I’m A Fat Woman Who Has Given Up Dieting For Intuitive Eating

Five weeks ago, I embarked upon a food freedom journey. For 12 weeks, I’m working with a registered dietician who specializes in intuitive eating rather than intentional weight loss.

I came to this place of fully wanting food freedom — over intentional weight loss — only after I realized that every diet and “lifestyle change” left me more anxious and obsessed about food. My preoccupation with food and eating never led to lasting weight loss. Instead, with every single lifestyle change, I reached a level of burnout where I just couldn’t do it anymore.

These experiences didn’t just leave me fatter and feeling more like a failure. They reinforced my dysfunctional relationship with food and my body.

So, after a good deal of consideration, I finally decided to stop trying to lose weight. I’ve tried virtually every diet on the planet. I figured I might as well give intuitive eating a go.

Food freedom is just what it sounds like  —  the permission to eat food with freedom rather than guilt or shame. The permission to eat what you like as opposed to whatever you’ve been told you “should” be eating.

Embracing food freedom means no longer counting on your adherence to arbitrary food rules to tell you if you’ve been “good” or “bad” each day. With food freedom, you recognize that food and eating are not moral issues.

In theory, it all sounds quite simple. You trust your body to tell you when it’s hungry, what to eat, how much to eat, and when you are full. This is what most people do naturally, at least when they’re young and haven’t yet been bombarded by diet culture.

For folks like me, it’s a helluva lot more complicated. I’ve been told my whole life that I eat too much and move too little. Many of my health issues like lipedema, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and endometriosis have been overlooked or ignored as doctors told me to “just lose weight.”

As a result, I’m nearly 40 and I don’t know how to eat. I haven’t trusted my body for a very long time, and the process of learning how to trust myself now is surprisingly hard. These days, I find myself sitting with a lot of uncomfortable feelings. Picking them up and examining what’s really going on instead of planning out a binge, or eating emotionally just because that feels good in the moment.

Lately, I have to stop and think much more about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I also have to manage my expectations and deal with recurring fears like, what if I just get fatter and fatter?

At the same time, I get to look at the small wins. Every day I go without a binge is a win. Or every day I choose to honor my hunger and fullness. It’s tough work because I wind up second-guessing myself a lot. But the dietician I’m working with says that’s normal. That the process takes time and it helps to go over the different ways dieting has harmed me in the past.

None of this is easy, but that’s completely “normal,” and although I wish I could tell you that food freedom is a magic bullet, it’s not.

Sometimes, it’s really damn exhausting.

People have been curious about what I’m doing, though, and I think it’s fair to say there are folks out there who want to see if this “works” for me. It’s hard to not look at food freedom as it’s own sort of diet, I suppose, but it’s much more fitting to call it diet rehab.

Naturally, other people want to know if I’ll “stick with the program this time,” or if I’ll end up back in a binge-restrict cycle. Some folks are still curious if I’ll ever choose gastric bypass.

I don’t think so.

It’s not that I haven’t thought about surgery. But I know myself. I need to deal with my issues instead of going on a surgically-enforced diet.

I don’t blame people for being curious or asking me questions. People who weigh as much as I do are often seen on reality TV. Not everyone knows someone who’s officially classified as “morbidly obese” or “super fat,” and given our culture’s current fat bias, I think it’s only unsurprising that people are curious about a body they don’t understand. Besides, if something can “work” for somebody as fat as me, some folks are bound to think about doing it themselves.

But I’m in the middle of my journey  —  the messy part. I’m not like Adele who’s making headlines for dropping a bunch of weight on a Sirtfood diet after reading Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed.” Frankly, I’m not willing to eat 1,000 calories a day on some toddler’s diet. Been there, done that. Taken the before and after pictures. Gushed about how happy my new lifestyle has made me.

And yet?

I never lost all the weight I wanted to lose. And I always wound up regaining much more.

I used to feel like such a failure for constantly falling back into the binge-restrict cycles. Now, my dietitian says those cycles are side effects of intentional weight loss. That lots of people battle the same problem. As it turns out, we’re not stupid or lazy. We’re just human.

And probably a little burnt out.

Other burnt-out people still have questions, like how much weight have I lost on food freedom? I don’t know. I ditched my scale. Do my clothes feel loose? Not really. I’m trying not to think about that and I’m just working on trusting my body first to quit the restrict-binge and binge-restrict cycles.

It takes time to regulate a wigged out system.

What am I eating? It depends. My mood plays a role, along with this whole mission to figure out what I like to eat. I gravitate toward flexitarian and pescatarian food. Getting back into Splendid Spoon soups and Daily Harvest because both companies make food that tastes good and makes me feel good.

But I still like fish and I’ve got a thing for Ortiz tuna. Publix also makes these lemon dill salmon burgers I really enjoy.

I try to keep my foods very simple. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A small snack if I feel hungry. Usually, some protein, some carbohydrates, and some color from fruits or veggies. No hard or fast rules. No stress.

Yesterday, I had stuffed salmon for breakfast. And some banana bread. For lunch, I had a Daily Harvest veggie soup, Greek yogurt, and banana bread. It was a big banana bread day. For dinner, I shared a Veestro vegan meal with my daughter. I asked myself if I was still hungry, or if I needed a little more, but I realized I was satisfied.

I went to bed feeling good. Not for sticking to a certain amount of calories. Not for cutting out entire food groups. And certainly not for “being good.” After all, food is not morality.

I felt good because I went through my day without obsessing over food. I felt good because I honored my hunger and got one day closer to understanding my fullness cues.

And then, I woke up feeling great. Hungry, yeah. But not so ravenous that I couldn’t wait to eat. I took my daughter to school, came home and ate a salmon patty and banana bread, and later enjoyed a Splendid Spoon soup bowl for lunch. I might order green pepper pizza tonight for dinner. Or maybe, I’ll prepare dinner myself  —  something like roasted carrots, toast, and fish. I might have some dessert.

Whatever I do, I’m confident that it’s not going to derail my weekend or turn into a binge episode. I know I’ll be able to stop that compulsion to binge because I’m dealing with the emotions that make me feel so out of control around food.

And these days, I don’t feel out of control with food. I feel like I’m in a good place because I’m finally learning how to listen to my body.

One thing I’m learning as I tackle intuitive eating is that overeating and binge eating are not one and the same. It’s natural for everyone to overeat sometimes — and it’s especially common for those of us who are finally learning how to trust our bodies.

Before I began to pursue food freedom, I saw overeating and binge eating as synonymous things I did because I was “bad” and lacked willpower with food. Any time it registered to me that I’d eaten even a bite too much, I let that episode turn into a full-blown binge.

The guilt and shame, of course, cycled into more binge eating, and then the shame and guilt began a whole new cycle. On and on it went. Trigger, binge, shame.

Now that I’m working with a food freedom dietician, I’m feeling much more empowered to stop the cycle as soon as I feel triggered. Instead of eating my feelings, I explore my emotions and try to deal with the root. Usually, there’s some sort of diet culture hangup involved.

I was raised to view myself as a failure if I wasn’t a slave to the scale and certain food rules. Food freedom is changing the way I see myself and the way I interact with food.

I’ve been writing about my food and body issues for a few years, and it always seems like such a radical concept to suggest that someone as fat as me can enjoy food without shame. Virtually every diet book I’ve ever read has furthered the message that if you did the crime (put on weight), you’ve got to do the time (restrict your food intake).

It’s still strange to hear that I’m allowed to enjoy my food, and it feels strange to even say it. Body trust is counterintuitive. The notion that I deserve to be treated well without judgment, censure, or the mere mention of my weight isn’t a revolutionary thing. But it feels revolutionary, you know?

Subversive, even.

Maybe that’s what really fascinates me about food freedom. In our culture, where dieting and wellness is a multimillion-dollar industry, intuitive eating can be shocking. It’s surprising to hear that all problems a fat person faces are not linked to their body size. Subversive to admit that dieting actually causes many of the problems we traditionally blame on obesity.

But perhaps the most fascinating thing about food freedom is that the experts promoting it typically have expertise in working with eating disorders as well. I don’t know about you, but considering how I’ve battled an eating disorder for most of my life, I’m a lot less interested in the “experts” who want to show me how to lose weight through even more restriction than the eating disorder experts who want to show me how to heal my relationship with food.

It speaks volumes to me that eating disorder experts tend to use food freedom and very basic food groups as opposed to whatever diets have been trending for the past several years.

Anybody can tell you, “Eat this, not that.” Anyone can say they know the “right” way to eat. That white foods are “poison” and people don’t really need carbohydrates. Etc. But nobody can be an expert on the foods that make you feel your best… except you. A large part of food freedom is simply giving yourself space to figure that out.

So, people want to know what I’m eating as I embrace food freedom because, from a dieter’s perspective, food lists are important.

But my food lists are pretty simple. And no, they’re not exactly food police approved.

If I’m making a grocery list, I take a sheet of paper and divide it into four boxes.

The upper left box is for protein. Some of my favorites include fish, cheese, eggs, and Greek yogurt. I’m stocked up on (quality) canned fish and frozen cuts — sometimes, I go for the breaded stuff because it’s delicious. No shame.

The upper right box is for carbohydrates. I have a kindergartener, so popular picks include crackers, bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, and potatoes. I stocked up on pasta when Zingerman’s mail order had their big summer sale. I usually stock up on Triscuits when they’re BOGO at Publix, but sometimes I get almond flour crackers too. We use both white and brown rice. I know that carbs are often seen as a trigger food, but I’ve found they’re much easier to manage when I let myself eat the carbs I really want, and then check in with myself and my hunger or fullness cues periodically as I eat.

The bottom left portion of my grocery list is for fruits and vegetables. I’ve learned the hard way that whenever I want a salad, I’m better off just having one made for me at a place like Panera instead of making it myself to avoid waste. My daughter and I really like roasted rainbow carrots, so I stock up on those whenever they go on sale. I buy shelf-stable fruit cups and applesauce, plus frozen veggies to help get through slumps without a lot of fresh stuff. I also swear by the soups and bowls from companies like Splendid Spoon, Daily Harvest, and Souper Girl. They make it easy to get in a good serving of veggies without much fuss. And I tend to buy precut watermelon whenever it’s half-price.

We also go through plenty of different tomato sauces for pasta or Indian-style meals. Cucumbers typically make the weekly rotation, and bell peppers at least once a month.

The last section of my grocery list is for the fun foods — something every eating disorder specialist or food freedom dietician has recommended. Fun foods are treats like ice cream and banana bread. Maybe potato chips or that other snack you said you just can’t quit eating.

The fun foods aren’t just fun. They’re educational and they nourish your body and spirit. They help you see that you don’t have to go on a bender just because they’re somewhere in your kitchen.

Those are the basics on my grocery list these days as I work on food freedom. I still do “TV dinners” occasionally  —  usually from Veestro or Amy’s. And order the occasional pizza from Domino’s. We still don’t go dining out since the virus, but takeout has sure become much easier since I don’t feel compelled to binge.

There are no hard and fast rules. Everything is just information or observations I make along this journey. It’s daunting sometimes, just because it’s so counterintuitive in terms of diet culture. For most of my life, I’ve been told that enjoying food is not a valid choice for large bodies. And that diets, or, conflicting “lifestyle” changes are the answer to my problem body. Food rules were the equation(s) designed to help get my body under control.

It’s strange to say it, but my body was never the problem. Food rules and equations were. Along with the belief that I have to suffer just to be treated with dignity.

Challenge those food rules, and ironically, the urge to binge eat dissipates. No protein powder, pill, or trendy diet is required.

This post first appeared on Medium.

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What First-Time Menstruators Should Know

I learned about menstruation through word of mouth, through whispers and stories from the kids in my class and their older siblings. I had no idea what menstruation meant and not even the faintest idea where to begin asking questions. Getting your period was a vague concept shrouded in mystery—even months after I’d gotten my first period.

In an effort to ensure my tween daughter doesn’t feel like she’s entering an unknown world when she gets her first period, I’ve started talking to her about it, even though I was worried the idea of a period would be seriously weird. It’s brought up a lot (a lot) of good questions, and I’ve been continually surprised by the things that are on her mind. Friends of mine with first-time menstruators have reported their children have similar questions.

Scary Mommy got in touch with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, INTIMINA’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Expert, to get a better understanding of what first-time menstruators should know before, during, and after their first period.

What Are The Signs To Look Out For Before A First Period?

First time menstruators range in age from nine to 16 years old. With an age range that broad, it can feel impossible to guess when that first period is on its way. For first-time menstruators, that feeling–that it’ll come without warning–can be anxiety-inducing. But there are signs. Dr. Dweck notes that the signs a first period is on its way are often only recognized in hindsight, but they are there. Often, these signs can be cramps, moodiness, and fatigue.

First-time menstruators can also look to age of onset of other family members to attempt to predict when their first period might come. And for any lingering concerns about preparedness, Dweck notes that “[i]t’s reasonable to keep some emergency supplies in school/sports bag (i.e. pad or pair of menstrual panties, ibuprofen, portable heat pad).”

What’s The Best Menstrual Hygiene Product For First-Time Menstruators?

Most first-time menstruators can expect to bleed for about two to seven days, although “the flow [can] be longer or variable in the first few years after menarche,” writes Dweck. She notes that most first-timers use a menstrual pad, mainly due to ease, availability, and comfort level. However, menstrual underwear are growing in popularity as a choice.

What To Know About First-Time Menstruators, Cramps, And Mood Swings

Unfortunately, first-time (or even relatively new) menstruators are not spared from cramps. Many will have cramps for a day or two before their period begins. Dweck suggests anticipating cramps before they begin and being prepared. Heating pads placed over the lower abdomen can help, as can Ibuprofen (taken as directed) and, in some cases, exercise. It’s important to note that in certain situations, stronger pain relievers or the pill may be necessary.

Like cramps, mood swings are another common prelude to menstruation. “Upwards of 90% may actually suffer from PMS (premenstrual syndrome) a clear pattern of physical and emotional symptoms that occur before menstruation and definitely end once flow starts,” writes Dweck, who notes also that when blended with typical middle school angst, irritability is “incredibly common.”

Is There Anything To Be Aware Of?

According to Dr. Dweck, there are a few situations with respect to first-time (or new) menstruators that should be investigated. These are, “[a]bsence of first menstrual period by 16 years old, super heavy flow, intense cramps or other menstrual habit that interferes with day to day activities.”

Parents can look to a pediatrician or family doctor to provide guidance, if there are any questions, or seek a referral to a gynecologist if any of the situations listed above are present. Otherwise, first-time menstruators can begin routine gynecological visits between 16 and 18 years old—though at first, this visit will be more of a meet and greet than a pelvic exam.

Above all, open direct conversation before your child’s first period is most important, writes Dweck. “[N]ormalize the conversation around menstruation; moms and dads and in some cases siblings, aunts and grandmothers and friends may need to step up to this role as evidenced by all stories in INTIMINA’s Wonder Girls Guidebook.” She encourages “a supportive nonjudgmental approach.”

Because, as Dweck reminds us, “[t]his is a natural experience and not a taboo subject.”

When it comes to me and my daughter, I know I don’t have all the answers for her. I know she may go to her friends with her questions before coming to me, the way I went to my friends first. But all that matters to me is that she knows she can come to me with her questions, and that she trusts if I don’t know the answer, I will help her find it. Because puberty is scary enough to navigate, and if I can give her even a little bit of help—I will.

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Let’s Stop Judging Moms Who Drink

I stand in my kitchen evaluating my choices: Do I want a glass of Pinot or a cocktail? A shot of tequila or swig of beer? Or should I stick with spiked seltzer, my favorite? It’s fruity and light. Like liquored up LaCroix. But in the end, my decision is (almost always) made for me. I look at dinner, at whatever I’m stirring on the stove or roasting in the oven, and I pair accordingly. And then I move, drink in hand, from the kitchen to the dining room. I relax with an alcoholic drink. And while I do not do this every evening — I don’t drink to cope with life, or escape it; I never use liquor to numb out — I do enjoy adult beverages, and no, I’m not ashamed.

Of course, I know what you’re thinking: You’re probably already rolling your eyes. I can sense the judgement in the air. You may be thinking “how disgusting. What an embarrassment. This woman is a lush. She obviously has a problem.” And you’re probably ready to lecture me or, at the very least, go on a keyboard crusade. Well, that or you’re sipping Chardonnay and nodding alongside of me. You’re waiting to see where this article goes. But before you bash me for my dinnertime drink, let me give you some background. 

You see, I am a mother and freelance writer, one whose days are demanding. I wake — well before dawn — to care for my youngest, my sweet-but-restless baby boy. I start work by 6:00am. My son watches “Thomas the Tank Engine,” or “choo-choos,” while I edit articles and sip coffee on the couch. By 7:00am, I am readying my oldest for school. She’s seven and some days we are headed into the building, while others she is virtual. I am setting up a small classroom-like space in her bedroom, with books and folders, erasers, tablets, white boards, and pens. And after getting her started, I return to work. I walk around the house with my laptop, writing in moments of downtime — in the moments when my son isn’t screaming or crying or doing Evil Knievel-like stunts off the side of the couch.  

But that’s not all: When I have a break, I work out. I’m an avid runner and usually spend my lunch on the street. I answer emails from my phone, corresponding with colleagues and editors most hours of most days. I have to do boring, blasé things, like chores and budgets. There are dishes to be washed. Clothes to be folded and cleaned. And sometimes the only “me time” I get is in the kitchen when I cook dinner, and I like to destress and decompress in those moments — do something which makes me feel like myself.

And for me? That involves listening to music, sipping on an adult beverage, and pretending I’m on the beach, not stuck inside with screaming children in the cold northeast. And this relaxes me. It settles me. It helps me realign my focus, calming my heart and thoughts. 

Is it a vice? Sure. It’s like smoking, vaping, or consuming too much caffeine. There are no physical benefits to my drinking. But the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction — we’ve become so critical of moms who imbibe, or drink — that there is seemingly no in-between. You are either sober or a you’re boozer. 

But there is a gray area. Really, there is. And it’s time we realize some women wind down with wine, and that’s okay. A glass here or there is not cause for concern. It also doesn’t make us bad people, or bad parents. My occasional dinnertime drink doesn’t make me a bad mom.

Make no mistake: Excessive drinking is a problem. Alcoholism is an illness — a very real and tangible illness — and it is not something to scoff at or minimize. My husband is a recovered alcoholic, and has been for six years. As such, I’ve seen the effects of addiction firsthand. I know the damage these substances can do to loved ones and those they live with. I also know that not everyone chooses to imbibe. Some people do not like the taste of alcohol, or the effects. Others avoid the substance for religious reasons, and others just don’t want to touch it. And that’s fine. All of these reasons are valid and normal. Not drinking is perfectly okay. 

But enjoying adult beverages is okay too, and you don’t have to be ashamed if you’re a parent who drinks — no matter what the Internet tells you.

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Only One Child Has Died From The Flu This Season

Last year, nearly 200 children died from the flu

Over the past year, we’ve strapped on face masks and practiced social distancing in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. And while we’ve tragically lost nearly 525,000 Americans to COVID-19, we’ve considerably lowered the number of flu-related cases and deaths, especially among children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just one child has died of the flu this season in the U.S. In previous years, hundreds of children have died of the flu.

“No new influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported to CDC during week 8. The total for the 2020-21 season is one,” the CDC’s weekly report states.

During the 2019-20 flu season, 195 children died of the flu, according to the CDC. But due to the mask-wearing among adults and children this past year, the influenza virus is infecting fewer people. According to Lynnette Brammer, lead of the CDC domestic influenza surveillance team, only 0.1 percent of flu tests are coming back positive this season; whereas at this time in past years, 20 to 30 percent typically come back positive.

“I think that that obliteration of the flu epidemic, which was seen globally, tells us that the way that influenza is transmitted from one person to another might really have been impacted by the use of masks, more than anything else,” Flor Munoz, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ infectious-diseases committee, tells The Washington Post.

For comparison, the 2018-19 season saw 144 pediatric flu deaths and 188 during the 2017-18 season.

CDC/The Washington Post

Adults are also experiencing a plummet in influenza deaths this season, with about 450 so far this season versus roughly 22,000 last year.

“I think this has clearly shown that masking, distancing, hand-washing — all these things clearly work,” Aaron Milstone, an epidemiologist and professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, tells the Washington Post. “So, I think the question will be, how much appetite do people have for all that to prevent influenza, instead of just Covid?”

Experts warn, however, that the next flu season may be worse, as scientists have had a difficult time determining which strain is most dominant this year, in turn making it hard to predict which strains to develop vaccines for next year.

“They may not guess the right strains to make the vaccine against,” says Andrea Kovacs, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Southern California.

Kovac adds that it isn’t too late for the flu to surge this season, especially if coronavirus restrictions are relaxed across the country.

“We could have a maybe small, but late, flu season,” Kovac says. “Just really hard to say.”

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I’m Finally Stronger Than My Disordered Eating

If only you knew.

How deep my need to be skinny really went.

How I struggled, trying desperately to play off my obsession to be thin and perfect.

How awful the conversations in my mind were, and sometimes still are.

Staring at the photoshopped pictures in magazines wondering how I could achieve the perfection in these photos was a constant for me.

These bodies were the ideal bodies that I wanted so badly.

The ideal bodies I knew weren’t real, yet still dreamed about.

In 2006, I was twenty-seven, living on the other side of the country, and I was down to my lowest weight.

In all honesty, I was the happiest I’ve ever been with the way my body looked.

If only he knew.

I had only met my boyfriend — now husband — seven months prior, and I was already at a low weight. There was no way he could know the lie I was living, and I wasn’t about to tell him the truth.

But the truth was, I was not naturally this skinny.

I was average sized, with hips and curves in all the right places.

But I was not having it.

I was not loving it.

And I was certainly not looking at my body with pride and confidence.

To me, my body was a vessel that wasn’t perfect and I needed it to be.

It wasn’t slender like a straight rod. It was bumpy like hills in the countryside.

It needed to be smaller. Skinnier. Prettier. Better.

If only you knew.

Being skinny has been a goal of mine since the time I remember ever making goals. It was always an obsession. It was always on my mind.

“If only my ribcage didn’t stick out so much”

“If only my hips weren’t so wide”

“If only my butt was smaller”

When I started going through puberty, I thought that I could squeeze my separating hips back to those pre-pubescent days. I thought if I wished hard enough while pushing my hips inwards, someone in the clouds would hear my call and I’d be magically “cured.”

If only you knew.

My thoughts were rampant.

Weight defined me. It said who I was.

My worth was dependent on how small I could become.

And small is what I became.

Confidence grew in me like a plague every time I saw a rib jutting out.

Pride foolishly fulfilled me every time I measured my arms.

I was doing it! I was becoming as skinny as I could be and I relished in it.

But my soul was hurting.

It was hungry.

It didn’t want to fight with me anymore.

It took a while, but I slowly regained the weight, and then some.

I felt like I was being punished for my bad choices by gaining more.

I felt like I didn’t deserve the body I so badly wanted.

Eventually, with the support and love from my friends and family, my body — the body I had before I started abusing it — slowly returned to me.

But it’s not the end.

The thoughts are alive and well in my mind; I think they always will be.

I get some reprieve, but they always find their way back to me, like a pathetic stalker of sorts.

There are good days and bad days.

But the difference now is that I have perspective.

I have awareness.

I’m stronger than my body dysmorphia.

I’m stronger than my disordered eating.

I am stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.

And I’m beautiful the way I am.

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Ashley Graham Blesses Us With Epic Pic Of Her Postpartum Hair Regrowth

There’s postpartum hair loss… and there’s Ashley Graham’s postpartum hair loss

If you’ve ever given birth, you know that the hormone issues you experience while pregnant are pretty much nothing compared to what happens to your entire body and sense of self after the baby comes out. Postpartum hair loss is a great equalizer for those who have recently given birth in that no one escapes it — not even gorgeous, famous models.

In her most recent Instagram post, Ashley Graham shared a photo of her own hair loss and subsequent regrowth. Her son, Isaac, might be over a year old now, but postpartum hair issues continue well into your child’s toddler life. How lucky we are!

“I may not be a Bond girl but I can be a Bond villain (postpartum baby hairs come through!!!)” Graham captioned the photo, which will probably live in our heads rent-free for the rest of our lives. In the next pic, she features Anatole Taubman‘s Quantam of Solace character, Elvis, who is rocking a similar “baby bangs” style. LOL.

If your first thought on looking at that photo is, “What hairstylist did her dirty??” you’re not alone. But, alas, it’s just those after-baby hormones coming through. Because even if you lose a lot of hair in the first few months of your child’s life, you’ll absolutely be dealing with the effects of regrowth and patchiness well into their first years. BABIES ARE A BLESSING!

In a post celebrating her son’s first birthday in January, Graham wrote via Instagram that Isaac had “changed [her] life and heart in ways” she couldn’t fathom.

“I can’t believe I’m already writing this, because it feels like just yesterday that we met. But at the same time, I also can’t remember what life was like without you,” the A New Model author wrote in January. “Watching you grow and learn has been the greatest gift. … One year down and I can’t wait to see where the rest takes us.”

Since becoming a mom, Graham has kept it real 100% of the time. Last fall, she opened up about dealing with mom-shamers and trolls who show up in her social media posts.

“Mommy shamers are just mean girls who grew up to be mothers,” Graham said during the candid discussion that also included Willow Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, and Jessica Alba. “It never feels good to have someone tell you that you’re not doing a good enough job, that you’re doing something wrong.”

Graham has regularly shared photos of herself while she breastfeeds her son, and, as a result, has received regular hate about her choice to “expose” her boobs for the sole purpose boobs exist.

“It’s interesting because my whole career has been based around body shaming because I’m a curvy girl who has come into a skinny world, and said that my body, and other bodies like mine, need to be normalized,” she said. “I knew that [mom-shaming] was coming and I was ready to combat it, but it never feels good to have someone tell you that you’re not doing a good enough job, that you’re doing something wrong.”

Now if anyone dares to shame Ashley Graham for her postpartum Lloyd Christmas hair, I will personally fight them in the comments section with my own broken temple wisps of hair 18 months after the birth of my last child as they rattle with rage on top of my head.

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I Thought I Was Dying — Turns Out My Breast Implants Were Poisoning Me

My eyes were dry, all day every day. I went to my optometrist, multiple times, until we found a magical twice-daily (and beyond expensive) eye drop that somewhat helped. A few months later, I was at my general practitioner’s office, complaining of abdominal pain. All my lab work looked great, and the next step was a scan. The result? A whole lot of stool — AKA, constipation. (Ew.) I was also dealing with perpetual urinary tract pain, which I self-treated with cranberry pills. My anxiety kept increasing, as did dizzy spells and insomnia. My sex drive was non-existent, and I felt like a zombie.

Not only did I have seemingly random and unrelated symptoms, but my shoulders hurt. The relentless pain held steady, even after rounds and rounds of physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and endless “gentle” yoga exercises. I bought new pillows, committed to sleeping on my back, and doing daily stretches. The pain would ease up for maybe a day and then come back. An MRI revealed no damage. I also dealt with a six-month intercostal muscle strain stint, ironically caused by stretching too much. I always had ice packs and a heating pad on me, trying to provide some relief.

The thing is, even though I had a diagnosis for almost every symptom (dry eye syndrome, constipation, muscle strain), I wasn’t getting better even though I followed the doctor’s every order. In fact, I was getting worse. I had joint and muscle pain, plus extreme fatigue. I would wake up at 7 a.m., only to desperately need a nap by eleven and yearn to be in bed by eight — at the latest. This was followed by brain fog, sound and vision sensitivity, and ear ringing. Each morning, I woke up wondering what fresh hell awaited me. As a result, I spiraled into depression — a mental health disorder I had never dealt with before. Honestly, I thought I was dying, and no one was throwing me a life jacket.

It was only after having a conversation with a dental hygienist (while she was all up in my mouth) about her friend who had her implants removed due to illness, did I realize that I absolutely was being poisoned by my silicone breast implants. There has been no other reasonable explanation for the various symptoms I was experiencing, since no scan, no blood draw, and no doctor has been able to tell me why I’m so sick and how all my symptoms relate.

Breast implant illness is not an official medical diagnosis, but if you look it up, you’ll find loads of information online, including the more than fifty possible symptoms. The symptom list alone — in which I could check off about twenty of my own symptoms — convinced me I had BII. However, it was also the stories I read on women’s blogs and on social media that solidified my stance. Even if BII isn’t “official” in the eyes of the medical community, to me we shouldn’t dare deny the thousands of stories women have shared about how the foreign objects in their bodies have caused them to become gravely ill.

Don’t just take my word for it. Some (though certainly not all or enough) plastic surgeons even discuss BII (though not always by that name) on their websites. Several reputable sites, including M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School, and the FDA, host articles on the risks of breast implants. The information is out there, but the sound research and diagnosis availability is not.

What I learned from the women who bravely chose to share their stories is that when problematic breast implants — no matter the type — remain in the body, no diet regime, exercise routine, supplement schedule, or anything else can combat BII. The root of the problem can’t be bandaged or coddled into submission. The only way to possibly recover is to remove the implants and capsules completely and help the body detox — which can take months or even years. The women’s testimonials claim that the longer you’ve had implants, the longer you can expect to need to detox.

For many women, myself included, this is a big freaking deal, but removing implants isn’t as easy as 1-2-3. First, there’s the cost, which women have shared costs them around $10,000, give or take a few thousand. Most of us don’t have that kind of cash laying around. Insurance companies, in most cases, aren’t going to cover implant removal on the grounds of a patient feeling ill.

There’s also the mental and emotional health impact that comes with removing implants. We hear all the time that appearance doesn’t matter, that boobs are “just” boobs, and that we are so much more than our weight, measurements, and curves. While I think most of us agree that these are beautiful mantras, the fact is, our relationships with our bodies are complicated and shouldn’t be judged by others.

Implant removal requires several weeks of recovery, which means time off work, finding childcare and household help, and someone to drive you to and from appointments. Some women have to travel across several states for their implant removal procedure. During a pandemic, these situations can be particularly difficult.

Women have shared that they are desperately trying to save the money or somehow secure the cash to get their implants removed. Some are bedridden, unable to work or take care of their children. Others are just barely making it, teetering on the edge of a total breakdown. Meanwhile, the medical community overwhelmingly tries to convince us that our sickness isn’t real and that perhaps there’s something else wrong with us. Of course, it’s important to rule out other health conditions, but the symptoms of BII can overlap a ton of other diagnoses.

Over all of the years I’ve had implants and of the dozens of medical appointments I’ve had for my symptoms and pain, not one medical professional has suggested to me that perhaps it’s my implants that are making me sick. Read that again. Not one.

I understand I can’t be diagnosed with something that doesn’t officially exist, yet I feel betrayed and abandoned by those I trusted to investigate my symptoms and help me pinpoint why I felt so terrible. I didn’t need another scan, another pill, or more stretches. I needed the source of the problem out of my body — ASAP — for a chance at feeling like myself again.

I’m not throwing plastic surgeons under the proverbial bus. In fact, some are downright angels. They safely and properly remove implants for women who need or want them gone. Some offer alternative-to-implants post-breast cancer reconstructive options, if that’s what their patient desires. Others are helping breast cancer patients go flat and fabulous — something that takes a very particular skill set.

Despite the fact that I have lived sick for a long time, I don’t subscribe to the all-doctors-are-deceptors rhetoric. I believe that like all professions, there are good professionals and bad apples. A good doctor will believe a woman who says she’s sick and work to do whatever they can to help her. I also believe that we need to make BII an official medical diagnosis, giving our medical professionals the opportunity to diagnose women with it rather than sending them on their way — yet again — without help.

I did everything in my power to feel better. I ate organic, used my elliptical every morning, guzzled water, gave up alcohol, and only used “clean” beauty and cleaning products. I spent thousands and thousands of hard-earned dollars attending medical visits and ordering supplements. These may have helped — a bit — but they were nothing in comparison to the two beasts inside my chest.

Now I’m not only in the process of recovering from saying goodbye to my implants, but I’m trying to figure out how to heal from regret. How do I forgive myself for the choice I made to prioritize aesthetics over health? How do I move forward? It empowers me to at least be able to share my story with others and hopefully put a bug in their ear that silicone, whether implanted or injected, has some serious risks. Ignorance is not bliss. Now, I’m going to make up for lost time and, hopefully, get my health back.

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What Your Fingernails Can Tell You About Your Health

Check your fingernails. If they aren’t coated in polish (and hey, pandemic, so they probably aren’t), you may notice all sorts of things. Are they long, strong, and hard? Or are they thin and flexible? Do they peel easily? Some people have ridges running vertically or horizontally along them; others may have small, white dots on some nails. Discolorations, puffiness, differences in thickness and thinness, lifting up from the nail bed — all of these things can tell a story about your overall health.

It only makes sense. Your fingernails are made of keratin, which also compromises your hair and your upper layer of skin cells, according to Healthline. The “nail” part? That’s dead, so it doesn’t hurt to cut your fingernails (tell your toddler that, amiright?). Your nail grows up from your cuticle, and they grow about 3.5 millimeters a month. That’s about a tenth of a millimeter per day, and if you lose one, it may take up to six months to grow back, and even longer if it’s a thumb. Healthline says they grow faster on your dominant hand, during the summer, and during the day. They also grow faster when you’re pregnant, and slower when you’re nursing.

Since nails grow so fast (compared to the rest of you), and renew themselves so visibly (also compared to the rest of you), they can tell us a lot about your health. Have a thyroid condition? Malnourished? Your nails are tattling on you. Here are some common nail conditions and how to decode them.

Vertical Lines Up and Down the Fingernail

This is one of the most common nail issues people have: uniform lines on their fingernails. According to the Cleveland Health Clinic, just as people may have hair fall out during times of stress, you may have lines appear on your fingernails. And who isn’t stressed right now?! These “prolonged periods” of stress can show up on your nails.

Brittle, Cracking, or Splitting Nails

These can show up for a multitude of reasons. Nails that crack or split easily can be a sign of malnutrition, says Medical News Today, though of course aging and lifestyle can also play a role. But so can thyroid disease and anemia, according to Penn Medicine. Thyroid disease generally means a low thyroid: your thyroid gland isn’t making enough hormones. A blood test can diagnose it. Anemia? Your red blood cells “lack enough hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.” Again, a blood test can figure it out.

Got Spots?

There are several kinds of spot you can find on fingernails: some normal, some not-so-normal, and some doctor-worthy.

Random white spots on your nails are called leukonychia. They’re harmless, but can indicate (again) malnutrition or nutritional deficiencies, according to Medical News Today, infections (i.e., while that part of the nail was growing, you had one), or metabolic diseases.

Dermatologist Christine Poblete-Lopez, MD, tells the Cleveland Clinic that “changes in nail color are one of the most common complaints dermatologists hear.” Discolorations usually run “from nail to tip,” and could be “benign moles or cancerous melanomas.” Talk to your doctor if you have any discoloration under your nailbed. If it runs into the cuticle and affects only one finger, it’s more likely to be a sign of melanoma.

All The Colors of Your Fingernails!

Got pale nails? Check yourself for malnutrition (again), anemia (again), congestive heart failure, or liver disease, says Aurora Healthcare. Yellow nails? If you haven’t been using too much nail polish or smoking too many cigarettes, yellow fingernails can indicate a fungal infection, chronic bronchitis, or, rarely, lung disease, diabetes, psoriasis, or thyroid disease. Blue nails? You aren’t getting enough oxygen! Think heart and lung problems. Or, possibly, being cold or consuming too much silver (stop eating your jewelry, Karen).

If that blue or green tint is from a bacterial infection of your fingernail, you will so know it by other signs, like redness or puffiness.

Got Weird Ridges?

Everyday Health says Beau’s Lines are lines that run across the nail (think the thickened ridges some people develop horizontally across their thumb). They can be a general sign of malnutrition and vitamin deficiency, or zinc deficiency in particular. They’re also associated with diabetes. If you suffered from scarlet fever, measles, mumps, or pneumonia while those parts of your fingernails were growing, you may see Beau’s Lines appear as well.

Is Your Fingernail Lifting Up?

Ewwww. We all hate this. But when your nail starts to lift up from your nail bed, there’s a reason. It can range, according to Aurora Health, from medication side effects, to thyroid disease (again), to pregnancy, to fungal infection, to nail trauma or psoriasis. So you might want to get that checked out.

You Keep Saying “Fungal Infection”

Yes, fungal infections are more common in toenails, but they can happen in fingernails, too. The signs are about the same, according to Family Doctor. Yellow nails, nails with crumbly ends, nails that are “brittle,” “thick,” or separating from the nail bed, nails that are curled up or down or distorted in shape likely have fungal infections.

So check your nails. They’ll tell on you. And if you have any symptom listed above, don’t play Dr. Google. Go see your family doctor, who will likely assure you that you’re fine. But even so, peace of mind is always a good idea. Especially when the answers are (literally) at your fingertips.

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Don’t Believe The Lies — You Are Not Broken

When I was in my early 20s, I stood in front of a friend’s mirror and saw myself looking in on myself like I was my own Droste effect of being a picture within a picture. I watched myself cry, and I heard someone tell me I was never wanted. The voice in my head was making its way out of mouth and I continued to repeat phrases that made sense to me but no one else. I could feel the emotions of the objects around me. I was being overwhelmed by pain and beauty. I was seeing words and knew I could touch sound. I was having a psychotic break but didn’t know it.

When my ex-partner took me to the emergency room, I remember being asked if I was Wiccan. A doctor asked me this while I was in the middle of talking too fast and with little logic. What? What is Wiccan? I didn’t think I was that. Instead of being treated like someone who was suffering from mental illness, I was assumed to be someone with an obscure religion, practicing witchcraft. Instead of taking me seriously and treating me with compassion, the first reaction this doctor had was to make a snide remark that implied I had created this mess for myself because of a pagan belief system. Somehow that seemed more plausible than that I might be suffering from a PTSD episode.

After replying no to the Wiccan question and others about drug use, they finally asked about my mental health history. They contacted my psychiatrist and psychologist, and I was released to go home after promising I wasn’t going to harm myself. By that point I had started to calm down, and I would have said anything to get the hell out of there. I was embarrassed and confused. I felt like a loser and a freak. I had only been in therapy for a few years, but it seemed like nothing was working. When was I going to be fixed? When was I going to be normal?

I have since learned that I was never broken, and normal is a bullshit construct that no one can live up to. If you are struggling to feel mentally well, you are not alone. And you need love and support, not stigma.

Before the pandemic started, nearly 1 in every 5 Americans had experienced a mental illness; however, more than half of those people did not seek help because they were afraid of judgement, loss of employment, or loss of friends and family. Irina Gonzalez, a writer and editor based in Florida, says growing up as a Latina added an extra layer of stigma when talking about mental health. “I remember early on hearing about some distant aunt who was only described as ‘la loca’ (the crazy one). She didn’t even have a name, just an identity as the crazy member of the family. This is really common in my culture.” She also said that it wasn’t okay to “air dirty laundry” and talk about problems that needed attention. Instead Gonzalez struggled with anxiety and alcohol abuse and wished her family and culture embraced mental health instead of seeing it as something to avoid.

I and so many others use drugs and alcohol to cope with what we can’t explain or what we try to hide. There is an element of cognitive dissonance that happens between feeling that something is wrong and not being taken seriously. We are hurting but are told to suck it up and not talk about it.

Ashley, a mother of three from Vermont, has been dealing with anxiety and panic attacks since she was a child. As an adult she still struggles to find the healthiest ways to take care of herself. “I learned at a young age that it wasn’t normal to be overwhelmed and anxious,” she told Scary Mommy. “The overwhelming message was to toughen up and learn to deal with it. The social stigma of depression is that people who suffer with it are downers. They make people in society uncomfortable. Teenage girls, in particular, are supposed to be pretty, bubbly, happy and lighthearted. I was not fulfilling my duty as the sweet, happy-go-lucky, all-American girl.” She spent years trying to get better or “fixed” before insurance coverage ran out for therapy sessions.

Our insurance systems in this country are disgusting at best. Before having gender affirming surgery, which was also life-saving surgery, I had to prove to my insurance and surgeon that I was suffering and that the surgery would help with dysphoria, a common occurrence for transgender folks. To cover the expense of my surgery, I cashed out an expensive life insurance policy to which I could no longer afford to pay monthly premiums after a divorce. I paid $12,000 out of pocket for my medical bills and planned on insurance covering a significant portion of that bill. Despite having been approved for the procedure, I wasn’t reimbursed any money because my plan only covered up to $2,500 after my deductible was met.

Moreover, when I applied for a cheaper life insurance plan to replace the one I’d given up, I was denied a policy because of my mental health history and addiction — despite having been sober for 2 years at the time, and despite being as emotionally stable as I had ever been. I was getting the necessary medical care to support my mental health. My physical health was excellent. My medications and therapists had been consistent for years. I was clean. I was doing everything “right.” None of it matters.

I was considered too high risk and wasn’t allowed to pay more for the “death by suicide” clause. My history of suicide ideation, my mental break, and my alcohol abuse left stains that society deems unwashable. One system after another makes it hard for those of us who struggle with mental illness to feel worth the time and “risk” to be taken care of.

Lonnie, based in New York, explained that her husband refused to seek mental health services for his debilitating anxiety and irrational rage because he didn’t want to lose his job. “This caused irreparable harm to not only him, but to our family unit as well,” she told Scary Mommy. “Only after he completely separated from the Army did he feel free to seek the therapy and medication he needed.”

Every gender, profession, age group, race, and socioeconomic background is susceptible to mental illness. And despite the millions of people who suffer, mental illness is often kept hidden, not taken seriously, or manifests in ways that others simply shove aside as laziness, weakness, or incompetence. Instead of finding compassion, patience, and support, those of us who struggle with mental illness often find ourselves inflicted by stigma — both from society and ourselves. The negative attitudes and treatment toward people who struggle with mental illness create a cycle of silence, shame, and unhelpful self-judgment. We need to stop normalizing these patterns.

I have been receiving mental health services since I was 18. I have a team of therapists, a compact but effective toolbox of coping skills and medications, and years of painful and enlightening lessons that have torn me apart and stitched me back together. I have several diagnoses and those have been helpful to get the medication and education I need to feel better if not good. But what helps me the most is to acknowledge what I have endured. I was a victim of childhood abuse. I have had to manage my way out of toxic relationships. My brain re-wired itself to the point of self-protection and self-harm. I have learned not to blame myself for my abuse, which means I can’t blame myself for my mental illness that grew out of that trauma.

We need to stop blaming each other too. Fewer stigmas around mental illness would encourage folks to reach out and get the help they need and deserve. People need more grace, not more reasons to believe they are failing or unworthy.

Don’t believe the lies. You are not broken. You are not a failure. You are worthy and loved.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers 24/7, 365 days of the year confidential and free services in Spanish and English. 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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I’m 39 Years Old, And I Can’t Stop Posting My Breasts On Social Media

I’m 39 years old, an age I felt was ancient when I was a child. I remember learning my mom was turning 40, and I thought she was practically in the elderly category. Now I’m that age, a wife, mom of four, and writer. Despite all of my life responsibilities and the stage I’m in, I will not stop posting my boobs on the internet.

I was only 35 years old when I found my third breast lump during my monthly self exam. I immediately called my gynecologist and made an appointment. She sent me for an ultrasound and my first mammogram. Because I have extremely dense breast tissue, a mammogram is a challenge. I was told that finding a lump in my breast via mammography was like looking for a snowflake in a snowstorm. The ultrasound located the lump, which appeared non-suspicious. I was told to have a repeat ultrasound in six months.

This didn’t sit well with me. I was initially relieved, but in the coming days, I had a growing, nagging feeling that I couldn’t shake. I decided to find a breast surgeon and get a second opinion. She did her own ultrasound and agreed that a biopsy was a good idea. I had the fine core needle biopsy, and then headed on vacation with my family. When we returned, I headed to the surgeon’s office to get my results. I was blown away when she told me I had DCIS, or stage 0 breast cancer.

My first thought was, why me? Why, of all the women, did cancer choose me? I was a busy mom of four, including an infant. I ate healthy and exercised daily. I had no family history of breast cancer, my genetic tests for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes were negative, and I didn’t have any of the typical risk factors. I later learned that breast cancer is, unfortunately, a fairly common diagnosis. In fact, one in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. About 11% of women diagnosed will be like me, under age forty-five.

My second thought was, I’m going to die. Since I have generalized anxiety disorder, my cancer diagnosis only amplified my worries. Even though I researched DCIS and knew that it was easily treatable, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the C-word. In fact, I didn’t say “cancer” for weeks and cringed every time another doctor or nurse said the word. I was given the option between a bilateral mastectomy or a lumpectomy and radiation. Despite the standard choice to have a lumpectomy and radiation, I chose mastectomy after a lot of contemplation and prayer.


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I didn’t tell many people, and certainly not my readers and social media followers, that I was having a mastectomy. I was terrified that I would die during surgery, that they wouldn’t get all of the cancer, or that someone would tell me I was making the wrong choice. I needed to be as clear-headed and confident as I could muster, pouring all of my energy into recovery and not managing other people’s opinions. It’s a good thing I chose the mastectomy, because in my pathology report, I read that I had previously undetected invasive breast cancer.

Shortly after my surgery, I posted that I had a mastectomy. From that point forward, I gained a sense of obligation to remind women to do their self breast exams, every month, and to make sure they got their mammograms. I did this, in part, by the power of pictures. The more I posted my chest, the more attention the photos got, and the more women received the reminder messages to check themselves.

Unfortunately, in 2020, we saw a rise in censorship of women’s bodies. Many women, including breast cancer previvors, fighters, and survivors, were posting pictures of their chests on social media, especially in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Photos of flat-chested women, with scars across their skin, flooded my feeds — temporarily. Almost immediately, they were censored, their posts removed. They received warnings to stop posting naked photos of themselves, which violated guidelines. Just like women in the breastfeeding community, the breast cancer community clapped back, reminding the social media entities that our photos are not sexual. The photos were meant to bring awareness, and in the case of breast cancer, promote early detection and saving lives.


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Despite the risk of being reported for posting a chest-pic that a Karen (or a fragile white man) deems inappropriate, myself and many others are committed to keep posting our boobs (or lack thereof) online. Our bare chests, our one-breasted chests, our scars — these are all begging for attention that will hopefully, in turn, encourage women to do their monthly self-exams and report any concerns to their doctor.

Some of our posts are funny, some are shocking, and some are serious. By any means necessary will we make sure that other women know they matter and have a responsibility to take care of their bodies. After all, we are our own best advocates and know our bodies best. A self-breast exam only takes a few minutes a month, but that simple act can make a huge difference.


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Breast cancer doesn’t care about your age, race, religion, or how busy you are. It will show up when it pleases. It’s a jerk, a liar, and a manipulator. Our best defense is to check ourselves and get mammograms when the time is right. We need to know our family health histories, when possible, and get tested for the breast cancer genes, if necessary.

It’s easy to forget to do exams and to schedule our annual appointments. I get it. I’m just as busy as the next mom. However, breast cancer doesn’t wait until your life is less hectic to appear. Which is why my chest pics are going to keep showing up, even if they make people uncomfortable. You know what’s more uncomfortable than seeing someone’s scarred-skin on social media? Breast cancer.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to use my platform to encourage women to check themselves. I’ve received countless messages from women telling me that because of one of my posts, they scheduled a mammogram and reminded a friend to do the same. Some have told me they’ve been diagnosed, while others had a (thankfully) near-miss. Every single message I get tells me that I’m doing something right and my journey with breast cancer is not in vain.

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