TIME relationships

Why You Need to Talk About Your Partner’s Credit Card Debt

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This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

The modern dating scene is tough — we know that all too well. Finding a great partner feels like hitting the jackpot, so you might be tempted to overlook certain serious red flags in the name of love. But, what if you’re ready to take the next step with your partner and discover that he or she is deep in credit card debt? This is an issue you definitely shouldn’t dismiss — money is one of the main reasons couples fight. Failing to address your partner’s debt before you move in together or get married could cause heartache down the road. So, should you move forward or hit pause? Here’s how to decide.

Consider The Why
Discuss your financial situations. It’s important to get to the bottom of why he or she is dealing with debt. Asking specific questions about how the balance was incurred will give you a better sense of your beloved’s overall level of financial responsibility.For instance, did your partner face a major emergency that they didn’t have the cash to cover? In this case, the debt can be chalked up to an expensive, one-time event. It doesn’t indicate a pattern of irresponsible financial behavior. But, if your partner carries credit card debt due to reckless spending, you should give this some thought. If you budget carefully and live within your means, you might have a hard time coupling up with someone who doesn’t share your values.

(MORE: Why I Don’t Feel Guilty About My Credit Card Debt Anymore)

Consider The How
Next step? Consider how your significant other is dealing with the shortfall to decide if the relationship is worth pursuing. Even if a mountain of credit card debt is the result of frivolous spending, your partner may have realized the blunder. If your mate is taking steps to pay off the balance — moving to a smaller apartment, going out less, taking on an extra job — count these as good signs. Everyone makes mistakes, and working hard to correct a financial misstep means your partner is trying to get on the right track.However, if he or she seems unconcerned about the debt and isn’t making an effort to pay it off, you should take a step back. Credit card debt is a serious financial burden, and your partner should be treating it as such. Ignoring a lingering balance could signal a lack of judgment when it comes to money.

(MORE: Do You Really Need A Credit Card?)

In The End, It All Depends — But Tips Help
Money is a highly personal and emotional topic, so only you can decide if your partner’s credit card debt is a deal-breaker. The important thing is to discuss the issue before taking a major step in your relationship, and keep the lines of communication open. This will help you assess the direction of your partnership and keep you informed about how your mate’s financial situation is evolving.If you want to help improve your partner’s credit card habits, consider sharing these tips: Keep a budget and track your spending — this will keep you from spending more than you can afford to pay off. Pay your bill in full by its due date — you’ll stay out of debt and keep your credit score healthy. Never use more than 30% of your available credit — this will help you achieve and maintain good credit. Read your monthly statement carefully — you’ll be able to spot fraud if it occurs.

The Takeaway
Understanding why your partner is in credit card debt and how he or she is dealing with it is an important step to take before getting serious. Consider it one more stepping stone on the road to finding “the one.”

(MORE: How to Keep Your Finances Safe After a Breakup)

TIME health

4 Ways Health Tracking Apps Can Change Your Life

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This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Virtually every kind of digital program or app we use is modeled on an analog predecessor. Spreadsheets are the digital iteration of accountant logs, and word processing software is modeled off the good-ol’ sheet of paper. We’re human after all, and we’ve always used record-keeping to help deal with uncertainty and the unknown. Now, throw clever entrepreneurial activity into the mix, and you’ve got some of the most helpful, beefed-up quantified self tools on the market. Being able to track exact data in the ways that apps have enabled us to is one of the most modern ways of curtailing the worries that come with personal data guestimation. Tracking our lives may not be a new concept, but it’s certainly shinier. Here’s how our quest to conquer our own data has evolved on a variety of fronts.

Fertility

Before: bare bones calendars, pee sticks, or the pull-out method that seventh grade sex-ed rightfully taught us to avoid (personal shout out to my teacher who made us all think that a foreskin looked like the sleeve of her chenille sweater).

Now: Apps like Clue track important signs of fertility cycles like discharge consistency, fertility windows, menstrual regularity, and of course, attempts at fertilization. On a calendar interface, handy color-coordinated graphics display those quantifiable elements in a cohesive, easily digestible visual. In a world divided over the necessity of women’s health initiatives, it feels empowering to be in tune with cycles — a knowledge that provides transparency in regard to the way our reproductive systems function in our daily lives. Tracking the minutiae that apps allow takes this empowerment and the decision-making to a greater level of security and certainty in the things our bodies are doing.

(MORE: 5 Period Tracking Apps)

Exercise

Before: the Casio stopwatch whose memory will live on in the minds of all who consumed electronics in the ’80s and ’90s. If you don’t remember them, we suggest you watch WarGames to see what kind of technology impressed us then.

Now: Anything we do with our bodies is better when customized, and exercise is no exception. We may suck at some sports, and be incredible at others. This is why the vast array of exercise apps are so exciting. Are you sedentary, and feeling lost on where to start? Apps like Couch-to-5K teach you techniques from square one, keeping track of progress and goals. Are you a seasoned pro who wants to streamline outings? Other apps like RunKeeper serve as simultaneous timekeepers and route-mappers. Tracking the very personal activity that is exercise provides a level of support that could be equated to that of a coach. Literally — many apps have pre-programmed motivational comments that are set to play at various intervals in a workout.

Food

Before: a dog-eared, Weight Watchers-inspired logbook with only the most basic functions of food tracking in the layout. Oh, and a separate book was needed with a list of foods and their proprietary nutrition information.

Now: The most central function is the same across the board. A list of food and meals are entered into their respective breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack slots, and their calories, fats, and proteins, and other important nutrients are tracked. But, instead of shuffling through pages of small guidebooks, a food item’s nutritional information can be sourced through vast databases of restaurant and grocery store goods, as well as preset listings for favorite meals. There’s even barcode scanners for the elusive few items that aren’t listed. These features are standard in apps like MyPlate and LoseIt — and are great even if you’re not trying to lose weight. Tracking food means that we can keep an eye on some of the details about ingredients or sustainability that both greatly affect our health, yet often manage to slip through the cracks.

(MORE: 10 Fitness Apps That Get Results)

Medical Conditions

Before: regular, often-expensive trips to the doctor’s office or crossing your fingers and hoping that apple a day actually contains immune-boosting properties.

Now: Medical tracking — which has been around since the days Bayer enabled diabetics to measure their own glucose levels — goes beyond the level of personal empowerment seen on other fronts to a place that’s vital to our very existence. Having real-time data about the state of our physical existence is a way to catch health hiccups before they become emergencies; this helps to maintain a top quality of life. With fewer guestimations and more exact data, we know when to act and when to relax. Of course, if something really seems off, seeing a professional is still your best bet. But, having the ability to keep tabs on things like sleep cycle measurements or medicine dosages puts more control in the hands of the patient herself, which means less time spent on some of the more menial medical checkups. Even the original diabetes tracking methods have seen a spiffy new user interface on mobile apps.

(MORE: These Apps Just Might Be the Future of Beauty)

TIME Culture

The Best Halloween Movies Streaming Right Now

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Watch 22 of the spookiest thrillers on the Internet

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

It’s movie night, people. It’s dark, it’s chilly, and we’re three weeks out from Halloween. You have an Internet full of streaming spooky thrillers — but how can you possibly pick? Listen, picking the right movie is very important. Like choosing which college to attend or what to name your child, you don’t want to end up with something you’ll regret for the rest of your life.

Don’t freak out yet — you’ve got this. We’ve assembled 22 of the best scary movies currently streaming on Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, and Amazon Prime. We’ve broken them down into a super-simple guide to help you figure out the perfect movie to watch based on your mood, platform, and the crowd you’re watching with.

It’s the first Saturday in October. And, life is short, so make this one count. That means taking off your going-out shoes, and parking it on the couch. Now, you just need to find the perfect sweatpants to change into. You can do this.

The Craft

  • What Happens: Four girls dabble in witchcraft and overalls. Hijinks ensue.
  • How Scary Is It: If you’re creeped out by snakes, run.
  • Why Should I Watch It: You miss chokers and Fairuza Balk.
  • Where Can I Find It: Crackle, Amazon Prime.
  • Who Do I Watch With: Your lady friends and wine and some more wine.

The Moth Diaries

  • What Happens: Sexy new girl comes to boarding school and makes it rain blood. Roommate has trouble adjusting.
  • How Scary Is It: Like all vampires, these are way too emo to scare anyone.
  • Why Should I Watch It: You’re into vampires but can’t stand Twilight or True Blood.
  • Where Can I Find It: Hulu.
  • Who Do I Watch With: A friend you might like to be more than a friend. Or a friend you might like to rain blood upon. Either way, this’ll get you in the mood.

Carrie

  • What Happens: Best. Prom. Ever.
  • How Scary Is It: Mean girls, first periods, AND telekinesis? This one’s not for wimps.
  • Why Should I Watch It: You’ve been royally screwed and feel like burning down someone’s house, dropping the mic, and leaving.
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix, Amazon Prime.
  • Who Do I Watch With: Your high school BFF (the one who got picked on by Casey R., too).

Rosemary’s Baby

  • What Happens: Couple’s new apartment might be next door to Satan worshippers, but it has two bathrooms and a working fireplace, so…
  • How Scary Is It: Enough to make you move to the suburbs.
  • Why Should I Watch It: You’ve never seen this before and are sick of everyone bugging you about it (but seriously get on this ASAP. What is your problem?).
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix.
  • Who Do I Watch With: The understanding that you probably cannot pull of this haircut.

The Human Centipede: First Sequence

  • What Happens: Google it.
  • How Scary Is It: I mean, did you Google it?
  • Why Should I Watch It: Someone double-dog dared you to.
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix, Amazon Prime, and ideally, the smallest screen possible.
  • Who Do I Watch With: A barf bag.

American Psycho

  • What Happens: Businessman has a real case of the Mondays.
  • How Scary Is It: As scary as the face Christian Bale is making here.
  • Why Should I Watch It: You’re into sex, drugs, and murdering hookers with chainsaws.
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix.
  • Who Do I Watch With: A dude.

(MORE: “Let Her Go!” Or, Every Action Movie Ever)

Antichrist

  • What Happens: Couple loses their child and somehow things get worse from there.
  • How Scary Is It: Well, there’s really no PG version of genital self-mutilation is there?
  • Why Should I Watch It: You’ve seen Lars Von Trier and you know what you’re getting into.
  • Where Can I Find It: Hulu, Netflix.
  • Who Do I Watch With: Someone who won’t mind when you ask to turn it off and watch I Love Lucy reruns instead.

Candyman

  • What Happens: Woman doesn’t believe in ghosts. We don’t want to spoil it for you but she might be wrong.
  • How Scary Is It: Good luck sleeping tonight/ever!
  • Why Should I Watch It: This scared the bejeesus out of you as a kid but, damn it, you’re a grown-up now. Bring it, Candyman.
  • Where Can I Find It: Crackle, Netflix.
  • Who Do I Watch With: No one, if you’re such a big, tough, grown-up. (JK, never watch this with less than five people.)

The Gift

  • What Happens: Local psychic is pulled into a murder investigation where Keanu Reeves is the prime suspect. Seriously.
  • How Scary Is It: Imagine getting startled by a car backfiring outside, over and over again, for two hours.
  • Why Should I Watch It: You want to be scared by Cate Blanchett’s killer performance and amused by Katie Holmes’ horrrrrrible southern accent.
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix.
  • Who Do I Watch With: Katie Holmes, ideally. Just so you can ask her to translate.

Cropsey

  • What Happens: The boogeyman is real, you guys.
  • How Scary Is It: The truth of this tale is far more horrific than the fiction.
  • Why Should I Watch It: You grew up locking your bedroom window, lest Cropsey come in and kidnap you.
  • Where Can I Find It: Crackle, Netflix.
  • Who Do I Watch With: Your friend who’s too cool for anything but documentaries.

The Lady Vanishes

  • What Happens: The lady vanishes.
  • How Scary Is It: Well, it’s not Antichrist, but it’s not Sesame Street either.
  • Why Should I Watch It: You’re in a Hitchcock mood.
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix.
  • Who Do I Watch With: Your dad, because he’s been bugging you to watch this for, like, ever.

(MORE: The Not-So-Sexy Way Hollywood Makes Sex Scenes)

Scream

  • What Happens: Town is terrorized by serial killer who does NOT care for Drew Barrymore movies.
  • How Scary Is It: It was written by the same guy who created Dawson’s Creek. It’s about as scary as Dawson’s was serious and important: EXTREMELY.
  • Why Should I Watch It: Your mom didn’t let you watch it when it came out but you did anyway, then spent the next four months refusing to answer the phone.
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix.
  • Who Do I Watch With: Your mom on speed dial, because she was right — you’re not mature enough to handle this.

The Blair Witch Project

  • What Happens: “Filmmakers” “investigate” a “local legend” in this “documentary.”
  • How Scary Is It: It was meh back then, but with the passage of time it’s still pretty meh.
  • Why Should I Watch It: Back in the day, your friend told you this was real and you’d like to see just what an idiot you were for believing him.
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix, Amazon Prime.
  • Who Do I Watch With: That same jerk friend, ideally. Make him pay for the pizza and beer.

Repulsion

  • What Happens: Woman spends all weekend in her pajamas, but it’s not as awesome as it sounds.
  • How Scary Is It: As scary as the insidious threat of misogyny endemic to contemporary culture. Also, WTF, there are hands coming out of the walls!
  • Why Should I Watch It: You’re feeling more psychological-thriller than pop-out-and-scare-you. Also, if you’d like to see Catherine Deneuve manage to look super cute while going cuh-razy.
  • Where Can I Find It: Crackle.
  • Who Do I Watch With: The film major you’re trying to impress.

Single White Female

  • What Happens: Bridget Fonda’s roommate just wants to hang out. Why is she being so weird about it?
  • How Scary Is It: It’s tough to beat mid-90s Jennifer Jason Leigh in terms of creepiness.
  • Why Should I Watch It: Your roommate sucks and you’re looking for justification to kick her out.
  • Where Can I Find It: Hulu, Netflix.
  • Who Do I Watch With: Your roommate. Maybe she’ll take the hint. Or she’ll try to kill you. Still, it’s worth a shot.

House on Haunted Hill

  • What Happens: Rich guy pits strangers against each other for his own amusement because he doesn’t have a job and his jet ski’s in the shop.
  • How Scary Is It: I think the mustache speaks for itself, here.
  • Why Should I Watch It: You secretly miss haunted houses.
  • Where Can I Find It: Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime.
  • Who Do I Watch With: Someone who definitely won’t kill you for $10,000.

(MORE: 20 Twist Endings We WON’T Spoil For You)

The Silence of the Lambs

  • What Happens: Newbie FBI agent is just trying to catch a killer and not get her face eaten off, thankyouverymuch.
  • How Scary Is It: The creepy, British cannibal is actually a good guy compared to the film’s real villain.
  • Why Should I Watch It: You’re down for some cannibalism as long as it’s classy cannibalism.
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix.
  • Who Do I Watch With: Some fava beans, a nice chianti, and the lotion in the basket.

Zodiac

  • What Happens: Serial killer taunts the police with cryptic letters and ciphers because it’s not enough to just kill a bunch of people.
  • How Scary Is It: Imagine a really, really long episode of Law & Order: SVU.
  • Why Should I Watch It: You’re into unsolved mysteries and dudes in flared jeans.
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix.
  • Who Do I Watch With: Susan Miller.

V/H/S

  • What Happens: Kids find a dead guy and a VHS tape and they’re all, “Holy shit, a VHS tape!”
  • How Scary Is It: The scares are cheap but they get the job done.
  • Why Should I Watch It: You have a thing for “found footage” and a short attention span.
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix, Amazon Prime.
  • Who Do I Watch With: A wide-mesh sweater you can hide inside but still look through.

Children of the Corn

  • What Happens: Kids run a successful farming community despite complete lack of bedtimes.
  • How Scary Is It: Uh, are you seeing this kid?
  • Why Should I Watch It: You’re scared of children IRL.
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix, Amazon Prime.
  • Who Do I Watch With: Two forms of birth control.

The Glass House

  • What Happens: Kids lose their mom and dad in a car accident, but it’s cool because their godparents have a sick beach house.
  • How Scary Is It: As scary as browsing a delia*s catalogue in the dark.
  • Why Should I Watch It: You totally forgot about Leelee Sobieski.
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix.
  • Who Do I Watch With: A sense of irony.

Funny Games

  • What Happens: Teenagers are the worst.
  • How Scary Is It: If you have to ask…
  • Why Should I Watch It: You are NOT messing around.
  • Where Can I Find It: Netflix.
  • Who Do I Watch With: The door locked, the lights on, and strong will to live, because this movie will effectively destroy your faith in humanity.

Happy Halloween!

TIME Food & Drink

7 Beers to Try This October

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Prost, folks!

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Oktoberfest, originally a celebration honoring the marriage of German nobles, has become virtually synonymous with brews. In past years, the event has drawn a whopping seven million visitors and served almost two million gallons of beer over the span of 16 or 17 days.

(MORE: The Boozy Secret To A DIY Ombré Dye)

That’s a lot of suds. Stateside, Oktoberfest also seems to reinforce that imminent seasonal shift in beer tastes, especially when it comes to what’s on tap. Hoppy IPAs and super-crisp pilsners are swapped out for maltier fare, and just as pumpkin spice lattes fill Starbucks cups nationwide, so, too, do pumpkin ales fill our pint glasses. So, in seeking to honor Oktoberfest (as well as the changing of the seasons), we tapped, poured, tipped, and sipped in order to bring you autumn’s best beers — including a traditional German Oktoberfest, a not-so-traditional California style, and that fall favorite, pumpkin ale. Prost, folks!

(MORE: Young America’s Vices: Beer, Fast Food, & Coffee)

  1. Left Hand Oktoberfest
    Brewed in Denver, Left Hand’s top-notch Oktoberfest plays beautifully right alongside the more traditional German brews. On the nose, you’ll find sweet, orange-peel notes, but this Märzen is toasty through and through, with a super-smooth finish.
  2. Firestone Walker Brewing Company Oaktoberfest
    Yes, this is an Oktoberfest from California (the oak in the name pays homage to the brewery’s home in Paso Robles, or “pass of the oaks”). But that doesn’t mean this beer can’t hang with its Bavarian brethren. It’s malty, toasty, ever so subtly hoppy, but not at all heavy — just like an Oktoberfestbier should be.
  3. Weihenstephaner Korbinian
    While this doppelbock (a dark, full-bodied lager) may not pour at Munich’s Oktoberfest celebration, Weihenstephan (reportedly the oldest brewery in the world) still adheres to the German Berr-Purity Law of 1516. This brew is going to be the heaviest of the bunch, with exceptionally rich, toasty malts; beautiful, fruity flavors; and a smooth finish.
  4. Captain Lawrence Pumpkin Ale
    Of course, no fall beer list is complete without a pumpkin ale. Typically, though, these brews are too sweet or heavy for those looking to throw back a second round. Captain Lawrence’s version turns down the volume on the sweetness, pumpkin, and spice, leaving you with an autumnal beer that’s easy-drinking, surprisingly refreshing, and a solid option for this early fall weather.
  5. Spaten Oktoberfestbier Ur-Märzen
    It doesn’t get more traditional than Spaten’s Oktoberfest. The brewery is one of only six permitted to serve up their suds at Munich’s annual fest, which requires that all Oktoberfestbier conform to the beer- purity regulation Reinheitsgebot, dictating that no brew can be made from ingredients other than water, barley, hops, and yeast. This beer is light, with toasty malt, and finishes with a slight, hoppy bite — the perfect way to greet the season.
  6. Bell’s Best Brown Ale
    Here’s how to get your malt with a little extra oomph. This English brown ale has those same smooth, toasty qualities as the Oktoberfest beers, but you’ll find a bit more depth and complexity with this style. Notes of cocoa and even some blackberry come out to play here, but nothing in this beer overwhelms the palate.
  7. Ommegang Rare Vos
    Malty beers come out in full force this season, but if you’re seeking something that still has an autumnal vibe but doesn’t make you feel like you’re drinking bread-beer, Ommegang’s Belgian pale ale is your go-to. The floral hops are mellowed by the Belgian yeast, and the whole brew has a slightly spicy, somewhat-fruity quality. It’s a lovely, crisp beer, perfect for warmer fall days, or that late-October chill.

(MORE: A Hilarious Takedown Of Your Pumpkin Spice Latte Tweets)

TIME Culture

5 Ways to Stop Shopping Right Now

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

We know all the moves to the happy-shopping dance. They’re not the same for everyone, but the essential choreography is the uncontrollable shake, twist, and jump that lets everyone know that we just scored something good. But, while we’re big fans of the HSD around R29, it’s just as important to recognize when a bit of “retail therapy” isn’t feel-good or dance-inducing, but rather a lame attempt to face down boredom, anxiety, or the blues.

Emotional shopping may not always be our downfall — sometimes we’re truly looking for a specific find — but understanding our actions can help us nip this bad behavior in the bud before it becomes habit.

In an effort to understand the cause of our retail compulsions, and tackle the best reasons to back away from the cash register, we turned to a few informed experts. With their help, we can change our reactions to the first signs of impulsive shopping, so we’re not left with an empty bank account or a too-full closet. Ahead, learn when to say no, and how put the power back into your glee-filled, post-sale shimmy. Now that’s therapeutic.

2

The Bored Buy

It’s a slow Sunday night (okay, fine, Friday night), you’re suffering Netflix indecision, and your usual going-out group is nowhere to be found. So, you fall into a friendly little Internet black hole of e-commerce sites, constantly pressing “add to cart,” and before you know it, you’ve placed so many orders you’ve basically waved goodbye to this week’s paycheck.

As psychotherapist Peggy Wynne points out, the advent of online shopping — though not necessarily recent — is a huge part of why we shop when we’re bored. With the accessibility at our fingertips, “we get too much sensory overload and are triggered instantly,” she explains. “It’s sort of like online gambling or porn.” You don’t need to go anywhere and barely need to do anything to make a purchase — the satisfaction is instant, though not necessarily a cure.

3

The Solution: Dig Deeper
The best trick for conquering bored-buyer burnout is to slow down your reactions. Take a walk or look away from the screen before pressing the hovering Place Order button, Wynne advises. Practice mindfulness, don’t just pull the trigger.

In addition, we recommend you flip the script. Turn bored shopping into bored looking. We, too, have found ourselves totally submerged in a sea of e-tail tabs. And, we say, use your wandering eye to your advantage. This is your chance to perfect your eBay search terms, keep tabs on an auction item you’ve placed a bid on, track down those hard-to-come-by products, or, ya know, read up on the top trends and pieces that are actually worth your hard-earned dinero. Take a moment to make yourself a more informed customer, rather than just the most frequent one.

(MORE: Depression: A Real Life Guide)

4

The Bummed-Out Buy
You just got dumped. Your friend screwed you over. Your boss gave you the HR boot. All you want are Kleenex, a bottle of wine, and all the shoes you can find. You’ve been jilted and you deserve it!

Those shoes may not be for naught. Professor Scott Rick of the University of Michigan found in a 2013 study that retail therapy actually can lift the spirits. “Sadness, more than any other negative emotion, is associated with a sense that external forces (e.g., disease, weather) control the important outcomes in one’s life,” Rick tells us. “Shopping is all about choice, and we find that making shopping choices helps to restore a sense of personal control over one’s environment, and thus helps to alleviate sadness.” Now, shop away with your sad self, right? Not so much.

While sadness may be treated temporarily with a purchase, it also has shown that it can “increase one’s willingness to pay,” cites Rick of his research findings. Your decision-making skills may not be the sharpest when you’re blue, which can lead you down a dangerous and habit-forming path of spending beyond your means.

5

The Solution: Set Your Sights On Something New
Call us suckers for a silver lining, but we’re all about Rick’s suggestion that purchasing can give you back a little power in your life. Use it for good. And, should you find yourself in these kind of emotionally distraught shopping sprees, set your sights on good things on the horizon: that job interview you just landed, a night out with your very best buddy, a vacation that you totally deserve. Celebrate the good and screw the rest — at least in this moment — and should you make a purchase, make it one that will help steer your future in a brighter direction. You got this.

6

The Far-Flung Buy
You’re on vacation and you’ve stumbled upon a local boutique. Okay, make that severalboutiques. Problem is: You’re traveling on a budget and you don’t even really needanything, nor do you particularly have tons of space in you suitcase. But, you can only see two ways out of this situation: buy now, or face shopping FOMO when you get home.

“Restlessness, fatigue, fear and irritability can often be associated with what creates anxious shopping,” Wynne tells us. After all, if you’ve just traveled halfway around the globe, the last thing you want to do is return home with a big, ole carry-on of regret. But, all those scary what-ifs should never overpower your ability to make decisions based on your true desires.

(MORE: Why Knitting Is the New Therapy)

7

The Solution: Do Your Research
We’ll admit, this quandary is a difficult one for us. And, yes, we’ve come home from trips with suitcases stuffed before. But, the best solution is to do your research ahead of your potential fear-of-missing-out situation. For starters, stay away from labels that can be bought for less in your home town. Look for those brands that either aren’t available back home, or can only be purchased after major markups. Shopping in Paris? Stock on up drugstore labels that cost three times as much in the States. Hitting up Tokyo? Keep your eyes peeled for Comme des Garçons, Sacai, and other Japanese brands that may be less expensive overseas. Know your market, know your conversion rates, and know when to say no.

8

The Offer-You-Can’t-Refuse Buy
Three words: two for one. Why pass up a good deal when a store is basically giving stuff away? Well, because you don’t actually need a fourth pair of strappy, block-heeled sandals (even if they are marked down 70%). We’re with you on this one, but we’ve also learned the hard way that this kind of impulse-buying leads to taking home stuff we’ll hardly — maybe never — wear.

Much like bored shopping, this feeling of overexcitement also falls “under the umbrella of sensation-seeking,” Rick says. Scoring a deal can give us a huge sense of accomplishment. (Who hasn’t done a victory lap around the mall after a particularly good bargain was found?) “This [tendency to shop] also comes from wanting that inflated sense of self-esteem,” Wynne adds, “when perhaps other things aren’t going so well.”

9

The Solution: Be Picky
It’s neither easy nor fun to say no to every sale you come across, but start getting picky about when you indulge. We suggest rummaging through all those store e-mails you once signed up for, and services that alert you when an item is getting marked down. Stop buying becausean item in on sale, and start making decisions to shop when the pieces you truly want have finally hit the 50-off mark. We assure you: This kind of calculated score will be even sweeter.

10

The “Someday” Buy
Not your size, not a problem! You can — and will — lose those five pounds, so your latest skirt purchase will fit like a dream, you’ll have an important meeting to wear it to, and all will be right in the world. Or, so you hope.

While a bit of self-improvement is a wonderful thing, as Wynne suggests, living with this kind of hopefulness can make it tough to differentiate between what is realistic and what is fantasy. Rick makes a different point: “[This] reminds me of ‘commitment contracts’ where people basically make it costly for themselves to fail to meet a goal.” While expensive, too-small jeans might inspire action in some, we have a sinking suspicion that — during whatever time they remain unworn — they’ll make you feel more mopey than motivated. Investing in a way to work on feeling good now could have better emotional returns.

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The Solution: Aspire To More (Not Less)
We agree that aspirational shopping is not a bad thing — but, we say forget size matters. Focus on buying items that challenge you to step outside your comfort zone a bit, reach for a goal, or make an effort to get out more. Set exciting goals that allow you to participate right away and shop with a new sense of self in mind. And, should your new self also happen to changes sizes, well, be sure to treat her to something that fits when the time is right.

(MORE: TV Therapy: 10 Shows That Boost Our Mental Health)

 

TIME relationships

Why Dating Someone Younger Shouldn’t Be a Big Deal

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This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

One of my friends only dates much younger dudes and it’s not a good look for her. She always end up in super casual relationships where neither of them seem to take it very seriously, but I know she wants to have a family one day. I get that everyone has “a type” but I care about her and don’t want her to keep wasting her time on these scrubs. Should I say something?

Natalie Ruge, Licensed Marriage And Family Therapist

If your friend seems to truly be enjoying her casual relationships and is okay when they don’t last very long, then sounds like it’s more your problem than her problem. A younger man may feel like more of a challenge, give her a sense of control, or just be a better match for her — sexually or otherwise. Some women enjoy being assertive with a younger man, making the first move, and confidently telling him what she likes and doesn’t like. And, if that’s the case, then more power to her! The world needs more people who know what they want and aren’t afraid to go after it, regardless of social norms or peer pressure. It could even be said that the older woman-younger man pairing results in a more equal power dynamic, and research shows that mutual respect and high regard is a strong indicator of a long-term, successful relationship.

(MORE: The Worst Questions Women Get When Online Dating)

I believe that your concern comes from a good place, but it does sound a little bit judgmental. Are these men “scrubs” just because they’re younger, or not in the kind of careers that you consider successful? And, why do you assume that she can’t have a family with someone younger than her? Maybe settling down with an age-appropriate finance type sounds like a death sentence to her. Just because you’re friends and have things in common doesn’t mean you have the same romantic interests. And, that’s a good thing — at least you’ll never fight over an S.O., which is never a good look.

(MORE: Dating 101: The New Rules)

On the other hand, if you’re just curious and want to know her better, there’s no reason why you can’t start a non-judgmental, but honest, conversation about what you want in a committed partner and then ask her what she wants in hers. However you handle it, just remember that for the most part, unsolicited opinions are rarely received well. No matter how nicely you say it, the message will be that you know what’s better for her than she does. If the guys she’s dating treat her like an adult that’s fully capable of making her own choices (and it seems like they are), you should too. Unless a friend is hurting herself or someone else, it’s best to live and let live.

There’s a difference between concern and control, so unless the issue is somehow affecting you directly, or if she seems unhappy about said partners, keep your opinions to yourself and enjoy your friend’s scandalous cougar tales. Maybe she’ll even convince you to give it a go yourself — have fun!

(MORE: Why I Dated a Guy Who Hated My Body)

TIME health

15 Tiny Tweaks for an Instant Health Makeover

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We’ve compiled a list of super-simple healthy tweaks you can realistically make. Really. Like, starting tomorrow.

This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

It always struck me as slightly odd that we make health resolutions in January. Sure, a new year is a theoretical blank slate — and our holiday habits provide us with ample inspiration for things we’d very much like to change about the way we treat our bodies. And, it helps that everyone around us is making the same resolutions (which, coincidentally, are identical to the ones we made the year before).

But, I’d like to argue that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the New Year’s Resolution model: We set ourselves up to fail by committing to massive life changes in the middle of winter. Environmental factors contribute to a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms, such as lower energy and decreased motivation, that undermine even our best efforts in the colder months. Sure, we’d all like to eat cleaner and get to spin class a few mornings a week. But, starting that habit in 20-degree weather? Good luck. And, as we’ve said many times before, the more ambitious your resolution, the less likely you are to accomplish it — baby steps, it seems, are really the way to go.

With these thoughts in mind, we’ve compiled a list of super-simple healthy tweaks you can realistically make. Really. Like, starting tomorrow. Look at it this way: At this point in the year, you’re already eating better. Why not take your wellness game up a few more notches? Your body will thank you when January 1 rears its ugly head once again.

Tweak: Ditch artificial sweeteners

Switching out the sugar in our morning coffee for Splenda and Stevia seems like a no-brainer — they provide the sweetness we crave without any of the metabolic chaos that comes with a sugar habit. But, Shira Lenchewski, registered dietitian and nationally recognized nutrition expert, says that while the fake stuff seems better for your calorie intake, you’re actually making it harder to avoid real sugar. “Artificial sweeteners like Splenda contain a synthetic chemical called Sucralose, which is 600 times sweeter than natural sugar. Because Sucralose is so much sweeter than natural sugar, it overstimulates the taste buds, causing people to crave intensely sweet foods throughout the day.” And, recent research suggests that sucralose itself may be messing with your body’s insulin response. Try reaching for an apple to go with your coffee: Not only will it neutralize your sugar yen, but the fiber will help keep future cravings at bay throughout the day.

Tweak: Get the right amount of sleep

We all know how important it is to get enough sleep. As New York-based physician Dr. Frank Lipman puts it, “From serotonin production to blood sugar management, immunity, and heart health, sleep impacts every aspect of your health.” Says internationally recognized cardiologist Dr. Kevin Campbell, “Sleep is essential for our bodies to recharge and for our brains to repair important pathways associated with memory and learning new things.” But, as Campbell points out, more isn’t always better. He points to new research suggesting that the “perfect” amount of sleep may be 7 hours a night — although some people need more than others. Experiment to figure out how much sleep makes your body feel its best, and then commit to that number of hours — even if it means resisting the urge to hit snooze.

Tweak: Wash your hands

Here’s an easy one. Wash your hands more — especially after using the ATM. According to recent research, “ATMs harbor the same organisms seen in a public toilet,” Campbell explains. “It is important to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after touching ATM buttons in order to avoid exposure to nasty microbes and [to avoid carrying] them into your car or home.”

But, be sure to look for a soap that’s triclosan-free. A common ingredient in anti-microbial soaps, triclosan has been shown to seriously mess with hormone production and increase the risk of breast cancer. Luckily, there’s no need to reach for an anti-microbial: Research shows that products claiming to have anti-microbial properties are not better at preventing disease than regular old hand soap.

(MORE: The Truth About Your Post-Workout Snack)

 

Tweak: Snack smarter

We’re all familiar with the 3 p.m. snack attack — and how it can wreak havoc on our clean-eating intentions. But, as Campbell points out, there’s a right way and a wrong way to snack. “Research shows that eating two to three healthy snacks throughout the day can improve your metabolism, improve weight control, and reduce obesity. Snacks should be limited to 100 to 200 calories and should be rich in nutrients, such as fruits and veggies.” Lipman suggests incorporating hummus and avocado — the healthy fats in each go a long way toward keeping you full until your next meal.

Tweak: Stop “thirsty”

We’ve heard it before: Adequate hydration is essential to proper function of every body system, especially in the summer. But, it’s all too easy to get dehydrated — as Lipman points out, “if you wait until you’re thirsty to drink, then you’re already dehydrated.” Instead of letting that dry-mouth feeling come on, get into the routine of drinking eight to 10 ounces of water every hour or so, whether you’re thirsty or not. And, if you need extra incentive to keep refueling, try out a new hydration habit — flavor your water with lemon, cucumber, herbs, or in-season berries.

Tweak: Try jogging

We know, we know: Who wants to run in face-melting heat? Well, it doesn’t take much of a step up in the cardio department to generate a major net health benefit. According to Campbell, “Recent research shows that even jogging for as little as five minutes a day has been shown to reduce risk for heart disease, prolong life, and decrease heart attack risk.” Think about running around the block once or twice after dinner. In addition to the cardiovascular health benefits, getting your heart pumping will help kickstart your metabolism, giving your digestive system a serious boost.

Tweak: Increase probiotic intake

From Greek yogurt to kombucha, it doesn’t get much hipper these days than probiotics. Luckily, there’s some health science to back up this particular fad. As board-certified internist and weight-loss specialist Dr. Sue Decotiis points out, “Probiotics are a crucial part of a daily routine of healthy eating, supplementation, and physical activity. Probiotics help naturally “cleanse” our bodies by processing and eliminating toxins from our digestive tract. When our digestive tract is functioning efficiently, so are our hormones and metabolism.”

But, there’s more to the probiotic party than yogurt. Lipman suggest that you “develop a taste for…unpasteurized, fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir, [which] feed your gut with trillions of healthy bacteria.” Try to incorporate one fermented food or drink into each day to keep your gut biome in tip-top shape.

Tweak: Replenish B vitamins

Winter isn’t the only time to be concerned about your vitamin intake. One easy wellness fix: Make sure you’re getting enough B vitamins. As Dr. Decotiis points out, B vitamins, like folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, are essential for proper metabolic function, but they get depleted quickly and must be consumed daily. And, alcohol depletes B vitamins in the body — “All the more reason to increase intake especially after a long summer of social drinking.” Rather than popping supplements, load up on fruits and veggies (especially dark greens like kale), whole grains, fish, and eggs.

(MORE: 7 Harmful Diet Lies You Probably Believe)

Tweak: Cut back on alcohol

If you’re anything like us, you’ve been partying just a little bit harder these past few months — and we don’t blame you. After all, there’s nothing quite like drinking outside on a warm evening. But, consider cooling it a bit on the booze for the rest of the season. As Dr. Decotiis points out, “Besides the obvious that alcohol adds more to your daily caloric intake, it also affects hunger hormones.” Specifically, research has shown that alcohol decreases the amount of leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone made by your endocrine system. This makes it harder for your body to register that it’s had enough to eat — leading you to overconsumption.

Tweak: Replace nonfat yogurt

In the past few years, nonfat yogurt manufacturers have made a killing on our collective fear of that short little “F” word. But, it turns out that avoiding fat like a deadly plague isn’t doing us as much good as we might think. Because it takes longer to digest, fat stays in your stomach longer, helping to keep you full after meals. And, as Lenchewski points out, “One of the most pervasive food myths is the idea that consuming dietary fat makes you fat. But, truthfully, consuming any macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, or fat) in excess will result in weight gain. The fact is, fat adds flavor, and when it’s removed, sweeteners and artificial flavors are typically added in its place.” Then there’s the recent research suggesting that full-fat dairy is better for reducing body fat than nonfat options. Go ahead: indulge. Your metabolism will thank you.

Tweak: Plate your food

Research has already shown that the size and color of your plate can make a big difference in terms of how much you eat. But, here’s another plating-related trick to consider. While many of us go out of our way on presentation to impress our guests, pulling out all the tips and tricks we’ve learned from our Food Network marathons, we tend to get lazy when it’s just us. Think about spending a little time on the aesthetics of your dinners for one. A bit of effort can go a long way toward teaching us to be mindful of what we’re putting into our bodies. Lenchewski says, “When food is plated beautifully and thoughtfully, it makes the meal or snack more appetizing and enjoyable, and as research suggests, can even prevent overeating.”

Tweak: Put food away

Even when you try to eat well by cooking something healthy, you’re not out of the woods. Sometimes, there’s nothing more tempting than that second helping. But, if you find yourself reaching for a refill — whether you’re hungry or not — here’s a no-brainer fix. Board-certified internist Dr. Pat Salber suggests removing temptation altogether. “After you plate your food, immediately put the rest in the fridge so you won’t be tempted to help yourself to seconds.” Out of sight, out of mind. Added bonus: This way, cleanup gets done beforedinner.

Tweak: Set goals for fall

One way to deal with the seemingly inevitable downturn in wellness in the fall and winter? Be deliberate about setting specific goals before bad weather (or seasonal affective disorder) gives you an excuse to crank up the lazy. Dr. Decotiis suggests a proactive approach to your wellness goals by taking accountability before things start to go south. “Start tracking your eating and exercise habits again, and you might be surprised with your findings. If you’ve fallen off the wagon, there’s no better time to get back on track than right now. You’ll go into the fall and winter feeling better about yourself.”

Tweak: Befriend vinegar

Vinegar has long been a favorite in alternative medicine circles for treating everything from acne to ear infections. But, one proven benefit should take the sour stuff into the spotlight for good. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to help regulate blood sugar, which helps keep your most intense food urges under control. Lenchewski says, “Vinegar helps fight sugar cravings by inhibiting the hunger hormone (ghrelin) and preventing blood sugar from spiking after a meal.” Try incorporating ACV into your daily routine with an afternoon cocktail of 1 tablespoon of vinegar mixed with 1 teaspoon of honey and 8 ounces of grapefruit juice.

(MORE: 6 Hydration Myths And What You Need to Know)

Tweak: Re-think dessert

Eating better doesn’t have to mean giving up dessert. It’s all about putting a little bit of thought into how you indulge. As Lipman points out, “The quickest way to whip up a sweet and healthy treat is to make your own popsicles. Freeze your favorite smoothies or juice with a few chunks of fruit or berries.” Even better? Throw a little kale into the mix for a super-healthy, refreshing, and fiber-packed dessert.

 

TIME sleep

The Perfect Amount of Sleep, According to Science

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This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Wondering how much your sleep-in Saturdays or that one all-nighter will set you back? New research might help us gauge how to adjust our sleep schedules by shedding light on how many ZZZs we really need.

The study, published in the journal Sleep, used the data of 1,885 men and 1,875 women collected from the Finnish “Health 2000″ survey. The sleep data included information about participants’ nightly quantity and quality of sleep, whether they had any sleep disorders, and how tired they were during the day. Additionally, the researchers used the Social Insurance Institution to gather information about how often those participants took sick days from work.

(MORE: 7 Sleep Gadgets That Actually Work)

Results showed that those who took the fewest sick days slept, on average, 7.6 hours (for women) and 7.8 hours (for men) per night. In fact, those who got more or less than the “perfect” average of hours per night had an increased risk for sickness absence: up to eight more sick days per year. But, men reporting the optimal amount of sleep only took 5.93 days of sick leave each year on average; optimal female sleepers took 7.64 days. The researchers also found a few more interesting patterns: The male participants reported using sleeping pills more often and experiencing shorter durations of sleep than their female counterparts, while the women reported experiencing a greater effect of the seasons on their sleep duration.

(MORE: Are You ‘Sleep Drunk’ Right Now?)

This study supports previous research, which suggests the magic sleep number is somewhere between five and nine hours per night. It’s not just sleep quantity that matters; poor sleep quality has been shown to cause confusional arousal, or “sleep drunkenness.” Regardless, we know that sleep needs change with age and by individual, so it’s unclear how applicable this recent study’s results are to the population at large. And, although this research shows correlation between non-optimal sleep duration and increased number of sick days, that doesn’t mean one is caused by the other. Besides, nobody has ever taken a sick day when they weren’t actually sick, right? Right…

(MORE: A Scientific Excuse to Sleep In)

 

TIME health

How to Get Over Your Fear of the Gym

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This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Gym + Intimidation = Gymtimidation, and I’ve had a bad case of it for years. As a big girl, gym culture can be intimidating for a variety of reasons. I know I need to lift weights and build strength, but that testosterone-filled section of the gym doesn’t always feel fat-girl friendly, especially when I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing.

But, it’s not just the free-weight room that gives me anxiety. I’m a strong swimmer, but when I head to my gym’s pool, I’ve had lifeguards ask if I’m looking for the slow lane — before I even get in the water. I’ve noticed that the women who look fit are offered free personal-training sessions, while instructors size me up and simply dismiss me because I’m bigger.

I’m on a plus-size fitness journey, though, which means I need to get comfortable at the gym. In order for me to do this right, I need to work out often and try new things. If I only stick to the exercise classes and workouts I’ve always done, my body’s going to get used to those exercises, essentially making them less effective. And, I intend to meet my fitness goals — not shy away from them.

(MORE: Why Body Confidence is Complicated, No Matter Your Size)

Because of my tendency to get nervous at the gym (and practically run out before I start sweating), there have been many times when I’ve had to give myself a pep talk: “CeCe, get over it!” Lately, when I head to the gym, I have to take a quick minute to remind myself that it’s ok to ask for help. That I must get over my fear of the guys in the weight room. I’m also working on getting more comfortable with getting undressed in the main locker-room area, which is a heck of a lot easier than doing it behind the doors of a cramped stall.

Getting over my gymtimidation is an ongoing process. Every time I think I’ve shed my fears and anxieties, there’s something new I have to conquer: a new machine, a new instructor, or even my desire to try new classes, like Spinning.

When I first braved a Spinning class, I didn’t know anyone in it, so I made sure to arrive 30 seconds before class started to stay as anonymous as possible. I jumped on a bike in the back corner of the room and watched the regulars exchange hugs and kisses before the lights dimmed and class began.

(MORE: Why I Dated a Guy Who Hated My Body)

The next 45 minutes were awful. My shoes got stuck in the pedal straps, I kept turning knobs on my bike without knowing what they did, and, perhaps worst of all, my butt really hurt. When the class ended, I ran out of there as fast as I could and didn’t return.

But, the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to attend another Spinning class meant only one thing to me: I was letting gymtimidation rob me of a good workout. So, last week, I got back on that bike. I arrived early this time, chose a bike in the front row, and when the instructor walked in and asked if I was new, I admitted that I was and asked for help. He taught me how the bike worked and how to set up my seat and handles. The class was definitely intense, but every step of the way, the instructor gave me the attention I needed to keep up. He even instructed me to sit back on the seat a bit, because, as he said, my butt was probably hurting. How did he know?

Forty-five minutes later, I walked out of the studio feeling sweaty, motivated, and, above all, proud of myself. I had finally gotten out of my own way and unlocked a new workout option for myself. Who knew what other workouts I’d try next? As I headed to the locker room, the instructor called out after me: “Great job today! I’m glad you mentioned that you were new; most people don’t do that.” I guess I’m not the only one with gymtimidation!

(MORE: Please Stop Calling Yourself a Fat Girl in Front of Me)

On her blog, Plus Size Princess, CeCe Olisa has detailed everything from what it’s like to be the only big black girl in a yoga class (fine, thanks!), to her adventures in plus-size dating in the Big Apple. Now, the New York City transplant is lending her poignant, often-hilarious voice to R29.

TIME health

The Weirdest Stuff We All Do at the Gym

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This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

A few years ago the media was obsessed with talking about the weird habits of people who live alone. The uninhibited freedom of not cohabitating gives you a free pass to walk around naked, sing to yourself, and leave the bathroom door open 24/7. And, while I currently live with a roommate, I don’t curb any of my quirkiness — except maybe the bathroom-door thing.

But, since the gym is my second home, it’s only natural that I have a second set of weird quirks specific to the sweat-friendly atmosphere. They may be a bit unconventional, but they’re never annoying or disrespectful — no loud conversations or equipment hogging. I proudly display my eccentric gym habits as any true local would — like a badge of honor. From treadmill racing to yawning while exercising to giving my muscles a mental “pat on the back,” here are some oddities I’m definitely guilty of doing.

(MORE: How to Actually Enjoy Your Workout)

1. I maximize viewings of my gym clothes by saving my favorite apparel for Monday workouts — as that is when the gym is always the most crowded. I realize occupying a treadmill in the front row of Equinox isn’t the same as sitting front row during Fashion Week, I just happen to love my spandex and want to show it off. And, when you’re in the front, there’s no room for slacking, so it helps me push harder, even if no one is actually paying any attention.

2. There is such a thing as a “better” treadmill, StairMaster, or [insert equipment of choice]. Perhaps it’s the one positioned directly under the AC or away from the mirror so I don’t have to stare at myself for the duration of my three-mile run. Whatever the reason, once I find my favorite, I’ll forever try exercise on that same piece of equipment anytime I’m at that gym.

3. During lunges, I rest my hands on my butt (as discreetly as possible). It’s a reminder to push through my heels, so that I engage my glute muscles, instead of relying on my quads, to return to standing. Plus, when you feel your muscles working, it’s definitely a “go me” moment.

4. I won’t seek you out, but if you choose the treadmill next to me (when there are a few open), I will assume you want to race. And, we will — game on.

(MORE: 5 Reasons to Skip Your Workout)

5. Even when I’m totally pumped up and not remotely tired, sometimes I’ll yawn at the gym. There are a lot of different theories why this happens (one is that yawning helps cool the brain), and I used to be embarrassed, thinking that everyone around me would assume I wasn’t working hard enough. But, then I stopped caring what other people thought and used my yawns to see if anyone was staring — because we all know that yawning is contagious.

6. I pee no less than three times before my CrossFit workout. Whenever I know that I have a tough training session ahead, my bladder goes into overdrive. It’s annoying, but I’ve learned to deal with it and plan for multiple bathroom breaks.

7. I don’t put makeup on, specifically for the purpose of going to the gym, but, if I train after work, I don’t necessarily put any effort into taking it off. I do plan my lip color around my workout schedule though as I have one red lip stain that I love. But, I have to avoid wearing it on days that I plan to train since it’s impossible to remove.

8. When I forget to toss my armband in my gym bag, I’ll attempt to store my phone in weird places (including in my sports bra, tucked under the strap of my tank top, and in a legging pocket that wasn’t meant to hold anything larger than a key), so I can listen to my jams uninterrupted while exercising. It almost never works, but I keep trying.

(MORE: How I Balance Drinking and Exercise)

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