction to you if you don’t have them.
But is that really true? Is it really true that this is the only time of year that you can have your aunt’s famous pie? No. Is it really true that this is the only time you can get candy corn? No. Amazon, okay? Amazon will always have you covered.
My point here is that often we play games with ourselves and trick ourselves into thinking that we’ve got to have this certain food or drink, because we won’t be able to get it again for a super long time otherwise. That is just not true.
Instead, what’s happening is that we’ve built up an over desire for certain foods, especially foods that come out only at certain times of the year. We’ve given pumpkin pie a super special place, and we’ve essentially put it on a pedestal to the point that it’s like our brains will explode if we don’t have a huge piece of pie on Thanksgiving Day.
When the reality is, you can make a pumpkin pie whenever you want. If your aunt is willing to share her famous pecan pie recipe with you, you can make it and have it whenever you want. But too often we give certain foods of the holidays more worth than they need to have.
When you do that you create an over desire. You put the food into this special position where it takes up way too much space and importance in your brain. Remember, it’s just food. It’s a pumpkin pie, okay?
But what happens is that an over desire for pumpkin pie will lead you to overeat, because in the background your brain is telling you have it and have a lot of it, because it’s going to be another year before you see it again. You may feel this urgency around having the pie or the stuffing, or the sweet potato casserole, because your brain is telling you this is your one shot to have it.
That is not the absolute truth. That’s just your brain messing with you, creating a scarcity mentality to get you to eat more. So, if you’re willing to go there and really pull this apart, you can see it for what it is. It’s food, it’s pie, it’s turkey, it’s green bean casserole. When you give food too much importance, it becomes a problem.
What would happen if you saw food for what it is? It’s food. Now, again, I have to make it clear, I’m not advocating that you deprive yourself and skip out on all these things. Okay? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t look forward to or enjoy the special foods that come out at this time of year, and the memories and the traditions that are associated with all of them.
But it’s no secret, we’ve taken it to extremes. Thanksgiving is known as a holiday of overeating. It’s marketed that way. Most every commercial, TV show or movie that depicts Thanksgiving shows images of excess. It’s the accepted norm to over eat during the holiday. But there’s a difference between enjoying foods that come out once a year, versus using that against yourself as a reason to totally over indulge.
You can still appreciate family and culture and tradition through the food you have at the holidays without overdoing it. That is entirely possible. But it means being mindful about it and recognizing that there is a scarcity mentality around holiday foods that is totally messing with you. You can have these foods any time. You’re not missing out on anything.
Alright, next, the other piece I would add about the scarcity mentality, is to choose wisely. So, if you really do have FOMO, and you want to enjoy the dishes that come out at this time of year, do it. But choose the foods you really love and don’t feel like you have to try a little bit of everything.
So, for me, I tend to take stock of all the food that’s available at the party, and then I choose the foods that I really want to have. That means I don’t have green bean casserole. Maybe that’s sacrilege, but I just can’t do it anymore. It also means I skip mashed potatoes and squash because they just don’t excite me.
Sweet potato casserole? Sure. Gravy? Absolutely. Pumpkin ice cream? Yes. But I don’t go for stuffing. I don’t have dinner rolls. I don’t drink, so wine isn’t an issue. But instead, I choose the dishes and foods I really want to have, and I have them.
I don’t feel the need to try every single thing in front of me. Even if it is food that only comes out once a year, you don’t have to eat it. Choose what really looks good to you and enjoy those, but you don’t have to have a little bit of everything.
When you choose those foods, pay attention to portion sizes. So, while it may be the one time of year that the pumpkin pie comes out, it doesn’t mean you have to have an enormous piece, the size of your face, in order to enjoy it to the fullest. In fact, you may not need a huge piece in order to maximize your enjoyment of it at all.
The concept of “sensory specific satiety,” it’s nerdy, but it suggests that the more bites you take of a food, the less exciting it gets. So, in general, each bite of food is less pleasant or exciting than the bite before it. There’s science to back this up.
There is research comparing groups with a larger and a smaller portion size of the same food. They found that people who have the larger portion sizes tend to report overall lower enjoyment of the food after eating all of it. So, in theory, the more bites you take, the less satisfying each one will be.
Use this concept to your advantage, and choose a smaller piece of pie or a smaller portion of the sweet potato casserole to begin with. And then, when you have your smaller portion size, you enjoy it. You enjoy the piece that you do have, and slow down and enjoy the bites. Don’t shovel it in, okay?
All right, just a couple more easy ones to help you out before I get to some big take homes here. Next, bring something you know you will eat. If you’re showing up for a big party, and you’re not sure what’s going to be there, bring something you know you will eat that keeps you on track with your goals.
For me, I will always bring a salad, a very large salad with loads of veggies slapped on it, always. And then, I will be that person who fills up half her plate with salad. Yes, I am that person, and I’m totally fine with it. But I do that because I don’t want to be stuck with a plate full of carbs and nothing more.
Plus, you’ve heard me say it plenty of times before, I don’t cook, I burn. So, instead, I chop. But at least I know that I’ve got something ready to go that I can eat if there aren’t other options. So, bring something you will eat and make it a healthy option that you like. That’s easy.
The next easy win, this may be obvious but I want to shout it out, stay hydrated. Make sure you’re drinking water. So often, at big holiday and family gatherings, the alcohol is flowing, as is the soda, and whatever other fancy beverages come out at this time of year. While it’s totally fine to have those, remember to balance it out with water.
It’s really easy to drink the equivalent of an entire meal before you even sit down for the turkey. So, depending on the drink, if you have two or three while you’re waiting for the turkey to finish, you will have already drank the caloric equivalent of a meal.
So, be prepared, and make your decision ahead of time. How many liquid calorie drinks are you going to have? Then, stick with it. Set the standard for yourself before you walk in the door and your Aunt Becky says something that sets you off and makes you start rethinking your decision. Okay?
For me, personally, I always have a regular or a bubble water in my hand. So, one, it ensures that
I’m drinking water and staying hydrated. Second, it keeps my hands occupied, so I don’t feel compelled to grab random appetizers when I’m not really hungry to begin with.
That leads me to the last one, pay attention. Even more important, use your hunger to guide your eating. So, I know it’s the holidays, there are loads of different foods available to you. You may be in a different environment than your own home.
And don’t let me forget the potential added stress of being around family and extended family. All of those can add up to a setting in which you’re primed to overeat, for all kinds of reasons other than hunger. But this is where you have the opportunity to practice being onto yourself, in a kind way of course.
This is your opportunity to practice so many of the concepts I’ve shared with you previously, especially dialing in to your hunger. It is the simplest, most basic tool, and it’s essential. Not just at the holidays, but for any time you want to not overeat. Don’t overcomplicate this. Use your hunger as the guide that cues your eating.
It’s as simple as asking yourself the question, “How hungry am I,” when you start eating? Then checking in with yourself and asking, “How full am I,” as you finish? Especially if you’re considering getting up for more.
This is not meant to be complicated. It’s asking yourself the question to check in with your hunger very deliberately. And then, using your answer to help you decide how much to eat. At its most basic level it’s connecting your hunger with your eating, as it should be.
Remember, when you do this, you’re going inside. This is an inside job, right? You’re paying attention to your stomach and looking for your physical hunger cues to guide you. How much is your stomach growling? Is your mouth watering? What is your body telling you?
At the same time, you’re paying attention to your brain to ensure that you’re eating for hunger, and not because your family is stressing you out. Not because you’re having FOMO about the pumpkin pie. Not because you keep telling yourself, “Hey, it’s Thanksgiving, all bets are off.” No. Ask for more of yourself, and go inside.
Don’t go to that fuzzy place where you’re making decisions without thinking through it. Stay inside yourself. Stay in the game, and be very intentional about the food choices you make. It is 100% possible for you.
We just went over a whole bunch of ideas to set you up for success this holiday season. To review: Have a plan. Don’t skip meals and show up hangry to dinner. Make your decisions ahead of time. Set up your guardrails around things like drinks, bread, appetizers, desserts. Be willing to question your scarcity mentality, and remind yourself that you can make the pumpkin pie or stuffing anytime you want.
Choose wisely. Know that you do not need to eat every single thing on the buffet table. Choose instead what looks really good to you, and enjoy it. Along with that, pay attention to portion sizes. Remember, the first bite is typically the best, and each bite after that is less exciting than the one before it. Bring something with you you know you’ll eat. You can borrow my idea and be the person with the salad.
Stay hydrated and keep some water handy all the time. Then last, use your hunger to guide your eating. Pay attention to your hunger cues and ask yourself the question, how hungry am I, and eat based on your answer.
Okay, so I have two more concepts to share with you to get you ready for this holiday season. First, this is an exercise I do frequently with my clients, and I would encourage you to start using it for yourself. You can use this for pretty much anything; long weekends, vacations, big events, holidays, really anything. And this goes far beyond your diet.
Think about the end of the holiday, the end of Thanksgiving Day, what result do you want at the end of the day? Get really specific. Here are some examples my clients have shared with me in the past.
“I don’t want to feel gross. I want to have no more than two glasses of wine. I want to feel proud of the decisions I made. I don’t want to emotionally eat when my mother-in-law makes comments I don’t agree with.” Those are just a few. I’m sure you can think of your own.
So, go there, decide what you want at the end of the holiday. That’s your result. Then, work the process backwards. We’re going to reverse engineer here, okay? Let’s run with the example of, “I want to feel proud of the decisions I made.”
There’s your result. That’s what you want at the end of Thanksgiving. So, let’s go backwards. What are the actions you need to take in order to produce that result for yourself? What do you need to do in order to walk away proud of your decisions? What do you not need to do? Do you need to decide on one drink that evening and stick to it?
Do you need to fill your plate half full of veggies? Do you need to avoid talking with your great uncle about politics, because you know it gets heated whenever you do, and that leads you to drink? Do you need to skip the stuffing because once you start, you can’t stop?
Get very clear on all of the actions that will lead you to feeling proud at the end of the day. List them out for yourself. And then, keep going. Decide how you need to feel in order to take those actions.
How do you need to feel in order to have no more than one drink? How do you need to feel in order to not get started with the stuffing so you don’t overdo it? What emotion do you need to feel so you don’t feel driven to drink while talking to your great aunt? You decide.
Is it peaceful? Is it empowered? Is it calm? Imagine it. Imagine what you need to feel in order to take the actions that will leave you proud of your decisions. Design it now, before you walk through the door. Practice it as you’re driving or walking into the party. Say it to yourself, “I am going to feel calm.”
Then take it a step further, and imagine what the feeling actually feels like in your body. What does calm feel like in your body? Does your face feel relaxed? Are your shoulders down and out of your ears, instead of hunched up from stress? Do you feel lighter in your chest and your back, as opposed to the heaviness you feel when you get frustrated or angry?
Picture yourself and imagine feeling calm while you’re seated at the dinner table having one drink. Watch yourself declining anymore when the bottle gets passed around the table. Imagine yourself easily saying ‘no, thank you’ to a second glass of wine, when your dad offers it to you during dessert. Get into your brain, and get into your body, and envision feeling calm while you do all of those things.
Then decide what you’re going to think. What is it that you need to practice thinking in order to generate that feeling of calm? Again, here are some ideas that my clients have come up with in the past.
“I can do this. Thanksgiving can be easy for me. I don’t overeat during the holidays. I will make myself proud today.” So, whatever it is, choose something that you believe to be real and true and genuine for you. This is not the time to fake yourself out with a thought that is just not accessible to you.
This is where I’m calling on you to have some belief in yourself; that whole self-efficacy thing, okay? You’ve got to have some belief in your ability to do what you said you’re going to do. At the core of any change you’re looking to make, there has to be belief in yourself as a foundation to any behavior you’re going to execute.
Find a thought that is kind and supportive toward your goals, and let that sink into your brain. I know you may be wondering, “Does this work?” It does. Think about it, I’ve said it 100 times, your thoughts are your filter. If you decide, “I can’t say no to pie,” there’s your thought. There’s your belief. You will use that as your filter when you walk into Thanksgiving.
With that belief, I can’t say no to pie, it will be no surprise when you proceed to eat more pie than you wanted. You will prove yourself correct. So, instead of proving ‘I can’t say no to pie’ correct, how about you choose something else to prove right? Something that aligns a little better with your goals.
What if you really, truly, believed ‘I will make myself proud today,’ as you walk through the door of your grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner? How would you show up to that dinner differently if you believe that about yourself? How would things be different for you if you actually believed that you could make yourself proud, get through dinner, and follow through the decisions you made in advance?
Just take a second and imagine what that would be like for you. Imagine how awesome it would be to have a different ending to your usual Thanksgiving story. Imagine how great you would feel to come home feeling good about your decisions, instead of feeling bloated and like you need to detox. That is 100% possible for you. Absolutely. And, it starts now, it starts today. And, it starts with your thinking, always.
Last, let me offer you one last thing to consider. No matter what happens on Thanksgiving, or the day after when you’re dealing with leftovers, if you have them. Or if the entire weekend turns into a food free-for-all and you eat an entire pumpkin pie on your own over those four days. No matter how things go, you cannot mess this up. You cannot mess this up, really.
I know you’ve probably heard me and many other people say that, and I want you to believe it to be true. Not just for your friend or your sister or your coworker, but believe it to be true for you.
And here’s how you know if you actually believe it. You will know that you believe you really can’t mess this up if you keep going. That’s it. You keep going. You don’t let one decision you’re not proud of turn into two or into three decisions you’re not proud of, until it’s, “Forget it. I’ll start over again on Monday.” No.
You own whatever decisions you make; the good, the bad, the ugly, whatever they are, you own them. You don’t blame them on your Aunt Brenda or on your mom or your sister-in-law, or whomever. You take ownership for your choices, but you don’t beat yourself up about any of it.
Remember when we talked about what to do when you stumble? That was Episode 69. You can go back to that if you need a reminder. But the quick and dirty is, if and when you mess up, because we all do, you own it. You ask yourself what you learned from your choices, and then you turn your eyes forward, and you keep going.
The only way you can fail at changing your behaviors and changing your habits is if you give up. I don’t think that’s oversimplifying, because it’s the truth. The only way Thanksgiving, or any holiday or any long weekend or vacation can be a failure, is if you use that as a reason to stop, a reason to quit, a reason to give up on yourself.
So, I challenge you to make your decision now. Decide how you want Thanksgiving to go. Have a plan. Use some of the tips I gave you to be ready for the day itself. Think through how you want to feel at the end of the day, or the end of the weekend. Go through the process of deciding your result, and the thoughts and feelings and actions that will get you that result. And then, go do it.
Implement your plan and see what happens. See where you get tripped up, but don’t use that as a reason to get down on yourself. Use those mess-ups as a learning opportunity to help you decide what to do differently for the next holiday gathering. And most importantly, remember, you cannot mess this up. Okay? You can’t mess up. You only mess up if you quit. If you hang around with me, I’m not going to let you quit. All right?
So, it’s almost Thanksgiving, and I just want to say a quick thank you to each and every one of you who is listening to this podcast. I’m so grateful for your support and encouragement. I’m thankful to have this opportunity to be in your ear every Wednesday. So, thank you, and happy Thanksgiving.
If you want to know more about what it looks like to work with me, let’s talk. If you’re curious about coaching, and how it can help you eat, move, and think in a way that gets you closer to your goals, let’s go! This is what we do, we set a goal, make a plan, and then you go after it, with me supporting you along the way.
Check out my website. Go to www.CarrieHollandMD.com/contact, send me a message, and let’s get started.
All right, thank you for hanging out with me, and I’ll catch you again next week.
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This is how we get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong, inside and out. If you know someone who wants to feel better or eat and move differently but she is too tired or too busy, it is time to change things up. You know making that change starts with how you think, and that is what we do here on the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. I’ll see you next week.
Thanks for listening to Strong as a Working Mom. If you want more information on how to eat, move, and think, so you can live in the body you want, with the mind to match, visit me at CarrieHollandMD.com.
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