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    I Ditched This Daily Habit We All Do and It Transformed My Confidence

    As a fitness professional, whether during one-on-one personal training sessions or while leading cycling classes, a large majority of my waking hours have been spent in front of a mirror. I like to think that “body checks” were more of an occupational hazard from all my time spent in front of a mirror, but if we’re being honest, I remember grabbing a bathroom pass to check my reflection in middle school. At 12 years old, I started staring at my reflection to see if the way I sat at my desk made my legs look too big. 
    Throughout my teenage years and well into adulthood, there wasn’t a mirror, store window, car door, or front-facing camera that was safe from my constant need to check on my body. Each reflective surface I passed had the ability to make or break my self-esteem. I was a woman possessed until, in early 2021, I ditched almost all mirrors. It’s been a full calendar year without them ruling my life—and I’ll never go back. Read on for my experience with body checks, how (and why!) I got rid of mirrors, and how you can gain more confidence and body love too. 

    What are “body checks?”
    Body checking is the repeated behavior of seeking details about your body’s size, shape, weight, or appearance from mirrors, reflections, photos, or other people. While checking your reflection in a mirror as you pass by or zooming in on yourself in the group photo are normal behaviors, compulsive body checks are when these habits happen compulsively and negatively affect your mood and self-esteem.
    When I started my career in fitness after college, mirrors were in no short supply, and I was performing body checks almost constantly. I started looking for these checks to define my self-worth and place in the industry, which often made me feel like an imposter posing as a personal trainer. I watched my reflection as I demonstrated every exercise, taught every class, and walked from one corner of the gym to the other, seeking constant validation and often ridiculing each part of my body in my own head. This was my constant reality until last year, when I decided constantly checking mirrors was ruining my confidence, so I ditched body checks and it changed my life.

    How I limited mirrors and stopped body checking
    A year ago, I began working at a gym that doesn’t have a single mirror in the whole facility. There was no way for me to see what my body looked like, which forced me instead to be present in the moment and focus on what I was doing. For the first time, I was unable to obsess over what I looked like while working or working out. For the first few weeks, I felt myself yearning for a way to see how others saw me when I moved, but as time went on, my concern with what I looked like dissipated as my confidence grew.
    As months passed, my desire for body checks waned as I focused instead on performing well, making friends, and improving my skills as both an athlete and a trainer. Slowly but surely, this release of control over knowing what my body looked like at any given moment began to creep into my life outside of the gym. I no longer opened my front-facing camera to check my reflection every time I went on my phone. I stopped wondering what my body looked like to others. The oversized full-length mirror in my living room no longer had a grip on me, and when I moved into a new apartment in the spring, I chose not to take it with me. I didn’t need it anymore.

    While the complete lack of mirrors in my workspace was the catalyst for this change, what really broke my habit of habitual body checking was the discovery that I could be valued for things other than what I looked like. I focused on the intangibles that I brought to the table, such as knowledge and commitment, and I learned to be proud of those characteristics—irrespective of my size, shape, or weight. Lastly, I stopped thinking about what other people looked like and instead focused on their qualities and how they made me feel. For the first time, I really saw people for who they were—myself included.
    Today, I have a small, full-length mirror next to my closet to use while getting dressed, and I do my hair and makeup in a medicine cabinet mirror over the sink in my bathroom, but my obsession with staring in the mirror has completely changed. When I do look at my body (whether it’s in a mirror, window reflection, etc.), I do so with neutrality. I repeat, “This is what my body looks like today” and choose to reflect on what it’s capable of, the person it houses, and all the people who love her. These days, I’m even often pleasantly surprised by the reflection looking back at me and like what I see. I’ve realized my body looks exactly the same whether I can see it or not—the difference is that what it looks like no longer has a death grip on how I feel about myself.

    Tips I learned to improve body confidence
    1. Limit mirrors 
    I challenge you to remove the full-length mirrors you find yourself obsessing over for just one month. While it might be scary to break such a strong habit, you just might find freedom and gain confidence when you allow yourself a separate perspective. Instead of working out in front of the floor-to-ceiling gym mirror, set yourself up in an area where you can’t fixate on what you look like. When passing by a mirrored store window, take the time you’d normally spend checking out your own reflection to smile at a stranger, window shop the store displays, or simply be more present in the moment. Lastly, replace any mirrors used for “decor” with beautiful art that makes you feel happy.

    2. Notice the ebb and flow of your body
    When I stopped fixating on what I looked like every second of the day, I started to understand that the things that used to upset me about my body (bloating, hormonal changes/PMS, lack of sleep, dehydration, etc.) were predictable and, more importantly, impermanent. I used to cry about the way I looked a few days before my period, but now I treat that time with far more grace because I know that it’s normal and no fault of my own. The body is meant to fluctuate—in weight, in symptoms, in cravings, in strength, and in appearance. Once you realize bodies are meant to be ever-changing, you can better understand and appreciate yours.

    3. Use a mirror affirmation
    Sure, it would be a lot easier if I could avoid any and all reflections altogether, but mirrors are unavoidable. Plus, your reflection shouldn’t be a scary thing; you can rewire your mind to actually like what you see. When I do look at my reflection, whether it’s when I’m passing a reflective store window or doing my makeup in the morning, I use a mirror affirmation. Lately, my mirror affirmation has been “This is my body today, and I choose to love it,” reminding me that I am grateful for my body, who I am, and all that I can do, even on the days that I don’t feel my best. It might feel weird at first, but before long, you’ll be repeating your mirror affirmation subconsciously (and believing it too).

    4. Shift your focus to qualities that are not appearance-related
    The next time you find yourself obsessing over what you look like or feeling bad about your body, make a list of things you love about yourself that are not image-related. Don’t forget to include things you’re good at, the way you make people feel, your educational or work achievements, and all the wonderful qualities that you possess. Learning to value yourself for more than the shape of your body will change the way you see yourself, the things you value, and the way you present yourself to the world. By limiting mirrors and reframing the way I saw my reflection, I learned to trust myself and feel proud of non-physical qualities. The removal of unnecessary body checks from your life will improve your relationship with yourself. I promise—you deserve it.

    While this article addresses body checking behaviors, it is not meant to treat body dysmorphia or disordered eating. If you are struggling with body image or disordered thoughts or behaviors regarding food and eating, please seek help. Call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 for support, reach out to a qualified medical professional, or, for a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.

    How to Achieve Body Acceptance and Self-Love
    According to an expert More

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    How to Get Over the Fear of Not Being Good Enough

    I was terrified to start my own business. Even after years of success, I have fearful moments every day. Sometimes I worry that I’m not smart enough, not productive enough, or not talented enough to make this work. I’ll tell myself that I’m not competent enough to be successful, while other days I’m convinced that any success I’ve had thus far is a fluke, due to luck and timing (not my own skill and hard work). Of course, some days I feel more confident, but it’s hard to avoid the fear of not being good enough or feeling like an imposter. 
    The fear of not being “good enough” is pervasive. No matter how much success we get, we still doubt if we truly deserve it. And it’s not just in our professional lives: we might worry we’re not good enough in our relationships and friendships, or as a parent. No matter how universal the feeling is, it doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) the norm. It’s detrimental to our personal lives, professional goals, and, most importantly, the relationship we have with ourselves. Read on for how to get over the feeling of not being good enough, once and for all. 

    So why can’t you get over feeling inadequate?
    There are a lot of factors that can contribute to not feeling good enough, like the unrealistic portrayal of women in the media, pressure from external sources like a parent or boss, or our own lack of self-confidence. If we recognize and pay attention to the source of our self-doubt, there’s a greater likelihood that we’ll be conscious of it and able to work through it once it starts to creep in. No matter what the root of your imposter syndrome is, it likely comes from one (or both) of the biggest proponents of low self-worth. Read on to for the two reasons you’re not able to get over the fear of not being good enough:

    You’re constantly comparing yourself to others
    As a society, we’ve identified tangible markers of success: a nice house, a long term relationship, making a certain salary, or a certain body type. We compare ourselves to friends, family members, and accounts on social media who have reached these “accomplishments,” regardless what their reality might actually be like. Social media plays a huge factor because it’s easy to compare the worst parts of your life to the highlight reel of someone else’s. We’re constantly being bombarded with and exposed to people that have what we want or are doing something better. 

    You have high expectations of yourself
    Sometimes the fear of not being enough comes from internal, rather than external sources. If you call yourself a perfectionist or rarely pause to celebrate goals you reach and instead focus on reaching the next one, your own expectations might be setting you up for imposter syndrome. As Brené Brown writes in The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, “Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect.”
    Of course, you should be setting high expectations, prioritizing self-improvement, and pushing yourself to pursue your greatest goals. After all, you are worthy and deserving of so much, and you should know how much you can (and will!) accomplish. But you can still love who and where you are right now while still looking forward to your future. If it feels like you’re never reaching goals or living up to expectations, they might be unrealistic and impossible. 

    3 ways to get over the fear of not being good enough: 
    Be honest and ask for help
    If we were all a little bit more transparent about our lives, fears, and where we feel we’re falling short, we might learn that no one has it all together and very few people actually feel “good enough.” When one person is brave enough to share where they feel inadequate, everyone feels permission to do the same. Plus, when you ask a coworker for help with a skill you fall short in, lean on your significant other during a difficult week, or open up to your best friend about your insecurities, you’d be surprised to find that no one else expects you to be perfect expect you, and that falling short is actually normal. We are not “good enough” when we can do it all perfectly or achieve a certain body type. We’re good enough as we currently are, knowing when to ask for help and being open about where we’re struggling. 

    Identify what you truly want out of life
    When I find myself in comparison mode, I try to decipher between my perception and reality. It may seem like my college friend’s side business is way more successful than mine is, but how am I defining success? Is it because she has more Instagram followers or has a fancier website? Success can mean so many different things, whether it’s the ability to have a flexible schedule or passion for what you’re doing. Someone else’s definition of success doesn’t necessarily have to be mine, and success very rarely looks the same for everyone.
    The same thing goes for standards of beauty: The ideal body that you feel best in should look and feel vastly different from everyone else’s. When you find yourself feeling lesser than out of comparison to other people, whether it’s their career, relationship, or body type, identify if what you’re comparing is truly what would make you happy. Happiness looks and feels differently to everyone. Identify if these comparisons would actually matter to you, or if you’re just caught up in the mindset of not being good enough. 

    Realize and remember the wins
    When you find yourself comparing your behind-the-scenes to the perfectly-filtered highlight reel of someone else’s life, remember that everyone has private struggles,  failures, and insecurities. There is no such thing as a perfect career, relationship, body, or life, so instead of focusing on where you inevitably aren’t “perfect,” focus on where you do have success. For every missed opportunity, mistake, or flaw, you have so much more to be proud of. When we’re bogged down by where we fall short, we’re blind to everything we do have going for us. Take more time to notice your strengths, successes, and wins. Write them down and return to them when you need to.

    7 Steps to Take When Imposter Syndrome Creeps In More

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    How to Achieve Body Acceptance and Self-Love, According to an Expert

    Some of us want to get stronger, some of us want to eat healthier, and some of us want to get more sleep, but the one goal we all have in common is to feel more self-love. Self-love is not something that’s taught in school. In fact, we’re more likely taught how not to love ourselves and accept our bodies from friends, parents, and the media (more on that below). But thinking we’re not good enough or constantly trying to change the way our bodies look is stressful, destructive, and a complete waste of energy.
    Think about all the time and energy you spend obsessing about the way your body looks or not loving who you are. That time and energy could be spent on more important things like running successful companies, growing fulfilling relationships, and actually going through life feeling happy (imagine!). So how do we get out of the self-hate cycle and accept our bodies as they are? I turned to an expert for advice. 

    Dr. Adrienne Youdim is not your regular weight lost specialist—she’s a cool weight lost specialist. And by that, I mean she uses her expertise and practice to teach women how to achieve self-love and body acceptance first, knowing that true health can only begin when you love yourself. Dr. Youdim is an internist who specializes in weight loss and nutrition and served as the medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Center for Weight Loss before opening up her own private practice in Beverly Hills. Read: She’s seen a lot of patients who do not accept their body as it is.
    As if her long list of experience wasn’t enough, she’s also the author of the book Hungry For More, which connects the desire for weight loss with what we’re lacking emotionally. While she’s a weight loss expert on paper, she’s really a self-love expert because she knows that you cannot reach any health goal without it. Read on for her definition of body acceptance, where it comes from, and six tips that will help you achieve it. 

    Meet the expert
    Dr. Adrienne Youdim, MD, FACP
    An internist who specializes in medical weight loss and nutrition
    Dr. Youdim served as medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Weight Loss Center before opening her own practice in Beverly Hills. She wrote the book “Hungry For More,” an empowering memoir and how-to guide for women looking to reach their health goals and love their bodies.

    What does “body acceptance” even mean?
    We talk a lot about accepting your body and loving yourself, but what does that really mean? Does it mean looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking everything is perfect, or is it like any other romantic relationship where you feel unconditional love and respect? According to Dr. Youdim, body acceptance is different from self-love, but they both share an important factor. “Body acceptance and self-love are not the same, but they are both unconditional and are not dependent on outside factors,” she explained. “We can accept and love ourselves regardless of how we look, how much we weigh, what kind of car we drive, or how much money we make.”
    Another important PSA: Body acceptance and loving yourself does not mean that you don’t have goals or aren’t prioritizing self-improvement. Rather, you love and accept yourself so much that you know you deserve to reach your goals. “For example, you can want to lose weight, but body acceptance means that you still accept yourself for who you are in this moment. In fact, that acceptance makes it more likely that we will achieve our goals.” In other words, you don’t accept your body once when you reach certain health goals, you can reach health goals because you accept and love your body as it is right now.

    We talk a lot about accepting your body and loving yourself, but what does that really mean? Does it mean looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking everything is perfect, or is it like any other romantic relationship where you feel unconditional love and respect?

    Where do body insecurities come from?
    Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a “joking” conversation with your friends over which body part you hate most (Mean Girls style). I am certainly guilty. The sad truth is that body insecurities are so normal that it’s something we bond over with other women. If you’re the Cady Heron who can’t think of anything to dislike about yourself besides bad morning breath, you’re probably the outsider. When we grow up and assimilate to societal norms, we learn pretty quickly that hating our bodies is not only socially acceptable but expected. 
    “There is so much outside noise that affects how we see ourselves and particularly how we see our bodies,” Dr. Youdim explained. “Not only does social media, TV, and our culture at large dictate how we should look, but many of us are even affected by people we love. For example, a mom who struggles with body image may criticize her own body or engage in unhealthy weight loss strategies. Her words and actions are a form of role-modeing that sends a message to her children that a body needs to look a certain way in order to be acceptable.”
    Bottom line: Your body insecurities actually have nothing to do with your own body. They come from external pressure to look a certain way or feel a certain way about yourself. For that reason, no pant size, weight, or body shape is immune. But good news: There’s a way out. Read on for tips to accept your body and love yourself more. 

    Tips to improve self-love and achieve body acceptance:

    1. Start by being more aware
    “The first step to achieving self-acceptance is self-awareness,” Dr. Youdim suggested. Self-awareness means knowing what we are saying to ourselves and the messages we’re sending to our bodies. She also suggested distancing yourself from the negative thoughts. For example, if you find yourself hating your thighs or feeling like everyone is staring at your stomach, notice the thought and then look at it objectively. Ask yourself, Is this belief really true? Would a close friend or confidant tell me the same thing? Then, think like the opposite is true, like your thighs look amazing, your jeans fit perfectly, or everyone is staring because of how good you look. “Operate from a place of possibility,” Dr. Youdim advised. “Dare to imagine a different story and allow for that new narrative to stick. With time and practice, it will!”

    2. Know that self-love is a skill, not a circumstance
    Self-love doesn’t just happen to you once you reach a certain weight, promotion, or get in a relationship. Self-love is a state of mind you work on internally, not a factor that hits you from the inside. If you need some proof, even Dr. Youdim has had to overcome insecurities too. “I was just as critical of myself at size 2 as I was at size 10,” she explained. “Self-love is an inside job, and being overly critical, engaging in self-limiting beliefs, or not accepting our bodies can and will happen at any size.” For whoever needs to hear this: Yes, you can and should love yourself, regardless of “imperfections” you see in the mirror. Stop thinking that changing those imperfections will make you love yourself more and start cultivating self-love as you are now.

    Self-love is a state of mind you work on internally, not a factor that hits you from the inside

    3. Notice where your relationship with your body is physically manifesting
    And now where the tie between lack of self-acceptance and Dr. Youdim’s weight loss practice comes in: Your relationship to food has everything to do with your relationship to your body. “There is a physiologic reason why we can’t control ourselves when it comes to food,” she said. “When we are sad, unfulfilled, anxious, etc., we seek comfort and often turn to food for that comfort.” While a glass of wine or a tub of Ben & Jerry’s might feel temporarily comforting, it does not fix what is making us uncomfortable to begin with and, as Dr. Youdim said, does not address what we are truly hungry for. If you’re anxious or hateful when it comes to your body, those feelings manifest into uncomfortable feelings that then physiologically trigger food cravings. Your body is affected by negative emotions, including when you have negative emotions about your body. Start getting curious about cravings. Identify what you are truly hungry for and what would actually comfort the uncomfortable feeling. 

    4. Try intentional mindfulness and meditation 
    As for tangible practices we can add into our routines to cultivate more body acceptance, Dr. Youdim cited mindfulness, meditation, and journaling as being the most effective tools to improve our self-love. Since negative thoughts are typically automatic, being more mindful will allow you to catch yourself in these thoughts (read: self-awareness), and change thought patterns. As the mental health practice taking the world by storm, “studies show that we can foster greater self-acceptance through meditation,” Dr. Youdim said. Meditation in general can help with clarity, but try meditating with an affirmation like “I love myself” or “my body is healthy and powerful” to make it specific to body acceptance. And if meditating isn’t for you, journaling is also a powerful tool. “Writing is a gateway to awareness, self-healing, and transformative change. Gain awareness of thoughts and patterns, set intentions and goals, and offer yourself compassion and grace.”

    5. Remind yourself that you are not alone
    It may sound cheesy to say that you are not alone, but when we’re struggling with body image issues and lack of self-love, we often are overly focused on our own experience. For example, we’re thinking that everyone is judging us or that other people notice the insecurity like we do. In reality, no one thinks of you as critically as you think of yourself (duh!), and everyone is dealing with their own insecurities. Personally, when I start feeling overly insecure about the way I look, I take it as a sign that I’ve been too focused on myself and start checking in with friends or call my mom to see how she is. 
    “When we suffer, we imagine that we are the only one,” Dr. Youdim agreed. “Being human means being imperfect. A sense of common humanity can make you feel differently about negative beliefs you have about yourself. Remind yourself that you are not the only one suffering or experiencing insecurities.” When you’re focused on your body, remind yourself that you are not alone. Remember that no one is perfect and everyone has their own insecurities. And then, shift your focus to loving and taking care of other people; it will translate into loving and taking care of yourself. 

    6. Practice self-kindness (not self-judgment)
    The last thing you should do when noticing your insecurities and negative thoughts is to add even more insecurities and negative thoughts on top of that. Don’t be angry at yourself every time you notice a negative thought come up. Instead, practice self-kindness as much as possible. Look into your reactions when you’re feeling inadequate or insecure: Do you feel compassionate and understanding, or are you criticizing? Dr. Youdim suggested thinking of a negative belief you have about yourself. Do you think you’re bad at your job, aren’t likable, or aren’t as attractive as someone else? Now think about how to reframe this belief with an attitude of kindness. How would your best friend, mom, or whoever is kindest to you reframe this thought? Even if you don’t believe the kinder version of the thought, after enough practice, you eventually will. 

    5 Things My Therapist Taught Me About Self-Love More

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    5 Things My Therapist Taught Me About Self-Love

    If we’re being honest (and slightly egotistical), one of my best talents is self-love. That’s not to say that I don’t have days where I’m unhappy looking in the mirror or that I second-guess a lot of choices I make (trust me, I have my days). But I also really love myself. It’s weird (and sad) how hard that is to admit out loud (self-deprecation is so much more the norm), but I think part of self-love is expressing it so that other people can feel comfortable expressing their self-love too (we’re all in this together!). 
    However, “self-love” hasn’t always been on my list of achievements. The pre-teen age brought puberty and the idea that my body isn’t good enough as is, and most of my teenage and young adult life has been spent trying to look or act different so that I was more “likable.” It’s taken me many failed relationships, major life changes, and a whole lot of therapy to feel this way about myself. My therapist (shoutout to Dr. Kelly!) taught me a lot about self-love and where I was holding myself back. The good news is that self-love is not a destination; it’s the most important lifelong relationship you’ll ever work on. Now that we have all the cheesy clichés out of the way, read on for five things I learned from my therapist that helped me love myself and will maybe help you love yourself too. 

    Self-love is not a destination; it’s the most important lifelong relationship you’ll ever work on.

    Source: @josie.santi

    1. “Perfect” isn’t a goal
    When I first started seeing my therapist, I told her about my anxiety by explaining it as “illogical” and “a little crazy” (as if that somehow made it less illogical or crazy?). I also explained behaviors like falling asleep with the TV on or scrolling through Instagram during my morning meditation time by prefacing with, “I know it’s bad for me.” I’d get frustrated if I failed a health goal, wasn’t able to sleep at night because stress kept me awake, or made a wrong decision. I used these “failed goals” to explain what’s wrong with me rather than questioning that something might be wrong with the goals (but more on that below).
    The judgment over my own behaviors came from the idea that I had to be perfect. But not achieving a goal or making a mistake is not a failure; it’s a way to get to know yourself better. Plus, you already know perfect isn’t possible thanks to every cliché self-help book and inspirational quote out there (so start believing it!), but even if it was achievable, achieving it wouldn’t make you happier anyway. Your goal as a human being should be to find balance, not to achieve perfection. 
     
    2. Self-love doesn’t just happen
    Self-love is a skill, not a circumstance. Just like happiness or gratitude, self-love doesn’t just happen to you when you reach a certain job title or pants size. It’s a muscle that needs to be worked repeatedly in order to make it stronger. Every negative thought, moment of self-doubt, or criticism that comes up is like a practice round to improve self-love because you can recognize the thought and choose a more positive thought instead. Also, please stop saying that once you lose weight, get a promotion, or have more money, then you will love yourself. That’s just not how the mind works. You achieve what you want in life because you first know you deserve it, not the other way around. 

    Source: @josie.santi

    3. The problem isn’t you, it’s your expectations
    So you don’t look like a Photoshopped influencer, can’t resist cheese fries, or are too lazy to work out five times a week. You probably use all of these “failures” as justification to criticize yourself, thinking things like, “If only I had more willpower or as a better person, I could achieve what I want.” But why do you want to achieve those things in the first place? Would looking like someone else make you truly happier? No. Would working out five times a week make you happier? No. Would saying “no” to cheese fries make you happier? Helllll no. The truth is that we get so caught up in what we’re supposed to do, want, and be that we forget to think about what would actually make us happy. If you’re not meeting expectations, the problem is not you. The problem is that your expectations and goals don’t truly align with what it takes to make you happy (yep, that’s some deep ish, read that again). 
    When it comes to my own self-love, I’m letting my body exist in the healthy space it wants to be in. My “ideal weight” is the one that I feel most strong, energized, and healthy in, but also one that allows me the extra indulgences, fun moments, and enjoyment that makes life worth living. Our own expectations and goals should be tools we use to help us live our happiest lives. Otherwise, what’s the point?  

    4. There’s a difference between what you think is reality and actual reality
    My therapist showed me how my thought patterns would go into “all-or-nothing” mode, or better known as black-and-white thinking. Either I was perfectly healthy and motivated or I stopped caring about my health altogether; either I was crushing it at work or I thought I was completely messing up; either I loved my outfit and my hair looked great or I felt totally insecure leaving the house. The problem with this way of thinking is that I believed what my mind told me, thinking it was reality. 
    PSA: Life always has shades of gray. Plus, it’s not just gray, but a variety of colors you can choose from. If you’re criticizing or hard on yourself, it’s almost always because of your mindset, not because of reality (read: no one else is as hard on you as you are). Realize where you’re thinking in black and white, then add in other options. For example, you can be really good at your job while still making some mistakes, you can be healthy while indulging in chocolate cake, and you can still be happy with your life, even when you’re stressed about parts of it. 

    Source: @josie.santi

    5. Self-respect is more important
    So self-love gets all the buzz these days, but I’d like to introduce you to a new word that’s even more important: self-respect. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t going to live with the Lizzo-level “I’m my own soulmate” vibes 24/7 (not even Lizzo!) and love everything about ourselves. Maybe you want to change your nose, hate the way you look in an outfit, or regret something you did. And that’s OK, because when you love yourself (and I mean really, really love yourself), it’s not that you don’t have those thoughts, it’s just that you know those things don’t make you less than what you are.
    You achieve self-love the same way you build up any other relationship: show you care, do what you say you’re going to do, enjoy time alone, be kind, and be thoughtful. Confidence just means that you trust your own word, and self-respect comes when you live in alignment with who you truly are. Aim for self-trust and self-respect instead, knowing that self-love will follow. 

    10 Ways to Love Yourself More

    16 Easy Ways to Practice Self-Love More

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    We Need to Talk About Joining a Gym When You’re Plus-Size

    It’s a constant joke that I was athletically challenged most of my life. I skipped school on the day of every single Pacer test, and when my parents told me I had to play a sport to get into college (my parents both didn’t attend college and genuinely thought you had to play a sport to get in—how pure), I attended one tennis practice and couldn’t show my face to the team ever again. But that doesn’t mean I’m inactive, and after a year of working out consistently at home followed by a short stint in my (better than average) apartment fitness center, I was ready to finally join a gym again.
    I never attended a gym until I was in college, but I quickly learned that weight training was my favorite way to work out. So, when I was home on summer break one year, I joined a gym. They asked all the typical questions: what is your favorite way to work out? How often do you plan to come? What are your fitness goals? But then they ask the worst question of all:
    “What’s your height and weight?”
    I remember thinking, how on Earth is this relevant to me joining the gym? What does saying my weight in this tiny office with this stranger in a gym do to help me achieve any fitness goals? It made me feel uncomfortable every time I saw that gym attendant, knowing that he knew really personal details about me and possibly made up his own judgments about me and my health, all because I told him a few numbers.

    I remember thinking, how on Earth is this relevant to me joining the gym? What does saying my weight in this tiny office with this stranger in a gym do to help me achieve any fitness goals?

    I put off joining a gym for a long time after that because it felt so daunting to put myself out there. I’m a mid-size cis-woman with a little bit of experience at the gym, and I worried about the judgments that might ensue walking into a weight room full of jacked bros and their protein shakes. Everyone talks about gym intimidation and how awkward being in the gym for the first time is, but no one talks about how uncomfortable and overbearing it can be to just join. After months of working out in my apartment gym, I was starting to feel a little stagnant with the level of equipment available to me, so I decided to join a nearby gym. And it was… in a word… horrible.

    My Experience
    I have never felt so uncomfortable as I did when I tried to join this gym. When I arrived, I met with the owner of the gym at a tiny kiosk in the middle of everything. Seriously, a man was like doing squats right next to my face. Not only was I prompted with the dreaded “What’s your height and weight?” (in the literal middle of the gym in front of everyone), but I was pestered and berated about my physical health (by a person who isn’t my doctor!) and questioned over and over about my fitness goals. When I said my goal was to just be healthy, I was, again, berated because I didn’t have any fitness goals. Eventually, I told the owner of the gym I have an eating disorder, and at one point (while tearing into me about my BMI and how I’m at risk to get cancer and have a stroke—again, not a doctor!), he said he wanted to be “gentle with my eating issue.” Then, he proceeded to tell me that if I have no fitness goals, there’s no point in joining the gym. Working out is fun for me and a way to de-stress—is that a crime?
    I stood in the middle of this gym while this stranger wrote down some of my most personal health information and threw it all back at me… and then dared to be upset when I wasn’t really feeling it and didn’t want to join his gym. Like sir, you just laid into me about how “unhealthy” I was and how joining a gym was pointless if I wasn’t trying to do a 180 on my body… what makes you think I’d ever want to come back here?
    I was so taken aback when I left that I called my mom and told all of my friends how horrible this experience was, and a lot of people echoed my thoughts on how agonizing the experience of joining a gym is. But until then, I’d never heard anyone talk about it. When men join a gym, it’s about them getting ripped, and as much as cis-men experience body image issues too, they’re not taught from a young age that how much you weigh is something to be embarrassed about in the same way women are. And the pressure is even worse when you’re above the threshold of what is an “acceptable” size as a woman.

    When men join a gym, it’s about them getting ripped, and as much as cis-men experience body image issues too, they’re not taught from a young age that how much you weigh is something to be embarrassed about in the same way women are.

    Aside from a horrible experience with management, I knew pretty early on this gym wouldn’t be for me. When I walked in, I saw guys who resembled Hulk or at the very least men whose dream was to look like the Hulk, and all the women were fit beyond belief. I didn’t see a single person in the gym who looked anything like me, and it was 7 pm on a weeknight, their busiest time. I knew I’d feel self-conscious going to a gym where I was the only one who didn’t train for marathons or body-building competitions.
    I ultimately left the gym and never looked back. It was so frustrating because they had a great facility, but I knew I’d never feel comfortable. Why do these gym owners think intimidating me and making me feel like an unhealthy sack of sh*t is the way to get me to join? I’d rather never step foot in your facility than ever feel that way again. Even if I was unhealthy, it’s truly none of your business why I’m at your gym.

    What I’m Going to Do Next
    As an avid exerciser, I simply can’t swear away the gym forever, even though the thought of walking inside one and signing up sounds like my personal hell after what I went through. Instead, I joined a nearby gym (we stan Planet Fitness in this house) that allowed me to easily sign up online with ZERO weird questions, pestering, or upselling at all. I’m able to go into my gym now without a care in the world and feel completely normal. Plus, the gym is filled with people just like me: just normal people who like to work out, some who look really fit, and some who look like your average Joe, and I love it. I also plan to start going to a few classes once a week or so to change it up and get my fix of working closely with a fitness professional without all the judgment. Plus, classes are so social and fun to do with friends, and I’ve missed it so much in the pandemic. 
    As far as how I’m coping with this negative experience, I’m choosing to focus on how happy I feel after a workout and remembering why I was so excited to move up in my fitness journey rather than keep up with my same routine. That’s progress, even if some rude, muscular guy at the gym doesn’t agree. Even taking the step of wanting to join a gym is progress! If you have a similar experience, pay attention to all the progress you’re making and get excited about what you’ll make in the future. And I highly recommend writing it out. This article was deeply cathartic. 

    I’m Plus-Size—Here’s Everything That Goes Through My Head While Having Sex More

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    6 Unexpected Ways Your Body Changes After 25

    If you grew up female in the early 2000s, chances are you owned a copy of The Care and Keeping of You, or some other equally awkward, illustration-filled body manual. These prepubescent bibles warned us of all the changes to come as a teenager, and seemed to promise that after seven years of embarrassing acne and the daily, crippling fear our periods would start (was anything scarier?), the rest would be history! We’d be WOMEN, and by then our undoubtedly sexy woman bodies would be in working order!
    Well, I’m here to tell you we’ve been duped.
    If you’ve reached the milestone-no-one-said-was-a-milestone—AKA the age of 25—you’ll likely know what I’m talking about. Changes you’d never prepared for have begun to sneak up on you. The following are just a few examples of bodily weirdness that awaits us at after a quarter century.

    1. Cool, guess I have acne now
    I was one of the lucky few who managed to escape high school and college without experiencing any major breakouts. I was even once told in high school that I had “angel skin.” Angel skin! Well, either angels struggle with cystic acne, or my skin has fully rebelled against me. Keeping a clear complexion has become a struggle I never expected to have, let alone in my mid-20s. With changes in hormones and progesterone, many women will experience acne for the very first time post-teens. Go ahead and DIY that facial; you’ll thank me later.

    2. Hangovers: 1, Me: 0
    At 21 years old, I could pound a bottle of Goldschläger at midnight and wake up ready to take a midterm, rescue a puppy, and run a 5k before noon. Now? I can hardly eat bread without gagging. Hangovers take on an epic level of strength in your mid-twenties. Let’s just say before a heavy drinking night out these days, I ask myself, “am I prepared to do nothing but binge watch Netflix tomorrow?” (The answer needs to be “yes”). FYI, if a hangover hits you like it hits me, here’s how you can save your skin. 

    3. Sleep, I miss you
    Ah yes, speaking of hangovers: remember the days of sleeping in until 1 p.m.? Those were cute. Now my body rockets me wide awake at 8 a.m., regardless of the time I went to bed. Forget about the “recommended eight hours.” Try as I might, insomnia has become a new routine, constantly challenging my ability to switch off my brain. You’ll try herbal teas and essential oils, but mostly will long for the days your mother had to bang on the bedroom door to get you conscious.

    4. My vagina hates me
    I will never forget waking up with my first UTI. It was painful, it was burning, and it led to a subsequent three more in the following year. Yeast infection? Been there too! And if you’re really looking for a party, try bacterial vaginosis. That’ll cling to you longer than Dylan from Tinder. Reminder: if you have a vagina, it needs (and deserves!) some serious TLC. For a quick refresher, check out five things you’re doing to your vagina that you shouldn’t be. 

    5. Where did this booty come from?
    Despite it all, not every change you’ll face in your mid-twenties is negative. Whether you’ve been rocking curves since puberty or have noticed more curves as of late, the body will likely go through some visible changes around this age–and yes, that’s a good thing. It was an exciting moment when I packed up my low-rise Hollister shorts I was questionably still wearing and embraced my new Kim K booty! No matter how your body is changing, embrace all the wonderful curves and features that come with being a full grown woman. Can I get an “amen!?”

    6. I just had sex, and it feels so good
    Perhaps it’s the shifting hormones or your new-found confidence (or both), but sex sounds and feels better than ever at this point in your twenties. Think about it: you’ve gotten past the mediocre romps on dorm room futons, and your G-spot has officially been located. You probably feel more confident telling partners what you want, but you also know that you don’t need a partner to reach the big “O.” By this age, you’ve spent years growing more confident in your body, and your body knows what it likes a little bit better (and no, it’s not you, Dylan). More