I get asked about different diets all the time. People want my opinion on keto, paleo, veganism, you name it. But the truth is, your diet doesn’t matter because diets don’t actually work, especially long term. You might say you lost 20 pounds in a month doing keto or intermittent fasting. However, if that weight came back when you stopped dieting, did it really work?
If you’re thinking about taking on a new diet plan, let me give you some things to consider before you dive in. I want to help you here so you aren’t wasting time and money on a diet that isn’t appropriate for you. If you can’t stick with a diet forever, starting it makes no sense. So, what’s the alternative? Listen in to find out.
Before you get the diet book, buy all the new foods, and place that order for meal replacement shakes, tune in this week to discover whether the diet you’re considering is actually the answer. You’ll learn a new way to go about choosing a diet that will actually work for you in the long term, addressing the root cause of your weight, instead of just tackling the symptoms temporarily.
Are you ready to eat, move, and think in a way that gets you strong both physically and mentally? You deserve to have both no matter how busy you are, and I can help. I’m opening up my one-on-one coaching program for new clients, and I would love to work with you. Click here to learn more about working with me.
What You Will Discover:
- Why it doesn’t make sense to start a diet that doesn’t fit into your life.
- How you’ve become convinced that you need the latest fad diet plan to lose weight.
- Why any diet you choose should be a secondary priority.
- How a new diet treats the symptoms of being overweight, not the cause.
- Some of the common reasons why people overeat.
- How to uncover the root causes of why you overeat, instead of wasting time, energy, and money on a temporary fix.
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
Full Episode Transcript:
You are listening to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast, Episode #72. If you’re considering a new diet plan, let me give you some things to consider before you dive in.
Welcome to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. If you’re balancing career, family, wellness, and some days sanity, you are in the right place. This is where high-achieving, busy, working moms get the tools they need to eat, move, and think. I’m your host, physician, personal trainer, and Certified Life Coach, Carrie Holland. Let’s do this.
Hey, how are you? What’s new, what’s good. So, what’s good here, we are going to talk about what to do if you’re considering starting a new diet. So before you go and buy the diet book, or go to the grocery store for a load of new foods, or place an order for your package bar or shake system, or before you hit Buy Now on Amazon, please take a listen to this episode. Okay?
My hope is that the ideas and concepts I’m offering you today will help you decide if a new diet you’re considering is appropriate for you. Truthfully, my goal is to help you see choosing a diet in an entirely different way altogether. I’ve said it a number of times before on the podcast, I will say it again here, diets don’t work. They really don’t. I’m going to get into the ‘why’ behind this in just a few minutes.
You may argue with me that you lost 20 pounds in a month doing Keto, or you lost a boatload of weight when you started intermittent fasting. But please hear me now, diets really don’t work.
This episode is coming to life because this question comes up all the time. I get asked about different diets all the time. Like, what I think about Keto, or Paleo or veganism, etc. And I think it’s important to dive into how you go about making that choice.
My goal is to ensure that you don’t waste time, money, or energy on a diet that just isn’t right for you. It doesn’t make sense to start a diet that does not fit into your life. It doesn’t make sense to start a diet you have no intention of sticking with for the long term. Otherwise, it just becomes another quick fix that promises fast results, is not sustainable, and results in no net change to your weight. This has happened for too many of you.
You tried a diet that didn’t really fit into your life, but you tried to make it fit into your life and ultimately, it didn’t work. And when you stopped following the diet, that weight came back on. That tells me your diet just did not work.
Part of the problem is that so many diet plans and systems glorify themselves and make themselves out to be a magic bullet. “Just do this and eat this, and don’t eat too much of that, and the weight comes right off. No problem.”
Influencers and social media make a lot of money convincing you of that. But I call b.s.. Most of these diet plans leave you hanging. They don’t address the most important etiologies underlying your overweight or obesity. And, that’s where they are doing you a huge disservice.
The diet will tell you what to eat, but if it were that easy, you could just pick up any diet book, follow the directions to a tee and lose weight. But you know by now it just doesn’t work that way.
So, what ultimately inspired me to dive in and really unravel this was after I got a message last week from someone asking what I thought about Octavia. If you’re not familiar with Optavia, it’s formally known as Medifast. It’s a diet that is very low calorie and generally low carb, built on a foundation of largely prepackaged foods, or “feelings” as they call them.
The “feelings” can be things like prepackaged bars, shakes, soups, or cereals, just as an example, and you supplement with a few meals that you make at home. Those meals are called Lean and Green. They include lean protein and non-starchy veggies and healthy fat.
This person was considering it, but wanted to know what I thought of it. So, I’ve been asked about Optavia, and intermittent fasting and Keto and loads of other diets, but my opinion on these diets really doesn’t matter. In all honesty, it’s your opinion of the diet that matters. Because you’re going to be the one following it. You are going to be the one eating the bars and the cookies and making the meals and following the system, whatever system that ends up being.
But here’s the kicker. Here’s the key to consider right from the very start. Whether or not you choose to do Optavia, that is secondary, choosing intermittent fasting, also secondary. Whatever diet you choose, recognize that it’s secondary. Really, how you choose to eat or diet is secondary.
If you’re wondering what I mean by this, think of it this way. Imagine you walk into your doctor’s office with arm pain after a fall. As your doctor, I tell you to take some ibuprofen. I tell you to ice it and give it some time. You do that; you take the ibuprofen and use the ice and it gets a little better, but not really better.
So, you come back after a few days, or a few weeks later, with that same arm pain, and then I get an x-ray. When I look at the film, I see you have a broken bone. You broke your arm. Then I put a cast on your arm and immobilize it, and then you fully heal and the arm pain subsides.
What’s going on here? When you treat the broken arm with a cast, you’re treating the cause of the problem. The problem is a broken bone and the symptom is arm pain. When you get a cast on there, you’re not just treating the symptom of pain itself, you’re getting to the root cause of the pain. When you’re treating the cause of the problem, and the pain goes away, you’re treating the cause.
So, now take the same concept and apply it to the problem of overweight or obesity. When you switch from one diet to another, you are effectively treating the symptom. So, something like Optavia, or Weight Watchers, or Keto or intermittent fasting, those are all symptomatic treatments. Those are all different versions of “ibuprofen;” to run parallel to our broken arm example, okay?
They are all treating the symptoms of the problem of obesity. But if you want to actually treat the cause of overweight or obesity, I promise you it’s going to be more than choosing the right packaged food system, it’s going to be more than choosing the right diet book, it’s going to be more than finding that perfect eating window.
Because choosing a new diet is treating the symptom of being overweight or obesity, but it’s not treating the cause. If we want to actually fix your overweight or obesity, we have to treat the cause of it. Okay?
So, keep going with me on this. I’ve probably shared this before on the podcast, but one of my very wise mentor coaches once shared this idea with me, and in a sense it changed the way I see dieting entirely. She said, “If you want to know why you overeat, stop overeating. Stop overeating, and then all of the reasons you overeat will present themselves to you.”
The prepackaged bar is not going to help you with that, okay? When you remove overeating as an option, you are then left to deal with all of the reasons you want to overeat in the first place. That is an essential concept to take hold of. This is key.
There it is, that’s what we have to solve for. It’s not whether or not you should eat carbs, or if a 16/8 eating window, or OMAD- one meal a day, is better, or if you should go vegan, that simply does not matter from a pure weight loss perspective.
What does matter is solving why you overeat? That is solving for the cause. Do you see that? This is so essential to understand, it’s solving for why you overeat. So, to make this very clear, if you want to stop overeating it does not matter what diet you choose. Instead, if you want to stop overeating you have to figure out why you overeat. And then, you solve for that. Okay?
If you’re on board with this so far, you may be wondering, “Then why exactly do you overeat?” There are loads and loads of reasons for this. I’m going to outline the big ones, and see if any of these apply to you. Then, I’m going to bring it all home.
Probably the most common reason people overeat is for emotional reasons. Emotional eating, it is all around us. I would argue that most every person you and I know, and most every person listening to this podcast, engages in some form of emotional eating.
If you remember from our previous episode, I broke down what emotional eating is. At its most basic level, emotional eating is eating for any other reason than hunger. If you want to get into all the details on this, go back and listen to Episode #62, where I spent the entire podcast breaking down what emotional eating is.
But for the quick and dirty, emotional eating is eating for reasons other than hunger. The most typical vision you might have of emotional eating is someone crying into her bowl of ice cream after a horrible day. Or someone eating through a bag of chips after an argument with their partner. Those are the most common forms of emotional eating; they get emphasized in movies and TV shows.
But emotional eating is a lot more than that. If you’ve ever had a piece of birthday cake in the middle of the afternoon for a coworker’s birthday, if you’ve ever had ice cream after your kid’s Little League game just because, if you’ve ever had a piece of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving even though you were already stuffed full of turkey and sweet potatoes, but you had the pie anyway, under the guise of, “Hey, it’s Thanksgiving,” all of those are examples of emotional eating.
We eat when we’re happy. We eat to celebrate a birthday holiday, a big win, and a game. We also eat when we’re sad. We have comfort food when we’re grieving or going through a difficult challenge. And the end result of this, is that you end up eating for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with hunger.
When you disconnect eating from hunger, that’s when you’ve got a problem. And that’s exactly what emotional eating is. You’re literally eating your emotions. Hunger has nothing to do with it.
Emotional eating is a major contributor to overeating. We use food as a buffer for the negative things in our lives. We also use food as a complement to the joyous, fun and happy moments in our lives. This becomes a problem when it’s the norm rather than the exception.
For so many of you this is an accepted norm. You’ve told me that people look at you funny if you decline a piece of your coworker’s birthday cake. Or you’ve told me that it would be weird to not have ice cream after your kid’s softball game, because everyone else is doing it.
But at the end of the day, my question will always come back to, but are you hungry? Are you hungry? Because there it is. When you use your hunger to guide your eating, that’s when things start to change. That’s when you reconnect your hunger with eating, as it’s meant to be.
I’ve gone over this a few times already on the podcast, but it’s worth repeating. If you want to stop overeating, part of that process will require that you use your hunger as the cue to guide your eating. It means asking the question, how hungry am I, before you eat.
And then, asking, how full am I, as you are eating. Especially when you’re all done and considering going back for more. This is such an essential piece to overcoming overeating, but too often is overlooked. Some of you have told me flat out that you see using your hunger as a soft tool.
And that, again, confirms for me just how far we’ve gone away from connecting eating with hunger. Which is so ironic to me, because that’s what eating is for, to solve hunger. So remember, that if hunger is not the problem, food is not the solution. Really, if you want to keep it very simple, that’s it.
Now, this isn’t to say that you never eat for reasons other than hunger. Sure, have some of your Aunt Susie’s famous chocolate chip cookies when she brings them to your family party. But don’t make it the norm to eat for reasons other than hunger. That’s often what gets people into trouble in the first place.
Reconnecting your eating with hunger is the essential piece to losing weight and keeping it off. And while maybe it sounds soft, or sounds simple, it is often the most challenging tool for most of my clients to practice.
But once she gets it, and once she goes inside and connects to her brain and her stomach, and uses hunger as the cue to guide her eating, that’s when things change in a really positive way. And that’s when the weight starts coming off.
Another reason you may overeat is simply your environment. When I say ‘your environment,’ I mean a number of different things. Like, where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing.
Think about it, when most of your meals come from a restaurant or takeout environment, you’re likely going to be taking in more calories than you need. It is no secret that most restaurant and takeout foods are larger in size and calories than meals that you would cook at home. So, if you’re someone who eats out frequently, you’re likely going to end up overeating.
And if you’re someone who’s generally part of the ‘clean plate’ club, and you’re not used to eating based on your hunger cues, you’ll have more of a challenge stopping yourself when you’re presented with a supersized plate full of food.
Also consider who you’re with. There may be certain people in your life that when you’re around them, your tendency is to overeat. It may be that they are overweight, and overeat themselves. It may be that they have trouble managing themselves around food.
Or it may be that the people you’re with are either consciously or unconsciously sabotaging your weight loss efforts. They may encourage or even pressure you to eat or drink certain things. And it can be for any number of reasons. They may be having trouble losing weight, and your weight loss efforts may be reminding them of what they want to be doing but aren’t.
I did an entire podcast on when your partner isn’t supportive; Episode 44. You can take that information in the episode and apply it to anyone in your life. But the point here is that sometimes it may be that when you’re with certain people you find yourself overeating.
Or if you tend to overeat while watching TV or at your desk or on the weekends or while you’re cooking dinner for yourself and your family, all of these are environmental triggers that may cue you to start eating, and ultimately lead you to overeat. Okay?
So, besides your environment, you may overeat because of the foods you’re choosing. I’ve mentioned it a number of times already, but most of the food Americans eat is highly processed or ultra-processed food.
I found this statistic that was absolutely mind blowing. It came from Northeastern University’s Network Science Institute. It found that 73% of the United States food supply is ultra-processed. 73%! That is totally mind blowing to me.
And the problem with so many of these foods is that they are chemically engineered to be overeaten. Your cheeses have been engineered with just the right amount of sugar, salt and fat to have the right mouthfeel to keep you coming back for more.
Your crispy french fries were made to be eaten one after the other. This is no accident. There is a reason you buy brand name Oreos versus the generic ones. These foods have been engineered to light up the reward centers in your brain in a certain way, and with a certain intensity, that an apple just cannot do. And when you do eat those foods, it can be hard to stop.
It is still not known whether or not you can have a true food addiction. Like, when someone says she’s addicted to sugar. And I’m not here to solve that debate today, but what we do know is that ultra-processed food is chemically designed to keep you coming back for more.
Again, when you couple these hyper palatable ultra-processed foods with a lack of attention to your hunger cues, it’s really easy to see why we have the problem we do. Add to this, the millions of dollars that are spent marketing these hyper palatable foods to you, and it makes total sense. We are being sold that it is entirely commonplace and socially acceptable, in fact, it is encouraged to overeat these foods.
Do you remember the slogan for Pringles potato chips? “Once you pop, you can’t stop!” I totally remember these commercials and the catchy jingle. Or what about Lay’s, that you can’t eat just one? Do you remember these ads? I do.
As a side note, I have a very weird memory for these things. Apparently, I watched a lot of TV and a lot of commercials as a kid, and I’m constantly shocking Adam with weird TV commercial knowledge I have retained since childhood. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it makes me a really good partner for trivia games.
Anyway, my point here is that hyper palatable foods are schlepped to us as a panacea for hunger, sadness, loneliness, being unpopular, and just about any problem you can imagine. The bigger takeaway is that highly processed foods are generally not healthy, and they’re designed to be overeaten. And when these foods make up the majority of your diet, you’re going to have a hard time losing weight, because it is just too easy to overeat them.
All right, another reason you may overeat is because you’re sleep deprived. I put this as separate from emotional eating, because sleep is its own beast when it comes to its impact on your hunger and ultimately, your weight. Plus, I work with a number of women who have crazy schedules, do shift work, and may not be able to get a full eight hours of sleep at night. Or their schedule is shifted so that they’re sleeping during the day when everyone else is working.
Sleep deprivation will mess with your hunger hormones and can increase ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry. At the same time, it can decrease leptin levels, the hormone that makes you feel full, and that is no good.
Aside from this, sleep deprivation impacts your decision-making ability. Think about it. When you’re tired, it can be harder to stick with the food plan you’ve set up for yourself. It may be easier to justify a plate of pancakes and sausage and cheese biscuits, when normally you’d have egg whites. Your decision-making capacity is not the same when you’re sleep deprived, and it is much easier to make decisions you’re not proud of.
Aside from that, it’s also thought that you’ve got an increased reward response to food when you’re tired. So, that means that an ice cream sundae with loads of hot fudge and a brownie is even more appealing, and lights up your reward centers even more, when you’re tired versus when you’ve had a normal amount of sleep.
All of this is to say, that if you’re not sleeping enough, especially if you’re regularly sleeping less than seven hours a night, you are sleep deprived and that’s probably contributing to your overeating.
Another reason I find that people overeat is that they restrict themselves too much with a super strict diet and then they reach a breaking point, at which they overeat. I see this play out in a number of different ways.
First, you choose an overly restrictive diet. You cut out all carbs, you give up all chocolate, you give up all pizza. You take on a very narrow diet that does not include any of your favorite foods, and you hold out eating this way for as long as you can muster the willpower. But then, once you’ve had enough and you’re tired of restricting yourself, you reverse and overcompensate by overeating. So, that’s one way.
Or if you’re not giving up entire food groups or types of foods, you’re restricting either your calories so much, or skipping meals or both, to the point that you let yourself get too hungry, and then you overdo it once you finally do start eating.
I see this happen all the time when I have a client who works through lunch. Skipping lunch generally does not work. This generally never ends well. It often ends with getting hungry and overeating, once she does find herself able to eat.
Or if you try to force yourself into intermittent fasting. If time restricting your eating is hard for you, and if you repeatedly find yourself hungry and overeating once you get to your eating window, that tells you something. That tells you that intermittent fasting is probably not the best option for you.
These are all similar shades of the same problem here. It ends up being a cycle of restricting, revolting, and reverting, that ultimately leads you to overeating.
Okay, so I just went over a number of reasons that you might be overeating. And here’s something I want to point out about all of these. In order to stop overeating we have to solve three different things: Your over desire for food, your over hunger for food, and eating for reasons other than hunger. Meaning, you don’t use your hunger to guide your eating.
Really, if you think about it, most every flavor of overeating will come down to one or more of those three major issues. Think about it this way, you over desire hyper palatable processed foods. They’ve been engineered that way. You don’t desire broccoli in the way that you do a Klondike Bar, right?
Plus, marketing culture and society makes it normal and expected that you will over desire those foods. Our environments, especially restaurants and stores, are set up to make us over desire food, and that results in a huge dopamine hit. That dopamine rush, that you get from heavily processed or hyper palatable foods, will fuel your over desire for them.
At the same time, over hunger can lead you to overeat. When you’re sleep deprived, or when you skip meals, or when you try to adhere to an eating window that simply does not work for you, you are creating the setting of over hunger.
You’re also creating over hunger when you choose an overly restrictive diet that doesn’t include foods you enjoy eating, so you ultimately feel deprived and become overly hungry.
And last, if you emotionally eat, you are eating for reasons other than hunger and leaving your physical hunger cues out of the picture. You disconnect eating from hunger. That’s really it.
If you want to get to the root cause for most people who struggle with being overweight and obesity, it starts with overeating. And then to take it a step further, that overeating is fueled by one or more of over desire, over hunger, and eating for reasons other than hunger.
So, if you were to do a deep dive and really dissect what it is that’s causing you to overeat, I’ll bet you $1 that it will come down to one or more of those three causes. Notice, that nowhere in here is whether or not you should do Keto or buy more Optavia. Okay?
That’s exactly what I’m getting at. If you want to solve for overeating, treat the cause. Get really honest and ask yourself if you over desire certain hyper palatable foods, and work to address that. Decide if you’re living in a way, or taking on certain behaviors like skipping lunch, or overly restricting yourself, that is resulting in you dealing with over hunger.
Ask yourself if you are truly eating based on hunger cues, or if you’re doing what most everyone else does and you’re eating whatever, whenever, because that’s just what we do.
Here’s why this matters, once you find the root cause of your overeating, and once you treat the actual cause of your overeating, that’s it. There it is. Once you learn to manage your emotions instead of eating them… Once you learn to eat in an environment that is supportive, and learn to deal with the opinions of people who have thoughts about your food choices…
Once you realize that you are just fine without Oreos, and they do not control you… Once you manage sleep and start to feel better rested… Once you stop going from one restrictive diet to another and instead learn to trust yourself around food… Then you will have your answer. Do you see that?
It’s all of those things. First, you have to decide where it is you’re getting tripped up, and then solve for that. Simply jumping from one diet to another to another is not solving anything. That’s why I said the diet is secondary.
But I get it, many of you have told me in one way or another that you would rather try a new diet than to get in there and manage those things. Because that’s harder.
Managing your work stress instead of eating chips, processing your pain after an argument instead of drowning it in a hot fudge sundae, saying no to a cupcake at 2:30 on your coworker’s birthday because you’re not hungry, working through your life and schedule so you can actually get more than six hours of sleep.
Yeah, those are all hard things to do. They do not happen overnight. There is no checkbox system that once you do it, you succeed, get an A+, and lose the weight.
For some of you, it’s “easier” to find the newest diet or start a new program or buy a box full of pre-portioned “feelings,” or watch the clock for when 12 o’clock rolls around so you can start eating. Some of you may very well see that as an easier approach to your overeating. But that’s treating your arm pain without getting an x-ray and finding your broken arm. You’re not treating the cause.
And I would argue all day, every day, that in order to treat the problem of being overweight, we have to get to and treat the cause. Why are you overeating? We have to answer for why you’re overeating, or else the diet is going to be a temporary fix.
Here’s my one key question that I will ask whenever you are considering starting a new diet or a new plan or a new system. Three words: And then, what? Meaning, when you decide that you’re going to start Optavia, as an example. Okay, no problem. You use the packaged foods and eat low calorie, low carb packaged “feelings” and you lose the weight. And then, what?
Are you going to stay on Optavia for life? I’m guessing that’s what the Optavia people are hoping for. Are you going to eat that way for the long haul? What happens when you decide that you don’t want to do the “feelings” anymore? How will you eat then?
What has the program taught you so that you can thrive once you’re done with the packaged foods or intermittent fasting? If you decide you’re going to try intermittent fasting? And then, what?
Are you going to keep eating in a 16/8 ratio for the duration? What happens if and when you get tired of it, where you get really hungry and have to count down the minutes until your eating window opens? How long do you do that? And then, what?
Or keto, if you decide that giving up an entire food group is the answer. And then, what? What happens when you would really love to have an apple? Or what happens when you decide you want to reinstitute carbs back into your life? Or what happens when you decide that you work out better when you have carbs in your system? And then, what?
So, I want to be clear, I don’t ask this question to be snarky, or to put you on the defensive. I ask this question because too many of you don’t think beyond the start line. Too many of you are looking for the one answer or the one diet, that’s going to be the answer.
But you’re looking in the wrong place. Don’t look on the internet. Don’t look on Instagram. Please, do not look on TikTok. Don’t look at Barnes and Noble and the diet book section. Because the answer is not there. The solution to your problem is not there.
Instead, the solution to what diet you should follow really doesn’t matter. From a pure weight loss perspective, that answer does not matter. What does matter is solving for the question of why you overeat. And that may be a much harder question to answer, with multiple parts to it.
That’s a lot more work, but that work, I would argue, is very much worth the trouble of doing it. Because once you do that work, which is an inside job, by the way, once you do the work of getting into your brain and looking at the reasons you overeat, then you can find answers that actually work for you.
Things like managing your emotions, like actually processing your emotions with your body, and feeling your emotions all the way through instead of numbing them with food. Things like walking through urges without answering to them, feeling what an urge feels like in your body and recognizing that you will not explode if you don’t have an Oreo, even though your brain may make you feel like you will.
Or making serious changes to your schedule, so that you actually have time to eat a real lunch. Or get more than six hours of sleep at night. Or addressing the lifestyle habits you’ve put in place, like having most of your meals at restaurants or fast food and deciding to have more meals that you cook at home.
Once you commit to solving those issues, then you are getting to the cause of the problem. That’s when you’re solving for the real problem, which is why you’re overeating. Once you treat the cause of your overeating, it really doesn’t matter what diet you choose to treat the cause of your overeating. The diet will be secondary, really. All right?
If you want help with this, let’s talk. If you’ve tried every diet and it hasn’t worked, let’s get to the actual cause and work on why you’re overeating. Once we solve for the cause of your overeating, you will have a different relationship with food. You will have more peace around food. And, you’ll feel better.
Check out my website, www.CarrieHollandMD.com/contact, send me a message, and let’s get to work.
All right, thank you for hanging out with me, and I’ll catch you again next week.
If you like what you’ve been hearing, please review the show. I would love to get your feedback and ideas. Your suggestions have inspired episodes and will help me make the show better for you. Share this podcast with a friend, text a show link, share a screenshot, or post a link to the show on your social media. Be sure to tag me @CarrieHollandMD on either Instagram or Facebook, so I can follow along and engage with you.
This is how we get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong, inside and out. If you know someone who wants to feel better or eat and move differently but she is too tired or too busy, it is time to change things up. You know making that change starts with how you think, and that is what we do here on the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. I’ll see you next week.
Thanks for listening to Strong as a Working Mom. If you want more information on how to eat, move, and think, so you can live in the body you want, with the mind to match, visit me at CarrieHollandMD.com.
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