TIME

5 (Good) Reasons to Skip Your Workout

Here’s a fitness rule you shouldn’t follow: “Never skip a workout.”

Forcing yourself to stick with an extreme program that tells you to “never, ever deviate” (we’re looking at you, restrictive diets and aggressive fitness plans) isn’t sustainable. And, at R29 Wellness, we believe that living healthfully and staying active is a lifestyle — not just a month-long commitment.

With any regular training program, you should be taking one to two days off per week to allow your body to recover, explains performance coach and exercise physiologist Pete McCall. This helps prevent burnout and ward off injuries by giving your muscles time to heal. As McCall points out, a rest day doesn’t have to mean spending hours on your couch; you can recover actively by taking a low-intensity walk or scheduling a restorative yoga class.

But, there are times when doing nothing at all is your best bet for mental and physical health. (Unfortunately, having just bought a bottle of wine doesn’t quite make the cut.) Ahead, five common scenarios where sleeping in (and/or eating the damn cookie) will leave you more refreshed and energized than pushing through your regularly scheduled sweat session would.

This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

  • After a Bad Night’s Sleep

    Sleep and exercise have a delicate, sometimes tumultuous relationship. Studies have shown that regularly working up a sweat improves sleep quality over time. But, you need to clock the recommended seven-plus hours per night in order to reap those benefits.

    “If you skimped on sleep a few nights in a row and feel like you’re dragging, go ahead and take the nap instead of forcing yourself to work out,” says McCall. Sleep is when your body repairs and resets itself, restoring hormone levels and repairing muscle tissue. “Exercising on top of exhaustion and extreme fatigue will cause additional stress for your body,” he explains.

    An interesting study published last fall in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine looked at women suffering from insomnia who did 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week. While exercise has been previously linked to improving sleep quality among insomniacs, the researchers found that insufficient sleep influenced the participants’ next-day exercise — instead of the other way around. After a poor night’s slumber, the women tended to shorten their workouts.

    If you train when you’re really, truly exhausted, you’re not going to have a great workout. And, you’re increasing your risk of injury by pushing too hard when your mind and body aren’t completely focused on what you’re doing, explains McCall. Rest is essential to any exercise program, so if you’re totally wiped out, enjoying an extra day of recovery is better than logging a “meh” workout.

    (MORE: 6 Workout Moves You’re Not Doing — But Should Be)

  • With a Case of the Sniffles

    Regular exercise has been linked to warding off colds by boosting your immune system. But, if you’ve already got the sniffles, it’s OK to skip your workout to recuperate. “Give your body the time it needs to heal,” McCall says. “The stress of working out can wreak havoc on a weakened immune system, so allow your body to do it’s job and focus its energy on fighting the illness.” Plus, bringing germs into the gym is just bad mojo.

    If you’re really torn about ditching a previously booked class, follow the “neck rule” — if your symptoms are above the neck only, it’s OK to stick with your workout. If they manifest below, however, wait until you’re fully recovered before heading to the gym. And, always use common sense; you know when your body is just not having it.

    Choosing to skip a workout because of a headache, however, is completely personal. “[For some people], exercise will exacerbate symptoms,” explains McCall, “whereas light exercise can help others.” Of course, if you’re working out while under the weather, you should proceed with caution, scaling back your intensity and effort. What’s the American Council on Exercise’s recommendation for a sniffle-proof activity? Moderate walking.

  • Because of Stress

    One of the best benefits of exercise is stress relief. But, when it’s one of those weeks (the ones when it seems like everything is falling apart), skip the gym. Instead, focus on handling what you need to get done, so you can give 100% during your next workout, McCall explains.

    “Exercise is stress on the body. Positive stress, but still stress,” he says. If you know you have a few extremely busy days ahead, plan on cutting back on your training or find a way to sneak in more movement throughout your day — whether it’s a few 10-minute walks or even just standing up more. It’s best not to do a high-intensity workout, but a little physical activity can help you feel better.

    A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that chronic stress affects your body’s ability to recover after exercise. The most stressed participants experienced more fatigue and soreness after a tough training session.

    Of course, stress isn’t completely avoidable, so it’s important to understand how it affects your individual workout performance and recovery. If you feel it over-stimulates your body, go ahead and cut back during your most hectic weeks. Or, if you find exercise to be a great way to take your mind off everything, just be sure to add an extra day of recovery between workouts during those high-stress times.

     

  • For a Friend’s Birthday Dinner

    Taking a mental time-out to enjoy a special activity, such as a friend’s birthday dinner or an anniversary celebration, is just as important as giving your body time to recover. Working up a sweat is essential to feeling good and warding off disease, but ultimately life isn’t just about working out. Healthy living is a commitment that needs to be sustainable.

    McCall points out that social activity is part of the wellness wheel, which recognizes a need for fun. “Laughing and enjoying yourself can be just as healthy as a workout,” He adds. But, that doesn’t mean you have a free pass to turn every happy-hour invite into a special occasion; you still need to exercise. If skipping your workout for [insert any social event here] turns into a regular activity (a.k.a. more than once a month), it’s time to adjust your schedule. Try exercising in the morning or sneaking in more mini-bouts of activity throughout your day.

    (MORE: Don’t Make This Ab Mistake)

  • When You’re Injured

    Feeling a little achy after a workout is normal. If you’re just slightly sore, it’s OK to exercise as planned. Do a cross-training routine that uses different muscles, or go for a low-intensity walk. “It will feel good to move around,” McCall says. “Activity helps increase circulation.” There is, however, a difference between active, recreational movement and full-on, hard-core working out; when you’re sore, go for the former.

    If you’re extremely sore, experiencing pain, or already injured, hold off on exercise entirely. If you forge ahead in a workout in this case, your body will try to avoid the area(s) of pain and will adjust your movement patterns accordingly. Compromising form in this way can increase your risk of serious injury, leaving you sidelined for even longer. “Injury is stress to the body, and if you’re not feeling good, exercising on top of that won’t make you feel any better. So, take a few days off,” McCall says. If after a few days of rest you’re still experiencing pain, see a doctor.

    Each injury is different, and it’s imperative to listen to your physician about what you can and can’t do while recovering. Allowing your body to rest is necessary to its natural healing process. While you may not be able to keep up with a particular sport (for example, running with a knee injury), you can use this as an opportunity to explore different activities that don’t place the same stress on your body. Of course, follow your doctor’s orders on integrating movement back into your routine.

     

     

TIME

10 Tips For Being Happier at Work

Lips on a Yellow Background
Designed by Ammiel Mendoza

It’s Thursday. Meaning: Only two more days between you and the weekend. But, there are probably a thousand meetings, deadlines, and co-worker spats between here and there. Awful, we know. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. In an alternate universe, you could be happy at work — even on the days when your boss is being unreasonable and you’re stuck in the office absurdly late.

We hit up Nataly Kogan, cofounder and CEO of Happier (a wellness company that’s all about helping people get happier and healthier in every part of their lives), for a no-BS guide that could legitimately change the way you see your job. Because, here’s the thing: It’s all about perspective, and finding a smarter way to deal with the mundane stuff.

Sure, if you’re truly miserable, you should find a new gig. And, if you’re medium-unhappy, maybe you should still be looking. But, until you find that next job, you’re most likely stuck with this one. Even if you love your job (like we clearly do — after all, we have balloon hats at our company meetings), some days are harder than others. Which is where our handy-dandy guide comes in.

The 10 simple tips to upgrade your daily grind, right this way.

 

This content originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME health

How Dieting Changes Friendships

Dinner table illustration
Illustrated by Sydney Hass

Diet, whether we like it or not, plays a role in our social lives. Think about the culture of your office lunch — there’s the gluten-free faction, the microwave Easy Mac-ers, and those February Fridays when everyone just goes crazy and orders burgers because it’s snowing again?? Remember that one group dinner when no one could tell if anyone else wanted dessert, so you all just stared each other in silence while the waiter stood, clutching menus, hating you harder by the second? And, how about the dietetic minefield that is brunch?

Food has a way of drawing lines between friends, and it sucks. How many times have you started a diet with a friend in the hopes that you’d support each other and keep each other honest? Sometimes it works, and you spend a few weeks hitting the gym together, reporting every froyo skipped and every cocktail made “skinny.” And then, someone starts to deviate. Here’s a semi-true text I’ve both sent and received on more than one occasion: “My back is really bugging me. I think I need to skip yoga tonight. I’m so, so sorry! Are you mad?!” (Side note: My 30th birthday present to myself and all my friends was to quit it with the “are you mad” stuff.) Sometimes their response is “Thank God, I WANT WINE NOW PLEASE,” and then you just bring your mats to the wine bar and everyone is happy. Other times, you’re not on the same page. That’s when you’re no longer cheating on the diet, you’re cheating on your friend. At least, that’s what it feels like. And, it feels like that because that’s how you set it up.

(MORE: 10 Buzzy Superfoods That Work)

Okay, that’s not entirely fair. (Man, is anything fair with this food stuff?) Even when we’re not doing the buddy-diet thing, the way we eat always seems to be a part of the conversation. It’s a natural social inclination to discuss this kind of stuff, but it’s certainly been perverted by the diet-centric culture in which we live. Our great-great-grandparents might have sat around each other’s kitchens discussing food in different terms — the best recipes, the nutritional content, the economic value — and we might as well, to a degree. Goodness knows I get pretty excited when I find an avocado for less than $3. But, I’m pretty sure my great-great-grandmother never boated ‘cross the fjords to tell her bestie she’d found a sick recipe for low-carb smørrebrød.

(MORE: The Mindful Eating Trick That Saves Me)

People often say that it’s hard to have a social life when you’re on a diet: You can’t go out for cocktails because of the cals, you go home early so you can hit the gym early, you opt out of your own birthday cake. It sucks. The rude awakening I’ve had over the last six months is that giving up dieting is the opposite side of the same sucky coin. Have another cocktail, sure. Have a mudslide, if that’s what you really want! But, be prepared for raised eyebrows — even if you’re only imagining them.

 

Dinner table illustration
Illustrated by Sydney Hass
Illustrated by Sydney Hass

Food-related socializing can be challenging now. Even trickier? I’m finally realizing just how many of my social interactions are food-related. In the old days, I had friends with whom I was “bad” — those friends I’d associate with cheeseburgers and a back-up bottle of wine in the fridge. Then, I had friends that spoke the language of food-fear, and together we made guilt-free soups and counted out portions of baked chips. In all these relationships, we had more in common than food, thankfully. Though, because food was the axis I spun on, it became the center of these interactions, too.

(MORE: The Science of a Perfect Relationship)

But, the more I become an intuitive eater, the less food is my anchor. I don’t “cheat” anymore, and so gone is the thrill of the “cheat night.” I don’t constantly crawl the internet for low-point guacamole recipes, and now guacamole is just the thing we eat while we hang out, not the entire reason for hanging out (spoiler: that’s kind of the goal). Sometimes it’s as simple as not being hungry at the same time as my friend. I know, call Dr. Phil, how will we ever get through a crisis of this magnitude?

When you go against the grain, you will be challenged. Your usual support system might take a while to adjust. The one in your own head is what you really need to focus on. Because there will always be naysayers. There will always be moments when a friend might set you off on a diet-minded tailspin with her no-cheese, no-yolk omelet, accompanied by salad with the dressing firmly on the side. Faced with your perfectly acceptable pancakes in those moments, there’s no other back-up but you. And, you, if you’re me, is the toughest nut to crack.

My friends have been there for me from day one, but some of them didn’t necessarily get it. If I’m honest, I think some of them still don’t. But, what a relief to discover that that’s okay. My friends, my coworkers, my boyfriend and I don’t necessarily need to be on the same track about absolutely everything. Just because I’ve jumped off the bridge doesn’t mean my friends have to, too. This feels like something I should have learned in middle school, but I’m glad I’m getting it now.

This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME career

6 Ways to Become a Better Communicator

Gchat isn't always the best way to talk

I grew up in a pretty blunt household — we said what was on our minds and no topic was off-limits. This level of candor meant no silent treatments, no hiding behind slammed doors, and no letting things stew. While honesty has certainly helped me in personal relationships as well at the office, there are times when my dose of truth serum can be a little too potent. Why does talking (something most of us have been doing since infancy) become so difficult sometimes?

“Communication is, above all, a skill — and very few people know how to communicate effectively, naturally. It takes thoughtfulness and a lot of practice,” says Carl Alasko, PhD, a California-based psychotherapist and author of Say This Not That: A Foolproof Guide to Effective Intrapersonal Communication.

This basically means you need to strategize and practice if you’re going to successfully confront your roommate about her less-than-stellar cleanliness skills (or tell a coworker he isn’t pulling his weight on a project). No worries if your eloquence isn’t quite Brian Williams-level; we’ve tapped top communication experts for their tricks. Get ready to master the art of conversation.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

  • Get to the Point

    Designed by Mary Schafrath

    Being honest with someone can be intimidating. I’ve seen “moments of truth” that go brutally wrong and end up featuring tears, accusations, and flying iPhones. But, you shouldn’t avoid confrontation like it’s a bad Nicolas Cage movie; there are instances when it’s necessary to be up-front.

    “Be straightforward with people when the complaint is one that directly affects your relationship,” says Art Markman, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Texas. “Beating around the bush runs the risk that they will not understand the message.” The best way to approach a confrontation is to decide in advance what you what to accomplish, explains Dr. Alasko. If you need to call out a close friend for consistently ragging on you, say: “You have been really critical of me lately. I want you to stop.” “You don’t want to play victim and pretend nothing is wrong,” Dr. Alasko explains. Prep beforehand, recalling concrete examples of when you felt upset so you can remain factual.

    At work, be extra-attentive about making sure the point is open for discussion. Since there are more boundaries at play in the office, it’s good to say something like “Would it be okay for me to offer a suggestion?” or “I’d like to provide an explanation and discuss this further.” Whether you are delivering a performance review or proposing a change to a co-worker, you’ll convey a neutral position and open the floor up to dialogue.

    In any scenario, it’s important to realize that anything you bring up can come as a surprise to someone. “I always remind my clients: Just because you’ve known someone for a long time, [it] doesn’t mean you can read each other’s minds…sometimes people don’t realize that they are doing something wrong,” explains Anna Ranieri, PhD, a California-based counselor and co-author of How Can I Help?

    (MORE: 10 Things Not to Say at Work)

  • Quit the Blame Game

    Bullhorn
    Designed by Mary Schafrath

    Being direct doesn’t have to be hurtful. Dr. Alasko urges us to avoid the four toxic behaviors: criticism, accusation, punishment, and humiliation. “These will only create anger and distrust, and push people further away,” he says. When the person you’re speaking to doesn’t feel attacked, he or she will be more open to discussion, and more willing to initiate change.

    An easy way to eliminate criticism is to use strict facts to get your point across, says Joseph Grenny, co-author of Crucial Conversations. Instead of stating, “You were late again,” aim to be more neutral and say, “You agreed to be here by 2 p.m., but you arrived at 2:20.” “By describing the gap between what was expected and what happened, you remain judgment-free,” he says. Being able to phrase the truth in a compassionate manner makes it much easier for someone to view your comments appreciatively instead of defensively.

    For your message and guidance to be well-received, it’s also important to take timing into account; a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that people are less likely to take advice when they are feeling upset or angered by previous events.

    (MORE: The Genius Guide to FAKE Confidence)

  • Don’t Be a Know-It-All

    Bullhorn
    Designed by Mary Schafrath

    I’ll admit it: I love to play therapist. But, as much as I’m thrilled to offer any insightful pearls of wisdom, I’ve learned to dish them out cautiously; it turns out, not everyone wants advice. “Sometimes, people just want to vent,” says Dr. Ranieri. When you are confronted with a tale of despair, go ahead and ask: “Hey, did you want my advice? Or are you just looking to get this off your chest?”

    If your opinions are solicited, keep this in mind: Researchers found that people respond more readily to information rather than votes for or against something. So, cushion your recommendation with facts about what may or may not have worked well in the past.

    On the other side of the spectrum, there are the chronic advice-seekers. You may spend hours counseling these individuals, but they never, ever seem to follow what you propose. In these cases, “It’s okay to be blunt and say ‘You’ve asked me for advice several times already, but I’m not sure we’re getting anywhere,'” says Dr. Ranieri. “Being up-front can help jolt a self-realization that maybe it’s time to take action.”

    (MORE: Are You Being Lied to? 10 Tell-Tale Signs)

  • Talk Online & Offline

    Bullhorn
    Designed by Mary Schafrath

    Gchat, email, and texting can be saviors when we want to communicate at lightning speed — or avoid dealing with someone face-to-face. “Email is an especially good way of bringing up news to introverts, who may need some time to absorb the information, reflect, and prepare a response,” Dr. Ranieri explains.

    But, you don’t want online communication to become your default. It’s a “passive way of handling problems,” Dr. Ranieri cautions. If you have a big announcement to make to a boss or partner, go ahead and bring up the issue via email — but ask to follow up with an in-person discussion. Your smartphone is not the appropriate channel for breaking up, quitting your job, or bringing up any concern that will take multiple messages to negotiate. “You’ll want visual contact so you can determine if the other person is on the same page,” explains Grenny. A study in the Journal of Information Systems Research found that face-to-face discussion reduces misunderstandings because it allows for immediate feedback and social cues (such as posture, eye contact, and facial expressions).

    So, it’s okay to call attention via text or email, but the real hash-out has to happen in person. Looks like that dreaded “we need to talk” text is actually onto something.

  • Think Now, Talk Later

    Bullhorn
    Designed by Mary Schafrath

    Proverbs have declared it “golden,” Simon and Garfunkel dedicated a song to it — yet silence still gets a bad rap. People who don’t respond right away to a comment (or refrain altogether) fear they’ll be viewed as incompetent or ill-prepared.

    “As humans, we’ve been hardwired with the fight-or-flight response to react instantly to a verbal or physical attack,” Dr. Alasko says. While we have learned to control our physical response — you don’t throw a punch at your boss for a bad review — we have a much harder time holding back our words. Adrenaline can cause us to easily blurt out something we don’t mean, simply because our communication channels are compromised by stress.

    Ultimately, though, the goal is not to resort to the silent treatment, which can come off as passive and immature. Instead, simply delay communication. “Pause and prepare a thoughtful response, which can buffer emotions and minimize hurt feelings,” Dr. Alasko advises. Before launching in, he suggests saying: “Let me think about this for a few seconds.” The silence may be initially uncomfortable, but it’ll prevent you from saying something you will later regret.

  • Take a Minute

    Designed by Mary Schafrath

    The goal with communication strategies is not to change your personality or become an emotionless robot; some of us are more blunt, others are more passive — and that’s all fine. To be a more effective communicator you just need to develop your awareness. How we talk (in addition to what we say) can change the outcome of our conversations — especially the uncomfortable ones. Now, talk among yourselves.

TIME Travel

3 Sneaky Ways Your Vacation Is Costing You Extra

Nothing can ruin your vacation more than getting charged excessive fees that drain your bank account — or worse, losing your credit card and falling victim to identity theft. Why risk ruining your vacation? With careful planning, you can protect yourself from both theft and unnecessary expenses. Here are three tips to help keep your bank account financially sound and your finances running smoothly on your summer vacation.

This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

  • Get A Credit Card With No Foreign Transaction Fees & An EMV Chip

    Illustration by Emily Turner

    Most credit cards charge you 3% on every dollar you spend overseas. That means every $1,000 spent on your trip will cost you $30 in fees. But, you can eliminate this unnecessary expense by carrying a travel credit card, which has zero foreign transaction fees. An great example is the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard, which also comes with travel accident insurance and fraud liability.

    In addition, some credit cards offer some pretty sweet travel rewards to earn you money back for your travel spending. For example, the Barclaycard offers 2.2% rewards on every dollar spent, when your rewards are redeemed for travel. The Bank of America Travel Rewards card offers 1.5 points on every dollar spent. It has no foreign transaction fees and a pretty decent sign-up bonus.

    You may also want to consider a credit card that has EMV chip technology, a secure microchip for transmitting data. This technology helps reduce counterfeiting and fraud. If your card is lost or stolen, the embedded microchip makes the card harder to counterfeit. These cards are easily accepted overseas.

    (MORE: We Solve 3 Tricky Packing Challenges)

  • Withdraw Cash From An ATM & Exchange Money Without Paying Huge Fees

    Illustration by Emily Turner

    Not every hotel or restaurant will accept your credit card, so it’s important to have cash on hand at all times. Unfortunately, withdrawing money at an airport or from a foreign ATM can come with number of fees, including a fee for currency conversion. First, you should try very hard not to exchange money at airports, which tend to carry the worst exchange rates. Nor should you exchange money at a bank at home, as you will most likely receive a better rate in the country you are traveling to. Using your debit card to withdraw money from ATMs overseas is actually not a bad option, since it tends to come with lower rates. A few banks make it easier on your wallet when it comes to withdrawing your money. Capital One is one bank that waives foreign transaction fees on ATM withdrawals. The Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account is another option. It offers unlimited rebates on any ATM fees you get charged, as well as no monthly service fees and .1% annual percentage yield (APY) on any balance.

    (MORE: 14 Sunny Places You’ll Want to Visit Now)

  • Set Up Your Bills For Automatic Payments & Alert Your Bank

    Illustration by Emily Turner

    You’ll need to make sure things continue to run smoothly while you’re away. Missing a credit card or mortgage payment can have a very negative effect on your credit score, so why take the risk?

    First, make sure all of your bills and bank accounts are up to date before you leave. Consider scheduling payments ahead of time for any upcoming bills. Most banks should let you pay a bill automatically at a future date.

    Next, you may want to consider alerting your bank that you will be on vacation. If a bank or credit card company sees that you’ve made a bunch of charges in an unfamiliar location, the bank may suspect fraud. Bank of America is one bank that has an option on its website to set up a travel notice.

    (MORE: 5 Editors, 5 Travel Outfits Under $100)

TIME technology

Burnt Out? 7 Mindfulness Apps To Help You Refocus

Your smartphone doesn't always have to be a distraction

I kind of want to marry my iPhone, day planner, and computer. But, as with any relationship, sometimes I need a break. The other night I decided to leave my to-do list and phone upstairs for the night, and I had trouble sleeping. I worried about the incoming emails and Tweets that would go unanswered until morning. And, I fondly thought about a time when my phone was anchored to the wall with a cord and my sleep was uninterrupted by thoughts of hashtags, @ symbols, and perfectly crafted subject lines. Yes, life was simple then. My nights were spent reading a good book, or with my mom doing a guided meditation to help me snooze. As I thought about her telling me to inhale the spirit of the universe and to exhale stress, my mind flashed to my app store: I bet there was an app that could do that! I quickly jumped out of bed and began searching for relaxation apps and videos. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the thing that usually makes me super-productive and connected with the world could also help me meditate and block out the business (that could wait) around me. So here you go — my top 10 apps, videos, and tools for you to just be you.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

  • Calm.com

    Courtesy of Calm.com

    Calm.com boasts a seven-step meditation process that can help you reduce anxiety, feel better, and create great ideas. The website and app are both really minimal and have beautiful imagery, music, and narration for you to find your happy place. You can choose different backgrounds to suit your mood, as well as different meditation lengths. By focusing on your breath and posture, Calm.com can help you escape the chaos around you and focus on your well-being. The yearly pro-access is available for $9.99, but the beginners edition is free.

  • Omvana

    Courtesy of Omvana

    Omvana is the life coach of meditation websites and apps. Not only will you learn how to relax and meditate, you’ll sharpen your ability to focus on your work, develop a goal-oriented mindset, and feel inspired to live in the moment. It has downloadable tracks for hypnosis, guided meditation, and sleep. There is also a huge library of inspirational speaking, poetry, and music tracks to choose from. Although the app is free, the tracks are not, so your mindfulness may cost you.

  • MINDBODY Connect

    Courtesy of MINDBODY

    MINDBODY Connect is the best app to help you find a physical place to block out the world around you. This app locates yoga classes, day spas, and meditation centers in your vicinity, and lets you book and pay for it right there on your phone. To boot, it has a user-friendly design and incorporates Google maps functionality to help you find your way to nirvana.

  • YouTube — RainBirdHD

    Courtesy of RainBirdHD

    Whether you’re trying to fall asleep or need to drown out the audible chaos of your office, the RainBirdHD YouTube channel has a ton of sounds for you to choose from. You can get up to 10 hours of thunder and heavy rain fall, airplane cabin white noise, arctic wind, winter snow, classical music, and more. But, don’t forget to pack your headphones if you’re going to listen to this at work. (I’m sure your boss doesn’t want to hear “rain on a metal roof” while conducting a budget meeting.)

  • Mindfulness Daily

    The Mindfulness Daily app allows you to set specific times that you’d like to practice your meditation: once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once at night. The app sends you a notification message at your specified time to start your meditation. It features a “lifelog” that will track your daily patterns, which allows you to reflect and make changes to make you more productive and less stressed. And of course, like most of the other meditation apps, Mindfulness Daily has relaxing sounds, breathing guides and imagery to help you block out the world around you.

TIME Body Image

Will Being Skinny Solve All My Problems?

87142025Still life of white iconic scale
Still life of white iconic scale Tooga—Getty Images

No one will ever have a perfect life, skinny or not

Growing up as a plus-size girl, the last day of school was always the first day of my master plan to lose weight. The plan, of course, was to get skinny over the summer break so that I could wow everyone with my new body on the first day of school. I had wonderful fantasies of my triumphant return as skinny CeCe.

In junior high, the fantasy was simple: I would come back to school skinny, my crush would fall in love with me, and my life would be perfect. In the high school fantasy, I would come back to school skinny, my crush would fall in love with me, I’d get the lead part in the school play, and then my life would be perfect.

Through college, the fantasy changed, but the template remained the same: get skinny, blah blah blah, and my life would be perfect. The idea that skinny meant having a perfect life was a silent mantra that I would affirm as I watched my more slender friends experience major (and, sometimes very minor) milestones that seemed to allude me. If I were skinny, he would have bought me a drink. If I were skinny, I could shop there, too. If I were skinny, I would have gotten that job.

(MORE: Is There Such A Thing As Being Fat And Fit?)

Then, a random night out changed everything. I was invited to a BBW club in NYC. A BBW club is bar-slash-night club specifically for big girls and the men who are attracted to them. Walking into the club, my weight was a non-factor because all of the women were plus-size. I began to see myself in a completely different light: Instead of standing on the wall silently apologizing for being a big girl, I was confidently dancing, talking to people, and generally having a great time. It might seem ridiculous, but I felt like the night had endless possibilities — this was the perfect life I’d been imagining.

That’s when it hit me: The only variable that had changed was my issue with my weight. When I stopped acting like a perfect life was only accessible to the non-existent Skinny CeCe, my perfect life began to open up.

(MORE: 3 New Kale Recipes For A Summer Detox)

I always say you shouldn’t wait on your weight, because for a long time, I fell into the habit of believing life would open up to me if only I’d lost a few dozen pounds. There were so many things that I was saving for my “perfect life,” and so many things that I thought that only Skinny CeCe could do — and feeling confident was definitely one of them.

But, I had been waiting on Skinny CeCe to show up since I was a pre-teen. And frankly, she was late, and I had things to do, so I began to do them. I forced myself to address why I hid behind my extra pounds (read: It was an easy excuse for why things weren’t working out for me). and I started a plus-size dating blog. I experiment with my style on my YouTube channel, and I go on travel excursions. Even better? I’ve since given myself permission to live a healthy lifestyle without the pressure of being thin (which, coincidentally enough, actually lead to me losing 55 pounds).

(MORE: Introducing The Anti-Diet Project: It’s On)

No one will ever have a perfect life, skinny or not. I had to realize that outside of my weight, I had too much to be thankful for to keep myself boxed in. Letting go of the idea that my life couldn’t begin until I lost weight got me closer to perfection than I’ve ever been.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME human behavior

The No-Fail Way To Stop Procrastinating

170153156
Businesswoman drinking coffee and feet up in office Paul Bradbury—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

I’m working on Before and After, a book about habit-formation, so I constantly ask myself, “What are the issues in my life that bug me, and how can I tackle them through habits?”

One problem: nagging tasks. It’s a secret of adulthood: Nothing is more exhausting than the task that’s never started. I knew this, but nevertheless I’d accumulated a lengthy list of small, mildly unpleasant tasks that I kept putting off — in many cases, for months. Maybe years. These tasks weren’t urgent (which why they didn’t get done), but they weighed on my mind and sapped my energy. As I walked through my apartment, or sat at my desk, the accumulation of these little chores made me feel overwhelmed.

But, how could I form a single habit to cover a bunch of non-recurring, highly diverse tasks? I hit on an idea. Once a week, for one hour, I’d steadily work on these chores. An hour didn’t sound like much time, but it was manageable.

With this hour, I’d tackle only tasks where I had no deadline, no accountability, no pressure — because these were the tasks that weren’t getting addressed. That’s another secret of adulthood: Something that can be done at any time is often done at no time. But, although no one else cared when I replaced my office chair with the broken arm, or donated my daughters’ outgrown clothes to a thrift store, it made a difference to me.

I considered calling this time my “To-Do List Time.” Then I remembered a term from psychology, the “fluency heuristic,” which explains that an idea seems more valuable if it’s easier to say or think. An idea expressed in rhyme seems more convincing, which is why “haste makes waste” is more compelling than “hurrying fosters error.” I decided to name my new habit “power hour.”

First, I made a list of the tasks to complete. That was easy and almost fun; I get a weird satisfaction from adding items to my to-do list. I didn’t allow myself to add any task that had to get done by a certain time; I couldn’t use power hour for planning my daughter’s birthday party or buying airplane tickets (for some reason, I loathe buying airplane tickets), because I knew these tasks would get done. And, I couldn’t use power hour for recurring tasks, like paying bills or answering emails, because I have different kinds of habits to cover repetitive chores. Power hour was time to accomplish those one-time tasks that weigh on my mind, but could be — and probably already have been — indefinitely postponed. For instance: make a photo album of our summer vacation; use up store credits; donate books to Housing Works; move pretend kitchen; round up and recycle batteries and devices.
It feels so good to cross a nagging task off the list. A friend once told me, “I finally cleared out my fridge, and now I feel like I can switch careers.” I knew exactly what she meant.
Power hour is enormously satisfying, because I’ve managed to chip away at tasks that were draining me. The joy of power hour reminds of another great habit that helps me manage the chaos: my one-minute rule. If I can do something in less than one minute, I don’t let myself procrastinate. I hang up my coat, put newspapers in the recycling, scan and toss a letter. Ever since I wrote about this rule in The Happiness Project, I’ve been amazed by how many people have told me that it has made a huge difference in their lives. These kinds of habits keep progress steady and manageable.How about you? Do you have any strategies for staying on top of those little nagging tasks that mount up so quickly?

Gretchen Rubin, author of two New York Times bestsellers, is our go-to gal for the best get-it-together know-how. Every week, she’ll be dishing up her wisdom straight from her popular blog, The Happiness Project, to get you on the road to a more productive, healthier you. Here’s to a 2014 resolution that sticks!

This article by Gretchen Rubin originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME health

7 Harmful Diet Lies You Probably Believe

As a culture, we go through phases with our diet preferences — low-fat gave way to low-carb, dairy-free begat gluten-free, and eggs (poor eggs) are either omega-rich wunderkinds or insidious cholesterol bombs depending on the current political climate and whether or not Mercury’s in retrograde. Yet, there are some out-there diet myths that we simply can’t seem to shake. Over the course of The Anti-Diet Project I’ve struggled to dislodge these false beliefs from my own diet-addled brain, but it’s not easy. When I’ve believed for 10 years that a potato is four points, it’s really hard to see it as a potato again. I still struggle with eating dinner, even when I’m hungry, and I’m fairly convinced it’ll take years of couples counseling for me to ever trust bananas again. We’ll get there one day, bananas.

Considering that I’m clearly bonkers when it comes to food, it helps to have a professional on hand. I enlisted Theresa Kinsella, MS, RD, CDN to take on some of the diet myths that we’re particularly stuck on. Some of them are problems for me, while others seem to be bugaboos for pretty much everyone. Some seem to be obviously bunk, while I fully expected her to come back with, “Well, that one’s kind of true,” about others. Nope. Turns out, when it comes to the “rules” of eating right, we are almost always ridiculously wrong.

Note: I’m sure that some of the following might not jibe with your current belief system around food. (For the gluten topic alone, I expect a fair amount of tomato-throwing.) I’m not here to convert anyone, nor am I a nutrition professional — but Theresa is. I hope that even if you disagree with, or don’t believe in, any of these statements, you’ll take it upon yourself to do your own research or reach out to your own medical or nutritional pros. We good?

This article was written by Kelsey Miller and originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

 

  • Myth #1 You shouldn’t eat dinner (or anything else) after 7 p.m.

    “There is no universal time that everyone should stop eating,” says Kinsella. “People get up at different times, go to sleep at different times, and eat at different times. Many countries eat dinner later than Americans but their populations weigh less than Americans do. Unless someone has an eating disorder and needs to eat at regular intervals to establish normalized hunger cues, or someone has a self-care reason for eating (like they’ll soon be stuck in a meeting without access to food), it is more important for people to be connected to their internal hunger cues than to be eating based on an external influence, like the clock.”

    What’s even more curious is how this diet myth originated. Kinsella wonders if the don’t-eat-at-night rule may have more to do with how we regulate our earlier meals while dieting. “Some people get in bad cycles of skipping breakfast and then overeating at night,” she says. Furthermore, it’s often not about the time we eat but how we’re eating. “Sometimes, people find themselves late-night snacking out of habit while they’re watching TV. Both these patterns should be addressed simply because they aren’t self-care behaviors. But, non-hunger mindless snacking at 9 a.m. would be just as much of an issue as [it is at] 9 p.m.”

     

  • Myth #2 Your body doesn’t need carbohydrates. Carbs make you fat.

    This line of thinking is central to quite a few diet programs, but Kinsella puts it right to bed. “With the exception of specialized diets for medical necessity, if someone isn’t eating carbohydrates, they aren’t functioning at their optimal level,” she says. “The brain alone uses 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. Carbohydrates are also necessary for serotonin production.”

    She adds that the maligned molecules are even more important if you engage in even moderate exercise. “Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for exercise and many people do not feel good when exercising without them. Since exercise is an essential component of self-care and health, eliminating carbohydrates can be detrimental to overall health.”

    Again, no one’s arguing that you need more Wonder Bread in your life, but “whole grains, beans, fruit, and vegetables all contain carbohydrates and are excellent sources of fiber. For this reason, many people on low-carb diets experience an unwanted side effect: constipation.” We’ve all been there. Let’s not go there again.

     

  • Myth #3 Paleo is the ideal diet, because we were all once Paleolithic people.

    This one particularly irks me. It’s at once so attractive to the dieter (“Of course! Ancient man didn’t have spaghetti, so I shouldn’t, either!”) and so ridiculous (Ancient man didn’t have lentils, and therefore lentils are bad for you?). We also need to acknowledge that we don’t live like ancient man. Consider, for example, that modern produce bears little resemblance to its Paleolithic ancestors. And, hunter-gatherer diets varied drastically depending upon where the population lived. Lastly, when is the last time you actively pursued your steak before eating it?

    Back me up, Theresa: “The Paleo Diet is based on eating food that can be hunted, fished, or gathered, such as meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, veggies, roots, and fruit, like berries. It does not include grains, dairy, beans, salt, and sugar. Whole grains, dairy, and beans are nutrient-rich foods. By eliminating them, you could be setting yourself up for a deficiency or eliminating nutrients that help prevent disease.”

    No matter how healthy we aim to be, most of us will not continue an eating program if it doesn’t satisfy us. And, Kinsella warns, “the Paleo Diet certainly doesn’t emphasize enjoying your food. When people don’t enjoy their food, it’s difficult to eat mindfully and it is very difficult to sustain… If we look at the research on losing excess weight, it’s clear that people that include highly enjoyable food are actually more likely to maintain their loss.” In other words, we can put in painstaking dedication and effort to supplement the nutrients that paleo lacks, but the call of the bread or cheese — or even lentils —almost always wins out.

     

  • Myth #4: There is such a thing as eating right for your blood type.

    “No. There is no scientific evidence to support special diets based on blood type.”

     

  • Myth #5: Juicing is healthy and cleansing is necessary.

    I think we all know where this is going, but just in case: “The liver and kidneys are the body’s own detoxification system. They do a fantastic job of continuously removing waste products and toxins without the help of juice. Furthermore, there are some obvious drawbacks of juicing; juices are inadequate in protein, fat, essential fatty acids, and fiber. These nutrients are crucial for satiety and vital components for a balanced meal. The protein factor is particularly crucial here. When protein intake is inadequate, the body catabolizes protein from muscles and organs. Hence, someone on a juice cleanse ends up losing muscle mass — a major contributor to metabolism. They’ll likely end up with a worse body composition in the end.”

     

  • Myth #6: Eating fat makes you fat.

    “Fat, protein and carbohydrates are all essential,” Kinsella stresses. “There is no universal percentage of each that is right for everyone. Eating past full on a regular basis, non-hunger eating, emotional eating, skipping meals and overeating later in the day — those are the behavior patterns that lead to weight gain. The body has an innate ability to regulate and maintain a healthy, genetically determined weight if we listen to it.

    “The brain is 60% fat and we need fat in order to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. According to current research, the healthiest dietary pattern is that of the Mediterranean culture, which emphasizes foods, [like] fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and olive oil. Approximately 35 to 40% of the calories in that diet come from fat.”

    Healthy weight aside, the Mediterranean diet (like the French paradox) also reflects a population that eats a significantly higher percentage of fat, and yet has a much lower incidence of heart disease and similar illness than the rest of the world. Obviously, that doesn’t mean the secret to good health is BUTTER ON EVERYTHING. You should consider the difference between saturated and unsaturated fat, be aware of your personal cholesterol count, and so forth. But, it does indicate that we are hanging on to some very misguided ideas about the role fat plays in our health.

     

  • Myth #7 Gluten is bad for me and you and everyone, period.

    Here’s the part where everyone chases me out of the village with torches.

    Again, there’s no argument against the benefits of eating more healthy, whole foods and less junk. Also, if you’re going gluten free, that probably (hopefully) means you’re getting more veggies on the plate to make up for the lack of grain. More veggies can’t hurt! But, unless you have a medical issue, grains can’t hurt you, either. Celiac is a real disease, and one study indicates that approximately 5 to 6% of the population is gluten-sensitive. However, research also indicates many who report gluten sensitivity are not actually reacting to gluten, but some other factor in their food (see, for instance, FODMAPs) or, frankly, just believe that they are.

    Says Theresa, “A gluten-free diet is a necessity for people diagnosed with celiac disease. Gluten-free diets are also one of the most popular food trends, but there is no benefit to going gluten-free if it is not medically warranted.”

    The gluten-free trend (and, whether or not you really do have celiac or gluten-sensitivity, this is still an undeniable trend) just points to another issue plaguing our culture around food. “Eating healthy” is often just used as a different way to say “dieting.”

    “Many people are attracted to the fad as a new way to restrict or lose weight… [But] ‘gluten free’ does not necessarily mean ‘better for you.’ Many gluten-free products are a lot more processed than their whole-grain, gluten-containing counterparts. Corn and rice flours are lower in fiber and have a higher glycemic index. Bottom line: a gluten-free cupcake is not healthier than a cupcake with gluten.”

     

TIME relationships

The Worst Questions Women Get When Online Dating

450772629
Keyboard with red heart on button, close-up Vstock—Getty Images/Tetra images RF

I was having brunch with some girlfriends the other day, and we got on the subject of first dates. While we all had different experiences, there was one thing we all agreed on: There are a few questions we are absolutely tired of hearing from guys on a first date. Here they are, in no particular order.

What do you do for fun?
It’s a generic question that breeds generic answers, and doesn’t really give you additional insight into who I am. Asking me what I “do for fun” kind of makes me feel like I’m on an interview, not a date. Some of you may be thinking that this question means the guy is trying to plan a future date for us. I really wish you were right, but that’s what makes this question extra annoying: The same guys who ask me what I to do for fun will turn around in two weeks, and ask me what I would like to do for our first date, even though I’ve given them a list of things I do for fun. It makes no sense to me!

So, why are you single?
There is no faster way to make me feel like I’m failing at life than to ask me why I’m single. I mean, what is the right answer to a question like this? Should I say, “Well, I don’t hook up right away, so most guys get bored with me, and that’s why I’m single!” Or should I say, “I get really clingy around month three and it scares guys off, so here I am, solo!” The world already gives single girls the side-eye; there really is no need to bring up singledom on dates.

You’re so pretty, I’m surprised someone hasn’t taken you off the market! (aka, “Why are you single: The Remix)
This is one of those backhanded compliments that really has no response. When men say this to me, it makes me feel like something is wrong with me — especially because 99% of the men who use corny lines like this will not make any moves to take me off the market.

What kind of guys/girls do you like?
This question is tough, because I understand it. As a Plus-Size Princess, I often wonder if the guys asking me out have dated big girls before (not that it matters, but I do wonder), and I’ve learned that the answer is rarely helpful. If his last three girlfriends looked like Jennifer Lopez, I may feel insecure, but if his last three girlfriends looked like Rebel Wilson, I might wonder if he’s a chubby chaser. On the flip side, when a guy asks me what kind of guys I like, I might feel uncomfortable, especially if he doesn’t fit my normal boyfriend mold. I don’t want to have to tell Kevin Hart that my last three boyfriends were NBA players. That’s awkward, and irrelevant. In the end, knowing a person’s “type” really doesn’t matter as long as they’re attracted to you.

So, do you like (adjective here) guys/girls?
This question is a little different from “what kind of guys/girls do you like?” As a plus-size woman of color, I hear this question in two scenarios. Either the guy is trying to see if I’m cool with him not being black, or the guy is trying to see if I’m cool with him being skinny. For me, the answer is always the same: “I like all types of guys.” I mean, if I’m on a date with you, it’s because I’m open to dating you, no matter what you look like.

Why did your last relationship end?
So, are you trying to make me to cry on our first date? This is information you’ll get eventually, but maybe we can keep it light and positive on the first few dates, please?

Do you live alone?
Seriously, why does a man need to know if I live alone? In my opinion, this question just shows that he’s calculating how soon we’ll be hooking up, which is just tacky.

If you’re someone who has trouble making small talk on dates, one of my tricks is to start with current things, and go from there. Meaning: Instead of asking “What do you do for fun?” I’ll ask “What did you do this weekend?” and from there, I’ll get to learn what the person enjoys doing in their free time.

Instead of being in the moment and asking about things based on the person we’re with, people come with these dating interview questions that they use on everyone they’ve ever met, and expect sparks to fly with generic inquisitions. Meh. I call these annoying dating questions, but they might just be lazy dating questions.

Have you had any of these questions on dates? How did you respond?

RELATED: What If Your SO Didn’t Like Your Body?

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.

This article was written by Cece Olisa and originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

 

 

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser