Vinnie Tortorich America’s Angriest Trainer #SANE

Vinnie Tortorich

Jonathan Bailor: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor back. A very, very fun show for stay fun. It might not be the right word when you hear about today’s guest but actually I think you’ll find it is because, well, he advertises himself as America’s Angriest Trainer. I know a secret about Vinnie Tortorich and that’s he’s not really that angry. In fact he’s pretty excited. He’s got a great new book called Fitness Confidential which we’re going to hear all about today and we’re also going to hear all about this wonderful, wonderful trainer and truth teller. Vinnie Tortorich, welcome to the show, brother.

Vinnie Tortorich: Hey, thanks for having me Jonathan. And by the way, this is great because my fans, I have a ravenous facebook group of fans that got started and they love when I’m on other shows because it’s like having an extra podcast of me so they can go and listen to it. So your bandwidth is going to go up a bit here hopefully from this show. But I’m excited to be on because I’m an actual fan of your show, the Smarter Science. So really, thanks for having me on.

Jonathan Bailor: Vinnie, thank you. It’s an absolute pleasure. So just to back up focusing here just in your voice right now, you do not come off as an angry man. You come off as a very calm and serene man but you call yourself and your very popular podcast America’s Angriest Trainer podcast, you got angriest in there. What’s up? Why so angry?

Vinnie Tortorich: Well, you’re right Jonathan. I’m not angry at all, whatsoever. I’m a real jovial guy. I’m real a happy guy. But what happened was, I’ve been in this business for 30 some odd years and the whole time I get angry not at people, I get angry at the industry that keeps lying to people and as we say on the book and as I say on the podcast, “Your good intentions have been stolen.” Everyone wants to do the right thing. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “You know what? I’m 80 pounds overweight but I’m happy about that. I’m really happy that I have fatty liver disease. I’m happy that I have type II diabetes. God! Isn’t it a wonderful day, I have metabolic syndrome.” No one ever does that. These people go out every day and they go, “Today is the day I’m going to start and try to do something.” And they’ll end up on a Jenny Craig, hopefully she’s not a sponsor of yours or they’ll end up on Weight Watchers, hopefully not a sponsor or they’ll end up on any of the myriad cabbage soup diary kind of programs only to fail again or they’ll go out and think that they can run two or three miles and then drink a gatorade and that’s going to save them because, “Hey, gatorade is healthy after all!” And it’s just lie after lie after lie and as I always say, “I’m angry not at you. I’m angry for you because you want to do the right thing. You’re just not allowed to. Your good intentions have been stolen.”

Jonathan Bailor: Vinnie, that is such a — we’re kindred spirits there, right? There is no — the amount of effort — I mean, look at — America is — we exercise more than any country in the world. In fact, other countries laugh at us. They think it’s ridiculous and yet we’re doing worse. It’s not that we’re not trying. It’s as you’ve said we’ve been lied to.

Vinnie Tortorich: I’m glad you brought up the exercise think because yesterday — I take phone calls, paid phone calls from people who want to have an hour of consultation and these phone calls, Jonathan, come in from all over the globe: Australia, which by the way I can understand the Australians but when I get calls from Poland, people speaking broken English and the whole time is like lost in translation that this one time [unintelligible 00:04:04] who lived in Beverly Hills has to figure out a Polish accent. But yesterday I was speaking to this woman and she was explaining to me and I’m not exaggerating or making this up. I’ll get her on the phone right now if you don’t believe me, she exercises three times a day and can’t understand why she can’t lose a pound and she’s not been doing this for a month or six months or a year. She’s been doing this for 10 to 12 years. I can’t remember exactly what she told me. I want to say it was 12 years. That’s sticking out in my mind. I said, “This is lunacy. This is crazy.” She said, “Well, at first I thought I was crazy but then I joined a triathlon group and then it seemed more normal because they exercise all day.” I said, “Oh! So you’re like an alcoholic who found some enablers to help you enable your bad behaviour.” And she said, “Yes. Exactly what happened.” But she was calling me because she’s ready to jump off of that treadmill so to speak, of just exercising. And I explained to her. I said, “You know, you’re doing a version of calorie in calorie out whether you want to believe it or not because I know on some level you’re counting your calories and on a whole other level you’re trying to get those calories to go.” And it’s absolute lunacy that that’s what she’s trying to do. And she said, “You know, you’re right. I never thought of it that way.” I said, “Yeah. For the best part that I could figure out you’re an exercise bulimic.” She was, “Oh! No. I never throw up.” I said, “No. No. You don’t throw up. But you’re an exercise bulimic. You’re trying to exercise. You’re trying to throw up with your body. You’re not sticking your finger down your throat but you’re just as bad or worse.” And she got it. She understood.

Jonathan Bailor: Vinnie, I love the parallel you drew there where exercising more if we’re not smart about it is analogous to just eating less or being bulimic [unintelligible 00:06:03] as you know as a trainer if you exercise inappropriately have all kinds of other long lasting side effects that are much worse for our health, correct?

Vinnie Tortorich: Oh! Absolutely. And as I say on the Angriest Trainer podcast all the time exercise is a very, very poor way to try to lose weight and I always tell people, “Listen to what I just said because I make my living off of exercise and I’m telling you” and we describe that in Fitness Confidential, the book. I have a whole chapter saying, “Listen, I’m a trainer. I make my living. Every bit of my income is made off of the fact that I’m going to promote exercise but exercise is not about losing weight, exercise is about staying healthy.” There is a big difference because I always say, “What does fit actually mean?” In other words, if I said, “Jonathan, look I’m going to get you fit for a marathon but we’re never going to run. I’m just going to have you do squats all day everyday.” Would you be fit for a marathon? No. But you could probably join the Olympics and be on the weightlifting team. So what does fit actually mean? What are you fit for? And that’s what exercise is. If I say, “Alright, Jonathan look we’re going to row a canoe down a river. I’m not going to have you jogging everyday. I’m going to have you rowing a canoe.” But people automatically think, “Oh! Look, I’m watching the Tour de France. I see these Lance Armstrong types. They seem to be lean and sinewy and they ride a bike.” or “Go, riding a bike makes you lean and sinewy.” No, the reason they ride a bike and they do well at it is because they happen to be lean and sinewy. It’s a big difference.

Jonathan Bailor: Very similar to the argument that joining the NBA does not make you taller. However, being taller does help you to get into the NBA.

Vinnie Tortorich: Yeah or as I always say, we could sit here do clichés for an hour if you want. It’s like trying to measure your weight with a thermometer. It just doesn’t work.

Jonathan Bailor: Well, Vinnie, so listeners obviously to your show and listeners to my show are aware that we’ve been a bit plugged into the matrix, we’ve been fed a load, we’ve been told that calories are all that count that we just need to count calories in calories out and that’s not working and you have an entire book exposing the truth. What are some of those key truth nuggets you talk to in your new book, Fitness Confidential?

Vinnie Tortorich: You know, it’s funny. I was listening to your Dr. O podcast. That’s right, I listen to you. I know you don’t listen to me but I listen to you. And what’s in my book is not much different than one of the words he used in his conversation with you. I throw the word around cognitive dissonance a lot. And my favourite example is people get into things like triathlon and they do it because they want to lose weight and they want to have fun and they want to do it around other people. Yet when you get to the event and they hand you a swag bag full of goodies, it’s full of sugary things: gels, Gatorade type of products and all the stuff and you’re sitting there and now you’re triathlon is pushing drink chocolate milk after — replenish with chocolate milk. It’s the most lunacy I’ve ever heard in any sport. Do all this great work and then go drink chocolate milk. So the book addresses those kind of things. I talk about the Pros versus the age group within those type of events. As I’ve always said in America when you go to a marathon you see one black guy from Kenya win the event and then a bunch of big fat white people wilding right behind him for the next five hours. The question becomes, “Why aren’t we that guy?” We discuss those type of things in the book. We don’t just stop there by the way, Jonathan. The book talks about things, as a matter of fact, the book industry didn’t want me to put this book out because they said it would never sell and I’m getting the last laugh on that because it’s one of the top of books in Amazon as you know. We talk about how to find a gym? I mean, no one ever thinks about that. You walk into a gym and you’re basically walking into a used car lot. And we talk about that. We talk about how to not get screwed up by the gyms. We also talk about once you do sign up how to use that gym to the best of your ability, how to pick the right trainer. Not all trainers are the same. We talk about how crazy it is when you walk in and the first thing they’re trying to sell you are potions and powders; all things that are bad for your health. So the book goes through a myriad of those things and it also, since I’m in Beverly Hills and I am one of the trainers to the stars we talk about that in the book a bunch too, to give people an insight as to how that works.

Jonathan Bailor: Vinnie, given how much experience you have in this industry and the number of people whose lives you’ve touched and transformed and also again the celebrity caliber of some of those people and you’re very open about that. You’re also very open about the fact that you are a trainer yet you’re out there dispelling these myths. Some people might think you’re almost working against yourself on certain levels but like how do we turn the tide because even when we read these celebrity magazines they just talk about how they’re starving themselves and blah blah blah. I mean, how do we make real change?

Vinnie Tortorich: I’m going to address the celebrity thing. It always bothers me when a celebrity comes out and says, “I’m having the lemonade diet cleanse.” I hate the word “Cleanse” Our body was not meant to be purged and cleansed. Our bodies work just fine the way they are. I hate when I hear, “Oh! I’m on a cleanse” or “I’m doing a 30 day this” or “10 day that” That drives me absolutely crazy and when a celebrity is pushing it, it drives me even that much more nutty because people listen to celebrities. Now, part of your question was what? You wanted to know how we can change it. Well, change is going to come slowly because it took us so long to get here, to get to this bad place. Someone asked me — I was explaining to someone to just to give you a pure example, when I was in college at Tulane back in 1981 – now, think of that year, 1981. We’re talking about 31, 32 years now – you can walk into Taco Bell in 1981 and buy a combo taco for 99 cents, that was in 81. Today, you could buy that same taco combo for 59 cents. So in a world where everything goes up in price somehow, miraculously Taco Bell and McDonald’s and all of these fast food restaurants can sell stuff for a fraction of the cost. Well, you know it’s that old thing, “We’ll lose a little money on each product yet we’ll make it up in volume.” Well, that will never happen and Taco Bell and McDonald’s and all of the fast food restaurants are in it to win it. They’re not going to lose money. So you have to ask yourself, follow the money trail, how do we follow this money trail to figure out how something that costs 99 cents at a profit in 1981 can now be sold for 59 cents when everything else in the world has gone up. I know eggs cost more, I know milk costs more, I know meat costs more so how can they do this? Well, when you look at their products, their products are generally made of corn and wheat and sugar. You might think you’re getting a hamburger but there’s barely any hamburger there. There’s a lot of filler, there’s a lot of bread, there’s a lot of corn, wheat and sugar. And since we have a government that decided back around the depression to subsidize corn and wheat and sugar. Well, it started subsidizing sugar a little later but corn and wheat certainly back then because as we know now back in those days corn and wheat were too big to fail. Does that sound familiar? In today’s world, the auto industry is too big to fail. We were having that problem because we were based on farm-based economy back then. So the government got into the game of subsidizing corn and wheat. The thing is that the government figured out, “Wait a minute. This is a pretty good business to be in.” So here we are in 2013 and guess what the government is still doing. It’s still subsidizing corn and wheat and you don’t have to look any further than the pyramid that should be turned upside down by the way but if you keep it the way they have it, they’re still telling us to eat all of this corn and wheat and we’re subsidizing it so much that Taco Bell can sell a taco at a fraction of the cost that it could even sell it in 1981. Did I make any sense there or did I go off on too much of a tangent?

Jonathan Bailor: I think you made a lot of sense Vinnie and it’s another thing that, I mean, I’m glad you bring up the term angry because sometimes I don’t know if it’s angry or conflicted but we talk about the McDonalds and Taco Bells, the chocolate milk after marathons and if we look at some of the efforts that are being made like God bless Michelle Obama for trying to help kids to overcome obesity. However, “The solution” that a lot of people seem to be offering is just go, run around outside more. Like if kids would just run around outside in fact like they should eat their frosted flakes to give them energy to go do that and then we should give them McDonald’s as a reward for doing that but as long as they just keep exercising we can keep pumping them full of garbage and it won’t kill them as quickly. So that’s why we’ve got to put them on this hamster wheel and just have them run around more like that seems a little backwards and sick.

Vinnie Tortorich: Well, Jonathan as I always say, “You can’t outrun sugar. You can’t beat sugar.” I don’t believe in calorie in and calorie out but whenever I have to convert someone who believes that I always say, “You know, you can run for three miles and you might burn 250 calories and that’s going to take you 30 min, yet you can eat a small bag of M&Ms in about 15 seconds and put those calories back on.” And addressing Michelle Obama, she went up against the food industry I think towards the middle of the first election, after Obama was elected the first time and she went to the food industry and said, “We need to make some changes.” And guess what, they shut the little lady up pretty fast and put her in a place and then she went away from that and decided to start growing a garden in the back yard of the White House because she still had to do something. She’s trying gallantly but nothing is going to happen. She went up against an industry that the country doesn’t want us to go up against.

Jonathan Bailor: Vinnie, but why is that? Saluting her for those amazing efforts I can imagine 100 years ago folks didn’t want the tobacco industry to be attacked. I mean, it was a huge source of income, people enjoyed smoking, everyone did it, it was a part of society but the truth came to the surface and things changed due to the noble efforts of individuals. How do we do that again?

Vinnie Tortorich: I think it’s going to be difficult. I’m not that political but when you have an economy based on the fact that we ship this corn and this wheat around the world and when you look at all the money we owe countries like China, I mean, we’re so far behind the eight ball money wise that it seems like it’s almost an insurmountable task to try to turn it around. Now, what I tell people to do is since we can’t really turn the government around we could turn ourselves around. Each person can take it upon themselves. In Fitness Confidential we talk a lot about that. I have a chapter, literally the chapter head is Cut the Crap and that chapter talks about just what we’re talking about here. It’s going to be hard to change the world but if we can start changing one person at a time and not worry so much about policy, I think it’s important that someone worries about policy, but when you have a money trail that you’re trying to cut off and we owe money all over the world and we’re fighting wars all over the world and we need money, money, money, money, money, we’re never going to come out from under that and it’s sort of a Pollyanna attitude to think that we could. We have our backs up against the wall. The unfortunate thing with what I’m talking about here is it doesn’t address the masses. Jonathan, let’s be honest, people that will turn on a podcast and listen to me or listen to you are more sophisticated than most people. Would you agree with that?

Jonathan Bailor: I think we have a very intelligent listener base; absolutely.

Vinnie Tortorich: Because look, they all have Apple computers, they know how to pull up iTunes, they know how to do things. Guess who doesn’t have this? Everyone else, people living in projects and people living in poverty and people just trying to live day to day do not have this. And how do we turn those people? You and I will never reach them. Even if we got on television we can try to reach them but guess what, the 59 cents taco is still what they can afford to fill their belly with and you can’t tell people to starve. So it’s almost an insurmountable task. One of the things I bring up in the book, because I bring up everything in the book is out here in California we have at Disney World, it’s called It’s a Small World ride and I don’t know if you’ve ever been on that ride but it’s a boat that you ride on, it goes along a track through the small world amusement park. Well, they had to stop that ride for almost a year and dig the trenches deeper because people are so heavy now that they were bottoming out the boats. So when those boats were originally built in the mid-1950s they could float easily along the track but people are so heavy now that the boats were bottoming out. If that’s not eye opening to say look we have a whole society of people and our health care industry is crumbling under things that didn’t even exist. Look at this, I know I’m all over the place but this is how I get angry on my own podcast and I go nuts. Look at the health care system. Even 20 years ago, the only person that would have had fatty liver disease would have been an alcoholic. Today, fatty liver disease is just running rampant. It’s everywhere. And how do you get fatty liver disease? Well, if you have a little too much insulin and leptin and adrenaline and all these hormones in your body that’s driving the fat to be stored you’re going to end up with fatty liver disease. There’s no two ways about it. It’s what happens. We have metabolic syndrome, we have sleep apnea, we have people with type II diabetes. It’s just crazy making and all of these things could go away if you could just get sugar out of people’s lives. But you can’t. So I know we’re off on a tangent here but we have a real problem.

Jonathan Bailor: I appreciate the story you brought up Vinnie about the It’s a Small World ride and how when those ships were built in the 50s and coming from you, someone who’s been in this industry seen these things first hand it’s very powerful because I know personally I had just a eye opening moment couple of years back where I thought to myself as early as the 1960s like the term aerobic exercise didn’t exist, no one in the mainstream knew what a calorie was. My mother tells me that when she was in college she was not allowed in the gym. They would not allow women in gymnasiums.

Vinnie Tortorich: They had separate men and women gyms.

Jonathan Bailor: And they thought that it could compromise her ability to get pregnant someday and that in fact she should avoid these types of things. So we have a culture in which no one knows what a calorie is, aerobic training doesn’t really exist. Women in many cases aren’t even allowed in gyms and we have dramatically lower incidence of everything that is plaguing us today.

Vinnie Tortorich: Yeah. It’s funny. I tell a story because my book is just a collection of stories, again that book is Fitness Confidential. My book is a collection of stories and one of the stories I tell is when the whole aerobic craze hit in the early 80s I was down in New Orleans and I went to this aerobic class and of course I was in pre-med at Tulane because that’s the only way Tulane can get a — I’m the most overqualified PE teacher in the world. They had to put me in pre-med in order to get me to write courses to get my physical education degree. So I went to this aerobic class and the teacher, the whole time she’s dancing around and she’s going, “Come on folks another five min and we’ll burn another 10 calories. Come one. We’re going to burn another five calories. Oh! Let’s do these leg kicks we’re going to burn another 12 calories.” She became like a calorie counting abacus as I say. So after the class I went up to her and I said, “You know, you have a lot to say about calories.” And she was, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, you kept telling me I’m burning 10 calories and 12 calories.” And by the way, the only reason I went up to her was because I wanted to get a date with the girl. I said, “Every time I did a leg lift you were telling me it’s two calories and when did a push up it was this.” And she goes, “Yeah. That’s right.” I said, “That’s interesting. Can you tell me what a calorie is?” And you could just see a big giant question mark go across her face. She goes, “Well, a calorie is what you burn.” I said, “Okay, but what is a calorie? You had a lot to say about calorie but you can’t tell me what a calorie is.” She goes, “Well, a calorie is a thing.” I said, “Really. What do you mean it’s a thing?” She goes, “It’s a thing.” So I decided to let her off the hook and I said listen, “A calorie is a unit of energy. That’s all it is. It’s a unit of energy. Energy is heat. It’s what it takes to raise one drop of water, one emulsified drop of water, one degree.” And she looked at me as if to say, “What are you talking about?” And then she offered me a piece of sport gum and then she told me if you chew this you burn more calories. That’s when I knew I would never go out with this girl, by the way.

Jonathan Bailor: You’re like, “And then I married her.” I was like that’s how it was going to end.

Vinnie Tortorich: And she’s in the next room right now.

Jonathan Bailor: 30 years, later she’s … Oh! well Vinnie how do we — I mean, we know, alright. Like you said, everyone who is listening to these shows we know it’s about food quality, it’s about exercise quality, do you see, being plugged in with the celebrities, being plugged in with the scene in Beverly Hills do you see a shift, because look at like gluten-free, for example, whether or not that’s right or wrong is separate but just like some celebrity said they’re gluten-free and now everyone wants to be gluten-free. Like is there a chance that if we could get some celebrities behind the modern science of food and exercise quality that we could see some shifts?

Vinnie Tortorich: We could but again the problem with that is because I do deal a lot with celebrities and I don’t talk about many of them, the one I do mention often is Howie Mandel because he and I, outside of him hiring me, over the years we’ve become friends and I don’t know if you’ve seen him but he’s 58 years old now and he’s very, very fit. The guy could do the cover of Men’s Fitness, he’s ripped. And we talk about that kind of thing all the time because he’s a very pragmatic man. Everyone thinks of him as being the goofball on television and he’s a goofball who’s amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in his life and he has a production company and we talk about that all the time. Is there a show or is there something we could do or can we get ABC celebrity, this celebrity, that celebrity because he knows everyone and the bottom line is they all want to go with the sound bite. They all want to be — there’s a saying if it doesn’t make you rich or if it doesn’t make you happy they’re not going to do it. So they want to know that they can be in Shape magazine with a sound bite. I saw Gwyneth Paltrow the other day who drives me crazy by the way talking about her diet and starving herself and doing all this different stuff. There is so many of them throwing the wrong message out that no one really wants to get the right message out. Let me tell you this, over the years Hollywood has tried to use me to go on infomercials and do all this sort of stuff and they will offer me hundreds of thousands of dollars to do this, yet I’ve stayed away from it because it’s always a lie. Well, guess what most people won’t stay away from it. They want to sell the sizzle and not the steak. I know we both believe in eating steaks but they’re all about the sizzle and not the steak. So I’m not sure Hollywood is the right place to go because they want to know like let’s we could get Brad Pitt right now to say, “I believe in eating meat and eating high-fat and doing all this stuff and look I’ve lost all this weight and I’m Brad Pitt and I’m ripped and I’m beautiful.” Guess what, two months from now someone is going to come up with a lemon soup diet and then everyone is going to be doing that. So it’s hard to keep people focused. I think our best effort because I know you like to wrap these shows up in a real tidy way, Jonathan, I think the best effort is a ground swell from people like you, guy like myself and anyone else who’s out there speaking the truth. I think it’s our best chance at getting anything to happen.

Jonathan Bailor: I think that’s fair Vinnie. I think coming from the ground up is really positive. In all transparency I do think that we do have a little bit — I think people may undersell the amount of sizzle that the steak also has because like if you look at your work, my work we’re talking about eating more delicious food and doing in many cases less exercise and to many people that’s pretty daunt sizzly.

Vinnie Tortorich: It is but people like to take something with it. The problem with what you and I do is there is no trickery involved. Think about it, when we were all thin in 1970 there was no trickery. You just ate what you ate and it had less grains and less sugars and because of that. I mean, when I was a kid, you’re not getting maple when I was a kid it was meat and three. It was like you would have meat and three vegetables. Everything was meat and three, meat and three and that’s the way I eat now. I guess you’re right we can make this to sizzle that you can eat more but people want to know that one thing they can eat with total impunity and that’s where I’m trying to get people to change when they come to the Angriest Trainer podcast or when they do go and pick up Fitness Confidential. I want them to read the word, if you go on Amazon and see the reviews I think I have over 250 reviews now and they’re mostly positive. People are saying, “Oh! You know what, I already knew this. I just need to get back to this.” And the reason I think the book is selling so well is people are actually buying the book and giving it to other people that need the book. So I think that has a lot to do with it is you could be right, you may have a point with the sizzle may be in the fact that you can eat more food and still lose weight and exercise less and still lose weight. That could be the sizzle.

Jonathan Bailor: Well, Vinnie, there’s definitely. We should follow up off-line of the podcast because I think eat more exercise less and live happier and healthier as a result may make some people smile. So we’ll talk about that off-line and in the meantime, folks, clearly Vinnie is the man very, very worthy and deserving of all the industry praise he’s received. Definitely, check out his book, Fitness Confidential. You can find it as well as his wonderful podcast, America’s Angriest Trainer at his website, which is Vinnie, what’s next for you, brother?

Vinnie Tortorich: I’m just doing what I do. The book is out there. I’m pushing the book, I’m doing the podcast and when I’m not doing that I just train my clients. My book agent has gotten with me already to do another book. I said, “I’ll do it but can I just bask in the glory of this book for a while instead of writing again.” They make it sound, do you get that Jonathan with your books where they just want you to pop out another one?

Jonathan Bailor: The writing treadmill of sorts, just run faster the treadmill just keeps speeding up. Yeah.

Vinnie Tortorich: Yeah. So there’s another book in my future. There’s a few things that people are talking about now because the book has been a breakout success. So I don’t want to just do anything and people are trying to now get me to do different things and I really like my anonymity, just working with my people and doing that sort of thing. But just like you I’m enjoying helping people and taking the phone calls and talking to people online and on twitter. I’m loving that. If there is a bigger thing out there may be it’ll come but I don’t worry about those things. I was almost dead a couple of years ago from cancer so I try to live life a little more than most.

Jonathan Bailor: Well, certainly appreciate that Vinnie and appreciate even more how you enable so many others to live their lives to the fullest as well. Folks his name is Vinnie Tortorich. He is America’s Angriest Trainer but he is also a deeply caring, compassionate and knowledgeable man. His book is called Fitness Confidential. Vinnie, thanks again for joining us today brother.

Vinnie Tortorich: Jonathan thanks for having me on.

Jonathan Bailor: Listeners, I hope you enjoyed today’s show as much as I did and please remember this week and every week after eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better. Chat with you soon.

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