Is Your Sunburn Cause for Concern?

SCFCThe sun’s effects on our skin can range from some seemingly innocent freckles and a healthy glow to blisters and pain. It can be difficult to know when to let it go and when to freak out. Although all exposure to the sun is damaging and can cause skin cancer later in life, there are some warning signs to look out for when you get sunburn. Continue reading

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The Importance of Good Sleep and How to Get It!

(Image Credit: Rachel Titiriga)

(Image Credit: Rachel Titiriga)

Today I want to address a problem which is definitely an issue for many people in their day-to-day life (including mine!). Sleep. Sleep is essential for life; it allows our bodies to recuperate, it gives us the energy for the next day, and it gives our brains time to process all of the information we absorb each day.  Plus we tend to feel a bit under the weather and start getting snappy when we haven’t had enough. Most sources suggest that not getting enough sleep for a prolonged period of time can be detrimental to health – it can leave you with extra stress, lack of energy and even weight gain. But getting enough sleep, and satisfying sleep at that, is easier said than done. Continue reading

Is Your Computer Making You Sick?

(Image Credit: Ray Smith)

(Image Credit: Ray Smith)

We are living in a technology-obsessed society. Even those who argue they aren’t obsessed, I bet they won’t deny they need their gadgets. These days, phones and tablets are doubling as computers as everyone is on the go, trying to get their fill of information and entertainment. But what some don’t know is how much these devices are turning into vices, as they are beginning to affect various parts of our health. Continue reading

What to Do When You Have a Panic Attack

What to Do When You Have a Panic Attack

The first time I had a panic attack, I thought I was dying. I’d gone to see a movie with some friends one Thanksgiving night in high school, and I ran into an ex I’d had a messy breakup with and thought I’d never have to see again. Continue reading

Simple (and healthy) ways to boost your energy levels!

Simple (and healthy) ways to boost your energy levels!

Energy, is something that we all wish we had more of. Some days it can be ridiculously hard to pull yourself out of bed, others you start flagging in the afternoon. Often you find yourself reaching for a third cup of coffee for the day just to keep going. We all know those annoyingly energetic people, the sort that have an endless bounce to their step and always seem to get everything done and are still raring to go at the end of the day. I can’t give you the secret to these people’s gusto in life, but there are ways to boost your own energy levels. Just a follow a few small tips to hopefully improve your ability to make it through the day and make life a little bit easier! Continue reading

Meditation for Stress Relief

(Image Credit: Daniella Segura)

(Image Credit: Daniella Segura)

What’s the one thing people always tell you not to do, but seems impossible not to do? Stress. Stress seems to be an inevitable part of daily life that many people cannot overcome. Although stress seems unconquerable, there are remedies to lessen daily stress, such as meditation.

As far back as prehistoric times, meditation was used to deepen people’s understanding of higher beings in life, but has since transitioned into a common way to practice relaxation and stress reduction, according to Mayo Clinic. A simple definition of meditation is that it “consists of simply sitting quietly, focusing on one’s breath, a word or phrase… [and] a meditator may also be walking or standing,” according to Psychology Today.

Some studies have proven that there is a link between meditation and stress levels, such as one conducted by researchers in China and at the University of Oregon, according to Science Daily.

The study consisted of a control and an experimental group of undergraduate college students. The control group received five days of relaxation training, while the experimental group received five days of meditation training. In the experiment, stress was induced by mental math. Although the two groups both released the stress hormone, cortisol, the experimental group, or the one with meditation training, released less of this hormone and also showed “lower levels of anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue.”

Overall, the study found that there is “a measurable benefit that people could achieve through body-mind meditation, especially involving an effective training regimen, but larger studies are needed to fully test the findings of this small, short-term study,” according to a researcher quoted by the Science Daily.

Although everyday stress reduction is the prime benefit of practicing meditation, there are also other benefits linked to meditation. According to Jaan Suurküla M.D., because practicing meditation can lower the amount of cortisol that your body releases, this may in turn help to lower the chances of chronic stress.

Other studies have also found that meditation may both prevent and treat cardiovascular disease.

Some forms of meditation include: guided meditation, mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, qi gong, tai chi and yoga. Each of these practices has different elements and levels of difficulty, which helps make meditation a practice that is accessible to anyone.

So the next time someone tells you “don’t’ stress,” remember to take a deep breath and meditate.

Originally posted July 14, 2013
Thigh Gap (Image Credit: Rui Santos)

The Unhealthy Quest for a Thigh Gap

Thigh Gap (Image Credit: Rui Santos)

Thigh Gap (Image Credit: Rui Santos)

It’s becoming more and more apparent that “the gap” is the root of all evil in the beauty industry. Not the clothing store Gap (although some may actually feel that way), but rather, the absolutely insane new obsession with having a “thigh gap”. For those unfamiliar, a “thigh gap” refers to exactly what it sounds like, a gap or space between your inner thighs.

Back in my day (I’m 21), girls got braces to fix gapped teeth and cursed their bowlegged thighs because they walked like an old school western cowboy.  Fast-forward to the present, and these same girls want to surgically separate their teeth and have rail-thin legs all for the sake of a gap.

Victoria's Secret Models (Image Credit: Victoria's Secret)

Victoria’s Secret Models (Image Credit: Victoria’s Secret)

Excuse me, but when did this become acceptable?  And why is it even a thing? When is the last time you heard someone say, “Yeah man, I love a girl with a nice ‘thigh gap’.”? The whole idea seems totally irrelevant to what makes someone attractive or not.

The most celebrated women in the world don’t even come close to having a space between their legs (think: Beyoncè, Christina Hendricks, Sofia Vergara), and it doesn’t stop anyone from calling them “beautiful”.  To those who have a natural “thigh gap”, that’s fantastic.  If you are like most of the female population that experiences the occasional thigh chaffing, who cares?  You’ll work a space into your thighs only to find that next season’s trend will be something equally ridiculous like “thigh friction”. You’ll be screwed then, huh?

The feminist in me wants to try and relate the “thigh gap” to the idea of a woman having her “legs open”, but it’s fairly apparent that this isn’t the case.  Instead, the “thigh gap” seems to be a satanic child of designers like Victoria’s Secret and Chanel who limit their runway models to women with a space down the center of their bodies…from their teeth to their thighs.

Beyonce (Image Credit: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Gucci)

Beyonce (Image Credit: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Gucci)

Maybe you’re thinking that guys have similar predicaments, what with the ideal of a “six-pack” and all that.  The difference here is that for a man to be in shape (by society’s standards), they need to be healthy.  “Six pack abs” don’t magically appear unless Photoshop is involved. They are actually a reward for having proper nutrition and exercise ethic.  Women, on the other hand, are pressured to have ridiculous features like “thigh gaps” which usually come with physical malnourishment and mental stress.  Just like there are tons of men who aren’t meant to have a six pack, there are millions of women who were not put on this earth to have a “thigh gap”. Add in the fact that a good majority of women, no matter how much they diet or work out, are physically incapable of having a “thigh gap” due to their anatomical structure and the ideal becomes even more ludicrous.

It’s a relief knowing that the “thigh gap” obsession will likely pass, along with the Sir Mix A lot-induced booty infatuation and the Pamela Anderson-esque breast fixation.  We know by now that when the fashion industry, or pop culture in general, focus on one part of the female anatomy… it’s likely to explode into an international plague of copycatting.  I suggest rubbing your thighs together loud and proud, because in reality…no one cares about a stupid space between your legs unless it’s a guy or girl trying to get in it and even then, if they’re not happy with what you’ve got, screw them (not literally, kick them to curb and find someone who appreciates your beauty).

Originally posted August 29, 2013.

Why You Should Stop Checking Your Scale

Unless you participate in a sport that requires you to fall within a certain weight range, there is really no reason you should be overly concerned with how much you weigh. If you’re rapidly gaining or losing weight, then of course you need to address it with your physician, but basing your health and fitness off of a number isn’t always the best way to operate. Here’s a few reasons why you should quit checking your scale.

Weight fluctuates

If I weigh myself at three different times in a day, I can almost guarantee you that all three measurements will reflect different weights. This is for a few reasons. First, your weight will fluctuate during the day depending on what goes into (and what comes out of) your body, and second, you can’t guarantee that all scales are the same. If I eat and drink nothing between my house and the gym and get on the scales at both locations, I can never get one, guaranteed-accurate number.

 

It’s frustrating

Because weight does have this tendency to change on us every minute, tracking your health and weight loss progress through a scale can be a trying process. Nobody wants to see that they’ve gained a pound the day after a hard workout, but it happens often. This can be very discouraging; if you’re doing everything right but don’t seem to see any results via the scale, what motivation is there to keep pushing yourself?

 

Weight is just a number

I’m well aware that this is probably the most cliche thing I could tell you, but it’s true! Weight is nothing more than a number on a scale. It has little to do with how you look and is definitely not a reflection of how you feel. Many people who decide to dedicate themselves to a healthier lifestyle will find that their weight doesn’t change, or that they actually gain weight. However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t look way more toned and feel like a totally new person.

 

What you see in the mirror isn’t defined by the number on your scale. Learn to keep your focus on how you’re feeling, both mentally and physically, and you’ll start to notice much more consistent progress!

7 Easy Ways to Help Prevent the Cold and Flu

Winter is officially upon us.  The temperature is cooling, leaves are falling, and people everywhere are… sneezing?  That’s right– It may be one of the most beautiful times of the year, but with that also comes the threat of the dreaded, less anticipated, cold and flu season.  Now, there may be no stopping it when the flu comes knocking on your door, but we can certainly take a few preventative steps to keep her away for as long as possible.

Here is a list of 7 easy and natural ways to boost your immune system and help keep those cold and flu germs away:

Stay Hydrated

Drinking lots of fluid is key to keeping healthy.  Every single cell, tissue and organ needs water to survive.  Staying hydrated will keep your body running the way it’s supposed to, in turn, keeping your immune system up and running.

Garlic

Garlic is packed with antioxidants that help boost your immune system.  Throwing some chopped or whole garlic cloves into that chicken soup could benefit your body.

Lemon

Lemon is great for the body for a multitude of reasons.  Not only does it aid in digestion and help prevent kidney stones, lemon soothes sore throats, helps balance your body’s pH levels, and is a great source of Vitamin C! Try drinking water with lemon or adding lemon to your tea.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a natural immune booster.  Drinking OJ or taking a Vitamin C supplement this flu season could certainly help.

Washing your hands/Disinfecting

Germs are so easily spread that they are even airborne in some instances.  Our hands are the most susceptible to germ transfer; with all the touching of doorknobs, phones, railings, and the like, followed by touching our own belongings (like a cell phone) and then proceeding to put that against our face.  Yuck.  Keep those hands clean and disinfect areas of public exposure to help increase your odds in the germ catching relay game.

Gargle

When you feel that dreaded tickle in your throat or that slight dry soreness, it feels like the calm before the storm.  Keep your throat moistened by drinking a lot of water and by gargling.  Add a little salt to warm water, gargle, spit, and repeat until your throat feels soothed.

Rest Up

We all know that sleep is crucial for our energy levels, and our energy is depleted when the body is using so much of it to aid our immune system.  Rest up and give your body that extra energy it needs to fight the immune battle.

 

These tips are not cures and may not work to prevent the cold and flu for everyone, but they certainly help our body function at its best.  I wish you all the best of luck at ducking the cold and flu this season!

What’s the Big Deal About…Fabletics

There are monthly subscription services for basically everything these days, so it was only a matter of time before athletic gear got tossed into the mix. You may have heard about Fabletics, a monthly subscription service for fashionable workout apparel, but you may have some questions or hesitations about committing to signing up. I’m going to give you the rundown of everything Fabletics to help you determine if the service is right for you.

What it is: Fabletics features an online shop with a variety of workout gear including tops, leggings, sports bras, shorts, jackets, and even accessories. You can purchase individual products on their own, or you can choose to purchase a full “outfit,” which is a pre-selected combination of 2-4 Fabletics items carefully chosen to work together perfectly.

When you sign up, you take a short quiz that helps Fabletics determine which outfits are best suited to your needs, but you’re welcome to purchase any outfits, not just your top picks.

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

How it works: You can purchase items or outfits as a guest at their full price, or you can register as a VIP member, which gives you a discount on all Fabletics merchandise.

The catch? Once you register as a VIP, Fabletics will send you a message at the beginning of each month linking you to their new monthly outfits. You can choose to purchase an outfit, or, if nothing strikes your fancy, you can skip the month – but you only have until the 5th of the month to select the “skip” option, or your credit card will get charged $49.95 and you will be given an equivalent credit on your account to use at any time.

You can cancel your VIP membership at any time, but unlike other subscription services (like Birchbox), you need to call and speak to customer service; you can’t just cancel over the web.

As a VIP, you earn rewards points for each dollar you spend and for each product review you post. Your reward points can be redeemed for specific items in the Fabletics shop – there are a variety of reward item options at varying point levels.

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

Quality and Price: Fabletics gear is high quality and sturdy. It’s not quite Lululemon, but it’s definitely a step up from what you’ll find at Target. The prices are in line with that – you won’t be spending $100 on a pair of yoga pants, but you are looking at around $40-$60 for a pair of pants at the non-membership price. VIPs are looking at about $30 for the same pair.

Outfits run around $50-90 for VIPs depending on the amount and type of pieces included, but outfit prices increase significantly if you’re not a VIP – for example, an outfit that costs a VIP $79.95 is $139.90 for a non-member.

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

What are the outfits like?: Pretty much all outfits include a top and a bottom of some kind, whether it’s shorts and a tank or compression crops and a sweatshirt. Some outfits offer a third piece, like a sports bra or a jacket, and occasionally you’ll find 4 piece outfits with headbands or other accessories included.

Outfits are added monthly with new pieces and updated patterns. There are some standby items (like the salar capri) that is consistently available, but the colors and prints offered change based on the month. Other pieces are specific to a particular month or season and are unavailable after they sell out.

The patterns and designs are usually really cute and fashionable, but you do have to be mindful of fashion vs. function. Most fabletics pieces are intended for both, but they do offer “athleisure” pieces that might not hold up to intense activity. You’ll find that some months the new outfits are full of adorable and fun new ideas, while others are a little less exciting – but it balances out when you skip a few months but then have a month where you want all the outfits.

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

What I Like: The quality for the VIP price is quite high for Fabletics, and I’ve yet to receive a piece that’s a total dud. The website features a really useful (and active!) section of user reviews and fit surveys to help you determine what items will work for you and what size to select. The only bummer about it is that you won’t find any reviews on brand new pieces, so you have to take a chance. That said, Fabletics does have a very simple return process if you do happen to get something that totally doesn’t work for you.

The concept of pre-determined outfits is great if you want a little help putting together a look, but you also have the freedom to mix and match colors and patterns within the outfit you pick, so you don’t have to order an outfit exactly as is if you are more interested in the individual pieces than the overall look.

I really like how often Fabletics mixes up their colors, patterns and styles, and their pieces often have unique details that make them feel special. I like the freedom of being able to get the VIP deals a few times a year but not having a commitment to buy every month.  I don’t have any problem remembering to skip months (Fabletics sends an email on the 1st of the month, which serves as a great reminder), so I’ve never run into trouble with having my card charged when I wasn’t expecting it.

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

What I Don’t: The reward system is just okay. It used to be that once you reached a certain amount of points, you could trade them in for a full Fabletics outfit of your choice. Now that points are traded for single items, it does feel like you get less for your points, and you don’t have as many options to pick from. I also find that the items available for rewards are often sold out in most colors/sizes, further limiting your options.

I hate hate HATE that you have to call to cancel, and I’ve heard that customer service can be a huge pain about canceling. I’ve also heard from people who had no trouble canceling, though, so it might just depend on who you talk to.

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

Bottom Line: Fabletics is a great service if you like variety in your workout gear and value the combination of style and functionality. However, if you’re not planning on taking the VIP route, the price might outweigh the novelty. And if you do  take the VIP route, make sure you’re comfortable with the responsibility of checking in at the beginning of each month in case you want to skip.

 

REVIEW: GuruNanda Oil Pulling Oral Detox Oil

(Image Credit: GuruNanda)

(Image Credit: GuruNanda)

Thanks to the lovely folks at GuruNanda, I got the chance to experiment with an ancient technique called oil pulling. For those of you, who are not familiar with the term oil pulling, do not feel ashamed. At first, I was quite confused by the whole concept myself, so upon receiving my package in the mail, I decided to do a little research. Here is what I found out before I began using the GuruNanda Oil Detox. Continue reading

The Importance of Drinking Enough Water

(Image Credit: Eugenio Marongiu)

(Image Credit: Eugenio Marongiu)

In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Toula’s dad swears that Windex is the answer to all life’s skin ails from zits to neck tumors. The way Gus Portokalos feels about Windex is how I feel about water. The only difference is I have facts on my side. Water really is the cure for everything! Continue reading

What it’s like being an Anxious Optimist

(Image Credit: Michael Spring)

(Image Credit: Michael Spring)

There are two things in life that I know for certain: I am an eternal optimist and I have anxiety. I am a walking contradiction; I always hope for the best, but I’m always assuming the worst. It’s a tough world for an anxious optimist like me. Continue reading

The Health Benefits of Cuddling

(Image Credit: Warren Goldswain)

(Image Credit: Warren Goldswain)

Most of us really enjoy a good cuddle every now and then. Whether that’s with your significant other, your dog or cat, or that stuffed animal you’ve had since you were little, there’s just something about cuddling that makes us feel good. In fact, there’s this girl who is allowing people to buy cuddle time with her, a completely innocent way for her to help others feel better. But does it actually really help us? Well, as it turns out there are some really great health benefits of cuddling. Continue reading