Best Food Choices when Cutting

Can I eat chocolate on a cut? If it fits your macros targets, then go ahead.

Can I eat pizza while gaining muscle? If it fits your macros, yes.

Can I eat cheesecake without gaining fat? IIFYM.

Can I eat peanut butter while cutting? IIFYM!!!

This is how the IIFYM acronym and trend was born. Around 2009-2010 the idea that you can eat anything you want on a cut without compromising your results started to gain popularity on the bodybuilding.com forum.

Being a new idea, a lot of people started asking if they can eat pizza, chips, bananas, chocolate… you name it. At first people took the time to write long answers to each comment explaining that they could eat whatever they wanted as long as it could fit in their macros. But more and more people kept on asking the same thing, over and over. Patience wore thin and Erick Stevens, a member of the forum, thought of just posting the acronym: “IIFYM”.

Then everyone started using this acronym to answer those types of questions. Shortly after, IIFYM became a thing.

IIFYM done right and wrong

I personally really like the IIFYM philosophy and I believe it makes dieting a hell of a lot easier. By having the liberty to include whatever you’re craving into your diet without compromising your results, you remove a big part of the psychological stress associated with dieting.

However, as with anything else some people take IIFYM to the extreme and eat only protein shakes, fast food and sweets because they fit in their macros. Yes, strictly for body composition it makes no difference but the lack of vitamins, minerals and fibre can lead to health problems in the future. In addition, packaged food usually contains small amounts of trans fats, preservatives and other chemicals which can cause problems when consumed in excess.

The right way to use IIFYM is to get the majority of your calories (80-90%) from whole foods and the rest from whatever you want. Eric Helms said it best:

“The truth is there is nothing inherently unhealthy about dirty foods, it’s rather that if they dominate your diet, you generate deficiencies as a result. I tell my clients that their diets should be inclusive rather than exclusive, meaning that provided you hit your macros, get sufficient fruits, vegetables and fiber, and you have some macros left over, then sure, have your snickers bar. In fact I’d hedge a guess to say that results on the diet will be better this way, as you’re less likely to fall off the wagon.”

So what should we eat?

Food Choices for Cutting

When making food choices you should have in mind the following criteria:

  1. Satiety

When cutting you should eat as much quantity as you can for the low calorie budget you have. Hunger is very often the biggest obstacle when in a deficit so it’s important to eat foods that are low in calories for their volume.

Eating a lot of food helps stave off hunger and cravings which makes it much easier for you to remain in a caloric deficit.

Foods differ a lot in their caloric content. This a big reason why many people have the impression they’re eating very little but can’t lose weight. They’re scared of eating big meals but are ok with a having a few packed snacks every day. The problem is they think in terms of food quantity and not calorie content.

Instead of eating a chocolate croissant with their coffee (which can have about 260 kcal) they’d be much better off eating 300g of potatoes in one of their meals. After 300g of potatoes most people will be pretty satisfied and wouldn’t think about food for a few hours. They would find it very easy to maintain a caloric deficit in this way.

That’s my recommendation to you: choose highly satiating foods. Don’t be faked out by quantity – it’s the calorie content that matters.

  1. Micronutrients and fiber

Vitamins and minerals are essential for health and sometimes play a big role in performance, well-being and energy levels. For these reasons it’s important to regularly eat fresh foods which are rich in micronutrients. You’ll see that the satiating foods are also the ones which contain the most micronutrients.

Focus on eating protein and fat from natural sources such as meats, eggs and dairy. Get a big portion of your carbs from a large variety of non-starchy vegetables and 1-2 fruits a day. These foods alone will ensure you’re getting a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals.

The vegetables and fruits also contain fiber. Men should get about 25g of fiber everyday and women about 20g.  Make sure to eat enough of it otherwise you’ll have a bad time when you go to the bathroom.

  1. Cravings

I think it’s important to understand that you don’t have to stop eating your favorite foods when you’re cutting. Allowing yourself to eat the foods you crave it’s a big component of long term adherence.

I know a lot of people who have the all-or-nothing mentality and believe they must suffer during a diet in order for it to work. Of course, this causes stress and psychological pressure and in the end they either quit or binge out of frustration.

A better way to deal with cravings is to embrance them as normal. When you do that, you can allow yourself to eat what you crave in moderation and include it in your calorie budget and macros. This is what “If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)” means. You’re allowed to eat anything as long as you can fit it in your macros. That’s a very healthy mindset.

How do you do that?

Well let’s say that you crave ice cream. In this case you can very easily eat less potatoes or rice in one of your meals and get the rest of those carbs from ice cream. Or if you crave pizza, you can replace one of your meals with 2 or 3 slices of pizza. This is where the skill of counting calories comes in handy.

What foods you bring home matters

I think it’s important to buy and bring home only satiating foods which are low in calories for their volume.

I suggest you don’t buy canned or packaged meat products or any other type of high fat animal products.

I also believe you shouldn’t buy snacks such as popcorn, crackers, chocolate bars, nuts, etc. Any food that is easy to eat (especially out of boredom) should be avoided.

Sodas, juices, beer and other liquids that contain calories should also be avoided. When you’re cutting it’s better to avoid drinking your calories – you should chew them.  If you want a beverage, go with water, tea, or coffee (during the morning fast).

Fruit intake should also be limited because surprisingly, fruits are actually pretty high in calories. I actually had a big problem with fruits when I was cutting – I used to binge on them because I could fit them in my macros.

Fructose is the least satiating type of carbs. In addition, it cannot be used to replenish muscle glycogen stores directly, it must be processed in the liver first. This makes fruits an inferior carbohydrate choice for performance related goals compared to starchy carbs.  I’d suggest you eat 1-2 pieces of fruit a day – that’s a very good habit to have.

Foods I recommend you buy:

I encourage you to start eating more whole foods and fewer food products.

You should buy: chicken, pork tenderloin, lean cuts of beef, tuna, eggs, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasta, 1-2 fruits a day and lots of veggies.

The importance of hydration

Although we all know we should be drinking plenty of water every day, most people are always slightly dehydrated. Thirst is actually a signal of dehydration, not a warning.

When you’re cutting, adequate water intake is particularly important because many thirst sensations are confused with hunger. Dehydration can thus give you a false feeling of hunger and drive you to overeat.

Moreover, hydration also plays a role in physical performance. Studies show that even a 2% dehydration negatively affects maximal strength output.

How much water should you drink?

Enough to have at least 5 clear urinations a day. This is a better way to track water intake compared with glasses or fl. oz. per day because it takes into account that each person lives in a different environment (humidity and temperature) and losses different amounts of water through sweat. A person working outside during a sunny day will need more water than someone who sits at a desk in an office with air conditioning. This is why we look at urinations instead of following a recommended water intake.

When you see you have at least 5 clear urinations a day, then you know you’re drinking enough water.

 

What did you think about these ideas? Have anything else to share? Any questions? Let me know in the comments below.


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In this program we’re going to use two ways to do this:

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No Comments

  1. Shlomo on January 3, 2016 at 2:35 am

    I currently only have restaurant and takeout food available to me. I’m never quite sure my exact intake. I lost 40+ lbs. on an IF cut without losing muscle but now even doing the Kinobody Bodyweight Mastery can’t get that last bit of ab fat to go away. How can I best estimate my calories for ready made foods?? It’s easy to keep track of ingredients but not if your not cooking. Right now doing a maintenance eating 2 big pieces grilled chicken and a 4.5 by 6.5 pan of sweet potato kugel/casserole plus a cucumber salad with mayo dressing. Does that sound like enough? too much?? too little? I was eating a shwarama wrap and sweet potato fries for months and was worried too low cal. Don’t wanna ruin my metabolism with deficit too low but also don’t wanna gain fat.

    • Radu Antoniu on January 5, 2016 at 8:46 pm

      Hmm I’d do with simple ingredients with dressing or sauce. As you said, that’s the most accurate way you can measure takeout and restaurant food.

      If you go a little too low in calories for a few days it’s no big deal. If you eat too little you will quickly notice that because your weight will go down too fast.

  2. Pablo on January 7, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Hi Radu, im from Mexico and im your very big fan, keep going really this website is gold, and you should do a post talking about grips at pull ups and more videos showing your macros.

    • Radu Antoniu on January 17, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      Thanks Pablo!

  3. Shlomo on January 10, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    Thank you. Also it always seems like you have so much food in your day, how is that possible?? 140 grams of protein (.82Xmy weight) is barely more than 2-3 big pieces of chicken. Maybe I’m just too used to eating like an american but that seems like so little. Your videos make it seem like you eat whole chickens etc. Is it just the veggies adding mass or could I be eating waaaay too little.

    • Radu Antoniu on January 17, 2016 at 6:49 pm

      Yes I actually don’t eat that much protein. I cook more than I eat usually.

      Yep veggies make it so much easier to stick to the diet. They contribute a lot to satiety.

  4. Shlomo on January 10, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    Also how long does it take your body to get from deficit to maintenance back to deficit to get those last few lbs.???

    • Radu Antoniu on January 17, 2016 at 6:48 pm

      When you go from maintenance into a deficit you’ll notice fat loss very quickly, in a matter of days.

  5. Shlomo on January 14, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    I just finished 3 weeks eating maintenance and I’d like to cut again. Should I wait a little longer or is 3 weeks enough for the metabolism to catch up to my higher intake?? I want a great cut and I could eat more(who couldn’t) for a few more weeks if necessary. Thank you.

    • Radu Antoniu on January 17, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      Yep 3 weeks is plenty. You can go back to cutting

  6. Shlomo on January 19, 2016 at 4:30 am

    You don’t have to respond, I would just like to say thank you. You’ve been very helpful and your blog is very informative. I send links to your articles to any fitness beginner that asks for advice. Love “Best training split” and “how to go from fat and weak to lean and muscular.” Those are the 2 best articles for beginner lifters. Great content!!!!!

    • Radu Antoniu on January 28, 2016 at 10:13 pm

      Wow thank you!

      I really appreciate your support !

  7. slaine on January 23, 2016 at 8:35 am

    Hey Radu! I stumbled across your website a week ago while Googling and I’m really impressed with the wealth of information you have, keep it up, your an inspiration! I already follow Mike Matthews and have been training for a year now with some good results. I am just about to start a cut and I am going to try your method of not eating till midday. I work out early at 6am before work. Usually I have a mass gain shake that has carbs and protein straight after I work out to maximize gains. Should I have this still or fast till midday for cutting purposes? Thanks, Mark

    • Radu Antoniu on January 28, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      Hey Mark! Awesome glad to hear it!

      I recommend still having the shake around your workout. I don’t like the idea of maintaining the fasted state for several hours after a fasted workout. All evidence points out to this not being ideal for muscle growth so even if it’s not an issue it’s still better to be cautious.

      The main idea is to push most of your calories for the second part of the day. That way you manage hunger much better.

  8. zed on February 8, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    Hello Radu!

    I have recently purchased the warrior shedding program by Greg but I have a little bit of problem.. I can’t seem to do weighted chin ups, what exercise should be a good substitute? and am I not expected to feel any muscle sore after working out?

    hope you’ll reply very soon 😀

  9. john on February 8, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Hi, love the work you do..I been trying out my own diet cause I hate counting protein or carbs etc! So I just make sure I get 3-4 meals a day. I lost 14kg in less then 3 weeks, and still being same size just less fat. Do you think that is too much in short time?

    but remember i put real effort in getting those 14kg gone in these 2 n half weeks, I walked 1 mile aday every morning, when I came home later that day I did have more cardio for 1 hour and on top of that i did use weights to do my reps n sets with.

    • Radu Antoniu on February 8, 2016 at 11:05 pm

      Wow! Thanks awesome man!

      If you’re at a high body fat percentage, fast fat loss is ok. Once you get to around 15% body fat aim to lose 1% of your bodyweight per week

  10. Adrian on February 17, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    You are doing a very good job in what you do. i.e. delivering no nonsense information regarding optimising body composition. I have 2 questions to ask. Could be that I’m obsessing over minor details.

    To begin with I’m a big eater, that is if i don’t eat with a food measuring scale and carefully, i tend to over eat very easy. So i measure everything out to every detail. Intermittent fasting is not for me because i work shift work and have long hours and no set routine and when i tried it out i over rated big time when food was available. So I’m talking about eating every 3 hours.

    Regarding veggies what amount is a good rule of the thumb for daily intake when cutting without going overboard. Because i believe with my appetite lots of veggies (not lettuce) will eventually add up to the day caloric intake. And when I eat massive amounts i feel that somehow my weight is not going down!

    Another question regarding frequency of water intake. I normally drink 0.5L with every meal hence sometimes going without water for 3hrs between meals especially at work. Do you think i would be better off drinking smaller amounts more frequently for better hydration and to avoid bloat?

    Thanks in advance for your feedback. Really appreciated.

    • Radu Antoniu on February 27, 2016 at 5:09 pm

      Hey Adrian! Thanks for your support man!

      1. I’d recommend 500-700g of veggies per day. It’s best to keep your fiber intake to around 15g for each 1000kcal you eat. A much too high fiber intake leads to bloating and water retention which as you said, can mask weight loss.
      2. I think this comes down to personal preference. From what I know, there’s nothing wrong with drinking 0.5l a few times a day. I personally have a bottle of water at all times on my desk and drink small amounts frequently. If you can implement this habit and enjoy it, by all means do it.

  11. Mariadivair on February 18, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Great idea to get a head start on the good resolutions!I didn’t have any porelbm getting through thanksgiving as I am french and we don’t do thanksgiving. And i live in Australia at the moment but it’s not a big thing here either (I haven’t heard about it at all actually to be honest)!!As for Christmas I think I have found the perfect way not to put on weight over the holidays: being away from the family and in a country where it’s going to be around 40 degrees (sorry that Celsius, don’t know how much it is in F, but trust me on that one, it’s going to be hot!). So i will still have a Christmas dinner with friends (hopefully!), but at least it won’t be a week-long event. And i will probably be more tempted by slices of watermelon than cookies! Christmas on the beach, best way to stay healthy

    • Radu Antoniu on February 28, 2016 at 4:05 pm

      That sound awesome hehe

  12. Clay Cox on February 28, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    (Accidentally posted this on the wrong article, sorry)

    Hey Radu, I have binge watched all of your videos since you started producing them in English. I have a few questions i think you’ll be interesting in.

    My workout routine
    8am/9am gym 40 minutes to 1 hour
    3pm/4pm gym 30 minutes to 1 hour
    (this is 5 times a week)

    6/7pm rugby league training 1/1.5 hours
    (this is 2/3 times a week)

    Nutrition
    3/4pm Break my fast with vegetables

    7/8pm High protein meal

    9/10pm High Carb with an unhealthy snack & a smoothie

    However i want to change my workout to

    Mon: Chest/Triceps
    Tue: Legs/Shoulders
    Wednesday: Back/Biceps
    Thursday: Legs
    Friday: Shoulders/Chest

    (split into morning & afternoon workouts with the basic compound movements using reverse pyramid training. However i have a question about shoulders which is later on in the email)

    I usualy have a cheat day, but will try and avoid having one because i want to cut down to the warrior body type and then lean bulk. My results went from 35.5 to 33.5 in 3 weeks on my waist (inches) but recently results have slowed down. What do you think the problem is?

    However i think i may have set my calories too low.I am cutting on 1307 calories, So my maintenance is 1807 according to BMR calculators. However in your videos it says i should times my body weight (76kg) x 33 which is 2,508. however i can not jump straight into 2,000 calories because i will gain fat wont i & how will i get my maintenance to 2,500?

    I have done the calculation i am 5ft 11 and have a 33 inch waist so i will need to get to a 27/8 inch waist to have abs, is this correct?

    You also say that the key to muscle gain is strength gain, but i don’t want to lift too heavy over my head as i am 17 and don’t want to stunt my growth,i don’t like lifting over 15 kg over my head because i get scared of stunting growth, what should i do?

    I also live at home with parents and they don’t buy enough protein so i only get 70-90 grams of protein a day,I usually eat chicken/eggs/tuna.I also dont count macros i just aim for my body weight in kg for protein. I also don’t want protein shakes because they are high in sugar and i don’t want to increase my spots due to high sugar as i am in the age of getting spots. (don’t like cheese) because this is what we have in the house Is this a problem?

    This is my current physique​
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    IMG_3456.PNG

    I want to concentrate on shoulders & chest as these are my weakest areas. However im worried about lifting heavy over my head

  13. Youssef on March 14, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Hey Radu! good stuff on here man, i came here from the Kinobody forums what works for you on dropping body fat % i feel like im stuck, calorie deficit or not, i lost weight but no body fat %

  14. Alaa Salman on March 27, 2016 at 7:57 am

    Hello Radu,

    I am a huge fan of your youtube channel as well as your amazing blog.
    I am currently 84.7kg at 22% body fat (using waist and weight formual) and 21% (using the gym electronic device). I am currenly doing IF, it has been a week and let me tell you, it is the best thing I have ever done in my entire life, I wish I had known “IF” before.
    Anyways, I’ll get to the point, I am currenly at 1815cal/day, my macros are 165g protien, 175g carbs, 50g fat (25%). I lift weights three times a week following Allpros beginner routine (compound movements), followed by a 15 min walk (60-70% maximum heart rate). Am I on the right track ? I have been at 1800cal for a month now, and my weight stoped at 84.7kg (used to be 88kg). it has been two weeks since I started lifting (I used to do bodyweight routines three times a week). Should I reduce my calroies to 1700cal ? or is it too early to do that since I just started weight lifting ?. (I have a cheat meal once a week on a training day, but I do not go overboard with eating).

    I have no problems in reducing calories and do not have problems with hunger since I started IF, but I have this fear of losing weight fast enough to lose alot of muscle or screwing up my metabolism.

    Thanks and Salam alaikum.

    Your fan from Saudi Arabia.
    Alaa

    • Radu Antoniu on March 29, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      Hey Alaa !

      1800 should actually be too low for your bodyweight. To give you an example, at 77kg I cut with 2000-2200kcal per day.
      If you eat in the range of 2000-2200 you’ll most definitely lose fat as well.

      Weight loss is not the same thing as fat loss. You may be losing fat but your weight may stay the same. I explain why here (the second question on the page).

  15. Alex on May 13, 2016 at 5:17 am

    h Radu,

    I am wondering , if i work out around 8-9 a m and usually have my first meal at 12 which is a meal replacement + 40 grams of protein. Should I have that shake right after my work or regardless, wait till at least noon to have it as my first meal ? I will basically have like 3 hours window after my work out ? Also, about late meal, I can not east late. it does affect my sleep a lot, so my last meal is around 6-7 pm and should not be too heavy . would it still work for shredding ? Thanks

  16. Rahul on May 17, 2016 at 10:42 am

    hey radu,

    these two days i spent watching all your videos and ive to say you have one of the best fitness channel in youtube..ive a question if you could reply back it would mean alot.
    i started my weight loss at 98kgs and successfully ive lost 28kgs being in caloric deficit and doing weight training 6 days a week,my question is.right now i weigh 70.9 and i can see my abs when i stretch my skin(iykwim) i want to look ripped my concern is how far should i go with my weight loss,should i drop few more kilos or is there anything else.my stats are i m 5’11 age 20 weight 70.9.

    thanks,
    DIZO

  17. Rotem on May 22, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Hello Radu,

    I am a huge fan of your youtube channel as well as your amazing blog.
    I am currently 57.3 kg at 15-16% body fat (using waist and height matters)
    I am currenly at 1400 kcal per day, my macros are 120g protien, 135g carbs, 50g fat . I am like this for a week now and starts lifting next week(i have already lifted before in my life for a couple of months but i still concider myself as a pure beginnr) Am I on the right track ?
    I guess that my defisit if more than 25% but still scared to eat more carbs & fats, what sould i do ?
    Thanks from israel,
    Rotem

    • Radu Antoniu on May 26, 2016 at 8:57 am

      Hey Rotem. Increase your calories until your deficit is ~25%. Then you’ll be on the right track

  18. Adam Aldana? on May 29, 2016 at 6:10 am

    Hi My name is Adam I am 15 year’s old and I just got the GGP about 3weeks ago but I need help on putting together a meal plan for me I get stuck on that and I was wondering if you can help me?

  19. Vin on June 4, 2016 at 2:18 am

    Super blog and quality and authenticity of the information given is Super. Thanks for your effort in motivating and guiding thousands of people. Video is amazing

  20. Austin Cawley on June 8, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Hello Radu,
    I am from Australia, and i am at the age of 16,

    i’ve been wanting to lose weight for quite a while but haven’t had any success, and i do suffer cases of bullying for my weight from time to time.

    I am currently still at school (year 11) and i don’t have much time for long exercise, as i am studying a lot. (except early morning and late at night) but i don’t have the motivation and drive to go for runs in these free times.

    I am 174.5 cm tall, 87kgs (but i am quite muscular) and i have a BMR of 1883cal/day and a TDEE of 2422cal/day…

    For me to lose weight should i try and consume about 2000cal/day with a distribution of Satiety foods, Micronutrients and fiber foods and some craving foods?

    A response of what i should do and how i can lose weight will be much appreciated 🙂

    Austin.

  21. Geo on July 18, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    Hey Radu . I have a simple question.
    We should track the calories from fruits ?

  22. Ishan Ankit on August 2, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Hey Radu, I love your channel! I have a question, I’m a beginner at the gym, been training for 7 weeks now and I’m on a cut. My BF was at 26% when I started, in 7 weeks its at 22% but I haven’t lost a lot of weight. However when I started training, I used to feel stronger after each workout, these days even though I lift heavy weight for 5 days a week, I feel I’m losing strength. Am I overtraining or is this normal on a cut?

    • Baum on September 7, 2016 at 9:04 am

      Not Radu, but I think you are overtraining with 5x a week. Your body won’t have enough time to regenrate muscles.

      Bodyfat measures are never consistent. The cheap ones measure only part of your body and you will have varying results depending on the water your currently hold in your body.

      In general, cutting is almost always associated with loosing strength, because loosing strength means loosing muscle mass. To sustain itself the body will search for energy in blood -> muscles -> fat. Try to keep the intensity (weight) of your workout consistent this will tell the body that he needs his muscles and can’t burn them for fuel, make sure you got enough protein 2g per kg body weight to diminsh the results of loosing muscles. And a muscle usually needs 1-2 days to recover inbetween trainings with sufficient sleeptime . so do less days training. I am doing 2-3 days training on a cut right now with 1900 calories (20% deficit) and it feels fine for me. Currently even slightly improving performance.

      Also if you are not losing weight (1-2 per week), then you still eat to many calories.

      Radu has a tool here: http://run.plnkr.co/plunks/JcYubp/

      Calculate your calories, start counting, or eat less each week until you see results if you dislike counting.

  23. christopher on September 6, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Very helpful article, Radu. As always you’re honest view and on-point discussions are shedding light regarding the matter of building a great physique not just for aesthetics, but also a sustainable lifestyle. Cheers to you and more lean gains to come! LOL

  24. Rick Barbato on October 8, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    Thanks Radu for all your help, I’m very grateful to of found your website (and Kinobody). I have a question concerning alcohol consumption. In one of your videos you explain that while consuming alcohol, the food we consume during, results in a more likely chance of being stored as fat. My question is if we stay within our caloric deficit, does consuming those foods before or after drinking even matter much?

    Bonus question: Even though you highly advise against a “caloric payback” meaning making up for it the next day. In theory, is it truly possible to accomplish? If I go slightly over caloric intake one day, would it make much difference to subtract those calories the next day off my existing deficit.

    Thanks Again!

    • Radu Antoniu on October 9, 2016 at 7:14 pm

      Hey Rick!
      Great questions.

      1. If you stay in a calorie deficit and consume alcohol you wouldn’t store any fat. Actually you’d most likely lose more fat than usual because alcohol has high thermic effect. A large part of the calories it contains are going to be used to process it.

      2. Yes, you can cycle calories within a week and achieve the same results. The weekly caloric average matters more than the daily intake. But as you said I don’t advise you do that because this mentality can actually encourage you to cheat more often.

  25. Jason on October 18, 2016 at 4:22 am

    Love your YouTube videos. I have been figuring out a lot of these principles from various sources by myself, but you are a really good teacher in the way you present ideas. I may be purchasing your program soon!

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