Difficult-easy, Difficult-difficult.


Getting my kids to help out around the house is difficult-easy.

Dealing with my Mother and her clutter is difficult-easy.

Being lonely is difficult-easy.

Eating past 80% full is difficult-easy when I do it because I’ve stopped paying attention.

Eating past 80% full is difficult-easy when I do it because I eat too quickly to notice–and that can happen when I’ve gone too long without food.

But eating past 80% is difficult-difficult when I realise that I am eating past 80% so I can feel comfort and relief.

In other words, the desire for comfort, the need for relief from my intense feelings…if that’s what’s driving me to eat past 80% full–then that’s a difficult-difficult problem–because I am going to have to figure out how to get those needs and desires met another way.

I am going to have to step outside my comfort zone and do something else–like ask for a hug.

I hate that. I really do not want to depend on other people. Learning to do so will be difficult-difficult for me.

But that’s what love demands.


Re-Wiring Habits

comfort box

Old habits are hard-wired into our brains.


That means that given any trigger, (say an argument with my husband or my kids), I will respond as I have always done (with eating something sweet) to get the payoff I need. (Carbs are calming and sweetness delivers a pleasure hit to the brain.)

Habits 101. All of this is well-known.

NOT to do that takes a massive amount of effort. Not to react to the trigger in the way you have always done is hard. And let’s face it, you’re probably not at your analytical best when you’re filled with upsetting emotions.

I wanted to change my behaviour–the food eating part of all of this. The trigger could stay the same. The pay off should definitely stay the same. But that thing in the middle–the self-soothing food-seeking behaviour: in the long-term, given my goals, that had to change.

So what would deliver the same reward?


  • is calming?
  • gives me pleasure?
  • soothes me?

There a few things that can do that: food is not the only one. (Thank goodness. There was a time when that wasn’t true –or I thought that was true– which amounts to the same thing.)

I wanted a list of things I could do instead. Handy. Just as easy to grab as something to eat. I asked for input from the PN Alumni Facebook Group. I got some wonderful suggestions and I picked a handful, some to try.

And so, I made the Comfort and Joy Box.

When I was done, I posted this to my group:

So, I wanted to show you what I did with some of the suggestions you gave me for my Comfort box. I put them on little 3 1/2 x 3 1/2” cards with paintings from the internet as background. They fit into this little jewel case I get every year (calendar cards inside) from a charity I support.
Thank you everyone for your help.

Here are some of them:

comfort cards

It’s a very old idea. I first encountered it in Sarah Ban Breathnatch’s classic: Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. I only just now noticed I copied her while naming my “box.” I think that’s totally fitting as I’ve always meant to make one since I read about it, what 15 years ago?  Except it’s not a drawer of objects, like candles and Epsom salts and perfume and so on, though that might work for some.

I have had three significant episodes of sadness, disappointment and even a touch of despair since then—and I experienced all of them without food.

Each and every time, I opened my beautiful box of art with the list in it and followed a suggestion.

It’s been a really effective tool for changing my habit of using food to distract myself from my feelings.

And something incredibly valuable has come out of it: I’ve learned my feelings contain some really important information I don’t want to miss!

Here’s an example (again, posted to my group, edited):

I found out I got turned down to be on the inventory team at work today. I was upset by it even though the hours were horrible (4am to 1pm). It would have meant full-time hours walking up and down two story ladder staircases in steel toed boots (counting overhead inventory at Home Depot) and a nice pay cheque for about six, seven weeks.

I was surprised by how upset I was. But I sat with it. I didn’t want to eat through it–And of course, over the course of the evening, eventually I figured out it’s an issue of identity –of its precursor– freedom, even, actually.

Would have helped pay off some debt. I don’t feel like I can be free until it isn’t hanging over me anymore. Until now, I hadn’t realised quite how important paying off that debt is to me. So.

Notice and Name.

And so by changing my relationship with food–I am changing my relationship with my feelings and emotions–and now, also to our debt, it seems.

Notice and name.


*hard-wired. Literally. The brain grows myelin to sheath and protect certain pathways that ocurr again and again in the brain. The more you do something, the more myelin the brain makes–and so the better “protected” and stronger the pathway–ergo, the habit.

The January Report


IMG_3790_Fotor_Fotor web
Out for a walk at Terwillegar dog park. I got lost and discovered that cell phone batteries die in the cold.

All things considered, it’s been a mildly stressful month. Let’s get the stats out of the way, first.


January 1:

  • weight 230.0 (-7 lbs)
  • waist: 43 1/4″
  • hip: 51 1/4″


February 1:

  • weight: 223.6 (-6.4)
  • waist: 43 1/2″ (weird, I know.)
  • hip: 50″


I worked out 27 out of 31 times this month. I’m freaking proud of that! I made sure to get out for a walk in the sunshine at least once a week.

I started PN again: and my new workouts started January 22. There was a week where I had three full body workouts–but the next week I was slammed with split body workouts: two for the upper body and two for the lower. That’s four times a week: and the exercises are hard–and by that I mean they are physically challenging in a way I have never experienced before. I’m not complaining. Just noticing. With my PN exercises eating up four out of seven days a week, I may not be able to do the activities I would like to do, like swimming and yoga. I will still walk, though. It’s been very cold here for the last couple of weeks: but on Sunday, the sun was shining. I just had to go. So, I did and it was marvelous.


I continued with my food log. My breakfast of one whole egg plus an egg white, veggies, spinach and feta (sometimes accompanied by a piece of sourdough multi-grain toast with butter, sometimes not) kept me full for so long, I started just having a small snack about three to five hours later and calling that lunch.

In January, we started off with a five minute habit and I chose to plan my day. Over and over again, I listed more things to do than could be done. I plan to practise this habit  next month, too, even though I keep failing at it. Actually, just because I keep failing at it, I figure I’d better keep it up!


Handle stress without food.

I had a major disappointment at work this month: and I deliberately chose to sit with my feelings and not eat them. I was surprised, actually, by the depth of my disappointment. I can’t say it was exactly a *fun* experience–but it was interesting, if maybe only because it was so novel? I did ten minute free writes to work things through and by the end felt incredibly proud of myself. I don’t need food to handle disappointment! A win.

Now we can move on to anxiety, anger, and fear, to name a few!


Build and deepen my relationships with people.

On the positive side, I made contact with someone I hadn’t spoken to in 20 years. We messaged and then agreed to face-time. It went well and we plan to talk again.

On the negative, I found out that my seventeen year old son plans to move out the minute he finishes high school at the end of June. I am not happy about this decision but he is having conflict with his father–and since one of the things they do share is being obstinate, it doesn’t look like that’ll change. Ironically, both my husband and I left home at 17–I wish I hadn’t, my husband thinks it was one of the best things he ever did. So, yeah, there’s that.

Books Read:

I started reading Body of Truth, by Harriet Brown and it scared me. She’s a mother who watched her daughter go down the rabbit hole of Anorexia Nervosa. I can’t imagine anything more terrifying. It gave her a perspective on diets, dieting, beauty and our bodies that was life-altering. She writes strongly about how destructive, dangerous –and futile it all is–and it started to mess with my head a bit. I had to remind myself that I am not on a diet. I am not following a weight loss program. I am doing my best to eat well and live strong and free. And yes, I want to lose fat. I had to return it, a few chapters unread–though the chapter on HAAS did restore me to some sanity.

Peak Performance, by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness is a great little tome about how finding your why gives you fuel for your goals. They also address the whole issue of rest and recovery in such a way that it makes total sense why you really cannot improve without it. There’s lots more of value in it as well including an exercise that brought me to my purpose (forever, for now):

By connecting to others with all my heart, with integrity, with courage and with love; that’s how I change the world around me.

Looking Ahead:

In February, I’d like to work on establishing a morning routine. While I was sitting with my feelings of disappointment, I realised that I only ever seem to know what’s important to me by deducing it from my feelings– from disappointment, loss, anger–some form of distress. That’s no way to live! And so, while it is really important to stay in touch with those feelings in order to ferret out what’s going on–I’d much prefer a more proactive way of figuring out what’s what.  I’m already in the habit of reading my PN lesson and planning– I’d like to add meditation, free writing, a ten minute tidy, reading, yoga, a gratitude practice and spending 10 minutes on the most important task of the day. But not all at once.  If I can get consistent with the meditation and free write while I’m still on my first pot of coffee, I’ll consider that a success.

You Can’t Have it All


Over at Slow Your Home, Brooke calls it tilting. Isn’t that a great word? First, you tilt this way, then you tilt that way.  Pffft on balance. Balance is an illusion.

These last two months have seen me tilt towards self-care in a big way. And, as usual, I tilted away from housework. It’s always the first thing “to go” whenever something new and shiny comes along. There’s ample evidence for this on my other blog, Prairie Home Therapy. There was always another project I enjoyed more than picking up after my family, vacuuming, and scrubbing toilets. (That’s nothing to be ashamed of, is it?)

I used to clean sporadically at best. I’d keep us from squalor by tackling decluttering projects and organizing challenges and the course that promised A Clean! and Organized! Kitchen! in one month. And I did my Spring and Fall cleanings. Except I didn’t last fall. Or last spring, come to think of it. I didn’t join any housecleaning events–not even my beloved January Cure from Apartment Therapy–though I tried.

So, the dust bunnies crept in.

I’ve always struggled with the day to day, week to week stuff. And I let it all go to do my menu planning, the shopping, cooking and meal prep, and my workouts.

And as my new shiny thing was taking care of my health, those dust bunnies I spied under the couch while trying to do a side plank had warm glowing halos around them.

Just before Christmas, when PN was shutting down and I’d be left to my own devices for a few weeks until everything cranked back up again for the new year, my coach asked me for my bare minimums. What were two things I would continue to do, no matter what, during the busy season ahead? Everything else could slip away: but what two things would I keep?

I answered:

  • Eat slowly.
  • Exercise everyday.


This little self-care project I’ve got going here is going to go on for some time–probably the rest of my life, in fact. I’ll have to figure out how to live my life on these terms, within these parameters. I’ve been consistent with my workouts and preparing meals, now, for two long months. I cannot take on big time consuming housecleaning projects any more. It has to change.

I am going to have to figure out the bare minimums for everything else, too: but not everything all at once.

I’ll start with the radio-active dust bunnies. Just after my work out.


Dr. Suess

My mother and I have this thing we say, like it’s true: Alana doesn’t like change.  I forget how we reasoned our way through our history to arrive at this conclusion. Almost certainly, we were decluttering.

The time has come to look at that story again and see if it’s still true.



A disruption. Such an adjustment. So difficult.
One of the reasons I hate change so much is because I’ve done so damn much of it.


I am well-practiced.

Parents separate when I’m four. I begin going to my grandmother’s (father’s mother) in the summer because my mother has to work. My mother enrolls me in pre-kindergarten–but then gets me bumped up into kindergarten because Mother needs to work and it is more days per week. Then there’s French Kindergarten and English Kinderarten the same year while we lived in that little cabin up in the Gatineau. I loved that place.

So, we’re back in Ottawa, and there’s grade three and two different schools. Grade five, there were three, the third being Yellowknife, alone with my Mother and going through puberty. We stay in Yellowknife for a while, from the middle of Grade five to the end of grade seven. For grade eight, though, there were two schools. One in my grandparent’s small town in the Ottawa valley, the other–Edmonton. That nasty, nasty Junior High. Four different high schools for three years of curriculum (though I did drop out in Grade 11, necessitating another semester.) A post-secondary degree at one University at one end of the country and one unfinished doctorate and two MAs at three more Universities more than half way across this vast country of ours.

Change is disruptive. Change is loss. Change is bad.

But it isn’t all bad. I actually chose some of those changes. The Universities. The boyfriends.

But maybe, just maybe with all this change–it could be quite possible that I am actually good at it?


All that change–especially the discord between a life with my mother during the week with a whole ‘nother life with my grandparents on weekends and summers from the ages of four to what, ten? or 11? It made me a pragmatist.

And all those schools. All that fitting in. Not.

The shock of my father’s short illness and death at the age of 47 (and I was 23). Other things. Emotional resilience. Got that.

In spades.

And discomfort? I can tolerate discomfort (except when it comes to my teeth). My favourite walks have been in snowstorms and icy winds. Hearing voices amplified by clear frozen air at 50 below. Watching northern lights in Yellowknife in my socks and pjs. (Though they were very warm pjs. Our furnace used to go out fairly frequently.)

I’m tough.

I’m like that punching bag clown…always pops up, eventually, if more slowly each time, with more care.

So, maybe change isn’t all scary.

Maybe there are a few things I actually like about it?

Like learning.

Change means there’s lots to learn.

I love a learning curve, I don’t care how steep it is.

I have learned so much and taught myself so much. To cook and sew and parent and be a good employee, a decent workplace friend, a broadcaster, a camper, an interior designer, a graphic artist (after a fashion) and an expert in colour coordination and identification. I know how to decorate. Budget. Plan largish projects. How to become a blog-based entrepreneur. I’ve studied Indigenous relations with we settlers, and different theories about how societies build up and how they conquer others and/or implode. The relationship between our hormones and our health (or not). {It all comes down to managing our hormones and our flight and fight response to our enviroment.} Food. So much about the gut biome. Cooking. How to build habits. Whatever. I enjoy learning.

I’ve changed my identity, too.

A few times.

Stopped smoking. Started again. Finally stopped. Became a “Christian.” Stopped being a “Christian.” (Thank God). Lost weight. Became a parent. A wife.

So change is manageable, change is fine.

What am I afraid of?

Change that is thrust upon me. Change I am not in control of. (Aren’t we all?) And, yes, that will still happen.

But I can control more than I think I can, I think. I can choose to deal or not deal with situations–and I get to choose how I deal with them. I can take small careful steps. I get to choose how far I go at each step.

I expect a lot of change this coming year. I am hoping some things remain the same: I’d like my marriage to remain intact. I’d like to deepen my relationships with my children, though: do more active things together.

I’d like to continue losing weight and transforming my body so I’m a strong, stone cold fox. Making the requisite changes in my life to support that. (Hooray for my coach.)

And finally, I’d like to build a few well-chosen friendships and volunteer. I may even begin to take steps to have a career in housing, or decorating or something, somehow.

This year?

This year will be a journey of self-discovery and re-creation through action.

Bring it on, baby.

The 5 Minute Weight Loss Plan


So, I was driving around with my son in the car the other day–taking the seventeen year old who STILL hasn’t got his licence to school or to rehearsal to work or to a friend’s place.

And I was speaking very LOUDLY about how I just didn’t have time for this, and how, with his father working nights now, all the driving was now on me. (I had just taken his brother to work. I was going to have to turn around and pick him up from work right after I’d run to the library and then pick up this son and take him somewhere else. It was all just TOO MUCH. Just when in hell was I supposed to get a work out in?)

As I drove away after dropping him off wherever, still fuming and feeling sorry for myself, it occurred to me that I was lying to myself. I had plenty of time. I just didn’t want to be spending it in a freezing cold car chauffeuring my children. But I really did feel out of time.

I’d taken the week off work to think, plan, set goals and do our taxes. None of it had got done. Without structure, my days had drifted into late night aimless writing excursions and really late mornings. The cold had zapped all my plans to get set up for my year with shopping for workout wear and had put the kibosh on all ambitions to walk the trails in the city.

What I lacked was not time….I had that in spades.

What I lacked was structure. And it was stressing me out.

Our very first habit in PN is to take a five minute action towards change. That’s all. Anything will do. It really doesn’t matter. Just doing something new in the direction you want to go prepares you, gets you ready for change.

So, in the spirit of stress-free living, my five minute habit is to simply to plan my day. To insert some structure, to lessen the stress of drifting aimlessly through my life–with all the frustration that brings, formerly assuaged with cigarettes and now food.

So, that’s how we lose weight. By decreasing stress. By planning.

Just five minutes. Every day.

On Repeat


I’ve enrolled in Precision Nutrition’s Coaching Program for 2018 as I mentioned I would. I am so excited to begin.

But why? Why would I want to take the same program over again?

  1. I learned so much about myself. I learned I am resilient. That I’m strong. I discovered that I love to walk outside on our city’s river valley trails. It brings me such joy. I can’t believe I’ve lived here over 20 years and never ventured down. What else will I discover that I love? I learned I like rules–and I want to continue to explore how I might make rules work for me, instead of against me.
  2. Somehow, too, I learned I have allowed my life to become very small. It’s OK. I didn’t really know any better. I certainly never believed my life could be bigger, fuller, richer. PN has taught me to dream big.

And so, this year….

At the end of my year with PN Coaching (and throughout, too, of course) I want to be living a life designed for positive growth, good health, and great relationships. I am going to take this year to do that as best I can.

At the end of my year, I want to be well-practiced in living at the edge of discomfort—deliberately going there to grow.

I am going to focus on losing weight. In one way, I don’t care how much I weigh. The specific number doesn’t matter. But in order for me to move well and be fully functional, I need to carry less weight on my frame. Or, rather, less fat. I’d like to lose 90 pounds, but I’ll reassess at 50. Eating well, recovering well from stress, and moving with purpose and joy (and maybe other things?) are the means to this end—–so how I treat my body this year will be a good indication of how I am treating my self.

At the end of my year I want to have more friends. Of all kinds. I want to build relationships with people….and preferably people I can touch!  I want to deepen my relationships with my husband and kids, too, as we go through a very difficult time.

Everything in my life right now, in a sense, is in a state of change–or about to be—so that focusing on my values this year will be essential—I do not want to end up with a life I don’t want! (Been there, done that. No more.) A lot of it is not in my control, of course, but I want to make sure my actions are in line with my values. And that means that throughout the year I will continue to discover and articulate them.

In short, I want to harness the power of PN, the lessons, the habits, the focus on growth and change, the coaching and support—for my whole life.

What do I want to achieve?

A Journey of self-discovery and re-creation through action.

The December Report

A terrific month. No, really.


December 1:

  • weight: 237.0 (-3.2 lbs)
  • waist: 45 3/4″
  • hip: 52 1/2″


January 1:

  • weight 230.0 (-7 lbs)
  • waist: 43 1/4″
  • hip: 51 1/4″


I exercised 22 days out of 31–including a half hour walk at minus 24 (Celsius). I have discovered that I absolutely love walking outside on the trails we have in our city’s river valley. There are miles and miles of them–and walking in the sunshine brings me such joy. It was tough during December–the sun goes down before 4:15 pm on the shortest day of the year–but you can bet I made a point of getting out for my walk at least once a week–and especially on the solstice!


I continued with the food log I’d started in November. It’s been an amazing little tool. At first I kept it just to keep me accountable for what I ate. Studies have shown that for most people simply recording what they eat results in their making better choices about what to eat. After bout  week, I set a goal to eat five servings of fruit and veg a day. Aiming for a palm sized serving of protein at each meal was next. But then I started getting curious about how long I could go between meals. So, I started writing down what time I ate. I started noticing that my breakfast of veggies and 2 medium eggs (but only one yolk), sometimes supplemented with spinach or feta or both, and toast and coffee keeps me satiated for a long time. I often debated whether to eat my snack at work.

According to my food log, I started the month eating cookies and ice cream. Yes, really. I even had an encounter with some mini-Wunderbars — I forget why — but I ate 11 of them in one go one night. That has not happened since. But I still use food to cope with stress. There just wasn’t a lot of stress this month–well, not a lot compared to other months!

Finding and practicing on other ways to cope with stress will be one of my goals this year.

As for January–PN Coaching starts up again soon. I am quite excited to continue–I’ve built some fabulous momentum. But there’s still so much to do! I’m a bit overwhelmed with it all, to be honest.

Exercise is a huge chunk of time out of my day–and week! I am not reading as much as I used to–I’m not blogging–and I’ve pretty much ignored my house to make it happen. One of the reasons I enjoyed Christmas so much this year is because it forced me to clean up and tidy the house–and keep things clean and tidy for about 10 days straight.

I want to continue to build on my mad food skillz. I signed up for Darya Rose’s cooking course today ’cause I want the flexibility of cooking without recipes. (I also realized recently that I need a creative outlet, so we’ll see if this will do it for me.)

Our first habit will be to eat slowly. I want to put away my computer and throw myself into this one, again. In fact, with all the habits, I want to be sure I practice them as deeply as I can. Now that I’ve been through the program once and I have seen how all the pieces work together, I feel I can relax and just focus. I intend to take that approach with all the habits as they come around again this year.

My involvement with the P.N. program meant that this entire year–no matter what happened (and a lot happened!)– was all about growth. I learned so much about myself last year. I learned I am resilient. That I’m strong. I learned I like rules–and I want to continue to explore how I might make rules work for me, instead of against me.

I discovered that I love to walk outside on our city’s river valley trails, as I mentioned. What’s next? Skiing? Swimming? I’m excited to find out. I discovered I enjoy being physical. Ok. Re-discovered.

I discovered that I want to stay married and develop and deepen my relationships with each member of my family. That means I will have to learn to become OK with awkwardness and uncertainty. (Biggies for me.) And we have some difficult times coming up which will either bring us closer together–or further apart.

As well, I want more friends. Of all kinds. I want to build relationships with people….and preferably people I can touch!

There is a strong relationship between my health habits and my life. So there are two questions I want to explore this year:

  1. How’s my life affecting my health habits?
  2. How are my health habits affecting my life? 


Here’s to 2018: A journey of self-discovery and re-creation!

Change is Fragile

It really is an audacious thing to do: to set out to change your self in the midst of living your life. And no one really comes out and tells you how fragile the whole thing is.

There are hints.

Keep it small, they say. Change only one small thing at a time. P.N. has a “five minute action” habit which follows this advice. At Zen habits, Leo Baubata offers a habit change program based on the “small is best” approach, too. So, if you want to start a meditation habit, for example, both would probably recommend starting with five minutes a day, tied to another, already existing habit.

I never really subscribed to it. I mean, I nod along when I read about it and I do understand it intellectually. But it all seems so puny, so insignificant. After all, lasting change can come with great upheaval–like becoming a vegetarian or quitting smoking. In those specific cases, though, a change of identity precedes the habit change, usually. So, while you might forget to meditate one particularly busy day, you wouldn’t likely stop and eat a burger.

Another clue is found in the exhortation to “schedule your workouts. Make an appointment with yourself.”

Or, they say, involve someone else. Either do a workout with them or make a bet with someone or somehow get some accountability built around your proposed change.

My life isn’t all that full, so scheduling my workouts seemed excessive. So did involving other people. I’m what Gretchen Rubin calls a Questioner. If I’ve established my own reasons for doing something, I can be relied upon to do it, pretty much….so I’ve never felt the need for an accountability partner.  I’ve never made a bet with anyone, either. It all feels like tips and tricks if you ask me.

But these ideas are all getting at something essential to change–namely–that it is difficult and that sustaining new behaviour requires support.

And that’s true.

A short while ago, PN devoted two weeks of lessons to creating a fitness mission statement. Throughout the process, I thought it was absurd. Then, late one night, I just decided to write it out.

And something changed in me. Boom, just like that, I changed my identity. I became someone who includes exercise in her life. I became an “active” person. And then I realised: by changing one thing….I am changing everything.

Shortly after this I had a conversation with my awesome PN coach Lisanne. I was blathering on about how exercise is an “anchor” habit for me–that once I’m exercising regularly everything else just falls into place. I feel better (endorphins are my friend), I eat better, I feel more confident at work and I even sleep better. The idea to work out every single day came up. Every day, without fail. Maybe only be five minutes on some days. I poopoohed that idea. But Lisanne made me realise that five minutes of squats–or a five minute plank– would still be a workout.

So I made the commitment to do something physical every day.

And boom. I had an action plan, a next step, to reenforce my new change of identity.

But that identity could have dissolved before it took hold. That new-me, the one who is a “fitness nut,” as we used to say, could have died without that conversation with my coach.

For 19 days straight, I exercised. Some days, there was no more than 15 minutes of pilates but there was something. It was exhilarating.

I created a protected space around my new identity with my committment. No matter what, I was going to work out, every day.

That’s why a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly inside a cocoon. Change requires protection: it needs to happen inside a shelter, in a safe place, in a sacred place, if you will. All those exhortations? All those tips and tricks? Shelter.

This insight has been profound for me.

This perspective, that I need to guard and protect my transformation, means that everything becomes secondary to the health and fitness goals I have this week. That is hard to sustain.

I feel the need to protect the time I’m making for exercise. I need to plan carefully for it and then do it. Weight training is tricky since you can’t do it every day. I also work weird unpredictable hours. Leaving me to figure out my workouts every day is about as reliable a method for me to be consistent as me trying to figure out dinner everyday. Not happening. So, I created a small weekly spread in my Bujo and now I can schedule it for the morning, afternoon or evening.

But it doesn’t always happen. There’s a lot that still needs to happen to support a change of this magnitude.

But I’ve begun.





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