"What is it that I want to give to myself?"

Dr. Barb with Jill Tanis

Jill TanisJill Tanis, co-founder of The Nourish to Flourish Society, studied exercise science and psychology at Hope College. She worked as a corporate wellness education coordinator for five years before returning to study at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. She is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, studied under Marc David at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, and is certified at the Mastery level of the Transformational Coaching Method, which focuses on deep change work using neuro-linguistic programming. She has been coaching private clients and group programs for the past 11 years.

Barb: Something that has really inspired us, and I’m sure our listeners as well, is hearing the energy, passion, and care that our returning guest, Jill Tanis, brought to the podcast in her first appearance. Jill has overcome several health obstacles – both mental health issues in college and now a chronic condition. And she uses that to empower women to flourish in their own lives. We are excited to continue our conversation with her today because we knew she had more that she needed to add to the conversation. Thanks for joining me again, Jill.

Jill: Thanks for having me back, Barb.

Barb: In a recent blog post, you write about how often you hear women tell you that they’d forgotten to eat that day. And that resonated with me because I had a recent conversation with a cardiologist, Dr. Stacey Rosen, and she talked about how women have a tendency for meeting the needs of others, caring for others, making that a priority, and oftentimes not addressing some of their own needs. I wondered if maybe that was a symptom of that because I think in the busy-ness of our own lives and days we’re “not putting on our own oxygen mask,” so to speak. What are some ways that women can help themselves feed themselves, maybe just beyond the food prep the night before?

Jill: Yes, we – and I say we – I had my own private practice, but also we had been (my business partner and I; you’ll hear me refer back to her), but we come across this all the time in the work that we are doing with women, so I love that you are bringing this up. Practically speaking for me if we’re talking about some ways that women can "feed" themselves beyond just prep – I mean practically, it’s not very sexy, Barb, but grocery shopping. [laughs] Grocery shopping is a non-negotiable for me. It sounds interesting, but I think before we can get even to this idea of how do we regularly feed ourselves or prep the meal, we’ve got to have the food in the house, and a plan of when it gets prepared.

An interesting little poll that I used to do in a group program that I taught several years ago called “The Family Food Revolution” – it was a group of moms every single time, 30 women at a time – at the beginning our four-week course, I would say to the women, “How many of you plan out your weekly meals and grocery shop ahead of time?” It was an eye-opener for me every single time that on average, two women out of the 30 would raise their hand. What I learned from that was, “Wow! Okay, we’ve really got to go back to the basics here.” Right? Some really nitty gritty basics of making time to do that.

We're motivated to care for others, but how are we motivated to care for ourselves?It’s interesting that you’re talking about the oxygen mask, because we can do these things or are motivated to do these things for other people, but how do we figure out how to do it for ourselves? Because if I’m going to make a meal for somebody else, I’m going to go to the store. I’m going to make the meal. I’m going to take the time. So for me personally, when I take the time every single week to get everything on my list for the week ahead, and exponentially, I’m more successful in fueling myself for the week. If I don’t make the time to think about my meal until the day of, the chances of it being a great meal or any meal, for that matter, while also not producing stress along the way, is way less. That has worked for me and so many clients I work with. I would just say that that is something that if you are not, as a woman who is listening, not cultivating this in a weekly practice, I can tell you how many clients I’ve worked with who come to me scattered and not feeling themselves; not making the time. And just this one practice has made huge differences in their life – not just for them but for their families.

Some women find that it’s maybe every three of four days or whatever it looks like, but by and large, before we can talk about how do we get the meal on the plate, there has to be this forethought of planning and shopping for them. At four p.m., the last thing I want to think about is what’s for dinner. And I’ve already made this decision ahead of time by going to the store, I don’t have expend more energy making one more decision. And I love that the decision for what I’m going to eat has already been made for me when I set my meal in place at the beginning of the week. I recognize this takes practice, and we talk about this and support women and figure out how to do this. But it’s just something for women to think about when they’re waking up in the morning, what does that feel like? And I will tell you, Barb, there are times, where I don’t want to do this for myself – you know. And I teach this stuff!

I had one of those examples this weekend, this past weekend. So in those moments where I don’t want to, I go inward for a moment and I literally visualize: Okay, if I don’t go right now, what will my week look like and feel like if I don’t do this, and what will my week look like and feel like if I do. I can still make the decision not to, but over the period of time that has been a really helpful tool for me. So I think for a lot of women if you don’t know where to begin, and you would like to have something that is done for you and get you started, and I know we’ll talk about this, but our Reset is a great place to begin for accountability in guidance and coaching, just getting you a jump start into that.

Barb: I would say that I’m one of the 28 women in the room who did not raise their hand about doing that, and for a variety of reasons. Probably the ones you hear from most women, it’s the time and intention to do it in advance, the dislike of grocery shopping, the changes of schedule, or who’s at the table, and what I thought might occur didn’t occur. I’m curious, are you supportive of some of the new technologies we have available to us and tell women (and men) who want to opt into having others shop and deliver it to the front door? Do you see that as a helpful tool for your clients to maybe be more successful?

Jill: So helpful! There are many women in our Reset who will get our recipes and we have our grocery list, and they will use those services that are available wherever they are, in whatever town they are. And I will say that if we didn’t have those services, they wouldn’t have likely been as successful. I love that. Whatever you can do to make yourself successful at the goals that you want – I believe firmly in accountability – and if that is part of the rhythm, that is awesome! That is great!

There’s definitely benefit when I’ve gone and brought my kids when they were young to shop with me. I look back on that – it’s hilarious – three kids under five, and I’m shopping for stuff. But I see how that’s been an imprint on them now. And I did that with my mom, so that’s probably why it’s easier for me to do that now. So I do think there’s a sense of modeling that can be supported to whatever we want to give to our kids as an opportunity. But equally supportive is, I’m still going to find a way to meet those health goals that I have with the options that are available to me. And this is what I’m doing, and I love that.

Barb: That last time we talked, you mentioned the 14-Day Reset. And I understand you have a Fall Reset coming up.

Jill: Yes.

Barb: I love the description where it says, “Fall in Love with Self-Care.” What do you find are the forms of self-care that women most easily adopt or are most able to successfully maintain?

Jill: Hmm. This is a big juicy topic, Barb. I feel like the reason this is in our Reset is because we can have the meal plan, we can do all those things, but if we don’t get into those deeper rhythms of learning this larger sense of self-care, when we do that, those other things come more naturally. Like because I have a deep sense of wanting to practice self-care in my life, that’s probably why my grocery shopping goes better for me. Right?

The bottom line, I think that whatever it is, whatever the self-care is, at the heart of this to me is really supporting women and give them permission to let it be okay. Giving them permission to explore self-care in any realm and what works for them. Like this is a practice. This is not something where – I was just talking with somebody who was in the Reset just a couple days ago. We were talking, and said, “Self-care is in some minds is like a spa day or a weekly massage, or getting a mani/pedi.” And it’s so much more! Right? Daily practices that feed you and give you life, not only life-giving, but there’s a sense of a restorative nature to it as well for all the things we empty out in our day. What are those things that we can do that fill us back up, so that we can serve well? So that’s why I say giving yourself permission is key, and I would say starting small. Those are the things that are most easily adopting.

Your day will not fall apart if you take ten minutes for yourself to eat. It could be the gift of slowing down enough to take just ten minutes to sit down and eat your breakfast or your lunch. Because what I’ve found is that the majority of women that I support do not start out by doing this when we work together. They are standing up. They’re rushing around. What the message that I have for them is that your day will not fall apart if you take ten minutes for yourself to eat. In fact, you might find the opposite is true. It might be life-giving and energizing for the rest of your day. And in fact, what is the message if I am not doing that? What am I believing about, whether it’s my work or my significance of always having to keep busy doing something for somebody else that I cannot stop and honor my body’s need to refuel? So that’s one thing I would say about that.

The forms of self-care look vastly different for every woman. I find women that have self-cared by knitting, reading a book, drinking their morning tea and having some quiet space in the morning. It could be with a bunch of women that they love, that they meet with on a regular basis to celebrate being together. It could be the accountability of a walking partner. It just runs. But I think the intentionality of it is really important as well as giving you permission.

Barb: So Jill, can you give us some tangible ways for women to be successful in some of the self-care approaches?

Jill: Yes. From that food piece, I have a thing that I find for most women is that they skip lunch. Right? And that seems to be a very common thing. I want to mention that one of the things we do on Reset is we encourage you to reserve a portion of your dinner for lunch the next day, so it’s done. So you’ve got lunch ready to go, and you just take what you had for dinner and you put some aside – if you have a lot of kids, put it aside ahead of time – and if you live in a home with less people you might have several lunches from that one dinner.

A couple of other quick ways would be... smoothies are another great way to get a quickly-prepped breakfast into your day. And we love this. And when we designed this for the Reset, women love them because they are designed to carry you from breakfast to lunch. And very rarely will you be hungry for a morning snack, so it just lessens the thought about all of that altogether.

The other thing that came to my mind is I have a friend who partners with a couple of other moms, and each week they take turns to make meals. So one mom makes the same three meals, drops them off on one night, the next night another mom does it, then the night another mom does it. So they all eat all the same meals, but it gives them a couple of nights off of cooking. So a couple of tangible things that might be helpful for our listeners.

Barb: I see that your credits are somewhat like mine when I talk about self-care as well. It’s often not a difficult conversation to have when I see women because they are frazzled. They are at the end of their rope. They’ve had it. Something has to change. So, I feel like encouraging women to make an adaptation to their life is an opportunity that they are willing to consider, because they must. I’m just curious as to what strategies you use to encourage and support women in making those changes in advance of hitting the end of their rope. Because I find that’s a really more challenging scenario for me to communicate to women.

Jill: Yes. I agree with you. First there’s the commitment and permission to invest in themselves, whatever that might look like. So whether it’s a Reset where you are committed, you’ve created the time and money to invest in it, or it’s a group – like if you’ve always wanted to do Pilates, you know that’s going to be good for you; you invest that time and commitment in just showing up. The strategies for me are all about accountability. In what ways can I find what really resonates with me and give me the ability to show up for it every single time, or at least most of the time. For me personally, in certain phases of my life when I haven’t been as motivated – we talked a little about my chronic issues with autoimmune disease – I didn’t have the energy to get up and move my body. So the strategy for me was asking women to come, friends to come and walk with me. My husband walked with me. I signed up for a tennis class. I showed up every single time. So I think it’s the commitment and permission to invest in yourself. Along those lines, the strategy for me is to figure out what that actually looks like for you. Because self-care has such an open-ended – the possibilities are open-ended.

What is it that makes you come alive?I say to women, “What if you were to finish this sentence: ‘I want to feel more of ____.’” And then just start drilling. Mostly it’s, “I want to feel more calm.” “I want to feel more energized.” “I want to have more peace.” – whatever those things are. And then continue to explore. Like, “When I’m done doing X,” and you would insert whatever self-care practice that is, “I feel more ___.” Whenever I’m done doing yoga, I feel more relaxed, I feel more calm, grounded, connected to myself, whatever it is. And you connect those two. You want to feel more calm and connected, and then you find those self-care practices that go in that direction and allow those things to be true. Because if you want to feel more calm and connected or more relaxed – whatever it is – and you decide that self-care looks like running five miles a day – it can – but maybe for you that’s stressful, or you don’t enjoy it.

One of the terms I use with women is embodiment, which is this idea of being in and with your body on her own terms. What is it that makes her come alive? What is it that makes her feel relaxed and her calm? Not what makes your neighbor Susie feel calm or your friend so-and-so, what is it for you? Then being able to look for ways through the commitment and permission and accountability to invest in those things.

Barb: Let’s talk more specifically about diet and food. I understand your 14-day program includes recipes for the time period that they are in the program. Can you talk a little bit more specifically about how it is you create those, and what your criteria might mean, and what thoughts or intentions go into creating that?

Jill: Yes. Our Reset at the base level, like when we decided what do we want to create here from a food piece. So there’s the whole self-care piece that we’ve talked about, but when we created the plan, we wanted to create what, in a larger sense, like in an anti inflammatory plan. So we want to remove even inflammatory foods, what my business partner, Angelle, has called the "suspicious seven." And it’s really easy to remember. She’s an educator and she always comes up with these great little terms. We removed what we call the suspicious seven which are corn, soy, dairy, gluten/grains, peanuts/legumes, eggs, and fine sugar. In fact, we do add coffee, alcohol, and caffeine to that mix too, so I guess it’s really ten, but we never tell women until they get in the door [laughs] about those three. It’s kind of a “Oh yeah, these are part of it too.” But these foods all contribute or can contribute to inflammation in the body. And they can contribute to gut health, and balance, and blood sugar, and hormonal imbalance, and fatigue, and mood swings, and cravings – so we start there. And maybe you’re thinking, “Oh my goodness, that’s my entire diet. What would I eat?” [laughs]

In its place we’ve put together a delicious and satisfying meal plan, done for you for 14 days, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, where you don’t feel at all like you’re missing any of those things. It is possible. If you talk to the women who are in Reset, by and large, everyone is like, “This meal plan is so delicious.” And that’s our goal. We want it to be delicious and satisfying and so good without realizing that all these things are missing.

And we don’t stop there. We talk about eating with them. So it’s not just about the food, it’s about encouraging them to eat in a meal rhythm, which in the Reset is three meals a day. And they are satisfying and fulfilling enough to get you from one meal to the next without being hungry. So no snacks. Which sounds maybe again for a lot of women, like “Are you kidding me?” But it’s amazing when you experiment with this. Women are like, “Wow!” Not only does it allow our bodies to move into fat-burning mode, but it also helps stabilize blood sugar which helps stabilize mood and cravings and sleep and supports our hormones. I know we talked about this with my business partner, Angelle, in a recent podcast – these foods for supporting hormones, but this is it in a nutshell.

So we give you that plan. And then in addition to that, we have a guide book to help you prepare. We have a shopping list, prep tips, we have a Facebook community to navigate all these things, ask questions, get coaching, prepping tips, and really inspire you along with all these other women to help you succeed in your goals. That’s how we planned the actual food portion of the Reset, and it’s been very very well received.

Barb: I would say that choosing recipes can be very difficult and so through this plan and beyond the plan, I think your website includes additional recipes that continue to support and promote that approach to dietary modification. So is there a longer-term plan to help women then maintain and sustain a dietary plan along that line?

Be in tune with your own unique body.Jill: Yes. There’s a few things we do. Practically speaking, after every Reset we offer a 12-week meal plan that is put together by one of Angelle’s long-time colleagues, Chef Jackie. So that’s available and they are very Reset-friendly. For women who want specifically the next several months to have this, that is available to them. During the Reset what we do is – you know a lot of women who come in with “What should I eat?” During the Reset we encourage women to really pay attention to their unique body and what’s going on during the Reset. She’s constantly speaking and communicating with you, and we try to help you tune in to that during the Reset about how to listen to that body piece, be into your body and with her so that, for example, after the Reset, maybe you choose to add gluten back in and you realize wow, you get so bloated. Or you get a migraine. Or whatever it is, something that maybe she experienced before the Reset, it went away during the Reset, and then voila, it comes back. Now she has a pulse into her body cues as to what gluten might be doing. It might take some time for her to come to terms with that that might not be a good idea. So she honors her journey, her body cues, honors that it’s maybe going to take time to get into this rhythm. For example, I went off gluten about five years ago. It took me nine months to be completely be off gluten because I would go back. “It’s okay.” Then I’d remember, “No, this is how it made me feel.” And it just took that long for me to realize, “Hey, this isn’t what supports me.”

We tell women to make a few tweaks during the Reset. Try those anchoring experiences that really worked for you, and then go experiment with them for a few months. Then come back to the Reset, again a different meal plan for like winter, fall, and spring. Come back, grab a few more things on your journey, and continue along your own continuum.

Barb: Do you have recipes that you come back to over and over?

Jill: Oh yeah. I do, and it’s interesting because I did reach out to our community and I asked them what gives them the staying power to be a favorite. It’s amazing how really in fact people are probably surprised to know that I have a very simple meal plan. And it doesn’t take me a long time to prepare. And I probably only have 10 to 15 meals in my rotation every few months with maybe one or two new ones throughout the month or one a week or something. I keep it super simple.

When I did a little question to my Reset community, the same thing. What are the staples? What are the ones you come back to over and over again? It had to do with the taste and the ease and just that it worked really well for the whole family. That’s actually our goal in the Reset to do all those three things – the taste of it we want to be delicious, we want it to be easy, and we want it to be something that everybody will love.

Barb: Yes, which of course can be a bit of a challenge when you are trying to work around others in the family who may have different interest or appeals than your own. So I would say that. Unfortunately, probably in my household, the vast difference of food preferences has resulted in restaurants being a great choice because everybody gets to pick out the menu with what they want knowing we are all going to be very different, one from the other. Unfortunately, that has been a go-to, so I assume the foods that are available to women who are preparing for families are basic enough that the expectation is most individuals around the table are going to be able to enjoy that, and not too exotic I would say to introduce to the picky eater.

Jill: Very true. I would say that a lot of women are super surprised that they’re delicious, they taste amazing, they are easy, and they recognize the names of them. We just put a twist on them to remove the inflammatory foods. So a lot of them you will see, for example in our upcoming Reset we have baked chicken fajitas. Oh, everybody recognizes what a fajita is, and it’s super easy because it’s a sheet pan recipe. You cut it up, you add in enough seasonings for it, and it seems to go over wonderfully.

The other thing I would say too about kids is, I thinks it’s helpful for parents to know that you can take a kid – and even adults really – being introduced to a new food can take ten to twelve times before they are willing to try it. Our taste buds are constantly regenerating, so my advice is being able to find recipes that you can create that maybe pair with a familiar food to them, so there’s something that – I avoid using the word, “I have a picky eater.” We try to re-frame that for parents like we are trying to encourage adventurous eaters, people who are curious, people who would be willing to have a couple of what we call no-thank-you-bites. Be able to prepare a new meal with already familiar foods.

I did this with my son. He was three. He hadn’t touched a strawberry until he was three, but I just kept putting it on his plate. Kept putting it on his plate. Just a strawberry. Then finally one day, he looked at me and said, “I’m going to try this thing.” [laughs] And he did and he was like, “Oh, I love it. I really love it. Mom, why didn’t you have me try this earlier?” So it’s just testament to – it can be a long haul sometimes – but I’ve watched kids’ palates change. Or if you find things that do work with them. Like we have tons of smoothies in our Reset for example, and kids just start to really gravitate towards those. Start there. You know? Just develop the palate a little bit at a time.

Along those other lines, Barb, I would say for me, “I’m not a short-order cook. This is what’s for dinner.” Sometimes you’re going to love what’s for dinner, and sometimes you won’t. It won’t be your favorite, but for my family, I talk a little bit about how it’s a bit of a life metaphor where we don’t always get what we want, and how do we work with that, especially if somebody is serving us something, to be grateful. And also, what am I enabling if I just let them go in this direction, “Oh you don’t like this. I’ll make you something else.” Let’s do this as a family. So there’s just a lot of good learning that happens along the way. Parents – moms especially in our group – get really excited to support each other along that journey together.

Barb: So many women may not be able to participate in Nourish to Flourish. What wisdom might you share generally with women to help them move to a lifestyle that is going to be improving upon and allowing them to flourish more?

Jill: Hmmm. We talked earlier about that commitment, investing, and giving permission to invest in themselves. I think that’s a big one. But, I also think that expectations play a big role about what it’s supposed to look like or what you think it should look like. I was just talking with someone from the Reset a couple of weeks ago and she said, “When I looked at what you guys were doing, I said ‘that was way beyond what I can do.’” And she had no connection to that. And then she got to know us and she realized, “Oh, this is step by step; this is a guide, these are real moms who get it. And for her it was like, “Wow, if I have this expectation that I have to completely revamp everything we’ve ever done, of course it’s going to feel like you can’t do that.”

What is it that I want to give to myself?I want to say that expectations, I think, play a huge role, and whatever women choose as far as moving towards the lifestyle they know they should be making, often with these expectations, the question that we ask is, “Instead of what am I giving up – the coffee, or got to give up sugar or alcohol, or got to give up whatever it is, what am I gifting to myself? What is it that I want to give to myself? Be curious about what’s possible. What is possible for me?” Because this – whatever it is for a lot of women, whether it’s the migraines, or it’s the bloating, or just terrible PMS symptoms, or whatever it is, this is not working for me. So I encourage women to be curious and be open, and to hold those expectations loosely that it needs to look like something, and just move in that direction of making a commitment and the permission to invest in themselves whatever that looks like.

Manage the things that you can manage.Barb: My experience has been that women underestimate the connection between food and the outcome of how they feel and function. I think you just stated it well. I just wish more women would have an expectation, as you put it, of how much maybe they can control in their lives. They feel like they can’t. My message to women is often: manage the things that you can manage. There are some things that maybe you can’t manage. What your pituitary gland is doing at this moment, directing your ovaries and other endocrine organs may not be directly under your control at this moment, but what you have for lunch today is under your control today. Or whether you choose to exercise. I think this connection of understanding food and their general health and wellness, there’s such a huge disconnect. So I hope a major message that women can get from this is that hitting that reset and taking those steps is likely to have a very favorable outcome in some way. It may be like you said, it took you some time to go through the journey to understand exactly what some of those connections were, but at least start.

Jill: And I want to piggy-back by saying, yes I found out that maybe for example gluten didn’t work for me. But my health is constantly evolving, as is yours and everyone listening to this. I feel like a lot of women feel like it’s an arrival point. Like if I can just, you know, just tell me how to do it and I’ll do it and this is where I’ll stay. But our bodies are constantly shifting and changing through the month. Our cycles shift and things shift, so the message is really about being in tune with your own unique body, and listening in, and making course corrections along the way.

I'm learning as I go; some days are better than others, and that's okay.Let’s say a couple days don’t go as planned, and then I hear women say, “I’ve fallen off the wagon, and I went off track, and now I have to get back on track.” Our goal, my goal is to teach women a different language about how to go about looking at this. It’s all a journey. If we have the language of, “I’ve been bad. I’ve spiraled down.” And somehow leave it alone versus, “This is all part of my journey. I’m just learning as I go, and some days go better than others, and that’s okay.” What I’m committed to is my health and my discovery of what most nourishes me – and some days that goes great, and some days it’s not – that’s okay, but I’m committed to this journey.

Barb: As we bring our conversation to a close, the last time we did this, you talked about the Sabbath as a practice that you honored. That it was really life-giving to you, and very purposeful as the way you honored that day. Now, as we talk later, as we approach a change of seasons, I’m just wondering if you have anything to add to that as to how you look ahead to be reinvigorated and find your sense of self and purpose.

Jill: Hmmm. It’s interesting. My oldest son, this summer he turned 12. And I had this gravity of realizing that I have like six more years with my oldest at home. It’s really starting to sink in. Six more summers, six more Christmases with us intact as a family at home. I started to just really reevaluate and ask questions about myself, my role as a mom, and really how I’m soaking in this very – what I would consider – this very rich and precious season of life. With that is a backdrop in large part I took the summer off to be with my kids. To be off of work. My schedule with how busy I am during other months just allows me to slow down when they are home. So I loved that pace, the morning walk routines with my friends, my husband, loved the mornings with my kids; all that stuff. And now they are back in school, and yeah, you’re right. It’s a catalyst for me to jump back. I always had a Sabbath in some ways of my summer to be able to jump back in with renewed energy and clarity for a very full September. I’m very excited about it.

But in that process, I – more on a deeper level – I’m really reassessing this idea of purpose and sense of self. Like when you asked that, it’s really interesting. I’m experimenting with dropping this large ideal that I’ve had of where I thought I’d be when I’m 40, or when I’m 50. Or to find some grand purpose or sense of self for my whole life. And I find myself now exploring this day to day, day by day. That versus this really big picture of all trying to find this big grand purpose, and instead waking up and being playful and curious (for lack of a better word) presence to the littlest things. Like yesterday we were watching our 7-year old making a sandwich for lunch in the morning before school. And he was focused, and he had some butter all over the counter, like it was just a mess. And my husband and I just shared this endearing laugh of behind the scenes – not in front of him of course – this depth of love for this little tiny human. And watching him grow. I just find myself soaking in these moments that are deepening the clarity to my sense of self and purpose, and really being more present to nature, to the littlest things. It helps me to be more authentic in relationships and in my connections. So that definitely is what is resonating with me right now.

Barb: Well thanks Jill. I appreciate your sharing that, and I think it’s a great message that I think we can all take to heart and look for opportunities in our own days to cherish some of the small things, and stop to appreciate some of those, again, small miracles, so to speak, that are in front of us that we normally don’t take the time to appreciate. So, thanks again for sharing with our listeners, Jill. I appreciate it.

Jill: Thanks for having me.


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