Scientific Proof That a Beyoncé Concert Could Literally Change Your Life

concerts are good for your health

Or Eminem. Or Yo-Yo Ma. Or PJ Masks Live.

Or whoever it is that you saw when you were 16 and have seen a million times since.

Because apparently, going to live concerts helps us live our best—and longest—lives.

Some research done in Britain by O2, owner of some of the biggest music venues in the country, has shown that attending live music concerts every couple of weeks could possibly help you live up to 9 years longer. Dude, I’ll wave my hands in the air for that.

Okay, so the study may not have been perfectly scientific or impartial, but it’s not the only study of its kind, and many others have pointed to music in general being able to increase individual positivity and longevity.

Participants in this particular study showed an increase of mental stimulation by 75%, which seems pretty obvious to me. You can’t watch a 90-minute Beyoncé dance party without some serious neurons firing.

But the coolest part was that the participants actually increased in closeness to others and self-worth by an extra 25%, too. I’m not sure why or how, but I can get on board with anything that makes me realize how awesome I am by that large a degree.

And if those feelings of self-worth then translate into almost a decade more of a healthy, satisfied life…well, encore.

 

See More on TodaysMama.com!

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The post Scientific Proof That a Beyoncé Concert Could Literally Change Your Life appeared first on TodaysMama.

Toilet Seat Covers Don’t Prevent Disease, But I’ll Use One Anyway, Thank You Very Much

An article titled “Why Using Toilet Seat Liners Is Basically Pointless” has been making the rounds. It was written in 2014 by Huffington Post‘s Amanda Chen, but it seems like social media archaeologists have unearthed it again, and now I can’t seem to avoid it in my Facebook feed. USA Today even made a classy little video about the article’s subject.

Chen interviewed William Schaffner, MD, a professor of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center who told her this, “That’s because toilet seats are not a vehicle for the transmission of any infectious agents — you won’t catch anything.” Then she points out that the original reason seat covers were invented were to prevent the transmission of gastrointestinal or sexually transmitted infections, but that idea has since been refuted in research.

Ultimately, using a toilet seat cover is basically a psychological thing now. It has nothing to do with preventing the spread of infections. The best protection you have is your butt skin. So now we are all left with a question: Do we stop using them because they don’t work, or do we keep layering paper on toilet seats because it makes us feel better about using public toilets?

This is a hard one for me, and I have to assume for others too. I’m actually addicted to these things. Sometimes I use two, depending on the nature of the toilet. When you pair two covers together like that they slide around a bit, but it’s cool. I end up with a pretty good core workout. And yes, I know that there are some environmentalists reading this right now who are not going to like that, but honestly, a naked public toilet seat feels like rubbing my bare ass against a complete stranger’s bare ass, and I just can’t live with that.

There are just certain things I am not ready to change, regardless of science. I’m not going to poop in a squatting position, regardless of how many Squatty Potty commercials I see showing me how crimped my lower intestines are. I’m not going to stop drinking diet soda regardless of how many people post articles on my Facebook page about how many tumors I’m probably developing. I’m not going to take my shoes off in the house even though there is hard data showing me all the nastiness I’m tracking into my home. And despite this information on toilet seat covers, I’m not going to stop using them. In fact, I have a little boy at home, and I’ve strongly considered getting some toilet seat covers for me to use in his bathroom because the kid can’t aim worth a damn.

What I can say about all of this is that unless my children are peeking in on you while you are doing your business in a public restroom (sorry about that, we are working on it), no one has to know whether or not you use a seat cover. It’s basically a guilty pleasure now.

Please keep in mind that this is just my experience that has lead me to a personal preference for paper-lined seats — my personal hang-ups. And women out there, I assume you have some real hard thinking to do because you spend a lot more time in the saddle than men.

Now here’s the really scary part. The more I think about this revelation concerning toilet seat covers, the more I wonder what this says about me. Usually, I’m a pretty big believer in scientific discovery, but this little slice of facts I can’t handle, and I wonder what else I can’t handle. Perhaps it’s because I’m in my 30s, and I’m starting to get stuck in my ways.

I’m not sure.

But what I do know is this. Amanda Chen ended her article with this very important message: “What does help to tamp down on the spread of gastrointestinal illness is hand-washing.”

Now, this I can get behind. Regardless of where you stand (or in this case, sit) on the toilet seat cover argument, please wash your hands. For the love of humanity, wash your damn hands.

Depression Is On The Rise For Teen Girls, And Social Media May Be Partly To Blame

The teenage years are among the most exhilarating, stressful, strange, tumultuous years of life. Bodies and brains are growing and changing at alarming rates. Hormones are overloaded to the max. And teens are seriously experimenting with limits — constantly testing the boundaries of their relationships with their parents, themselves, and their peers.

It’s no wonder so many teens deal with mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Looking back on my teenage years, I was so depressed and anxious at times, I’m surprised I made it out in one piece. My social world was an exciting one, and in many ways, my friendships saved me from some of the turmoil I was dealing with in my family. But the tenuousness of teenage relationships — coupled with a the deep desire to fit in — sometimes made life really hard for me then.

However, I had one advantage over the teenagers of today: When I was a teen, there was no social media. If someone thought that I dressed like a “dirty hippie” (yeah, that happened to me frequently), they had to say it to my face. And they had to watch me tear up and walk down the hall to the school counselor’s office for help.

Of course, not every piece of critique or bullying happened face-to-face then. Notes slipped into lockers, anonymous phone calls, and the rumor mill were all in fair play. And bullying could still be as cruel as anything. But back then, I believe it was harder to get away with the meanest stuff than it is today, when all you have to do is leave one nasty comment on someone’s social media account and hundreds of kids immediately see it (and also have the ability to screenshot, share, and pass it along).

Unfortunately, my theory about how much harder social media has made it for kids is grounded in some truth, and a recent study published in Pediatrics proves just that. Psychiatrists at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted the study to see whether depression among teens had increased over the past decade.

They looked at federal data from interviews conducted with over 172,000 teens between 2005 and 2014. What they found is that depression among teens rose significantly over those years — an estimated half a million more teens than in previous decades.

But even more striking than that is the approximately 3/4 increase among teens girls. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I saw that statistic, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Being a teen is no picnic, but being a female teen — in fact, being a female at all in this world — is rife with so much pressure and so little support, it’s no wonder females are feeling the brunt of it.

The psychiatrists at Johns Hopkins believe that social media is at least partly to blame for this uptick in depression and is a huge reason that depression is affecting girls more. The psychiatrists found the biggest uptick in depression in 2011 when social media sites like Instagram (which is frequented heavily by teens) gained in popularity and where outward appearance is often overemphasized, self-worth can come down to how many “likes” your picture gets, and cyberbullying runs rampant.

Ramin Mojtabai, one of the authors of the Pediatrics study, tells NPR that girls “are more likely to use these new means of communication, so may be exposed to more cyberbullying or other negative effects of this latest social media.”

Mojtabai emphasizes that family members, school officials, and anyone who works with teens should be on the lookout for symptoms of depression, which include changes in sleep patterns, appetite, energy, and the ability to concentrate. Mojtabai says that counseling or therapy is an excellent choice for teens who are struggling with depression and that even one session can help get them back on track.

Now, I don’t have a teen yet, but I will in just a few short years, and this all makes me even more terrified about entering those uncharted waters than I already was. But I think the thing to remember is that the more knowledge we have as parents, the better. And the takeaway from a study like this is that if our teens ever exhibit symptoms of depression or other mood disorders, we need to remember to take their symptoms seriously, address them, and get them the help that they need.

I Will Never Win A Race, But I Keep Running Anyway

As I crested the hill, I could see the finish line looming in the distance. The hot June sun beat down onto the pavement, causing every step to feel like I was running through a desert. I could feel the beads of sweat pouring down my back, and as I neared the finish, I mentally chanted my mantra of “Left, Right, Repeat” as I slowly but surely made my way to the end of my first 5K road race. When I got to the last few yards, I could see my husband and kids cheering, and on that bright summer day, my heart filled with pride because I knew my kids were watching me complete something I’d worked months to accomplish.

I crossed the finish line, panting like a dog, and turned to look for my family. I caught my husband’s eye, and my son yelled, “Great job, Mom! You didn’t win, by the way!” much to the amusement of the other spectators.

Nothing like the honesty of kids to knock you down a peg or two, right?

I came to the sport of running late in life. Sure, I ran on the track team in high school, but my career as a world class Olympic runner was cut short when my teenaged self realized just how much running would be required to get a gold medal. And though I occasionally would take a lap or two around my college campus to work off beer calories, it wasn’t until I became a mother in my late 20s that I realized that my mom hips were going to need more than just running up the stairs if I had any hopes of fitting into my yoga pants long-term.

Fortunately for me, my community has a wonderful program for women that is centered on health and wellness, and the end goal of the 12-week program was to be able to complete a 5K race from start to finish. You know you are in the throes of toddler parenting when the prospect of running 3 miles seems like a better idea than dealing with potty training, sippy cups, and toddler tantrums — just saying.

And that’s precisely how I found myself shivering next to other women who looked just like me on a cold Tuesday evening in blustery March winds. Our instructor took us out for our first workout, and I’m not going to lie: My body jiggled in places I didn’t know existed, and I huffed and puffed like the Big Bad Wolf.

Frankly, it was humiliating, but week after week, I developed a camaraderie with several of the participants and I kept showing up, mostly because the other women used the F-bomb as much I as I did when we struggled through our runs. I felt like I’d found my people.

Over the next 12 weeks, I did the work: I made time to complete the “homework” workouts and called in favors from friends to watch my kids so I could make it to the weekly group workout. I nursed my sore muscles, invested in a primo sports bra (to prevent getting black eyes from “the ladies” bouncing), and I splurged on a good pair of running sneakers. Each week, I huffed a little less, and the jiggling became less embarrassing too. I never did stop using the F-bomb though.

And I finished that graduation race like a fucking badass. I wasn’t first across the finish line, but more importantly, I wasn’t last. But even if I had been the last one to clock a time, I’d still have felt like a winner — because I freaking went out there, and I did it.

For the first time as a mom, I had put myself first. And it was a high I didn’t expect. I was proud of myself for taking charge of my physical and mental health in hopes of being the best mom I could be to the two creatures who demanded so much of me during the day.

No, I didn’t win that race that day, and eight years into my career as a runner, I haven’t won a single race yet. I’ve never stood on a podium with my arm in the air, and I’ve never gotten a medal with “First Place” emblazoned on the face.

But I keep lacing up my shoes anyway. I still love it.

Winning comes in many forms, and as mothers, we need to give credit to ourselves for meeting the challenges that motherhood brings, both on and off the road, with strength and wisdom.

I am a winner because I have friends who will text me and say, “I’m running tomorrow. You’ve had a stressful week. You should join me.”

I am a winner because I’ve completed six marathons, with a seventh on the horizon, and I tell myself the first-place finisher won because he was afraid I’d catch up.

I am a winner because I’ve pounded the pavement in cities across the United States and have had the privilege of seeing the beauty our nation has to offer in places you can only reach by foot.

And I am a winner because when my daughter was upset about her basketball team’s record of 0-12, I was able to say to her that winning isn’t everything and mean it. We talked about what it means to show up for your team or yourself and that sometimes you have to lose in order to really win at what’s important in life.

Mostly, I know that I’m a winner because when I look in the mirror, I see more than being “just” a mom. I see a strong, independent badass who is setting an example for her kids. And I see a woman who doesn’t have to feel guilty about that extra glass of wine or bowl of ice cream, and that’s a prize that worth its weight in gold.

 

Just Another Reason To Stop F*cking Body Shaming

Ever have one of those days where you feel like you must have gained a few pounds? You look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Ugh, I’m so fat!” and start to scrutinize every inch of your body, feeling depressed and totally down about yourself.

And then what happens? Does that motivate you to go hit the gym, eat “clean” for a week, and cut out sugar? I don’t know about you, but when I start to internalize the idea of being “fat” (a subjective term, I know), the last thing I want to do is fix it. In fact, the disappointment I feel just makes me want to eat a whole package of Oreos and laze on the couch all day.

And that’s a relatively innocuous example. What happens when people are shamed by others about their weight? Maybe it’s just a semi-friendly, “Oh, hey, you look like you put on a few pounds there,” or something more passive-aggressive like, “You know, if only you worked on having a little more willpower, you might lose some weight.”

Of course, things can get much nastier than that. We all know that body shaming is a very real thing — from schoolyard taunts and bullying to the cruel, cruel world of internet commenters. Body shaming affects children, teens, and adults, and can have deep and lasting effects. And while much of it is directed at people who others somehow deem as fat, that is not always the case. People can be shamed for any aspect of their shape, including looking too muscular or thin. We are all targets.

Besides the fact that body shaming and ostracizing is just downright cruel and complete asshole behavior, it almost never motivates someone to actually go out and get healthier. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that people who have internalized the idea that their body is something to be ashamed of are not more likely to be motivated to become healthier. In fact, the opposite is true. The researchers warn that the stereotyping of obese people “threatens health, generates health disparities, and interferes with effective obesity intervention efforts.”

In essence, hold your damn tongue when it comes to how you talk to someone about their weight. Unless you have something kind to say, your critique is not going to help one bit and will probably make it less likely that the person you are targeting will lose an ounce of weight or get healthier. It’s not your place to comment on the body of another person.

brand-new study published in Obesity: A Research Journal has an even more dire warning about the consequences of stereotyping and stigmatizing people who overweight. The study found that people with high levels of “weight bias internalization” were three times more likely to have something called “metabolic syndrome” than people who had low levels of internalized weight bias.

If you are wondering what metabolic syndrome is (I sure had no idea), Medical News Today describes it as “a cluster of risk factors that increase the likelihood of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems. These risk factors include high blood pressure, a large waist circumference, high fasting blood sugar, and a low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.”

In addition to metabolic syndrome, the researchers found that individuals with high internalized weight bias were more six times more likely to have high triglycerides, which can raise a person’s risk for stroke and heart attack.

It should be noted that the study was controlled for BMI and depression, so these scary health side effects stemmed solely from the individuals’ internalization that they were fat or somehow “less than” because of their body type, according to the study. The researchers are uncertain exactly why that is, but they surmise that the stigmatization leads individuals to adopt unhealthy behaviors, which can in turn have negative effects on their health.

“The act of self-stigmatizing may lead to a state of physiological arousal that itself increases risk for metabolic abnormalities through biological pathways (e.g., cortisol secretion). This state of physiological and affective stress may also lead individuals to cope by eating unhealthy food or binge eating,” the authors of the study explain. They also hypothesize that stereotyping overweight individuals as “lazy” leads them to want to avoid physical activity altogether.

The bottom line? Fat shaming isn’t just mean and entirely unacceptable. It’s dangerous, and the effects of stigmatizing overweight people can have real and lasting consequences on their health and longevity. So if there is someone in your life whose weight you have genuine concerns about, treat them kindly. Offer positive encouragement only. Choose your words carefully — very carefully — and if you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t freaking say it. Seriously. It really shouldn’t be that hard.

And if you are a victim of fat shaming, please know that whatever was said to hurt you was wrong and uncalled for, no two ways about it. Try to surround yourself with positivity — about your body, your health, and yourself. There is no reason to keep anyone in your life who brings you down or hurts you in any way.

Most of all, know that you are beautiful, inside and out, and deserve to feel happy, healthy, and proud. You get to decide how that looks, not someone random jerk.

 

Trust Me, You Need This Sweary Coloring Book In Your Life

Let’s face it: Women are badass.

From juggling challenging careers to managing kid schedules like bosses to standing up for social issues that are important to us, women are fucking awesome. We give our hearts and souls to those around us, never wavering in our devotion to our families. In short, we are superheroes without capes.

But being a superhero is tiring. And filled with tension. Basically, we are stressed AF superheroes. Because kids and jobs and life are exhausting. Wonder Woman made it look easy, amiright?

Sometimes, we need to lose the cape, pull on our favorite leggings, and slow the hell down. What better way to relax is there than to break out the colored pencils, pour a glass of wine, and color our stresses away?

I’m totally serious.

When adult coloring books hit the markets a few years ago, I jumped on that bandwagon with gusto. I love the relaxation that comes with mindlessly coloring in the lines of a beautifully illustrated coloring book. Throw in a glass of wine and some soothing music, and this mama is on the train to Happy Town.

So you can imagine that when I saw Jen Meyers’s book, “You’re the Shit: A Totally Inappropriate Self-Affirming Adult Coloring Book,” I nearly lost my shit in excitement.

Her sweary adult coloring book is filled with empowering phrases and designs geared to help women remember that they are awesome. Phrases like, “You’ve got this,” and a whale telling you that “you are a metric ton of awesome” are gorgeously illustrated and just waiting for your freshly sharpened colored pencils.

You might need to frame these masterpieces for your office, or bathroom — wherever you need the most inspiration.

This coloring book is totally the shit. And so are you. For $10, I might have to have another one.

This post contains affiliate links, which means we receive a small portion of the sale if you make a purchase using this link.

Donald Trump’s Anti-Vaxx Views Are Terrifying

The study that claims vaccines cause autism has been long debunked. Andrew Wakefield, the British physician behind it, had his paper retracted by The Lancet, which called it an “elaborate fraud.” No one has been able to replicate it. Wakefield lost his medical license because of it. And yet, it persists, this idea that somehow, the MMR vaccine is unsafe because it causes developmental disabilities.

The medical community agrees that Wakefield is a fraud. They also agree that by and large, vaccines are safe, that they’re necessary for public health, and that you should get your child vaccinated on the schedule set out by the CDC.

It’s too bad our president isn’t onboard. In fact, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a supporter of Wakefield’s theory, confirmed this in comments to the press on February 15. According to Politico, the president “remains committed to investigating a link between vaccines and autism,” and Kennedy said the president wants him to lead it. Daily Beast reports that Kennedy’s “Deadly Immunity” essay claimed that “government health agencies colluded with Big Pharma to hide the risks of thimerosal from the public.” He’s called a vaccine advocate the “equivalent of Nazi concentration camp guards,” and in 2015 called the use of vaccines “a holocaust.”

This is a man who is supposed to be looking into vaccine safety. Scared yet? If not, in August 2016, Trump even met with Wakefield, according to the Chicago Tribune. And you thought this administration couldn’t get any worse. 

Chicago Tribune also shares a story of what happened when vaccination rates fall. In the 1980s, a Russian scientist questioned the safety of mercury and vaccinations. Vaccine rates plummeted so low that when soldiers returned from Afghanistan, where diphtheria is still a problem, it sparked an epidemic. Around 200,000 unvaccinated children contracted the illness. Of those children, 2% to 3% died. That’s 4,000 to 6,000 dead kids.

Let’s take measles as a case example. The CDC calls it “highly contagious.” Six percent will develop pneumonia, and it’s from this category that most of the measles-related deaths occur. Further, 0.1% of infected children develop encephalitis, or brain inflammation, 0.6% to 0.7% will have seizures, and 0.2% will die. Consider an almost universal occurrence of infection among the unvaccinated, as was previously documented pre-vaxx, and you’re looking at a serious risk of more children dying from a preventable disease. All because our president supports pseudoscience.

There’s plenty of danger here. If Donald Trump removed the requirement for mandatory school vaccinations, kids would get sick: measles, mumps (which can cause sterility), rubella (which can cause devastating birth defects in infected pregnant women), diphtheria, chicken pox, and pertussis. Maybe the infected kids won’t die. But they’ll pass the disease to their elderly grandparents and infant siblings and immune-compromised peers, who are in greater danger. And all the essential oils in the world can’t stop a virus from rampaging through a community.

There’s also the risk of mutation. If allowed to go wild again, these viruses can — and will — mutate. This happened with pertussis, in which the New England Journal of Medicine documented cellular changes that decrease the efficacy of the pertussis vaccine. In this case, these mutations could change the genetic structure of the virus enough to override vaccines designed to protect against it. Then even those of us who are responsible citizens, who are scientifically and community-minded, will find ourselves and our children at risk. 

Trump’s not just in bed with the anti-vaxxers, he’s one of them, lending credence to a movement that’s scientifically inaccurate at best and a public health menace at worst. Any change to the childhood vaccination schedule could have disastrous health consequences for the United States at large. We can only hope that science wins here.

Luckily, members of the key Senate committee that oversees the CDC are having none of it. “Sound science is this: vaccines save lives,” Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the committee, told STAT in January. It suggests that Trump will face significant congressional pushback if he tries to push his anti-vaxx views on Congress.

The most terrifying part? We have a president who is unable to read and absorb basic science and who refuses to comprehend the real-world public health ramifications of ditching childhood vaccinations. Set the meetings with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Wakefield aside because that gross negligence and its harmful affects should keep us all up at night.

 

Is Male PMS A Real Thing? Because Holy F*ck, I Think My Husband Has It

PMS is a real bitch, as any woman can confirm. Between the mood swings, the bloating, the achy body parts, and the impending date with a cotton pony, PMS is enough to make a lady want to tap out for a few days each month. Recently, I noticed that some of these symptoms seem oddly familiar, but not for me. My husband seems to go through this “time of the month” as well.

Do men get PMS?

Turns out the answer is yes, sort of. My husband, though? I won’t dare mention PMS to him, because at the current moment, his feelings are rather delicate, and honest to god, I can’t tell if he needs a wad of chocolate shoved into his mouth or if he needs to just camp out on the couch in a bathrobe with a cold beer and watch old episodes of The Man Show.

Anyone who has ever lived with a man can tell you that male PMS is real, even if it doesn’t look exactly like what women go through. I mean, men don’t ovulate obviously, which means they do not bleed, but they sure as hell do get a hair across their ass roughly once a month.

Since the beginning of time, women have noted that men go through bursts of depression, irritability, and fatigue, the same symptoms of female PMS. Some have wondered if male testosterone levels dip in the same way that female estrogen can fluctuate during a monthly cycle.

But don’t take my word for it, I’ll let science do the talking for me.

Male PMS, also known as Irritable Male Syndrome, is represented by two camps: A few doctors who think it is legit, and scientific data that says this is not seen in the human male. In 2013, Cosmopolitan investigated this mysterious male condition. According to their expert, Yael Varnado, MD, male PMS “can be attributed to men experiencing a drop in testosterone, the hormone that gives them their mojo. Their IMS can happen at anytime, as testosterone levels fluctuate during the day, but they tend to be highest during the morning and drop as the day goes on.”

Where did he get this idea? Well, the concept of male PMS is credited to author Jed Diamond who is convinced that male menopause is a legit thing and that men do, in fact, suffer from it. He claims to have more than 40 years of clinical research on the topic under his belt. However, the medical community at large disagrees. Researchers Thomas Perls, MD, and David J. Handelsman, MD, argue in an editorial published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that male menopause is essentially a deceptive marketing scheme targeting middle-aged men with disposable incomes.

That doesn’t explain why men, my husband included, can get all depressed and moody and broody around the same time each month. At this point, I don’t care if there is no hard data to back up my claim. My husband still has it.

Male PMS notwithstanding, there is some pop culture traction to the idea that men have a regular cycle like women. If you head over to Google you will see that there are 32.7 million search results for the term “male PMS.” That’s a lot of interest in something that supposedly doesn’t have any medical or scientific basis. Am I right?

We’ve long treated men as though they are automatons with no oscillation in hormone-controlled moods, but what if we are wrong? What if we can finally solve the mystery of male PMS, give it a name, and create a whole genre of jokes and crazy products just for him? Oh, the possibilities. Maybe we can even invent a don’t-be-a dick pill that will help our beloved dudes chill the fuck out. After all, they may be man-struating, but they still aren’t the ones bleeding.

I’m just sayin’.

Weight Gain Made Me Ugly, But Not The Way I Expected

It was another one of those “fat days.” I mean, my weight didn’t really change at all. It was more of a confidence thing. There I stood, in front of the mirror pulling at the edges of another new shirt. It didn’t take long before the poisonous thoughts came creeping in.

Gross. I look like a busted can of biscuits.

My tunic hit the floor, and I rummaged around the closet for a cami that would make it more flattering. Did this shirt shrink? It was perfect when I bought it! Long enough to cover my hips, but not so long that it looked like a dress…but now?

I look like the before picture in one of those weight loss commercials.

I continued obsessing, posing side to side, trying to find a flattering angle of my reflection. A few minutes into my self-loathing, my husband hollered up the stairs.

“Are you ready yet? The doctor’s appointment is in 30 minutes! You’re gonna be late!”

I yanked my pants up and took one last look in the mirror.

Skinny jeans. Ha. You can hardly call them “skinny” at size 16.

With a groan, I slammed the closet door and rushed down the stairs for my baby.

At the doctor’s office, a confident brunette strolled into the room. The pediatrician met my eye, smiled warmly, and began asking questions about my child. I couldn’t stop my arms from crossing over my stomach. I couldn’t help the constant tugging at my clothes. And as much as I hated myself for it, I resented Dr. Hottie Pants for being so…hot.

She tried to make small talk about warm weather and swimsuit shopping, but her endorphin-laced happiness annoyed the crap out of me. Who enjoys buying a swimsuit, anyways?

Just give us the vaccine, Dr. Hottie Pants. I don’t have time for this.

I walked out of her office and immediately called my best friend for lunch. She could tell I was having a day, so she agreed to meet at our favorite Mexican joint. Time to drown emotions in a huge bowl of queso.

I was throughly enjoying myself, munching on chips and prattling on about my daughter’s annoying new pediatrician.

“I mean, who talks about bathing suits when your baby is getting shots, right? She was the worst! I definitely need to find a new doctor. So annoying.”

Best friend dropped her fork. “Sweetie, I need to be real with you for a second. Can you deal?”

Her stern expression indicated I wasn’t going to like what followed.

“Yeah, I can deal. What’s up?”

“All right. You’ve been complaining about your weight a ton, lately. I get it. You’ve had a baby, so things feel weird. You are beautiful, of course, but that’s not really the point. The thing is, your weight isn’t your problem. Your problem is that you’ve gotten kinda, well…petty. You’ve gotten mean.”

All of a sudden I didn’t want chips anymore. I wanted stretchy pants and alone time.

If my best friend doesn’t love me, Netflix will. Screw this, I’m going to be a hermit. A fat, happy hermit.

“Like that pediatrician,” she continued. “You went on for 10 minutes about how awful she was. Best I can tell, the only issue you had is that she was skinny or cute or something? This isn’t like you. What is going on, for real? What is the actual problem?”

She sat there with one eyebrow arched, waiting for me to respond.

“I just,” I stammered a little. “I just feel so…ugly.”

There it was.

Her face softened, but best friend wasn’t letting me off that easy.

“Okay. I love you, but here it is: Your weight gain isn’t making you ugly, sister. Your attitude is.”

I paid my check, hugged her, and left the restaurant in tears. I just couldn’t. What was there to say?

It takes a real friend to drop a truth bomb like that.

I knew she was right. The mean girl in my head never shut up. She was the narrator of my life, and she’d completely taken control. The truth was that Happy Me didn’t hate beautiful doctors. Happy Me didn’t hate swimsuit season. Happy Me loved warm weather — for goodness sake, it’s why we moved to Florida!

So my actual problem wasn’t an unhealthy body; it was a sick, miserable heart.

How do I even fix that?

I got home, put the baby down in her crib for a nap, and found myself back in front of my closet mirror. I stripped off my clothes and kicked them to the side. I stood there for a second, examining my body. The body I spent so much time scrutinizing, criticizing, and hating.

Then I looked myself in the eye, and the floodgates opened. I stood there in front of myself, sobbing.

Why am I so damn mean to myself?

For too long, I placed a premium on my appearance. As if beauty made me lovable. As if a svelte figure would increase my worth as a human being. I mean, my head knew better, but my heart bought into so many lies.

You are undesirable. Everyone judges you. Everyone is looking at you. Everyone is disgusted by you.

Over time, the fuller my figure got, the smaller my confidence shrunk. There I stood — 40 pounds heavier, but a skeleton of the person I used to be. I could lose all the weight in the world, but the self-loathing wasn’t going to decrease with my pants size.

It was time to stop hating myself.

No. More than that, it was time to start loving myself. Just the way I was. Right then. The “before picture” version of me. No exceptions.

I traced my fingers over the stretch marks that lined my round tummy. Mean Girl whispered something, but I told her to shut up.

I’ve earned these stripes, dangit. And they’re awesome.

I turned around and looked over my shoulder. I ignored Mean Girl again and found kind words to speak of my body.

Your skin is beautiful. Your body is strong. 

I examined the shape of my hips. The place my inner voice criticizes most harshly.

You’ve given birth to two little souls. What a freaking miracle you are!

A smile spread over my face, and I walked out of that closet for the first time with a light in my eyes.

My journey to self-acceptance started that hour, three months ago, when I realized that the ugliness I feared so much was never on the outside. It was within. A voice berating myself and everyone else, constantly. Sure, that mean girl still pipes up now and again, but her voice is weaker. Insecurity rears its ugly head, but I squash it too (as best I can).

I’ve discovered that the kinder I am to myself, the kinder I am toward others.

I have lost a few inches since then, which is nice. But most importantly, and perhaps the only thing that matters is this: My heart is healing. I have learned to love “before picture” me unconditionally. And by exercising grace for myself and others, a huge weight has slowly lifted from my shoulders.

Funny thing is, that was the first weight that needed to go.

 

This Is The Sex Toy You Need In Your Life

Ladies.

LADIES.

We are friends, and as your friend, I am obligated to inform you that I have found it.

I have found the sex toy you’ve been looking for.

This is far from my first rodeo. I’ve tried things. I am a big fan of a trusty bullet, getting the job done simply and efficiently. I’m also a big fan of those crazy looking vibrators with all the bells and whistles. You know the ones. They have the spinning heads, the rotating beads in the shaft (why don’t standard penises come with that?) and a variety of cute little animals positioned for clitoral buzzing. Rabbits, elephants, dolphins, butterflies, I’ve seen ‘em all.

But orgasms to orgasms, dust to dust, my vibrator of late bit it and had to be tossed. I took to my computer in search of a replacement, hoping to try something new.

Then I came across the IMO G-Spot Vibrator. It didn’t look busy or boring and had a ton of good reviews. With multiple vibration speeds and patters, plus dual G-spot and clitoral motors, I figured this was a sound choice. I decided to give it a shot and ordered one.

I chose good.

It arrived in a sleek, black box, along with a USB charger. My monthly battery stipend is now freed up so the thing practically paid for itself. I turned it on to see what I was dealing with, and the outside end lit up! It changes colors as you change patterns. So you also get mood lighting coming out of your bits, and that’s fun for everyone involved. Change the setting to a flattering 2 or 3 if your vagina is more of an autumn.

There is a nice range of vibration speeds so you can set it to your comfort level (unlike other vibrators I’ve owned that functioned more like my toaster oven with only two settings of either COLD or INCINERATE). It’s also waterproof, so you can take it with you in the bathtub or snorkeling.

It even comes with a discreet little bag so you can hide it away in your sock drawer. I’ll be sad to part with my current means of protecting my privacy.

Sara

So I’ve laid out all the specs, but I know the only piece of information you’re interested in.

Does it work?

Yes. It works. It works enough that the makers deserve a handwritten thank-you note every time I break this sucker out. I almost feel guilty not making a monthly payment to them with all that battery money I’m saving. After you order one, you may want to write me a thank-you note.

You’re welcome.

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