Total Health in Midlife Episode #161: People Pleasing & Self-Care

People Pleasing & Self-Care

Are your health habits taking a backseat to your people-pleasing tendencies? 

Break free from the cycle with me, Elizabeth Sherman, as I tackle the subtle ways saying ‘yes’ too often can negatively impact your well-being. As I share my personal experiences and professional insights, I shed light on the often-overlooked connection between people-pleasing behaviors and personal health choices. 

From the family table where we silence our dietary preferences to the workplace, where we overcommit at the cost of our exercise routines, we explore the ramifications of not voicing our needs. Join me to learn how to set boundaries and choose self-care without an ounce of guilt.

This episode is a heart-to-heart for anyone, particularly women in midlife, who feels the tug-of-war between caring for others and caring for oneself. As we navigate the complex landscape of hormonal changes, energy management, and food choices, we underscore the importance of self-respect and self-compassion during this transformative time. 

I dive into personal growth, boundary setting, and ways to infuse joy into your daily life. It’s more than a conversation; it’s a movement towards living authentically and prioritizing your health and happiness. So, tune in and take the first step towards reclaiming the life you deserve.

Chapter Summaries

People Pleasing’s Impact on Health Habits (0:00:04) 

People pleasing impacts health habits, but prioritizing self-care is necessary for lasting change and empowerment.

People-Pleasing’s Impact on Health and Happiness (0:05:30)

People-pleasing can harm our health goals by neglecting our needs and prioritizing others, leading to resentment and imbalance.

The Impact of People-Pleasing on Health (0:17:32)

Childhood people-pleasing can lead to self-abandonment, but self-care and boundaries can reclaim self-worth, especially for women in midlife.

Are you loving the podcast, but arent sure where to start? click here to get your copy of the Done with Dieting Podcast Roadmap Its a fantastic listening guide that pulls out the exact episodes that will get you moving towards optimal health.

If you want to take the work we’re doing here on the podcast and go even deeper, you need to join the Feel Good Sisterhood - my group coaching program for women in midlife who are done with dieting, but still want to feel good! The Feel Good Sisterhood is open for enrollment, so click here to discover if group coaching is a right fit for you and your goals.

I am so excited to hear what you all think about the podcast – if you have any feedback, please let me know! You can leave me a rating and review in Apple Podcasts, which helps me create an excellent show and helps other women who want to get off the diet roller coaster find it, too.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode

  • Explore the overlooked impact of people pleasing on health habits, revealing how prioritizing others’ needs over our own can subtly infiltrate aspects like diet and exercise, compromising our well-being.
  • Uncover the hidden complexities of women’s roles in caregiving, exploring the transition from voluntary favors to overwhelming expectations in managing household tasks and the resulting stressors and blame.
  • Dive into my emotional eating journey, connecting the dots between overcommitment, neglecting self-care, and using food as a coping mechanism amidst overwhelming life demands.
  • Uncover the transformative journey of dismantling people-pleasing patterns, fostering self-respect, and navigating the intriguing connection between midlife hormonal changes, food choices, and overall life transformation.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Full Episode Transcript:

Are you ever caught in the whirlwind of saying yes to everyone else’s needs but your own? Do you find yourself reaching for that comfort snack when you’re overwhelmed, even when you’ve promised yourself that you’d stick to healthier choices? If this sounds like you, then you are totally not alone.

Welcome to today’s episode where we are going to unravel a hidden truth that’s impacting your health and eating habits more than you realize. Today we are diving deep into a world of people pleasing. A world where your food choices might not actually be your own.

In this episode, we are peeling back the layers to uncover how saying yes to others can often mean saying no to ourselves. From the dinner table decisions that leave you with regret, to the deeper emotional cues that drive you towards the fridge, we are covering it all. And trust me, you do not want to miss the insights and revelations that will unfold today.

But it’s not just about the problem. It’s about a solution, too. We’ll be exploring empowering strategies to reclaim your health choices, understand your true needs, and finally break free from the cycle of people pleasing that’s holding you back. So, if you’ve ever felt like you’re not in control of your eating habits, or if you’re curious about how to make health choices that truly reflect your desires, then this episode is a must listen.

Stay tuned because what you’re about to discover could be the turning point in your health journey.

Welcome to Total Health and Midlife, the podcast for women embracing the pivotal transformation from the daily grind to the dawn of a new chapter. I’m Elizabeth, your host and fellow traveler on this journey.

As a Life and Health Coach, I am intimately familiar with the changes and challenges we face during this stage. Shifting careers, changing relationships, our new bodies, and redefining goals and needs as we start to look to the future and ask, what do I want?

In this podcast, we’ll explore physical, mental, and emotional wellness, offering insights and strategies to achieve optimal health through these transformative years.

Yes, it’s totally possible.

Join me in this amazing journey of body, mind, and spirit, where we’re not just improving our health, but transforming our entire lives.

Hey everyone, welcome back to the Total Health in Midlife podcast. I’m your host, Elizabeth Sherman, and I am thrilled that you are joining me today. In my last episode, we had a fascinating conversation with my friend and coach, Sara Fisk. She’s a coach dedicated to helping women break free from the shackles of people pleasing.

We dove into how liberating it is when we start living for ourselves rather than constantly bending to meet other expectations. Today, we’re going to explore a topic that’s both incredibly relevant and often overlooked. The impact of people pleasing on our health, specifically our health habits.

Now, you might be wondering, what does people pleasing have to do with what I eat? And it’s a fair question. The connection might not be immediately obvious, but as we peel back the layers, you’ll see just how intertwined these aspects of our lives can be.

People pleasing isn’t just about saying yes to every request or invitation. It’s a pattern of behavior where we prioritize others needs and desires over our own. Often, at the expense of our own health. This habit can subtly creep into various areas of our lives, including our diet and exercise routines.

For instance, have you ever found yourself agreeing to a dinner venue that doesn’t align with your dietary goals, or something that you really even want, simply because you didn’t want to rock the boat? You didn’t want to be that girl. Or maybe you’ve skipped your morning workout to help a friend with something that they could have managed themselves.

These might seem like small concessions, but over time they actually add up. They reflect a deeper issue where we place less value on our own health needs and goals. The truth is, caring for our health isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. And not because of the oxygen mask analogy.

When we neglect our health for the sake of pleasing others, we’re not just sacrificing our diet or exercise routine, we’re sacrificing a part of our being.

This episode aims to shine a light on this often overlooked aspect of people pleasing. We’ll uncover how it can manifest our daily lives, and the toll it takes on our health. I’ll share insights from my own journey as a recovering people pleaser and the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

My goal is to empower you to recognize and change these patterns, so that you can prioritize your health and well-being without feeling guilty. So, whether you’re a self-identified people pleaser or just curious about how these dynamics play out in health and wellness, this episode is for you.

As we explore how people pleasing impacts our health, I’ve identified three distinct layers where this behavior profoundly affects our ability to take care of ourselves. These layers range from the most apparent everyday choices that we make to deeper emotional responses, and then finally, to the core of how we perceive and value ourselves.

As we explore each layer, you’ll gain insights that will not only illuminate how people pleasing manifests in your life, but also empower you to begin identifying which aspect impacts you the most.

This understanding and awareness is the first step in taking back control of your health and your wellbeing. Setting the stage for positive, lasting change.

So, let’s dive into what I call the first layer, the ‘superficial layer’ of people pleasing. This is where the impact of our people pleasing tendencies is most visible and direct. Especially, when it comes to our eating choices.

I remember a time when I was diligently following a specific eating plan. I knew exactly what foods worked for me and which ones didn’t. And then, a family dinner plan came up. When the question arose, where should we eat? I had a perfect place in mind that catered to my dietary needs.

But instead of voicing my preference, I held back. Why did I do that? Because I didn’t want to be seen as high maintenance or disrupt the group’s desire. So, we ended up at a place where I struggled to find something suitable to eat. I felt frustrated and resentful, not towards my family, but towards myself for not speaking up. But it’s not just about family dinners.

Think about the times at work when your boss asks if you can take on an extra project and you say yes, despite knowing that it’ll mean skipping your planned workouts or meal prep time. Or when your daughter asks for help with something and you agree, knowing it will cost you the yoga class that you’ve been looking forward to. And then, the cancellation fee that you’ll incur.

These scenarios may seem insignificant in isolation, but they’re small pieces of a larger puzzle. Each time we make these concessions, we reinforce the idea that our health and our needs are negotiable, even dispensable. We’re effectively telling ourselves that our well-being isn’t as important as keeping others happy or maintaining harmony.

But here’s the thing. Every time we don’t voice our needs, we’re not just compromising on a meal or a workout. We’re compromising on our health, our goals, and ultimately, our happiness.

This layer of people pleasing might be superficial in its directness, but its impact is anything but superficial. It’s a clear reflection of how we value ourselves and our health in the context of our relationships with others.

So, as we move through this episode, I want you to think about the small ways you might be people pleasing in your life. How often do you put other preferences over your own health goals? It’s time to start recognizing these moments and understanding their impacts.

Next, let’s dive into the importance of advocating for our personal health needs. This is crucial because repeatedly failing to voice our needs doesn’t just affect us superficially. It sets the stage for deeper, more complex issues as we’ll explore in Layer 2 and Layer 3.

When we are constantly putting others wishes before our health, we’re not just making a one off sacrifice, we’re establishing a pattern. This pattern subtly communicates to ourselves, and to those around us that our health needs are secondary or even optional.

And what happens when we keep sidelining these needs, we start to feel resentful. Resentment is a potent emotion. It bubbles up when we feel undervalued or when our efforts go unnoticed. But more importantly, it surfaces when we don’t stand up for ourselves.

Say, you agree to take on an extra project at work instead of attending your yoga class. Initially, it might feel like you’re just being helpful or a team player. But when this becomes a habit, you may start to feel resentful. Not necessarily towards your boss or your colleagues, but maybe. But towards the situation and ultimately towards yourself for not prioritizing your health.

This resentment isn’t just an unpleasant emotion. It’s a signal. It’s your inner self telling you that something is out of balance. It’s a warning that your needs aren’t being met and that you’re not valuing yourself as you should. Ignoring this signal can have a snowball effect.

Today, it might be missing that yoga class. Tomorrow it could be compromising on a bigger health goal.

When I work with my clients on establishing habits, these are the topics that come up. When I check in with my clients about their commitments to themselves throughout the week, these are the types of discussions that we’re having as to why they didn’t follow through.

And it highlights how we’ve been socialized as women and prioritizing others needs before our own. When we don’t advocate for ourselves within our relationships, we lose out. And not just in health, but in our self-concept too.

The second layer of people pleasing is what I call the self-soothing layer. This layer illustrates how over commitment can lead to a state of overwhelm and subsequent self-soothing.

Women, especially in their roles as caretakers, often find themselves taking on the lion’s share of repeatable household tasks. These include scheduling doctor’s appointments for the kids, planning meals, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, getting the kids ready, working, and keeping up with family and friends.

Each of these tasks, while essential is a thread in a tapestry of responsibilities that over time, can be overwhelmingly complex and time consuming. The more we do, the more is expected of us. It’s a cycle that perpetuates itself.

When we constantly show others that we’re always available to manage these tasks, a silent expectation is set. They begin to rely on us, not just for the tasks we’re directly responsible for, but also for those that aren’t inherently ours.

What was initially a favor, or an act of kindness can become an expectation, and eventually, a demand. And here’s where the problem intensifies. When someone drops a task into our already overflowing lap at the last minute, it’s not just an additional item on our to do list. It’s a stressor.

And if we can’t or don’t fulfill this unexpected request, we often face blame or criticism for not helping. Even though, the issue wasn’t ours to begin with.

In this whirlwind of responsibilities and expectations, our own needs, like meal prep, exercise, decompression, reading a book, self-care, and even sleep. Those get pushed to the back burner, they become optional. And here’s the crux of the issue.

When we are overwhelmed, the thought of adding even one more task, no matter how beneficial it might be to our health, feels utterly impossible.

Think about it. After a day filled with managing a multitude of tasks for others, the idea of meal prepping can feel like a Herculean effort. It’s easier to order out. Despite knowing that it might not align with our health goals. We’re like, F it! I just can’t deal with it. I’ll deal with it tomorrow.

The same goes for exercise. With our energy spent and our minds burdened by the day’s demands, the idea of spending that little left of our resources on exercise seems completely unfeasible. We tell ourselves, I just can’t. I have a million other things that are more important and urgent.

This state of overwhelm doesn’t just affect our physical health, it impacts our mental and emotional well-being too. The constant juggling act leaves us drained, stressed, and often feeling inadequate. It’s a detrimental cycle where our health both mental and physical, take a hit because we’ve unconsciously taught others that our time and needs are less important.

So, let’s move into a more personal area. My own journey with emotional eating. This journey is deeply intertwined with the theme of overcommitment and overwhelm that we just discussed.

For years, I found myself in a constant state of doing. Managing household tasks, work responsibilities, and family needs. Like many of us, I was juggling so many balls that I didn’t even realize one was made of glass. My emotional well-being. I was so busy taking care of everything else that I neglected to take care of myself.

This neglect manifested in various ways, but most notably, it led to my emotional eating. Emotional eating isn’t about hunger. It’s a coping mechanism. After a long day, I was mentally and physically exhausted. The thought of preparing a healthy meal felt completely overwhelming. And so, I turned to food for comfort.

It wasn’t about what I was eating, but why I was eating. I was using food to fill a void, to soothe the stress and fatigue that came from constantly putting others needs before my own.

The realization hit me gradually. I began to notice patterns in my eating habits, reaching for food when I was stressed, tired, or feeling underappreciated. It was a wakeup call. I recognized that this wasn’t just about food, it was about how I was handling my emotions and the overwhelming demands of my life. I was soothing myself with food because I hadn’t set boundaries or prioritized my own needs.

This insight was the first step in my journey to overcome emotional eating. It wasn’t an overnight change. It was a process of understanding my triggers, acknowledging my emotions, and finding healthier ways to cope.

By addressing the root cause, the overwhelming sense of responsibility and lack of self-care, I began to make changes. I started setting boundaries, carving out time for myself, and dealing with stress in ways that didn’t involve food.

Sharing this journey is important to me because it highlights a common but overlooked aspect of emotional eating. It’s not just about the food, it’s about our emotional and mental state. By understanding and addressing these underlying factors, we can begin to develop a healthier relationship with food and ourselves.

These are the conversations that I have with my clients, both in private and group coaching. I have tons of tools that I use with my clients to not only recognize emotional eating but address the emotions so that we don’t feel like we have to revert to eating to cope with our emotional state.

Being in overwhelm is a state of mind. And there are not only techniques that you can learn to stop taking on additional tasks, but there are also techniques that I can teach you to help you reduce the overwhelm without changing any of the circumstances in your life.

Now, the third layer of people pleasing and eating explores the deepest layer, the core of self-concept. This is where we confront the most profound impact of people pleasing. Self-abandonment.

Self-abandonment is more than just occasionally neglecting our needs. It’s a consistent pattern of behavior where we prioritize everyone else’s desires and opinions over our own.

This behavior can manifest in many ways from altering our appearance to fit societal standards to suppressing our true feelings and relationships to neglecting our health goals to accommodate others. At its core, self-abandonment is about losing touch with who we are and what we truly want.

Now, before we move forward, it’s important to explain that as children, we are taught to please the big people in our lives because we rely on them to take care of us and take care of our basic needs. Eating, shelter, sleep, safety. This is where people pleasing starts.

As young children, we are sponges learning what makes people laugh, what makes them disapprove of our behavior, what they like, what they don’t. And as a result, we learn to hide different parts of ourselves. Parts that aren’t socially acceptable.

Things like laziness, vanity, selfishness, arrogant, being self-involved, not being nice, not doing for others, and a bunch of other things that we judge. And so, when we find parts of us undesirable, we hide them.

As women, since we’re socialized to not say no, we’re seen as not nice if we are anything but accommodating. And so, we don’t speak up for ourselves.

The effects of self-abandonment are far reaching and deeply rooted. It leads to a diminished sense of self-worth, where we start to believe that we don’t deserve to prioritize our own needs. This belief can be incredibly damaging, especially when it comes to our health and well-being.

We might skip a workout because we think our partner’s needs are more important, or we might eat something that doesn’t align with our health goals because we don’t want to cause an inconvenience or draw attention.

The irony is in our effort to be everything to everyone, we end up losing ourselves. We become so entangled in meeting external expectations that we forget to listen to our inner voice. This loss of self can leave us feeling unfulfilled, resentful, and disconnected. It’s like we’re living someone else’s life. And in the process, our own desires and needs get silenced.

Moreover, self-abandonment often leads to a cycle of guilt and shame. When we do take time for ourselves, we feel guilty, as if we’re being selfish. This guilt can be paralyzing, keeping us trapped in a cycle of neglecting our own needs. And when our health inevitably suffers as a result, we’re engulfed in shame, not realizing that it’s our pattern of self-abandonment that’s the root cause.

Breaking free from this cycle requires a deep, introspective journey. It’s about reconnecting with our core selves and relearning to value our own needs and desires. It’s about realizing that taking care of ourselves isn’t selfish, it’s actually necessary. And we must learn to set boundaries, to say no when something doesn’t align with our needs, to prioritize our well-being.

This layer of people pleasing the core self-concept layer is perhaps the most challenging to address. It requires us to confront uncomfortable truths about how we see ourselves and how we allow others to influence our self-perception. But the journey through this layer is also the most rewarding. It’s where real transformative healing begins.

Now, let’s transition to a more uplifting but equally crucial aspect of our journey. Personal growth and the reclamation of self-worth. This is about turning the tide on self-abandonment and rediscovering the value of who we are.

My journey of personal growth became with a simple yet profound realization, that I needed to take care of myself. Otherwise, I wouldn’t exist anymore, metaphorically speaking.

This realization didn’t come easy. It was the culmination of many moments of introspection, understanding, and gradually peeling away the layers of people pleasing that had obscured my true self.

Learning self-worth was like learning a new language. It’s about communicating to yourself that you are important, that your needs matter, and that you deserve to be healthy and happy. It’s about changing the narrative from being a passive participant in your life to being an active, engaged advocate for your health, for who you are as a person.

One of the first steps in this journey is setting boundaries. Boundaries are not about pushing people away, they come from a place of self-respect and self-love. They’re about protecting your own energy and space. They’re guidelines that help you navigate interactions and activities, ensuring that your needs are not sidelined.

For me, setting boundaries meant saying no to extra tasks that didn’t align with my priorities. It meant saying no to my friends when they wanted me to stay out later. It meant carving out a dedicated time for self-care activities like exercise, meditation, or simply going to bed because I needed to.

Another critical step is self-compassion. Often, we are our own harshest critics, especially when we’ve lived a life of people pleasing. We berate ourselves for past behaviors and choices, but part of learning self-worth is treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you extend to others. It’s about acknowledging your past mistakes, learning from them, and moving forward without self-judgment.

Also, embracing self-worth involves rediscovering what brings you joy and fulfillment. What is it that you want? It’s about reconnecting with your desires, your wants, your hobbies, interests, and passions that you may have set aside because other things got in the way.

For me, it was journaling and exercising. Activities that I had neglected that brought me immense peace and happiness.

This process is not a quick fix. It’s a gradual transformation, a series of small steps that led to a more authentic, fulfilling life. It’s about dismantling the old patterns of people pleasing and building new habits rooted in self-respect and self-love.

I want you to remember that learning to value yourself is one of the most empowering steps that you can take. It’s the foundation upon which a healthy, balanced life is built. Your journey to self-worth is not just about improving your relationship with food or your body, it’s about transforming your entire life.

As we transition to connecting today’s discussion with the previous episode featuring Sara Fisk, I want to focus on an aspect that is particularly relevant for women in midlife. The interplay between people pleasing, our food choices, and the hormonal changes that come along with this stage of life.

Midlife brings so many changes, so many of which are hormonal. These changes can affect everything from our mood and energy levels to our metabolism, and how our bodies process food. Understanding this biological shift is crucial as it influences not just our physical health, but our emotional and mental health as well.

One key point to consider is how these hormonal changes can amplify the effects of people pleasing on our food choices. As women, we often find ourselves in a nurturing role, taking care of family, managing households, and maintaining social connections.

This caretaking extends to our food choices as well. We might prepare meals that cater more to our family’s preferences than to our own nutritional needs. Or during social gatherings, we might choose food for the sake of fitting in or not appearing difficult. Even if those food choices don’t align with what our bodies need, or want, or function well on at this stage of life.

Moreover, the stress from constantly putting others first can have a significant impact. Stress is known to affect hormones like cortisol, which in turn can influence our appetite and cravings.

The result? We might find ourselves reaching for comfort foods more often. Foods that are typically high in sugar, fat and calories, a direct response to the emotional and physical toll of people pleasing.

Another aspect to consider is the change in our body’s needs during midlife. Our nutritional requirements evolve. And what worked for us in our 30s, may not be as effective in our 40s and 50s. This necessitates a more mindful approach to eating, one that takes into consideration not just our tastes and preferences, but also the changing needs of our bodies.

So, how do we navigate these challenges? The first step is awareness. Recognizing how our people pleasing tendencies influence our food choices and acknowledging the changes our bodies are going through.

The next step is adaptation. Making conscious choices that prioritize our health and well-being. This might mean experimenting with new recipes that are both enjoyable and nourishing. Or asserting our dietary preferences when dining out with others.

Ultimately, it’s about finding a balance. It’s about making choices that honor both our responsibilities and our personal health.

As we continue to explore and understand the complex relationship between our behaviors, our bodies, and our health, we empower ourselves to make decisions that support our health. Especially, during this transformative stage of life.

Now, wrapping up, let’s take a moment to reflect on what we’ve covered so far. It’s been a lot in this episode. We’ve explored the complex world of people pleasing and its multifaceted impact on our health. Particularly, in relation to our eating habits.

I started out by explaining layer one, the superficial layer of people pleasing. Where we saw how our desire to meet other expectations can directly influence our daily choices. Like what we eat, how we prioritize our health, and exercise. We recognize that these small concessions, while seemingly insignificant can cumulatively undermine our own health goals.

Then, we move deeper into Layer 2, the self-soothing layer. Where we examined the indirect consequences of people pleasing. We discussed how the overwhelming burden of overcommitment can lead us to seek comfort in food, using it as a coping mechanism to handle stress and fatigue.

This emotional eating is not about hunger. It’s a response to the emotional overload that comes from constantly putting others before ourselves.

And then, in layer three, the core self-concept layer. We confronted the most profound impact of people pleasing. Self-abandonment. We talked about how consistently neglecting our own needs can erode our sense of self-worth, leading to a cycle of guilt and shame. But we also discussed the transformative power of reclaiming our self-worth, setting boundaries, and prioritizing our own well-being.

Connecting these layers to the unique challenges in midlife, we acknowledged how hormonal changes can amplify the effects of people pleasing on our food choices. We emphasize the importance of being mindful of these changes and adapting our approach to eating and self-care to align with our evolving body’s needs.

Now, if you found resonance in today’s episode, if you see yourself in the stories and scenarios that I’ve discussed, and you’re looking for guidance on how to navigate these challenges. I want to invite you to reach out to me, schedule a call. And let’s talk about how you can overcome the habit of people pleasing in relation to your health and eating behaviors.

Together, we can work towards developing strategies that honor both your well-being and your unique journey through midlife.

Before we say goodbye, I want to leave you with this challenge. If you have a daughter, mother, sister, best friend, anyone that you love. How would you like her to treat herself? That is exactly how I want you to treat yourself. Because you deserve it.

As a human being, your health, your needs, and your well-being are not negotiable. They are the foundation upon which a fulfilling life is built. So, start today. Take a small step towards prioritizing yourself. It’s not about perfection. It’s about progress. Moving forward.

And if you need help or support because you see how people pleasing is impacting your health, and you don’t know how to change that, schedule that call with me. It’s an investment that will pay off in dividends.

Thank you so much for joining me in this exploration of people pleasing and its impact on our health. I hope this episode has provided you with insights, understanding, and perhaps a new perspective on how to approach your health.

Until next time, take care of yourself, set those boundaries, and remember, you are worth every effort you put into your health. That’s all I have for you today. Have an amazing week. I’ll see you next time. Bye-bye.

Thank you for tuning into today’s episode.

If what we’ve discussed resonates with you and you’re eager to take your health journey further, I invite you to schedule a one-on-one call with me. It’s an opportunity for us to dive deep into your health goals, explore your unique challenges, and discuss what you’ve tried before.

To book your slot, simply click the link in the show notes. Once you do, you’ll answer a few thought-provoking questions to get us started. Then, all you need to do is show up, and we’ll take it from there.

Let’s make your health journey a priority together. See you on the call!

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