The Secret to Loving Your Body Isn't Losing Weight

1SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/10/2013 12:00 PM   :  220 comments   :  184,181 Views

I always used to think that if I was skinnier, I'd be happier—not just with my body but with my life in general. Many of us believe that weight loss is the answer to many of our problems and pitfalls. We think that when we lose weight we'll not just feel more confident, but we'll land a mate, improve our marriages, be more successful, have more friends, or just feel happier in general. For a lot of people weight loss—or, rather, being thin—is the golden ticket we've been waiting on.
 
But many people who have lost any significant amount of weight will probably be quick to tell you that even as a thinner person, life doesn't change that much.  You may have lost weight—and that's great for a lot of reasons—but you are likely the same person with the same outlook, same personality, same level of overall happiness. Weight loss alone won't cure you of your body hatred, your lack of confidence, your shy personality or your low self-esteem.
 
I battled body hatred for many years. It compelled me to diet and exercise until I lost too much weight. I liked the attention I received, but my life really didn't change in any significant way. I still didn't feel like I still was good enough.
 
On the flipside, I gained back all the weight I had lost and then some to reach my all-time heaviest weight. For a while, I felt worse about myself than ever. My confidence level and self-worth was very much wrapped up in my weight. Although I slowly (painstakingly!) lost the excess pounds over the course of several years, it wasn't weight loss that changed my outlook. In fact, I began to love myself at my heavier weight, which is something I never thought possible, and these days, I'm trimmer and fitter than my heavier self of year's past, but I'm nowhere near the ultra-thin body I once achieved. Still, I'm happier with my body than ever.
 
When it comes to loving—and accepting—your body, weight really has little to do with it. In fact, research shows that one key ingredient can help you improve your body image and confidence regardless of your size.
 
What has really helped me appreciate, accept and love my body is exercise. Working out regularly helps me feel strong and powerful. It makes me feel capable and accomplished in a way that almost nothing else in my life has ever affected me. It drives me to work harder, to be a better person, to always be improving myself—inside the gym and outside. It inspires me to reach new goals, which helps me build a work ethic and increased confidence as I reach more milestones. It has given me access to the exclusive club of "exercisers" who "get" each other. I love the simple look, head nod and small wave that runners exchange on the street, which to me always says, "I'm in the club, too. Thanks for showing up today. You rock."

And as I get stronger, faster, fitter, better…I stand taller, feel better about myself and appreciate all that my body has achieved. It propels me to take better care of it. I want this body to carry me through life stronger and healthier. I don't care what I weigh, but I do care how much weight I can lift and how many miles I can run. That says so much more about who I am and what I'm worth than any stupid scale can ever tell me. I don't care what I look like while I'm doing these things—just that I show up and try my hardest.

My experience with exercise has been an education is self-care and body awe. When you put the work in, you do see changes and improvements. It's a virtuous cycle that feeds on itself. You exercise. You feel good. You take better care of yourself. You appreciate your body. You lose weight, or maybe you don't, but either way, you feel good about yourself, so you keep on going. Eventually, the weight takes care of itself. For me, loving myself was the key to losing weight.
 
Some research shows that even without changing a person's weight, exercise alone can help people feel better about themselves and improve their confidence. That's a win in my book! Why? Because when you feel good, you take care of yourself, and you do more healthy things for your body that ultimately result in settling into your healthy weight.
 
Do you agree? Does exercise improve your confidence and body image or are you still stuck on the scale?


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Comments

  • DJKFDM
    170
    When I was heavier, I was "okay" with my weight. Sure there were things about my body wanted to change - and still do - but I was ok with how I looked. And I generally felt good about myself and who I was. What I finally came to realize I wanted was to be healthier. When I made that mental change to be a healthier me was the moment everything clicked in my mind and led to weight loss. Knowing that I'm healthy (or at least healthier) is what makes me happy. Not how I look or what nasty stuff life may throw at me. - 4/10/2013   4:23:04 PM
  • 169
    This inspires me to exercise right now. Great blog. - 4/10/2013   4:18:10 PM
  • 168
    I find that exercise plays a big role in my self confidence as well. Thanks for the great blog! - 4/10/2013   4:10:22 PM
  • 167
    I once had a membership to a fitness club, and was intimidated by almost everyone.... I couldn't figure out why. What I concluded was they moved with a confidence I didn't feel simply because they were more fit. That fitness gave them confidence no matter what other part of their lives would NOT have given them that extra edge. Fitness was enough. - 4/10/2013   4:05:02 PM
  • 166
    My weight matters to me, but as I exercise more I feel exactly what this article says. Hence the headline on my page right now. When I run, I'm ok just being me. I hope that my weight takes care of itself, with the hard work I put in my exercise I don't want to mess it up by consuming a lot of sugar and cholesterol, so I am inspired to eat better. - 4/10/2013   3:44:32 PM
  • 165
    The scale matters to me. The slimmer I am again, the less fat I have to haul around when I exercise. LOL - 4/10/2013   2:29:25 PM
  • 164
    You described me perfectly:

    "Working out regularly helps me feel strong and powerful. It makes me feel capable and accomplished in a way that almost nothing else in my life has ever affected me."

    Thanks for a great blog! - 4/10/2013   2:22:30 PM
  • 163
    Exercise is the key to many things and happiness is definitely one of those things. If anyone is interested in finding more about the research that Nicole mentioned you should read 'Spark' The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey, MD It's a real eye-opener of just what exercise can do for us. - 4/10/2013   1:46:05 PM
  • ROGERSBABE1
    162
    Great article. I am in the minority...I never want to be thin or smaller than a size 10. Exercise, however, is a serious confidence booster. I like watching my fitness levels increase and I love the extra energy I get. I don't like being a slave to the scale and having that number control me. - 4/10/2013   1:45:00 PM
  • 161
    Great blog! I have written similar blogs, I think. LOL I know some people had a really hard time believing that I was happy when I was 260lbs. I was. Truly. Why? Because I knew that I could be 113lbs and hate myself, so what was the point of tying my happiness to my size? No point. And when I made those connections I was able to start changing things in my life. You can be happy at any size. Just like you can be miserable at any size. It is your choice. - 4/10/2013   1:35:28 PM
  • 160
    I really related to this article. I also lost too much weight a few years back, was so pleased with the attention it brought. However, that weight loss did not change other factors in my life. I have regained plus and am now working on going back down to a SENSIBLE weight. - 4/10/2013   1:11:59 PM
  • 159
    I think a key point Coach Nicole made was "not feeling good enough". I struggle with that and often feel that I have failed if I have not accomplished something tangible that others will recognize. Weight is measurable at any given point - and weight loss/being thin is rewarded in our society. That said, her other key point is to find SOMETHING ELSE to measure. Whether it's how far you can run or walk, how much strength you've gained, or how much better you feel there are other equally-valid measures of health. I think we get caught up in shame, anxiety, and the perceptions of others. We see "perfect" people on magazine covers and weight loss contests on TV (or in our own workplaces) and feel like we have to accomplish something monumental to make up for the way we've neglected our health....and then set ourselves up for failure when we don't meet our unrealistic expectations. I've learned through 5 years of being a Sparkmember that EVERY LITTLE STEP adds up! 10 minutes of exercise IS better than 0. One decision to make dinner at home instead of hitting the fast food joint HAS made a difference. Walking instead of running so that I don't get shin splints allows me to do it again the next day. Don't give up on yourself! You're worth it!!! - 4/10/2013   12:33:49 PM
  • 158
    I agree. When I workout it provides me with such a positive outlook on things and I tend to eat better and take better care of myself. I want to be slender but I know that will come with healthier decisions. - 4/10/2013   12:33:00 PM
  • 157
    That is a great way to think about it. Working out does make me happier thusly i take better care of myself. - 2/16/2013   5:28:36 PM
  • 156
    I completely agree with Coach Nicole. When I was at my thinnest, I still thought I was fat. Now I'm between 15 and 20 pounds heavier than that and I feel fantastic. My relationship with my body changed. It's not about the number for me - it's about how I feel about myself.
    - 11/30/2012   10:09:52 AM
  • 155
    Well said! I think what is empowering is realizing all that you are capable of. Weigh loss is definitely a perk for me! - 11/22/2012   11:49:57 AM
  • 154
    yep, understand exactly what you mean. My body image sucks big time and when I look in the mirror I really don't like myself :o), however, when I am able to walk longer, exercise longer or clothes are looser I suddenly enjoy my body. I really need to work on lovely myself no matter what :o)

    Although, my partner did say the best comment in the world today he said no matter what weight, colour or even if im wearing a bin bag he will love me just the way I am. It almost brought me to tears :o) I think that if you have love ones or even good friends in your darkest days just talk to them and you will feel better. - 6/7/2012   4:46:13 PM
  • 153
    Thanks Nicole, I think it boils down to this: you need to like yourself and be proud of the good things you've done for your body as well as for the world. We can't feel better for long because others tell us we look good, or we're so kind... we have to feel good about ourselves. - 3/17/2012   3:25:41 PM
  • 152
    Thanks for your insightful comments. I really appreciate them. You speak the truth. - 3/12/2012   10:17:06 PM
  • AR-TMO
    151
    Thank you Coach Nicole for the reminder. For those who disagree, I think you may be missing the point. Coach isn't saying that if you exercise, you won't struggle with self-worth; what she is saying is that when you battle it out and succeed, you will gain some confidence from just doing it and that will result in further motivation. I have been working on losing some poundage for a while and had to take a break for a while because of gall bladder surgery, but what got me moving again is that fact that when I am exercising, I can handle whatever weight I am currently knowing that it will change soon! I haven't seen a lot on the scales, but that's ok because I am confident that will some little changes, I can acheive that last bit of toning I have left! If you struggle with confidence, find a friend to work out with or to meet with weekly for accountability and encouragement! That is helping me greatly! - 3/12/2012   2:12:58 PM
  • 150
    One more thing .......
    Sometimes those scales do not reveal the 'real story.' Perhaps how the clothes are fitting lets us know ......... Every time I do weight resistance of any kind, the scales reflect the next day w/ an extra pound. I know I did not gain a lb. of fat: is is bulked up muscle ........... and muscles are our friends: they burn fat and so much more. (I take those scales w/ a grain of salt) ........... :) - 3/10/2012   8:40:00 PM
  • 149
    Each person has something 'valuable' to say. For me, I am 65 y/o now, have recently shed 17 pounds, lost several inches and dropped 2 sizes. It is no longer a matter of 'pride' as in my youth. Now it is absolute necessity to reach goal (5-6# away) ......... I made one of my health goals to lower high cholesterol, have dropped my blood pressure into an 'ideal' healthy range, and do not have knee pain any longer due to the excess pounds. I love myself enough to exercise, and do strength training, and keep the calories in the boundaries they need to be. I became MORE than tired of the excess pounds, and aches and pains. Besides looking and feeling good, two Doctors I have seen commented on myself looking 'years younger' than what the calendar says. I have a lot to say about my health. I want optimum. It's great. - 3/10/2012   8:21:33 PM
  • DIETER27
    148
    Thanks for sharing. This was a very motivational blog . Exercise makes me feel good about myself. Thanks again for your motivation.... - 3/8/2012   9:30:36 AM
  • BKLYNGIRL1539
    147
    I found that what I put in my mind was just as important as what I put in my body. When I started paying attention to both, I made some real changes. The Bible was a huge help (for me) but limiting TV, Radio & magazines helped a lot as well. We all know they're pretty negative, but probably don't realize how much until you stop it. I'm not a comfort eater, but I do eat out of boredom. I have a stressful job & my biggest challenge it doing something after work when I just want to veg out. I pray before I stretch (some people do other forms of meditation). God thinks I'm wonderful just the way I am...so I'm trying to accept The Almighty God's opinion of me rather than my own - ha ha. I'm finally doing something positive. I've never worked out before in my life. I was thin, in fact underweight, for a large part of my life. I'm beginning to think that makes working out more challenging because it was never a part of my life before. I felt really intimidated. I tried a few different routines & so far I like P90 best (not P90x). It's for beginners & I feel it's something I can handle & hopefully stick to. I definitely feel stronger. About 3 years ago I started getting adult cyst acne. Never had an acne problem before. I figured it was hormonal.Now, I'm seeing improvements in my skin & I'm thinking it's the exercise and the fact that I'm getting better about drinking water. We'll see... - 3/8/2012   7:31:14 AM
  • 146
    Great blog I do beleivethe secret to success is loving ones self I went through the same thing I wasn't ready or able to lose weight until I was happy & confidence with me at my heaviest weight i don't think I will ever see that super skinny person again but I'm happy with me now - 3/7/2012   3:51:09 PM
  • 145
    I just wanted you to know that this blog inspired me to write one. Thanks for helping me open my eyes to some changes I hadn't paid attention to. - 3/7/2012   1:41:00 PM
  • 144
    I do think that for many people, they think that when they lose weight they'll be a happier person with better self-esteem but I think that's a lie that we all buy into. I think that lie is partially promoted with our thin-obsessed culture but we ourselves, the individual, are also partially to blame. We put too much of our self-worth on our appearance. I know that I will be happier when I do finally shed these last couple of pounds, am no longer in the overweight category, return to my happy weight, and can fit into my old clothes again. But my overall level of happiness will not change. I do feel great now but that's because I'm exercising regularly. I feel good because I'm feeling fitter than I ever have been before. And when I'm overweight, and I don't feel so great about myself, it's usually because I know I've lost that feeling of "fitness" and I'm lethargic from not exercising regularly anymore. But in the end, MY self-esteem isn't tied to how skinny or fat I am or what size I can wear. I have a friend who is at the skinniest she has ever been and her self-esteem is still as low as it ever was. Skinny doesn't give you self-esteem but learning to love yourself does. - 3/7/2012   11:02:43 AM
  • DJSONDY1990
    143
    I appreciate reading your thoughts because lately I have been obsessed with the scale and it is frustrating and bringing me down because it is not moving. I to agree that exercise improves your attitude. I am envious of those people who feel good about themselves no matter their size. I do not have that confidence at this time and need to get back on a regular exercise routine. Thanks for motivating me!! - 3/7/2012   10:05:44 AM
  • POPCORNCARLA
    142
    Does exercise improve your confidence & body image.... I wish I could say yes but actually the only club I feel part of is the "Feeling Inadequate Club". I've been on this journey for 2 years now and sometimes I think I was more comfortable in my fat suit than this lighter one. I go to the gym 4-5 times a week taking classes and working out on elpitcal and treadmill. In class I still feel like "why can't I still do this or that" instead of focusing on what I now can do... when I'm on the treadmill I feel like "why can't I run for more than a couple of minutes". When I do take pride in what I can do I'm reminded of what i can't do; It always comes back to me and the feeling of "whats wrong with me if I can't even.... do jumping jacks, run, lose weight, etc. etc, etc. I absolutely take pride in the nearly 50lbs I have lost and the 5 dress sizes down but then you read how somebody started at their most uncomfortable weight and its the weight you are or want to be. Just frustrating as I just feel like I should be in maintenance by now and not still trying to lose. - 3/7/2012   9:25:40 AM
  • IAGIRL52
    141
    Enjoyed your blog. It's too easy to loose sight of the fact the scales is just a tool. How you feel physically and about yourself is important, too. - 3/7/2012   8:53:59 AM
  • 140
    I can totally relate when you said exercising had helped you love and appreciate your body. I feel like my body and I are at war most of the time and my body wins by getting all of its unhealthy cravings and desires. I started walking about 2 months ago and it's made a huge difference. I started out only being able to walk 10 or 15 minutes, but now I'm up to 45, with a slight incline and a faster speed. As I see some of my dreams / goals becoming more of a possibility, I'm starting to realize that my body is the reason I can meet those goals and although I'm not any thinner yet, I'm more capable now than before ... capable of anything. - 3/7/2012   8:19:14 AM
  • 139
    Fantastic article - great way of looking at exercise. At the end of the day, if we love our bodies we are more likely to feed and exercise it properly. - 3/7/2012   6:32:32 AM
  • 138
    I really loved this!!!!! Very well said and when you think about it that's what real health is.... Not merely a body size or weight but overall happiness in all areas of life - 3/7/2012   2:11:59 AM
  • VANANDEL
    137
    Exercise is probably the single best thing you can do for yourself. It prevents or alleviates many diseases and ailments, it gives you more energy, it leaves you feeling confident. The benefits are almost endless. Most times when I read a health article, it will mention one way to improve your life is to exercise. I love to workout and I really have a hard time understanding why some people don't want to do it. In particular I have a friend with arthritis. She doesn't exercise much at all, yet she knows that her pain will be less if she exercises more! No matter how much I've encouraged her, she agrees it will make things better, but doesn't do it. - 2/27/2012   9:40:05 AM
  • 136
    Yes! exercise helps improve my body image and my stamina. - 2/25/2012   6:07:36 AM
  • 135
    I think I would have to agree that the exercise portion of my wellness really does boost my self-esteem more than anything. The number on the scale dropping is really just gravy when I feel strong and healthy. I stopped eating well and exercising over the course of the last few months, and the thing I miss most is the way I felt, not the number on the scale. My biggest motivation to get back on track is to get feeling that strong and healthy again! - 2/24/2012   11:05:56 PM
  • 134
    I do understand the author's point of view and enjoy the camaraderie of my gym. However, it may be more accurate to say that a disciplined approach with progressive, challenging goals to any positive activity builds esteem. Not sure how to separate weight from the equation, though -- dealing with a couple of pounds is different from dealing with a couple dozen pounds -- like fretting over how we look in our bikinis pales compared to the the years we're forfeiting by being unhealthy. I had excellent blood pressure, good cholesterol, but was very overweight. I was proud of the results of my dieting (lost 20lbs.) and exercising daily for 8 weeks (3 miles a day) when a stress test revealed a 99% arterial blockage. I had surgery and in addition to daily exercise, my doctor wants the weight OFF. - 2/23/2012   7:56:27 PM
  • 133
    I disagree with this persons point of view.
    I was healthy, fit most of my life. had all the confidence, attitude, self worth a person could have. Then i became morbidly obese through my own doing. i became with drawn, lacked confidence, my life was in the toilet. I call it my years in obesity hell.
    I finally got control over my eating, lost almost 198 pounds, i am back to self confidence, out going personality. It's like night and day. My energy is back, I can workout like I used too, even more so now, for I need too. With me it's all about the weight loss. I can accept my older body, the wrinkles and all that ones gets at 70, but I can not and will not accept being over weight. I do agree losing weight and exercise go together. You can't have one without the other. And it's a lot easier to exercise now at 135 than it was at 333. or even 230. If anyone says they are happy over weight or obese, I don't think they are being honest. This is strickly my point of view. - 2/23/2012   6:10:39 PM
  • 132
    I do agree that weight or dress size is not the best measure for self-esteem. I will concede that progress in exercise would be a great motivator for many people who are also trying to lose weight/dress size. For me, I would expand the horizons a little and say progress in any personal aspect I am trying to improve helps with "the journey." For example, I am a horrible procrastinator. As I improve checking off my "to do" list, it not only makes it easier to put things like exercise on the "to do" list, but also helps my sense of self-worth which often takes a beating as necessary things go undone for days on end. - 2/23/2012   4:39:37 PM
  • 131
    Maybe it is because I have 200 pounds to lose that i feel this way but I get more out of the scale dropping over exercise. Exercise for me mean pain, exhaustion after less than 5 mins......I just finished reading about how the first 10 mins of a workout is the hardest part....well i would love to even make it consistantally to 10 mins of a workout dvd and when i do reach that 10 mins i am done. When you are 200 pounds over weight 10 mins is much the same as a thinner person working out for 60 mins.......most fo the time I feel worse about myself after working out because i could do so little and I could not even do the moves right and had to modify everything and had to stop and rest........I know it will get better as i keep loseing but right now I do not feel better about myself after a workout because I cant workout like everyone else. The hardest part for me is to just put the DVD in and begin. - 2/23/2012   3:03:33 PM
  • 130
    I agree that exercise definitely makes you feel better about yourself. I had to give up going to the Gym because my contract at work came to an end, and even though I walk for an hour and a half everyday I still miss spending time at the gym and interacting with the ladies. Exercise = Motivation in my book. - 2/23/2012   2:30:03 PM
  • SUNKISS10
    129
    You know I would have to say, Im in my early 20's and have curves but I have always wanted to be a size 6...but the more the workout and live a healthy life style I love being who I am. Yes, i have goals but I have learned to love myself the way I am before i can actually change me, then accept that. I guess it depends on people's personality's. Almost all the time im confident, strong, but always have our days. So Nicole I totally agree, life is not about being super skinny and good looking, its about living longer and heatlhy!! So keep doing what you do, live, love, laugh, and workout!!! =) - 2/23/2012   1:58:20 PM
  • DOCROTAK
    128
    Sorry, I can't agree at all. For one, having been overweight, when someone calls me skinny (and I am trying to gain muscle, not be skinny), I smile. Because nobody would've said that a couple years ago unless it was a cruel joke. If I wake up and have a bad morning, I can put on a coat I've had for 3 years that only fit 6 months ago, and that puts me in a better mood.

    Sure, I guess if you're the kind of person who can lie to yourself, you can be happy with your body no matter how it performs. But why? If my car doesn't start or makes a bad sound or overheats too quickly, I don't say "Well, that's just my car"... I try to fix the problem! I'm happy with my car when it works, and unhappy when it doesn't. Same with my body...

    It's not about loving your body as it is. That's what you do with family, because you can't/shouldn't change them. You can change your body, so why accept anything less than your best effort? - 2/23/2012   1:02:56 PM
  • 127
    Having lost 65 lbs, and also on a continued fitness lifestyle makeover ... I totally agree with this blog! Its not the weight loss that gets me pumped its exercising, reaching goals, feeling a sense of accomplishment each day. I'm capable of doing things that simply weren't possible before fitness. The weight loss was a good outcome of the behavior which for me started at the beginning of the journey and continues today. - 2/23/2012   8:03:27 AM
  • 126
    Im going to have to agree with all those who disagreed with the article... When I was obese my self esteem was completely in the gutter. Hardly any guys talked to me, my family made degrading comments, and I felt ugly and gross and like I couldnt do many of the things I wanted to do. It was just depressing. When I lost ~70 lbs and I saw everyone that I hadnt seen in a while, it was an amazing feeling. the compliments were nonstop, I felt attractive and strong and worthwhile, my esteem still wasnt perfect by any means, but it was much better. I felt like I could do anything I put my mind to. Ive gained about 15 back over a year or so, and although I still feel good about myself because im still consistent with my workouts and i love fitness and being a highly active individual, I know that when I re-lose the weight and finally reach my goal weight I will be that much prouder of myself for having seen my goals through to the end, and keeping myself there this time. Not to mention im a personal trainer now so its kindof important to be your own advertisement so that others will take you seriously. But I will agree that being "thin" will not make me happy, so much as being "fit". My body type will probably never really be considered "thin" lol and I wouldnt have it any other way. I see chicks all the time who are thin and out of shape. I'll take my more muscular build over that anyday, just without the excess flab hiding half of the hard work I do in the gym! How silly is it to put in all that work and effort and not be able to tell the results because you undo them in the kitchen? Erg staying stagnant for me is nothing to be happy about by any means. But I will be happy about the much healthier than I was part. - 2/23/2012   1:47:08 AM
  • 125
    I always feel better on the days I get my exercise in - just more worthy somehow. It does affect how I feel - whatever I weigh! Thanks Nicole. - 2/23/2012   12:49:46 AM
  • IVY_13
    124
    It doesn't matter. If the scale isn't moving then my body isn't changing. If my body isn't changing, I'm not happy. - 2/23/2012   12:47:52 AM
  • 123
    Nicole- Exactly!! Well said. I am 67 years old, have lost 100 pounds and have 100 + to go. Tracking food and working out with trainers and a group of women. I limp into the fitness center and I stride out. It is like I morph into this other healthier person by working out. I am proud at what my old body will do. What a wonderful life and yes I do want to be thinner, but I am delighted to be healthier.
    - 2/22/2012   11:38:34 PM
  • 122
    Great blog Skinny doesn't improve anyone's self confidence IMO I feel great and have more self condidence since I have been working out regularly at the gym The number on teh scale will not give me any more confidence though there are day I do get stuck on what that darn scale says :( - 2/22/2012   7:48:01 PM
  • 121
    Good for you and good luck going forward!!

    While there is no doubt that exercise makes you feel better- I definitely was happier at my thinnest.. I had more confidence and swagger, more energy and more ladies. How do you feel happy when you can reach down and grab a fat gut?? Being skinny doesn't automatically make you happy though - i agree. with that. Reminds me of that stupid expression $ doesn't make you happy. - 2/22/2012   7:35:00 PM

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