98 - How to Respectfully Decline Food

5 min

The holiday season is slowly encroaching upon us, and something that I know is going to be happening nonstop is people offering you food, and you spinning in drama about declining it. We’ve all been there. 

Maybe it's your grandma’s famous rice pudding on Thanksgiving, or a piece of cake that wasn’t on your plan, but now you feel the need to eat. Because if you didn’t, you’d have to face the wrath of feeling like you’ve disrespected the other person, or having to justify being on a diet, and maybe you’ve been given such a hard time on your previous attempts to decline food that it's just easier to give in. 

Join us this week as we show you how to respectfully decline food. Saying a simple, “No, thank you,” does not have to spiral into an emotionally charged monologue in your head about whether you’ve upset the other person, and we’re sharing our tips for showing up with the confidence necessary to stick by your goals. 

If you’re ready to take your weight loss to the next level, come check out my coaching program, Vibe Club. If you want to lose your weight for good and in a completely different and more sustainable way, click here. The price is going up soon, so if you join now, you’ll lock in the current pricing for as long as you stay a member!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why declining food is often so uncomfortable and turns into a problem. 
  • The discomfort you’re trading when you give in to food you don’t want. 
  • Why you don’t need to justify your choice to decline food.
  • How to get to a place where declining food isn’t emotionally charged.
  • Why your issue isn’t that you don’t know how to say no to food.
  • Our tips for respectfully declining food.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Maggie: Welcome to the podcast, Ryan.

Ryan: What did you learn on TikTok this week?

Maggie: Ryan, you’ve got to stop. It’s gone, that whole segment has gone.

Ryan: It’s gone?

Maggie: It’s gone. I’ll tell you, okay, I’ll tell you if I learn anything.

Ryan: Did you? I feel like you have lots of funny stuff on TikTok and I feel you have lots of scary stuff on TikTok.

Maggie: That’s right, that’s right. I laugh so hard at stuff.

Ryan: They’re live memes.

Maggie: You guys, they have one and it’s Bo Burnham and it’s, “Come on Jeffrey, you can do it, pave the way, put your back into it.” And so, they use that one.

Ryan: That’s Jeffrey Bezos?

Maggie: Jeffrey Bezos. It’s the Amazon guy. And someone linked it, you guys, to an Amazon truck driving through a flood or something. And the water was up to the middle of the truck. It’s one of my favorite ones and I have not been able to find it again. But then I also saw one where there was planes were grounded, whatever, what is it called?

Ryan: They couldn’t take off because of a storm.

Maggie: Yeah, they couldn’t take off because of a storm but then it showed the Amazon plane taking off with the same user. And I don’t know, dude, I don’t know. “Tell us why, show us how.” It’s just the vibe of it is just he’s just above everyone else. And he gets, yeah, you stay on the ground.

Ryan: Special privilege.

Maggie: Yeah, special privilege. And also, it’s funny because you get that two day shipping, that one day shipping and they’re going to have to do what they’ve got to do.

Ryan: Yeah, your packages are getting to your house.

Maggie: They’re getting there, yeah, no matter what. And it’s one of my favorite ones.

Ryan: It’s so funny. There’s a lot of those.

Maggie: Send me them, all of them.

Ryan: I’ve seen three or four.

Maggie: With the Amazon specific one?

Ryan: Yeah.

Maggie: Yeah. I just die laughing. And it’s not – but Bo Burnham isn’t that kind of ha-ha funny either. If you guys have not watched Bo Burnham’s standup specials, they’re super funny. But the one he did during quarantine is all related to just everyone being inside their house and stuff. And it’s dark, and it’s dry, and it’s not ha-ha funny. But that’s my kind of humor. I don’t like ha-ha funny stuff, I like ironic, dry, was that actually a joke. And he is like – and the fact that all of his sounds took off on TikTok just brings the most joy to my heart.

Ryan: He’s brilliant.

Maggie: He’s very, very brilliant, yeah.

Ryan: This week on TikTok was brought to you by Ryan.

Maggie: What, did you find something?

Ryan: No, I’m just closing up the segment, yeah.

Maggie: Okay, yeah. It’s not brought to you by anybody. So, what are we talking about today? Are we going to talk about something that people struggle with a lot?

Ryan: Yeah, let’s get into it.

Maggie: You’re going to tell us about how to respectfully decline food.

Ryan: And I’m talking like you’re at a family function.

Maggie: And grandma’s homemade rice pudding, something like that kind of stuff?

Ryan: You show up and you have to have that awkward, “No, thank you.”

Maggie: And so why, I’m on a diet, that kind of stuff?

Ryan: And then your family looks at you like you’ve disrespected them. You know what I mean?

Maggie: And this is something to definitely pay attention to because the holidays are coming up. This kind of stuff is going to be happening nonstop.

Ryan: There are many family gatherings on the horizon.

Maggie: Well, let’s talk about first why it’s a problem, why is it a problem to decline food from people? Why is it a problem to say no? What are we avoiding here?

Ryan: Society. A discomfort.

Maggie: Yeah, we’re avoiding discomfort. We’re avoiding the what will they think, what do I think they think. It’s a lot of being in other people’s business and being in other people’s thoughts.

Ryan: I hate that tango. What do they think? What do they think I think?

Maggie: I don’t want them to think that I think.

Ryan: I hate that so much.

Maggie: I don’t want them to feel I am being disrespectful. And a lot of it, that is what it comes – I don’t want them to feel. Guess what? You don’t get to control how other people feel. The way other people is created by what they’re thinking. So, could they have some less than beautiful thoughts about you by what you do? Sure. But we can’t live our entire life trying to control everyone else’s thinking and feeling. You’re going to run into walls every time.

Ryan: Yeah. And even if there is discomfort it’s so shortly lived. You know what I mean?

Maggie: Yeah. And we’ve talked about this, not for a long time but you’re trading discomfort for a different flavor of discomfort. And for a lot of people who have people pleasing ways, they’re just like, “This is the worst thing ever.” No one wants to feel uncomfortable. No one wants to feel awkward. No one wants to wonder what they’re thinking, what do they think of me now because I did that thing. If I don’t do that thing, if I turn on myself, if I say I didn’t plan this but they offer, it’s awkward. And if I do that, that’s better because then I can take care of them.

And you’re doing that because you think it’s going to control how they feel. So, you can keep them thinking juicy thoughts about you but you then have to control how you think about you based on what you just did. You have to think about what you make it mean when you’re like, “I ate that thing, I didn’t want to eat it.” I wish I had the guts to just stand up and be like, “No, thank you.” Now I have to deal with my thoughts about myself and what I make it mean about the fact that I don’t want to disappoint people.

I don’t want them to have negative opinions about me. I don’t want to have thoughts about their thoughts about my body, about what I eat, about a diet, about they probably think I’m going to fail, whatever. We get so much in other people’s business.

Ryan: You’re trying to control a situation that is uncontrollable.

Maggie: You don’t know even what all their thoughts are. They could tell you something and they could think something completely different. They could say nothing and be thinking terrible things about you and talking crap on you behind your back. And you would never know. Even when people say something point blank, it still isn’t reflective of you. It’s reflective of them and their thoughts. You know what I mean?

So, it’s just a circle and at the end of the day you have to realize you’re trading the discomfort of maybe having an uncomfortable interaction with the discomfort of I can’t hold my own when I go out. I can’t hold my own when I go to family parties. I haven’t practiced the ability to say, “No, thank you”. It’s not just offering food, eating when you’re not hungry. Well, it’s like, well, I don’t want them to feel. We’re just so used to ignoring how we feel in response to how do you feel, are you good, is it more comfortable for you if I eat the cake.

If I eat this cake that I didn’t plan, that I don’t even want to eat, because I remember coaching one-to-one clients on this too. I didn’t want it but I ate it. And at least now I think they feel better. I think they’re not offended. But now I just ate a burrito I didn’t want to eat, I just didn’t want it. And it ends up leaving us really confused because we’re like what’s the big deal? But the big deal is that we’re not comfortable sitting in discomfort. We’re not comfortable being uncomfortable. We avoid it like the plague, just anything we can do to avoid it, we avoid it.

Ryan: I also think it’s important to not – if you’re attempting to decline food, to not say things like, “No, sorry, I’m on a diet.”

Maggie: I can’t eat that, no, I’m keto, no. I guess that just comes down to feeling the need to justify your choice. I can’t and here’s why. I need to be just like a people pleaser. It’s just hopefully my reason will justify you not having bad thoughts about me. And that’s not needed either. It’s normally short lived and you just have to be honest about what’s the tradeoff here. It’s like make them uncomfortable, maybe, maybe not go against what I planned, is for sure what’s going to happen.

Ryan: You also can’t wish that other people are more respectful about it too. In a perfect world, people would just respond and be like, “Okay.”

Maggie: You’re not hungry, yeah, that makes sense.

Ryan: Then they would be just totally neutral about it because in a perfect world that’s how it should be, but it’s not for some reason because of society.

Maggie: Yeah. Well, but they have their own thoughts and maybe they are the thoughts they have about you but also their thoughts about themselves and their food beliefs and their beliefs about what you do on the holidays and how it just doesn’t matter. And eat what you want and it can be hard breaking away especially if it’s familial patterns of this is just what my family does, we just eat, and eat, and eat or whatever. What are your other tips about declining? What are some possible things that people can say, no, thank you, I’m not hungry?

Ryan: Yeah. I mean you could say you already ate.

Maggie: But that’s not even the problem though, is it? It’s not because you don’t know what to say.

Ryan: What do you mean?

Maggie: People know what to say. People know how to say, “No, thank you.” And here’s the funny thing, here’s why I want to tell you that these things don’t have to be emotionally charged. I have been offered cake and cheesecake at every shower I’ve ever been to, every wedding, every everything. And I’m just like, “No.” Because I don’t like that stuff. And there’s no drama about it and it doesn’t matter. It just shows you that – I know you may think, well, it’s easy if you don’t want it. But a lot of the time I am talking to clients who are like, “No, I don’t want it.”

So, what makes the difference in being able to be like, “No, I’ll pass, no, go ahead and give it to the next person.” And someone who’s just like, “That’s fine. I don’t care. I don’t care if you have an opinion about whether or not I eat cake.” I guess I just want to show you that it’s possible to get to the point where other people’s opinions about how you eat can become irrelevant. You’re like, I don’t care how much someone’s like, “Eat this pasta.” If I made the decision that I’m going to be staying low carb or I’m going to be keto, I’ve had to do it a bunch of times.

“No, we’ll get something from somewhere else.” I have other solutions. I don’t need you to find the solution for me. You can just get to a place where it’s just – but you have to be unwilling to be in a people pleasing mode where it’s like I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable. I have to take that risk. I have to take the risk of you made this cake, you brought it, it was on your thing for the list and you brought it and now you’re giving cake to everybody and I don’t want your cake. So now what?

I guess I just take that risk every day of being brave and saying, “No, thank you. I do not like cake. I don’t care that you brought this cake. I don’t want to eat it.” In my past I may have hurt people’s feelings about that.

Ryan: Isn’t that weird how someone can get their feelings hurt based off of what another person decides to shove in their face hole?

Maggie: But what is that about? It’s about what they make it mean. I offered you this cake because I love you. And if you don’t want the cake it must mean you don’t love me. That’s not true. So, everybody’s confused I think. Everybody’s confused about what they think, and more importantly, what it means. So, you guys aren’t having trouble with how to say no to food. You’re having trouble with I don’t want to hurt their feelings, or I don’t want them to think I’m on a diet. They know I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life.

I don’t want to create scenarios where I create them thinking about me and how I eat. I’ve run into that a lot with clients. So, it’s not that you don’t know what to say. It’s that you’re trying to avoid discomfort, you’re trying to avoid an awkward situation.

Ryan: I think it also could be I don’t want people to know I’m dieting because they know my history with dieting is so bad that I don’t want to look dumb and be on another diet again.

Maggie: Yeah. But what that comes down to, you being afraid you will quit, I think. I don’t think it even has – I just think it has so little to do with other people in actuality. It doesn’t actually even have to do with other people or doesn’t have to do with your thoughts about you and your thoughts about their thoughts about you. It’s not even about them. It’s about, I don’t want you to think these things about me. Well, guess what, guys? People can think whatever they want about you. You have no control over that.

And you manipulating yourself to be the way you think other people want you to be is never going to serve you. And it’s not even going to serve them. They’re probably not even paying close enough attention to you to see what you’re doing to manipulate yourself, to be more palatable to other people.

Ryan: Yeah, you think about yourself more than anyone is thinking about you.

Maggie: And that applies to everybody. Everybody is thinking of themselves more than they’re thinking of you. They’re thinking about their own insecurities, their own inability to stop eating cake, their own – it just highlights their own shortcomings too. And so, it’s not really about how to decline stuff, it’s about how do I allow this to be uncomfortable and know that the worst possible thing that can happen right now is some awkwardness.

And that awkwardness is being created by what I’m thinking because I’m trying to get into their head and manipulate what they think about me. And I think that just comes from a lack of confidence in yourself at that moment. Because if I were going to say, what’s the difference, why am I able to just be like, “No, that’s good, we’re getting something else”, without being like, “Oh no, I hope you’re not sad.” It’s just because I’m confident in my choices. I’ve had a long time of getting pretty clear on what I want. So, what you want for me is not as important to me as what I want for me.

And I think that’s where things can get a little slippery. The confidence isn’t there. The doubt in ourselves is there. I don’t want them to think I’m going to quit again because I’m afraid I’m going to quit again.

Ryan: I think we’ve had it pretty easy in this regard too. Our families are not…

Maggie: They don’t give us a hard time.

Ryan: They’re very respectful but I could imagine some people really get some shit. You know what I mean? If you were to imagine someone doing that with you, what would you say? What would you say for those people?

Maggie: Well, I don’t know because in my opinion, you could never really give me a good enough reason for me to – if someone was like, “Oh, come on, what, you’re on another diet?” I would just be like, “I just decided what I was going to eat today. I’m just not hungry. Or, no, I’m full.” We do that every time we go out to dinner, “Do you want some?” “No, I ate my dinner to the point of enough. I don’t need any more than that.”

But I think it just comes down to your confidence with yourself and don’t get surprised when your family who always gives you a hard time, gives you a hard time. But I think that’s a bigger problem that you show up hoping that that person in your family isn’t going to do what they always do and then they do. And you’re like, “I wish they wouldn’t do that.” And it’s like, well, let’s go ahead and just plan for them to do exactly what they always do. How do you want to show up differently than the way you have in the past.

And spoiler alert, you guys, stop pretending you don’t know what’s going to be on the thanksgiving table. Stop pretending you don’t know what’s going to be at the family party you guys have every single year. And here’s an idea, just plan to eat some and then no one has to give you a hard time. And you don’t have to do that for them. You have options here. I think you think you don’t. You think that…

Ryan: So, you mean I can have the stuffing and the corn?

Maggie: Yeah. My grandma makes a world famous whatever, okay, just because you’re keto, I don’t know, guys. I don’t know. It’s just you don’t have to not have the stuff. You can have the stuff that’s important to you. And we’re hitting that so hard this month in Vibe Club, the consistency versus perfection. Consistently learning not to overeat is going to do so much more toward your results than consistently learning to be perfect at being keto. You think that it means that you can’t enjoy things over the holidays and you can’t enjoy a piece of cake at a baby shower.

You see, I just don’t like cake very much. You can. And those would be primary times to practice that skill. I know she’s going to make this thing that she makes. She loves it. She makes it with love. She wants us to have it. She makes it for us. It’s important to me. It’s like the decision I make for date nights. It’s important to me. I don’t want to be thinking about finding a keto option. I don’t want to be thinking about can I eat keto? No, that’s not what I want to be doing. It’s important to me to be able to just enjoy what I want from the menu.

And sometimes parties, holiday seasons, those kind of things they’re normally not happening every single night. They’re normally isolated events that are a really good time to just say, “I’m going to enjoy what’s there and I’m not going to overeat.”

Ryan: They literally happen annually.

Maggie: Yeah. I know some people will be like, “My family parties are every day for two weeks.” And that’s fine. But in that case you have to take your unique circumstance and you need to decide what am I going to prioritize here? What do I want to enjoy without guilt? Knowing that it’s not going to set me back. I was telling my clients today, no one ever gained a bunch of weight because they planned the food that they wanted to eat, ever. They gained the weight they gained because they didn’t plan it.

Eating a little bit of something that told them now they have eaten carbs for the night and then saying, “It’s a long weekend, I’m going to eat everything for the next three days.” That’s how we gain weight. We don’t gain weight by planning the food that we love, and enjoying it, and learning how to moderate it. And eating for the most part, things that make us feel amazing and then having a cinnamon roll every once in a while. That’s not how the damage is done. The damage is done because you don’t give yourself the opportunity to learn how to eat these things in an intentional way.

Intention will create moderation for you, a lack of intention will create eating all of the things until you’re sick because of all the thinking you have around I already did it, it doesn’t matter, the damage is done, I already ate carbs, I’m out of ketosis. That whole story has you way overeating any time you open that door a little bit.

So, sure, you have the absolute ability to go to events and to be like, “No, thank you, I have already eaten. I know, I know, it’s so nice of you to make it. I’m at my limit right now. If I get room I’ll come back and get some. Don’t worry about me. Give it to the next person, I’m sure everyone else will.” There’s so much that you can say. But then there’s also the flipside of I’m going to prioritize the cake that she makes once a year on thanksgiving for this special event. I know that I don’t need to finish the whole thing. I know that – what’s the alternative, you guys?

The alternative is just you’re powerless when people present food to you. And you don’t want to be living from that place. That isn’t it. It doesn’t have to be it. And it’s going to put you in this place where you feel like as long as the circumstances are perfect and I’m bunkered up in my own house then I can do it. But enter me into the real world and I have no power. No, we want to practice the power in the real world on purpose having those things. And being like, wow, three bites of that cake was perfect for me. I did not need to finish that entire.

Someone offers us cake and we think we’ve got to eat the whole cake. You don’t. Just have a couple of bites and then be done. Are people really watching you to make sure you’re not throwing stuff away and someone’s hounding you, they’ve got cameras on you making sure you eat it, and you finish it, and you go back for seconds? I’m not saying that there aren’t families that give each other a hard time.

But if that’s something you deal with you need a game plan for how you’re going to manage it. Are you going to plan the food? Or are you going to plan to just freaking get the guts to say, “Thank you, I have had enough?” You can have it all. You can. I was just thinking that on days when I have a sweet treat and Ryan and I were talking about this the other day, we just don’t eat to enough at dinner. That’s kind of the way that you make it work. Because normally if I eat to enough at dinner I’m not hungry. I’m not actually physically hungry for my treat.

And then I’m really eating when I’m not hungry which you know if you’re eating when you’re not hungry your body’s just going to store it. It’s going to be like, okay, cool, we didn’t need that for any reason. You’re overeating at that point. So, you can also plan these events where you’re like, I’m going to have a little bit of dinner and I’m going to save space for dessert and I’m going to enjoy the dessert.

Ryan: Yeah, I did that the other night.

Maggie: I think the problem is just that people believe they can’t have dessert and lose weight. I think that’s the bigger thing. They’re afraid to plan it. When I truly believe, at all these parties and gatherings you have coming up towards the end of the year, you could enjoy what you wanted to enjoy. You could make all of that work by not overeating and by remembering that it’s one meal one day in a week versus it’s party season.

Ryan: No, the one meal isn’t the problem, it’s what you make the one meal mean afterwards. And a lot of people make it mean I’ve eaten off plan.

Maggie: Damage is done, doesn’t matter what I do now.

Ryan: Damage is done, yeah. And then you go on and on, they tell themselves a story.

Maggie: And then they actually create the real damage. There was no damage in the cookie. There was no damage in planning, and enjoying, and saying get back to it. We do more damage when we’re just like, “Well, now it’s going to take me so long to get back in the groove.” We have all these bullshit excuses, that’s where you want to be paying attention. Who cares? Eat the cookie and move on.

It’s the follow-up conversation, it’s the conversation the next morning whether or not you actually make a plan when you wake-up, whether you get right back on it or you use a time 24 hours to go to dictate what you do today. It’s always going to be about the conversation and about what you make it mean. And that includes the next day but it also includes after you take the first bite.

Someone said something about, on the call, they’d had a bite of an appetizer, and then ended up getting pizza, and then ended up getting ice-cream. And then just ate everything for the rest of the night. And what I told her to do is, “You need to be looking at what exactly happened right after you had that bite of the appetizer.” I don’t know that any of it was planned. And that is going to give so much more fuel to the self-sabotage fire.

If it’s not planned at all and then you have a bite and then you’re like, “Well, now I haven’t followed my plan. Now this night is screwed. That was good. Now I’m going to eat this. Now I’ve eaten this. Now I have done so much damage that it doesn’t matter what I do.” And then we do whatever. So, you want to catch it right when you start having those thoughts that are creating the we’re off the wagon, doesn’t matter what we do. And if you can catch it sooner you won’t get in too deep before you can kind of reel it back and get actually honest with yourself about what’s happening.

Ryan: Every bite contributes. A lot of people will take some bites and think that the rest of the night is open for as many bites as they want because they’ve already had three bites.

Maggie: It makes no sense. If you really think about it, it makes no sense what you’re telling yourself. It’s really smooth, it’s really smooth talking in your brain to be like, now I can do whatever I want. Now is just a free for all and just do whatever I want. And then you get this thing where it’s like, oh no, I’ve got to get back on it tomorrow so we need to do. It does snowball quickly.

But what I told her was that – what did she say? She said it snowballed out of control and I said, “No, it did not. It, whatever it was your night, nights don’t have the power to snowball out of control. What did snowball were your thoughts and the thoughts kept fueling the thoughts, kept fueling the thoughts.” And it did snowball. It did get bigger and turn into a bit more of a mess because it wasn’t caught when the snowball was little, like an inch, it was a little snowball and it was like, oh no, we didn’t plan to eat any of this appetizer. Now that we have, now what?

And instead, your brain said, “Now what? Now it doesn’t matter what we do. Now we get to do whatever we want for the rest of the night.” And that’s when you’ve got to be like, hey, hold up, what? No, that is not what that means. That is not what that bite meant. And the sooner you guys can get at catching that, the less of a snowball you’re going to be dealing with at the end of the day where you’re like, “What happened there?”  What happened is you didn’t catch your thinking. You didn’t catch the thought snowball. Trademark that, dude, the thought snowball.

Ryan: Damn. I like it. I like it.

Maggie: The night doesn’t just happen to you. It’s just a combination of thoughts that build on each other, that build a super juicy story for eating all of the things. If you can catch it at the first thought, that’s like it doesn’t matter what we do. And you’re like, it absolutely matters what we do. Those three bites do not negate everything I do after. You just start building the opposite story. We are really good at building the story for doing whatever we want for the rest of the night because it doesn’t matter. Really skilled at that. We have to learn to do the opposite.

Ryan: It also doesn’t have to make sure that snowball stops there. You can recognize your thoughts and be like actually, no, it doesn’t mean I can eat whatever I want. But I’m going to eat this and then I’m going to stop there.

Maggie: It just puts you back in power to choose what you’re doing. So many people are just like, “I don’t know what happened.” You made a choice, and then another choice, and another choice, and another choice, and another choice. All night you made choices. But we don’t think it, we’re like, we made one choice and next thing I knew I don’t know what happened.

But it’s like the choice to be, wow, I notice what I’m doing here and I’m going to stop sooner than I normally do is a huge win and nobody gives themselves credit for that win. Where they’re like, normally I would have done this. And that’s the power of looking at what you’re doing and really breaking it apart and milking these experiences for what they’re worth. It’s like, normally I would have eaten whatever I wanted until bedtime. I didn’t do that. I noticed, let’s say this whole, the way this builds up was a little bit of an appetizer, followed by pizza, followed by ice-cream.

Let’s say we got all the way to the ice-cream part and instead of telling ourselves, I have already destroyed this day so now I’m just going to do whatever I want. We stop at the ice-cream and we’re like, yeah, I went further than I would have liked to go. I would have liked to not ever taken a bite of the appetizer or maybe stopped at – maybe my goal next time would be to stop at the pizza. But look what I didn’t do, look what I didn’t play out here. Look at the progress I did make because normally it’s a no brainer, I’m onto everything else in the house.

So, make sure you’re not forgetting that, that this is a process. You don’t go from eating all the things to not ever eating anything. You’re going to find that it’s probably going to be more of a slower pullback of normally I do this and you’re stopping sooner and sooner, catching the process in the act rather than looking back and noticing what happened, just noticing sooner what’s happening.

Ryan: Nice. I hope this helps.

Maggie: I think it will. Alright, see you guys next week.

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