What It’s Like to Struggle with Orthorexia, and How I Overcame

Let me preface this by saying everybody has a different journey. I am no health expert, nutritionist, or psychologist – this is written solely from my experience. Additionally, I have never gone this in-depth into what my struggle was like. Needless to say, I was pretty [really] nervous to write this. This is what it was like for me, struggling with orthorexia.

What It's Like to Struggle with Orthorexia (and How I Overcame)

After almost three years of maintaining The Blissful Balance, it has been easy to get caught up with different passions and ideas, and stray away from my ‘why’. But I started this blog with a strong mission: to help others find their blissful balance of food, fitness, health, and happiness. Because after struggling with orthorexia nervosa, I realized it wasn’t being talked about enough, I couldn’t find anyone to relate to, and I wanted to be that person for anyone struggling with what I’d gone through.

So, here I am. Revisiting my why. And to give you a little insight into that ‘why’, I thought I’d let you know exactly what it was like.

First, let’s define orthorexia. This excerpt from the NEDA website is a great description:

Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity. They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with “slip-ups.”

For me, everyday was a battle.

What It's Like to Struggle with Orthorexia, and How I Overcame

TBT to iPhone 4 photography; this is me at my low weight.

What it was like


My whole life I’d been known for being a ‘twig’ (a common name I’d been called by peers). Then, when I got to college, I gained the ‘freshman fifteen’. Looking back, I did not look unhealthy. But it was the comments from people [to my face] on how I had gained weight that really struck me. Never in my life had I had anyone tell me that I gained weight. (Can I just add that I would literally never tell anyone, “looks like you’ve gained some weight, eh?” Who does that?)  Of course, I was used to being the ‘twig’. The one with the ‘chicken legs’. I had now experienced both extremes, and felt as though I had to ‘fix it’.

After transitioning from an innocent attempt to live a healthier lifestyle, to an extreme unhealthy obsession, I became fixated. For me, this meant looking at myself every time I walked by a mirror. Lifting up my shirt to see if I had abs yet. Standing straight to see if my thighs were touching. I was fixated on how I looked. Fixated on whether or not my ‘methods’ were working. My everyday, every moment, every second, was fixated on this part of my life. It just wouldn’t go away.

Restriction and Compensation

I was counting every single calorie that entered my body. If I was invited out to dinner, I made sure to check the restaurants website to see if they had nutrition information available, so that I could 1) choose the lowest caloric option  and 2) track it in MyFitnessPal. And for anyone wondering why I never provide nutrition information for my recipes, this is why. More on that here.

And when I did let myself go a little bit, I would compensate with a workout. If I had a huge meal, I made myself go for a run or to the gym later on to make sure I ‘burned it off’. Exercise went from something I enjoyed (I played sports my whole life) to something I did because I felt like I had to. I rarely gave myself the day off.

I’m feelin’ myself

One of the descriptions of orthorexia I’ve found mentions that the person feels they are superior to others in their diet choices. I found myself ‘preaching’ to others about a healthy lifestyle, when I, myself, was at war with my own mind.

I was almost blind. The comments from people transitioned throughout my struggle. In the beginning of my ‘lifestyle change’, I was told that I “looked great”. Which made me dig deeper into the obsession. Then, the comments turned into me looking “too skinny”. For someone struggling with a food/exercise disorder, that comment oddly makes them want to keep going. And it wasn’t until my gynecologist told me that I was way underweight (I am 5’ 7” and got down to 107 pounds), and listed the risks associated with this, that I realized there was a problem. It was like I’d been pulled out of a vortex that I’d been spinning in for almost a year.

What It's Like to Struggle with Orthorexia, and How I Overcame

Photo by Bryan Angelo.

How I overcame orthorexia

The daily struggle was exhausting. All I wanted was to eat food and exercise like a normal person. I wanted to enjoy my favorite foods without feeling guilty or feeling like I needed to go burn it off later. I wanted to be able to eat without counting my food. I was tired of hating the way I looked. I was tired of being tired.

[Tweet “What @theblissfulbal focused on to overcome orthorexia”]

Find a role model

For me, my role model was my mom. I’ve always looked up to her for her dedication to staying active (without it being obsessive). If she wants to have a slice of cake, she will have herself a slice of cake. She’s never owned a scale, and has always judged her weight on ‘how her clothes fit’. She just goes with the flow, and has always set a perfect example for my sister and I on loving yourself, loving your body and doing what feels right for you. I strived to be like her, and always will. (And to my dad, who is probably reading this – of course I have always and will always look up to you, too.)

Delete all tracking applications

Were you using MyFitnessPal? Delete it. Were you tracking calories for your workouts with a heart rate monitor? Stop. Do you have a scale in your bathroom? Give it away. With orthorexia, it’s almost as if you are addicted to numbers and making sure your numbers fit within a threshold you’ve set for yourself. An irrational one. Get rid of anything that is enabling you and preventing you from having a care-free relationship with food and exercise. Go for a run, without a watch or a heart rate monitor, and see how amazing it feels to just… run.

Eat with friends

With any lifestyle change, it takes baby steps. Some ways you can start to push yourself into the normalcy of a healthy relationship with food is to eat with friends. Go enjoy yourself with a night out with friends. Invite friends over for dinner, ask them what they like, and cook for them.

Don’t put pressure on yourself

This process will not be overnight, so just preface your journey with that. Be ready for it to take time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s worthy one at that. If a week passes and you’re still feeling frazzled, remind yourself that that is normal. It will happen, you will overcome this battle, let your body and mind take the time it needs.

Get some rest

It helps to experiment with taking some time off of exercise to remind yourself that you will not gain 50 pounds after one week off of your fitness routine. With this you can also start with baby steps: take the weekend off from the gym. Come back on Monday, refreshed and ready to exercise because you want to and because it makes you happy, not because you have to.

The purpose of me sharing this story was to show you what I went through, and why I started my blog. To hopefully relate to anyone who is going through the same thing or something similar. And to show those who are, that it is possible to overcome, and it is so worth the journey. Food is one of life’s greatest, simplest pleasures that should be enjoyed, without guilt. Exercise is something important to living a healthy life, yes, but it should be done because it is something you enjoy, not something you have to do to compensate.

So, if you take one thing away from this post, I hope it is that life should be… enjoyed.

[Tweet “What it’s like to struggle with orthorexia”]



  1. says

    I love this, Christina! And to an extend, reading this made me realize that I’ve definitely been there too, but luckily it cured itself just from the lifestyle being lonely and isolating. To be “perfectly healthy” and get that “perfect body” we’re sometimes after, you have to almost drop all social aspects of your life, but eating with friends and family and sharing those little indulgences with them is more important for our relationships than we sometimes realize.

    I would literally get mad when my boy friend’s parents would have us over for dinner because I knew they’d serve lots of fried food and desserts that I’d feel obligated to eat, but now I look forward to sharing those moments eating the food that they like because it’s special to them.

    You’re living proof that there’s a way to be satisfied with your health/body without giving up too much or fixating.

    • says

      Thank you so much Margaret <3 It totally is lonely and isolating. I remember skipping out on a friend's birthday cake to go to the gym. WTF? Looking back I am mortified. It's so empowering to live freely <3

  2. says

    This is amazing Christina. God that stupid MyFitnessPal app…I couldn’t put a bite of food in my mouth without tracking the numbers first! It was a sickness! I went through a VERY similar situation with exercise and restriction and I always looked at my mom as my role model too! Recovery is definitely not easy, but you’re right, it is SO worth it. Life is beautifu, thank you for sharing your storyl! <3

  3. says

    Love your honesty, as always. I definitely went through a period (middle school/early HS) where societal pressures influenced my attitude toward food, fitness and my body. It’s heartbreaking now to think how many girls are suffering and feeling “not good/pretty/thin/fit enough.” My mom is just like your mom and has always been a consistent role model of how to eat/be healthy without going overboard.


  4. says

    Love this Christina! I used to use MyFitnessPal and instead of using it to make sure I got enough calories, it turned in to a game of how little I could eat. I’m worried I might know someone in the early stages of orthorexia. Should I talk to them or is it something they need to realize themselves?

    PS: You look amazing and I’m super proud of you. <3

    • says

      Hey Ashlyn, thank you so much for your kind words!! <3 That's a tough one, especially because if anyone ever mentioned my weight, it made me dig deeper into that hole. Maybe you could show her this post? Maybe you could bring up your own struggles, and say that you found an article that you related to, and let her do the thinking about it. I hope this helps!! <3

  5. says

    Oh yes… all of this yes. Unfortunately I went through too many similarities you’ve listed here. Checking restaurants menus, skipping out on office treats because they didn’t fit my plan. Then going home to just have a treat anyhow. Food thoughts, constant food thoughts. These past couple years have been a turnaround for me, but still a struggle every now and again. You’re a gem for sharing this and being so honest. And I am happy in that you figured this out sooner rather than later! Life is too short <3 Thanks for being such an inspiration XX

  6. says

    Love this so much and thank you so much for bringing awareness to this topic. While I have never had orthorexia myself, I do see that it is a topic not talked about very often and one that does so I am so happy you shared your story even though I know it was difficult to do. It can be difficult to be healthy without going overboard and tracking every.single.calorie. When I first started getting into healthy eating and active living, I definitely put pressures on myself to work out every day and eat clean every single meal, but I realized how sad I became and how my outlook on active living was not a happy one. Now finding “balance” makes me enjoy what I want to eat and workout when I feel best. <3 <3

  7. says

    Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story. It’s hard to be that personal on our blogs but hopefully it will help you feel refreshed. And from a dietitian’s standpoint, this is all too common, and there are so many out there who maybe haven’t let themselves think they have orthorexia, but hopefully posts like this can bring encouragement and support that there is an end in site. Have a great week! :)

    • says

      I always saw people saying how hard it was to share something, and I never understood until I wrote this. I was terrified!! But it actually had a psychological effect on me – you’re right, I felt refreshed. And yes- WAY too common. Thanks so much Sarah <3

  8. says

    I love your honesty. With all the societal focus on eating/being healthy, we so often miss out on the message that food and life should be enjoyed (as you said). It’s sad, but I think a lot of people have gone through some degree of overdoing it on the “healthy” stuff in order to reach that conclusion. I think it’s awesome that you’re talking about this and showing that healthy really is about balance. ❤️

  9. says

    This is so powerful, thank you so much for sharing your story. My ex-boyfriends sister has (had, idk now) orthorexia and it was so painful to watch her obsess over every calorie that she took in and burnt off. When I was trying to lose my pregnancy weight (all of 14lbs) I obsessed a bit over my diet and exercises choices and dropped way below my pre-pregnancy weight. I was hungry all the time and definitely not happy. I don’t think I suffered from orthorexia so to speak but deleting all the calorie counting apps and throwing away the scale never felt so good. I have NO idea what I weight right now and I really don’t care. For me, its all about how I feel and not about how I look!

    • says

      Exactly – I’ve never owned a scale and I don’t think I ever will, especially to avoid obsessing over that stuff again. That’s great that you realized it before it got any worse!! Those apps are great for people who are really overweight, I think, but can definitely be abused. Thanks for the love <3

  10. says

    Thank you for being so honest and raw in this post. Orthorexia is such a common problem now. I am glad that you were able to find light out of this really hard time. I can relate to a lot of your struggles, with relying on my fitness pal so heavily, with feeling like you are superior to someone just because you eat healthier. It is so crazy how it can all become a full blown obsession so quickly. You are so strong for overcoming what you did! Sending lots of love your way girl! Happy Monday <3

  11. says

    Thank you so much for opening up and sharing your “why”. I have definitely struggled with an unhealthy obsession with food and exercise and finally found what I believe is my “blissful balance”. You are an inspiration to a lot of people and I for one am so proud of everything you have overcome. I think you are very brave for sharing your story and for reminding all of us to hit publish on the posts that may be scary to reveal :)

  12. says

    I’m sure this was incredibly difficult for you to write, as I know it was when I shared my own ED story. The truth is, even though I’m recovered, I still have days where the “tally” in my head is more insistent than others, because one of the toughest things for me has been that I can’t ever un-know what I learned in the many years I spent obsessing over calorie counts. I can eyeball anything and it’s scarily accurate, and in fact learning to cook and bake is what’s helped me in the sense that I got comfortable throwing in a dash of this and a pinch of that…in the end, really focusing on food as fuel, food as fun, and food as something to share with family and friends is what has made the biggest difference.

    And I’m with you – nobody should be telling perfectly healthy girls that they look like they’ve gained a little weight. I did my freshman year too, and that sent me on a downward spiral.

    • says

      Thanks so much Alyssa. It is a marathon, not a sprint, and for a long time I still had thoughts like that. Like you said, you just cannot forget what you ‘learned’. But it’s so worth it to block it out and simply enjoy.

  13. says

    Just stumbled across yor blog and great post – I think many people can relate to feeling this way about food and fitness, even if it is not to the extreme. One of the reasons I never wanted a fitnss tracker device was becasue I felt it would consume too much of my time and thoughts and take the joy out of working out!

  14. says

    Love that you shared this. It can be such a slippery slope. Even now years later, always feel this dark pull whenever I decide on a whim to download MFP. It always ends with me obsessing for weeks before I have to force myself to uninstall it.

    • says

      I used to go through that. Seriously, the same thing. ANd it would remind me of how annoying it is to track every morsel. Girl there is so much to enjoy in life! Like… cookies 😀 haha, thanks for the love <3

  15. says

    Thanks for sharing and opening up about this! You’re definitely right- no one talks about this enough. Your tips on overcoming it are such great reminders for everyone who has ever had even just an unhealthy habit. In college I viewed exercise as something like a form of punishment for overeating/drinking. Once I learned to find something I enjoyed, it totally changed my perspective. This is beautifully written :)

  16. says

    <3 This. Yes, get rid of the scale, but it's hard. Get rid of the tracking apps and enjoy God's tremendous gifts and His glory. It's so much more worth it. <3 THANK you for being really transparent. I still struggle with this, but by God's grace, I am overcoming one day at a time.

  17. says

    This is beautiful, I love hearing others’ personal transformation stories. Everyone has one, and they are all so inspiring and unique. Thanks for sharing yours, and I am happy that you are feeling better and more balanced!

  18. says

    thanks for sharing your story, i know it's tough to do that, but it's definitely inspiring.
    the takeaway message here is definitely "enjoy", something that i'll be thinking about <3

  19. says

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal struggle. I think it’s so important that this message keeps getting spread so that it will become recognized as a real problem (which it is!) It’s so awesome to see how far you have come.

  20. says

    Love love love this list. I would recommend that anyone struggling with an eating disorder heed these tips, as well as get professional help!

  21. says

    Your courage is remarkable Christina. I know this post will help so many women identify and hopefully get on the right track with their relationship with food. Like you said, it’s so easy to get busy with all the details of blogging but these “why” posts are truly so important and I’m so lucky to get to work with you every day.

  22. says

    Thanks for the great insight. My past sounds familiar to yours. I was obsessed! If I ate a oreo at home, I would start running up and down the stairs until I knew it was worked off. It began to become unhealthy.

    Loved your advice- If I don’t get to the gym, that doesn’t mean I’m going to gain 50 pounds. Thanks for putting things into perspective.

  23. says

    C, thank you SO much for sharing this. I can’t imagine how difficult this was to put out there. Do you want to know what I love most about this post? The actionable, HELPFUL advice at the end. I think the “this is how I overcame this, and how you can too” message is something we need to hear more of. Simply sharing one’s story is powerful, but giving real, helpful advice is what takes this to the next level, and will truly help those readers take the steps needed to get to a healthier, balanced place. You da bomb.

    • says

      Thanks so much Les! I was sort of scared how people would take that (like, because I’m no professional) but I’m happy to see everyone understand that I’m speaking from my own experience. Your support means so much to me thank you from the bottom of my heart!

  24. says

    I can relate to this so much… I went through an extreme healthy phase my sophomore year of college where I was obsessed with tracking my calories (also why I don’t include nutrition info in my posts) and working out. A day off never happened and if I knew I’d be going out later that night (i.e. drinking), I made sure not to eat very much throughout the day. GAHHH. Looking back, I’m so glad that phase only lasted a year. There is NO need to life a life based off of caloric numbers–it’s all about balance and moderation. Thanks for this Christina! You’re awesome.

    • says

      I seriously cannot believe I used to go sweat my booty off on an elliptical for 30 minutes to try and burn off any alcohol I drank the night before. What da heck. I know alcohol isn’t food, but it was like I couldn’t just ENJOY myself! So glad to be past that and to hear you are, too. Thanks so much Erin <3

  25. says

    I had SUCH a connection with this post. I was always a”twig” growing up as well, so when I put on that freshmen 15 and people commented I did the EXACT same thing. I calorie counted, I worked out daily, and I worried constantly about what I was eating. Deleting all those apps and trackers from my life was the best thing I ever did. What also really helped me was my fiancé— he taught me to LOVE eating again and how to balance my life without worrying about eating too many calories or something that wasn’t “super healthy” for every meal of every day.

    This was such a joy to read! Thank you for your courage and honesty girl :)

    • says

      My boyfriend helped me so much, too. I think without even realizing it haha. It’s sad how often this happens!! Also, what the heck with the people commenting on weight gain! Who does that!!! haha, thanks for the love Liz <3

  26. Beth L. says

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. As someone who is struggling currently with letting go of the obsessive fixation on healthy food and exercise, it is so helpful to hear the ways other people have gotten through it. You are really brave and I’m thankful for your vulnerability! Also, your recipes are wonderful (I think even better without nutrition info 😉

  27. says

    Wow Christina this was amazing. I am in recovery ( currently struggling) from anorexia and I relate so much to all of this. The obsessing, counting, tracking, comparing, fixating…all of it is so so exhausting. I deleted the MyFitness Pal App a few weeks ago and that has helped a lot. I am confident that I can beat this, but I know I have to work for it. Honestly I’m terrified, but I know a life of freedom from restriction and obsessive exercise is mine for the taking. Thank you so much for sharing your story <3

  28. says

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us Christina! I have not been diagnosed with orthexia, however I certainly feel like I have many similarities and it is definitely a struggle to overcome these obstacles! Your story hit home and I can truly relate to you. I’m so happy to see that you now have a blissfully balanced life and that you can share your story to help others! I’m transitioning off of IIFYM and MAN it’s been hard! For the last 6 or 7 years, I’ve always had to have a “plan” of some sort and while some may think that’s healthy, it’s really not. I need to learn how to just eat and not worry about whether or not I hit my allotted protein for the day or if overate or if I still have room in my daily allotment to eat more. It’s such a struggle – both mentally and physically. So, thank you for sharing and giving us all hope that we can all overcome this! First above all, it’s becoming honest with ourselves and you definitely touched on this in your post.

    • says

      It’s so easy to fall into the trap, especially with the views on women’s bodies as they are today. Life is so much more than counting calories and calculating every single meal. Food is such a simple pleasure and should be enjoyed. I’m glad to know that I could have inspired in any way a tall. Thanks so much Natalie <3

  29. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I can honestly relate to a lot of what you said, and it is a great reminder to focus more on enjoying rather than analyzing. One of my 2016 resolutions was to just live lighter- and that’s in terms of head space not weight!! Thanks again Christina!

    • says

      I love that Liora!! It is so empowering to just LET GO and enjoy. Even with exercise – the other day I went for a run with no watch, just my headphones and the road and it was so freeing. Thanks for the love <3

  30. says

    Can we hug? I love your honesty and REAL-ness with this post. I deleted the MyFitnessPal app after a bout of being overly consumed with food, how much to eat, and seeing “if” I could eat something and still be within the limits. WTF is that even supposed to mean?! Thanks for sharing your journey with us :) xoxo

    • says

      Totally. I literally would not allow myself to eat something at night if I’d already hit my “number”. Which was SO low. WAY too low. It was like a game with myself or something. UGH! Thanks so much Jess <3

  31. says

    Thanks for your honesty girl! I definitely can relate with this. I too gained “the freshman 15” and I definitely was NOT happy about it… I was so miserable and unappreciative of the blessings I did have… looking back I’m disappointed that my weight affected me so much. I love you tips! I think that eating with friends and family is SO important! It teaches you to celebrate food and meals, rather than feel guilty about it. Thanks again for sharing! Hope that you have a great Friday!
    xoxo Cailee!

  32. says

    Christina, it warms my heart just how many people are going to read this and realize that if you could get through Orthorexia, they can too. You have SUCH influence in the blogging community, and I am just thoroughly happy knowing how many people you’re going to reach and lives this post has helped. Orthorexia, like any eating disorder, is a living hell. Thank you for this. And for creating awareness.

  33. says

    Thank you for sharing this post! In my past struggles I remember saying “I don’t have an eating disorder” but when I learned about “disordered eating” it described me to a T and finally helped me realize I had a problem and make a change! This will be so helpful for so many women who “eat” but have an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise.

  34. says

    Great post! Totally identify….couldn’t eat it until I logged it or went & exercised it off! Numbers, numbers! Thanks for sharing. From all the responses it looks like a lot of people understand & have struggled

  35. says

    i absolutly LOVE all of your blog posts & IG feed. this post in particular hit really, really close to home (EDNOS here, back in the day). it is incredible to see the transformation you have been able to make and so encouraging! i love the helpful & enlightening tips you provide for people who may be struggling. it’s really wonderdul to create an awareness. thanks for writing about this, sharing your experience and for all of the inspiring life tips for balancing workouts, delicious food & LIFE in general. :):) xx. nikki.

  36. says

    I’ve never really understood why people feel so free to comment on our weight, generally they do it to thin people but would never say
    “wow you’re overweight”. It’s such a personal thing!

    Good for you on sharing and helping so many to see they aren’t alone.

  37. says

    Super super super relatable article. I’m of the belief that I either have or am dangerously close to having orthorexia…I try not logging in MFP but I’ll end up plugging stuff in about halfway through the day just to make sure I’m on track.

    And I rarely have a day off from exercise. Today happens to be one of them. Let’s see if that’ll stick.

  38. says

    Oh, wow, I relate to this so much. Like you, I was a thin, active teenager who gained weight when I went to uni due to a combination of dropping those activities and going out to the pub with friends (the drinking age is 18 here) and then getting pizza. What followed was a cycle of self-hatred and attempts to restrict my eating and exercise more that, honestly, I think would have developed into orthorexia if I had more self-control. I’m not saying that to minimise the severity of the condition, but because the more I read posts like this the more I realise that I have had the exact same thoughts myself, and I would commit to tracking my food, cutting out sugar, working out every day, only to “fail” within a week at the prospect of a chocolate bar or going for a run in a downpour. Then, of course, I would proceed to mentally beat myself up for being so lazy and/or greedy. And I always managed to justify it because how could I have an unhealthy relationship with food when I’d eat oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, then go out for beer and eat a 10″ pizza? I called it “balance”, but it’s not balanced to guilt myself for eating “too much junk”.

    Anyway, thank you so much for this post. I’ve made huge improvements in my attitude towards food in the past couple of years, but I’m still struggling with true food freedom, so it helps a lot to read something like this.

    • says

      Unfortunately so many women deal with it or have dealt with it! Just by seeing how many have responded to this post, it’s clear there is a problem. So happy to hear your relationship with food has improved. It’s a longgg journey but a worthwhile one, that’s for sure. <3

      • says

        I saw a study recently that found that 10% of American women had an eating disorder, with a further 65% considered to have disordered eating. I was shocked when I saw that number – that’s TWO-THIRDS of women in the US – but when I thought about it a little more, it’s really not that much of a surprise. Think about how women are socialised to talk about food, with phrases like, “I’ll just go on an extra-long run tomorrow” after a big meal, or “Oh, go on then, I’ll be naughty” when offered a chocolate, as though a woman making choices about what to eat is akin to a toddler drawing on the kitchen wall. It’s sad, and I think it’s part of the reason I didn’t even realise there was a problem with my relationship with food for so long, because although I knew about eating disorders, disordered eating was normalised.

  39. McKenzie says

    This was an article that I DESPERATELY needed to read. I can’t thank you enough for writing it. I’m currently in a recovery program for orthorexia/anorexia nervosa and it has been one of the most difficult journeys I have ever taken. Sometimes I want to quit, sometimes I break down in tears. But this article reminded me that I am NOT alone, that others have been in my shoes as well, and that there is hope. You are an amazing woman and I am so thrilled that I’ve found your blog/website! Thank you!


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