A Healthy Lifestyle: Is It Worth It? Where I’m at Right Now.

I think it’s fair to say we all, generally-speaking, desire to live a balanced lifestyle.  Though, sometimes it seems like maneuvering such a lifestyle walks a fine line between managing a routine and increasing madness.  That’s right, I said it.  A healthy lifestyle can be hard.  As simple as it may sound to “just eat more fruit and vegetables”, that isn’t always the simple answer. 

a healthy lifestyle cauliflower rice burrito bowl
Cauliflower rice burrito bowl with black beans, tomato, carrots, corn, red onion, and cilantro.

I hold the belief that the food, exercises, behaviors, and even the thoughts we have are what determine our overall wellness.  If you’re just doing the exercise part, or, you aren’t mindfully connecting the food that you eat as being valuable to your health, then you may be missing out on some key parts of wellness.  These four areas are interconnected and, together, provide optimum health possibilities for you.  Here’s the catch: they require constant maintenance!

Recently, I began reading Alisa Vitti’s WomanCode.  The guidance outlined in the book addresses hormonal imbalance in women that perfectly aligns with the areas that I previously stated are (in my opinion) essential for overall wellness.  In addition to information about what the causes and signs of hormonal imbalance are (spoiler alert: they’re actually a lot more common than you think), Vitti provides an outline for food, exercise, and lifestyle choices that will best support women throughout their monthly cycle.  So, the adjustments that I’m currently making to sync with my cycle are my attempts to improve my health.   

a healthy lifestyle cycle calendar
Moon calendar of June which is representative of the woman’s four cycle phases.

I do believe that our bodies are ever-changing.  The sugary treats I used to eat on the regular as a kid don’t feel as good now.  Heck, even on a day-to-day basis, my mood can change and the kind of workout I am up for varies.  As far as my status of health and wellness goes, I feel pretty clear about what I want in my life and what I don’t (though, other areas of life, such as career paths, are something else).  I prefer to exclude food or activities that are toxic to my body and mind.  Instead, I’d rather place my focus on what does serve me and listen to the messages my body and mind give me. 

I started this post by saying how hard it is to keep up a healthy lifestyle.  There are several areas to juggle and sometimes it is overwhelming to keep trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.  Along the way, it might require taking a break from exercise or over-indulging in a restaurant-serving of pasta.  #LIFE  Trial and error sucks but the learning experiences help me reinforce why I started my health and fitness journey in the first place: to feel like my best self.    

We weren’t designed to live in one constant state or rigid daily ritual.  Rather, each day is different and each day we can learn how to better ourselves. 

a healthy lifestyle

I actually got inspiration for this thought piece from Alexis over at Hummusapien.  She recently wrote a post about her decision to live intuitively day to day.  I admire her mindset and I recommend you go check out her post for another great perspective on the whole healthy living scheme of things.

Thank you for reading!  I don’t have all of the answers (though, I’ve never claimed to) so I appreciate you for taking an interest in my thoughts and sticking around this little blog of mine.  Does the ever-changing nature of your health and fitness journey confuse you, too?  Let me know.  I love reading your comments♥

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1 Bowl GF + V Pumpkin Cookies

pumpkin cookies

When I was younger, my mom used to bake up cookies every few weeks to feed the sweet tooth that my sister and I had.  As a kid, nothing was better than a glass of milk and a belly full of cookies.  YES.  I had no self-restraint and never stopped at just one.  Homemade cookies are best when fresh so I would eat 4-5 that first day…and the second day…and maybe just two or three after that…if there were still any cookies left.

pumpkin cookies

Sadly, traditional cookies have several cups of sugar, white flour, butter, plus additional sugary add-ins.  Yupp, I don’t know how young Melanie did it!  If I tried to recreate my old 4-5 cookies indulgence these days I would definitely end up with a stomach ache.  Nowadays, I don’t crave cookies in the same way.  Though, sometimes your girl gets a craving for healthified versions of old favorites.  Thus, I whipped up some cookies that I consider to be more nutritionally balanced.

pumpkin cookies

Ingredients breakdown:

We’ve got banana and pumpkin to soften up the cookies and a mere ½ cup of sugar to sweeten them up.  I am extremely cautious about my sugar intake and, ever since reading Woman Code, I try to avoid adding excess sugar unless absolutely necessary (sidenote: possible post on this in the upcoming future).  The fact is: cookies just don’t taste like cookies without some kind of sweetener.  These are just lightly sweetened with a mixture of brown and coconut sugar.  Of course, you could add an extra ¼ cup of sugar for sweeter cookies.  Feel free taste-test the batter 😉  Though, I think you’ll find there is something nice about the subtle level of sweetness in these.

Also, let’s not forget about fats.  I know there are some cookie recipes out there that might bake up with simply banana but I like incorporating healthy fats into my food.  Why, you ask?  Well, fat helps slow the absorption of sugar and keeps me satiated.  Not to mention, it helps make the cookies crisp up on the outside and stay fluffy on the inside.

In addition, you can include up to a cup worth of dried fruit, nuts, ALOHA brand chopped chocolate, or whatever you like.  I went with a small amount of chocolate and walnuts to add a bit more healthy fats and protein.  Speaking of protein, definitely try adding a scoop of your favorite protein powder, if you’d like.  Sometimes my family can taste the protein powder in baked goods so I went with an unflavored plant-based protein powder from The Natural Citizen.  That is totally optional, though.  The cookies will be just fine without!

pumpkin cookies

 

pumpkin cookies

Without further ado, here is the recipe for the pumpkin cookies:

 

GF + V Pumpkin Cookies
Print
Recipe type: Snacks, Dessert
Cuisine: Cookies
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup mashed banana (about ½ a banana)
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup melted warm coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of almonds, ground into meal/flour
  • 2 cups oat flour (blend from 2¼ cups whole rolled oats)
  • ½ cup whole rolled oats
  • 1 scoop plant-based protein powder, optional
  • ⅓ cup chopped chocolate
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts, save some for topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the banana and pumpkin puree. Then, stir in the sugars, baking soda, spices, coconut oil, and vanilla extract.
  3. Use a food processor or blender to process the almonds to make a fine flour. Repeat for the oat flour.
  4. To the wet ingredients, add the processed almond and oat flour, along with the whole rolled oats.
  5. Next, fold in the chocolate chips and half of the walnuts. Use a large cookie scoop to drop dollops of the cookie dough onto the baking sheet. Place a few walnut crumbs on top of each cookie.
  6. Bake for 13 to 14 minutes or until the tops have browned (don't under-bake). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a minute before moving to a wire rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes more. Bake the remaining cookie dough until all is finished.
  7. I know cookies are irresistible out of the oven but if you wait for them to cool, they will be much better. They won’t be as fall-apart delicate and their flavor will be more visible.
  8. When cookies are completely cool, they can be stored in an airtight container or frozen.
Notes
Evidently, if any of the ingredients are cold, that will make the coconut oil clump up. Small specks are okay but large clumps need to be dissolved. You can lightly warm the batter in a microwave safe bowl and proceed with the recipe.
I ground my almonds because I enjoy the fresher taste and don’t normally store almond flour at my house. You could probably use store-bought but I haven’t tested that myself.

Cookie recipe adapted from Love and Lemon’s Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip recipe.

As always, please let me know what you think if you give this recipe a try!  Leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram.

 

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Scents, Soaps, and Suds—Oh My! Shower Routine and Essentials.

shower routine essentials

It’s the mid-way point in the week and I think we could all use a little relaxation.  That’s where the idea for Wine Not Wednesday came from, right?  Well, as an alternative to an evening with wine, another great way to relax is with a bath or shower.  It sounds simple but there is something really refreshing about being in the water and cleaning up.  Even if you can’t afford to spend much time on self-care, opt for a great nighttime shower.  It’s worth it!

Shower Routine

I know some people prefer morning showers but I can’t go to sleep without being clean from head to toe.  I sleep a whole lot better when I’m fully clean.  So, first, If I’m washing my hair, (I rotate between hair-washing days 😄) then I’ll start my shower by thoroughly scrubbing my head with water. I do this before adding shampoo so the water has a chance to break down oils and I can use less shampoo to get my hair clean.  After a good 3-5 minutes of shampooing, I’ll wash out all of the suds from my scalp and hair.  On rinsed hair, I then massage a drop of conditioner onto the ends of my hair and let that sink in while I work on my body.

shower routine essentials shower gel

For the rest of me, I like to use a thick towel or loofah, with a generous lather of shower gel, to softly wipe off sunscreen, sweat, and whatever outside elements may have adhered to my skin that day.  Next, I’m pretty much in sandals all summer so my feet are a really important spot to do some detail work as far as scrubbing goes.  I have a pumice stone/scrub brush (like the one included in my Instagram giveaway see HERE) that is perfect for exfoliating my feet and keeping them soft.  I mean, we all wish we could be a mermaid but I think we could do without scales. 🧜‍♀️ At this point, I’ll add another glob of conditioner to my hands and apply that to my legs for shaving.  Yes, my legs!  Conditioner works great as a shaving gel and leaves my legs super soft.

I’m almost done with my shower and all that’s left to do is rinse.  I shower with warm water but, as a finishing touch, I crank the temperature down to cool/cold water to rinse my hair a final time.  I feel this helps seal the hair cuticles and make it shiny!  When I step out of the shower, I towel off and pull my hair out of my face into a twist towel.  I let the towel soak up some water before leaving it to air-dry.

shower routine essentials leave in conditioner

Then, it’s lotion time.  The skin is most ready to soak up creams and lotions right out of the shower.  Thus, immediate moisturization is key!  I tend to get especially dry legs so I make sure to slather them in lotion as soon as possible.  I keep the towel on my hair as I slip into my pajamas and apply some deodorant cream to my armpits.  This is a step I recently added to my routine.  For the warmer weather I’m in, it feels good to get that little extra scented help.  Plus, it moisturizes/softens my pits.

And that’s the end of my shower routine!  It’s definitely not extravagant or lengthy.  I try to keep it simple and fulfilling…but nighttime skincare is another story. 😏

Anyway, I decided to write this post because I strongly believe that a fulfilling shower or bath is an important part of self-care and relaxation.  It is also made fulfilling by great products.  That is, soap, shampoo & conditioner, and whatever accessories you would like to add.  I’m in the process of changing around my body and hair care products so I can’t recommend too many.  Although, I do like using natural products whenever possible and I opt for essential oils as fragrances.  A light scent helps elevate the whole pampering experience!

shower routine essentials deodorant

Standout Products From My Shower Routine

Lately, I’ve been using a Lush bubbly shower gel that smells nice each time I crack it open and it leaves me feeling scrub-a-dub clean!  The citrus and champagne notes remind me of a lively party.  (Unfortunately it looks like it was a seasonal product but I’ll link it anyway).

As far as soap bars, I bought a handful of unique soaps from the farmers market.  Cute, handmade soaps are such a treat and it’s awesome to know what goes into them.  If I’m not using a shower gel, I’ll use these to wash my body.

The leave-in conditioner that I’ve been using is John Masters Organics Citrus & Neroli Detangler.  Okay, so it’s not meant to be a conditioner but, in addition to detangling my hair, it adds softness to my hair.  The product is lightweight and has a light citrus scent from essential oils—which I love!  Like I said, I’m all about the scented items.

Lastly, my deodorant cream is from Honestly pHresh in the scent Lavendar and Ylang Ylang.  I previously only used antiperspirant deodorants and just switched to a natural one in the past few weeks.  It doesn’t protect against extreme sweatiness from working out or California’s 100 plus degree temperatures.  Though, it is perfect for an everyday freshness.  I scoop out a bit of cream from the jar and warm it up on my fingertips before applying.  It feels ever so slightly powdery but softens the skin, too.  At night, it keeps my pits feeling supple—but not wet—and it protects against light perspiration.  I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a natural deodorant.

What do you like to do for self-care and pampering?  If you are Team Luxurious Shower like me, what products do you like to use?

As always, thanks for reading! ❤️

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Yogurt Pro Bowl & Unique Topping Suggestions!

yogurt pro bowl

Do you remember a year or two back when yogurt bowls were super trendy?  It seemed like yogurt was all the rage for breakfast and healthy snacking—especially once Greek yogurt hit the scene.  How, you might be thinking, can a food be trendy?  Well, sorry, folks, that is a question for someone else.  I don’t start the food trends I just utilize them.

In early 2016, I was on the biggest Greek yogurt kick and would start each day with a bowl.  I’d eat it with berries and granola, melon, or stone fruit—oh, yogurt could do no wrong!  Though, sometime during the summer, I had one too many bowls and got turned off.  Now, it has been months since I’ve consumed it but recently I found myself craving the creamy, refreshing, gut-healthy food.

First things first, I picked up individual serving containers of Silk’s blueberry soy yogurt and Kite Hill’s plain almond milk yogurt.  For the yogurt bowl shown above, I used the almond milk one but you can see me use blueberry coconut flavor in this Instagram post.  I think I like the coconut version the most out of the two but use whatever non-dairy or regular yogurt you like.

As I previously mentioned, yogurt with fruit is an easy pairing.  Nowadays, I want a little more out of my yogurt bowls so I like to add sweet potato, oatmeal, and nut butter to tackle all the food groups at once!  Side note: I like to give credit whree credit is due so, I first saw the idea from @olive.eeeats on Instagram.  It’s hearty, comforting, and a breakfast I can get behind.  It’s a total Yogurt Pro Bowl, if you will.  Also, if some of the items I included aren’t your thing, I’ve included suggestions at the end of this post on how to jazz up your yogurt bowl in an unconventional way.

For a well-rounded yogurt bowl, I like to include:

Whole grains

Vegetables

Berries or other fruit

Fats

Admittedly, my yogurt bowls turn out different each time so, while I’ve provided my recipe, this is just a guideline.  If you want more or less food, adjust as needed.  There’s no wrong way to measure or plate any of these foods so just eat according to what you’re craving and enjoy!

Yogurt Pro Bowl
Print
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American, Vegan, Vegetarian
Author:
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 yogurt bowl
The yogurt pros (that's us!) prep their ingredients ahead of time. So, use your breakfast yogurt as a chance to toss in some roasted veggies, fruit of choice, and healthy fats. It will give your mind and body the fuel it needs to tackle the day!
Ingredients
  • Overnight oats: ⅓ cup oats, 2 tsp chia seeds, ½ cup water or milk, ½ tsp maca powder, ½ tsp cacao powder
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • Roasted sweet potato fries (from ½ small-med sized potato), sprinkled with cinnamon
  • ½ small-med sized banana
  • ¼ cup raspberries
  • ¼ avocado
  • 1 tbsp ground flax
  • 1 tbsp of peanut butter (I used Wild Friends Pumpkin Spice)
  • 2 tbsp granola, optional but recommended for texture (I used Purely Elizabeth Chocolate Probiotic)
  • A pinch of Himalayan pink sea salt, recommended to sprinkle on avocado (I used San Francisco Salt Company)
Instructions
  1. For the oats, combine all of the ingredients the night before. Alternatively, warm, stovetop oats could be substituted.
  2. For the yogurt bowl, first add the oatmeal to one half of the bowl and the yogurt to the other half.
  3. Then, I like to strategically lay out all of the toppings in different sections of the bowl but feel free to toss them all in together. Though, I should say, the sweet potato fries are best left on the sides of the bowl to utilize as yogurt dippers. 😉
  4. Lastly, sprinkle salt on avocado, drizzle nut butter, and add a few clumps of granola before taking a spoon and devouring!

 

yogurt pro bowl

In my opinion, what makes this elevated yogurt bowl different is that it doesn’t solely rely on fruit to make it awesome.  Plus, it doesn’t shy away from carbs or fat.  Normally yogurt is considered the low-calorie, dieter’s choice breakfast.  Which it can be but I’d like to prove yogurt can be fun so long as you know how to jazz it up! 🙂 Actually, as a matter of fact,…

There are many choices for yogurt bowl add-ins!

Whole grains: Stovetop oats or overnight oats, buckwheat, quinoa cooked in coconut milk, warm barley, or simply use a homemade whole grain muffin—YES!

Vegetables:  Roasted or sautéed carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts if you’re feeling adventurous!

Spice it up: Cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, rosemary, paprika, or sweeten with maple syrup or raw/coconut sugar.

Fruit: As you probably know, ANY fresh, frozen, or sautéed fruit you like will work!

Fats: 1-2 tbsp peanut, almond, or sunflower seed butter; toasted walnuts or pumpkin seeds, cinnamon-maple glazed pecans, ¼ of an avocado, or coconut flakes will do.

Bonus: Granola, hemp seeds, adaptogens, flax or chia seeds.

Here are some pairing ideas I cannot wait to try:

Roasted carrots with blackberries, quinoa, and sunflower seed butter; crispy roasted Brussels, with cinnamon maple-glazed pecans, blueberries, and barley; also, sautéed turmeric butternut squash with coconut oil sautéed apples, and toasted walnuts.

Of course, those are just a few ideas.  Mix and match according to your taste buds!  Also, please let me know how you enjoy yogurt or if you’ve got any wild yogurt pairings.  I’d love to try out something new!

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Snack Bars Showdown: My Favorite Healthy Bars

favorite snack bars

Less than a year ago, I used to consider snacks to be something you eat if you’re waiting on a meal.  So, if I was 30 minutes away from lunch time then I’d contemplate suffering through my hunger for a bit longer or give in to a snack to tide me over.

I have a very different outlook on snacks now!  I’ve still got my main meals of breakfast, lunch, and dinner; I just include an extra snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon.  Sometimes I’m hungry and WAITING for that snack or sometimes I’ve got a mild craving and the snack helps satisfy that.  Either way, snacks are a part of my daily routine.

I like making my own snacks, like these no-bake almond coconut bars, but there are a number of packaged snack bars that I love taking on the go.  They are great options when you accidentally forgot to pack your homemade snack or if you need something that is not easily perishable.  I’ll dive into my favorite bars and flavors and also offer protein and sugar comparisons because that’s something I watch out for in bars.  The closer the protein to sugar ratio is, the less chance I’ll spike my blood sugar.  Please, feel free to let me know your thoughts on these bars or any others you like that I didn’t mention here.

My Favorite Snack Bars

Square Organics

squareorganics snack bars

If you’ve spent a short time on Instagram then you’ve probably seen or heard of these bars.  Square Organics bars are chocolate-coated crispy bars packed with vegan protein and hints of flavors.  I love the coconut and cherry coconut flavors but you can’t go wrong with any of them.  You can expect 12g of plant-based brown rice protein, and an equal amount of sugar from low-glycemic coconut nectar and cane syrup.  One of the best ratios I’ve ever seen in a snack bar.

You can buy these bars online or at places like Vitamin Shoppe.

Clif Nut Butter Filled Energy Bars

Unlike traditional clif bars, these energy bars taste like soft biscuits with a creamy nut butter center.  Each bar has an awesome 7g of protein!  I like the coconut almond butter flavor which has 9g of sugar in each bar.  These are surprisingly filling and really great at keeping me sane when I’m super hungry!  These bars are also organic and come in 7 different flavors.  I can’t wait to try the blueberry almond butter variety.

I find these at any major-chain grocer like Walmart and Target.

bRAW Bars

I mentioned bRAW in my May Wrap-Up post so you know I’m already a fan.  These do need to be kept in the refrigerator but taste just fine after being in my purse for 2-3 hours.  They are a little high calorie but all of the goodness of these bars comes from nuts and seeds!  My favorite almond crunch flavor has 9g of protein and 7g of sugar.  Another excellent ratio!  The other flavors: super green, coconut macadamia, and chocolate espresso have similar protein to sugar ratios.

These can be a little hard to find but check out their store locator or shop online!

Go Macro bars

My oh, my!  If you are in the market for the perfect organic nutrition bar, then look no further than Go Macro Bars.  They are vegan, soy-free, non-GMO, and gluten-free.  Some varieties like my favorite Balanced Goodness, contain 5g of protein and 12g of sugar.  Though, there are high protein varieties as well, like Everlasting Joy, which has 10g of protein and 12g of sugar.  I believe each bar has a base of nut butter, brown rice syrup, and puffed brown rice.  They are super chewy, lightly sweet, and so satisfying.

You can shop online or use their store locator to find retail locations near you.

ALOHA Protein Bars

aloha protein snack bars

I like using ALOHA’s organic, plant-based protein powder in my smoothies so I had high hopes before tasting these.  I’ve got to say, they are pretty darn good.  They have 11-12g of sugar in each bar and a whopping 18g of protein.  Yet, in my experience, they don’t weigh me down—which could be problematic in a snack.  That being said, these bars are likely made with ALOHA’s classic protein powder blend which can be a bit chalky.  That chalkiness is subtle in the bars and does not distract from the taste in the flavors I’ve tried: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and Fudge Brownie.  Online you can find the complete flavor variety of protein bars (just stay away from the Dark Chocolate Coconut Snack Bar—yuck!) but the in-store selection will vary .

ALOHA protein bars can be found at Target or purchased through the ALOHA website.

LARABAR Original

What’s a snack bar list without LARABARS?  The company has quite the selection of products but I still find myself reaching for their original fruit and nut bar!  Flavors like Cashew Cookie, Apple Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Blueberry Muffin are all so good.  Unlike the other bars on this list, the protein to sugar ratio is a little skewed but I don’t find that they cause blood sugar spikes for me.  The bars nutrition content varies by flavor but they contain anywhere between 4-6g of protein and 12-20g of sugar.  The main ingredient in each bar is dates, which have a fair amount of fiber.  Plus, tag on the fat from the nuts and that helps keep the sugar punch down.

Find these at Target, Walmart, or Amazon.com.

RX Bars*

rx bars snack

A friend passed along some RX bars to me not long ago so I decided to give them a try.  I prefer plant-based nutrition bars but these aren’t half bad.  They are sort of like LARABARS but much firmer and higher in protein.  The egg-whites make these filling bars have a slight off-taste to me but I think it’s easy to get past.  Flavors like Mint Chocolate Chip and Blueberry are tasty choices

I haven’t spotted these in stores near me but they are available to purchase on the RX Bar website.

KIND Bars*

I’m not ranking snack bars from favorite to least but the kind bars are probably the bar I choose least out of all featured here.  Basically, KIND bars are the adult version of a granola bar.  Also, these gluten-free bars don’t use oats but rather: nuts, dried fruit, and sometimes crispy brown rice for texture.  While they taste good, some questionable ingredients like palm kernel oil or even the soy isolate/soy lecithin (which is in each bar), keep me from eating them regularly.  The bars usually have at least 5g of protein but upwards of 10g of sugar.  The healthy grains variety is also tasty but only contains 2 or so grams of protein.  I’d say, be mindful when picking out bars and go for the Nuts and Spices line which are lower in sugar.  The best choices in my opinion are the Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond or Cashew Ginger and Spice.

Find them at Walmart, Target, gas stations, or online.  In stores, they are sometimes available individually near the check-out stand, too.

This list is definitely not comprehensive of all the snack bars out there but just some standouts from what I’ve tried.  I’m always looking for nutritious snack bar options so if there’s something you like that I didn’t mention, let me know!  I hope to update or add to this list in the future as I discover new favorite bars. 🙂

favorite snack bars

*The KIND bars and RX bars are the only snack bar options on the list that aren’t vegan-friendly.  I chose to include them because I have tried them and both are fairly good options.  RX bars are filling and offer excellent protein.  KIND bars are widely available and therefore a decent option if you occasionally need to grab a quick snack while out or on-the-go.

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