onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

I don’t have a pretty red bow for you today.

I have been thinking a lot about the evolution of this blog, which is actually my evolution. And, if you read regularly, you know I have been thinking about fat acceptance for a while now. 

So this week, I binge watched a TV show about a fat teenager in the 90s. And I happened to be a fat teenager in the 90s. And I identified with so much of the show. I laughed and sobbed and could not get enough of it. My poor husband doesn’t really get it. He kept asking me, “why are you purposely watching something that makes you cry?!?” (The answer is because I love art that evokes feelings! Even difficult feelings.)
But one thing that I had a hard time identifying with was that this girl had a classically good looking boyfriend who was proud to be with her. That was not my story or my experience. And this girl was ashamed of her body at first, but learned to be comfortable in that body with this classically good looking boyfriend. And I have been thinking about that pretty much non-stop for days. Could that have ever been me? Could I have ever gotten to that point? Could I have been as fat as I was, and be comfortable being naked with a super hot guy?
And it makes me cry to say it, (like literally cry. I am crying right now. Again. My poor husband.) but I don’t think so. I can’t imagine it. I can’t think of a possible situation that would have had me accept my body that much at that time in my life. 
And I hate that. I hate that the girl I was hated herself so much. And that even in retrospect, I can’t imagine her loving herself exactly as she (I) was. And I don’t know how to process that really. What does that say about me? What does that mean about my character? 
I know that the problem I had when I was fat was not a body problem. It was an eating problem. Food was making me crazy, and unhappy. It made my life more difficult. It made me high. It facilitated my bad behaviors and intensified my bad feelings. But it also created the body that I was in that I hated. I was fat because I had an eating disorder, and an addiction. 
The two are tied up so tightly for me that I don’t know if I will ever be able to unravel them. 
So that is it. I don’t have any great revelation in this post. This doesn’t get tied up prettily with a big red bow. It just sort of ends with this uncomfortable sadness. 

Don’t Watch The Biggest Loser. That’s it. That’s the tweet.

After last week’s blog, I don’t have much to say. That took a lot out of me. And I don’t really want to talk about what Jillian Michaels said. So I will keep it short and sweet and say this: 

Don’t watch The Biggest Loser when it reboots. (This is not about Jillian Michaels. Her being in the news just reminded me. I don’t think Jillian Michaels is on the reboot, but the truth is I don’t know and I don’t care. That’s not why I am saying this.) 
Don’t watch fat people be shamed, berated, dehydrated, worked to exhaustion, malnourished, and generally abused for a dramatic story for your entertainment. The Biggest Loser is not offering a long-term solution to anything. What they are offering is not a solution to a food problem. It is not a plan for sustainable weight loss. First, it’s exercise bulimia. They get people to lose weight by exercising for more than 6 hours a day. Unless your job is playing a superhero in the Marvel Universe, I’m not clear how that is sustainable. They are literally only offering a game of who can lose the most weight the quickest. It is meant to be a circus side show. Fat people feel like a “safe” spectacle. You can judge them and pretend it is about caring about their health. Watching someone lose weight can be very dramatic. I assure you, *losing* weight in an unsustainable way can be very dramatic. But this is not a fun game once it’s done. The contestants of The Biggest Loser don’t get anything lasting from it. Some might get money.   But mostly they all just get broken metabolisms, and an inability to maintain the weight they lost. 

What could be more feminist than doing what I want with my body?

Ok. I think I am ready to do it. It has taken me some time to get my thoughts in order, but I am ready to talk about fat phobia and weight loss. 

A little set up for this post. I follow a fair number of body positive, fat acceptance, pro fat, fat activist, fat model, and in general size-inclusive accounts on social media. I do it because I still feel very connected to this group. I did not lose over 100 pounds to feel like I am “better than” anyone. And I am not here to promote weight loss. 

But there is an idea that gets floated around within these groups. That the personal desire to lose weight is inherently fat-phobic and therefore anti-feminist. That you can take actions to “be healthy” but actively trying to lose weight is against feminism.

Ok, so now you have pissed me off. 

Let me lay out some things I believe are true.
• I believe that in the U.S. and Western Culture in general, we have been fed a narrow (and ever narrowing) definition of beauty through a bombardment of images and advertising, to control and make money off of women. This culture and the corporations driving it have tried to convince us to starve ourselves, exhaust ourselves, nip and tuck ourselves, and generally be disappointed in ourselves so that we are willing to pay for the next thing that will make us beautiful and worthy. (Worthy of male attention, primarily.)

• I believe that diets don’t work, and that decreasing calories and eating in moderation is impossible for the majority of people who are not just doing that naturally. I believe that the medical industry has never offered me anything in terms of advice, diets, surgery, or medication that in any way makes long-term weight loss attainable. That what they do have to offer, besides physical mutilation, is “willpower” and “moral fortitude,” which are both bullshit, decidedly not helpful, and only reinforce the messed up idea that being fat is a moral failing. My experience is that it takes a lifestyle overhaul around food and eating to change your weight in the long-term. And that if you won’t or can’t do that, that’s fine. And totally valid. And doesn’t mean anything about your heart, mind, or morality.

• I believe that being fat does not *necessarily* equate to being unhealthy. I know that there are plenty of healthy fat people. But having said that, I have met a great number of fat people with serious health and pain issues *directly related* to being fat. And for many of these folks, losing weight and maintaining that weight loss has made them measurably healthier, and has greatly increased their comfort.

• I believe that being fat is now, and has been for generations, an easy mark for cruelty and discrimination. Whenever I hear someone say that society has “accepted” fatness, it’s usually to also say, “and that’s a problem and is contributing to the breakdown of morality in our society,” or some such nonsense. And that is bullshit. Society has not embraced fatness. And when (if) it does, it will be an important step towards inclusion and equality. Not the slippery slope to moral decay.

• I understand that I, as a straight woman, have a different relationship to thinness than many women who are not straight. The widely accepted and agreed upon view of the kind of woman men are attracted to is that she is thin. The thinner the better. Skinny, sometimes to the point of death, is what the fashion industry has been selling as the height of beauty for at least the past 30 years. So yes, I wanted to lose weight in the first place to meet a bullshit beauty standard. But as I have pointed out before, there were many classically good looking  men who were attracted to me when I was fat. But they were embarrassed by it. And I was shamed for it. 

So I do understand how loaded weight loss talk is. And I do agree that fat *is* a feminist issue. But when you tell me that my weight loss is anti-feminist and upholds the patriarchy…well now we’re going to have words.

It reminds me of an argument I occasionally heard growing up, that women who chose to stay home with their children and work as stay-at-home moms rather than have some kind of career meant they could not be feminists. 

But I thought feminism was about making our own choices, and doing what we chose for ourselves. I thought feminism was about agency and autonomy. I thought I got to choose what to do with my body. All of my body, in any way I wished.

When I was fat, I hated stairs. Sometimes, if I knew I was going to have to climb a lot of stairs at some point that day, it would haunt me until it was done. It would take up space in my head and create anxiety. I did not hate stairs because of internalized fat phobia. I hated stairs because that level of exertion caused so much pain that I lived in fear of stairs. When I lost my weight, that stopped. In fact, I started to love physical exertion. I started to love moving and walking and jumping. And yes, even stairs. OK, maybe I didn’t start to *love* stairs. But I most definitely stopped fearing them.

When I was fat, I loved to dance. I went out dancing several times a week. And there was always a point when my feet would ache so bad i couldn’t dance anymore. Even if I wanted to. Even if my favorite song came on. I wasn’t not dancing because of internalize fat phobia. I was not dancing because the weight of my body on my feet was more than I could bear. When I lost that weight, I could dance all night, and my feet never hurt. Or if they did, not enough to keep me from jumping up for my favorite song.

And here is another thing. (But it’s muddy. And I get that.) It was also a relief to be in a body that people didn’t feel entitled to shame. 

I don’t think it was OK for people to shame me for being fat. And people did. Men and women. Family, friends, and strangers. People made me feel less than, and disgusting, and shameful. And I most certainly internalized that. 

But when that stopped, there was a freedom for me. And I am not going to tell you that I don’t like it. I do. I like not having to worry about someone making an unsolicited, cruel comment. I like not thinking about my body almost ever. Especially when I thought about it, and lived in fear and anticipation of vocal judgment, constantly though my early life. 

It is not the way the world should be. And I will fight against it with everything I have. It is not OK to shame and belittle fat people.  But you don’t get to tell me what kind of body I have to have in order to do that. And this world, the world where fat people are shamed publicly and privately and in backhanded and overt ways, is the world I live in. And since I have to live in this world for now, I like living in this world much better in a body that is not continually scrutinized. 

The last thing I will say about this is that I could not have had this conversation when I was still fat. Because I really had internalized fat phobia. I hated myself. I was embarrassed and ashamed. And I was also addicted to the foods making me fat. It turns out, I didn’t have a weight problem. I had an eating problem. I gave up man made sugars, grains, and starch because eating them caused cravings for more. They made me feel crazy and out of control. I started to control my portions, because part of my addiction was always wanting ”more.” My weight was the physical manifestation of my addiction. The physical addiction and the psychological addiction. And I didn’t know that until I gave up those addictive foods and put boundaries around my eating. I did it for vanity. But what I got was sanity. And the ability to look at fatness with love, and with compassion for the way fat people are treated.

I say it pretty often here. I am not skinny. I can shop in regular stores for straight sizes, but I am not lean. I have a big butt and hips and belly. I eat decadently. I am never hungry. I don’t deprive myself. I just have clear boundaries for how much food I will eat and stay away from foods that I am addicted to. And I don’t miss them. I don’t miss cake. I don’t miss French fries (which was a surprise to me. I thought I would miss them the most.) I feel great in my mind and my body. 

So I am not advocating weight loss. But if you think you would rather be in a thinner body, I understand and appreciate that. It doesn’t make you less of a feminist. It doesn’t mean you have embraced the patriarchy. It just might mean you are tired of fearing stairs and missing out on dancing to your favorite song. It just might mean you want some control over your body. The one that is yours to do with whatever you want. And what could be more feminist than that?

Another year of my heart and mind at peace

Ah. The week between Christmas and New Years is always a weird time. Everything seems to run together. It doesn’t seem to follow the usual routine. But one thing doesn’t change for me. And that is my food. And for that I am grateful.

Today I almost forgot to write this blog. Yesterday my husband and I drove the 10 hours from Oklahoma to the South Suburbs of Chicago. I need to go grocery shopping, because I usually do it on Saturday but couldn’t yesterday. I have food for the next couple of days so I may decide to cook later in the week. My routine is way way off.
But I still only eat 3 portion-controlled meals a day, every day. With no sugars, grains or starches. Even on my 10 hour drive I had my meals with me. 
I do not worry about gaining weight over the holidays. I do not worry about eating or drinking myself sick over the holidays. I don’t worry about my food or my body or my sanity at all over the holidays. That part is taken care of. 
I do still want to write about weight-loss and fat phobia and feminism. I want to really delve into my experience of the complex societal pressures and personal experiences  of being fat and a woman. But it is still swirling around my mind for me. So I will save it for another week. I will get to it some time next year. In the mean time, I am going to ring in yet another new year with my eating under control and my heart and mind at peace. 

Wishing you a Self-care Christmas

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I am not huge fan of holidays. This year was the first time I have participated in Thanksgiving in about 10 or so years. Thanksgiving is a food holiday and I don’t eat like that anymore. Never. Not for holidays. Not for any reason. And it was fine. But I’m not itching to do it again any time soon.

And while I do generally participate in Christmas, I don’t particularly care about it. I am not religious. I don’t have children. And I am rich enough to buy what I want when I want it. And I have modest enough tastes to not want that much, or that much that is particularly expensive. So presents are not high on my priority list. 
For me, many things changed when I got my eating under control. I loved Christmas as kid because I loved presents. And as an adult because I loved pecan pie and Christmas cookies. But as a grown up with my eating disorder taken care of, I really have to be in it for the relationships. 
I am not saying I won’t eat well. Today we are having guests over for lunch and I will eat delicious homemade Italian sausage that we made fresh yesterday! Yum! And I have broccoli cooked in butter and olive oil and hot sauce. Plus roasted peppers and Italian giardiniera. I will not be deprived. 
But I also won’t be numb. That is a good thing. A great thing. But relationships take energy. They take listening and being present and being available. And that can be exhausting. 
I know that in the world I occur as an extrovert. I am funny and charming. (And humble.) But all of that takes something. It stirs up feelings and drains my batteries. And without food or alcohol to dull a lot of those feelings, it can be overwhelming. I like to be quiet and alone. I like to do nothing and say nothing, a lot. 
I am very much looking forward to lunch today. I don’t want to imply that I am not. But it’s always worth it for me to note my limitations. I can’t get by on the sugar high of cookies and the caffeine high of coffee, like I once would have. Though I am probably going to be drinking a ridiculous amount of coffee. 
Getting my eating under control is still the best thing that ever happened to me. But it changed things for me. Not just food. It changed the way I live my life. It meant self-care, not just in my eating but in my lifestyle as a whole. Like knowing my limits and resting.
So Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Wishing you a week of peace, love and joy. From you to you. And from me to you. 

If you don’t like Lizzo, don’t look.

One thing about writing a blog that is so personal is that sometimes I need to stew on things for a while. I need to sort my feelings and my thoughts. A lot of things, as they relate to fatness or society’s view of fatness, can be particularly loaded for me.

I have some things brewing in my head that I have not gotten a handle on. Things that are so emotional for me that I don’t want to write about them this week. Things around what it means to *choose* to lose weight in a fat phobic society. And how it reflects on fatness to love having lost weight. To have zero regrets about not just having my eating under control, but to also be in a smaller, easier, more comfortable, and more socially acceptable body.

But then this week, while I was trying to sort out these very personal feelings, about some very personal choices, I ended up hearing Joe Rogan and Michelle Wolf talk about Lizzo on his podcast and I was reminded again how being fat is vilified in this society. And how the argument for vilifying it is that it *isn’t* vilified, or at least not enough. 

Lizzo, of course, is a fat, black rap artist who has had a year very much in the spotlight. She regularly dresses provocatively, dances in sexy and suggestive ways, and enjoys herself and her body. She has fat, black backup dancers who also dress and dance provocatively and enjoy themselves and their bodies. In other words, she is unapologetically fat and black and encourages fat blackness. And while this clearly speaks to a lot of people, as her popularity suggests, there is a lot of backlash.

On his podcast, Joe Rogan asks (in all seriousness, which would make me laugh if it weren’t so angering) why Lizzo is allowed to show her butt, while thin women (women *he* would actually want to see) are not allowed to. I would like to know where this magical land where Mr. Rogan resides is, that loves it when fat women show off their bodies and doesn’t like it when thin women do. Because I want to go there and be worshipped as the goddess that I am! 

This idea that thin women are not loved and admired for being thin is ridiculous. It’s blatantly false. Look at any tv show, magazine ad, calendar, literally anything depicting women, and tell me that half-naked to naked thin women are looked at with scorn. How many people have been upset by Victoria’s Secret fashion shows with skinny women’s butts on display. 

And then Joe Rogan made the comparison of Lizzo showing her butt to a baboon showing its butt. I wonder if he has ever made the same comparison when a thin woman has shown her butt. Is he comparing Victoria’s Secret models to animals? I’m going to guess not.

And the other thing that makes me angry is this idea of “confidence” as a code word when dealing with the discussion of fat bodies. Confidence, when used in this context, really means “nobody actually wants to see that so you must be confident if you’re going to show it anyway.”

And that seems to be the general through line. Certain groups (I’m looking at you straight men) have decided that what they want to see, or at least what they claim they want to see, is the most important thing. That they are the valid voice of truth and beauty. But the actual truth is that lots of people want to see that. All sorts of people. 

So here is the thing for me. When I was fat, there were lots of straight men who were attracted to me. Lots of classically good looking, thin men. And they pretended they weren’t in public, and treated me like shit, because they were embarrassed to be attracted to me. So I am going to guess that there are a lot of straight men who are attracted to Lizzo. Not by her “confidence,” but by her actual body. The one she’s using to dance and sing and be joyful.

And here’s another thing. Straight men are not the only people whose attraction counts. Many of the people who are attracted to Lizzo are going to be women. Lesbians count. They have opinions and tastes. They have money to buy the things that are being sold. And many are going to be straight women who have been told that they are not sexy. But they look at Lizzo and they think she’s sexy. So they can maybe start to look at their own sexiness. They count too. 

Here’s the deal. Everyone counts. And just like I do when I see underwear models that I find too skinny, too filled with silicone and botox, and too plastic, Joe Rogan, and all of the dudes who don’t want to see, and all of the women who are shocked and appalled, can turn it off, change the channel, not look.

I am still unpacking a lot of thoughts and feelings about where I fit in a fat phobic society when I go to great lengths to both have my eating under control, and keep my weight at a place that is comfortable for me. But do not tell me that thin women have somehow gotten a raw deal because one fat black woman is unapologetically loving her fatness. I will not be buying what you are selling.  

Self-care is a virtue. Thinness is a state of being.

When I realized that I was a sugar addict, I got to understand that being fat isn’t a moral issue. And that what I eat isn’t a moral issue. And that was a great relief to me. 

When I was fat, I had a lot of mixed up thoughts and feelings about fatness and about myself. I thought that I was “broken” and my body was “substandard.” I thought that I was morally deficient and that if I were “good enough” I wouldn’t be fat. I thought that having a fat body was a sign (and a neon one at that) that basically said “this girl is unworthy.”
But then I started to understand that there were foods that I had a reaction to. Foods that, once I put them in my body, set up a craving for more. Not a craving. A CRAVING! A desperate need. I felt like I might die if I didn’t eat more. And I would live in deep pain until I did eat more. So I ate more. And was fat, and I hated being fat. And I hated not being able to stop eating. And I was overwhelmed with shame *all of the time!* There was literally not a waking moment that I wasn’t aware of how “wrong” I was.
For all of the non-weight related benefits of having my eating under control, when I gave up simple sugars and carbohydrates, and put boundaries around my eating, I did it to lose weight; to not be fat. And it worked. It was not easy, but it was simple. And in the beginning, I had a few years of being skinny. And they were lovely. I enjoyed them. It was fun to not only not worry about my body, but to have it admired. (OK, sometimes I really did not like the attention, but often I did.) 
Over the years (13 years, 11 months and one week, give or take) my weight has fluctuated. I have not been skinny like I was for a while there for the past 7 or so years. But the definition of fat in the US has also changed in the past several years.
See, fat Kate would have wished desperately to be the size I am now. A straight size L. Sometimes XL depending on the cut. (I have a big butt.) And the world that fat Kate lived in would have said that L or XL wasn’t fat. But in the world today, “fat” keeps getting smaller and smaller, while real human bodies keep getting bigger and bigger. And thinness is being seen more and more as a moral issue. Thin people (women) are “good” and anyone (any woman) who is not thin is now fat, and also “bad.“ And who qualifies as thin keeps getting more and more exclusive. And harder to achieve. 
I am very happy in my body, which can climb stairs with ease (a very real anxiety for my fat self) and jog 2 miles 5 days a week (it would not have even been an option for fat Kate to be anxious about.) I am happy naked and in my clothes. I am happy because I am not a slave to food. And in not being a slave to food, I can also not be a slave to public opinion, or cultural standards. I do what I do. I stay in my lane and mind my own business. And I don’t have to worry about who thinks what about my body. *I* think it’s a miracle!
I want to continue to devalue thinness in my world and in my thinking. I value my eating boundaries, not for keeping me “socially acceptable,” but for keeping me free of food obsession, for keeping me active, for keeping my comfortable in my body and in my skin, for letting me not be constantly thinking about what other people are thinking of my body.
I want to continue to dismantle the ways I have internalized “thinness as a virtue.” I also want to note that when I was skinny, besides having my eating under control, I was a pack-a-day-smoker. Since I quit, I have never gotten back to being as skinny as I was then. So part of my thinness was due to abusing my body. Hardly virtuous. I want to be virtuous by caring for my body with good food, good exercise, good sleep, good hydration. I want to remember always that self-care is a virtue. One I want to cultivate. Thinness is a state of being, and it has zero moral implications or ramifications. 

Sometimes, just sometimes, food is not the point.

Today is going to be quick because I was already supposed to be in Oklahoma yesterday, but we didn’t leave. Because we don’t really want to leave our beautiful house! So I am eating breakfast and prepping for a 10 hour drive. All of my food for the day (and tomorrow just in case) is cooked and in Tupperware. And I am enjoying one last meal (for now) at my dining room table that I love so much.

Friday night we had people over. Friends who are family and family who are friends. It was a great night with lots of laughs. And I didn’t eat what everyone else did. 
My husband and our friends’ son made everyone food I can’t eat. The main dish had rice in it. And then they made potatoes on the side. So I ate one of my “junk food” dinners. Mostly Pork rinds dipped in salsa, and sausage. Nobody cared. When you’ve been doing something for over a decade, the people who have known you for a while run out of questions.
My husband was happy to make something he thought would be delicious for our guests. And at this point, the eating part of being with people is not important to me. 
If I want to really savor my eating experience, which I do sometimes, I want to eat alone. But on Friday, I wanted to laugh with our friends. To hear their stories and tell my own. I still love to eat, but the eating is not the joy of get-togethers for me anymore. It’s the relationships that I can be in and available for, because my eating is under control. 

Letting go of foods, and stuff, and FOMO

One of the most important gifts I got when I got my eating under control was the gift of letting go. 

As a sugar and carbohydrate addict, getting my food taken care of meant I had to let go of my “favorite” foods. No more cake or candy bars. No more french fries or pizza or cereal. The vast majority of what I ate had been highly processed carbs and sugar. And I made the decision to let it all go. 
Well, we just had our home in the suburbs renovated, and everything that had been in the house ended up in the garage. And yesterday, my husband and I started to go through it. And my friends, I have the freedom to throw most of it away. And for that I am grateful. 
I am not a person who lets go naturally. It does not come easily to me, literally or figuratively. In fact, sometimes I will be walking around in the world doing things one handed, because it does not occur to me to put the things in my hand down. It could be my wallet, or an empty mug, or just something I picked up and haven’t thought yet to put down. So sometimes I see something, let’s say a sweater that I haven’t worn in 5 years, and think that maybe I will need to wear it some time. That I better not get rid of it yet. That it might come in handy some day. (Spoiler alert! It is never going to come in handy.)
I am obviously not the only one. Marie Kondo created a multimillion dollar business for herself because we are a society that desires material comforts, and hates to part with what we have. 
The kids today *shakes walking stick* call it FOMO, fear of missing out. I was a slave to food, afraid there would never be enough. That I would never get my share. (Oh, I got my share. And a good portion more than my share.) That I would never feel safe and comforted again. So I ate the cake, all the cake.  And while that made me comfortable and numb, it did not make me happy. 
So if I can let go of my addictive foods, the foods that quelled my overwhelming feelings, and felt like my friends and companions during my difficult times, I can let go of a sweater (or 15) that I don’t even like well enough to wear. 
And it feels good. It feels almost as good not to be tied to *things*, as it does not to be tied to food, or chasing that sugar high. Almost.

Why do they put sugar in meat?!?!?: A sausage story

I am going to keep this kind of short again this week, because my husband and I have more shopping to do for our gorgeous home and we also need to stuff some Italian sausage before we leave. 

Because guess what? The one sausage I used to be able to get here in the Chicago suburbs that didn’t have sugar in it, started adding sugar to its sausage since the last time I was here. (This is why I still read labels, you guys.)
But I will tell you that our homemade Italian sausage, like my homemade vanilla, is so much better than anything packaged I have ever gotten anywhere else. Also, by making our own, we can adjust the seasoning so it is as close to real Chicago Italian sausage as we can make it. (Though my husband is a little bummed because we just got a new meat grinder for this house and we used the smallest grinder setting and it seems to have crushed all of the fennel seeds.)
That is one thing I want to note about my sugar-free lifestyle. It takes work. (My husband does 80% of the sausage work. I feel like I need to say that. The vanilla is all me, though.) But ultimately, what I am getting in the end is better than what I can get packaged and processed. Not only do I know what isn’t in my food, like sugar, or starch, or flour, but I know exactly what *is* in my food. 
Fresh food tastes better, makes me feel better, and keeps me in a body I like and love no matter my size. Giving up sugar is not easy in the beginning because it is everywhere. (Even in Italian sausage, which seems so ridiculous to me.) But once the commitment really set in for me, it got really easy. I know my priorities. Number one is to keep within my boundaries. But number two is to eat really delicious foods that don’t make me feel deprived. 
I love food. I will always love to eat. And now I do it guilt free. 
Having a husband who will cut up 6 pounds of pork shoulder and season it for you so that you only really have to help with the casings (P.U. Do those things stink!) and the actual stuffing is just an added bonus. Though I highly recommend you get one of those kinds of husbands if you can manage it!

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