I hope you all are enjoying Memorial Day.   (For our non-American readers, I hope you’re enjoying Monday.)  I had plans to work on some side projects this weekend, but caught up in testing video technology instead.  Last summer we encouraged the girls to produce their own YouTube segments for other kids, but they weren’t interested enough to take the idea and run with it.  After they joined me for my guest-host gig on Jimmy Moore’s show, they decided it was fun (and the compliments in comments section were certainly encouraging), so this summer they’re going to give their YouTube show idea a whack.

They want their show to to be fun and cartoonish at times (now where did they get that idea?), so I was experimenting with setting up a green screen in their playroom downstairs, keying out the green, working with cartoon animations (which will be Chareva’s contribution, but I needed to test the technology), pulling the animation into Adobe Premiere, etc.

We did manage to get out on Saturday night and go see the Nashville Sounds (our local AAA baseball team).  The game was followed by fireworks, and then the girls got to go run around the bases with a gazillion other kids.  After we got home from the game, I watched Saving Private Ryan.  On Memorial Day weekend, I usually watch either that or Band of Brothers.  I like to remind myself what the soldiers we honor on Memorial Day sacrificed for all of us.

Anyway, it’s still a holiday weekend, so instead of writing a full post, I decided to share some recent emails from viewers:

Mr. Naughton,

I finally got around to watching your movie about a month ago. I am certain you get plenty of e-mails regarding this, but I wanted to thank you. I started following your eating suggestions, and they have worked fantastically. I’ve lost 11 lbs in 29 days, and have never felt better in my life. I was diagnosed with depression when I was in high school, but have now been free of my medications for more two weeks, and my doctor can’t seem to believe that I just don’t feel like I need them anymore. I haven’t been stressed or depressed at all. Thank you so much for your wonderful work, and I plan to buy copies of your movie for my parents and siblings in an attempt to get them to eat better as well.

-Thank you more then I can express,
James

The weight loss is nice, James, but I’m more delighted to hear about the depression being lifted.  As Nora Gedgaudas wrote in Primal Body, Primal Mind, no amount of therapy can replace a missing nutrient or negate the effects of foods we shouldn’t eat.  Here’s to your continued progress.

Thank you, Mr. Naughton, for your documentary. It hasn’t changed my life too terribly much, but it has affected something much more dear to my heart.

My oldest son is 4 and a half. He is caring, precocious, affectionate, and … autistic. Yet very few people would ever suspect that he was autistic, because of how caring and open he is.

It wasn’t always that way. I bought into the bologna of feeding my child low-fat high carb diets, and he was distant, unfocused, easily disturbed by bright lights and loud sounds. He never made eye contact with me, and in fact we very rarely spoke at all. I watched Super Size Me, and felt that I was doing what was right for my son by imposing the limits to his diet that I had imposed. I saw your documentary on Netflix, and was amazed. It made sense, it was well researched, it worked. I drank whole milk as a child, and here I was trying to force my son to drink skim milk. I was giving him skinless chicken breast, whole wheat toast, and some sort of vegetable for dinners, and watching him get worse. His doctor was concerned about him, I was concerned about him.

I switched him to whole milk, he likes it and drinks it. I started putting butter on his veggies. Another success. I let him have chicken nuggets more often, and cheese. He improved. He is still autistic, and still has many of the underlying issues. He likely will his whole life. But… we hug without him flinching. He listens to me. We can talk about science and math. He is making friends. He is happy and healthy. He has gone from being feared to have a more severe autism to high functioning.

Your documentary gave me the tools to research what my children should be eating, and has improved both of their qualities of life. They are lean, hyper (but not hyper-active), curious boys.

We do not eat low carbohydrate, but we do eat a much higher percentage of our calories as saturated fat now. I am losing weight by being lower carb and using intermittent fasting.

Thank you so very much, sir.
Cindy

That’s great news, Cindy.  For the record, I don’t think kids need to be on low-carb diets.  They just need to avoid the junk foods, which will usually mean reducing carbs anyway.  I wish you and your boys all the best.

Hey there, Tom!

I’ve emailed you in the past, but usually just to ask questions or make comments about news stories.  But today, I figured it was time I sat down and told you how you’ve changed at least four more lives.  I hope you’ll bear with me.  I tend to ramble.

I didn’t have the best upbringing.  My mom was a single mom, worked, was going to school, dealt with my older sister who was probably the worst problem child you could ever have (she kept running away, stealing, and got pregnant at 12).  Mom drank a lot and sometimes used drugs, and was severely depressed at least at one time.  Needless to say, we didn’t eat very well back then.  I remember a lot of easy stuff, like frozen meals, spaghetti, pizza, and lots of chips, cookies, and candy.

I think partially because my only friends at that time were my cats and guinea pigs, I decided to become a vegetarian at the age of 14.  I honestly can’t remember what my thought process was, or what spurred me on to make that decision.  My mom didn’t protest really.  Since I was already chubby at that age, I bet she thought it would help me lose weight.  When I told my pediatrician, she was pretty upset (this is the only doctor who ever questioned my vegetarianism, but I was a kid so I didn’t listen to her).  She asked me where I was planning on getting my protein from, and being 14, I told her I ate lots of peanut butter.

It was that year that my health and my life started taking a pretty nasty turn for the worse.  Since my mom didn’t have the time or patience to cook separate vegetarian meals, I mostly just ate around what she made for herself.  If she made mashed potatoes with chicken gravy, I would eat just mashed potatoes for dinner.  If she made a sweet and sour stir fry with chicken and rice, I would eat the few vegetables I liked (which wasn’t many back then) with rice and lots of sweet and sour sauce.  I ate cereal for breakfast.  Lots and lots of cereal.  Sometimes two huge bowls at a time.  I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  And don’t forget all those chips, cookies, and candy I was still eating, because they’re vegetarian.

About a year later (right before my 15th birthday), I had to have my gall bladder removed.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  No one asked if I wanted it done.  No one offered alternatives.  No one even told me what causes gall stones.  I didn’t find out what causes gall stones until just last year, and when I found out, I was pretty mad.  You know what causes gall stones?  Not using your gall bladder (i.e. low-fat diets).

That was also when I started to really pack on the weight.  I was already big to begin with.  I was a large child; tall for my age, with huge feet and big broad shoulders.  I was just big all around.  But when I started eating vegetarian, I got really fat.  When I had my gall bladder removed, I was 200 pounds.  Two years later, I hit my peak of 275 pounds.  For a 17 year old 5’8 girl, that’s a lot of weight to be carrying.

But it wasn’t just the weight that was the problem.  I was severely depressed.  My hair was falling out.  I started growing hair where girls shouldn’t be growing hair and my menstrual cycle would skip several months at a time (which I later found out was because I had developed PCOS).  I started turning away from the world, and at age 16, I dropped out of school.  Luckily I found my future husband around that time, and even though I was morbidly obese and not always fun to be around, he loved me and helped me fight off some of my depression.  Also being around him meant I wasn’t eating out of loneliness so much, and we spent a lot of time out in nature, so that by the time we moved in together when I was 22, I had managed to get down to 230 pounds.

Then a couple years later, I finally decided to try DIETING!  I found a website called Spark People that lets you track your calories and your exercise minutes.  I became instantly addicted.  I spent literally hours a day on Spark People, reading the nutrition articles, chatting on the forums, and tracking my food.  But it wasn’t fun.  I felt starved all the time.  Food was the only thing I thought about.  What I would eat, when I would eat it.  If I had 50 extra calories at the end of the day, I would plan out what small indulgence I could give myself (not much for 50 calories).  I persisted, though, and in five months, I managed to get down to 185 pounds.

Then I got appendicitis.  Again, the doctors didn’t give me an option.  No one offered me alternatives.  No one told me what causes appendicitis.  I was wheeled into the OR and had one of my organs taken from me.  It wasn’t until last year that I found out that appendicitis is a “disease of civilization”.  The worst part is, exactly one year later, my husband had his appendix removed too, and as the cook in our house, I know I did it to him and it makes me sick.

The weight crept back on after that, a little at a time.  I would occasionally try low calorie dieting again, but it was almost impossible for me to stick with it.  Like I said before, I’m a big girl.  Even if I was skinny, I would be big.  My hips are big, my shoulders are big, my feet are big.  But BMI doesn’t take that into consideration, and so to lose weight, I was told on Spark People to eat 1300 calories a day.  That’s constant hunger.

About a year ago, I was clicking around on Netflix when I saw your movie.  I was kind of intrigued, but a little hesitant to watch it because I just LOVED the movie Super Size Me and I didn’t want to hear an opposing opinion.  But after a week or two, I finally gave in and watched it.  Holy cow.  It was so life changing.  I was like, really?  This is how it really works?  Why did I have to wait 27 years to hear it?  Why did I have to find this information in a documentary filmed by a comedian?  Why isn’t this information being shouted out across the rooftops for everyone to hear it?

I was excited about the life-changing information, but also skeptical.  I wanted to have my husband watch it, but I wasn’t sure what he would think about it.  So I started just telling him some of the things you said in your film.  After about three days of constantly saying, “And something else he said in his movie…” my husband got annoyed and decided to watch the movie for himself.

I can’t say we changed our diets instantly.  I think it was a couple of days before we really decided to try low carb eating.  I was still trying to be a vegetarian at that point, and since I’m the one who cooks, my husband was pretty much vegetarian himself as well.  I cooked lots of tofu, seitan (a meat substitute made from wheat gluten….seriously), and some beans.  We saw some improvements right away, but nothing huge.  After a couple of months, we started slacking off again, and almost completely went back to our old way of eating.

Around last August or September, we decided, you know what?  If we’re going to do this, we need to really do this right.  We cut out all wheat (except for the low carb wraps my husband uses in his lunch), all sugar, and I decided to give up my identity as a vegetarian.  The first steak I had was so glorious.  It was life changing.

Since then, things have started changing at the speed of light.  For both of us, our energy has increased dramatically.  Our moods have really improved, too.  My husband used to get really depressed all the time, but now he’s so chipper and full of energy when he gets home from work.  I have issues with SAD, and even though this winter was rough at times, it was no where near as dark or depressing as last winter.  My fingernails are strong and long for the first time in 14 years!  I used to always have fingernails that were thin, brittle, and would peel off in layers, but no more.  Even though it’s gardening season, my fingernails are beautiful.

The most amazing thing to me is the muscle we’ve both put on.  My husband was what you’d call skinnyfat all his life.  6’5, 195 pounds, with absolutely no muscle.  Even though I was a weak, depressed vegetarian, I was stronger than him.  Now, he’s lean and muscular with like a runner’s build.  He’s almost completely lost his belly bulge and is starting to get some definition there instead.

As for me, even though I hadn’t lifted weights at all since becoming a low-carb exvegetarian, I put on a lot of muscle as well.  I can feel new bulges in my arms and legs, and I don’t get winded as much when I’m lifting heavy things.  I thought all the “experts” said you can’t gain muscle and lose weight at the same time!

My husband started at 195 and is now about 178.  Like I said, he’s lost almost all of his flabby tummy and the flabbiness around his face and arms.  He looks awesome, and I know for a fact that he’s eating more now than he did before.  He doesn’t suffer from severe coldness much anymore, and if he does, he’ll eat something really fatty and that helps him get warm again.

I’ve only lost about ten pounds, taking me back down to 185.  But for me, it’s not about the weight.  It’s about my fingernails, my energy, my good mood, no longer having to eat ever two hours, no longer feeling obsessed about food, no longer having crippling wrist pain, or awful IBS, or tons of pimples.  It’s about eating real whole food that makes me feel like a real whole person.  Besides, why do all women have to be stick thin?  I think round curvy women are beautiful.

We’ve been trying for a baby for the last year.  Sometimes I fear we’ll never be able to conceive, but then I remind myself that my body is still healing from 14 years of malnutrition and carb-overload.  And it’s all thanks to you, Tom.

I know this email has gone on forever already, but I also wanted to tell you that you’ve changed more lives than just mine and my husband’s.  As we’ve improved and passed on info and shared books with our family and friends, they’ve been changing their diets, too.  My hubby’s brother went low-carb and lost at least 20 pounds (probably more by now).  My mom’s low-carb and has lost 11 pounds and isn’t taking her blood pressure meds anymore.  My sister, who looks pregnant because she’s so fat, is seriously thinking about going low-carb.  And even my mother-in-law, who is a complete and total carbivore, has cut out potatoes and pasta, and limits her sweets.  Doesn’t that make you feel like a rock star?

Thanks again for all that you do.  I hope you keep spreading the word.  I know I will!

-Julie

You’ve learned a valuable lesson, Julie:  this isn’t just about weight loss.  It’s about feeling great and being happy.

When people email me with their stories, I always offer to change their names if they prefer to remain anonymous.  However, Julie has already gone public on her own blog, so with her permission, here’s the link to her blog.  It’s a good one, so check it out.

Happy Memorial Day.

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23 Responses to “Letters From Viewers”
  1. tess says:

    I told you and Chareva on the cruise, and i’ll repeat it again for all to hear — y’all are doing great, GOOD work. how many comedians in this world have had such a profound impact on the wellbeing of so many people? :-D

    Believe me, emails like those make my day. They certainly inspire me to get cracking on that book idea.

  2. Janknitz says:

    Wow, Tom!

    How many computer engineers/comedians/documentarians get to change people’s lives for the better?

    I honestly never expected emails like those when I was making Fat Head. I am simultaneously inspired and humbled when I receive them.

    • Well Tom, as I told you at our chat pre-cruise, you’ve completely changed my outlook about health. And I’m using my social media and tech influence to inspire others.

      But the best part was today. I put on 32/30 pants. I haven’t worn those since high school. Most recently (8 months ago), I was tightly fitting into 38/30 pants.

      I was in tears.

      Oustanding, Randal.

  3. K2 says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for sharing the great letters you get from viewers/readers. They are inspiring and enlightening. I wish all of them well.

    And I especially wish Julie well. Her story of being a recovering vegetarian is encouraging that maybe people are waking up to the fact that what looks good on paper and sounds good “morally” (none of us want to hurt animals for any reason, and it would be awesome if we could be healthy without any harm done), it just doesn’t work. Period. At least not vegan….lacto/ovo has a better chance, but that might get a bit boring after a while.

    This overcast afternoon with nothing else to do, I wandered over to the Macdougall forums for a few chuckles. Well, it wasn’t so funny after all. There were several postings under the health issues section about horrible digestive problems – shocker with all those raw veggies and superhealthywholegrains – and worse: greatly increased cholesterol and triglycerides levels, as well as extreme reactive hypoglycemia. These people were posting on a forum supposedly monitored and responded to by an MD who never answered any of them, hoping to find some answers. The responses, if I may be allowed to interpret and summarize, were basically, “You aren’t doing it right.” OBVIOUSLY more potatoes, rice, sweet potatoes and oats with fruit will totally stabilize blood sugar levels. Yeah, right.

    The sad part was that some of the people posting were nearly crying online, saying how much they want to be vegan, who much they want a plant-based diet to work. They were completely disconnected from their bodies, almost complaining that their bodies weren’t cooperating with their chosen diet rather than providing their bodies what they need to be healthy.

    Gosh….where do we start to turn around mentalities like that? “Fat Head Movie” and blogs like this one are a great place to start, but it looks like we have a long row to hoe, doesn’t it?

    All the best to you all. Congrats on your successes and keep fighting the good fight.

    K2

    I sincerely hope the vegetarians who aren’t doing well on a vegetarian diet re-think their choices. For those who do well as vegetarians, great. Do what’s working for you.

    • K2 says:

      “Do what’s working for you.” Amen!

      I have done both – vegan and paleo/low carb – and neither work for me. I felt like utter crap on both after about 2 or so months. As a runner, I needed some carbs, and just adding some sweet potatoes to my otherwise paleo-ish meals was gold. I also had to scale back on fats, simply because I feel better that way.

      I hold out hope that people stop listening to hype on any side, honestly give ideas a try, but trust what works for them. Getting rid of processed junk would be good for anyone, regardless of diet choice.

      Thanks for not being dogmatic and realizing there is a wide range of “good.” That along with your amazing deconstructions of studies will help more people than you will ever realize.

      All the best.

      K2

      Thank you. In a world of billions of people whose ancestors consumed totally different foods depending on the local terrain and climate, it would be silly to propose that there’s one diet that works for everyone.

      • Cyborcat says:

        Not to be picky, but I think sweet potatoes are considered paleo-friendly, just not if you’re trying to lose weight.

        I know Mark Sisson recommends more carbs for athletes, as long as it comes from a good source.

        Yes, tubers are considered paleo-friendly. I’ve found that sweet potatoes don’t jack my blood sugar like white potatoes do, so I’ll eat half of one now and then with dinner.

    • Firebird says:

      One of the problems with vegetarians and vegans is that they will blame everything but the diet (As you know from “the Meat Fix”).

      The vegetarians who try the diet purely for health reasons seem to be more open-minded and willing to change if they realize it’s not working for them. For the ones who go into it with the “meat is murder!” attitude, it’s a tougher mental switch to make.

    • Katie says:

      I’ve never heard of the Macdougall forums before but after reading your comment I found it and read some of the health concern posts.

      I feel bad for these people and worse for their children. One person was asking if it’s normal for a 10 year to be skin and bones and should she “loosen the reins” to allow her child to eat some fat. Is the vegan eating wrecking her own ability to think clearly? Of course your child shouldn’t be on a diet that leaves them skin and bones!

      Another person is struggling with the after effects of spiking and then plummeting blood sugar and finds when she eats fat and lowcarb the problem goes away. Yet she’s asking for how can she get the same results while eating low-fat and vegan. She’s already found a way of eating that solves her bloodsugar problem but she can’t see it because she’s so focused on maintaining a vegan diet.

      Ugh. That’s zealotry will do to your ability to think.

      • SB says:

        http://www.nealhendrickson.com/mcdougall/030700puhowdoIgainweight.htm

        I just visited the Macdougall forum to see what Katie was talking about. This was a link re: how to gain weight on Macdougall. The recommendations include: Eat more, eat starch, eat simple sugars to promote a greater rise in insulin, add sugar, exercise less. Oh and eat more high fat (yay) soy products (boo). Also, note the “ideal weight” recommendations chart- they note that “you might not be too skinny after all”. I’ll admit that at 5’1″ and 120lbs that I have some weight to lose…but when you work out, you put on muscle. I can’t imagine having any room for muscle if I weighed only 94 lbs. My brain hurts, better eat some bacon to make it feel better.

        Eat simple sugars to promote a rise in insulin … now there’s some advice guaranteed to produce future diabetics.

        • Ineskiste says:

          I could not help it, I needed to check out the McD site, too. Wow. These weight recommendations are insane. Fully dressed. There is no way I can lose another 20 pounds and still be and look healthy. Where do these recommendations come from?

          From people with no muscles.

  4. Mike P says:

    Tom,

    As a regular visitor to your blog, I have to admit that for as funny as your posts can be, your best posts are when you share reader’s letters like today. Reading other’s stories about their path through life, their struggles, concerns, and successes are ALWAYS enjoyable.

    To all of those who have shared their stories – thank you! You are truly inspirational!!

    Tom – Keep it up!!

    Mike P

    I’m glad to hear people like reading those letters. I held onto the first batch for a long time without posting them because I was afraid doing so would come across as egotistical.

  5. Kristin says:

    I NEVER get tired of reading success stories like these. K2 I’m right there with you. My diet isn’t like yours but like you needed to keep tweaking to find the right mix. Seems I feel best with a lot of fat, meat and a lot of vegetables and fermented foods supplemented with some raw whole dairy and a little bit of wild sourdough bread I make myself from organic spelt. Two of those dietary choices take me out of true paleo (especially the evil grains) but I’m all done with dogma this life. No fun at all.

    Tom, your videos are where I point people to who want to learn more about my diet. I tell them I started off with real researchers (sorry) and therefore know that the lectures of this comedian are scientifically sound. They are just a very fun way to get the information. Lustig, Gartner, and Taubes are fascinating to me but I can’t expect everyone to be as obsessive as I am. You fill an important niche in the story that so desperately needs to be told. It’s not like our government or health care organizations are much use and are actively obstructive. Please keep up the wonderful work you do. As a software engineer myself I am pretty impressed with everything you do outside of spending a solid work day writing code.

    No offense taken. I want people to read the real researchers as well.

  6. Rae says:

    Loved reading these letters! I enjoy hearing stories about low carb high fat improving people’s mental health. I’m pretty comfortable talking about my weight loss success with LCHF but I tend to keep the depression stuff under my hat. However in my teens and 20s I struggled greatly with depression and even attempted suicide – all while I was low fat high carb vegan/vegetarian. Now? Now I am a pretty happy, calm, patient person and it takes a lot to bring me down. Saturated fat – miracle drug!

    Indeed, I wonder how many people are spending a fortune on therapy when what they need is some bacon.

    • js290 says:

      re: Saturated fat – miracle drug!

      Nature was not going to waste a better fuel.

      At one point in the making of Fat Head, I had to work around the clock for three days to beat a deadline. I ate lots of saturated fat. Great fuel indeed.

  7. Julie says:

    Tom… I just have to say thank you. Thanks for educating us, making us laugh, and helping us to become healthier and happier. Also, thank you do much for posting my letter. I really want people to know that you don’t have to be fat, sick and depressed. There’s another way to live.

    (Thanks for the link to my blog, too. I finally have page views that aren’t just my husband or bots!)

    I’m glad you’re getting some traffic. You deserve it.

  8. Miriam says:

    Just FYI your link to Wendy’s nutrition info now takes you to a 404 error within the Wendy’s site. Of course only a complete idiot could go on to fail to find nutrition information after being taken that far, but in case Spurlock clicks on it and “can’t find it” I thought you’d want to know.

    In hunting for the info, I did run across one of the greatest quotes of at least the last 10 minutes, on the Wendy’s site:

    “If you can’t say anything nice, then it must not have bacon on it.”

    Thanks for the heads-up. I updated the link. I wouldn’t want Spurlock to blame me if people eat a Wendy’s and get fat.

  9. Band of Brothers,just threw my mind back a bit…Got to have that in my possession,it had slipped my mind,again!
    Thanks for the inspiring stories y’all.Keep up the great work Tom!

    Chareva bought me the complete Blu-ray set a couple of years ago. The series itself was phenomenal, and bonus features are excellent too … you can watch episodes with surviving soldiers commenting, to name just one example

  10. Chris says:

    I always love reading these letters; they give me hope! I’ve started a high fat low carb diet about three months ago, and the weight loss is incredible. The one thing that isn’t change is my numerous mental conditions (depression, anxiety, etc). I don’t know if I’m not doing it right, or something else is wrong, but my mental state is still pretty bad. Maybe it takes more time for the brain to heal? I have put a lot of stress on it. Either way, congrats to all those who wrote!

    Yes, it could take time, but not every mental disturbance is diet-related. I wish you well on getting over the depression and anxiety.

    • Firebird says:

      Same here, Chris. Also, my cortisol is through the roof and I cannot seem to bring it down. This is keeping me from losing the ten lbs. of fat that I want to lose.

  11. Marcie Tandy says:

    Tom…after watching your film, I have been following your blog regularly and have been modifying my diet to eat low-carb. Recently I also watched the film “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead” by Joe Cross. You probably have heard of him, but if you haven’t, he lost like 100 pounds drinking fresh juice for 60 days and now has made an empire around his Reboot fast. My question to you is…are juices that are made from fruits and veg in a juicer high in carbs? I’m worried if I start doing this I will actually put weight on instead of losing. I’m curious what your whole take is on Joe Cross and the Reboot.

    Juices from most vegetables are low in carbs, but fruit juices are high in carbs — specifically fructose. Not a good idea to drink those.

  12. Jose Vila says:

    Hey Tom,

    I sent you an eMail almost a year ago, you responded, but I didn’t even notice until last month, because my mail client sent it to my business email address, and marked it as spam… Just wanted to thank you for your reply, and to reiterate what everyone else has already said – you’ve saved, and are continuing to save lives. Not just health, but also well-being. Like many others here, I’ve suffered from depression my whole life, but not anymore! I would not have discovered Gary Taubes, Mark Sisson, Weston A. Price, William Davis, or Jimmy Moore and LCHF Ketosis without your shoestring-budget film. Thanks again! Also, this quote is now going on my FB wall:

    “I wonder how many people are spending a fortune on therapy when what they need is some bacon.” ~ Tom Naughton

    Well, I’m glad my replied eventually showed up.

  13. James says:

    More scientific proof that FatHead is correct:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=lDneyrETR2o#t=3246s

    Keep up the great work! ;)

    Thank you.

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