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P005, Diets, Session 1, Judith Matz


Welcome to “Diets and Our Demons,” a 4-week webinar series which will cover a variety of perspectives about helping our clients maintain mental and physical health. This series follows our January/February 2011 issue, which was also called “Diets and Our Demons,” which reported on research and case studies related to different ways of looking at dieting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you’re interested, check out that issue here.

In this first session with Judith Matz, the director of the Chicago Center for Overcoming Overeating, she will present some of the research that shows that dieting is actually counterproductive. Matz will discuss why the practices of attuned eating and weight acceptance can offer a more effective substitute to conventional dieting techniques.

After each webinar session, a Comment Board will be provided so that all of you can share reflections on what you’ve learned, or any questions you may have. We believe these forums create a sense of community of learning and help inspire each other. Please take a few moments to comment on what was most interesting or relevant to you, and we encourage you to include your name and hometown with your comments. Thank you for your participation.

If you're interested in additional information, check out Judith Matz's resource page here!


04.27.2011   Posted In: P005 New Perspectives on Practice: Diets and Our Demons   By Jordan Magaziner
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  • Not available avatar Abby Houtchend 04.28.2011 13:10
    Thank you Judith. Great information. Confirms my personal 30 year struggle with weight gain and loss. Especially the yelling at myself "hate speech". Some of my work in the past has been alcohol and drug group therapy. For certain clients in that venue, I believe many of your principals would be helpful.
    • Not available avatar judith matz 05.03.2011 17:11
      Hi Abby,

      Thanks so much for your comment. When you mention the "hate speech" it makes me think of one of the lessons in The Diet Survivor's Handbook: When you speak negatively about your body, you inflict harm upon yourself. Learn to talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend. I hope you will find that self-compassion!

      I wish you well, Judith
  • 0 avatar Nancy Ross 04.28.2011 13:11
    Thanks so much to Judith for taking such a respectful approach to clients who are often so hard on themselves. I plan on incorporating many of her ideas which fit easily into my current practices utilizing hypnosis and EMDR. Nancy Ross, LCSW
    • Not available avatar judith matz 05.03.2011 17:22
      Hi Nancy,

      So glad to hear that you will be able to incorporate these ideas into your practice. You are so right that people who struggle with food and weight issues tend to be very hard on themselves - and others are often hard on them as well! Using this compassionate approach opens up so many new possibilities for our clients. Best, Judith
  • 0 avatar Zoe Waggoner 04.28.2011 13:13
    Thank you, Judith, for a very informative presentation. I started small groups last year called 'When You Eat, What Are You Feeding.' In preparing for those groups I have done a lot of reading and investigation of what works for people. I keep exploring, and I know that I will be using some of the information you shared today. Thank you. I will also take a look at the websites you mentioned. Zoe Waggoner, MA, Olympia, Washington
    • Not available avatar judith matz 05.03.2011 17:24
      Hi Zoe,

      I like the title of your groups! Thanks for watching, and I'm glad to hear you'll be able to use some ideas from this webinar. Best wishes, Judith
  • -0.1 avatar judy veon 04.28.2011 13:13
    Thank you for a new way to approach how we think of ourselves in relationship to dieting and weight management. Judy Veon New Wilmington PA
  • Not available avatar Al Bright 04.28.2011 13:16
    As a yo-yo dieter of many years (I'm in my 70's) I am inspired and grateful to hear so clearly what I already knew in my heart but haven't heard with my ears so clearly. Thank you so much. For years I've been telling myself, "I can't believe that something so natural as eating well has become for me so torturous - and I won't really commit to changing until the change feels EASY, i.e. NATURAL". Your teaching, Judith, is the God-shot I was looking for -- and I knew it all the time!
  • Not available avatar Cathy Gawlik 04.28.2011 13:28
    I intend to purchase your book.
    I done them all - diets that is. I have still been trying
    to - diet that is. It hasn't worked and now I know why. Will recopy my hastely taken notes to crystalize this for me.
    I work with clients who struggle - yell - at themselves. As do I. This Attuned Eating seems so comforting and encouraging. I agree with the previous comment of your presence, presentation being a God-shot. Thank you.
  • 0 avatar Anne Finlay 04.28.2011 14:15
    Thank you for a very interesting and helpful seminar. I particularly liked the notion of "collecting experiences" on the road to self-trust as well as the work of building self-compassion through the increased awareness of the reasons why we turn to food and what we tell ourselves. Have you worked with the adolscent population with this model and do you have any advice particular to addressing this age group?
  • Not available avatar sydney rowe 04.28.2011 14:38
    Refreshing... This is obviously an issue that impacts the masses... Thank you for an alternative to the slow torture of dieting for myself and clients. Sydney Rowe, LCSW Buffalo, WY
  • Not available avatar Judith Matz 04.28.2011 21:04
    Thanks to all of you for the wonderful comments. I'm so pleased to hear that the concepts of attuned eating are useful in your clinical work - and I'm thrilled to hear that for some of you, these ideas may be life-changing.

    Anne, you asked about using this work with adolescents. Helping children/adolescents develop this type of healthy relationship with food is important as well as natural; after all, we come into this world knowing when we are hungry and full! Research tells us that high school kids who diet end up with higher body weights than their non-dieting counterparts. In my own practice, I work primarily with adults, so I often help mothers - who are doing their own work with normalizing eating - learn how to implement attuned eating in their children's lives. If you work with children or adolescents in clinical practice, it's important to make sure that their parents are on board with this approach, since they are likely to be doing the grocery shopping and food preparation. And, if parents are judging what their children eat - or making comments about weight - it will undermine the process.

    It can also be helpful to do this work within high schools - perhaps as part of a health class or body image group. In fact, a colleague of mine helped form a group called the Boulder Youth Body Alliance, and these teens have done some amazing things as they've empowered themselves - and their peers - to feel good about their bodies. There are lots of resources out their if you do decide to do this type of work with adolescents.

    As some of you mentioned, this is a very compassionate approach to food and weight issues - and speaking to yourself/clients from a place of compassion is much more likely to bring about change than the more harsh messages that go along with the diet mentality. Those thoughts tend to be very ingrained, so it can take practice to change that internal voice, but it's well worth it.

    Best to all of you! Judith Matz, Chicago

  • Not available avatar leticia tayabas 04.29.2011 19:47
    Dear Judith and Rich:

    Thank you so much for this very interesting and innovative way of thinking about diets and overweight, I am writting to you from Mexico, a country whose been named as the second country with the most overweight population, studies have shown here that under-nourishment in childhood is related to later age overweight and obesity, could you please comment on this startling results?. Thank you again for your
    and Psychotherapy Networker´s generosity.
    • Not available avatar judith matz 04.30.2011 10:25
      Hi Leticia,

      That's an interesting question! I'm not familiar with the studies you're referring to, but I've seen research about babies whose mother's don't gain enough weight during pregnancy - they also end up heavier. My understanding of the explanation for this is that their bodies learn to hold on to fat - and get better at storing it - to make sure they can survive. This is similar to what I talked about regarding evolution = that we have a genetic propensity to hold on to fat after a period of famine. That may explain the phenomenon you're talking about (but please don't quote me on that!) The studies you report are a good reminder that weight regulation is very complicated and not just a matter of calories in and calories out. Wonderful to hear that you are watching from Mexico. Judith
  • Not available avatar Kori Propst 04.29.2011 20:17
    First, thank you. Your perspective is refreshing. Second, I appreciated your thoughts and focus on the affect regulation piece of eating.
    I am a nutrition consultant as well as a mental health therapist, a personal trainer and lifestyle and weight management consultant, and a clinical sports nutritionist. My clients are like many of ours, eclectic in their struggles, but people come to me for weight loss and dieting. Many have been dieting since very young ages and it is consistently apparent early on that they have very rigid rules about food, have been eating within an environment of restraint, and have done so many different things with food to lose weight, that they no longer understand or never have, what their bodies need. In our practice we focus on individualized programming. Everyone's genetics, lifestyles, activity levels, food preferences, etc. are completely different and as such, require a different approach for weight loss. I do not agree that it is safe and healthy to be overweight, and I help my clients to lose weight by dieting, but not in the manner that is traditional and that conveys an approach that will be depriving, restricting, bland, tasteless, and inflexible. Rather, under the umbrella of structured flexibility, my clients learn, with daily contact with me, how to develop behavioral flexibility, to think without dichotomy, to become aware of their cognitive distortions and uses of food. The overall goal: develop the skills necessary to have a balanced relationship wtih food so they can lose weight and maintain their weight loss. Many begin separate therapy with me to address more specifically their relationships with food, and it is a rich and rewarding experience, as you mentioned with your own clients.
    The typical weight loss clinic does not focus on these areas.
    By the way, I live in the most obese city in the United States: Evansville, IN. Quite ironic.

    Thank you again!
    • Not available avatar judith matz 04.30.2011 10:57
      Hi Kori,

      Thank you for sharing your perspective. It sounds like you are doing some great work - and that much about our approaches overlap. Correcting cognitive distortions that occur with the diet mentality, identifying food preferences, and working through the emotional issues that affect overeating are all such important aspects of helping people make peace with food.

      It sounds like where we may differ is in how we evaluate success. I think we'd agree that incorporating the above aspects of change and helping people develop and sustain healthful behaviors are all wonderful signs of success. But what if someone does integrate those behaviors and does not lose weight? Have they failed? I am uncomfortable using weight as the main criteria for success because people who struggle with weight issues usually feel so much shame already - I see health and well-being as much broader than the number on the scale and focus, instead, on sustainable behaviors.

      The Health At Every Size movement is growing rapidly and is based on scientific research that challenges the correlational relationship between weight and health. If you're interested, I hope you'll take a look at some of the references I've provided. And, Dr. Linda Bacon, who will also participate in this series, has done a terrific job in her book of examining obesity myths.

      Like you, I find this work to be incredibly rich and rewarding. All best, Judith
      • Not available avatar Kori 04.30.2011 18:17
        Thank you for your reply. I completely agree with you that success is measured in different ways. When those who come to me for weight loss, however, express a desire to lose weight, our goals do include seeing the number on the scale go down. But this is not the only are we focus on. If they are not losing weight but have incorporate new behaviors they certainly have not failed in some areas. If the goal, however, is fat loss, and it is absolutely necessary for the purpose of seeing them live, purely from a physiological standpoint, than yes, something is failing. The behaviors they have learned need to transferred to the goals of more timely eating, more appropriate portion control, and acquiring the education through their work with me on the science behind blood sugar and glucose and the amount of carbohydrates their bodies can effectively use at one time, for example. The psychology and the physiology all work together.
        Thanks again, Judith!
  • Not available avatar Dr. Deah Schwartz 04.29.2011 23:20
    What a wonderful and presentation Judith. Thank you! Dr. Deah Schwartz, www.leftoverstogo.com
    • Not available avatar judith matz 04.30.2011 10:58
      Deah, you are welcome! Judith
  • Not available avatar lynn Guiser 04.30.2011 12:17
    Thank you, Judith, for your clarity and for shining a spotlight on the prolems within the dieting industry. Very nice job! I think this webinar is a wonderful tool to help spread the word. It inspires me, as a non-diet practitioner to keep going.

    BTW, the webinar stops at the point where you introduce the descriptors of a person who is an attuned eater. Is it supposed to be that way, or am I having a technical problem?

    COngratulations, and best to you,

    Lynn Guiser

    • Not available avatar Judith Matz 04.30.2011 13:45
      Hi Lynn,

      Thanks so much for your comment, and I'm glad to hear that this webinar feels supportive of your work as a practitioner. But I'm so sorry that you had a technical difficulty and didn't get to see it all (it's a bit over an hour). I'm not sure what the problem is - and if you used the link again whether it would work (and if you can fast forward through the part you've already heard...) Hopefully someone from the Networker will see your comment and be able to advise you better than I can! Best, Judith

    • 0 avatar Psychotherapy Networker 05.03.2011 09:36
      Hi Lynn,
      We’re sorry to hear you’ve been having technical issues. This sounds like a connection problem. You could try clearing your Internet browser’s cache, and then reloading the video using the refresh button. Or, you could try using a different Internet browser or computer, if possible, to see if it works better that way. If you’re still having issues, feel free to e-mail support@iCohere.com and they’ll be able to assist you. Good luck!
  • Not available avatar Niquie Dworkin 04.30.2011 16:18

    As a Chicago based eating disorders therapist, I have been familiar with your work. I also take a mindful eating approach to disordered eating. What really stood out to me was the observation that attuned eating leads to attuned living, that is something I will likely repeat to clients. And of course the reverse is also true, the more clients are able to cultivate non-judgmental awareness in all areas of life, the more this will assist them with compulsive behaviors.

    Thanks for a clear and inspiring talk!
    • Not available avatar judith matz 05.02.2011 08:44
      HI Niquie,

      I absolutely agree that cultivating non-judgmental awareness - and bringing that openness and curiosity to the process of ending overeating - is an essential part of helping clients understand and intervene with their eating patterns.

      Great to hear you're from Chicago and using mindful eating in your work - I hope you'll let me know more about your practice! Best, Judith
  • Not available avatar Renee Segal 04.30.2011 17:37
    Thank you for your respectful perspective! I have worked with two men with eating disorders in the past. Your ideas certainly would have fit well with them. I am off to buy your book. Thank you.
    • Not available avatar judith matz 05.02.2011 08:46
      I hope you enjoy the book! I'm glad you can see how this approach would be useful in your work, and hope you'll find them helpful when the next opportunity to work with a client on these issues presents itself.
      All best, Judith
  • Not available avatar Prggy Elam 04.30.2011 22:50
    Wonderful presentation, Judith. I was pleasantly surprised at the use of video as compared to just slides & audio! Thanks to Psychotherapy Networker for providing this series & allowing free access for a while afterward, as I was not able to participate live.
    • Not available avatar judith matz 05.02.2011 08:48
      I agree that the Psychotherapy Networker has done a wonderful job in creating these webinar series...and making them accessible to everyone. Glad you enjoyed the presentation - thanks for writing. Judith
  • Not available avatar Jacqueline Sitte 05.01.2011 12:58
    Found this presentation exceptional. I have so many clients who eat emotionally, and the attuned method is so much more realistic than diet resources. I am gratful for the work that Judith Matz jas shared. it will be used in my practice. I am from stoughton, mA
    • Not available avatar judith matz 05.02.2011 08:51
      Hi Jacqueline,

      I'm so glad that the idea of attuned eating - as opposed to dieting - strikes you as a realistic and positive alternative. I'm grateful to have had this forum as a way to reach therapists who have clients struggling with overeating - I think you'll find that using this approach is rewarding for both your clients and for you! Best, Judith
  • Not available avatar jay s. gorban 05.01.2011 14:06
    Judith, Thanks. Also to Richard who is a marvelous listener. I enjoyed/appreciated all you said. It is all about knowing thyself and food is part of our relationship to living. I appreciated how rarely you used the pronoun "I". I took delight in you as a person connected. It does shine through. Thanks again. Jay
    • Not available avatar judith matz 05.02.2011 08:53
      Hi Jay,
      I couldn't agree with you more that Rich is as excellent interviewer and listener. This format was a great way to talk about how all of us have a relationship with food, and it's worth reflecting on whether we feel peaceful in that relationship or whether we feel angst. Thanks for you comment, Judith
  • 0 avatar Marilyn Scholze 05.01.2011 19:32
    I had the same problem as Lynn above and could not seem to get past the broken spot. I am very interested in hearing the rest so hope the tape or whatever gets fixed.
    • Not available avatar judith matz 05.02.2011 08:54
      So sorry that happened for you, too. I will send an e-mail to the Psychotherapy Networker and see what can be done so that you can hear the rest of the webinar. Thanks for letting us know. Judith
    • 0 avatar Psychotherapy Networker 05.03.2011 09:37
      Hi Marilyn,

      We’re sorry to hear you’ve been having technical issues. This sounds like a connection problem. Some suggestions: you could try clearing your Internet browser’s cache, and then reloading the session using the refresh button. Or you could try using a different Internet browser or computer, if possible, to see if it works better that way. If you’re still having issues, feel free to e-mail support@iCohere.com and they’ll be able to assist you. Good luck!
      • 0 avatar James Venneear 05.05.2011 08:56
        I ran into the same problem. I was using Internet Explorer. It took for bloody ever to load the program. So, I went to Mozilla and used that to access the program and it worked exceptionally well. Hope that helps.
        James Venneear
  • Not available avatar MaryCay Johns 05.02.2011 14:49
    I went through 12 minutes of the presentation and it repeated itself. I will not pay $ for these Webinars until the technichal difficulties are resolved. The presentation looked excellent. Thank you, MaryCay
    • 0 avatar Psychotherapy Networker 05.03.2011 09:38

      We’re sorry to hear about these technical issues. This sounds like a connection problem. You could try clearing your Internet browser’s cache, and then reloading the video using the refresh button. Or, you could try using a different Internet browser or computer, if possible, to see if it works better that way. If you’re still having issues, feel free to e-mail support@iCohere.com and they’ll be able to assist you. Good luck!
  • Not available avatar Barbara Grover 05.02.2011 15:40
    Thank you for your helpful presentation. I hope to learn more about attuned eating approach and am wondering if you have or could direct me to some information about doing a group with this focus. I have clients that I see individually that I think could benefit from such a group. Thank you. Barbara Grover, MFT
    • Not available avatar Judith Matz 05.03.2011 16:09
      Hi Barbara.

      As I mentioned in the webinar, groups are a powerful way to help people who are breaking the diet mentality and integrating attuned eating - as well as working on body image issues. In my first book, Beyond a Shadow of a Diet, there is a section in the chapter called Treatment Considerations, that talks about a group model for this approach, including the pros and cons of ongoing vs. time-limited groups, etc. We also have an outline in the appendix for a psycho-educational group. I'm glad you found the presentation helpful! Take care, Judith
  • Not available avatar Meredith Pope 05.02.2011 20:09
    Thank you for this excellent presentation. I wonder about clients who do not know how to evaluate if they are hungry and can't place their hunger on your hunger scale... they might say they are always hungry, insatiable appetite, etc. and may say they never feel truly full. Where do you start with that? Also, do you have any additional thoughts on people who have low blood sugar and might have those physiological needs to consider as well? For example, someone who might not be "hungry" but who might perhaps feel shaky from low blood sugar? You commented that anxiety can create a fear of being hungry, and for these folks there might exist a fear of symptoms of low blood sugar-- becoming faint, weak, etc. Do you often refer your clients to or work in conjunction with a nutritionist? Thank you, Meredith
    • Not available avatar judith matz 05.03.2011 16:19
      Hi Meredith,
      Thanks for your great questions. What you're describing about clients who don't know when they're hungry is actually pretty typical of people who have spent much of their life on the diet/binge cycle. Often they are confusing wanting to eat with being hungry...so in the beginning of treatment, the work literally is to help them tell the difference and reconnect with internal, physical cues. Usually people find it easiest to do this in the morning...but talk in detail about what they've experienced in the past, what hunger actually feels like, and have them keep paying attention. Same with fullness - think about this as reconnecting with their bodies.

      If someone has low blood sugar, becoming shaky is their physiological sign that they need food. However, there is no reason to become uncomfortable, so again, by paying attention to their bodies they can begin to identify when they need to feed themselves before they become too hungry/uncomfortable. Matching means not only eating what tastes good, but what is nourishing for someone's own body and needs, so that can mean taking into account health issues, etc. You may want to take a look at my resource page and follow the link to the article on diabetes - that will give you a better idea of how this approach works with a particular medical issue. And yes, working with a dietitian can be very helpful - hopefully you can find someone familiar with intuitive/attuned eating so your clients aren't getting mixed messages - this approach is gaining much more recognition so that's becoming easier to do. All best, Judith
  • Not available avatar Judith Potts 05.03.2011 08:51
    I appreciated this excellent presentation, which added to and complimented the information presented in the Networker article. In my experience, compulsive eating can be both a reaction to negative emotional states as well as a behavior that takes on a life of its own, even when a triggering emotion isn't present. In the latter case, eating can prevent or delay a negative emotion from developing. For example, heading to the refrigerator as soon as one comes home from work may have originally been a response to the accumulated emotions of a hard day, but over time it becomes a conditioned response simply to walking in the door (or passing a certain food store, restaurant, etc.). In those instances, acting on the impulse generated by the environmental cue prevents a bad feeling from developing. Conversely, if one does not respond in the usual way, discomfort arises. I find that once clients become conscious of this pattern and learn to tune into the feeling of satisfaction they get from not giving in to the impulse, they can change many of their habitual eating patterns. While this does not address compulsive eating for affect regulation, it is a place to start for many clients and helps people feel successful in a relatively short time, which gives them motivation and confidence to tackle the deeper issues.

    Thank you for your valuable and generous contribution to a very difficult and pervasive problem.

    Judith Potts, MA, Portland, OR www.judithpotts.com
    • Not available avatar Judith Matz 05.03.2011 16:29
      Hi Judith,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughtful reflection on how eating for affect regulation affects a person's relationship with food. I think it's great that you're helping your clients observe those patterns - I would add to your scenario that as people notice their patterns, that they also check in with themselves to see if they are physically hungry. For example, as you suggest, someone may head to the refrigeration as an automatic reaction after work, and if they are not hungry, it would be helpful to learn a different way to transition from the stress of the day. On the other hand, if the person actually is physically hungry, the correct response is to eat...even if there is some aspect of their eating that still relives the stress. Honoring physical hunger is the most reliable way for people to know when to eat, even if their is some emotional discomfort present in the moment. And, strengthening that attuned eating is what ultimately allows people NOT to eat when the "trigger" is emotional discomfort. Best, Judith

  • 0 avatar Marilyn Scholze 05.03.2011 13:23
    I am curious about what you said about the people with a BMI of overweight, living the longest. This may be important for those of us who can't ever seem to achieve that normal weight, and are harassed by our doctors to lose pounds. Can you point to the study? I greatly appreciated your approach to this topic, since being told to follow eating rules arbitrarily sets up my internal resistance. My rebellious child immediately wants to show them, by eating when and what I want.
    • Not available avatar judith matz 05.03.2011 16:53
      Hi Marilyn,

      First, I appreciate your openness in describing your rebellious child - and want to comment that this is a natural reaction for people being told what they can't eat. (It makes me think of my colleague's son - due to some health issues, he wasn't able to eat foods like raw carrots - but he could eat potato chips. When his friends were served carrots, that's the only thing he wanted! We naturally want what we're told we can't have...)

      I did include one study on my resource page that's from Canada related to weight and health. In Beyond a Shadow of a Diet, we give references for several longitudinal studies: one study from Italy found women with a BMI of 32 and men with a BMI of 29 lived the longest. The Ontario longitudinal study found mortality lowest in the "overweight" group with a BMI between 25 to 30. In Beyond a Shadow of a Diet we write, "The consistent pattern appears to be that individuals in the lowest weight category are at greatest risk, those in the highest weight category are also at risk, and those at average to slightly above were at least risk in terms of mortality. It's my understanding that there are now at least 40 studies that show people in the "overweight" category live the longest. Dr. Linda Bacon is an expert on this research. I know she will be part of this series, so you may want to tune in.

      You didn't say the status of your health, but I would encourage you to focus on that rather than on weight loss per se. When my clients are told by their doctor that they need to lose weight for health reasons, I suggest that they ask their doctors 1) can you tell me of a reliable way to lose weight and maintain that loss that is scientifically proven? (the answer is no!) and, have you ever seen this problem in thin people? (the answer is always yes!) If so, how do you treat them- that is the same treatment I want to receive.

      I hope this information is helpful. Best of luck, Judith
  • 0 avatar James Venneear 05.05.2011 09:03
    Hi Judith,

    Your presentation was outstanding and was wondering, I just started reading The Mindful Therapist by Daniel Siegal. Does your approach share similarities with the mindful approach?
    James Venneear
  • Not available avatar Judith Matz 05.06.2011 11:11
    Hi James,

    I'm a big fan of Dan Siegel's work, and I believe that many of our ideas complement each other. The Mindful therapist is on my list of books to read (I've read Mindsight and seen him speak at conferences) and I hope to pursue the topics of mindfulness and neuroscience as they relate to attuned eating at some point in the future! I'm so glad you enjoyed the webinar. Best, Judith
  • 0 avatar Donna Woody 05.09.2011 10:06
    I continue to use the attuned concept with clients as well as in my own life. The challenge is still around "weight loss." The truth is for my clients as well as myself....It feels better to move around in a "smaller" body. Adjusting what a "normal/healthy" weight might be is really important. I also find that attuned living and eating leads to a healthier weight in most cases. Thanks for educating and continuing the discussion.
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