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    7 Wellness Podcasts That Will Help You Get Healthier

    When I first got into self-improvement, I wanted to consume all the information I could. I started following all the experts—reading their books, studying their blogs, and attending their seminars (well, the free ones at least). And then I discovered health podcasts. I was already a big fan of Serial and This American Life, but it never dawned on me that there’s literally a podcast for every topic you can imagine. Since realizing that podcasts could be used to make me healthier instead of just fulfill my true crime addiction, I’ve listened to countless episodes that have transformed my life. Whether you’re interested in food, mental health, or spirituality, read on for the holy grail podcasts that have changed my health.

    Let It Out was the first wellness podcast I listened to and it’s still one of my favorites. Each week, host Katie Dalebout shares her personal experience with trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and talks with leading voices in the wellness space. Notable episodes include author and yoga teacher Jessamyn Stanley discussing body acceptance, spiritual entrepreneur Gabby Bernstein on mindset tips, and author and gluten-free chef Phoebe Lapine sharing her journey with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. 
    My favorite thing about this podcast is its focus on balance and doing what works for your individual body. Katie admits to being “overly addicted to wellness” and struggling with orthorexia in the past, so she’s learned first hand the importance of balance. Listen if you want a well-rounded view of health. 

    If you’ve already binged every episode of Let It Out like I have but still want more, tune into Spiraling. Katie Dalebout also hosts this podcast alongside author and chef Serena Wolf. The two friends share their personal stories of anxiety, from the daily angst of having a zit on a first date to the deep-seated fears and worries that keep them up at night. They don’t just vent and leave you hanging, though. The best part is that they discuss how to handle anxieties. They share their personal de-stress methods and the techniques their therapists have taught them. I come away from each episode feeling so understood and find a new way to cope with my anxiety. Listen if you want to feel like you’re getting advice from friends. 

    The TED family of podcasts is an oldie but still a goodie, especially if you’re interested in learning about health from different perspectives. TED Health covers a variety of topics, including everything from the importance of sleep to dealing with grief to preventing Alzheimer’s. I love this podcast because it covers a wide range of topics, approaches every topic from a scientific (yet approachable) angle, and serves as a reminder that health is so much more than just a number on the scale. Listen if you’re interested in the science behind health.  

    It’s no doubt Gwyneth Paltrow has carved out her corner of the wellness world, so it’s only natural she’d bring us a top health podcast as well. Much like TED Health, Gwyneth and her co-host Erica Chidi cover a variety of topics, ranging from mental and emotional health to physical and sexual health. They also feature exciting guests like authors Glennon Doyle and Robin DiAngelo and intimacy coach Amina Peterson. While goop has been controversial in the wellness world, they bring on amazing thought leaders and wellness experts that have helped me grow in every aspect of my life. If you’re looking for a place to start, some of my favorite episodes are “Ending the War on Self,” “Eating to Beat Disease,” and “Decoupling Shame from Sexuality.” Listen if you want to learn from the experts. 

    One of my favorite self-improvement authors is Andrea Owen, so you can imagine my delight when I discovered she had a podcast too. Andrea gives candid, big-sister advice on how to live your best life and focuses on topics such as perfectionism, the inner-critic, courage, and more. Make Some Noise is geared specifically toward women and breaking the negative cycles we so often partake in. I love the casual nature of this podcast and how digestible and easy her advice is. Listen if you want no-frills life coaching. 

    Expanded is a leading manifestation and spiritual podcast, and once you listen you’ll see why. Host Lacy Phillips helps her audience create their dream lives through neuroscience, psychology, epigenetics, energetics, and a little bit of spirituality. The podcast discusses techniques to open your mind and heart to the manifestation process and also highlights other manifestation experts and thought leaders. I especially love this podcast as a way to start my mornings off with an abundance mindset. It’s also a great addition to the To Be Magnetic membership program. Listen if you want to manifest your dream life. 

    Everyone seems to have an opinion on the “right” way to diet these days (*insert eye roll here*), so it was refreshing to hear How to Love Your Body described as a “non-diet” podcast. Hosts Lauren McAulay and Jenna Free are self-proclaimed ex-dieters, binge eaters, and weight-obsessed women turned intuitive eaters with the goal of helping listeners “stop dieting and find wellness without obsession.” As someone who has struggled with dieting in the past, this was music to my ears.
    It’s comforting to hear someone who’s been in my shoes talk about how to create a sustainable relationship with food. Listening to this podcast has helped me shift my mindset around nutrition and embark on my intuitive eating journey. A few of my favorite episodes are “What if I DO care about how I look?,” “Intuitive Drinking Tips,” and “End Binge Eating Permanently.” Listen if you want to reframe your diet mindset. 

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    10 Books To Read if You Want To Improve Yourself

    The cliche of “finding yourself” always made no sense to me until I actually did. But finding out who you are and what makes you unique just skims the surface. Discovering what makes me truly happy, the kind of people I want to surround myself with, and what motivates me to work hard has shaped who I am and what I will become. A huge part of this has been self-improvement books. I mean, we gotta learn how to be our best selves from someone else, right? It can be difficult to find the best self-improvement books for you, as every self-discovery journey is pretty tailored. We’ve made it just a little easier by rounding up some of our favorites to get you started.

    Cara Alwill Leyba
    Style Your Mind
    This read made me finally understand what I was missing in order to be successful: KNOW YOURSELF *cue Drake voice*. This workbook forces you to contemplate your goals and desires, and because the book is so gorgeous, I focused on including more than just scribbles and half-thought out responses. After working through this, I have a stronger understanding of what I want out of my life and how I’m going to get there.

    Eckhart Tolle
    A New Earth
    To no one’s surprise, Oprah was right. I was really apprehensive of this book at first – the entire concept of an “ego” just seemed a little weird. Boy was I wrong! This book is perfect for anyone who struggles to let things go. I have a tendency to get obsessive about things; I always want to be better! Tolle addresses this through his explanations of the ego while providing some actually pretty common sense resolutions to that stress in your daily life. Reading this finally allowed me to realize what causes stress and anxiety in my life and encouraged me to change those things.

    Maureen Johnson
    How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation
    Finding my voice in my activism has been difficult. I am a privileged woman and can sometimes feel like I don’t have any experiences or insight to bring to the table. Regardless of where you stand politically, this book discusses more about how you can fight for change and the hope that comes along with that. This is really aimed at a teen audience, but I took away a hope and excitement for the future as an adult. Not to mention the incredible list of contributors on this makes it a necessary read.

    Jolene Hart
    Eat Pretty: Nutrition for Beauty, Inside and Out
    This is not your typical recipe book. Eat Pretty simplifies the whole idea of “holistic nutrition” and makes food easy. I’ve always had a negative relationship with food, and this book has reminded me over and over again (I’ve read it a few times!) the ways in which food can nourish and support my skin, hair and bones and the energy it gives me to go through my day. Now I’m not saying I didn’t have a donut for breakfast this morning, but if you’re looking for a new way to look at food and improve that relationship, this is the read for you.

    Brené Brown
    Daring Greatly
    If you’ve ever seen Brené Brown’s amazing podcast about shame and vulnerability, this is basically its mom. I’ve always been a pretty open person, but this book took it to another level. One of the hardest things to learn is being vulnerable, and this book does an incredible job at explaining why it is so difficult and provides the little steps we can take to learn how. Brown includes several anecdotes to share just how she struggles with this same thing even though researching and discussing shame is her job. I might be biased as this is one of my favorite self-development reads, but this is one I would most certainly pick up if I were you.

    Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls
    Sleeveless tops, shorts, bathing suits – summer can be rough if you have any issues with body images, and unfortunately, that is something many women experience. This book is not only a fun read, but everything Jes Baker says is backed up by research, making her advice feel even more credible. Don’t struggle with body image issues? (Woohoo!) Baker gives tons of advice on just living unapologetically yourself, which I think everyone could really benefit from.

    Shannon Kaiser
    The Self-Love Experiment
    As a self-proclaimed perfectionist and atychiphobic (fear of failure!), I can get pretty hung up on every little mistake I make. The Self Love Experiment is that bit of encouragement to get me out of those thoughts and remember just how much good my failures can do. Kaiser takes you on her journey to self-love and acceptance, and through her true testimony, I started to realize more about my own journey as well. She’s candid and real and doesn’t lead you on that self-love is a quick fix. Also, having a little reminder that you’re more than a sum of your failures is pretty powerful.

    Dan Harris
    10% Happier
    As a journalist, I already knew I’d identify with Dan Harris. As I read through his struggles with anxiety and panic attacks, though, I began to realize just how relatable he is to so many of us. 10% Happier chronicles his experience working on ABC News, what it was like having a panic attack on the air and how meditation and mindfulness helped him get a handle on his anxiety. Anyone who’s even slightly curious about meditation but doesn’t know where to start, look no further.

    Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
    The Confidence Code
    For those who are more left brained, this is the one for you. The Confidence Code utilizes research and science to discuss confidence: why we want it and why it’s so hard to get. Both authors are journalists and do a great job of making the neuroscience understandable for someone who knows nothing about DNA. This book showed me a new way to look at being confident in myself all while providing the tools and stories I needed to actually start my own journey toward it.

    Gabby Bernstein
    Super Attractor: Methods for Manifesting a Life Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
    No matter your experience level with the Law of Attraction, Gabby Bernstein makes it simple and effective. The Law of Attraction is about more than manifesting sports cars and diamond jewelry, and this book shows that it can be as simple as changing your mindset for a positive one. This dives pretty deep, so expect to take lots of notes.

    15 Books to Read if You Need a Mental Health Boost More

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    6 Things I Learned About Vaginas From This Netflix Show

    I just learned a lot about vaginas from a streaming service, and (thankfully) it’s not porn. Say what you will about Gwyneth Paltrow, her $250 million brand, or the sometimes ridiculous claims (a $3,000 dildo? I don’t even have $5 for daily Starbucks!), but one of the episodes on the Netflix series The Goop Lab shook my world. Episode three, titled “The Pleasure Is Ours,” features Betty Dodson, a PhD sexologist who has been one of the principle leaders in female sexual health and pleasure for decades. Just for reference, her first book, Liberating Masturbation: A Meditation on Self Love, came out in 1974. It turns out the viewer (and Gwyneth Paltrow) has a lot to learn from this 91-year-old (yeah, you read that right).
    Regardless of what you think of Goop or GP’s acting skills, this episode was profound, and, dare I say, life-changing. Watching the episode and writing this article felt like one big therapy session for me. I would go so far as to say that watching it should be required for everyone, because very few of us (sadly) got this kind of education in school. Read on for key takeaways from the episode and the six life-changing things I learned about vaginas. 

    1. Paltrow doesn’t know what a vagina is—and neither do most people
    First of all, let’s start with the word “vagina:” it’s not what you think it is. Even though she recently launched a candle that smells like it, GP got it wrong when talking about “the vagina” in the episode. Many people, Paltrow and myself included, use the word “vagina” to describe the entire system going on “down there,” especially when referring to what we can see on the outside and the parts that relate to pleasure. Like the badass she is, Dodson gracefully schooled Paltrow with a subtle FYI. “The vagina is the birth canal only,” she said. “You’re talking about the vulva: that’s the clitoris, the inner lips and all that good sh*t around it.” Note to self: We know the difference between the penis and testicles, so it’s about freaking time we all know the correct names of female anatomy as well. 

    2. Genital shame hinders our sexuality
    While this one isn’t necessarily surprising, it is surprising how many people with vaginas feel shame about them. Dodson talks about a disassociation with female genitals; most women think theirs is gross, abnormal (more on that below), or don’t even want to look at them (also more on that below). A lot of this comes from a lack of education (did you learn about the “clitoris” in school? I sure didn’t) and also just from cultural norms. Think about it: Even the nicknames and language commonly used to describe vulvas sound gross at worst and risqué at best. Plus, as Dodson points out, a lot of us grew up thinking that sexuality was something we needed to hide or keep to ourselves (can we all just agree that the rules some parents place on teens around dating and sex is a little outdated and effed up?). Shame around our vulvas directly translates to shame around our sexuality, and shame around sexuality hinders our pleasure (and you wonder why you can’t orgasm?). 

    3. Yes, your vulva is “normal”
    Now for what I think is the saddest part of the episode (but also the most empowering): The show cited a study done by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, which found that purely aesthetic labiaplasty surgeries (or surgeries to alter the folds of the skin around the vulva) increased by 45 percent worldwide just between 2015 and 2016. Females as young as 9 years old were asking for the procedure. While we support every woman in making her own decisions about plastic surgery and what’s right for her, the point is that there are many people with vaginas who believe they need to change theirs. A big reason is that our culture teaches us that they’re “gross,” so our default is insecurity, but it’s also because of lack of example.
    Dodson and the president of the Betty Dodson Foundation, Carlin Ross, explained that almost all female genitalia shown in pornography have received surgical altercation. For many people, the only vulvas they see besides their own come from pornography, since there are no other examples in mainstream culture. So The Goop Lab did something revolutionary and showed real vulvas. Yes, up close and personal. They didn’t just show one (because then that one might become the “norm”); they showed multiple in an effort to prove to people with vaginas that theirs is normal, no matter what it looks like. The verdict: Every one is vastly different, and they should be, because we all have different bodies and a different makeup for pleasure. You can stop wondering and worrying—yes, your “down there” is totally normal. 

    4. …And you should know what it looks like
    I’d like to change the saying “know it like the back of my hand” to “know it like every inch of my vulva” after watching this episode. After all, what does the back of the hand do? If it’s worth knowing so well that it becomes a well-known cliché, shouldn’t we also know the most powerful, pleasurable part of ourselves? As Dodson says, “The genitals are your power spot.” Beyond just the pleasure, they are also where the next generation comes from. Regardless of whether birthing children is part of your plan, there’s no denying that the female genitals innately hold so much power and strength (and more capacity for pleasure than a penis, thank you very much).
    But many people don’t even know what theirs (or any—see point #3) look like. In 2016, The Eve Appeal, a Gynecological Cancer Research center in the U.K., asked 1,000 women to identify their own anatomy from medical illustrations (another study cited in the episode. Yes, I took rigorous notes). Only 44 percent were able to identify. A quick PSA on behalf of Betty Dodson: If you are not well aware of what your vulva both looks and feels like, stop what you’re doing, grab a mirror, and get to exploring. 

    5. There are many important systems within the “genitals”
    Dodson and Ross explain how the clitoris is not just one single “spot” as the nickname “the G-spot” makes it sound like. It’s actually a complex system on its own, with multiple parts and more than 8,000 nerve endings in the tip alone. FYI, that’s double the entirety of the penis. Also, the clitoris and vagina (or what we mean as vulva) get all the buzz, but your pelvic floor muscles are crucial for pleasure as well.
    For one reason, tight pelvic muscles and tension are common causes for pain, which obviously hinders pleasure. But also, when you work the pelvic muscles, you bring more blood to the area, which means more orgasms. In other words, your genitals deserve a workout routine too. The most talked about way to engage the pelvic floor is kegels, but Dodson has her own fascinating (and successful!) technique if you want to watch the episode or check out her website. 

    6. Knowing your vulva is important for you, not just for your partner
    I think we can all agree that partnered sex is more pleasurable and fulfilling when everyone involved is, you know, pleasured and fulfilled. But the point of knowing your vulva is not just so you can have a fire sex life in your relationship. Yes, feeling just as entitled to pleasure and just as knowledgeable about your own biology as your partner is crucial for many reasons, but this information is also important for you.
    As Dodson said when Paltrow asked why women being in touch with their sexuality has been seen as dangerous (read: thousands of years of slut-shaming), “When we’re in touch with our sexualities, love our bodies, and know how to orgasm on our own, we are independent. We’re dangerous when we’re knowledgeable.” In essence, your own association with your genitals is not about anyone else around you; it’s about your own pleasure, and the knowledge of how to fully access it is one of your greatest powers.  

    5 Things You’re Doing to Your Vagina That You Shouldn’t Be More

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    Anxious about the Reopening? Same. I Asked Experts How to Cope

    In 2019, I considered myself to be a social person (pre-pandemic and pre-reopening): I’m a decent conversationalist, never had a Taco Tuesday that I didn’t like, and tended to gravitate toward the people I didn’t know at a party. When I got vaccinated and restaurants started opening back up at the beginning of the summer, I thought I was ready to dive all in, see people I hadn’t seen in over a year, and even make new friends. Spoiler alert: I was wrong. 
    Instead of the pre-2020 excitement I felt before going to a large social gathering or meeting someone new, dread set in. Questions like, “What do I do if the conversation lulls?”, “What if I’m awkward?”, and (the worst of them all) “What if I’m still not safe, even with the vaccine?” plagued the nights out where I used to only worry about what to wear or if my mascara would smudge. The truth is that we’ve been at home with only our quarantine crew and Uber Eats drivers to keep us company, and a lot of those “fun” things (like crowded bars or concerts) became situations that put us in danger. Of course, there’s going to be some adjusting. 

    “Feeling anxious about reopening is quite common,” explained Dr. Tyson Lippe, MD, a psychiatrist at Heading Health in Austin, Texas. “A lot of our fear in returning to pre-pandemic functions, like the office and engaging in social events, stems from uncertainty. It is unclear who is vaccinated, what precautions will be implemented, and what the new social norms are.” Basically, even the most social of butterflies are way out of practice. Add on stress about safety and dangerous new strains, and it’s no wonder so many of us are feeling stressed RN. So I did what any wellness editor would do and asked experts for their best tips to cope if reopening and getting back to “normal” isn’t as easy as we thought. 
    Just as a brief disclaimer: We always recommend seeking help. Whether that’s leaning on your best friend, finding a therapist near you, or joining a community for your mental health, it’s always important to prioritize how you feel, especially when going through a tough time. Find a therapist you love, come up with a game plan, prioritize self-care over anything else, and try out these seven tips from experts on how to cope with getting back to “normal.”

    Recognize how you feel
    It may sound basic, but the first step is identifying and acknowledging the way you feel. Maybe you haven’t historically been anxious in social settings or maybe you didn’t know our lack of normalcy throughout 2020 and 2021 affected you as much as it did. Once you recognize what you’re feeling, you can make a plan. “The first step is to recognize that you’re feeling anxious,” Dr. Lippe said. “Pay attention to your emotional state as well as any physical manifestations.” For example, does your stomach get queasy when thinking about going back to the office or does your heart start pounding when you enter a crowded restaurant?
    Keeping track of how and what you feel will help identify certain triggers. “Is it a particular place, group of friends, type of setting, etc., that’s making you feel anxious?” asked Merissa Goolsarran, LCSW, a licensed therapist who specializes in anxiety treatment. “Keeping a log of situations where you might experience anxiousness is helpful in determining if a pattern is present.” 

    Appreciate those feelings (yes, even the negative ones)
    I get it. Any negative emotion, whether it’s stress, worry, annoyance, frustration, or sadness, can feel so uncomfortable that we actually get mad at the feeling. But take it from someone who has been in a toxic relationship with anxiety for years: Thinking “why me?” or “I just need to get over this already!” makes it worse. “We have to give ourselves time to be programmed back in the other direction,” said Dr. Emily Stone, PhD, LMFT-S, a professor and licensed marriage and family therapist. “Of course we are going to experience anxiety returning to work and other pre-COVID activities: We have been telling ourselves that these situations are dangerous.” 
    Any extra worry or stress may be annoying, but it’s not irrational. In the big picture, “negative” feelings can actually keep us safe. Feelings of anxiousness and fear are biologically useful—the mind reacts to help us avoid danger so we survive (that’s where “fight-or-flight” comes from). After all, emotional reactions like fear, worry, or empathy are what drove us to make safe decisions during the pandemic in the first place. Appreciate the purpose of that extra stress and worry, and then remind yourself that you aren’t in any immediate danger like the fight-or-flight response tells us, and those feelings aren’t serving a purpose anymore.

    Have a mini escape plan
    If you anticipate that your first day back at the office or a larger social gathering might garner some overall overwhelm, have a game plan to help ease discomfort during each situation. “There are several useful techniques to keep you calm when faced with anxiety-provoking situations,” suggested Dr. Mimi Winsberg, a board-certified psychiatrist and the chief medical officer at Brightside. “Try self-talk, breathing exercises, or even rehearsing worst-case scenarios to realize they are not that bad.” Planning ahead is crucial when easing into uncomfortable situations you’re not used to. For example, mentally repeat an affirmation when you start feeling a little overwhelmed at the office, make a list of topics in your head for when there’s a lull in a conversation, or have a back up plan if the restaurant feels a little too crowded for your comfort level (takeout and wine nights are still fun!). 

    Say “no”
    Just because everything is opening back up does not mean you have to totally open back up. In other words, just because you’re happy that concerts, office happy hours, dinner parties, and restaurants are coming back in full swing does not mean you have to do it all. “Go at your own pace,” advised Jenny Okolo, an occupational therapist from London. “While it may be tempting to say yes to everything, do so at your own pace until you feel more comfortable as your confidence returns.” Also, it’s OK if your comfort level looks different from your friends, significant other, or coworkers. “You’ll probably have different standards or a different ‘normal’ than others,” Goolsarran agreed. “It’s helpful to communicate what you’re comfortable with so that you don’t get stuck in an uncomfortable situation.” Let friends know that you’re sticking to small groups or invite your work friend to meet up at a coffee shop with outdoor seating.

    Get into your body
    Whether it’s a day at the office or a night out, if you anticipate any uncomfortable feelings coming on, try a ritual that will help you calm down before heading out the door. “Think of something simple that leaves you feeling more confident, like exercise or meditation,” suggested Teri Schroeder, a licensed clinical social worker and co-founder of Just Mind Counseling. “For many people, focusing on the body before a challenging event can help reduce stress and clear the mind.” Dr. Winsberg agreed, explaining that she often recommends her clients try jumping jacks or even singing out loud prior to social situations to loosen up and let out anxious feelings. Sometimes the secret to calming the mind is as simple as putting energy into the body. 

    Start small 
    Even if you frequented clubs, concerts, and crowds all the time pre-2020, there are many “muscles” you haven’t worked in over a year. That’s right: Feeling social can be like a muscle and requires work to keep it healthy. “Too much too soon may feel overwhelming right now: start small and try to exercise that social muscle again. Resume social life with your inner circle, and gradually expand outward,” Dr. Winsberg suggested. “It may feel most comfortable to first interact with one or two other people who are vaccinated in an outdoor setting,” Dr. Lippe agreed. “As you begin to acclimate [and the CDC guidelines say so], you can move toward larger groups or indoor environments.” Just like biceps or glutes, it may take some time to warm up that social muscle and to identify what will make it fatigue too quickly. Identify what feels doable and enjoyable, and then limit what might be too much, knowing you’ll work your way there.

    Adjust your routines
    So you’re still in the habit of sleeping in until two minutes before the workday starts, staying in pajamas, and then eating Postmates for dinner in front of the TV? No shame in your quarantine game, but we can all agree that our routines are very different from the days working out at 7 a.m. or putting on a full OOTD before commuting, and then running errands or heading to happy hour after 5 p.m. (how did we do it all?). If your routines are the same when you were staying at home, of course, any difference will feel overwhelming. Even if you’re not ready to go back to the office or fill up your social calendar, start adjusting your routines.
    Roxanne Francis, MSW, RSW, a psychotherapist and owner of Francis Psychotherapy & Consulting Services, recommended structuring your day as if you were going into the office (even if you’re still working from your couch): get up earlier, get dressed as if you were going to work, and treat your WFH space as if it was your actual office (no more empty candy wrappers or dirty dishes). Also, if you’re Zooming with friends after work, put on jeans (pause for shock), take a walk around the block beforehand, or just do a quick makeup routine to start feeling that normalcy come back.
    *These tips are meant to be used as inspiration for coping with stress or anxious feelings, not as a treatment for anxiety. Anxiety can feel isolating, but you shouldn’t have to feel as though you’re going through it alone. Please reach out to your doctor, a therapist, or another trusted professional for support.
    If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or actions, please get help immediately. 
    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
    Crisis Textline: text CONNECT to 741741

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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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    5 Reasons Why Your Career Does Not Define Your Identity

    For as long as I can remember, I’ve always associated my self-worth in conjunction with my job. Whether it was because of how our society views certain positions or because of my pride, I made sure to work hard enough to get a job that I (and my mom) would be proud to identify with. To say “I work for [employer]…” or “I am a [job title]…” made my heart fill with excitement. So when I finally accepted my dream position that was far from the involvement of serving tables, I felt like I earned the right to let those words slip off my tongue to show the world that I did, I made it. But even when my dream scenario came to fruition, I eventually realized that I was no longer in love with the job, which thus resulted in a life-changing moment.
    I was eventually let go from the company that I was only holding onto because of its status. While I felt burnt out and lacked the enthusiasm to work for them, I didn’t listen to my gut and decided to hold onto the position because I loved how I felt accepted by others when I’d mention my position in conversations. It was an addiction I wasn’t willing to let go. I felt like my identity was closely tied to this job, and if I’d lose it, then I was a nobody and I would have no proof of all my hard work. However, when I was let go, a new high took over: relief. While one part of me wanted to hold on to something that wasn’t making me happy for prideful reasons, a weight was lifted off my shoulders because I was finally following my truth.
    For most people, this experience would tear them apart: if they’re let go from a job, it means they’re incompetent and their self-worth has taken a nosedive into the pools of hell (yes, I’m being dramatic). However, while it did hurt a little to receive the news, I was more hurt that I didn’t initially follow my heart and, instead, allowed someone else to control my fate. I soon realized that my self-worth isn’t defined by a nice-sounding job, it’s defined by my values, my truth, and what happens beyond the typical nine-to-five timeframe. Yes, it was nice to be associated with a well-known company and, not going to lie, sometimes I miss that “accepted” feeling. But deep down I know that my career doesn’t define my identity, because the only approval I need is my own.
    If you can relate to any of this, here are five reasons why you shouldn’t define yourself by your career or job — because, honestly, your self-love is totally worth way more than that paycheck or job title. 

    1. Because having a well-known job isn’t your only success.
    Working for a renowned company does look good on your resume, but it’s not the only thing that you should consider to be successful. Success can be rarely measured by someone’s job or wealth. The true definition of success derives from the ability to do something that you truly love, to be able to care for others, to overcome your greatest fears, or to find blissful happiness. One person’s definition of success could look completely different than someone else’s. And that’s totally okay. Because in the end, you should always aim to be yourself and not replicate what you believe to be considered successful just because of someone else’s journey.

    2. Because your truths and values are the only things you should be defined by.
    Wouldn’t it be lovely to not be judged based on your profession? Immediately when we meet someone new, we want to know their name and what they do for a living. Why? Isn’t there another way to define a person? Yes, it’s great to know what they’re passionate about, but shouldn’t we just ask them that upfront?
    Your identity should be defined by what you love, what you dream of, what you value, and who you cherish. Think about it: Your true friends and family don’t care about what kind of job you have or how much you make. All they care about is your happiness. Treat yourself as you would want your friends to treat you, because you should value your happiness before any job, paycheck, or boss. Period.

    3. Because most jobs are a temporary state and can change at any moment.
    While life is known to be filled with uncertainty, most of us believe we have complete control over our circumstances. Today you may identify yourself as a hardworking architect, but four years from now, you may want to be a dairy farmer, milking cows for a living. You just never know what kind of experiences you may go through and how they’ll change you. Essentially, nothing is permanent. Life is full of surprises, and there are more things that make an impact in your life than your career.

    4. Because this is something you do and not something you are.
    Whether you work as a cashier for a store or as an illustrator for an advertising company, these are things you do — they don’t define you as a person. There are plenty of ways to identify yourself, especially if you’re not in love with your job. For instance, in addition to your career, you could also be known as a mother, a lover of puppies, a video game enthusiast — anything you admire or hold value to is a part of you and your identity. At the end of the day, you should be known for the things you love to do and be, not for the type of positions you’ve held.

    5. Because other people won’t remember you by the job you have, but by how you make them feel.
    How you decide to treat others and express yourself is glued to your identity way more than your jobs ever will be. When other people talk or think about you, the thought of your career might come up, but your personality and character will resonate with them more. You’re on this earth for so many other reasons aside from having a job. Maybe you’re meant to help someone else through their own journey, or to make a difference in your town and inspire others to do the same. You’re doing yourself an injustice if you only identify yourself by your career. Try to open your world and help others to do the same. The more we realize we’re more than our jobs, the happier we all may be.

    Quarter Life Crisis or Comparison Trap? What to Remember When You Feel Lost More

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    I Online Dated the Entire Pandemic—Here’s What It Was Like

    A mere week or so before quarantine began, I finally felt ready to start dating again. An abusive relationship, a negative self-image, stress, life changes—it all kept me single for a while. But just before the pandemic, I downloaded all the apps, took some good selfies, updated my profiles… and then I had to figure out dating during the pandemic.
    Fast-forward a year, and I’ve spent the entire COVID-19 pandemic online dating (spoiler alert: to no avail). When I was stuck at home watching every Netflix show that existed or trying to learn a new hobby, my phone was near, picking up all my little matches across the city. I’ve had quite the go of dating throughout the past year—here’s a peek into my process and what I’m taking away now that I’m vaccinated:

    The Apps I Use
    I’m bisexual and use way too many dating apps. I use Bumble for meeting men, Hinge for men and women, and Tinder and Her for women. I feel like I get the best results this way. But of course, I have favorites: Bumble is the easiest interface and has been the most helpful throughout the pandemic because they have options to put what your comfort level is around COVID dating, and I find it helpful to be able to see the person’s political affiliation. If that’s not important to you, then it doesn’t matter, but it helps me weed out people that I simply know that I won’t mesh with romantically. I want to love Her, but I simply never meet anyone, and I have this horrible fear that every single person I speak to is a catfish because I’ve met an odd number of catfishes on there in the year I’ve used it.

    Spring 2020
    The first couple months of the pandemic, I had apps on my phone but I didn’t put too much stake into it. I’d swipe if I got really bored watching TV, but I couldn’t imagine meeting someone and having to talk to them for an unsure amount of time before we’d be able to safely meet. I remember telling my mom that I was worried my dating life would get put on hold for a few months (lmao) because I couldn’t see a “reason” in online dating while I was stuck at home. For everyone, this time period was so isolating and confusing, and those emotions aren’t conducive as a foundation to build a relationship on.

    Summer 2020
    But then, once outdoor dining opened up, I started seeing my friends again, and being outside in the real world didn’t feel like a death sentence to myself and everyone I know. I started using apps a little bit more, but meeting was really difficult. One aspect of COVID dating has been constantly having to worry that this new person you’re bringing into your life has the same thoughts around COVID that you do. It’s one thing to worry my partner won’t like the same music taste as me or prefers to stay in instead of going out, but with COVID, I’m worried I could be bringing someone into my life who could get myself, or worse, one of my close friends or family members sick. And that’s a risk I haven’t been willing to take for almost anyone this pandemic. So, this involves a lot of weeding out.
    First, you have the COVID deniers. My friend saw a guy whose literal bio was “COVID is a hoax,” which actually is probably helping people to make sure to swipe left real quick. I’m horrified of meeting someone who doesn’t take wearing a mask seriously or is going on wild vacations or simply just has very different views and boundaries around COVID from how I do. This worry has caused me to not meet up with tons of people on apps in the last year because I can’t risk hurting someone just so I can have one hot date.
    But there are also the people who *only* want to talk about COVID. Their opener and every message after is about how their sister got COVID and gave it to all of her friends and might give it to three sets of grandparents and how you think we’ll never go back to living normal lives ever again. It’s bleak sh*t. I am already worrying about 3897237 things at all times, including COVID—I don’t need it to take over my messages too.

    Fall 2020
    After months of swiping, I actually met someone. But because of COVID, I was hesitant to do anything in person. Turns out, this guy explained that he was regularly tested for COVID through his job, and after a 10-day quarantine, we hung out. I was uncomfortable and nervous the first hour or so; I was already preparing to quarantine again so I didn’t accidentally get someone else sick. That all said, when it went well, I planned our second (and third) date immediately to “limit the exposure.”
    It was a whirlwind of a romance, but ultimately ended in him making up this elaborate lie that he had a secret job in the government and had to move that very night. All this to say, I felt pretty defeated after that for a couple of months. I finally meet someone in the pandemic, and it was all so fleeting. Dating in the pandemic feels like a constant push and pull: you put in tons of effort and get excited about a match, all for it to end and you’re alone again. Pre-pandemic, rebounds were a little easier; I had a whole office full of friends to see every day and I made regular visits to see my family. The loneliness of the pandemic really got to me in those moments when I realized the simple act of meeting one person gave me so much serotonin (and then how easy it was to all go away).

    Spring 2021
    There’s been a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel recently, though. As soon as people I know started getting vaccinated, it felt like maybe there was hope for in-person dating soon. This made me, and I’m sure other people, get a little more into their apps. Instead of closing it and not swiping again for days every single week, I’m using the apps more consistently, and I’m getting more matches too.

    How I’m Using Apps Going Forward
    I was lucky to get vaccinated recently. Although this doesn’t make the entire pandemic go away, there is finally some hope that, eventually, we’ll get to meet up in person and maybe even take our masks off! For so much of the last year, there were a lot of communal feelings about what was going on. At some points, it was all hope and excitement that things could get better soon (i.e., in the beginning when every week it felt like maybe we’d be going back to work in a few weeks), but other times it felt extremely bleak and sad (such as when I officially started saying that I didn’t know if I’d ever go back into work). And in a time of hopelessness, I think dating felt that way too.
    I can’t lie and say that I’m not pumped for the first person I meet out in the world again. It’s so much easier to tell context and interest and connection in person, and not having to wait hours for someone to respond sounds like heaven. But I also know that online dating is the way of the times and the future, and people will likely still populate apps like crazy, even once the pandemic is over. More

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    Introducing The Everygirl’s Mobile Lightroom Presets

    You know that moment in Cinderella (the Brandy version, obviously) when she spins around and her ballgown materializes out of thin air, shimmering in the moonlight? Besides giving me totally unrealistic expectations for how fast it would take me to get dressed as an adult, that moment taught me that magic can happen in the blink of an eye. And while a one-click-and-you’re-done photo editing preset isn’t exactly a handsome suitor, there’s still something magically addicting about going from a blah pic to a bright, feed-worthy photo with just a tap of your finger. So drumroll please… introducing The Everygirl’s Mobile Lightroom Presets! Just call us your fairy godmother. 

    We just launched nine new, exclusive Lightroom presets to help you instantly overhaul your interior, exterior, flatlay, and product shots: all with just one click.

    All you need to use presets is the Lightroom mobile app, and you’re good to go. We’re also including video tutorials on how to download and install your presets as well as how to customize them for any and every photo. With nine specific edits to choose from, you’ll have limitless possibilities to brighten, soften, warm up, cool down, or sharpen any photo on your camera roll. 


    Best for: Exterior shots taken on overcast days or at twilight / blue hour and interior shots with lots of rich, dark textures. 

    Bright & Soft 

    Best for: Photos taken in dim lighting that need a lot of brightening up, as well as a slight warm, soft tone. Works well for interior photos without a lot of natural light or when you want to warm up the textures in an image.


    Clean & Simple

    Best for: Photos that need a boost of bright, even light. Works well for product shots, flatlays, and interior shots in dim, natural lighting. 

    Cool & Soft

    Best for: Photos that need a soft wash of cool-tinted light. Works well for interior shots in dim or evening lighting. 

    Warm & Crisp

    Best for: Shots that need a boost of creamy light as well as a subtle sharpening effect. 


    Best for: Photos that need a touch of soft, creamy light. Works well for photos with a lot of natural light already that just need that subtle, extra boost. 

    Touch of Warmth

    Best for: Photos that you want to appear warmer and slightly brighter, and to deepen the darker tones for a touch of contrast. 

    Ultra Bright

    Best for: Darker, lackluster photos that need a big boost of even light.


    Best for: Photos that you want to have an editorial feel, in a crisp, high-contrast black and white.

    Why presets? 

    We love the ease of use with Lightroom presets and here’s why: 
    You’ll cut your editing time in half and get a beautiful, bright, vibrant photo with just one click
    You can create a cohesive feed by applying similar edits to your photos for a consistent look
    You can use presets as a building block for selective edits (like removing imperfections) to save time and headaches 

    Ready to get started? Grab our full pack of nine presets at the link below. Plus, video tutorials on how to install and download the presets, and more of our tips and tricks for using them.  More