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    9 Things That Might Be Affecting Your Libido

    We know the drill. You come home late after a long day, cook dinner, and basically just melt right into bed. Your partner, of course, was wishing for other plans. While most of us shrug this off to stress or exhaustion (which it can be!), there are other reasons you might not get as excited to get down to business tonight. It’s normal to not be in the mood every now and then (I mean, sometimes we just want to sleep!); however, when it becomes a consistent occurrence, there could be something deeper going on.A low libido seriously sucks, but it’s something most of us will go through at some point. Instead of causing yourself more stress, we looked into all the reasons you’re not too keen on doing much in the bedroom right now — besides sleep.

    1. Stress
    We all know how it feels to get home and still have a to-do list. Whether you’re experiencing work, school, or personal stress, it’s easy to let that get into your head and discourage you from engaging in time with your partner.
    Try one of these — might I add, wonderful — ways to reduce your day to day stress, so you and your partner can get back to it. You could also start adding some self-care to your routine, or if you’re feeling ~spicy~, treat yourself with a little me time. We promise you’ll feel renewed.

    2. Certain medications
    Antidepressants, some anti-anxiety medications, blood pressure medications, and more can have a low sex drive as a side effect. If you’ve started taking a new medication recently, look back at the list of side effects your pharmacist gave you (that you probably wanted to throw out and thought again that it might be important). If you think it’s impacting your life or your relationships, you can talk to your doctor about another option.  

    3. Pregnancy or breastfeeding
    Pregnancy and breastfeeding cause a lot of changes to occur within your body. Your hormones are raging, which can cause fluctuations in your sex drive. One day you might want to go at it like rabbits, and another, you’re not interested at all. Understand that this is just a change in your body, and it won’t last forever.
    Aside from your hormones, the other side effects of pregnancy can turn you off from sex. Nausea and fatigue in the first trimester just make sex uncomfortable — who wants to go at it when they feel sick!? Then, as your body grows and changes (woohoo! A baby!), traditional sex positions can feel kinda awkward, and women can sometimes be self-conscious about their pregnant bodies. Be kind to yourself, you’re about to birth another human into the world!

    4. Lack of sleep
    Along with stress, we completely understand. Whether you had a work report due at 8am, you had a scary dream (I watch too much AHS), or you stayed up reading (#guilty), you didn’t get your full eight hours last night. And that’s okay! It’s when you continuously forgo sleep that you start to notice a consistent decrease in your libido.
    Try some lavender oil in your diffuser, turn off your electronics an hour before bed, or my personal favorite, give yourself a good Saturday morning to sleep until noon.

    5. Negative body image
    When you don’t feel comfortable or accepting of your body, it’s hard to want someone else to see you naked. Continued fear and self-consciousness when having sex is enough to make you never want to do it again. Yoga, meditation, or buying a cute new set of lingerie are all examples of ways you can start to gain a little confidence (and maybe feel a little sexier, too!).

    Source: @eberjey

    6. Mental health issues
    If you’re struggling with depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder included) or anxiety, it can significantly impact your sex drive. This can have to do with medication, issues with trust, anxiety and worry about your partner — the list goes on. Because there are so many ways mental illness can affect your libido, reach out to your doctor to discuss ways in which you can either bring it back or make it easier on yourself.

    7. Relationship issues
    You and your partner might have gotten in a fight recently, or you feel as though you can’t trust him or her. There are many different issues that you and your partner can experience that might lower your libido. If you’re experiencing conflict, talk with your partner openly and honestly. The conflict might be stressful and hard to deal with at first, but you’ll be grateful when it’s over and you and your partner feel closer than ever.

    8. Conditions that make sex painful
    Vulvodynia and endometriosis are known to cause painful sex, which can not really make you super excited to get in the sack, right? If you suffer with these conditions, talk to your doctor about treatments. You can also talk to your partner about different positions that might reduce or avoid pain. You deserve to feel good during sex, not uncomfortable!

    9. Birth control
    Again with the hormones! Birth control pills can sometimes lower the hormones in your body — like testosterone — that make you want to have sex. Luckily, there are alternatives, such as non-hormonal IUDs, condoms, and diaphragms. You could also talk with your doctor about trying a different birth control pill or option, like the NuvaRing.

    How have you handled a low libido? What are your tips and tricks to keeping your sex drive up?!

    This article was originally published on November 17, 2018. More

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    How I’m Learning to Live a More Authentic Life

    I love a romantic comedy. The predictability of the storyline and the inevitable happy ending sucks me in every time. I watch them on rainy days, I watch them on days when I have cramps, and I watch them on days when I’m feeling down. I’ve seen hundreds of romantic comedies, yet I’ve never seen one that is a true reflection of my authentic life. There’s no romantic story that features a Black bohemian femme who goes to college three times to figure out that the career she’s best suited for doesn’t actually need a degree at all. They have not written my story because my life doesn’t fit the typical mold. I’m a 37-year-old world-traveling free-spirit, living my most authentic life. My life wasn’t always this way, but today I can say that I love my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

    There’s no romantic story that features a Black bohemian femme who goes to college three times to figure out that the career she’s best suited for doesn’t actually need a degree at all.

    From a young age, I realized that I wasn’t your typical child. My interests were different from my friends, the way I wanted to dress was different from my sisters, and my Christmas lists for Santa were filled with non-traditional items. I remember one year I asked for a hot stone massager and essential oils—and this was the ‘90s, so the term “self-care” as we know it now wasn’t even invented yet.
    I struggled through high school because everyone was so excited to go to college. My friends wanted to be nurses and teachers and seemed like they had it all figured out at the age of 18. I didn’t want to go to college. I asked my mom if I could rent a van and travel the country (#vanlife) when I graduated instead of going to college, and she turned me down faster than the speed of light. 
    I was frustrated because I wasn’t given options to explore what I wanted and what was important to me. It didn’t’ feel like college was the right next step, and I wanted time to explore what felt right for my journey. I grew up in a small town, and the lifestyle that was available to me in my hometown was not the lifestyle that I wanted for myself. I had no idea how to mentally and physically get out, yet I was screaming on the inside for somebody to let me go. I was craving freedom and wanted permission to explore all the options that were available to me.
    Instead, I was pushed into following the same steps that everyone else was following, but those choices never made sense to me. I went to college and followed the rules, and if I look back on it now, college was a giant waste of time. Yes, I had fun, but that fun cost me $30,000 in student loans. 

    I was pushed into following the same steps that everyone else was following, but those choices never made sense to me.

    After I graduated from college, I was still trying to figure out how to lead a “normal” life. I got a 9-5 job, a one-bedroom apartment, and moved to Philadelphia to try my hand at adulting. I remember going shopping to get professional clothes (of which I had none). Everyone was so excited as I came out of the dressing room in different versions of dress pants, blouses, and black flats. I’ve never felt like crawling out of my skin more than I did on that day. 
    I believe that moving to Philadelphia (even though corporate life wasn’t for me) was the turning point in my life. Living in a big city on my own gave me the adult playground I craved for in highschool. In Philly,  I was able to encounter different cultures, lifestyles, foods, and careers that I wouldn’t have had access to in my hometown. I remember the first time I tasted Indian food. Wow! I fell instantly in love. The flavors and spices that I experienced that night were completely new to me. I was never exposed to Indian food growing and my mind was blown. If a simple dining experience could open up my mind in this way, I was excited to see what other new experiences were ahead of me. 
    It felt as if I was getting a second education, and this knowledge proved to be more beneficial to me than my geometry class ever was. Because I was able to interact with so many different people I felt confident to show who I truly was. Seeing different lifestyles exist and thrive allowed me to take that first steps to uncover my truth. I went from an unfulfilled, suit-wearing, meat-eating 22-year-old to a happy, thriving, afro-wearing, free-spirit 37-year-old! That transition didn’t happen overnight.  I knew what it felt like to live someone else’s life and I wasn’t willing to do it anymore, so I slowly began making changes that honored who I was. I wanted to celebrate what I loved about myself and stop hiding who I was from the rest of the world. It was time for me to step out as my full self, and I was ready to take that journey. 

    Seeing different lifestyles exist and thrive allowed me to take that first steps to uncover my truth.

    I spent 20+ years being someone I thought I was “supposed to be.” It wasn’t until I started paying attention and honoring who I truly was and what I needed that I began to lead my most authentic life.

    If you want to start living your life on your own terms, ask yourself these three questions:

    What do I love about myself?
    This was not a question that was posed to me growing up, so it wasn’t something I focused on until I was in my 20s. When you ask, “What do I love about myself?” you begin to unlock clues and truths that are meant to be seen. I discovered that I loved my creativity and that creativity was meant to be celebrated. As a child, I was always creating. I sang, danced, cooked, and came up with “science experiments” out of thin air. My thoughts bounce around and don’t necessarily follow a linear pattern. I think my creative mind frustrated the adults in my life, so I was never pushed to use it. Realizing that my creative mind pushed me to brainstorm and innovate allowed me to strengthen this muscle and has become one of my most valuable assets.
    Answer honestly. Let whatever answers come up to be the start of something new. Once you have your list, see if you can use that information to make some small changes. Did you realize that you love your funky fashion sense? Head out to the thrift stores and buy a few favorite items. Not everything on your list will change your life dramatically, but starting small can begin to build the confidence to continue living life on your own terms. Remember, the things you love about yourself may just be your most valuable asset too!

    What and how am I hiding?
    It was easier for me to hide in corporate work clothes than walk into a room rocking a tie-dyed kaftan with a full afro. Hiding who I was and what was important to me was a coping mechanism I created. In the ‘90s where I grew up, the kaftan version of me would have been too much for people to handle. It felt safer to hide that piece of me from the rest of the world instead of walking in my full truth. In hindsight, if I would have continued to stay hidden, I would have never allowed my creativity to help me build the successful business that I have today. That business has allowed me to help so many people, and I never would have gotten there if I continued to hide who I was. 

    It was easier for me to hide in corporate work clothes than walk into a room rocking a tie-dyed kaftan with a full afro.

    Are you hiding? Why? When you hide, who you are you limit yourself from experiencing your full life? You were created in your unique way, and the world needs to see you fully. Stop hiding and walk in your truth one step at a time. 
    In 2005, I decided that I wanted to do the big chop and begin to wear my hair completely natural. I gathered all of my courage and headed to the only Black salon in Philadelphia doing natural hair at the time and cut my shoulder-length hair down to one inch. When I walked out of that salon, it was undeniable that I looked fly. From that point on, I could no longer hide. 
    Discovering how and why you are hiding could require you to make some uncomfortable decisions. There is a reason why you have been hiding, and walking out as your full self may take some time. Be patient with yourself and take it slowly. Ask yourself, “Where do I feel safe as the real me?” Maybe spend some time there and see how it feels. It may just be five minutes, and that’s OK. Know that every day won’t feel like a party, but the work you are doing is important and necessary. 

    Where can I begin to walk in my truth?
    Living an authentic life takes time. It’s unlikely that you will be able to go from 0-100 in 24 hours (although if you do, I will be your biggest cheerleader), so find a place to start. The first unveiling of my truth came when I went cold turkey and became a vegetarian. I was no longer at home having to eat whatever was cooked for dinner. I could make my own choices, and vegetarianism made sense for me. Could I have quit my job, packed my car, cut my hair, and traveled the world? No. That wasn’t an option for me, so I started small. 
    You don’t have to make giant life-altering decisions to live your truth. Why not explore your love of writing by journaling for five minutes each day? There is much satisfaction from small changes that ultimately honor the real you. Take your time and discover the real you at your own pace; even one thing a week can lead to big changes! Every step forward unveils something new. Have fun and enjoy the process. 
    Living my most authentic life is non-negotiable. Our individuality is what makes us special, and we need to honor that uniqueness time and time again. Standing in your truth might be scary, but it’s what we are called here to do. Explore the freedom in being unapologetically you 365 days a year. Celebrate what you love about yourself, step into the light, and one step at a time, you will get closer and closer to living your most authentic life. More

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    After Years of Painful Periods, I Finally Got a Diagnosis Explaining Why

    As I age, I’m finding comfort in unlearning things I thought were the gospel. From the moment aunt flow said, “Hey girl, I’m here to make your life miserable for one week a month” as a teen, I thought heavy, painful periods were normal. I’ve spent most of my life thinking that my experience was just a part of being a woman. I was lucky to have a doctor in my youth give me some tools to help with my pain. She recommended taking Motrin a few days before my period was set to appear, but on my toughest days, a hot water bottle was her only other piece of advice.She kept a watchful eye on things until I aged off of my parents’ health insurance at 26. It almost seemed like as soon as I got the boot off of my parent’s health insurance, I started to experience heavier cycles and cramps that lasted the full seven days of my period. Truthfully, I’d taken my ability to see a doctor for granted because it was something that was a natural part of my upbringing. Taking my healthcare access for granted caused me to delay sharing these abnormalities with my doctor while I had the chance. 
    Three years went by where I had no healthcare. One day I woke up and finally saw paying for my healthcare out of pocket via the marketplace as an adult action idea that couldn’t wait. After enrolling, I made an appointment at the same Kaiser location I’d visited as a child. Before my appointment, I researched fibroids. I knew that all of the women in my family had them. So, I went into my appointment, hoping for confirmation—at least then I’d know what was wrong. 
    I told my doctor about my concerns. I first asked if fibroids were hereditary, to which he said no. Once he said no, I took the rest of his commentary at face value. His disregard for my pain and overall health shouldn’t have been a surprise given the history of Black women and the healthcare system. The statistics don’t lie. Black women experience discrimination and bias within the healthcare system. This implicit bias didn’t just start in the days of Jim Crow. Black women were used for inhumane experiments by the “father of modern gynecology” during slavery and endured forced sterilization throughout much of the 20th century. 
    So a white male doctor writing me off is expected, not the exception. The healthcare system wasn’t made with me in mind. My ER visit in Los Angeles because of his negligence, just three months after moving to the city of sunshine and celebrities, confirmed that.

    Getting Diagnosed
    I knew then that it was my job to advocate for myself. Because of my negative experience with this doctor, I make it my mission to share my experience with women I speak to one-on-one and emphasize the importance of taking your reproductive health seriously. Everyone’s experience with fibroids will be different. For me, my symptoms were hard to miss: large blot clots, severe pain, sharp back pain, and even a pudge in my stomach. For others, there are no symptoms. However, the generally benign tumors can affect some women during pregnancy and as they age. If you want a more detailed list of symptoms, I found that The Fibroid Foundation was a valuable tool in my own research.

    Here are a few things I’ve learned on my road to being diagnosed with fibroids.

    When something feels even a little off, see a doctor.
    Whenever someone asks me about my experience with fibroids, that first thing I say is I should have gone to see a doctor sooner. Well, I actually should have gotten a second opinion. The idea that painful and heavy periods are normal is an outdated norm. No one should have to spend days in their bed popping 1600mg of painkillers and bleeding through ultra tampons in minutes because we have been conditioned to think this is “normal.” 
    There are holes in our healthcare system, and because of this, all Americans don’t have access to healthcare. Not to mention, those who do can’t always afford the additional testing, co-pays, or the surgeries that might be a necessity. My laparoscopic myomectomy was $8,000 with health insurance. 
    I don’t have the answers to fixing our broken system, but for those with access to healthcare: stop putting off scheduling that appointment. For those without health coverage, Planned Parenthood is an excellent resource for pap smears and pelvic exams that can help detect fibroids, and they offer financial assistance. Fibroids, aside from causing pain and heavy bleeding, can cause severe anemia and sometimes impact fertility.  

    Have a list of questions 
    The time you have scheduled with your doctor is your time. Use it. If you’ve gone down the Google search rabbit hole or a question pops into your head before your appointment, write all of that down. Having a list of questions ensures you don’t forget any of your concerns or that a doctor who may be trying to rush you out the door can’t steer the conversation. I asked questions like, “What are fibroids? What helps them grow? What are the benefits of surgery? Can I have children even with fibroids?”
    When I got my second opinion, my doctor encouraged me to ask questions. She even asked me questions about my family planning goals to get a better idea of what was best for me at the time. You are the driver of your health. Own that seat and make sure the person on the passenger side cares about your health too. 

    Get a second opinion
    I can still visualize the doctor dismissing me while I sat in a backless gown on the plush table with loud white paper under me. I was 30 at the time of that appointment. I still had a somewhat authoritative point of view of doctors. I’d always been taught that doctors are the experts. After my experience with him, I finally understood why people distrust doctors. Finding a practitioner that will care for you with compassion can be a challenge. For that reason, I encourage you to seek a second opinion if you know something isn’t right. My ER visit wasn’t ideal. However, that experience is how I was matched with a Black female doctor specializing in helping women with fibroids. 
    When looking for a new doctor, I recommend starting with your inner circle if they’re in the same location. If that’s not an option, think about what you want in a doctor and reach out to your insurance company to get a list of doctors that are currently accepting new patients, then Google and look at reviews before scheduling an appointment. At your first appointment, you will get a feel for if the person is right for you. Your gut won’t lead you astray as long as you’re willing to listen to it. Learning to advocate for yourself doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a muscle you have to build. Give yourself some grace. 

    Do what’s best for you
    I wrote my first story about dealing with fibroids in 2017 just as I was processing what my new diagnosis meant for me. I was inundated with the DMs and unsolicited advice from outsiders who had no idea what my health specifics were at the time. I had women telling me not to get surgery; I had others telling me they’d wholly gotten rid of their fibroids with special diets and supplements. 
    They were coming from a good place; however, their advice felt like judgment. The laparoscopic myomectomy was best for me at the time. One of my largest fibroids was sitting smack dab in the middle of my uterus, along with a polyp that helped make my bleeding worse. $8,000 later, I don’t regret it. I still have fibroids, and the fibroid causing all the trouble may just grow back. That is just the nature of the tumors. 
    Bleeding through my clothes and bedding is still a thing. I also still have painful days. You may be thinking, “You went through all of that for minimal change.” I think it’s all about perspective. For me, the little changes have made a significant difference. I don’t have to take iron pills that make me nauseous because I’m no longer anemic. I have shorter cycles (five days instead of seven), even if I still have heavy, painful days. I’m no longer bleeding through an ultra tampon in minutes. These are all pros. Going into my surgery, I thought it would “cure” me. There is no cure for fibroids. However, there are things you can choose to make life better. 
    My doctor and I came up with a comprehensive step-by-step plan that was best for me. This plan included birth control. I know that some people don’t like birth control. I don’t particularly appreciate having to take a synthetic hormone every day, but I will continue to take it if that means a better quality of life. Without my birth control, I’d be anemic and dangerously close to a blood transfusion. 
    If you want to change your diet, do it. If you want to try natural supplements, give them a try. If you want to lean into hormone therapy recommended by your doctor, give it a try. Your choices are just that: yours. 

    Please consult a doctor before beginning any treatments. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article. More

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    50 Positive Affirmations You Should Tell Yourself

    Every now and then, there are days when you just need a little pick-me-up. You can blame it on the weather, on the wrong side of the bed, that horrible thing that your co-worker said, or That Time of The Month. However, this doesn’t mean you should talk down to yourself and allow those negative thoughts to marinate. To combat those not-so-great feels, we curated a healthy list of positive affirmations you should tell yourself and bookmark so you can always come back to remind yourself just how awesome you are.
    1. I’m allowed to take up space.
    2. My past is not a reflection of my future.
    3. I am smart enough to make my own decisions.
    4. I’m in control of how I react to others.
    5. I choose peace.

    6. I’m courageous and stand up for myself.
    7. I will succeed today.
    8. I deserve to have joy in my life.
    9. I’m worthy of love.
    10. I approve of myself and love myself deeply.
    11. My body is healthy, and I’m grateful.
    12. I’m more at ease every day.
    13. I’m calm, happy, and content.
    14. My life is a gift and I appreciate everything I have.
    15. I’ll surround myself with positive people who will help bring out the best in me.
    16. I don’t need someone else to feel happiness.
    17. I’m allowed to take the time to heal.
    18. My imperfections make me unique.
    19. I’m allowed to make mistakes; they don’t make up my whole story.
    20. I choose not to criticize myself or others around me.
    21. My potential to succeed is limitless.

    22. Difficult times are part of my journey and allow me to appreciate the good.
    23. I forgive those who have hurt me.
    24. I’m in charge of my life and no one will dictate my path besides me.
    25. I’m doing my best and that is enough.
    26. I have the power to create change.
    27. I know exactly what to do to achieve success.
    28. I choose to be proud of myself and the things I choose to do.
    29. I will not compare myself to strangers on the Internet.
    30. I am enough.
    31. I let go of all that no longer serves me.
    32. I love myself fully, including the way I look.
    33. My life becomes richer as I get older.
    34. I can absolutely do anything I put my mind to.
    35. I’m worthy of respect and acceptance.
    36. My contributions to the world are valuable.

    37. My needs and wants are important.
    38. I make a significant difference to the lives of people around me.
    39. I am blessed with an amazing family and friends.
    40. I attract money easily into my life.
    41. My life is full of amazing opportunities that are ready for me to step into.
    42. I’m free to create the life I desire.
    43. I’m open to new adventures in my life.
    44. I’m bold, beautiful, and brilliant.
    45. My body shape is perfect in the way it’s intended to be.
    46. When I allow my light to shine, I unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
    47. No amount of guilt can change the past, and no amount of worrying can change the future.
    48. To make small steps toward big goals is progress.
    49. Negative thoughts only have the power I allow them.
    50. I can choose to make my curses my blessings.

    This article was originally published on April 22, 2018. More

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    My Daily Routine in Quarantine That Has Made a Huge Difference in My Health

    We all have daily routines. Big or small, healthy or unhealthy, our routines become habits that shape who we become. Sounds heavy, right? My daily routines sometimes look like Epsom salt baths, jade rolling while meditating, and checking every item off my to-do list while having enough time to add the exact adaptogen blend that’s best for my current energy state into my matcha latte. Other days look more like shoveling an entire box of Annie’s White Cheddar Mac n’ Cheese (the best kind. You can @ me on it) while working through lunch and bingeing Selling Sunset after dinner until I realize it’s 1am.Typically though, my days alternate between varying degrees of both examples. Routines don’t have to be total transformations or all-or-nothing, as if getting to bed too late or eating a candy bar after dinner cancels out the healthy rituals you kept up with all day. I’ve recently adopted a few specific habits while in quarantine that has made a huge difference in my overall health and wellbeing, and might improve yours too. Remember that it doesn’t have to be a major transformation for any of these routines to make an impact; even just one minor change can crowd out an unhealthy habit or make a huge difference on its own. Here are the daily routines that have made the biggest difference for me: 

    I keep technology away from the bedroom
    A relevant preface: I live in a studio apartment. The “bedroom” is also my workspace, eating space, sleep space, and living space, so I never thought the “no-technology-in-the-bedroom” rule could apply to me and the 650 square-feet that I call home. I used to charge my laptop in an outlet next to my bedside table, work while sitting in bed at night, and kept my phone next to me overnight. A couple of months ago, I designated a “tech space” at the kitchen table and left devices there to charge, use, and work on.
    Not only did this minor shift in geography transform my evening routine (no more working in bed!), but it transformed my morning routine. I no longer lay in bed, scrolling through Instagram until the last second possible. Instead, I get out of bed right away (since I have nothing else to do) and go through my brief morning routine. Not only does it help me sleep better when technology no longer takes over my life, but getting out of bed immediately makes me feel more awake and energized throughout the entire day. Not to mention that I have a better work-life balance as a byproduct, but more on that below. 

    I wake up 10 minutes before I need to
    Speaking of waking up easier, I need you to know that my workday starts at 6:30am. A couple of years ago, my move to southern California was all sunshine and rainbows (literally) besides the fact that my office is on central time. I actually work way better in the early mornings than in the evenings (so I enjoy the earlier end to my day), and I thrive on getting sh*t done before it feels like the rest of the world has woken up, but I’m not going to say that the wake-up part is always easy. Full confession: I used to groggily roll out of bed at 6:15am to quickly brush my teeth and make a cup of lemon water before the workday starts. 
    When quarantine hit and I realized I had to prioritize my mental health even more (though we should be prioritizing ourselves as much as possible, pandemic or not), I knew I had to find more time for myself in the mornings. I challenged myself to get up just 10 minutes before I absolutely need to. I spend those 10 extra minutes doing a meditation, stretching on my yoga mat, going through a full skincare routine, or lighting a candle and getting my day ready. No matter your work start time or when you wake up, getting up 10 minutes earlier than you have to allows you to take your time, keep your mornings calm, and help keep stress down for the rest of the day. 

    I eat fruit for breakfast 
    I get it; I used to do the whole omelet-or-protein-powder-smoothie thing, because my focus was getting in more protein than any other macronutrient or nutrient. When I transformed my nutrition mindset to be about adding more plants, I started eating more fruit in the mornings. After a while, I realized fruit filled me up without making me lethargic or painfully bloated like I usually felt by noon. So now, every morning, I’ll either dress up berries and pears with tahini, cacao nibs, and goji berries (I like to be #extra), and other days, I’ll cut up whatever apples or peaches are in the fridge.
    I have since let go of the idea that I need a protein-heavy breakfast to be healthy and, instead, opt for what makes my body feel its best: fruit. I’ve never felt so energized, had less digestive issues, and even have fewer cravings throughout the day. The lesson to take from this daily routine is not that you should eat fruit for breakfast too. Instead, the lesson is to listen to your body to identify what’s best for it. 

    I make the most of my lunch break
    Confession: pre-quarantine Josie used lunch breaks to watch 30 minutes of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (and I would fall asleep for 25 of those minutes) or work through lunch with a salad at my desk (I’ve had to force myself into better work-life balance). I still do love the occasional reality TV to turn off the brain while I cook and eat (nothing quite like fights between Denise and Rinna to help me temporarily forget about work woes and to-do lists), but I feel so much better when I check in with my body to identify the kind of break it really needs. Sometimes that looks like foam rolling, sometimes that’s getting other errands and chores done, and sometimes I go for a walk to get outside. Since making the most of my lunch breaks, I’m more energetic, productive, and happier.  

    I force myself to have a work cut-off time
    So your office hours “end at 5pm,” but 5pm turns into 8pm and you find yourself responding to emails, finishing projects, or putting out fires well into the night? Take it from someone who has been trying to perfect the work-from-home routine for years now: you need a non-negotiable cut-off time. I give myself a reasonable daily cut-off time (typically with an extra hour in case I do need some more time to wrap up), and then make sure that’s it for the rest of the night. Work-life balance starts with leaving work exactly where it belongs: at the office (or at your designated kitchen-table-turned-desk).
    I also transition out of the workday with closing rituals like changing into a(nother) loungewear set, shutting my laptop, tidying up my apartment, and physically crossing off the last item on my to-do list (so satisfying, right?). No matter when your workday ends, turn the last step into a ritual that signals to your brain that it’s no longer work time. (Pssst… a closing ritual is especially a hot tip if you find yourself checking emails throughout the night or can’t fall asleep because you’re worried about your to-do’s for the next day.)

    I make time for social connection
    I’ve previously talked a lot about the social mistakes that pre-quarantine Josie made (besides calling a teacher “mom” in high school and accidentally liking a post from 2015 when stalking a potential love interest, but those wounds aren’t healed enough to talk about yet). To paint you a picture, I used to think I had my shit together because I would go home early on Fridays to avoid being too hungover to make my Saturday morning workout, and would typically skip out on Taco Tuesdays and Wine Wednesdays because I had too much to do during the week.
    Responsible, yes, but I also didn’t acknowledge that social connection is just as important for our health as eating veggies and regularly exercising. Now, I prioritize social connection like I eat leafy greens with two meals a day and consistently move my body. Eating dinner with my boyfriend, Facetiming my college friends, or calling my mom for at least a few minutes every day has made me feel more motivated, fulfilled, happy, and healthy.  

    I drink a cup of tea before bed
    Since quarantine started, I have become all about the rituals. I’ve learned that while it’s hard to do the same thing every single day, there’s a reason children go through an entire nighttime routine to be able to fall asleep (anyone else miss bedtime stories?): rituals become habits that tell our bodies when it’s time for sleep. If some nights we read before bed, some nights we stay out late with friends, and some nights we work until midnight with no consistent rituals, our brains struggle to figure out when it’s time to sleep. Since bedtime is not always as consistent as I’d like it to be, I find consistency in rituals like having a cup of tea after dinner. Not only does a cup of tea get more nutrients into my body (I love peppermint tea, which can help digestion), but I’ve had it so consistently that all it takes to put me to bed is a warm, cozy cup of tea.

    I end my day with yoga or stretches
    In addition to a traditional workout earlier in the day, I’ve started doing yoga or some stretches right before bed, and it has potentially made the biggest difference to my health in the shortest amount of time. The purpose of yoga or stretches before bed is not to exercise my body or burn calories (like what I used to think was the only reason to move). Instead, I see nighttime yoga as 5-10 minutes of screen-free mental stillness. I feel such a drastic difference in my body when I get out of bed in the morning (if I say I typically feel stiff when I wake up, will it make me sound old?), but I also feel a lot more peaceful, calm, and content at night. I fall asleep quicker and stay in a deeper sleep than on days when I don’t fit in any stretching at all. Go through a few stretches tonight and get ready to sleep like a baby (your mind and body can thank me later).

    What daily routine has made the biggest difference in your health? Which of these rituals would you try? More

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    10 Ways to Get Back Into a Healthy Routine for the Colder Seasons

    Whether you took on summer with a margarita in hand and a permanent seat on a lawn chair or went on daily jogs in the warm weather after sipping on green juices, summer isn’t the only chance you have to form healthy routines throughout the year. If 2020 has left you with extra unhealthy habits or you’re still in laid-back summer mode, don’t worry: it’s not too late to get back into a healthy routine. Back-to-school season can feel like a fresh start (even for adults), making it an ideal time to revive habits that will get you through the colder months as healthy and happy as possible. Here are 10 ways to eat better, move your body more, and achieve your health goals through fall and winter. 
    1. Set easy-to-reach goals
    Your inclination may be to set higher goals to push yourself so you achieve more. While lofty goals can challenge you to be your best, hard-to-reach goals can actually prevent you from making progress when you’re trying to get back into a healthy routine. Lofty milestones can feel overwhelming, so start small with goals you know you will be easy and enjoyable to reach (like going on a walk every day or doing yoga for 10 minutes in the morning), and then work your way up. The point of making and hitting milestones is that every achievement builds motivation to achieve even more. Instead of running five miles, losing 10lbs, or eating 100 percent clean by the end of the season, set weekly or daily goals. Try eating leafy greens with two meals a day, drinking eight glasses of water by dinner, or moving your body for 30 minutes for five days a week. 

    2. Don’t deprive yourself
    When we want to get back into a healthy routine, it’s tempting to start with the “don’ts:” don’t eat sugar, don’t have processed foods, don’t skip a workout, etc. But depending on rules to get your body to make changes sets up for failure. First of all, we always want what we can’t have, so you’re going to be craving Halloween candy or an apple pie more than you would’ve been if it wasn’t off-limits. More importantly, external rules prevent you from listening to what your body really needs. Maybe your body needs grounding foods or to take a break in order to be healthier, so listen to what your body is telling you. DIY whatever you’re craving with more nourishing options, rest when you need to, and prioritize what brings you joy. True health comes from a place of freedom, intuition, and abundance, not deprivation. 

    3. Get more sleep
    If you couldn’t tell by the shorter days and longer nights, your body is craving more sleep. Don’t push through the tired feeling; use daylight savings as an opportunity to set an earlier bedtime. When you get enough sleep at night, you wake up feeling great, stay energized throughout the day, and are able to make the best choices for your mind and body. Sleep can be the most crucial ingredient for a healthy routine, so prioritize it above anything else. If you have to choose between 7-9 hours of sleep and an early workout or late work night? Choose sleep every time. 

    4. Set support methods along with goals
    You could set the most motivating goals with the best intentions, but they may be too difficult to reach if you’re not looking at the big picture. If your goals are fitness-related, think about the food and lifestyle choices you can make to support that goal, like getting enough sleep and eating whole, energizing foods, so you have the energy to keep up with the exercise routine you want. And if you want to eat cleaner, think of how you can set yourself up for success with meal prepping, healthy snacks, or strategic grocery shopping. No matter what healthy habits you hope to adopt, you have to look at every area of your life to see how you make changes to support those healthy habits. 

    5. Make small tweaks to your diet
    Good news: you don’t have to transform your diet to be healthier (yes, even if you’ve enjoyed too many glasses of rosé over the summer or one too many frozen pizzas in 2020). The most sustainable and effective way to eat healthy (without hating your life)? Make small tweaks to your diet. For example, if pasta is your go-to for dinner, add some kale to the sauce, or order a side salad whenever you order out. You can also try having a smoothie instead of a breakfast sandwich or eating carrots and hummus instead of your usual chips and salsa snack in the afternoon. No matter what tweaks you make, the point is to make one small change at a time, rather than to transform your entire diet at once. In terms of what to change, think of adding more fruit and vegetables rather than taking away any foods that are a part of your routine.

    6. Start with stretching
    Even an athlete doesn’t get back into a fitness routine by running a 10k; don’t expect your strength and endurance to be the same as it was the last time you had a consistent exercise routine. Whether you were a gym rat pre-virus, work out here and there, or have never cared much about exercise before, start with stretching. Stretching will likely feel less daunting than weight training or cardio, so it’s a good way to start moving your body again. Also, stretching keeps muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. Without stretching, the muscles shorten and become tight, so any strenuous activity meant to strengthen them could cause joint pain, muscle damage, or strains. There’s also a wide variety of other benefits to stretching, including mental health; try these stretches to help anxiety or these to get a better night’s sleep. 

    7. Enjoy the season
    Just because the days of jogging on the beach and swimming in the pool are over, it doesn’t mean the rest of the seasons can’t help you be active and healthy too. Instead of staying inside on your couch 24/7 (although we’ll definitely be doing a lot of that), enjoy all that autumn has to offer to achieve your healthiest self. Take a walk to look at the changing leaves, rake leaf piles, go apple picking, and enjoy all the fresh seasonal foods like apples, sweet potatoes, kale, butternut squash, and pumpkin. Sure, a PSL and Harry Potter movie marathon are not necessarily fall essentials that were invented with our health goals in mind, but there are so many ways to enjoy the season that will help establish a healthy routine. Enjoying the crisp air will help get you moving, and eating the delicious seasonal produce will not only result in killer pumpkin recipes, but will be giving your body more nutrients.  

    8. Be kind to yourself
    Forming a new routine or habit is not easy; our bodies are conditioned to crave what’s comfortable. If you find it’s difficult to adopt healthier routines, know that it’s not because you’re lazy, weak, or have something inherently wrong with you; it means you’re normal. To get through the tough transitions that come with forming new habits, remind yourself why you want a healthier routine. Is it because you love your body enough to treat it as well as possible? Is it so you can feel more confident, vivacious, or happy? Remember that self-judgment, criticism, or shame are not going to get you to that end goal any more than your unhealthy habits. Lead with self-compassion, and I promise you’ll get to your goals quicker and easier. 

    9. Cook at home more often
    Fall and winter are the perfect time to hone your cooking skills. The weather’s colder, you’re staying in more, and you’re craving grounding foods that can easily be made with an instant pot or in the oven. Cooking at home typically means healthier meals, more accurate portions for what your body needs, and satisfying your cravings with as much nutritional value as possible. Cooking newbie? Stock your fridge at the beginning of the week with seasonal produce and healthy basics like leafy greens, grains like quinoa or brown rice, and a few organic proteins to prepare grounding, warm, satisfying meals throughout the week. Check out easy recipes like here, here, and here. If prepping meals in advance feels overwhelming, try making a little extra dinner and save as leftovers for lunch the next day. 

    10. Strive for consistency
    We often look at healthy routines with all-or-nothing thinking: we either eat perfectly or binge on junk food because indulging in one bag of chips made the day “no longer count” (I hear that one a lot!). But the key to any routine is exactly that: routine. Unlike friends or clothing items, strive for quantity over quality when it comes to healthy habits. For example, if you’ve had a busy and exhausting day, fit in five minutes of some movement, even if it’s not the intense HIIT workout you had hoped for. Likewise, keep up healthy eating goals by eating as healthy as you can every day, rather than eating perfectly. If your friends go to a fast-food restaurant, keep up consistency by ordering a side salad with your meal or extra veggies on the side, instead of telling yourself you’ll start tomorrow. After all, a healthy routine is just consistent decisions that snowball into habits to make us feel our very best. 

    How do you get back into a healthy routine? More

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    Online Dating as a Plus Sized Woman

    These days, online dating is basically just dating. Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, OkCupid, Her (great for lesbian and bisexual women!), Match, The League (if you’re accepted — I just was and am ELATED) — there are so many options! These apps have entirely changed the way our society views dating and relationships. Many people have found short and long-term relationships and marriage through dating apps, but if that isn’t necessarily what you’re looking for, hook-ups and friendships can be possibly even easier to find.Being a plus size woman, however, there come even more challenges than the usual. Since the start of my dating app days, I have learned a lot about how to navigate these apps in a way that is empowering and builds my confidence rather than doing the opposite.

    Ignore the Voices In Your Head
    “Do I look larger than I am in that photo?” “Will he still be interested in me when he sees me in real life?” “Will I ever find someone who wants to do more than hook up?” I am constantly questioning how people will respond to how I look in my photos, especially in a world where photos on a dating site are so crucial. I can recall meeting a guy from Tinder in real life and him completely rejecting me because he thought I looked different in my pictures. After that, I was terrified to meet up with anyone, changed all my pictures, and basically stopped opening the app. Rather than getting down on myself, I really should have remembered that it was his fault for wanting to tear me down like that. Once I stopped paying attention to my inner dialogue, I started having fun and swiping right on whoever interested me rather than who I “thought I could get.” This confidence worked, too, and led to way more dates!

    Unmatch Anyone Who Shames Your Body
    Aside from the internal criticism, it is incredibly common for men on these sites to comment on how I look. According to research done by WooPlus, a dating app specifically for plus sized women, 71% of its users say they were fat-shamed on “regular” apps. In a world where 67% of women identify as plus sized, this is absolutely unacceptable. For a long time, I thought that I needed to keep talking or give explanations when men would make negative comments about how I look or dress because I was worried I would miss out on a chance for a date with my “dream guy.” Turns out, my “dream guy” would never tell me I would look better if I wore skinny jeans. Keeping this negativity around would bring down anyone’s confidence, so getting rid of it is naturally a boost. Sure, it hurts to see something like that regardless of how much self-love and acceptance you have, but it acts as a reminder that you are the boss of your own life (and matches!).

    Pay Attention to the Signs of Fetishization
    There is a big difference between someone desiring your body and loving you for your perceived flaws and them fetishizing your weight. If a match constantly makes comments about your size, asks about specific numbers in regards to your weight, encourages you to eat more or gain weight in an unhealthy way, or refers to you in common fetishizing words, that probably means he or she is a hard no. It is important for someone to be attracted to who you are rather than being obsessed with a specific trait about you. Understanding that these are two different things has stopped me from potentially harmful relationships many times.

    Be YOU!
    I know this is a given, but learning to be myself and finding new ways to share my personality has changed the dating game for me. Finding my favorite gifs to say “hi,” adding all my favorite emojis to my bio, and not being afraid to ask a guy out for Taco Tuesday all allow me to express who I am without the pressure of looks or my weight. If a guy really wants to make a connection rather than a one night thing, he should appreciate who I am over how I look.

    Take Risks Without Fear of Rejection
    When I first started using dating apps, I never asked anyone out first, and I always waited for the guy to message me first. Bumble definitely helped get over the latter issue, but it took understanding that I have some power too to comprehend how important it is to take the risk of asking someone to coffee or out for drinks. The fear of rejection can get to anyone, especially if you’ve experienced situations like the ones above, but the risk is so worth it sometimes. Being able to go after what I want rather than waiting for it to happen applies to more than just my career, and the confidence that has given me is way more important than any date I’ve ever gotten.
    How do you navigate the online dating world? Are there any tips we missed? Let us know in the comments!

    This article was originally published on May 18, 2018. More

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    I’m a Sex Writer—This Is the Question I Get Asked the Most

    I’ve always wanted to be the friend people can go to to talk about sex. Even before I started writing about it, I’ve enjoyed discussing the details, from what’s going right to what’s going wrong. People’s sex lives are quite compelling to me, especially because everyone’s is usually so different. But as a sex writer, I’ve gotten even more of an inside scoop into what people like and what they don’t, particularly from what they request we write about. There are a few common themes, like how to have virtual sex—because duh, pandemic—how to seamlessly walk into the room wearing lingerie without looking like Bella from Breaking Dawn awkwardly waltzing in the room to Edward’s laughter, where to buy sex toys, how to encourage your partner to give you oral sex, just to name a few. But for the most part, there’s one thing every single person wants to know. “Is my sex life normal?” 
    It’s always accompanied by a part of their sex life they deem “unfit” in some way: how much they’re having it, where they’re having it, when they’re having it, how they’re having it—the list goes on, and every single time, I give pretty much the same answer. 
    Yep, it’s normal!
    I know you’re wondering, “OK, well, everything can’t just be ‘normal,’” to which I respond you’re absolutely right. There are certainly situations that aren’t typical. Feeling pain during sex? Not normal, talk to your doctor. Your partner pressuring you into having more sex than you want? Not normal, dump them. If you’re feeling uncomfortable about anything in your sex life, then that isn’t normal. We all deserve good sex. But if you’re self-conscious that you’re not having enough, having too much, not getting frisky enough, getting too frisky, not trying enough new positions, only having sex at night, only having sex in the morning, only having oral sex, not having oral sex, then it’s not that your sex life isn’t normal; it’s that for some reason you’re self-conscious about it. Here’s why these are all completely normal, and what I tell people to focus on instead. 

    Having sex “too little” or “too much”
    It’s a misconception that couples should be having sex the “perfect” amount. I’ve stressed over and over with friends, colleagues, and strangers that while there is no “normal” amount, most couples say they have sex once a week. Does this stop people from being stressed about it? Not in any way. Whether you or your partner has a low sex drive, you don’t live with each other, or you just don’t get around to it all the time, there’s nothing wrong with how much sex you’re having—unless you want to change it. 

    Only having a certain type of sex 
    Many people are stressed that their sex lives are weird because their sex is atypical. To this, I pretty much always say: different strokes for different folks! While someone may exclusively prefer penetrative sex but someone else likes oral, or some people like to practice BDSM and others enjoy what some deem “vanilla” sex, there’s nothing wrong with doing what you like. To be quite honest, it actually is pretty admirable that you and your partner are able to have sex that is enjoyable for the two of you, even if it seems “weird” to you.

    Not trying “new things” enough
    It’s really common to fear that your sex lives aren’t normal when you’re reading about role-playing, anal sex, sending nudes, and more if you haven’t ventured into those parts of sex yet. But there’s no rush, and no requirement, to try things that don’t excite you. Want to try something new? Yay! But don’t force yourself, or your partner, if one of you isn’t interested. 

    Source: Diego Rezende | Pexels

    Here’s what I recommend
    When someone asks me if their sex life is normal, I immediately get into advice mode, but not in the way you’d expect. Instead of telling them to have more sex or try something new, I tell them how they can increase their sexual confidence and inspire them to feel more comfortable with their libido and their sex life. 

    Talk about sex 
    Knowing about the sex lives of the other people around you is a powerful tool in understanding that every sex life is valuable. Say you’re worried that you have too much sex and your sex drive is too high, but then you talk to someone else and realize their worry is that they don’t have enough. Likely, you’ll experience a little jealousy for one another! Then, you and your friend are able to have a candid conversation about why you feel that way. Maybe you feel insecure that you and your partner participate in a certain kink, and talking about how that kink has impacted your sex life positively inspires a friend to open up about a kink they’re involved in. It doesn’t have to get extra personal if you’re a more private person, but the simple act of talking about your sex life with people other than your partner might encourage you to look at it differently.

    Address any changes 
    Have you or your partner experienced a big life change recently? (Perhaps a global pandemic!) Maybe you just moved or got a new job, and this has impacted your sex life. Sex is, of course, fun, but it’s also about promoting intimacy and bonding with one another. Dealing with a significant life change is another way you and your partner might be bonding, so you may be having less sex because you’re already getting in communication that other way. 

    I will recommend masturbating for just about any life issue. Stressed? Upset? Excited? Just masturbate it away! But I’d be remiss if I didn’t describe the connection between masturbating and sexual confidence. Knowing that you can make yourself orgasm is pretty powerful, and it’s a great way to get to know your body, both physically and mentally. You can see what you like and tell your partner afterward. If you have a low sex drive, masturbating can get you more excited to have sex the next time. There are endless benefits of masturbating, and I’ll say it’s nearly essential to achieving the sex life of your dreams.

    Focus on your sexual compatibility
    A lot of the time people tell me they’re worried their sex life is abnormal in some way, I ask if their partner ever says anything about wishing their sex life was different. Almost always, they say no. To me, this often means that you are sexually compatible with each other. It’s an unexpected pleasure to meet someone who has a similar sex drive, likes the same sexual acts, has a similar kink or fetish as you, enjoys having sex at the same time, etc. If you’re feeling self-conscious about your sex life, wondering how it compares to others, keep this in mind. You and your partner are on the same page, and that’s worth being excited about. More