The Battle of the Bulge and Dressing the Body You Have

I’m going lay it all out here today and be completely honest with you. I’m struggling with my weight right now. I know, no one wants to hear the skinny girl complain about her weight, but I also feel that it’s rather disingenuous to post photo after photo of myself (only the ones that make me look good, of course; I delete hundreds that never make it to the blog) and act like it’s easy because it’s not.

I’ve always had to fight my natural tendency to be a compulsive eater. I’ve done the Jenny Craig thing and the Weight Watchers thing and the MyFitnessPal thing, and I’ve weighed myself daily for the past 20 years. Fortunately I have a fairly forgiving metabolism so for a long time I could indulge when I wanted to and then make up for it by dieting for a few days. I’m not saying that was a healthy way to live, but it kept me happy with my size.

The years passed and with my 40th birthday looming, the numbers on the scale started inching up and my clothes started getting tight. I couldn’t seem to get back to my comfortable weight range no matter what I did. That’s when I started running and working out. I decided if I was going to have to make peace with a few extra pounds, then at least I’d be fit. So I got in shape. And while the scale never did return to my happy place, I was content with my size and felt like I probably looked better than when I weighed less but was “skinny fat” — which is the term for what I was for most of my life.

But then good old plantar fasciitis set in, and now I can’t exercise like I should, and my 40-year-old metabolism isn’t working the way it used to, and this spring I’ve packed on a few pounds that just. will. not. let. go.

Why am I sharing this for Fashion Friday?

Because my clothes don’t fit, and it’s hard to look stylish in clothes that are too tight. And I’m willing to bet there are a lot of women out there in my shoes. Or, you know, my pants, ha!

If that’s you, I want to tell you that it is okay to go up a size. In fact, I highly recommend it.

Last week I had in my head that I wanted to wear my white dressy shorts to my birthday dinner. I haven’t worn them all summer, and a date night seemed like the perfect opportunity to dust them off. I knew they were snug even last year when I was training for a half marathon, so a few days before our dinner date I tried them on to see how they fit, and, well… they didn’t. I carry all my weight in my middle, so my beloved white shorts were riding up in the rear (wedgie, anyone?) and making an unsightly muffin top that was visible through my shirt. I knew I couldn’t wear them without “looking like two pigs fighting under a blanket” — haha! (Name that movie!)

It was the final straw. I could have worn the white shorts and punished myself the entire night, trying not to eat too much and constantly sucking in my gut and tugging the shorts down. Or I could have worn a safe stretchy dress with lots of room to expand throughout the evening, but I wanted to feel good and have fun on my birthday! And I certainly wanted to enjoy my meal. So I decided it was time to give it up and go shopping and buy the next size up.

The day of our date, I took my girls with me and went to the mall. Since I have white shorts that I hope to wear again some day, I decided to buy black ones for a change.

I got home and started getting dressed for our date, and I cannot tell you how freeing it is to wear clothes that fit. For the past few months, I’ve been trying to squeeze into pants that are too tight and I’m sick of it. It’s uncomfortable, and they make me look like a frumpy hausfrau because when your pants are tight, they showcase every lump and bump and that is NOT what we need, can I get an amen? 

My new size eights actually made me look thinner than the sixes in my closet, and they were so much more comfortable to wear. I could sit and stand and bend and squat with nothing pinching or riding up. It was glorious.

If I had any reservations about how I look in my new size, they were washed away when I posted a photo of the outfit on my Facebook page, asking the Internets if it looked like I was trying to hard with the dressy shorts and wedge sandals. I was feeling a bit self-conscious and wanted a second opinion. Well, I got 150 of them.

shorts

The response was staggering. I honestly did not expect that. When I ask for fashion advice on an outfit I’m a bit unsure of, I usually get some conflicting opinions, and at least one or two fuddy-duddies have to tell me that I look ridiculous. But not one discouraged me from wearing the outfit and owning it. I even posted a second picture wearing flats, thinking that was probably a safer bet, but most said they prefer the heels.

So I wore it and owned it, and I felt great the whole evening. The best part was that I could move around and eat without feeling constricted.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that my body is changing and the styles that worked for me five years ago or even last summer aren’t cutting it anymore. I’ve begun buying shirts that aren’t as form-fitting, I’m starting to wear more dresses, and I’ve invested a few pairs of shorts that are a size larger. At least for now.

I’m not giving up, but I’m giving myself some grace.

I’m hoping that in a few weeks or months I’ll get my weight under control and I can pack these clothes away and label them for the next time I need them, but if I can’t and I have to own this new size, then I will and I’m not going to do my best not to let it get me down.

There may be some people out there reading this with little sympathy for the girl who has to settle for size eight, but the number isn’t the point. The point is that we all age and as we age our bodies change and it’s okay. Most people simply don’t stay the same size forever.

The key is to learn how to best dress the body you have, and own it.


Comments

  1. Amy Ann says

    Weight is such a hard thing, especially for women. I know I have gone up and down my whole life. It affects how I feel for sure. I think you look fabulous! I am proud of you for writing this and wearing what you feel good in. We need to give ourselves a break! (easier said than done) Have a great holiday weekend!

    xo, Amy Ann
    The Real Arnolds

  2. Robin Waibel says

    Wow was this a timely post! This spoke to me as I am experiencing some of the same issues. I am older than you (fifty last October) and I have noticed that in the last few years all the extra pounds go right to my middle. Unfortunately I don’t exercise regularly (I have a litany of excuses—honestly I just don’t like it and only do it because I know I need to). I also was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in April; my biggest issue this summer is giving up my cute shoes! I have decided to embrace the body I have and just deal with it. I went through my closet last week and finally took out all the pants and shorts that are too tight and uncomfortable. I am donating them all! I have embraced more dresses and maxi skirts and feel like I look more fashionable, and I am more comfortable. I am watching my neighbor try to starve herself to fit in a dress for a wedding she is attending next month, and I am secretly thinking, “Just buy the next size.” Our society is so number driven when it comes to weight and clothing; in reality, it should be all about feeling confident, and I feel more confident in clothes that fit properly, regardless of the number on the tag!!

  3. Susan says

    About 8 years ago I mustered up the time and mental energy to do “Body For Life” and I looked amazing and ripped and all that jazz. Wearing a size 6 at 5″10. Flash forward to today: I work full time and I’m just *done* by the time I get home. I’ve had to settle for a size up and settle for the cold hard reality of being a bit heavier than I was. I do not have the time and mental energy to do it all again and go at it that intensely. For now, I’m resolving to not let the scale climb further, to make sure I do something active at least every day. In my mind, I *know* I am not overweight and I know I am still at a healthy place…but when your frame of reference/comparison weight is leaner it is still hard !

    I

  4. says

    I think it is so important to wear what we feel good in and not focus on a size. I think you look amazing!

    Jill
    dousedinpink.blogspot.com

  5. says

    The long winter made me gain a couple of pounds that I can’t seem to get rid of. I know, blame it on the weather. It’s either that or as you mentioned, just natural body changes that we go thru when we’re in our forties. Although I’m still running, I’ve lost a little bit of motivation because I don’t seem to lose any weight when I run. Maybe I need to add some weight training to gain some muscle! Anyway, I can go on and on about this. Great post and I think you look great in those shorts and wedges. And I’m not just saying that. Happy 4th!

    • says

      Thanks, girl. Yeah, running never really helped me lose weight, but I think it did help me maintain where I was, and I definitely felt like my middle wasn’t as bloated. I carry all my weight in my middle. Ugh. Thanks for the encouragement. :-)

  6. Julie Leonard says

    Your post could not have come at a better time .I too have struggled with my weight my entire life. I recently decided to make peace with the body I currently have as I worked towards getting to my goal weight-where I feel my best (5 lbs..ok 10 lbs.away!) The metabolic slow down once you hit your 40s is difficult. As far as what happens when you hit 50,I’ll let you know in 1 year and 26 days….not that I’m counting :) . Oh and p.s. your outfit looks great-very becoming!

  7. Shari says

    Weight is SUCH a difficult thing, and in our 40s, so many things can contribute to it other than the amounts of food we eat (activity levels, thyroid, hormones, menopause, etc.). The BEST thing you can do for yourself is give yourself grace. Ever since I was hurt and gained so much weight during my wheelchair years, once I was able to walk again, I determined that I could beat myself up over my weight, or I could embrace the fact that I could walk again, and be the best that *I* could be.

    Like you, I struggle to find footwear that’s both cute & doesn’t kill me, as I had to get rid of just about all my shoes post-injury (let’s face it, heels in a wheelchair are rather ludicrous LOL.) Also? As you know, it helps to take time with your hair & makeup, and of course, a fabulous bag fits no matter your weight. ;-)

    You look awesome!

  8. Cheryl says

    You look great. Thanks for being honest and sharing. I wish more bloggers were just real about it. I hit 52 this year and in my forties I started to develop shall we say, less of a waistline. lol… Just gotta own it, our bodies change as we age and it is hard to accept. But, with time, we can accept the changes. Keep eating well, exercise to stay strong physically and mentally, and really that is all we can do. Our hormones dictate what our metabolism will be and you just really can’t fight it. Might as well embrace it and move on and live a full life. : ) You are awesome, I love your blog.

  9. Joyce Padia says

    I too struggled with my weight fluctuation in my early 40’s, which is when I started menopause. Didn’t matter what I did, the pounds just kept coming. I went back to Weight Watchers and reached my goal weight, but not my “real” goal weight, but I was happy. And guess what, as soon as I was happy and stopped obsessing, I was okay with the up 5 down 5 and my confidence soared. I realized that as long as I was happy with how I looked I felt even better and accepted MY BODY. That acceptance has FREED me. My weight has remained the same for about 10 years now (give or take those 5 pounds), it’s just redistributed itself and I’ve learned how to work with it and accept it. You always look fabulous, thanks for sharing with us! Happy 4th of July!

  10. Jen T says

    I could’ve written that post. I was a size 8 for several years, and it was getting to be a tighter size 8 as time went on. I just didn’t feel like myself but I could just eat a little less for a couple of days and my clothes were less tight.

    Last July, I found Trim Healthy Mama and lost 25 lbs, which is more than I was able to lose on WW…better yet, I continued on to lose another SIZE even though the scale hasn’t changed in months. It’s real food, and I very little deprivation (only things you shouldn’t be eating anyway). They have a great FB page, but I encourage reading the book too.

    Interestingly, I have NEVER lost weight from training for a race, until THM…and I think my performance was a lot better this time b/c of the healthier food I was eating. Even more interestingly, since starting THM, I have had more people comment on how young I look, and even that there was no way I have a daughter who is a Sophomore in HS! And I’m eating STEAK! And GUACAMOLE! And CHOCOLATE! YUM!

    • says

      Yeah, there is no mystery here. I eat too much junk and drink too much wine. As health conscious as I am, we still indulge far too often in cupcakes (gluten free for me, of course!) and cheeses and snacky stuff that just packs on the pounds.

      I didn’t lose weight when I was running all the time either, but I did look and feel better.

      I’m checking out Trim Healthy Mama. I am in need of a reboot. :-)

      • sandi says

        Jo-Lynn…just wondering if you checked this book out. I can SO RELATE to this post and I think I too need to be truthful to myself and go the next size up and quit being uncomfortable and feeling squished in. And..I am older then you…in my upper 50’s…and I have to realize that my body just isn’t going to be as forgiving as it was when I was 40. I love the fact that you were so honest with all of us. Ohhh to have legs like that again…LOL. the outfit you have on looks amazing on you. I carry my weight in my middle and that makes jean/pants buying very hard. I am working at being comfortable with where I am at and taking time to enjoy life more then the size on my clothes.

    • Debra Schramm says

      I’m 50 years old. I started Trim Healthy Mama about a year and a half ago. I’ve gone from a tight 10 (should have been a 12) to 6s and 4s. I love that it’s written by 2 Christian women. I don’t exercise but if I did I could speed up the last 5 pounds I’d like to lose. The book is a little pricey but it’s the best $35 I’ve ever spent. The book just resonated with me. I love it!

  11. says

    Amen to going up a size to feel comfortable! (And LOVE the reference to ‘Steel Magnolias’) It’s such a personal thing to admit to oneself, much less say on a blog, so huge kudos to you for voicing something a lot of women can relate to! Great post, and you look fantastic in those dressy shorts! :)

  12. Kathy says

    Steel Magnolias!

    It is a great outfit, and I’ve definitely struggled with the same issues. Thanks for sharing this post!

  13. Ashley G says

    My mother eats a very small amount of food a day to stay very thin in her 50s ( a greek yogurt for breakfast, no lunch and then a small dinner) . When we are together people always ask if we are sisters. It is hurtful. I have had 3 c-sections and cannot wear most of the clothes on most of the blogs. Some clothes make me look very pregnant especially if they define my waist. I think everyone has flaws and the people that will not like you with your flaws are not worth our time anyways. We need to teach our daughters that we do not have to be perfect to be happy in life. And getting rid of clothes that are hard to squeeze into is better for our own sanity!

    • says

      Indeed. And I think your mother’s diet is very telling. It is almost impossible to stay trim unless you have a) very fortunate genes or b) an unusual amount of self control. I just like food too much to eat like that! But the times when I have been able to drop a few pounds in recent years, I do have to eat pretty much like that. It’s not fun. (says the girl who just scarfed a cupcake for lunch) LOL!

  14. says

    Great post Jo-Lynne. So raw & real. I couldn’t agree more. One must dress for the body they have, for sure. Clothes and your confidence will suit you better, too. I always love you in blue. That necklace is gorgeous.

    My pleasure linking up. Check out my Patriotic dress if you like. Happy 4th of July weekend to you & your family.

    Take Care, Ada. =)

  15. says

    I love this post! I just turned 40 myself and have had the same things happen as my metabolism changes. I love your birthday outfit and think you look fabulous in it! It was actually my favorite look of yours (and I’ve followed for awhile) and I never would have known it was a size larger. You look beautiful! :)

  16. says

    You look absolutely fabulous, Jo-Lynne!!! I don’t shop clothes based on the size (except denim…they have to fit right). If I like the fabric, style and the price (fits my wallet) then I buy it. I have a lot of blouses and sweaters that are 1 size up.

    Happy 4th of July!

    xo,
    Janise

  17. says

    My weight gain is all in my gut. I am frustrated because I don’t know how to make it look good. I have Lee jean shorts I love, but the button always sticks out and makes me look ridiculous. But they don’t make them in elastic waistband. So I wear 3 sizes too big just to hide the stupid button.

    And I hate myself for it :/

    • Maryanne says

      I love Lee Riders, too! They are the best fit I have ever found for my 3 c-section, size 10/12 middle! However, the button flap always pops up for me, too! So I either replace the button with Velcro, a hook slide clasp, or just sew the whole zipper flap and button flap down (if the pants have enough spandex to slip on and off without unbuttoning!).

  18. Jenny says

    I can certainly relate to your struggle. Our culture puts so much emphasis on our exterior appearance. It can be so hard not to beat ourselves up for our imperfections. When I need encouragement, this Bible verse helps so much:

    Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3: 3-4

    Though I value a healthy, strong body, I really want the emphasis of my life to be on developing my inner beauty.

  19. says

    you look amazing, but I won’t minimize your feelings because I have (and do) feel the same about myself. We know our bodies best and when they aren’t where we know they could be. BUT to all of us, you look like a model, so you do have that going for you ;)

  20. Joni says

    47 here and life long history of being slim and fit. Your post was exactly what I needed. Thank you!!

  21. Beth says

    Dare I be the one to say make sure you wear clothes that fit even if you have to buy a size smaller? You may feel slightly uncomfortable being the one to say you had to go up a size when you know lots of people still think you’re small. I’ve been the one stuck saying I need to buy smaller clothes, when I wasn’t making any attempt to lose weight. (I should mention that I’m not 30 yet.) Clothes that are too big and hanging off of you aren’t any more flattering than clothes that are too tight! Having to try to not lose weight can be just as challenging sometimes, and NO ONE wants to hear about it.

    • says

      You are right on both counts. I’ve been in the position where the sales associate has to convince me to size down. Properly fitting clothes are key to good style.

      And you are also right that there is a (small) subset of women who struggle with NOT losing weight and that is a hard place to be. You get no sympathy, and that’s not fair. You might like this article. I have a friend in your shoes, and I sent her this, and she loved it. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/05/this-ones-for-my-skinny-sisters/

      • Beth says

        Yeah, I seem to have been part of the even smaller subset of women who were trying not to lose weight who aren’t a size 0 either, lol. Honestly, I think at least in part it’s just because I’m still breastfeeding but I’ve gone from a size 8 to a size 4. No one wants to talk about the person who ends up skinnier after pregnancy than before. My weight seems to have levelled off now, but my husband and I had been throwing around the idea of me needing the see the doctor because I certainly wasn’t eating like you typically do when you lose weight. The toughest part was figuring out what food to keep around. With an infant you need something quick and easy, but a lot of quick and easy foods are junk. Not really the nutrition I want while breastfeeding, and not helpful to hubby who would love to have been losing the weight I did. I settled on drinking more orange juice, and keeping nuts/trail mix from Trader Joe’s around all the time.

  22. says

    I hear ya, sister! I turned 49 this year and have really noticed that I’m heavier in the mid section. I’ve been slim throughout my life, but was diagnosed with celiac disease 5 years ago and put on 15 much needed pounds after I eliminated wheat & gluten that was stopping my body from absorbing essential nutrients & calories. The only good thing I’ve found about perimenopause is going up a bra size! After being an A cup all my life, it’s kind of awesome to have more ‘bounce’ and I just try to wear looser tops around the mid section. I’m also finding that I’m letting go of the “perfection” ideal that women are expected to strive for. No, I’m not “giving up” or going frumpy, but I care less these day of what people think of me, and I want to feel & look my best for myself & loved ones. I don’t want to be a botoxed stick figure for the rest of my life. I want to enjoy good food, great wine & whatever life has to offer. Why be so strict with ourselves to stay in one size? Who are we trying to impress? Move on up to the next size and embrace “more” of you to offer to to the world!

  23. Jennifer Fick says

    You look great and sound “real”. These are real-life issues we all deal with. Grace is the key. I’ve been up and down several sizes over the last 20 years, and people I work with hardly noticed the change. Why? I kept wearing clothes in sizes that fit me. Nothing looks worse than squeezing into something too small. It simply makes you look heavier. Love who you are today.
    P.S. No one knows what size it says on your clothing labels — unless you broadcast it over the web! ;)

    • says

      Haha. And honestly, it is not about the size for me. It’s about looking the way I want to look, and not wanting to give up my entire wardrobe (I have invested way too much in it to do that!) But yeah, there are seasons when the best thing to do is to buy a few things in the next size up and just live life and enjoy it. :-) I’m really working at it though. I mean, we’re going to the beach this week. YIKES! LOL

  24. says

    Thank you for being transparent and real. I always look forward to your fashion posts and have never once thought you look anything but terrific! I’m 47 and have learned that I cannot exercise what I overeat. I feel better at a lower weight so I choose to give up things during the week and splurge on date night.

    Also, have you been to your ob/gyn lately? My doctor has me on hormones, even though I’m not in menopause, to help regulate my entire system. Some women are deficient in certain hormones and do lose weight once their body is regulated. Just a thought. So enjoy your blog!

  25. says

    Jo Lynne, this was a great post! Thanks for being so transparent. It’s greatly needed among us gals. I too have battled with my weight all of my life, even though most folks would never know it. I like to eat cheeses, pastas, etc. too much to be really svelt. But I’m ok with that. You’re absolutely right that we must give ourselves a little grace.

    I think it’s extra important as the mom of a daughter (or two) to be real and gracious about our weight and size. If we are obsessed with it, they will be, too. If we are happy and content, they will be, too. I want my daughter to be happy and healthy, not obsessed with size and weight. And our body image dictates how we feel about ourselves in so many other areas, too. So it’s really important that I send the right messages to my daughter about my body…and hers.

    Great post!!!

  26. says

    Thank you so much for this honest post. By the way, I think you look amazing! I take medication for high blood pressure which slows my metabolism down, and then the 40’s hit! I constantly struggle to keep my weight within a certain range, and just recently came to the same realization – those extra 5 pounds aren’t the end of the world, and making sure my clothes fit properly makes all the difference. I’ve also had problems with plantar fasciitis. In the past I’ve been a strictly cardio person, but with my foot problems I started doing some weight training. It has made a huge difference! I cut my cardio to three days a week, do weight training two days, and I have gone down one size. I also feel more fit and much stronger. I don’t know if you already do weight training, but if not, you might consider it. Have a great weekend.

    • says

      I do, been working with a trainer for 3 years. It sucks, truly. I feel like, short of denying myself every superfluous morsel of food or drink, I can’t do anything to change this. I guess I just need to be okay with it.

  27. says

    Thank you for this!! I am up 10 pounds ever since I took myself off thyroid meds, but am living med free and feeling the best I have felt in YEARS. I know 10 pounds isn’t much but on a small frame and as someone who has always been pretty skinny it is a hard pill to swallow. This summer I have been stuffing myself into too small clothes because DARN IT, I will get back into them. But it isn’t doing me any favors. You are so right in that the right fitting clothes make you look skinnier even if they are up a size. THanks for keeping it real!!

  28. says

    You look great and this was an amazing post. I blog over at The Fashionista Momma and I have been struggling with these same issues. I have such a hard time with my closet right now and I keep putting off shopping for a bigger size because I just know I can get back into my clothes. Thank you for sharing I am going to make the trip to the stores and buy what fits. I hope that one day I will get to put them away too. xo ~ Megan

  29. Christine says

    This could not have come at abetter time. I am new to your blog and this was the first entry I received. I just bought new clothes a size up for what I had purchased in the past. Thank you for making me feel better!

  30. says

    Amen!!!! Thank you so much for this post! I am 42 and feeling much the same. My weight was not a problem until I hit 40 and then it began creeping up and I haven’t been able to get it back off. I have two special needs kids (3 children total), some health issues…I try to get some exercise in but it is a challenge to say the least! I don’t want to look like the frumpy housewife but it’s hard when I look at fashion blogs and it’s all women in their 20’s and 30’s who don’t have to deal with muffin tops and changing figures! Although I think you look amazing, I understand what you’re saying about switching your style around a bit and honestly, I’m looking for people like you who can actually help me look put together even with a few extra pounds. :)

  31. says

    I would love to partake in the Fashion Friday post! Can you please help with carnival rule #2, Link back to one of the carnival hostesses? I have no idea what to do here. I just started blogging so any help on this would be much appreciated!!!

    Liz

  32. says

    Hi, you look fab! It wasn’t until I hit 50 this year that I began to feel uncomfortable about my middle. Skinny fat is a great concept – suddenly my skinny arms and legs have a fat middle section to deal with. My tight jeans give me a muffin top which just makes me feel bad. Long live linen trousers I say!

  33. Nicole says

    Once again, your post was eerily timely to what is going on in my life. I’m almost 42 and have also been dealing with a health problem (darn pinched neck nerve!) that has sidelined my normal workout routine for the past 9 months. As with you, it is not about the number on the clothes, but how you sometimes just don’t ‘feel’ like yourself when the middle starts to go crazy! I’ve held a steady weight, within 5 pounds or so since my 20’s…..but I can tell you that it does shift around! Thanks for putting my thoughts into words that really moved me.

  34. Tammy says

    I’ll be 41 in September and while I’ve struggled with my weight my whole adult life, I’m finally learning to be comfortable in my own skin. My husband of 20 years still chases me around like I’m a 6′ tall Brazilian model and I love it!!

    I can certainly relate to dressing for weight fluctuation, as well. I see a lot of young women with major muffin tops because they’re holding on to that ‘size’. Not only is it unflattering but looks so uncomfortable. When are we, as a society, going to realize that our worth is not determined by our size?

    I know I’ll never see my high school weight again (at least not without starving myself!!) and I’m OK with that. I appreciate this post so much. Thank you for sharing!!

    Tammy Mayfield

  35. Stacey says

    So timely, I’ve gone from a 0/2 to a 6 or 8 depending on cut/style in the last 3 years. I was truly too thin in the 2’s, my husband calls it the sickly years. I’ve beaten myself up the last year over not fitting in my 4’s. I’m working out and try to eat healthy, but married to a home brewer whom likes to “make” me sample his brews. It’s rough I tell ya. LOL! I’ve also been diagnosed with plantar fascitis and turned 40 this last year. It’s good to know I’m not alone. I carry all my extra weight in my bust and middle. Seriously I’ve gone from C’s to DD’s (TMI). I need to stop looking at the tags and just be happy with where I’m at.

    I think you look great and LOVE your outfit!

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