Tuesday, May 9, 2017

LEAP Elimination Diet

Hey, hey!

I’ve wanted to write this post for a little while now and my hope is to share some insight into what I’ve been working on as well as inspire you guys to put your health and wellness first! Please let me know if you have any questions 🙂

You’re probably thinking that this (new-to-me) elimination diet probably came out of the blue… and, you know what, it did. Well, sorta. Kelli joined the Designed to Fit Nutrition team a few months ago and she mentioned her food sensitivities test— of course, I was immediately interested!

Back in the day, I worked with a holistic doctor and completed a different kind of food sensitivities test. At the time, I was so sick, the results said I had sensitivities to everything. I’m not even kidding you, the doctor said “sorry” when sharing the results with me. So, for 4 months, I ate the same 20 or so foods over and over again. It was summer (hello, barbecues, beach, and fun!) and it was the most miserable experience. I found myself obsessing, stressing, and missing out on so much. Anyway, the reason I am sharing this background with you is because I wanted to do a food sensitivities test now that I’m *knock on wood* doing better, especially since so many weird health issues have popped up lately. I know they could be side effects of UC and/or Entyvio, but if there’s anything that I can do to keep the overall inflammation down in my body, I’m all about it.

For even more health background… you guys probably remember the whole eczema thing. Things were good for awhile, but those patches keep popping up again and again. Ughhhh. Not nearly as bad as the first flare, but still… annoying. I also have some joint pain, especially in my hips (separate from my running injury). I just feel like my hips are sore and tired, and my workouts take so much effort some days. I get the nights sweats every.single.night. My OB/GYN says they’re not likely related to my oral contraceptive/hormones (is that strange?), and I had my thyroid checked a couple of weeks ago and it’s normal. But what’s really driving me crazy is how TIRED I am lately. OMG, it’s the worst… and you guys know how I feel about naps. I HATE THEM. I feel like I should be doing something else more productive! I literally fall asleep on the couch a couple of times a week. I know my body is trying to tell me something, so I don’t get too bent out of shape about it, but, man, it’s frustrating to have zero energy. (FYI: I’m 100% not pregnant.)

So, that’s what’s going on, health-wise. Let me tell you about the test and diet now.

After purchasing the LEAP test from Kelli, she ordered a blood test kit from Oxford Biomedical Technologies, the company who does the test. Once I received it, I went to CareWell in Norwell to get my blood taken by a nurse, which was then sent off to the Oxford lab.

About a week later, both Kelli and I received the results, and I have to say I was pretty surprised by the results. A number of foods that I thought were seemly benign in my diet (i.e. lettuce, celery) were actually ones that I had sensitivities to. And, on the flip side, foods that I sometimes avoided (i.e. dairy, corn) got the green light! What was also surprising was just how many chemicals showed up in my results! Yikes. I guess I’ve had a little too much “fun” with my diet recently. After 5+ years of worrying about everything I put into my mouth, it was great being able to eat whatever I wanted, but I guess I went a tad overboard with the crap/processed stuff. My results were, for sure, a wake up call!

The next week, Kelli and I had a call to go over my results and get prepared for phase one of the diet. (She helped me brainstorm meal and snack ideas.) Phase one was definitely the hardest since my food choices were fairly limited, but, in theory, they were ones that I shouldn’t have any sort of reaction to. I was able to fly through the first phase (about a week) without any issues. (Each phase systematically introduces new foods to see how your body responses.)

Phase one eats below (top left clockwise): Ground chicken with green beans and corn, rice cake with peanut butter, a plum, zoodles with ground chicken and peas. FYI: Pretty much all of my food choices so far have been organic as recommended by LEAP/Kelli.

LEAP Diet Phase 1

I’m writing this post about 2.5 weeks into the diet, and I’m feeling great overall. A few “interesting” things have happened recently, so I wanted to share some of my results and symptoms so far. (I’ll be sure to give you an update when I’ve completed all five phases!)

I actually felt a detox of sorts. I know there’s a lot of conflicting information out there about whether or not your body can actually detox, but I think I may have experienced it. Days 1-3, I felt totally fine. On Days 4-6, I had a slight headache. It wasn’t bad enough to take something for it, but it was definitely there– dull and annoying. I thought maybe it was a symptom of caffeine withdrawal, but typically when I’ve stopped drinking coffee, I’d get headaches almost immediately and they were NOT dull and annoying. They were awful, and I would 100% need to take some sort of medication to get me through a few days of not having caffeine. Hormonely in my cycle, the headaches did not make sense either, so I kind of think my body was getting rid of some not-so-awesome stuff in my system. Possibly? Has anyone ever experienced anything like this?

Speaking of coffee, I’ve lost my craving for it. Crazy, right? I stopped drinking it for 10 days and didn’t have a strong desire to have it, but when I finally tested it for a reaction last week, I didn’t even want to drink it. I KNOWWW. I’m as surprised as you are. It’s so bizarre, but I truly believe our bodies are smart and know what they need, so I’m going with it. (Related: I’m sure once summer hits, I’ll want ALLTHEICEDCOFFEE again!)

On the craving front, my sugar cravings are so much better. And I’m surprised how quickly things changed. I used to want something sweet to eat after just about every meal, but now the urge isn’t there as much.

On the skin front, I haven’t gotten a single pimple in 2.5 weeks! Guys, I can’t even remember the last time my skin was so clear! It’s an awesome “symptom” for sure! 🙂 The eczema stuff, however, is a different story. On the first week of the diet, there was no eczema to be found. Yayyy! But, I introduced a couple of new foods at the start of phase two and the patch on my neck broke out. Whomp whomp. We’re getting back to basics this week and trying again with other foods, so I’m still trucking along and trying to figure things out.

Overall, I’ve felt really great on this diet. It’s actually not as difficult as I thought it would be, and now that I’m seeing some great results (I’m not nearly as tired!!), I’m motivated to stick with it. I’ll be sure to keep you guys in the loop with how things progress!

Question of the Day

Have any of you tried the LEAP diet or another elimination diet? Any favorite recipes?  

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Juicy Yoga

^^ A Goldilocks trio of smoothies!

Now that I’m back on the lifestyle blogging kick, I keep writing posts in my head as I’m doing life! I probably shouldn’t have been thinking about blogging in the middle of extended side angle, but that’s where my mind drifted during yoga, and I didn’t fight it.

I had a big mixed berry – banana – oat – milk – spinach – Vega smoothie for breakfast this morning, working on a recipe sponsored post all morning, and then went to yoga at noon. My favorite yoga studio is Elements Hot Yoga (read all about it in this post!), and I try to get there a few times a month. This week I’ve been twice!

I love it when people describe hot yoga as “juicy” because that is exactly how I would describe the feeling in my joints after a good sweaty class. It’s like I’ve opened up space that didn’t exist before! Kendall gave me a few extra adjustments today, and it was just what I needed after soccer and strength class yesterday.

I got home at 1:30 and was shaking with low blood sugar! I also desperately needed a shower and only 20 minutes till I had to leave to get Mazen from school! Some how I managed to fit everything in and ate lunch on the go.

I had five bites of this salmon salad (coming in a future post!) with a few pita chips, an apple and a BabyBel cheese!

And I just polished off a yogurt. Mazen has been playing with my perfumes, which is cute, but we’ve left the house with him smelling like a woman a few too many times – oops!

Check out the garden!! We’ve had a really cold stretch of weather (which is why I’ve been craving the warmth of hot yoga) but the greens are still coming up. I’m hoping there is no frost tonight! We have more cold rain in the forecast, but then things are looking up with 80s and sunny next week. Can’t wait!

Have a juicy afternoon!

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10 Actions for an Anti-Stress Protocol

Inline_Stress_ProtocolIt almost goes without saying: Stress is at an all-time high. Not the kind of major traumatic stress we see elsewhere, sure. At least in the Western world, there aren’t any horrific sectarian conflicts scouring the landscape and generations to come. Our infrastructure is built to withstand most natural disasters. Our world is safe and predictable and sterile. But we’re stressed out just the same, afflicted with the kind of pernicious, low-level, unending stress that drives people into substance abuse, that promotes depression and suicide and broken relationships. The type that never quits. The kind you just want to drown out with Netflix and Facebook and anything at all to take your mind off the churning within.

Most people address stress in one of two ways. Either you build up your resistance to stress, so that it doesn’t hurt you so much, or you play triage, developing tools, tricks, and strategies for countering stress and dealing with it when it occurs. This assumes that stress is a given. I tend to agree. Stressors arise; it’s what they do. The most effective way to minimize the impact of stress on our health and wellness is to engage both perspectives—to establish baseline health practices and life management that build resilience and to equip oneself with tools to fight stress when it strikes.

Before anything, get the basics down. Good sleep, good food, regular exercise, and steady exposure to nature are all prerequisites for healthy relationships to stress. They’re necessary, but rarely sufficient.

What, for instance, can we do to pause and hit reset when under duress, when the furnace just conked out, the oldest child barfed at breakfast, and a looming work project is suddenly due today? And what can we do so those crises either don’t happen as often or hit us quite as hard?

Seek Meaning, Not Happiness

Happiness is a real thing, but it’s fleeting. You can’t grab it for long—it’ll just flit away. It’s part of the journey. If your goal is to get back in shape, happiness happens along the way—when you hit a squat PR, when you plop down on the couch with a good book and a bowl of meat and sweet potatoes after a tough sprint workout. You don’t hit a specific point of fitness, attain happiness, and remain there in a state of bliss. Happiness emerges from the pursuit of meaning. Think ongoing instead of endpoint.

What does this have to do with stress? Chasing something that’s impossible to catch is inherently stressful, if not defeating. You’ll be wondering why “you’re not happy.” Find meaning, find purpose, and that existential stress will melt away. You’ll know what to do and, most importantly, why to do it.

It seems to work for residents in Tamil Nadu, where having a well-defined purpose to life reduces psychosocial stress.

Stay Uninformed

Being informed about the world at large is overrated. And impossible. I’m not advocating putting your head in the sand, but there’s only so much a person can effectively absorb (let alone process and act on). The 24/7 news cycle means the news (bad or good) never stops. It’s always plowing ahead, and if you want to stay apprised, you can’t ever stop checking the updates. Being informed is a full-time job. What good does it do to know the nuances of every mishap, outrage, and tragedy that plays out in the world? A politician’s every social media post? Every dismal statistic? Every horrifying image of war and calamity?

That sounds cold and callous. But it’s just reality: We’re not built to worry about billions of people, or even the tens and hundreds of thousands of strangers living nearby. And we stress (and often suffer) as a result.

In a recent survey of people who reported feeling stressed out on a regular basis, one of the most common triggers for their stress was consuming the news.

If this is anathema to you and you honestly enjoy reading about current events, pick up some history books. Instead of obsessing over the 24-hour news cycle, read up on the history of Syria, the Sudan, and the American Civil War. Read a biography of Lincoln. Study Venezuelan history. The lesson may be more than informative. It may give your nerves a break.

Rethink Stress

The stress response isn’t trying to kill you. It’s not trying to make you miserable and unable to function. The stress response is preparing you to do battle, to act, to perform. Those nerves? The flutter in your stomach? That’s your nervous system impressing upon you the monumental nature of the task at hand. It wants you to step up, and it’s increasing the heart rate to promote better blood flow so your tissues can perform.

Understand that and the stress becomes an ally, not a hindrance. One recent study suggests this, finding that although high amounts of stress increase the risk of dying, it does so only in individuals who perceive stress to be harmful. In people who don’t see stress as a health threat, stress does not appear to increase mortality.

Take a Relaxing Lunch

Lunch is rarely lunch anymore. At lunchtime in offices around the world, people scuttle off to procure/heat their food, rush back to the desk, and wolf it down while continuing to work. What if you did things differently?

According to a new study, taking an actual lunch break outdoors that includes a short walk or a 15-minute relaxation exercise session reduces workplace stress, improves fatigue, and increases well-being. Consider it a wise buffer for every work day.

Stop Taking Everything for Granted

We ignore the predictable. We don’t appreciate the dependable. On paper, things are great these days. The lights work, we have hot water, the streets are mostly safe. We can communicate instantly with people halfway across the world. Access to all the world’s knowledge rests in our pockets. Everything is amazing. Yet, we don’t notice it.

Instead, we focus on everything that’s going wrong. It’s understandable. That’s how we’re built—to detect novelty. But it makes the world a very stressful place.

Force yourself to take in the good. You can call this showing gratitude. Or being thankful. Or maybe just opening your eyes and taking stock of your life as objectively as possible. Life isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s great in many respects. Start acknowledging that!

Live a Life That Embodies Your Full Personality (as well as Potential)

I’ve written before about the value of knowing yourself and the sabotage  inherent to comparison. Whether it’s following your passion, your introversion/extroversion, your personal values, or other identity-based facets, living who you are fully and authentically matters in the grand scheme. Feeling like you have to “stuff” or shrink your individuality throughout your day may be more than just a drag on joy—but a genuine threat to health.

What matters is what’s natural to you—in your work, your relationships, your daily routine. Be honest with yourself about what you really need from life, or risk fragmentation. There’s nothing more stressful than a civil war inside one’s identity each day.

You have to dig down deep, sift through the layers of conditioning, and  build a life that’s congruent with what matters to you. Discover what that is. Then go be that.

Drop Everything and Get out into Nature

We need to get out of the habit of white-knuckling life and calling it discipline. If the proverbial stress typhoon has touched down—the kids are screaming, the pressure of a deadline is mounting, your brain is churning with indecision and confusion—drop everything, grab what/whom you need, and get the hell out of there. Go to the nearest green/blue space: a park, a forest, the beach, the desert, the meadow.

You can take your work with you. Bring your laptop, turn a rock or tree stump into a standup workstation, and finish the work. If it’s dinnertime, have a picnic; let the kids run around and tire themselves out. Just go!

Work It out on Paper (or Keyboard)

A lot of stress is ridiculous and unfounded. We often don’t even know why we’re stressed out. If that’s the case—if your stress takes the form of a swirling amorphous cloud of racing thoughts you can’t parse—sit down with a pad of paper or other writing tool and figure out what’s vexing you. Ask yourself: “Why the hell are you so stressed out?” Get specific. Once you discover the culprit or culprits, determine why those stressors are affecting you.

Talking yourself through the timeline can help you discover if it’s worth stressing over. It may just melt away with exposure.

Introduce an Acute Stressor

Step outside into the bracing cold. Splash cold water on your face or hop in the cold shower. Do as many bodyweight squats and pushups as you can manage. Drop and give me 20 burpees.

These acts shock you into focusing on the present moment. They take you out of your mind and away from whatever swill might be currently occupying it. You can’t ignore cold water on your skin.

The stress may still be there after the shock, but having that break can give you a foothold back in reality.

Take an Anti-Stress Supplement or Herb

I honestly created Primal Calm for those times I just needed a fast-acting damper on the rising stress that was getting to me. I wanted an easy to swallow capsule of all the best stuff out there, so I made it. It’s got L-theanine, magnolia bark, phosphatadylserine, rhodiola rosea, and beta sitosterol. The L-theanine reduces anxiety and attenuates the rise in blood pressure in adults subjected to psychological and physical stress. The magnolia bark enhances the activity of soothing GABA receptors in the brain. The phosphatadylserine works on both mental and physical stress, improving mood and blunting cortisol after physical exercise. The rhodiola rosea lowers cortisol, increases mental performance, and lowers fatigue in stress-related fatigue. And when it’s incorporated into cellular membranes, beta sitosterol protects against oxidative stress.

It’s certainly not the only option. You can find any of the constituent ingredients as separate supplements, or you can check out the various pieces I’ve done on other anti-stress supplements and herbs. My point? Keep something on hand you can immediately administer.

Stress is a many-headed beast. You can’t beat or eliminate it, nor would you want to, as it’s through overcoming stress that we improve and get stronger. We can’t let it beat us either, or walk all over us. After reading today’s post, you should have at least a few more strategies for devising your own potent anti-stress protocol.

How do you handle stress or cultivate resiliency? If you could add to this post, what would you contribute?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care.


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5 Easy Ways to Eat Probiotics Like a Pro

With the constant flurry of health-related buzzwords floating around the Internet, “probiotics” is one that seems here to stay. Chances are you’ve read about the benefits of taking a probiotic supplement — maybe your doctor has even recommended one to you. And plenty of nutritionists are singing the praises of probiotic-rich foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha on a near-daily basis. It may seem daunting, but you don’t have to dive headfirst into a brand new diet to reap the benefits of probiotics. We chatted with wellness expert, holistic health coach and author of Go with Your Gut, Robyn Youkilis, to get some simple steps to achieving better gut health without overhauling your lifestyle.


You don’t need a supplement

A supplement can be a great place to start, says Youkilis, but she tends to encourage her clients to get their fill of probiotics when they dine. “They taste delicious,” she says. “At the heart of all of this, I’m a foodie.” Add a spoonful of sauerkraut to your salad for tang. A dollop of kimchi gives your fried rice some zip. You might even already be incorporating some probiotics into your diet through chocolate, wine and sourdough bread. (Yes, you read that right. But as always, eat and drink them in moderation for a healthy diet.) The amount and types of probiotics are not quite the same as those found in yogurt or kefir, but hey, you’re on the right track!


Know how to cook with probiotics

Unfortunately, you can’t rely on a diet of merlot and dark chocolate to get the probiotics you need. Probiotics work best in their raw form of live and active cultures. This means when you add probiotic-rich ingredients to meals, you don’t want to cook them. Turn off the heat before adding ingredients like yogurt, kraut, pickles, kimchi or miso to your dishes. This will keep the probiotics in their natural state so you can reap the most benefit.


Time it right

If you’re planning on eating and drinking your probiotics, start in the morning and try to incorporate one probiotic ingredient into each of your meals throughout the day. For example, have a yogurt with granola in the morning, a sandwich with pickled veggies for lunch and a small bottle of kefir as a snack. On the flip side, if you’re taking a supplement, do it before bed, when Youkilis advises your digestive system will do a better job of digesting it.


Don’t worry about eating too many

“This is one of those things where you can’t get enough of it,” says Youkilis. And just like you want to eat a variety of fruits, veggies and proteins, the same goes for probiotics. Probiotics come in many different strains that each provide distinct digestive benefits, so you’ll want to try to incorporate lots of different probiotic-rich foods into your diet.


Try new things

With probiotics becoming key players in our quest to be well, major brands are designing new products with probiotics in mind. For example, Tropicana just launched Tropicana Probiotics, a line of fruit juices fortified with one billion live and active cultures per serving. Youkilis says we should expect to see more of this in the future. “People are talking about this for good reason, and brands are seeing a shift,” she says.

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140 Years Of Oats + Quaker Oatmeal Snack Bars

This post is sponsored by The Quaker Oats Company

You know you have something good when it has stood the test of time. There are so many different diets out there that claim to work magic, but there is one that holds true in my household:  eat real. The Quaker Oats Company is celebrating 140 years of nutritious, delicious oats this year, and I am singing its praises yet again!

Truly a food that our grandparents ate, Quaker has been the leader in oats for well over a century. Nowadays oats are more popular than ever, and trends like overnight oats, smoothie bowls, and savory oatmeal keep them going as a recipe ingredient staple.

Quaker was the first to make oats available for human consumption, the first to obtain a registered trademark for a breakfast cereal (1877), the first to feature a recipe on a package (1866), and the first to use a round canister (1915), and on the nutrition front, they made the first food-specific heart health claim (1997). And I am proud to be a Quaker Ambassador!

I was charged to champion a classic recipe and give it a current spin. This recipe for oatmeal snack bars is one of KERF’s most highly visited posts of all time, so I took that base and tweaked it around with fun ingredients like chia seeds, chocolate chips, coconut, and slivered almonds. Oats are a great ingredient to add to any recipe because they are 100% whole grain and boost the fiber and protein content as well.

I think this is one of my most popular recipes because it’s so simple and delicious: mix wet, mix dry, combine, bake! These bars are also so versatile have them for breakfast, as a snack, with lunch, as dessert, etc.

I used a chia and milk gel in place of egg to give them a bit more texture.

They freeze well and are best heated up a bit in the microwave so the chocolate chips melt a little! Note: they are soft like a baked good and not crunchy like a granola bar.

Chocolate Coconut Almond Oatmeal Snack Bars


Ingredients (8 bars)

  • ¾ cup Quaker Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 1.5 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1.5 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mix chia seeds with milk and set aside for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chia seeds form a gel.

3. Combine chia gel, bananas, and almond butter and stir well.

4. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

5. Add coconut oil to a 6×9 inch baking dish and grease, melt in the microwave for easier spreading.

6. Press bars into dish, ensuring all corners are set.

7. Bake for 20 minutes, until firm and no longer wet in the middle.

8. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting bars into six and carefully removing from baking dish.

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Happy snacking!

Oatmeal Snack Bars // #quaker #oatmeal #eatrealfood #katheats

Thanks to Quaker Oats for sponsoring this post!

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Super Salty Salted Almond Chocolate Bark

I loooooove any kind of salty sweet combo. Salted Caramel ice cream is one of my top flavor choices, and when I am shopping for chocolate bars I always look for the salted almond/hazelnut/caramel blends. Thomas loves a little something sweet after dinner and the salted almond dark chocolate bars we’ve been buying are costing us a fortune per ounce, so I decided to surprise him with a batch of homemade chocolate bark. Of course, I’ve been consuming my share too ; )

Before enjoying the bark, consume a big green salad to rev the appetite for chocolate. I had this one for lunch yesterday kale Caesar with spinach, avocado, manchego and chicken. *Heart eyes*

This bark is, as the title suggests, on the salty side. You can adjust the recipe to your taste! It’s also super simple to make. I used the microwave for minimal time, but you can also use a double boiler.

Begin by roasting your almonds in the toaster or conventional oven. Do not take your eye off of them! When they are lightly brown and fragrant, remove from the heat and chop.

Meanwhile, combine coconut oil and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high in 30 second intervals until fully melted. Mine took three rounds to get there.

Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and pour the chocolate on top, forming the general shape of a square. You want the bark to be thin, but not so thin that it can’t hold an almond. Think about the thickness of a fruit leather.

Sprinkle over the almonds  I used about 1/3 cup.

Then the salt! I used this nice Carolina Flake Salt for ultimate texture.

Don’t try this with table salt  you need something flakey.

Put the whole pan into the freezer for 30 minutes, until hardened.

Don’t forget to lick the bowl! No chocolate left behind.

Once chilled, remove it and let come to room temp for a few minutes before moving the parchment to a cutting board and cutting into the shape of your choice.

I cut mine into big and small pieces so that I have more options when the chocolate craving hits : )

Super Salted Almond Bark


Ingredients (Chocolate for a week)

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or baking chocolate chopped up
  • 1/3 cup whole almonds (you might use a little more or less)
  • ~1 tablespoon flakey sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil


  1. Toast almonds in a toaster oven or regular oven for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees. Keep an eye on them so they do not burn! Chop into small pieces.
  2. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  3. Spoon coconut oil into a microwave-safe bowl and top with chocolate chips. Microwave in 30 second intervals on high, stirring in between. Mine took 3 rounds to melt completely.
  4. Pour chocolate out onto parchment paper and spread into a large square.
  5. Sprinkle on as many almonds as you’d like.
  6. Sprinkle on salt to your taste.
  7. Chill in freezer for about 30 minutes.
  8. Allow to come to room temp and cut into squares, triangles, dodecahedrons, etc.
  9. Store in the fridge or freezer for super crunchy chocolate bark!
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