Home Workout: Small Dumbbells Countdown Circuit

Sometimes, more weight isn’t the answer. With certain moves, graduating to the big-boy dumbbells translates to worse form and undermines your results while increasing your risk of injury. The flipside: by learning to use smaller weights more effectively, you’ll be able to push your muscles to their limit with the flimsiest set of Argos weights available. This workout keeps you honest with low reps and timed isometric holds – it’ll make your muscles burn, but the results will be worth it. Starting in 3, 2, 1… go.

RECOMMENDED: Best Dumbbells for Home

How it works

This dumbbell workout gets your muscle fibres firing and then gives them some – mildly unpleasant – time under tension. This combination makes for rapid results, even with light weights.


Do five reps, then stay in the “hold” position for five seconds. Do four more reps, and hold for four seconds. Repeat for three, two and one reps. Rest for 60 seconds, then go on to the next move. Do two sets in total.

1. Renegade row

Start in a press-up position holding your dumbbells. Do a press-up and, at the top of the move, row one dumbbell upwards, pulling it into your armpit. Try to stay parallel to the floor – if your abs are hurting, it’s working.

Hold at the lowest point of the press-up

2. Bent-over row

Lean forward at your hips, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Pull the dumbbells up towards your sternum, and pause at the top, squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Hold at the top of the move

3. Dumbbell upright row

Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand. Lift them up towards your chin, leading with your elbows and flaring them out to the sides. Keep the movement controlled so you don’t put undue pressure on your rotator cuffs. Lower the dumbbells under control.

Hold at the top of the move

4. Biceps curl

Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand, shoulders back. Keeping your elbows tucked in to your sides, curl the weights towards your chest, stopping just before your forearms reach the vertical. Lower under control.

Hold at the top, adding a biceps squeeze

5. Dumbbell reverse flye

Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inwards. Lean forward at your hips and lift the dumbbells outward to chest height, keeping a bend in your arms. Lower them under control.

Hold at the top of the move

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The Best Ways to Improve Your Grip Strength

Having the grip strength to climb a rope might just save your life. Not just if it’s your only exit from an Indiana Jones-style snake pit, but because a strong grip is linked with a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a study in The Lancet. The research, which canvassed 140,000 subjects, found grip strength is a greater predictor of survival than systolic blood pressure, citing it as an indicator of the effects of age taking hold.

Another study in the Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research found a strong link between grip and total-body muscular strength and endurance. In other words, a weak grip equals a weak body and a mighty grip equals a mighty body.

That’s why Coach‘s sister brand Men’s Fitness spoke to functional fitness expert Andrew Tracey (wayofthenomad.co.uk) on ways to build your grip – and how this’ll boost your gains.

Rope climbs are a phenomenal way to challenge your grip while also building a strong upper body, but you can also make minor tweaks to regular gym moves. “Swap half your pulling exercises in the gym with rope variations,” says functional fitness expert Andrew Tracey. Use the rope attachment instead of the metal handle for rowing moves – and even pull-ups. “As well as a bigger range of motion, you’ll get an added grip challenge and the harder you grip, the more muscles you engage in your forearms, biceps and deltoids.”

Try to get out of the gym too. “A weekly climbing or bouldering session will develop your finger strength and make workouts more fun and varied,” says Tracey. Not to mention boosting your chances of getting out of that snake pit alive.

RECOMMENDED: The Best Places for Climbing in London

The Best Kit to Build Grip Strength

Looking for gym kit that’ll help you strengthen your grip? One thing you don’t want is wrist straps, which are designed to let your grip off the hook. “If you must use them, save them for the final, heaviest deadlift set or your grip will limit your potential for strength gains,” says Tracey. He recommends these three grip-enhancing bits of kit for one session a week to activate your forearms and crush the life out of your workout.

Fat Gripz

How: Slip them on dumbbells for curls and presses.

Why: “These transform standard dumbbells into fat ones, doubling the amount of work your forearms have to do to hold on,” says Tracey. “You’ll have to reduce the weight at first, but you’ll be able to lift way more in the long run.”

Globe Gripz

How: Attach them to an overhead bar for chin-ups and pull-ups.

Why: “These spherical grips test your finger strength – another common weak link – and give you similar benefits to bouldering. Use them for the first couple of sets before your fingers tire,” says Tracey.


How: Use them on barbells for biceps curls and overhead triceps extensions.

Why: “These force you to squeeze them shut around a dumbbell or barbell handle, so they’re more versatile,” says Tracey. “Use them for hammer curls and you’ll add a wedge of muscle to your biceps.”

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How to lose 206 calories a day without even trying

Such a simple game changer.

Photo: iStock

We’re often told it’s the small tweaks that can help us reach our weight loss goals faster, and for the naysayers this new study might sway your opinion.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has discovered a way for you to consume 206 fewer calories a day. It mightn’t sound like a lot but according to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center weight loss predictor, that’s just over half a kilo a month.

All you have to do? Drink three extra glasses of water a day.

Researchers surveyed 18,000 people about what they ate over two days and they found those who drank more water consumed fewer calories. Easy, hey?

Besides from the obvious perk of being a much healthier choice than sugary drinks, researchers say water can make you feel less hungry, causing you to eat less.

In the study, participants drank on average 4.2 cups of water per day with a lower total calorie intake was calculated for those who had more than this.

The study suggests one extra cup could see you cut 69 calories from your day, 137 calories with two extra cups, while three extra cups will help you trim 206 calories.

Conclusion? Drink up.

RELATED: “I pushed myself to the limit for six weeks to resculpt my arms. Here’s what happened”

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The top moves for toned arms

Barre Body’s founder Emma Seibold shares the moves you should be doing if it’s tightly toned wings you’re after.

Photo: Supplied

While for many people the goal of getting fit is losing weight, there is nothing better than having a musculature that shows off your hard work, too. Think of fitness as a non-negotiable part of your day (like meals, sleep and work) and focus on your arms with these moves from the inspiring founder of Barre Body, Emma Seibold.

Exercise 1: Triceps press (or triceps can-can)

Our triceps are located on the back of the upper arm, a place many of us are looking to tone. This movement will specifically target the area and build muscle in the upper arm. Not to mention, this exercise is pretty much a backwards push up, so that’s cool, too.

– Begin seated with feet flat on floor, knees bent

– Place hands just behind your hips, hip distance apart

– Tip weight backwards into hands and lift hips off mat. Extend R leg to straight

– Bend both elbows then straighten. Repeat for 15 reps, then switch to extend L leg to straight and repeat

Tips: Keep weight shifted back towards hands. Keep hips lifted high

RELATED: Wednesday Word Workout: Motivated

Exercise 2: Arm walks (1kg weights needed)

This one is all about moving your arms in a motion that simulates walking. Repetitions of this movement improves the arms’ strength – which will come in handy next time you’ve got an IKEA haul to unload… or just a hefty shop to carry up, at once.

– Begin standing with arms resting by sides, feet hip distance apart

– Lift arms to chest height, palms facing inward

– Lift right arm to chin level, whilst lowering left arm to hip level. Slowly switch, and repeat for 15 reps (R + L counts as one rep)

– Repeat entire series with palms facing upwards

– Repeat entire series with palms facing downwards

Tips: Keep shoulders relaxed out of ears and neck free of tension. If you feel lots of neck tension, reduce the amount of weight and/or reps

Exercise 3: Chest press-ups

Yes it’s a classic, but like chocolate ice-cream and Friends re-reuns, it’s for good reason. Press-ups are known for being a great toning mechanism, which is kind of why you’re here, isn’t it?!

– Begin on all fours, hands stacked under shoulders, knees stacked underhips

– Walk hands forwards and slightly wider than shoulder distance and tip weight forwards into a kneeling plank position. A diagonal line should form between ears to hips

– Bend elbows to lower chest towards the floor. Press elbows to straight. Repeat exercise for 2-3 rounds of 15 reps

Tip: For a challenge, you can try this in a full plank, trying to maintain good form throughout

Repeat this mini arm workout every day (or almost) for two weeks and notice the difference in the tone of your arms

Let us know how you go, would you?

RELATED: This is how often a professional ballerina actually works out

If you love these exercises and Barre is already you’re favourite part of your fitness program, consider a career in teaching Pilates or Barre, and visit Barre Body. For more from Emma Seibold follow @barrebody and @emmabarrebody.

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"I lost 5 kgs in 6 weeks by streaming work-outs"

A rapid transformation doesn’t have to involve gym, equipment – or even leaving the house.

Photo: Supplied

No dairy, no gluten and no sugar helped Candy Berger, 25, drop five kilos in six weeks.

But the secret to her rapid weight loss wasn’t just an updated eating plan.

This caterer streamed workouts from the comfort of her living room, and committed to doing one 40-minute online fitness class a day, five days a week, for six weeks.

“My health and body had taken a beating from not eating or training properly. I changed a lot mentally this year, and getting my body to match my mind was becoming increasingly important to me,” says Berger.

RELATED: Other ways people are losing weight from home

“I heard that Luke Istomin – one of the cofounders of F45 – launched a new program called Diced by Varlah. It’s a six-week program that lets you stream workouts, and also gives you nutrition and eating plan.

“I heard Luke’s programs were amazing and promised results, so I got in touch [with Luke] and signed up.”

The on-demand guide, which has been nicknamed ‘the Netflix of fitness’ recommends you do six workouts, six days a week and has a money back guarantee on it’s website should you not see results if you follow the program, which costs $69.95.

Berger said that she “saved so much time and money by not needing to go to a gym or hire a trainer” and enjoyed the convenience of “waking up at 6am, and streaming the workouts every day from my living room.”

“The bodyweight workouts incorporate HIIT classes, low intensity, mobility and stretch sessions to help recover, and all vary in structure and intensity.

“But there is always a warm up and stretch to start each workout, which made sure I was never injured. Some sessions are athletic, some are Mixed Martial Arts and then some are focused on training the upper and lower body.

“The workouts are easy to follow and are streamed in real time, so you can really see and feel the people on screen struggle as much as you do, which gave me even more motivation. I never felt alone.”

RELATED: The best stretches you’re not doing, but should be

As for her strict diet, Berger says “I never went hungry” and that the eating plan is simple: “You eat lots of whole foods, fibrous veggies, protein and good fats. A typical day starts with something like salmon or eggs on gluten-free toast with avocado for breakfast, followed by a salad with a lean protein for lunch and veggies with another protein for dinner.”

And while it’s only been six week, this Diced devotee has dropped 5.3 kilos – “but I don’t care about the scales,” she says.

“What I care about are my measurements. I’ve lost 8.5cm around my waist, 5cm from my hips, 3.5cm around my legs and my arms have gained size!”

It sounds appealing, sure, but this program doesn’t work unless you do.

“It was challenging to wake up on a Saturday morning to train,” admits Berger.

“But once I was up and finished, I felt amazing. Actually, it started to set the tone for my weekends – I ate well all of Saturday and Sunday, which usually would have been a write-off.”

And, while she’s only six weeks in, Berger plans to continue working out – sans equipment, from the comfort of her own home.

“It’s been life-changing, and if anyone out there is interested, my advice would be to get your water intake up, stay hydrated and try cutting down on alcohol, to start.

“Also, don’t focus on the scales – focus how you feel!”

RELATED: “I lost 10kgs in 12 weeks with F45 training”

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When to snack and when not to snack

Is snacking actually good for you or is it just extra calories you don’t need?

Photo: iStock

Of all the dietary areas that have changed in recent years, a general position on the role of snacks is one of them. A few years back regular snacking was almost encouraged as a way to help optimise metabolism – small regular meals proposed to stoke the metabolic fire and keep us burning calories.

While there is a benefit associated with not going too long without food when it comes to metabolism, unfortunately the message of small frequent meals has been translated into regular large meals and resulted in us eating too much, too often.

The question of whether you need to snack will depend on many factors – how active you are; what time you eat your breakfast; how old you are and whether you enjoy large or small main meals? As a generally rule of thumb human beings need to eat every 3-4 hours which for the average person will translate into breakfast, early lunch, a midafternoon snack and dinner. If though you have breakfast especially early, or work out in the morning, you may find you need something small as well mid-morning.

So if you do find yourself genuinely hungry in between meals, here are some other questions to ask yourself to ensure you snack is a filling, satisfying mini meal, not just extra calories you do not need.

1) Will it fill you up?

If you do need to snack in between meals, your snack should keep you full for at least a couple of hours. Any less than this will see you eating too frequently to allow your natural hunger and fullness signals to function optimally, while any longer would suggest that your snack is more like a meal. Asking yourself this simple question before choosing your snack will also eliminate the easy to grab, yet low nutrient density snack food choices such as biscuits, potato chips, snack bars and chocolates which are unlikely to keep you satiated for any extended period of time.

2) Does it contain protein?

Unlike carbohydrate rich snacks such as muesli bars, biscuits, dried fruit and fruit snacks, snack choices which contain some protein will help to slow down the rate of digestion and as a result keep you fuller for longer after eating them. As a simple rule, combining a carbohydrate rich food such as fruit, crackers or a snack bar with a protein rich food such as yoghurt, cheese or nuts is an easy way to find the right nutritional balance for snacks.

3) Portion, portions, portions

When it comes to smart snacking, portion control is the key. Packets of potato chips, slices of banana bread, muffins and even yoghurts are frequently purchased in large serving sizes, large sizes which encourage us to eat far more than we need or even want. Ideally a snack should contain 200 calories or less. Get into a habit of checking nutritional labels or referring to calorie counting programs to keep an eye on extra-large snack choices that may be creeping in.

RELATED: How much bacon should you really be eating?

4) Add in the vegetables

One of the most common reasons that we feel hungry in between meals is that we have not consumed enough salad or vegetable bulk as part of our meals. Simply adding low calorie vegetables into your daily snacks is an easy way to keep full and satisfied but to also add some nutrient rich fresh food into your diet. Cut up celery, carrots, snow peas and red capsicum make perfect snack accompaniments which will not only help bulk up your snacks but may even help you to control your weight long term.

5) Count the liquid calories

Milk-based coffee; juices, smoothies and protein shakes can be used as snacks but the calories do need to be counted. For example, a small latte is the snack, you do not need to add food as well. Keep in mind that fruit juices and smoothies can contain as much as 30-40g of sugars and as many calories as a snack and they are less likely to keep you as full as solid food. A vegie juice; small milk-based coffee or a protein shake with a piece of fruit are all nutritionally balanced, filling mid-meal snack choices.

RELATED: The breakfast that will prevent you snacking throughout the day

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The five stretches that will make you more flexible

A basic rule of thumb for getting your body flexible and strong is to ‘stretch what is strong’ and ‘strengthen what is weak.’

Photo: iStock

This means muscles like the front of our hips, thighs and chest need to be stretched more often, so that the back of the body is moved. Why? Well, when you think about it, the daily movements we naturally do are generally ‘forward.’ Think: driving, computer work, lifting, using our phones, walking… the list goes on, really!

Improved flexibility comes from spending time doing a variety of stretches as often as you can. Years of habit needs to be reversed in order to gain ‘flexibility,’ so if this is a goal of yours, be patient and consistent with your stretches.

There are many factors that contribute towards flexibility, so keep in mind it will be different for you depending on your areas of tightness in the body, exercise habits and how long it’s been since you have stretched regularly.

Here are my picks for overall improved flexibility. I recommend warming up before you do them, never stretch with muscles cold. Then hold each one for around 20-30 seconds taking deep breaths.

You should feel a stretch, but never strain. And, when stretching, keep in mind the principle of ‘strengthening what is weak.’ To easily remember this, tighten and gently squeeze the muscle on the opposite side of the body to the muscle you are stretching. This gives you a stronger stability in the body, rather than just slumping down into a stretch. You will enjoy leaner, stronger muscles with greater flexibility if you do this.

1. Hip flexor stretch

An oldie but a goodie, stretching your hip flexors is a must! This version with the knee off the floor is a stronger stretch and effective if you are doing lots of exercise like running or cycling, but also great for sitting at a desk. Place your knee down at the back of you feel it’s too strong to begin with.

RELATED: The best stretches you’re not doing, but should be

2. Inner thigh ‘V’ stretch

This super effective stretch will target several muscles: inner thighs, lower back, hamstrings. The trick with this one is to keep your leg muscles strong and grounded (do not lift your bum off the floor) that way you have a strong posture to start with, making for a more effective stretching effect.

3. Side mermaid stretch

Tucking your legs back into a ‘triangle’ shape is the key to this stretch. If your knees are bad you can pop both legs forward instead, slightly bending the knees. Tip: always think of lifting ‘up’ out of your lower back and engaging your core muscles so you are not compressing into your spine when you reach over. A nice stretch for the side of the body and will help you open out your back, too.

RELATED: The top moves for toned arms

4. Dancer pose stretch

You get to target a few muscles here: front of the body, front of the hips, chest and shoulder, plus the spine. This can also help you work on balance. Being on one leg encourages the muscles to ‘switch on’ so will get that ‘strengthening’ effect we spoke of earlier. Try to lift your leg up high at the back, and then tilt forward once your balance is feeling steady. You can always hold on to something for support when starting out.

5. Forward fold

Stepping one foot in front of the other, with a slight distance between the feet (by the way you don’t have to do it on a ledge!) engage your core and stretch the arms sideways as you lean forward. You will stop at the point where your knees feel like they will bend. Avoid hunching your back. By going forward with a flat back you will strengthen your upper muscles and hamstrings. Keep thigh muscles flexed. Gently move arms upwards to also stretch the front of your chest.

Complete this routine at least five times a week, and it will only take you a few minutes. If you are very inflexible, you may want to repeat the stretches two or three times over with a one minute rest in between each one for faster and more effective results. Note: if you are recovering from any injury or ailment, seek the advice of your physiotherapist to ensure these stretches are suitable for you.

Need help with any of this? Head to Vanessa Bartlett’s website for more information.

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Is Iron Zuu training the next Crossfit?

Apparently, you can burn 1000 calories in one session – and 1000 more over the 24 hours after. The only question is, are you up for the challenge?

Photo: iStock

It’s been hailed the ‘next Crossfit’ and certainly, there are similarities between the two “strength and conditioning programs” but at Iron Zuu’s core is something much simpler than its high-intensity circuits and bodyweight exercises: breathing.

The burgeoning fitness hybrid, created by Australian fitness export Nathan Helberg, fuses cardio, resistance training, heavy weight-lifting with bespoke animal movements – like ‘frog squats’, ‘gecko push-ups’ and ‘snake slithers’ – in gruelling group training sessions that seek to work out the whole body.

Originally, it was created for athletes and military trainees, “but because Iron Zuu repeats specific movements designed to break breathing rhythms, it allows the heart rate to climb,” says Helberg, who says that the sweaty sessions can benefit anyone – whether you’re up for your next challenge… or simply your first.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re world champion in another sport – or simply starting out – the physiological effects of this training style can help everyone,” says Helberg.

RELATED: The Australian gym franchise that’s taking the US by storm

But what, exactly does it involve?

“Iron Zuu classes are a 50-50 mix of free weights intermixed with our unique movements,” says Helberg, and cover:

• Dumbbell techniques that promote a natural range of motion.

• Lean muscle building and fat burning.

• A combination of ‘primal exercises’ – like “pushing, pulling, bending, twisting, squatting and lunging,” per Virgin Active Gyms, where you can actually do these classes – which mobilise your joints, prevent injury, and boost your cardio endurance, ligaments and tendons at once. Take note though: these are designed to exhaust you – the goal is to work you to your maximum capacity, says Helberg, so you are constantly building your strength up.

Helberg also specifies that the technique is rooted in the “movement precedes equipment” philosophy, as this increases strength and torches excess weight – fast.

“Expect to burn over 1000 calories during the workout and another 1000 calories over the next 24-hour period after,” says Helberg.

“This is because the Iron Zuu blend is designed to target different energy systems.”

Not to mention, feed in to your animal instincts.

RELATED: “I lost 10kgs in 12 weeks with F45 training”

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Q&A: If I Stop Lifting Weights, Will My Muscle Turn to Fat?


Jose Manuel Segovia / flickr

Q: If I stop lifting weights, will my muscle really turn to fat?

A: Muscle cannot turn to fat. However, what is commonly experienced with former athletes is a decrease in training without a subsequent decrease in calories consumed. In other words, if you’ve been lifting weights regularly, you’ve built muscle, which in turn raises your metabolism. You’re performing exercise programs that in and of themselves burn calories. So if you were to stop exercising, the muscle will go away as there is no need or stimulus for it to stay. Then here’s what happens:

First your metabolism will slow. Studies have shown that 1 pound of muscle requires upwards of 20 or so calories per day. So losing just 5 pounds of muscle would cut metabolism by 100 calories per day.

Secondly, if you are training 4 times per week and lifting weights intensely, that’s another 400 to 500 calories burned per workout , plus a couple of hundred calories after your workout through a process known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. So that can amount to another 2000 to 2500 calories per week. Add that together with only a 5 pound muscle loss and you’re looking at a drop in caloric expenditure of 3200+ calories per week.

So with that much of a difference in calories burned, unless you adjust calories consumed, you’re going to see a fat gain of around 1 pound per week.

So while muscle cannot turn into fat, we can see that dropping caloric expenditure and removing the need for the body to maintain muscle without adjusting calories consumed will cause your body to lose muscle and gain fat almost simultaneously. This gives the impression that a former athlete’s muscle has turned to fat.

To avoid it, maintain some form of strength training in your lifestyle even after you’ve retired from athletic competition and always monitor your nutrition.

Alwyn Cosgrove is renowned for his fat loss training programs and for being a dynamic and educational speaker. He’s the owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California and the author of The New Rules of Lifting. Learn more at AlwynCosgrove.com.

Resistance Training, Build Muscle, Weight Loss, Q&A

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Wholesome Patisserie’s vegan coconut mint ice cream

All your non-dairy, gluten-free dreams have just come true.

Photo: Wholesome Patisserie

Coconut-based ice cream free from dairy which has been infused with peppermint. The perfect after dinner dessert the whole family can enjoy!

Serves: serves 2-4

Prep time: 12 hours


1 cup almond milk, chilled

¾ cup coconut sugar

2 cups coconut cream, chilled

3 tbsp Coconut Water, chilled

3 tsp peppermint extract

Special equipment: Ice-Cream Churner


1. In a large mixing bowl, combine milk and sugar. Whisk until sugar has completely dissolved.

2. Pour in coconut cream and whisk until well combined.

3. Add in coconut water and peppermint extract, whisk well.

4. If making ice-cream straight away, make sure your ice-cream churner bowl has been frozen for the required amount of time, set by the manufactures directions.

5. If not using mixture straight away, cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator until ready.

6. Churn ice-cream mixture for 20-30 minutes, or as directed by the instructions on your ice-cream churner. Mine took 30 minutes.

7. Note: the ice-cream will not look completely like soft serve, but it will turn icy.

8. Once churned, pour ice-cream into a deep baking pan or tupperware container and set in the freezer for 2-3 hours or ideally overnight.

9. If you do not have an ice-cream churner, simply pour mixture into a deep baking pan or tupperware container and set overnight. The consistency will be thinner compared to using the ice-cream churner.

10. To serve: Remove ice-cream from freezer and let it slightly defrost in room temperature for at least 10-15 minutes or until you can scoop it out.

11. Serve with toppings such as fresh mint leaves, fruit and melted chocolate.


The ice-cream will freeze solid. Letting it defrost until you can scoop it out is ideal.

If you’re not using an ice-cream churner, whisk the mixture well and let it free overnight in a deep dish baking pan or tupperware container. The ice-cream will be thinner and may not be as creamy as compared to using an ice-cream churner, but still delicious!

This recipe is from Wholesome Patisserie. For more recipes like it visit wholesomepatisserie.com.

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