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How to Win a Weight Loss Challenge - Without Starving Yourself

Updated on November 14, 2015

My Story Of How I Lost 30 Pounds and Won The Weight Loss Challenge

This is my story of how I lost 30 pounds and kept it off. I did not starve myself, nor did I workout for hours a day. I am not willing to not eat, that is never going to happen.

I am way too lazy to exercise my brains out. I didn't join any expensive weight loss program. Sorry, but I refuse to spend money on something I can do myself.

I just signed up for a healthy weight loss challenge at work and I took it seriously. I did some research which gave me some ideas that would work for me. I ate normal food, even desserts. I just searched for food that I could eat that did not have as many calories, but would allow me to still feel satisfied after eating my meal.

I knew I would need to exercise but doing the same thing everyday wouldn't work. Your body responds better to having a variety in your workout, plus I wouldn't like doing the same thing every day. I also know I am fairly lazy, so long workouts were not going to happen. Most of the time when I exercised it was 10 -20 minutes tops.

Image shown is Public Domain

How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight

In the past I hadn't thought about what I ate or how many calories I was supposed to have as opposed to how many I was actually consuming. So I thought I should do some research.

The Insanity workout video package came with something to help you calculate how many calories you should have per day to maintain your weight based on height, weight, age, and what your activity level was.

Then it would show you to reduce 500 calories to lose weight and add 300 calories to gain weight. I have found this calculator on the web you can find it here. To change the numbers in the form you have to download it (you do this by clicking the file button that is right above the excel form). When I calculated mine I should have approximately 1500 calories a day, if I wanted to lose weight.

INSANITY Base Kit - DVD Workout
INSANITY Base Kit - DVD Workout
This is the workout program that I got my recommended calorie intake from. However I must warn you the exercise videos are for those that are already in pretty good shape. It is perfect for those who are already exercising doing something else and it is not giving you the results you want, this will do it. I did not realize how intense that they were. so when I tried it, it kicked my butt. This was the exercise that left my legs incredibly sore. So if you don't normally workout choose something else to start with and work up to this one.

How Many Calories Per Day to Win a Weight Loss Competition

An important thing to consider during a weight loss challenge that is more than 5 weeks is that if you keep doing the same thing you will hit a plateau and stop losing weight. So even though the kit says that I should have 1500 calories per day to lose weight, I might actually be able to eat more at the beginning.

If you get advanced notice of a weight loss challenge try to figure out how many calories that you normally consume. If I was already consuming 3000 calories per day and not exercising at all, I could just cut it back to 2000 calories, start exercising a little and I would start to lose weight. As the time went on I exercised more and cut it back to the 1500 calories per day. This enabled me to keep losing weight throughout the competition.

The Insanity program suggests eating 5 separate meals a day which would be 300 calories per meal. With my work schedule I found this too hard to do, so I stuck with 3 meals per day at approximately 500 calories.

If I cook a meal I have no idea how many calories are in it. So what I found worked for me was to buy TV dinners or other prepackaged food that have the amount of calories right on the labels.

When it comes to TV dinners there are a variety of brands with many different flavors. Just be aware they also have a huge range in the number of calories in them. Before I just figured they were all in about the same size box, so same amount of calories. I was way off on that assumption.

For example in Stouffer's Herb Grilled Chicken it has only 160 calories. Whereas the Stouffer's Bistro Crustini Turkey Bacon Club box it says 330 calories but that is if you eat only 1, there are 2 in the box, so it really has 660 calories. This is where I learned the importance of reading the labels.

Easy Way to Reduce Calories

The most important discovery for me as I believe it had the most impact on my weight loss was looking at my liquid calorie intake. At 1500 calories per day that would mean I could have 10500 calories per week.

I was drinking a can of Coke or Pepsi at lunch and dinner time. There are 150 calories in a can. At 150 calories twice a day is 300 calories. Now times that by 7 days it equals out to 2100 calories. If I just eliminated that, I would remove almost a day and a half worth of calories every week.

For me diet soda is out of the question as to me it tastes disgusting. However I have read reports, although I don't know how true it is, that what is in diet sodas may actually cause you to eat more. So I don't think that would been a good alternative anyway.

I know I am not the type to just drink plain water all the time. So I found a couple of drink mixes that have either 0 calories or 5 calories and they both taste really good. There is a Selection brand (this is possibly just local) that makes Fruit Punch. It only has 5 calories but somehow it actually tastes sweet. The other one I really liked was Propel Zero Grape and it has 0 calories in it.

Propel Zero Calorie Nutrient Enhanced Water Beverage Mix (36 packets) 3 different flavors (berry, grape & kiwi strawberry)
Propel Zero Calorie Nutrient Enhanced Water Beverage Mix (36 packets) 3 different flavors (berry, grape & kiwi strawberry)
This is a variety pack so you can try the different flavors that are available. Find out which one is your favorite. Personally I like the grape flavor the best.

What I Ate To Lose Weight

Before the first weigh in for the weight loss challenge I highly recommend that you indulge in the "bad" foods that you crave. My team ordered in a pizza for our last meal before the competition started. This will help you start at a higher weight and it makes sure that during the competition you can remember when you had your last "bad" food, so it won't feel like you have been denying yourself treats forever.

I am not a health nut. I do not know how weigh foods and I don't want to eat just salads. What I found easiest was foods that came with calories listed on them.

It wasn't really about changing what I was eating as much it was about changing how much I was eating. I started paying attention to how many calories were in what I was eating.


For breakfast I would have a bagel that was 200 calories (read the package they can vary in calories). On the bagel I would have Philadelphia Herb and Garlic cream cheese.At only 45 calories a tablespoon I knew I could put on lots and not worry about still being under my 500 calories per meal.

Another option I choose was an English muffin at 120 calories per muffin. I would eat one and half of them totaling 180 calories. This low calorie count gave me room to have different toppings like peanut butter or jam or honey.

If I wanted something filling I would soft boil some eggs and have them with my toasted English muffins. I could have three 90 calorie eggs and the three halves of English muffins and still only be at 450 calories.

Photo by Whatsittoyou. of a bagel with cream cheese.

Chicken Parmasaen
Chicken Parmasaen


I was working afternoon shifts (3:00 pm to 11:00 pm) at the time so lunch was at home and the biggest meal of the day. One of my favorite prepackaged meals I could make and eat when I was at home were stuffed breaded chicken breast cutlets.

The two flavors I like are Broccoli & Cheese and Chicken Parmesan. The packages come with 2 in a box. The Broccoli & Cheese are 260 calories each, so 520 calories for both. The Chicken Parmesan are 250 calories each, so 500 calories for both.

Another option that I liked was Chicken with vegetables. Green Giant Simply Steam Cut Broccoli & Cauliflower with cheddar cheese sauce is only 140 calories if you eat the whole box.

I would prepare a chicken breast (120 calories) with Calorie Wise Kraft Zesty Italian Salad Dressing. This would give it some flavor and still be low calorie Get the recipe here.

I would make a bunch in my crockpot. I could use the extra chicken breasts I made for the next day or to eat with a salad.

Photo by Whatsittoyou. of the Chicken Parmaesan


Dinner was the meal I would have to take and eat at work. There is no oven available, only microwaves. This is when I found the TV dinner option very convenient.

Here is a list of the TV dinners that I found cooked well in the microwave, filled me up, and tasted good:

Lean cuisine Chicken Parmigiana at 240 calories.

Stouffer's Meatloaf at 300 calories

Healthy Choice Grilled Balsamic Chicken at 320 calories

Stouffer's Chicken Alfredo at 340 calories.

Stouffer's Veal Parmigiana at 390 calories.

An added bonus to the TV dinner plan is that with Stouffer's they have a promotion where you collect pins (located on the inside of the box) to get points. Then you can cash in the points to get gift cards for stores, or movie passes, or products they offer. In case you are interested, I have placed links to the USA and Canadian websites at the bottom of the page.


Yes, I included chocolate in my diet

With the TV dinners each one left me with at least an extra 100 calories. I don't want to give up dessert so I found things that were lower in calories to have for dessert.

I would buy the Halloween treat size chocolate bars. If I ate an Aero and a Kit Kat bar, that was only 100 calories and I got my chocolate fix.

Thinsations also has 100 calorie snacks. I like the Cheesecake and the Fudge Dipped bars as they taste good and are also filling.

Playing Video Games to Lose Weight?

I find participating in a sport and getting exercise from it is enjoyable. However, like most people, I am not a fan of just plain exercising. So I found ways to make exercising fun. I like playing video games and with the Wii you actually get up and interact to play.

I found that Wii boxing was one of the better games to play for exercise. You get a great upper body workout and some cardio. I had almost forgot about this game until I had tried a workout video that was too tough for me and ended up hurting my legs.

It was near the end of the weight loss challenge and I still needed to exercise, but my legs were way too sore. Wii boxing was perfect. I could still exercise without too much strain on my legs.

The Wii Fit Plus also has a variety of games that distract you from the fact you are actually exercising. One of my favorites is a game where you are like a bird flapping your wings trying to get to the next island. That provides a good upper body workout.

There are also work out routines and Yoga, if that is something you like. You can also use the Wii to track your weight loss progress. It acts as a scale and keeps track of how much you have lost.

I also know that one of the ladies on my team for the weight loss challenge liked to exercise using the some the dancing video games that w

Games For a Workout

Wii Sports (Nintendo Selects)
Wii Sports (Nintendo Selects)
This is the one that I have that has boxing on it. it provides a great upper body workout. It also works for cardio if you move around, really getting involved, like I do

What Is Your Favorite Exercise Equipment?

See results
Wii Fit U w/Wii Balance Board accessory and Fit Meter - Wii U
Wii Fit U w/Wii Balance Board accessory and Fit Meter - Wii U
This is the new Wii Fit that comes with a fit meter that you can wear throughout the day and hook up to your Wii later to track your progress. It also has new games to help you enjoy exercising.

Best Workout Videos

Doing the same thing day after day would become boring so I tried to do different types of exercises to keep me interested. I went online and browsed through the different exercise DVDs available.

Some were way to complicated for me to follow (they were already onto the next move while I was just figuring out the first one). Others were way above my fitness level and some just bored me too tears.

I tried the Insanity workout DVD, not the whole thing, just the fit test. I couldn't even finish all of that and it still kicked my butt. However, it did have the great system for figuring out the number of calories you should have and it was very good at explaining the exercise they wanted you to perform. If you are already at a higher fitness level and just not getting results I would recommend this DVD package.

The one that worked for me was The 10 Minute Trainer DVD. He is very good at explaining how to do the exercises. Most of the exercises were not complicated. Any that were complicated or became too difficult, I just walked or jogged in place until they moved on to the next one.

They do around 10 different moves in each of the ten minute segments so I would only be waiting for about a minute. This also would give me an opportunity to catch my breath and get some water. As I got better at it I was able to last the whole minute of the exercises that I did.

10-Minute Trainer DVD Workout
10-Minute Trainer DVD Workout
This had excellent workouts. They are easy to follow as they go through only one exercise at a time. Then they do the next one. They are not complicated moves. There are about 10 different moves per 10 minute segment.

10 Minute Trainer Cardio Video - Play the video and see if you can do all the exercises.

Here is a video from YouTube of a woman doing about half of the Cardio 10 Minute Trainer video that I thought was very effective for me. She is shown using the resistance bands that you attach to a door, but you don't need to use them (I didn't). It may look easy, but try it. See if you can get through the whole thing.

How Often & How Long to Exercise?

I started slowly, as I hadn't really exercised in a long time. At the beginning, on my elliptical machine I found it tough to last for 5 minutes. I would exercise every other day.

As time progressed I built up my stamina. At the end of the weight loss challenge I was able to last for 20 minutes on the elliptical and do one of the 10 Minute Trainer videos in one day.

I think the starting slowly and building into it helped. For instance I started by cutting back on drinking Coke/Pepsi, and then I completely quit . I gradually increased my exercise amount. If you keep doing the same thing your weight loss will plateau and you will get stuck. I was able to keep losing weight.

My Exercise Equipment

I have a Total Gym and a Horizon Elliptical machine. The Total Gym is great for muscle toning or building. You want to work on your muscles as they help you to burn calories.

The great part about the machine is it can grow with you or can be shared with people at different fitness levels. It is a weight resistance machine. So if you want an easier level you set it near the bottom. For a more challenging workout you set it near the top. You can also workout different body parts with many exercises.

The Total Gym came with a video that shows different exercises you can do. My favorite is where you lying on your back in a sit up position with you arms over your head, you then pull your arms over you and do a sit up.

It works out your arms (when you make a muscle, the part underneath, that can sag) and your stomach at the same time. You can also use it to do moves you would do on a rowing or a Pilates machine.

Total Gym XLS – Universal Home Gym for Total Body Workout
Total Gym XLS – Universal Home Gym for Total Body Workout
This is the most popular model of the Total Gym systems. It comes with 5 workout DVDs, an exercise chart, and a meal planning guide. It will hold up to 400 lbs weight capacity.

I like my Horizon elliptical better than a treadmill. I find there is less wear and tear on my body. They had a treadmill when I went for physio for my ankle. I found the pounding motion you get from running on a treadmill was not comfortable. Since an elliptical is more of a gliding motion it does not seem to bother my ankle at all.

I found when I first tried to use the elliptical, I didn't last very long at all. Probably because I wasn't distracting myself from what I was doing. So all I thought about was the fact that I was exercising and I was tired from exercising.

Listening to music helped to distract me. I found it was good to have uptempo music, but also music that changed its tempo. That way you were always at least at a jogging pace but then you could switch to a running pace when the song picked up the tempo.

Best Exercise Equipment

Horizon Fitness EX-59-02 Elliptical Trainer
Horizon Fitness EX-59-02 Elliptical Trainer
The elliptical I have is fairly old so I could not find the exact model that I have. This is from the same company and it is one of the best rated ellipticals on Amazon

My Weight Gain Story

I had gained weight over time. It started with the normal weight gain after high school, but it wasn't that much. I gained a little more after I started working after finishing college. Both those combined was maybe 10 pounds. Then it seemed to balance out for awhile. I started to gain weight again after I broke my ankle. This weight gain was worse. It didn't happen all at once but over the years I ended up gaining another 25 pounds.

I hadn't really paid that much attention to it until I went away on vacation. Now I was going to be on a beach in a bathing suit. You can cover up your weight gain with clothing, not so much with a bathing suit. This was when I really took notice of how much I had actually gained and realized I needed to make a change.

When I got back from my vacation there was a posting at work to join the healthy weight loss challenge. You would compete as a team and as an individual. Top team each member got $100, $75 each for second, and $50 for third. The Individual prize was $500 for the top man and $500 for top woman. Now there is some added incentive! I got my group of four and signed up. Since we thought we would not be eating any junk food once the contest started we would have one last hurrah and ordered in pizza. The next day I began my journey and started the change.

Long Term Success?

It has been 2 years now since I completed and won the healthy weight loss challenge at work. While I find my weight fluctuates about 5 pounds. I have kept most of the weight off. Yet I hardly ever exercise anymore.

I believe that keeping the calorie control for the 12 week contest period retrained my body for what was a proper meal portion. I no longer have to stick to prepackaged food as now my body recognizes it is full at the proper portion size.

The one thing I kept was not drinking soda pop 2 times a day. I have one maybe once or twice a week. I believe this is the biggest factor in my being able to maintain the weight loss for the long term.

Health Warning

Before you start any diet or exercise program you should consult a physician.

Have you had long term success with another program, if so which one?

Do you think this could work for you?

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    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 

      6 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Thanks for weight loss tips! I found the older I get, the pounds just do not come off as easy!

    • queenofduvetcover profile image


      6 years ago

      Drinking lots of water is also a good idea when you are trying to lose weight. I laughed when I read you exercise with the Wii because I do the same and people don't believe me! I also play Wii sports and my daughters Wii Just dance games. I also look up exercise videos on YouTube. I love the Zumba videos! My mom has insanity and she loves it. Great tips. =)

    • cdevries profile image


      6 years ago

      These are really good, practical, road-tested weight loss ideas. Thanks!

    • Adventuretravels profile image


      6 years ago from UK

      Great stuff - but I have found an even easier way - go for a walk - I walk 3 times a week for about an hour each time, and my weight went down like a miracle! Now it's almost just where I want it. I love your lens it's really positive and inspiring.

    • profile image

      blestman lm 

      6 years ago

      Awesome lens. you hit the nail on the head. Figure out what works for you. Then don't give up.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you for the information. I need to get serious about losing weight and getting healthy.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great job - congrats on figuring out what works for you and sticking to it.

    • JessicaLVine LM profile image

      JessicaLVine LM 

      6 years ago

      Oh yeah. I am on the hip hop abs infomercial and I have used p90x, hip hop abs and insanity.

    • TJHousel profile image


      6 years ago from NE Ohio

      What a great story. I struggle with my weight, but have lost 50lbs over the last two years. I do many of the things you listed above and I also use a food diary app. It helps me stay accountable for my eating decisions and helps me maintain my success.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      6 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Enjoyed reading this very much! It does sound doable too. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Flora Crew profile image

      Flora Crew 

      6 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      That sounds cool. I go to a fitness center for my workouts but use that as an excuse if it is closed as it was yesterday due to bad weather. I have cut down on my soda pops and am anxious to find out if I lost weight yet. I cook for self and my proportions are way too high. TV dinners sound like a way to control proportions.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Now this lens I like, because I find dieting really hard, my ability to exercise restricted by my rheumatoid arthritis!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Whenever you set a goal it will be more achievable if you can make a game of it. A diet will be easier to stick to if you can find foods that you actually like that are good for you.. The other thing about a diet and fitness program is that it is actually a change of lifestyle which must be permanent if you want the results to be long term

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      yes, I love this approach, I'm going to try this thanks.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This lens is loaded with good actionable advice, thanks so much for creating it!

    • Bercton1 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great tips!

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 

      7 years ago from Concord VA

      This sounds like a great plan that is easy to stick to. Congratulations on losing your weight and keeping it off...which is the hardest part. :)

    • SavioC profile image


      7 years ago

      My wife has been using the same tips you mentioned for last 2 months and I can see some visible changes. It works.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I've had similar success. Due to various problems, I was up to 239 lbs just over a year ago. Right now I'm at 190 lbs (lost 49 lbs). The most major change I made was only drinking water, and never anything with calories. I also avoid sugar, white flour, and all things artificial as much as possible.

    • Minoru10 profile image

      Michael Yoshinaka 

      7 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      I got to work on the will power thing for now. : D

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      very good tips on how to lose weight! good job with your success

    • CharMarie profile image


      7 years ago

      I've been trying to eat healthier, but I still haven't really gotten into the exercise routine like I need to. I wouldn't mind pre-packaged meals, but I, too, have a family to feed so that might be hard to work around. It would get a little too costly, I'm afraid. Thanks so much for your lens and the encouragement!

    • KerryVor profile image

      Kerry Voronoff 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Well done! I need to lose some weight and will def use some of your ideas. Not sure about the packaged meals for me though as I have a family to feed. I guess I will just have to look at portion control instead.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I need to shed some pounds and I like the hints you've given here.

    • ghoststorylover profile image


      7 years ago

      I have the Insanity dvd and I have to say that their workout is TOUGH!!! I'm lazy too, and when I started that I gave up because it was too hard. I've been thinking I should build up slowly and then do the Insanity workout...

    • clevergirlname profile image


      7 years ago

      Good job! It feels good to do things for yourself and being healthy (whether by weight loss or otherwise) is the most important!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      7 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Way to go! I love that you didn't join a weight loss program or pay for expensive food. Your approach is doable for just about anyone. I agree that retraining our bodies is the key to keeping weight off!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Congratulations for the weight loss! It takes discipline and patience to see results.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Just trying to lose the 30-40 pounds I put on when I went back to school. This is helpful stuff. Thanks!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      As a fitness consultant, I'm not personally a fan of workout DVD's like Insanity, P90X, etc., but there's some great information in this lens for anyone looking to get healthy. You get my endorsement!

    • govomg profile image


      7 years ago

      Hi I have recently been following weightwatchers online, by tracking my foood intake on my iPhone I have lost 19 kilos, 3.4 kilos to go to my goal weight.

    • Judann profile image


      7 years ago

      Hmmm! it`s a never ending battle trying to stay reasonably trim. Smaller meals seem to work best for me along with cutting back on sugary foods. Very useful info. Thanks.

    • Digory LM profile image

      Digory LM 

      7 years ago

      I think Insanity, P90X, or Zumba fitness would work for anyone willing to make the commitment, and congrats for shedding the pounds.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks for sharing what worked for you to lose a significant amount of weight! Very helpful and doable plan.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Cool... Sure it would work! :)

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      7 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      important topic. an informative lens on weight loss.

    • Fran Tollett profile image

      Fran Tollett 

      7 years ago

      Very informative lens. There really is no such thing as a magic pill or spray, is there? You are very inspiring to those of us who could lose a few pounds :-D

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very good points of the hardest parts for me was kicking the soda. I love my Coca-Cola...and then there's the beer. lol.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your story. Its better to do some workout it will help you to keep fresh and fit.




    • Whatsittoyou profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Canada

      @mcspocky lm: I tried the Mio, it only has about 3 flavours where I live. The fruit punch was alright, but not as good as the selection brand we have locally. The other 2 Mio flavours we have available didn't really appeal to me.

    • denetraharris profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for this lens, its inspirational. Explaining your eating pattern & suggestions will be useful for me.

      Again thanks!

    • profile image

      mcspocky lm 

      7 years ago

      Great job on losing the weight, I know from experience how difficult that is. Good information on this page...

      The drink I currently like instead of sodas, is mio water. Just a little squirt of of the small bottle into a glass of water and you have a great tasting 0 calorie drink... It comes in a number of different flavors.

    • takkhisa profile image


      7 years ago

      That's great that you have shared your own success story :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I did the TV dinners one time and was very happy at how easy it was to keep the calorie count in check. I also dropped the diet pepsi. Now I don't even think about sodas, I stick with other zero calorie drinks that are not full of sugar. Nice lens

    • Whatsittoyou profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Canada

      @DebW07: Thank you.

    • Whatsittoyou profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Canada

      @iamraincrystal: Try what I did. I had been lean most of my life up until I broke my ankle.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Your story is so motivational. Love using the TV dinners so you know exactly how many calories you are eating! Lots of great information!

    • iamraincrystal profile image

      Rosyel Sawali 

      7 years ago from Manila Philippines

      Amazing! I should work on losing weight. I've gained so much within these past 2 years. I've always been lean before. ^_^

    • sockii profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 

      7 years ago from New Jersey

      It's nice to see a successful weight loss discussed that goes back to the basics: eat less, exercise more. Worked well for me when I was younger...the challenge now is the metabolism changing with age and other health issues that make it more difficult to take off (and keep off) weight.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Congrats on losing the weight and keeping it off for 2 years!

    • kerbev profile image

      Kerri Bee 

      7 years ago from Upstate, NY

      I'm glad you were successful! Great job!

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 

      7 years ago from Albany New York

      First of all...I LOVE TV dinners. I liked reading your personal story and it was very well presented and interesting with lots of facts. RocetSquid tip...more photos in the Text Modules...readers love photos and it keeps their attention. NIce work!

    • inkymama profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens. I like all the meal ideas you gave.


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