Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 29, 2009

It’s Time to “Get Real”

By Mark Sisson
138 Comments

Dear readers, it’s time to get real.

I realize that most of you probably don’t think you need a lecture. You may not need any further motivation. You’re eating good, whole foods, getting daily exercise, and things are going well. For the most part, Grok gazes upon you with twinkling, approving eyes. But what of newcomers? What of the average doughy citizen happily bumbling along in blissful ignorance, unaware that his or her dietary habits and devotion to Conventional Wisdom might actually be counterproductive to those goals implicit in all forms of life, great or small? Survival, contentedness, and prosperity. Surely he deserves a harsh check of reality.

And even Grok stumbles. Even the most zealous adherents of the Primal Blueprint falter, or even relapse. Maybe they start taking advantage of the office snack stash on a regular basis. A few Twix can’t hurt, right? (Every day? Yeah, they can.) Or maybe they swing by the drive-thru because they put off grocery shopping that week. (Enjoy your microwaved pseudo-meat product flanked by enriched flour patties and plastic cheese.) Hell, even I’ve made that split-second decision – half-out the door, bedecked in workout gear, mind dreading the pain to come – to put off exercise for momentary comfort.

There’s nothing wrong with the occasional foray into our old ways, especially if the situation necessitates it (starving on a business trip in some far-off town with nothing but fast food joints open, or taking a day off to rest an overworked body). Just be wary of man’s unique ability to justify anything. We’ll eat vegetables chips and swear they’re healthy. We’ll order a light Frappucino and convince ourselves it’s cool (never mind that sugary sweet syrup concoction coating your mouth afterward). Call it self-delusion, cognitive dissonance, or just plain lying to yourself – we all do it, we’re great at it, it’s a coping mechanism, but it’s ultimately harmful and impedes progress in the Primal Blueprint. Because once we justify and rationalize a counterproductive behavior, we’re all the more likely to continue said behavior.

“Just one more day…”

“Just this once…”

“Last time. Promise…”

Sound familiar? When you’re promising stuff to yourself and convincing yourself that the lies you’re spewing are to be trusted (and falling for it!)… it’s time to GET REAL.

Consider this, then, a wake-up call. (If you’re diligent and secure, exempt yourself – but even then, you’d be selling yourself short. There’s always room for improvement. Thinking otherwise leads to stagnation.) A wake up call to the beginners, a wake up call to our most loyal readers. Let’s even consider it a wake up call to me, Mark, to get and stay serious about eating right and working out correctly. Following the direction of our evolutionary genetics is a beautifully simple endeavor, but it takes diligence and dedication nonetheless.

Are you prepared to re-up on the Primal Blueprint? If so, these should help you maintain composure and stay the course.

Get Real Meat

Eat real, actual meat. You want a slab of beef untouched by preservatives, by antibiotics, by hormones, and by soy feed. You want a whole roasted chicken so you can crack open the bones and suck the marrow. Eat clean, wild fish and pick out the rib bones. Most importantly, don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that greasy little Slim Jim you picked up at the gas station on the way home from work that oozes slimy nitrites with every bite is real meat. Nor are, for that matter, the treated cold cuts, the bargain bin bacon that miraculously survives for months in your fridge, and that pepperoni you pick off your spouse’s pizza. Get real meat, folks.

Get Real Vegetables

Don’t eat corn (on the cob, popped, or otherwise prepared – it’s actually a grain!), potatoes (although sweet potatoes and yams are decent in moderation), vegetable tempura (don’t let that flaky, crispy batter fool you), or veggie chips (the chubby vegetarian’s best friend). And President Reagan may have once proclaimed it a vegetable, but ketchup is definitely not a good choice – it’s loaded with so much corn syrup, sodium, and other pseudo-foods that the tomato can scarcely be detected. Instead, load up on the stuff that you know to be good. Broccoli, greens of all kinds, cauliflower (mash it up for a superior potato substitute), carrots (hold the cake), peppers, tomatoes (real ones), squash, and eggplant (among numerous others) work quite well.

Get Real Fruit

And get realistic amounts of it. Fruit was a luxury for Grok, a seasonal delicacy. He wasn’t slurping sherbet-based smoothies every morning, nor was he munching on apples engineered for maximum sugar content. When you eat fruit try to stick to organic. Rather than drink juice or smoothies (albeit, a better choice), try to eat whole fruits. They’ll fill you up faster. Also go easy on the dried fruit; it’s great in a pinch and on hikes (mixed with nuts), but you’ll fill up on sugar before you notice it because it’s so concentrated. As always, berries are best.

Get Real Nuts

Lose the peanuts, the candy-coated almonds, the caramel-fudge-encrusted macadamia nuts, those clusters of candy and nuts masquerading as healthy snacks (they may have exotic spices like anise and cayenne, but they’re still covered in a fine sheen of syrup). Eat real nuts and seeds instead: almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp. And please – do not eat those dried crispy soybeans.

Get Real Fat

Though that header could be easily misconstrued, what I mean is that you need to get real sources of good fat in your diet. Avoid the processed, hydrogenated (partially or totally), trans garbage. You should be eating real animal fat (lard, tallow), olive oil and fats from avocados, eggs, nuts, seeds, and good cuts of meat (eat that crispy chicken skin!). If you’ve bought into the widespread ridiculous fear of fat in favor of artificial vegetable oils, margarines, and other disgusting lab creations, you need to get real.

Get Real About Grains

CW likes to tout grains as “the staff of life” – the foundation for the human diet. Deep down, you know better. You know that the best alternative to grains is eating real food our bodies were designed to eat. Meat, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, and fats are highly superior to grains, and they don’t require loads of processing, heating, pressing, fermenting, soaking, or any other tampering just to be digestible. Get real about the Primal Blueprint, stay off the grains for a few months, and you’ll forget all about your former masters.

Get Real Workouts

The success and effectiveness of your workout depends on the enthusiasm with which it’s assailed. Don’t half ass your sprint day at 60% intensity when you know you need to be going 100%. Don’t show up at the gym when you’re supposed to max your squat if you’re not serious about it. Use these days for rest, play or some low level aerobic activity (think long walks/hikes or an easy bike ride) instead and you’ll still be perfectly Primal. Then, when you’re ready, regroup and give it your all. Otherwise, malaise or even injury can easily set in. Get real about what you’re up for, then do it! Oh, and if you’re counting your walk out to your mailbox and back as your workout of the day you seriously need to get real.

Get Real About Your Goals

First of all, get some real goals. Get out a piece of paper (or blog, or Word doc, whatever) and figure out what you’re working toward. Be honest with yourself, and don’t expect the impossible. I am a strong believer in one’s ability to control their gene expression, reprogram their body, and become a healthier individual, but you aren’t going to sprout a few more inches no matter how many reps you do or vegetables you eat.

That said, never sell yourself short. Push yourself to the limit, and don’t use common excuses – “most of my family is slightly overweight” or “my dad never was really that muscular” or “I’m too old to start over” – to avoid making changes in your life. Your ability to seize control of your life, your body, and your health is real. You just have to do it. Ewald (Otto’s identical twin) did.

I hope all of this wasn’t too harsh. Chalk it up to a little tough love follow-up to yesterday’s “Excuses” post. I think it’s important to have a call to action every now and then. And it’s not like I told you something you didn’t know. You know these are the keys to living a long, healthy life. You know eating the right food and getting daily exercise will pay dividends – today, tomorrow, and in thirty years. Don’t relegate yourself to a future of walkers, brittle bones, sagging guts (and spirits), and doctor visits, all because it was easier to delude yourself and take the easy route. Instead, get real about your abilities, about your goals, about your lifestyle, and about your body.

Good luck!

Further Reading:

Egg Purchasing Guide

Salmon: Factory Farm vs. Wild

Dear Mark: Is Flax Bad?

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138 Comments on "It’s Time to “Get Real”"

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Christine
Christine
7 years 7 months ago

This reminds me of a quote from a song:

To change the world, start with one step. However small, the first is hardest of all. Once you get to your gate, you’ll be walking tall.

Primal Recipe
5 years 2 months ago

People just need to make the decision to do it an then take massive action towards their goals. If one can’t motivate themselves, no one else and nothing else can do it for them.

Abel James
4 years 11 months ago

Motivation is an interesting thing. I have found that people’s excitement and dedication comes and goes during the first few weeks, but once they start seeing the obvious benefits of eating real food and notice clear improvements in front of the mirror, their success becomes self-motivating. And after they get used to eating the way we were all built to eat, it becomes hard to imagine ever eating any other way!

einstein
einstein
4 years 4 months ago

True. I’ve been primal for 4 months and can’t imagine going back to my old ways. 99/1 ratio here. not 80/20.

Broseph
Broseph
7 years 7 months ago

I’ve already gotten real meats, real veggies, real fruits, and certainly real nuts, but I’m having some trouble with the real workouts. I decided to let the gym membership lapse and start with more outdoor Primal exercise, but without the regimental structure of the gym, I find it hard to create/stick/to a goal when the playing field is…just an empty playing field.

Jerry
6 years 5 months ago

go crossfit!!! get workout ideas from http://www.crossfit.com or the one i go to http://www.crossfitmalmo.se (swedish but you can still get info about workouts). Ideal is to find a crossfit-gym, i did and it’s done wonders for me,no more excuses, just go there and do it. Good luck!

Tara
7 years 7 months ago
Oooh this was PERFECT timing! I am a newbie and I made some tuiles a couple days ago, and ate some prepared ones. Not THAT bad but then the next day I at 2 snickerdoodles. Guess what?! 1. I looked in the mirror and looked bloated as hell! Seriously?! It can make THAT big of a difference? Apparently so. 2. I am craving more sweets. If I dont have them, I dont crave them. When I do have them… wham! The cravings are back. Im doing better today though, thanks goodness. Now a Q for Mark: Not gonna lie, dairy… Read more »
Shawn
Shawn
7 years 7 months ago

I’m relatively new to your blog, so you may have already addressed this in a previous post. But are you saying that saturated fat does not contribute to arterial and heart disease?

J.B. Aloha
J.B. Aloha
6 years 7 months ago

Not all saturated fats are created equal, medium chain fatty acids are actually very healthy. And No, dietary saturated fats and cholesterols has virtually no bearing on heart disease or arterial calcifications. In contrast the rise in polyunsaturated fats in margerines and vegetable oils has become the culprit. The link below is a good place to start your research.

http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/80/5/1102

avi
avi
5 years 11 months ago

he is saying that. read his definitive guide to saturated fat to find out why.

JE Gonzalez
7 years 7 months ago

If I may say, you seem kind of agressive with pushing people to accomplish their fitness goals. Most people are not going to do it! Most people are going to succumb to pie and ice cream sooner or later. One of my father’s good friends has read all of the literature pushing a Paleo-type diet and believes in it, but always succumbs to the pastries his family sends him. He is corpulent, yet has all the knowledge of how to be studly and healthy, as do most people.

Son of Grok
7 years 7 months ago

I do have to say a little harsh. As a person running almost 100% primal for quite a while now, I am cool with it but that would have scared me off if I was a newcomer! I am pretty darn confident that I am doing well in all of the areas you list though.

The SoG

Trace
Trace
4 years 2 months ago

Harsh? You guys are a bunch of wimps! You can’t take a little encouragement and ball busting? This is the sign of a good trainer. Someone that’s trying to motivate you. 1/2 the problem in this country is the men are becoming a bunch of women. Too much estrogen in the beef, and too many phytoestrogens in the Soy! Many up!

Trace
Trace
4 years 2 months ago

Excuse the typo… but
MAN UP!

Dana
Dana
3 years 2 months ago

Excuse me, but it’s not the testosterone that makes you tough. If you went into childbirth labor right now, you’d die from the shock.

T gives you a strength and aggression burst and is great for short-term energy but you also need endurance, and women best men in that department. True story. And it’s not because the men are doing all the work. (You wish.)

Holly
Holly
7 years 7 months ago

I am a relatively newcomer and I don’t think it was harsh… maybe its because I grew up with “tough love.” Coddling doesn’t always get the point across. Thanks for the reminder/motivation/love Mark!

Jerry
Jerry
7 years 7 months ago

Long time reader here, and I don’t think it was harsh at all. Although the “It’s Time To Get Real” is a little to Dr. Phil, I enjoyed reading this. Keep up the good work Mark.

Apurva Mehta
7 years 7 months ago
Hey mark, this was a great post. I have a question. In all your recommendations about nuts, you have not really recommended cashew nuts. Your favorites seem to be almonds and walnuts; and pecans, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds have got a mention here too. Is it a matter of taste that you don’t like cashews. Or are there compelling health reasons to avoid them, as there are for peanuts? I am curious, because I enjoy mixing cashews into my nut consumption, but am willing to cut them out if there is a good reason for it. It would be… Read more »
Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later

Don’t forget Coconut as a source of ‘Real Fat’!

Apurva Mehta
7 years 7 months ago

Oh, one more thing? How come there is no word on ‘getting real’ about Intermittent Fasting? There is plenty of scope for ‘cheating’ with it!

Apurva

Beth
Beth
7 years 7 months ago

Mark, that was just the kick I needed. I would take it one step further – as I look at my ENTIRE life – all the crap we “cheat” on. New pair of shoes I can’t afford? There’s a credit card! Too busy to cook? There’s the frozen pizza that’s quick and easy! Cutting corners is so easy, but the price to pay at the end seems huge to me and not the way I want to live. You help remind me of personal responsibility and being true to myself and my ultimate goals. Thanks!

Evan
Evan
7 years 7 months ago
They can read and study and practise all they want, but for some people, there are certain things that they won’t succeed in until they have their enlightenment, the moment when everything suddenly clicks. I’ve been reading and practising Art Devany’s EF for over a year, and synthesizing it with Mark’s PB for about 9 months, and in the beginning I had great results. I figured I understood just about everything there was to understand, and I was finally on the path to the body I’ve always wanted. But about 4 months ago I noticed a slowdown in my fat… Read more »
Mike
Mike
5 years 4 months ago

Nice response Evan – Black or white, with no grey area.
I was reading an article on flouride (a lethal neuro-toxin)in toothpaste and drinking water. What I want to know is, who decides how much flouride is “acceptable” before it becomes toxic?
Like any toxin, sugar included, I’d rather have zero thanks.

Ellie
Ellie
7 years 7 months ago
I’m a (fairly) new reader and I didn’t think it was scary at all. I think a lot of times when someone is just starting out on a diet, they can grind to a halt trying to figure out the “perfect” plan and the “right” way to do it, when what they really need is to nut up and jump in with both feet. I know that’s always been my excuse. “This is good, but it’s not ideal. I’d better stop and find the perfect plan.” If I’d just done 50% perfect instead of trying to figure out how to… Read more »
Ryan Denner
7 years 7 months ago

I never liked slim jim’s, but read the ingredients on them once. I forget if its the first, or second ingredient, but regardless, it was “mechanically separated chicken parts”.

Disgusting.

Joanne
Joanne
4 years 2 months ago

I do this when I’m considering eating something I know I shouldn’t (or a co-worker brings in a grocery store cake) – I read the ingredients.

Very effective at eliminating that craving!

TrailGrrl
TrailGrrl
7 years 7 months ago

Could I get a little Reality Therapy for my diet pepsi issue? It’s the last holdout for me.

TrailGrrl

Conny
Conny
7 years 7 months ago

Oh, I wish I had read this before lunch. It may have stopped me. Could you see me eating a filet-o-fish and fries all the way from Grok’s den in So Cal? I knew better and did it anyway, rationalizing that I hadn’t had fast food in 2 months.

Thanks for the “reminder,” which was not considered harsh by my standards, just a “reality check.” Moving onward now with clean eating once again.

Strong One
7 years 7 months ago

I had to get real today!
Damn lounge at work was FULL of Dunkin’ Donuts!
AACCKK.
I conquered the sugary beast, by avoiding the lounge at ALL costs and when in there be sure to have my own snacks in hand!
Thanks for the gut check.

Arlo
Arlo
7 years 7 months ago

Speaking of keeping it real… xxx and xxx sound bad enough, but I just read this today at Popular Science:

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/research/4301621.html?page=3

“Flavor changing additives, developed by New Jersey-based Salvona Technologies, contain nanospheres encapsulated in larger microspheres. When the microspheres burst, one flavor is released. The rupture of the nanospheres, some time later, releases another flavor, creating a taste experience that changes over time.”

Mmmmm… nanospheres and microspheres.

Arlo
Arlo
7 years 7 months ago

Ooops, thoses xxx’s were supposed to be those chemicals they use in processing HFCS!

Amy Dumas
7 years 7 months ago

Thanks for the “tough love”. I get real meats, veggies,fruits and fats, but I love my grains and getting real about exercise is a major effort for me. I appreciate the “swift kick in the pants” to get me motivated to get real about some of the other issues in my life.

Zen Fritta
Zen Fritta
7 years 7 months ago

The real deal here is habit. I’ve eaten so well for over 2 years now its just habit. I couldn’t eat badly if I tried!

Jason
7 years 7 months ago

This isn’t a lecture. This is a slap in the face. Wow! I need to get on my game and get real!

Ellen
Ellen
7 years 7 months ago

It’s not harsh, it’s Primal. Get Real, Eat Real. 😀

Andy
7 years 7 months ago

Awesome. That is all.

Coincidentally, today is max squat, press, and deadlift for me!

Suzanne
Suzanne
7 years 7 months ago
I don’t think this is harsh…it is the truth. I have been eating more and more primal over the past couple years, and I feel better now then I ever did ( even 13 weeks pregnant!). Once in awhile when I slip up, because of social situations, I feel extremely bloated, tired and a bit cranky the next day. In the past one little slip up would have led me down a downward spiral of eating poorly, but now, I can snap back very quickly…because my body craves what is good for me. It is exciting to see this transition… Read more »
new_me
new_me
7 years 7 months ago

I liked it. I love a man that can keep me accountable!

It was also a neat reminder to me of how far I have come as I am able to say that I have adopted each point that your article makes. A couple years ago it would have been a depressing article about how far I have yet to go.

Thanks for paving the road.

Ed Greenaway
7 years 7 months ago
I’ve been Crossfitting for a tad over a year, and been eating seriously Primal since July, I got into the real meats in August but have backed off since around mid fall. It was a case of laziness as the real meat is sold at a different grocery store then my main Veggie mart. I’ve been settling for the run of the mill Hormone induced beef and this post kicked my behind back in gear and I signed up for a Meat CSA. If anyone in the boston area is interested, I went with this one, convenient and affordable. http://stillmansfarm.com/meatcsa.html
George
George
7 years 7 months ago
I’ve been eating Primal for 4.5 months since I started Crossfit and have lost just over 50 lbs of fat. But after reading this site daily, losing weight is the least of my concern at this point. That part is easy. You don’t even have to think about it if you eat healthy for other healthy reasons which is what I do now. I rarely make excuses for myself when it comes to my diet. The times I do make an excuse, I then let logic settle in and it stops me from indulging or taking “cheat” days or meals.… Read more »
Apurva Mehta
7 years 7 months ago
Hi George, if you haven’t really eaten that unhealthy food for a long time, and you have been eating only a lot of good Primal fare, then I would say that the best way to deal with your situation is to actually go ahead and eat that meal. I am willing to bet that your actual experience eating the food would not nearly match up to your memory of it. It would not taste as good as you imagine, and the after effects would really be off-putting as well. And then you would most likely not even feel tempted to… Read more »
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[…] Read the full article here. […]

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7 years 7 months ago

[…] It’s Time to Get Real […]

Shawn
Shawn
7 years 7 months ago

Thanks Mark. Do you have an alternate theory on heart disease and heredity?

TrailGrrl
TrailGrrl
7 years 7 months ago

I agree with what everyone is saying. When I go off I can’t wait to go back to a good primal hunk of meat, so I don’t spiral into a whole slew of bad eating. I feel bloated and lethargic and it isn’t worth it. And like others, I’ve found out that a lot of stuff I used to inhale just doesn’t really taste very good. In fact it sits on my tongue like a big oil-slick (which might actually be what it is).

TG

DaveC - DaveGetsFit
7 years 7 months ago

Apparently Mr. Sisson had well placed sources that saw me finally give in and dive into that box of Krispy Kremes at work last week. It was the culmination of a slide that generally started around Thanksgiving, and I’ve never quite been back on track. A dip into the candy jar here, munching on the mystery meat nuggets there…it ain’t been pretty. Good timing on this post…time to get it back together!!

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7 years 7 months ago

[…] an exercise routine. —How to get it all done. —Competition breeds success. —Get real. —Inspiration from children’s […]

Tom Parker - Free Fitness Tips
7 years 7 months ago

Very timely post Mark. My diet has been reasonably good this week but my exercise routine has been seriously suffering. I’ve been telling myself that I have been feeling tired which is true but nonetheless it’s no excuse. At least there’s still two days left this week to save my exercise routine 🙂

Danielle T
7 years 7 months ago
I try to view it as a process, acknowledging how far I’ve come and looking to where I want to be—while enjoying the present and taking full advantage of all the resources (money, time, fitness level) and access (to gyms, the outdoors, good food sources) available to me each day. A few months ago I was at an indoor climbing competition. At these things you get 3 or 4 hours to climb from a selection of 50-100 routes; the routes each have point values based on their difficulty level and you can try any of them as many times as… Read more »
Trinkwasser
Trinkwasser
7 years 7 months ago

Incredibly, here in the UK they are complaining about the huge increase in the deer population and how they will need to be culled.

Now I don’t know about you but when I see Bambi gambolling about in the fields I think “venison!” Likewise for pheasants and cutesy bunnies. IMNSHO game is some of the all time BEST meat, it even blows away the local organic grass-raised beef and sheep and outdoor pigs for all round quality

It’s spent its life free, running around using its muscles and not being stuffed with lipid-raising grains. Who does that remind you of?

Donna
Donna
7 years 7 months ago
Mark, I did NOT see this post in no way harsh. I saw it as encouraging/motivational/inspiring/”CARING!” You just never know who actually needed to read this, but maybe nobody knew they needed encouragement. Or maybe someone is really very good @ encouraging others, but can’t encourage theirself at all. BETH, You are absolutely right about cutting corners. I say this because right now i have a friend who did just that. She told me that diabetes runs in her family and she knew she should of watched foods she ate. Well, she’d tell her husband oh, just pick up this/that… Read more »
Beth
Beth
7 years 7 months ago

OK – it’s been over a week and I’m still thinking about this post. I really liked it – really needed it, especially living here in the Midwest where it’s SO SO cold all one really ever wants to do is sit around the fire, eat carb-loaded hot dishes (casseroles for the rest of you) and only go outside if necessary. Maybe a monthly “Get Real” post could make it on your agenda? At least through the winter? It helps, it really does.

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[…] Read the rest […]

Vanessa
Vanessa
7 years 7 months ago

Thanks Mark! Needed that kick-start to go 100% primal starting RIGHT NOW!!!

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7 years 7 months ago

[…] Get Real […]

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[…] It’s Time to “Get Real” […]

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[…] Achieve Your Health Goals by “Getting Real” […]

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[…] your blog and have been reading your commentary on motivation/failure (the Oprah post, Excuses and Get Real) with interest. I’ve been moving toward primal eating in the last few months more for general […]

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