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A really hard break-up

My favorite doctor

This is the last Diet Dr. Pepper I had. The photo is date-stamped for August 5th, which means I’ve been off of sodas for…hmmm…let’s see…FAR TOO LONG!

I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with soda dating all the way back to our first break-up in 2004. If diet soda were a person, all my friends would be telling me to ditch that guy for real this time because he’s no good for me or my teeth. Then I’d reply, “But he can be so sweet and bubbly! You don’t know him like I do!” I know in my head that he’s no good for me, but my heart (or my tongue) just can’t say no.

This time around the dissolution of our partnership was ordered by my new headache doctor. New state, new neurologist. He’s making me avoid artificial sweeteners and preservatives because they can inflame your nervous system and___________ (fill in the blank with the bazillion reasons I know fake foods aren’t good for you, but that I don’t want to hear).

Anyway, I have no reasonable counterargument to convince either my doctor or myself that TV dinners and Nutrasweet are headache reducers, so I’ve been enforcing the diet restrictions as he prescribed…mostly. He wants me to go off coffee too and I haven’t yet sit down with Mr. Coffee to serve him our divorce papers.

Do you know what I’ve been drinking? Water. Just water! For days and days and days! It’s been AWFUL. I have to get up and pee in the middle of the night because of all the water I’m drinking.

Even though I know these diet changes are probably good for me, I miss my fake foods! Plus, preservatives and artificial flavorings are in everything! When you read the labels, you discover they add them to yogurt, ketchup, bread, soup and practically everything at the grocery. Eating only “real” foods is hard, and much more labor intensive. And even though I know diet changes like this help some headache sufferers, I went through this song and dance two years ago and saw no results, so I get the feeling all this work and suffering is going to do nothing for my suffering.

I figure, I will try this for a month and when it doesn’t do anything for my headache I shall schedule a consultation with my favorite doctor: Dr. Pepper.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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44 Comments

Lisa • August 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Soda is a HARD HARD HARD thing to give up! I switched to sparkling water with lemon and that helped a lot.

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Sarah • August 11, 2010 at 12:35 pm

My husband quit Diet Coke a few years ago and his headaches stopped. He still drinks coffee.

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Leigh • August 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Hi PastaQueen! I totally feel your pain. Dr. P and I were together a few years ago. I, too, knew that it probably wasn’t good for my teeth and everything else, but I didn’t care. It wasn’t until I read that sodas can lead to bone loss (eek! I’m already in a high risk category for osteoporosis!) that I gave it up cold turkey. That was a sad day. I resolved to only drink real Coke etc, and in moderation (read: practically never). One day, I need some caffeine really badly, and there was no coffee in sight. No real Coke, either. So, I grabbed a Diet Coke, because that’s what was available. I got the worst headache I have ever had, and have since discovered that those artificial sweeteners really do a number on me. :( Boo! I never would have believed it, either… but alas, it seems to be a fact of my life.

All that to say that I hope the water drinking gets easier, and that your headaches do go away. Btw, once your body gets used to the amount of water you’re drinking, you do pee less. Promise. :)

Have a great day!

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Lisa • August 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Ha! I feel ya. Because of chronic stomach issues I started eating clean (no white flour, white sugar, or processed foods) for the last few months. Has it been tough? Yup. But do I feel fantastic? Yes, sadly for chocolate, I do. My stomach’s better, my energy level is great, even my mood has improved. I recommend checking out Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Diet series for food and recipe ideas–it’s much easier to do when you have a lot of other tasty foods around. Good luck!

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Rebecca • August 11, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I’m with Lisa… I switched to sparkling water with lemon when I gave up soda.

Come to find out, I just want some fizz every now and then.

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Rebecca in SoCal • August 11, 2010 at 1:11 pm

The sparkling water with lemon…yes. Actually, try all kinds of things in water. I was at a restaurant where I noticed “something” about the water. I finally saw that there was a little bit of watermelon in the big pitcher. Funny how such a small thing can make a big difference. Also try cucumber.

@Leigh…Really? That’s incentive to keep at it (so the body gets accustomed).

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Debbi Does Dinner Healthy • August 11, 2010 at 1:23 pm

I gave up my beloved Diet Coke a year or so ago. The diet Dr. Pepper was a very close friend that had to go too. I THINK my headaches are better. I don’t keep a journal so it’s hard to say. I do know that that stuff is bad though. So I’m sure my body is better.

All I drink is water too. Except for the occasional V8. I love the idea of giving up all processed foods but I love my lean cuisines and yogurt and vitatops too much. I have cut down a lot. I wish you well!

I hope that even if you don’t see results, you don’t go back to “him”. Just see him on the side every once in awhile but don’t go back full time. (easier said than done!

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Carbzilla • August 11, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Good for you for doing the hard thing! I once got one of my worst headaches from drinking Martinelli’s sparkling cider. Go figure!

You, my friend, need to get a SodaStream pronto! Unless your doctor said no carbonated water either (that truly would suck). A summer affair with a SodaStream would put the pep back in your step!

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Caro • August 11, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I have given up my diet drinks before and I know that I’m better off. But I find it very difficult to stick to it. I do want to hear how it goes, so I hope you’ll give us an update in a month.

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Julia • August 11, 2010 at 3:31 pm

I suffered terrible migraines then I started wearing my PS watch and got them very seldom so I swore it was the watch. I barely have had one and have not worn my watch since early May so it must be the soda I stopped drinking – I have never drunk a lot of soda and I still have my reg coffee everyday.
Hope I don’t jinx myself and get a migraine after typing this.
Hope you resolve this :)

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Eternal Lizdom • August 11, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Have you done any reading on “eating clean?”

Also… try some fruit in your water to liven it up. I’m a fan of lime or a slice of cucumber (sounds crazy but it’s good)! Also, I’m totally hooked on Trader Joe’s or Poland Spring sparkling water. Ingredients: Sparkling Spring Water (spring water, carbon dioxide), natural flavors. No calories, fat, sodium, carbs, or anything else. Just a change of pace from plain old water.

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Lanie • August 11, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I have a friend who cuts up a lemon and puts it in the bottom of a Mason car before filling it with icy cold purified water and swears by it. I also hear cucumbers are good for that.

I’m pretty good at drinking my water, but I still have 1 Pepsi (the real stuff!) with breakfast. Coffee is for grownups and I don’t want to be confused with one of those, so I never got started on that habit.

And by the way, I started reading your book yesterday and I LOVE IT! Every bit of it so far is so well said. I’m borrowing your aunt’s copy until I can get one of my own. I’ll be buying multiple copies for friends and maybe even a give-away on my blog. Loving the way you think and express yourself!

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Erica • August 11, 2010 at 5:50 pm

I was just about to go grab that exact Caffeine Free Diet Dr. Pepper right now. Now I think I’ll go get some water. Thanks for the encouragement.

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msmezzo • August 11, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Yes, you might have done this before and maybe it “didn’t work”, but just give it another try. Fake food is just really, really bad for human beings. Especially ones with headaches that won’t go away.

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Merry • August 11, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Given up fake foods sounds like a great idea for a real person.

Unless, of course, you’re not a real person. I mean, what if you’re actually a Cylon, and the headache is caused by your programming going awry for some nefarious reason? Then the fake foods might be exactly what you need more of, so that you can reabsorb all the chemicals needed to re-boot your system. Then you’re fracked.

On the other hand, maybe I should stop watching old Sci Fi shows so much. That’s possible too.

Some of the ‘water’ drinks actually contain sugar and sodium and ‘natural’ flavorings, so much so that they’re actually sodas pretending to be real water.

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AquaMarine • August 11, 2010 at 6:12 pm

I don’t know if this sounds any good to you, but I buy Black Cherry concentrate at the health food store and mix a little of that (1 tbs maybe) with a tall glass of seltzer water or sparkling water. I try to pretend it’s black cherry soda…… Also, sparkling water with lemon is delicious as previous commenters have said. I’ll have to try the watermelon, that sounds good too!

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Sarah B. • August 11, 2010 at 6:54 pm

I can imagine how you feel – I used to be addicted to diet coke many years ago, until I realised I was allergic to aspartame (it got to the point where the skin on my arms was so sore I couldn’t wear anything sleeved, which was at least an incentive to quit!) If you’re avoiding aspartame, you might also want to keep an eye open for MSG too, as it works in a similar way, and is also in tons of stuff.

But even if it doesn’t help the headaches, less artificial chemicals in your system has got to be a Good Thing. Water’s great for detox, and your liver and kidneys will love you for it. :)

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ChrissyS • August 11, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Hey, proud of you. It is tough..me and diet coke (caffeine free, even) had a friendship. We didn’t even see each other very often, maybe twice a week?? Anyway, gave up any & all soda pops last Oct. Hard to do..I enjoyed those 2 X per week meetings.

I am on a continuing WL journey, and when I read my buddy Jillian Michael’s book and saw that soda pop in general is a WL inhibitor, I think that was the break-up point for me and soda pop. I felt like here I am workin’ hard to lose weight and try to get healthier, and I am doing this one little thing over here that could be in affect nullifying some of my work.

Ima encourage you to not go back..if you have a month under your belt, keep going! No backtracking! You can do it! I have been quite tempted since our breakup Oct ’09, but each time I am I keep thinkin’ how going back will end my streak, and I won’t be able to say ‘since Oct.’ anymore. Silly, yeah, but I got a thing going. :)

Would you be allowed to have decaf coffee? So you can still enjoy your beverage? Or maybe a decaf tea will appeal to you. ?

So yeah, I am a boring water drinker too. I add lemon. Thank you so much Eternal Lizdom, and Rebecca for the cuke tip! Went and put a slice in my glass right away. Ooo, choices PQ, cuke or lemon..Oh but someone else mentioned fruit too! Still waiting for Leigh’s wisdom to kick in for me..seems like the bano and I are always together. (potty) Oh, but WATER is great for WL!! [Jillian says so too!] Woo hoo!! =)

You’ve been on this health & fitness highway for a long time, you know our tastes/palate/desires change. Wishing you the best with it.

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Michelle • August 11, 2010 at 9:07 pm

In desperation I started seeing an Auryvedic Wellness coach about a year ago and over that year I’ve managed to pretty much give up all the really fun things in my life, coffee with real cream, spicy foods, and just recently wheat, sugar and dairy. Eating is a challenge but I think I’m starting to feel better, I haven’t had a migraine in months (knock on wood) and I’m finally finally starting to loose weight.

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msmezzo • August 11, 2010 at 10:13 pm

oh yeah, I forgot. I’m not supposed to eat wheat corn soy dairy sugar potato tomato and something else, I forget. Inflammation issues. I figure I’m doing well if I “eat real food, not too much, mostly plants”. But when I am on plan, I will admit, I feel terrific, and inflammation issues are much much better. But its summer…no corn? no tomatoes? whaaaa?

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Emily • August 11, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Are you forbidden from regular soda, as well? I don’t drink a lot of it, but when I do, I drink regular. I didn’t get skinnier switching to diet years ago, and I didn’t get fatter when I gave up artificial sweeteners and went back to the occasional regular soda. I agree with the person who just puts lemon in seltzer water….I too found it’s really the fizz I crave. But….good luck…it’s hard at first… but worth it.

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siv • August 12, 2010 at 12:34 am

I also need to watch my diet, due to a chronic illness. I’d like to encourage you to give your new diet a real chance. Give it three or four months instead of just one month before you decide whether to stick with it or to revert to your old habits. It took my body several months to adjust and having to drink water instead of sodas and not eating processed food seems well worth it, if this means you could get rid of your headaches for good. Give it a real try — no cheating — and good luck to you!

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fd • August 12, 2010 at 5:13 am

oh good luck PQ. giving up anything that you love and are hooked on is difficult. i have succesfully given up the diet sodas. it took a few weeks for the withdrawal pangs to clear (bizarrely, extra headaches for a few weeks) and a few more weeks before i felt the positive effects of giving it up (it was my skin that was the real problem not headaches) so i would encourage you to make it 6 weeks rather than 4-5. like some commenters above, when i do drink soda, i go for the non-diet variety. i have not succesfully given up coffee, but i’ve cut down to one for breakfast and one after lunch and my body and mind do thank me for it. fewer headaches, better sleep,…
there are tons of great suggestions for the water flavour thing above. i would add:
-a little fresh ginger in warm water is lovely tasting.
-a drop of elderflower cordial in water is lovely (ikea sells it)
-fizzy water with a dash of grapefruit juice and some ice is super refreshing (and my addictive drink of choice this summer)
-a few fresh berries with some mint leaves in water is yum, and looks super sophisticated.

all in all, a million alternatives and a million good reasons just aren’t as good at the real thing, so i feel you’re pain. it is a hard break-up. hang in there, you CAN do this.

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Thealogian • August 12, 2010 at 10:53 am

I have also had to break up (then make-up) then break-up again with that dirty rat bastard boyfriend. I have gone through that roller coaster more than I’d care to acknowledge, but I gotta say, life is better without him….in the long run.

I’ve met a couple sweet organic vegan types, they are nice guys. For example, there’s Cue–that’s cucumber and mint water (it sounds like a weird combo, but its good and easy to make–just peel a cuke and cut some fresh mint–then roll in your hand a bit before putting it in the pitcher to get the oils activated–and let them all hang in the fridge.).

There’s also Herb–that’s iced herbal tea in a variety of flavors made with 1/3 cranberry or pom or whatever you like juice. Seriously though, 2/3 iced tea and 1/3 juice hits the spot.

Seriously, Soda is a dick–he doesn’t treat you right!

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Thealogian • August 12, 2010 at 10:53 am

Oh, peel and slice the cucumber…sorry

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Weeze • August 12, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Curious minds want to know, can you use agave nectar as a sweetener since it comes from the Yucca plant? I realize it’s not a substitute for Dr. Pepper, but just askin’.

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PastaQueen • August 12, 2010 at 3:12 pm

@Weeze – I haven’t specifically asked about that, but I’m 99% sure that would be okay since it’s all natural. I’ve just been using sugar and honey, but I could probably use agave too.

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Jessica • August 12, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Wow… must be hard. I have loved pop since I was a kid..

Sadly, I am hyper sensitive to caffeine though, so I have to either go for the caffeine free pop, or have small quantities.

I just don’t know if I could give it up.. Oddly I am the exact opposite in terms of headaches. The first thing I go for when I have a headache (which is few and far between now.. thank god) is a regular coke. Then I am good as new.

Also I drink it with a straw so that it doesn’t touch my teeth… I will go out of my way to find justifiable reason’s for drinking it. LOL!

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Stephanie • August 12, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I feel your pain, sister. Great post – had me laughing out loud.

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Andrea Lee • August 12, 2010 at 8:45 pm

I drink a LOT of red tea. The instant kind, usually, by the pitcher full. I like it room temp – picky cold drink drinkers can add ice cubes. It comes in a tube of tubs, gotta like that, and is cheap. Like http://www.walmart.com/ip/4C-Red-Tea-Peach-Antioxidant-Itm-53-oz/10307406 but I don’t prefer the peach.

I go through phases, for a while it’s this, then it’s lemonade, then water for a bit, then hot tea…keep yourself happy, sistah, mix up the dance floor! You can DO IT!

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Debbie Clark • August 12, 2010 at 9:58 pm

I actually use the “artificial sweetener is a migraine trigger” as my justification for drinking regular Coke and Pepsi. And I have one of those each day, justifying the caffeine as a way to stave off the mild headache I inevitably have by lunchtime. I’m one big justifier. I hate it when the doctor is right…

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Mrs. Thighs • August 12, 2010 at 10:17 pm

I’ve never had an addiction to soda, but I did try to give up coffee a few years ago and it was HARD. Best of luck in kicking the old Dr. to the curb.

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Jean • August 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I echo everyone’s comments on the sparkling water – my favorite is Trader Joe’s raspberry lime.

I am allergic to corn products (although I can still eat corn in its ‘natural’ state – go figure!), so that pretty much cut out anything processed. It’s AMAZING how much better I feel now – for probably more reason than one. In the early days of discovering my allergy & cutting out the bad stuff, I used to say that I didn’t know how bad I really felt until I started feeling better!

The breakup will be worth it in the long run if it makes you feel better. You can do it!

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Jackie • August 13, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Like Eternal Lizdom I strongly recommend the Poland Spring Sparkling Natural Spring Water. I like the Raspberry Lime. You can buy a case from either Weaver Street Market or Whole Foods and that’s cheaper than buying individual bottles. It gives you the carbonation without the calories or artificial sweeteners. I personally don’t like the new Trader Joe’s version but try them both and see which you prefer.

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Julie • August 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Eggs were causing my migraines so it may not be the artificial sweetener, although it really isn’t good for you so not having it is wise.

Good luck!

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Dawn • August 13, 2010 at 8:55 pm

The doctor is recommending some good changes.

Instead of divorcing coffee, perhaps you can reduce your consumption to one cup daily? I did this before a major surgery last year and have not gone back to my caffeine addiction. I feel much healthier and have a lot more energy than I did when drinking a lot of caffeine!

Good luck and stay strong!

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Tina • August 13, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I’ve never had headache problems, but I’ve been a daily (uh, multiple times daily) coffee drinker for at least a decade and finally dropped the joe because I was reading a lot about how the caffeine can burn out your adrenal system and make weight loss more difficult. I totally didn’t buy it, but wouldn’t you know? The damn thing worked. Better yet–I had more energy than ever.

Admittedly, I’m in the midst of crazy season at work so I’m back on the brew and also happen to feel like crap. I’ll quit again in 2 weeks and hopefully go back to feeling like my new old self.

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Claudia • August 14, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I recently tried some Hansen’s Natural Soda’s, they were pretty good. Not sure if you like Root Beer, but it tasted great. It is made with Natural cane sugar, and no preservatives or additives. If you need a soda fix. I’m sure there are other flavors as well.

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Zoe D. • August 14, 2010 at 9:13 pm

I feel your pain, Pasta Queen. I had to give up all things caffeinated in 2008, and it STILL pisses me off. When I walk by an espresso joint I feel like every nerve ending in my body is aquiver.

Hope the abstinence helps.

Zoe D.

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BridgetJones • August 15, 2010 at 12:54 am

I am right there with ya’, sistah. I have been addicted to Diet Pepsi since I was 18…and just like you, I’ve tried to ditche the “guy” but I just can’t shake him.

It’s shameful, but I’m pregnant, and I still must have one Diet Pepsi in the morning or I don’t feel like getting out of bed. Coffee doesn’t replace it.

At work, to avoid comments about how unhealthy it is for me, I walked proudly into the office with my Diet Pepsi in hand and told everyone, “This is just to hide the smell of cigar on my breath.”

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Annie • August 15, 2010 at 12:31 pm

I think I have been dating that guy too! I do the same thing of going off and on again with drinking the stuff. I think I feel better when I avoid but then I get a taste and there I go again. It’s like crack in a can. On the serious front I hope this helps your headaches as I know you been dealing with this for a long time.

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Mom Taxi Julie • August 15, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Just what you wanted, tons of comments on how no one has headaches anymore ;)

I quit drinking soda awhile back. Now I only have it if it has booze in it :)

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Ro • August 15, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Hope your feeling better. If I knew you were putting that blue packet in your drinks I would have told you about the report of people getting headaches after using those for their sugar sub. I had that happen to me to so I went off it and no more headaches/migraines since I stopped. I really hope this time you get better. Good luck!

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Debby • August 15, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I feel for you, PQ. I hope this helps and that you feel better soon. I have severe sleep apnea and the doc just gave me a stern lecture about losing weight. I know I should give up the Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, but like Annie wrote, it truly is “crack in a can.” I’ve tried losing weight so many times, it’s ridiculous. I hope your ditching caffeine helps your headaches go away, and hopefully I can get some of your resolve and strength to start on my own path to a healthier life. Wish me luck!

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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