5 Things That Are More Stressful Than Taking Plan B

Presented by Plan B One Step

Is there anything millennials fear more than emotional intimacy? *Does an audit of my entire life thus far* Definitely not. There’s nothing more grave than the pit you get in your stomach the moment you send someone a “we need to talk” text. Except, I guess, the pit you get in your stomach when you have a birth control slip-up, like a condom breaking. As someone who used to agonize for days over what to wear for a casual night at the bar I knew I would only spend two hours at, making the decision to take Plan B after a night of failed birth control was…nerve-wracking, to say the least, when I did it the first time. I’d heard all the misconceptions, like that it has a bunch of side effects, and that it would f*ck up my ability to get pregnant later on—which is not something I want to do (even if I don’t want to get pregnant right now). But we live in the age of the internet, which means that instead of anxiety-texting an itemized list of those worries,​ ​I just went online to learn more​ and realized how misguided I was. Plan B’s main ingredient has been used in birth control pills for decades, and taking it won’t mess with your fertility​.​ I also learned ​that Plan B won’t hurt my chances of becoming pregnant later on; it  temporarily delays the release of an egg from the ovary after taking the pill so I don’t get pregnant ​right now. 

So, the process of taking Plan B was not intimidating for me at all, since I knew the facts. I took it right away (by the way, you have 72 hours to take it, but the sooner you take it the better it works) and then I went about my normal life—without getting pregnant. Thank goodness. Which got me thinking: of all the things to be nervous about, taking Plan B after the condom breaks or accidentally skipping a pill or another kind of birth control slip-up shouldn’t be one of them. Not when there are plenty of other more anxiety-inducing issues that pop up in life, like…

1. Having A “What Are We?” Talk

I would so much rather walk up to a checkout counter, hand them a credit card, and take one pill than actually have to do the whole “what are we doing?” song and dance with whoever I’ve been seeing (in a fantasy world in which I am actually dating). What’s the worst that can happen, you ask? Uhm, crushing rejection? An ambiguous answer that will keep you on the same cycle of non-commitment that you’ve been in for the last six months? No, thanks. 

2. Meeting The Parents

You could be a doctor who won the Nobel Prize and moonlights as a supermodel, and meeting the parents would still be stressful af. There are the obvious what-ifs: they don’t like you, you accidentally offend them somehow and because of that, they don’t like you, you have something stuck in your teeth so they think you have poor dental hygiene and don’t like you…Sensing a theme here?

3. Actually Cooking For Myself

“It’s easy!” they say. “Just follow the recipe!”As someone who regularly f*cks up hard boiled eggs because I get absorbed in another task while waiting for the water to boil, cooking for myself is easier said than done. There’s a lot that can go wrong when attempting to cook, and that’s not even counting the very real probability that the food can come out bad. Like, I could burn myself. Burn down my apartment. Chop off a finger. Chop off a limb—you get the idea. Better to leave it to the professionals (I say as I hit “check out” on Seamless for the third time today).

4. Doing An Exercise Video…

…and I mean actually doing it, not just laying on the floor. I know, the horror! Workout classes are supposed to reduce stress (and sure, I feel better afterwards), but the actual process of doing the class is often anything but stress-free. I never know what’s going on, and I feel like everyone else in the class had a meeting beforehand to nail down all the movements and flow and I missed it. What comes after burpees again? Plus, while everyone else looks like they’re going on a leisurely stroll through the park, I am huffing and puffing and pouring sweat from the face. I don’t think I’ve ever completed a workout class not wondering WTF was wrong with me… and that’s why I’d rather just lay on my mat, pretending to do the work.

5. Trying On Your Jeans For The First Time In Six Months

If you’ve been wearing pants with an actual button or fly during this period where nobody has anywhere to go, I’m not sure if I should be scared or impressed. Actually, I’m going to go with terrified, because nobody with that much discipline can be trusted, as far as I’m concerned. For the rest of us who have spent the past five or so months sitting on the couch in leggings, convincing ourselves that chips are a balanced meal, the time when we’ll have to put on jeans again is definitely not something any of us are looking forward to. Better to just throw the jeans away than deal with that stress, IMO.

As you can see, there are plenty of other potential issues you can encounter that are way more stressful than taking Plan B when you don’t have the facts. If you have birth control failure or unprotected sex and need to take emergency contraception, you can rest assured knowing that Plan B is the #1 ob/gyn recommended emergency contraception brand, and that it helps prevent pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex or birth control failure. It’s not an abortion pill, but it does help prevent pregnancy before it starts by delaying ovulation (no egg + no fertilization = no pregnancy). You can get Plan B at all major retail stores (like Target, Walgreens, CVS, or Rite Aid), without a prescription—just look in the family planning aisle. No prescription, ID, or age requirement. You got this!

Image: jeshoots.com / Unsplash

5 Things To Think About Before Having A Baby

The time has finally come. Whether you’ve always dreamed about having a family or you’re finally entertaining the idea because you’re fairly sure you want kids and can’t put it off any longer your biological clock is ticking, you’re seriously considering getting pregnant. On purpose. As beautiful as that is, the idea can be overwhelming. How do you even begin to prepare? Before you start tracking your ovulation cycle and lifting your legs in the air after sex, here are some things you should consider.

1. Your Financial State

It’s no secret that having a baby is expensive AF. Even if you’re not living in a major city where daycare costs the same as an additional rent payment, paying to clothe, feed, and care for an additional human being adds up quickly. How will this impact your current lifestyle? Will you have to move, and is that something you’re willing to do? Not only do you need to consider your income (and that of your partner, if you have one), but also your spending habits. If you spend most weeks subsisting on ramen because you blew through your paycheck or you consider withdrawing cash from the ATM your own personal version of Russian roulette, then it may be time to reassess whether you’re really ready to support another person.

2. Your Emotional Maturity

Right up there with the financial piece is whether or not you’re emotionally ready to have a child. Although we all know that having a baby changes your life dramatically, it’s important to think concretely about the ways it will change your life specifically. For example, if you, like me, are someone who likes to sleep in past 10am late on the weekends, you’re going to have to make peace with the fact that bringing a new life into this world is likely to give a whole new meaning to the word “exhaustion”. Similarly, if you’re used to going out every weekend, you’ll need to think seriously about whether you’re willing to have your social life take a back seat to bottle feedings and diaper changes. Having a baby is the ultimate act of selflessness, and it’s important to be confident that you’re in a place where you’re ready to be a little less selfish.

3. Your Support System

They don’t say “it takes a village to raise a child” for nothing. While many superwomen (and supermen) can and do raise children on their own, it’s incredibly difficult. Assuming you have a partner, it’s important to discuss upfront your expectations as far as the division of labor goes and make sure you’re on the same page. If you’re expecting to share feeding and changing responsibilities pretty equally and your significant other expects to only do, like, 10% of the work, dump that significant other it’s best to work out those kinks before the baby comes. If you’re thinking of raising a baby on your own, are there friends or relatives you can lean on when needed? The more support you have in place, the smoother the rough patches will be.

4. Your Health & Wellness

We all know that having a baby can wreak havoc on your body. But besides coming to terms with the weight gain, fluctuations in hormones, and other common bodily changes that come with performing The Miracle of Life, you should also make sure you’re prepared from a health and wellness perspective. This may mean talking to your doctor about any necessary dietary or lifestyle changes, the medicines you’re currently taking and the skin care products you use, as certain adjustments may be necessary when pregnant. If you’re concerned about passing on a certain genetic disorder to your baby, you may also want to consider pre-genetic testing for yourself, and if needed, your partner, so you have all of the information needed to make the decision that’s right for you.

5. Your Parenting Style

Cool mom

Will you be a regular mom or a cool mom? All kidding aside, now is a good time to start thinking about how you would like to raise your child, especially if you’re sharing the responsibilities with a partner who likely had a very different upbringing than you. Aside from the more obvious subjects like religion, are you and your significant other on the same page about the kinds of values you want to instill in your kid? Will one of you take on the role of disciplinarian, or is that a role that both parties should share? Getting aligned now can save you from conflicts down the road.

While no one is ever 100% ready to have a baby, thinking through some of the things on this list can help you to get in the right mindset and confirm that you’re on the right track. If you’re making these plans with a partner, communication is key. You may not agree on everything, but an open dialogue now will pay dividends later, both for you and your relationship. What else should someone consider before having a baby? Let me know in the comments!

Images: Xavier Mouton Photographie / Unsplash; Giphy (5)

The Time To Cancel “Shedding For The Wedding” Is Now

“Shedding for those wedding bells, I see!” said an oblivious male trainer friend of mine the last time I was at a gym (which feels like 200 years ago), distracting me from a personal best I was about to make. Because we have a personal relationship, I said straight to his face, “excuse me, that was incredibly rude,” and we moved on. But, truthfully, rude doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how problematic this assumption is. 

Shedding for the wedding has somehow become a cultural phenomenon that not only requires a bride to put on the most expensive party of her life, but also forces her to spend the months leading up to the wedding (that should be spent drinking champagne and shoving her hand in people’s faces) hangry and stressed. Disclosure: I am talking about female-identifying brides, as I rarely hear about grooms training specifically for the big day, but for the record, body shaming harms everyone.

First, let’s break down how little sense the idea of losing weight for your wedding makes. You’re marrying the love of your life, who loves you for you. Now you want to go and crash diet and/or binge exercise to drastically change your appearance for one day? There’s no reason to make yourself miserable in preparation for what’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life.

One could argue that the ritual ceremony of a wedding itself symbolizes entering adulthood. For me, it definitely does in a much more real way than graduating college or doing my taxes for the first time ever did, and for some, that can be a call to consider their health seriously for the first time. That is not inherently a bad thing, but the problem with the wellness industry as it stands is that it conflates health and well-being with beauty. That notion of “beauty” is further limited to Eurocentric features, so it’s problematic in multiple ways. True health and well-being aren’t as sexy to promote on Instagram, though, because it’s tougher to market what we can’t see from the outside, but diet culture has officially infiltrated the spaces we look to for health information. 

Diet culture is the belief that thinness = “health” and status. This is dangerous to us all, but especially to women, BIPOC, people who are differently-abled, anyone over size 6, the trans community—basically anyone society “others”. It sends the implicit message that if you don’t look like the imaginary health ideal—which, according to stock photos, is exclusively thin white women (who can usually be found laughing at salad)—you’re not only unwell, but a whole slew of other unconscious judgments that come along with it (lazy, unmotivated, etc.). Wellness becomes inherently political in this regard. It is impossible to talk about health without addressing the fact that we all have varying levels of access to wellness resources and that we continue to glorify some bodies as beautiful and others as not—which lurks somewhere deep in our brain when we think about what would make us look *perfect* on our wedding day. 

I so, so, so get wanting to look your best for the big day. These are photos you’ll have forever, after all. And yes, you better believe my skin care regimen is 234209243 steps long, and I’ve obsessed about the hair and makeup and the dress, but the idea that we need to lose weight to be and feel beautiful is sexist, and while we’re being honest, it’s racist. At the same time, I fully support your right to be autonomous with your body, in every sense of the word. If you want to lose weight to feel special on your special day, that is entirely your right and you shouldn’t feel shame for that—but you should know where that desire comes from, because I’m willing to bet my dream honeymoon that the desire to lose weight comes from a hope that we will be more worthy, better versions of ourselves once that finally happens. The thing is, though, losing weight doesn’t usually accomplish that. If you aren’t armed with this information going in, you’ll probably be disappointed when you get to that final dress fitting and you don’t feel as changed as you thought you would. 

To be clear, I am not against having fitness goals! But by fitness goals, I mean actual fitness—not physique goals. A fitness goal is “I want to run a marathon” or “I want to carry this overpacked suitcase without breaking a sweat.” A fitness goal is not, “I want to lose x pounds or fit in this dress”. Personally, my biggest “wellness” goal is staying sane in 2020 and making it to my wedding alive amidst a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, PEOPLE. 

As a bride and pilates instructor (with no wedding date in sight), what I am doing is continuing to do the exercise I enjoy because it feels good and helps me deal with COVID-19/wedding/2020/self-employed stress. Listen, movement is objectively good; I’ve literally made it my career and can personally vouch for the life-changing magic of moving your body every day. The problem is, shedding for the wedding puts the focus on changing your body for aesthetic purposes only, instead of enjoying it or even focusing on health itself. Not only can that get punish-y and dangerous, but it’s also just not fun. 

I move my body regularly, whether it’s a full workout or a sanity walk around the block, because it feels good and also so I don’t lose my sh*t when my dress is indefinitely delayed or trips get canceled. Choosing to exercise in appreciation of your body and as self-care increases body satisfaction and helps you be nicer to your reflection, which, wedding or not, is always welcome. 

Unfortunately, you’re not likely to get through your engagement without hearing the phrase “shedding for the wedding”. So what do you do when someone puts their nose where it doesn’t belong? It’s actually quite simple: Call them out and remind them (politely or not, up to you) that it’s not only not their business, but it’s also harmful and promotes an outdated beauty ideal. Let them know that your wedding does not revolve around an arbitrary number of pounds lost or gained, but the fact that you found yourself a life partner. What a concept. 

It’s time to cancel “shedding for the wedding” and start celebrating body diversity with the same fervor that we do one particular type of beauty. 2020 brides have had to sacrifice dancing, hugging, and uh, human interaction in general with the rise of stoop and Zoom weddings. But, we’ve also started to see an edit of superfluous traditions in favor of celebrating what’s actually meaningful about a wedding: the love! Maybe, *JUST MAYBE* we can make engagements about being engaged instead of dieting, and “shedding for the wedding” will go the way of the garter toss.

Images: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Employer-Based Health Insurance Makes No Sense

This week we learned an estimated 5.4 million American workers lost their health insurance between February and May this year. That’s more people than have lost health coverage as a result of job loss in America…. Ever.

I’ve literally never needed a reason to shit on the American health care system. However, between a global pandemic and recession spiking unemployment and the recent Supreme Court decision saying that companies aren’t required to cover birth control, now seems like as good a time as any to roast employer-based health care.

Imagine you get two similar job offers with the same salary, but one offers you the puppy of your dreams as an added bonus. You’d honestly prefer more money, but you wanted a puppy anyway and neither gig can offer you a higher salary. So you take the job with the dream puppy.

A few years later, you’re ready for a new job. But here’s thing: you have to leave your dog at the old job. Every time you leave a job, you have to give up your beloved pet and inherit a new one at the next job, which might not be the best fit or you, or work well with your family, or be a breed accepted by your landlord, or you might just not like it as much (all puppies are technically perfect, but that’s beyond the point).

The point is: Why would something so personal and important be tied to where you happen to work? Welcome to the insanity of employer-based health insurance in the United States.

The hype around corporate health care plans started back during World War II. With increasing military enrollment, both companies and the government began to realize that there was a massive labor shortage. As a result, FDR passed an executive order in 1942 freezing wages so that employers weren’t outspending each other to compete for employees.

The executive order did nothing to solve the labor shortage, so companies began competing with one another with benefits and incentives – like health insurance – instead. After 1942, employer-based insurance got more and more popular, reaching its peak in the ’80s. Today, about half of Americans get health insurance coverage through their jobs.

Once an obscure, unpopular concept, employer-based insurance became normalized and cemented into our national health care systems. At face value, it might seem like a pretty good idea. Employer-based companies give companies a way to recruit and retain workers, and in return employees earn coverage.

If you’re shaking your head and thinking that the employer-based system isn’t that bad, you’re forgetting that we’re talking about the American health care system. Everything is horrible, and nothing makes sense. There’s, like, six main arguments against employer-based insurance.

It’s Only Temporary

Employer-based insurance is tied to, you guessed it, your employer. This not only means that people are more likely to stay in jobs that aren’t the right fit for them or are actively detrimental to their professional goals or mental health, but that losing your job could have consequences for your health.

Since insurance plans cover dependents in addition to employees, when someone loses their job, their families often lose both financial security and health insurance coverage.

Please just, like, sit with how fucked up this is, especially during a global pandemic and recession.

The Hobby Lobby Problem

Hobby Lobby is a craft store best known for being homophobic and misogynist. Notably, Hobby Lobby refused to comply with rules surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and provide coverage for contraceptives.

As the Supreme Court recently ruled, employers are not required to provide coverage for birth control if they have religious or moral objections. People are entitled to make whatever decision they want in terms of birth control, but I don’t really need someone else making decisions about what I do with my body, especially if that person is my boss.

If the goal of employer-based coverage is to provide workers competitive benefits that result in retention and improve worker productivity, birth control should be at the top of the list. However, many companies that refuse to cover contraceptives also don’t offer competitive parental leave programs.



Wait, so these plans aren’t in employees’ best interests and are just about controlling women? Who woulda guessed?

Who’s Making The Calls

More often than not, brokers and insurance companies sell coverage to employers, not to the employees (aka the people who are supposed to benefit from the coverage). We know that most of the systems in our country operate like this, with individuals making decisions that don’t affect them and with the vulnerable populations in question being left out of the room. When health care is on the line, this type of decision making is especially problematic.

A Familiar Behavior Pattern

Often, employees may view their employer-based insurance as a gift or little bonus on top of their paychecks. When you consider that most developed nations provide universal health care coverage to residents, that’s kind of like being pleasantly surprised that a boy texts me in the middle of the day to ask if I want to get drinks that week instead of just booty calling me at 2 am. While I should expect the first thing, our current system tells me that anything more than a “u up?” text is like a reward.

In reality, employer-based healthcare often ends up coming out of what employees could be taking home in their paychecks otherwise. This is one of the iffy-er arguments against employer-based insurance but is still worth considering.

Like many aspects of American life, the employer-based health care system that we have today is not only wholly arbitrary but was designed as a way to get out of federal rules and regulations.

So What Do You Suggest?

These are only some issues with employer-based health insurance, but all of the problems have something in common: In this country, we are conditioned to view health care and insurance the same way that I view guys who show me basic levels of respect, like a luxury rather than a basic human right.

Most people agree that our current healthcare system is broken in a number of ways, but people can’t really agree on what we should be doing instead. Currently, about half the country gets health insurance from their employer. The rest largely access insurance through public programs like Medicare and Medicaid, purchase plans through the Obamacare exchanges, buy expensive private plans for their families, or cannot afford coverage and risk medical debt should get injured or sick.

One alternative to our current system, the Healthy American’s Act, was proposed in 2007. Basically, this program would rely on taxes collected from workers that get fed back into the government to pay for insurance plans and all people would get the same tax deductions on their insurance. At the same time, employers would be required to increase wages to offset the new, individual costs of insurance. The main problem with this is that the unemployed still end up with less access to health insurance than those with jobs.

Of course, Medicare for All is another option. When it comes to Medicare for All, most of us just assume that those who support it all support Bernie’s plan – however, there are actually a lot of different proposals for how it would work.

Most proposals that move the country to a single-payer system have some things like comprehensive benefits, lifetime enrollment, and the elimination of premiums in common. However, there are disagreements as to whether Medicare for All means completely disbanding all private insurance.

Most Medicare for All proposals mean that we pay a similar (or smaller amount) of money into a pot that would give more people access to health care than the amount who currently have insurance. Medicare for All also means lower overall health care economic costs, since the government would be able to regulate and negotiate the unreasonably high prices of certain medicines and treatment.

Even if more of your tax dollars go towards keeping people in this country healthy and alive, I think we can all agree that’s a better, more humane solution than forcing people to go into debt if they don’t have insurance, stay in unsatisfying jobs so they don’t lose coverage, or make difficult decisions about courses of treatment based on financial considerations.

Besides, there’s literally no option for fixing our current health care system that doesn’t have serious flaws, but what we have right now simply isn’t working for most people.

How To Run Safely Outside Without Being A Jerk About It

Apparently, I had no idea what being “stir-crazy” actually meant until we entered this indefinite solitary confinement they call quarantine. Even as a proud introvert, it feels like the universe is shoving all the plans I’ve ever canceled in my face and screaming, “IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED?” This is absolutely not what any of us wanted—as any introvert will tell you, part of the thrill is canceling plans. With no plans to cancel, this endless abyss of plans that could have been (canceled) feels like a discount version of Groundhog Day. Not only are we mourning the closures of our favorite restaurants, stores, and bars, but many of the activities that kept us sane are no longer an option. One of the most difficult aspects of my quarantine has been the closure of my gym, and not only because of the sense of community it provided. Physical activity has been one of the only things I’ve found in over a decade of pretty severe anxiety that actually helped keep it in check. According to the CDC, reduced anxiety isn’t the only noticeable benefit of regular physical activity. Just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week (that’s like 7 episodes of Schitt’s Creek which, realistically, you’ve done in one day) can improve both your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Regular exercise can also reduce your risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. So yeah, TL;DR, exercise is good for you and I’m sorry for all the times I pretended I had cramps to get out of gym in high school. 

During this time of incredible stress and uncertainty, the anxiety-reducing aspects of physical activity are more important than ever. Being trapped inside a small space with no end in sight is stressful, to say the least. Exercise is definitely helpful, and nothing makes me feel quite as calm as the aftermath of a heart-pounding sweat session. There are plenty of workouts that can be done from the comfort of your own home, but when running is your go-to, working out while quarantined can be a little more complicated (unless you have your own treadmill, you lucky b*tch).

At the beginning of quarantine I was running four miles a day ….. Now I’m proud because I did a single squat

— Donese (@donese22) July 9, 2020

It’s SO tempting—outside is literally right there. You can see it and hear it screaming at you to lace up and get out there. So what’s stopping you? If your neighborhood is anything like mine, you’ve seen countless people jog by, headphones in, totally oblivious to the fact that we’re in the middle of a freaking pandemic. If they can do it, why not the rest of us? Well, because we both know we’re smarter than that. Yes, it’s tempting to squeeze in a quick 3-miler and be back inside before the coronavirus even has a chance to notice we left our bubble. Unfortunately, this isn’t some high-risk game of tag and we really can’t afford to take any chances. Here’s the great news, though—experts say that it is fairly safe to run outside, as long as we take the proper precautions. Family Medicine Physician Doctor Mike Varshavski—or as he’s known on Instagram, Dr. Mike—tells Betches that running “is considered a low to moderate-low risk activity based on the new chart put out by the Texas Medical Association” and notes that “throughout this pandemic, almost all shelter at home orders have continued to allow and encourage solo exercise like hiking, walking, and running.”

So that’s the good news! And as long as you follow these pretty easy guidelines, you can rest easy knowing that you put your safety and the safety of others first.

1. Jog Alone Or In Small Groups, But Make Sure You Maintain A Safe Distance

I get it, running with your best friend or your running group like you’ve done for years is a blast. However, just because you have been extremely cautious about protecting yourself from the coronavirus doesn’t necessarily mean your running partners have done the same. Make sure whoever you’re running with is also taking the proper precautions, and continue to practice social distancing even when running outside.  Dr. Mike tells Betches, “any time you are exposing yourself to other individuals, it raises the risk of catching the virus,” reminding us, “those who look healthy can still be spreading COVID-19. If you have to go with a group (for safety reasons, perhaps), try and be with the smallest group possible.”

Brian Labus, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada Las Vegas told Runners World, “If you deem running with a small group is something you’re comfortable with, you’ll want to ensure that these few people have been properly careful over the past few months, same as if you’re running with one other person. Additionally, your small group should run somewhere you know you won’t come in close contact with others.” 

Labus also emphasizes that if you live with someone in the at-risk age group (over 65) or someone who is immunocompromised, extra precautions are necessary, and running with a partner may not be the best idea. He explains, “There have been over 182,000 cases (as of June 10) and over 77,000 COVID-19 deaths (as of June 6) in those age 65 and over since February 1, according to provisional data from the CDC. It is safer to run solo until disease transmission is low in your community.”

2. Bring A Mask With You When You Run

It’s probably not necessary to wear a mask while you run outdoors (and realistically, it would be really tough to wear a mask during any exercise that leaves you gasping for air) as long as you maintain the proper distance between you and anyone you encounter outside. Indeed, Dr. Mike tells Betches that “a mask should not be worn while running as sweat will make the mask wet and create other problems.” He advises, “The best protection is to wear the mask until you’re ready to exercise, take it off, and stay at least six feet away from others as best as possible.”

 

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What do you think I have a compass

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That said, it’s probably not a bad idea to bring a mask with you when you run just in case. You may end up lost and needing to grab an Uber back, you could desperately need to run into Walgreens for a drink of water, or you might end up running into your ex and needing a disguise. Point is, there are a lot of reasons you may need a mask when leaving your house, so make sure you have one with you at all times. 

Donald Milton, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health explained to the New York Times, “Outdoors is relatively safe, and masks would only be important if you are exercising in crowded areas or indoors in space shared with other people.” According to Milton, as long as you’re keeping your distance, you should be pretty fine running outside with your mask at the ready in case of an emergency.

3. Scope Out Your Street During Different Times Throughout The Day, Or Find A Different Street Altogether

Please withhold all “duh”s, because from what I’ve seen firsthand it apparently needs to be said—the easiest way to keep your distance when running outside is to run in a less crowded area. Now, this doesn’t mean driving 38 miles to the middle of the forest to knock out your run. This honestly may be as simple as spending a few days looking out your window every hour or two to see how many people are out and about. Peak hours in your neighborhood may also vary between weekdays and weekends, so also take that into account when planning your run. Ideally, you want to find both a time when not too many people are out, and a place where you have plenty of “escape routes.” This means not running next to a busy street that you can’t cross if you see a group of people on the sidewalk. If you’re running on a forest path, it means being able to step way off to the side if someone else is approaching (and, see #2, don’t forget your mask in case this isn’t an option). 

Dr. Benjamin D. Levine, a professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas, explained to NPR the importance of keeping an even greater distance when exercising outside. He advises, “The greater volume and rate of breathing that occurs during exercise has the risk of spreading droplets farther. I think it’s reasonable based on the known changes in breathing during exercise.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve been out walking and out of absolutely nowhere, a jogger runs by me so close that I feel a small gust of potential plague-wind as they pass. This isn’t okay, guys. First and foremost, if we can’t be considerate to other people who have just as much of a right to use the sidewalk as we do, we shouldn’t be out running in the first place.

That said, if you’ve been keeping an eye on your street and it really doesn’t seem like there’s much of a break in the constant stream of people passing by, check out some other side streets nearby. Chances are, within a mile or so of where you live, there are some quieter residential streets that will be far less congested. 

4. Make Sure That It’s Actually Okay To Run Outside In Your Area

 

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now everyone else can hear me heavy breathing too? cool. credit/permission: @itslaurentbtw

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As we’ve discussed, it is more than tempting to grab your shoes and just GTFO. But even if you’ve thoroughly read through these important tips and feel confident in your ability to run outside safely, please hit pause for just a hot second. Because of the constantly evolving nature of how we’re handling this pandemic, running outside without a mask may not even be allowed in your area. Make sure you’re constantly checking mandates from your state health departments to ensure you’re adhering to your area’s current requirements. These mandates are changing fairly regularly in some areas, so it’s a good idea to check them daily before your planned run. Your state will most likely have a dedicated coronavirus page with all of the latest information, from things like the number of confirmed cases to reopening guidelines.

Dr. Mike emphasizes, “Know that there is no such thing as absolute safety when outdoors. The guidelines of wearing a mask, physical distancing, and washing hands will certainly reduce risk but not eliminate it. Know what is an acceptable risk for you.”

If you’re still hyped up to go for an outdoor run, more power to you. Just remember the four M’s, and you should be good to go. Maintain your distance, Mask (in your pocket/bra/around your neck/whatever), find tiMes of the day that are less crowded (ok that was a stretch, who cares), and Mandates (check your local mandates to see what rules are in place in your area). Happy running!

Images: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels; donese22 / Twitter; notskinnybutnotfat, dietstartstomorrow / Instagram

How Not To Be A D*ck When Coming Out Of Quarantine

After 95694845 days of quarantine (I lost count), our collective #QuarantineClub efforts have not been in vain. And now I’m actually seeing other humans IRL (yay!) out and about. We’re getting our lives back in this so-called “new normal” and cautiously doing all right in Phase 3 with non-essential businesses opening up. Parts of New York are allegedly even entering Phase 4, but that seems too good to be true.

The light at the end of the tunnel seems to be within our reach, but remember—it’s a marathon, not a sprint. All things considered, we can keep up our momentum so long as a few bad apples don’t f*ck over the entire cart. Unfortunately, parts of the U.S. are experiencing just that—sheer amounts of stupidity (i.e. COVID-19 parties… seriously, WTF Alabama??).

Extreme cases aside, I understand that at this point, you’re saying to yourself “omg, I’m so over COVID-19. O-VeR. IT.” And I get it. 2020 is canceled. The pandemic was not exactly what we wanted for summer. But think about how the frontline workers must feel? My close friend Mira MacLeod, a Registered Nurse who works in the COVID-19 ward of a major Toronto hospital (which was also the same converted facility used to treat the first SARS patients) said, “hell (lol) I’M OVeR IT. If anyone has COVID fatigue, it’s me, girl.” 

So for her sake and for every one of these caregiving heroes, when it comes to our collective health, reckless behavior is inexcusable. In fact, it’s NOT okay when you decide to be a d*ck by not wearing a mask in a shared public space and jeopardize the lives of others. Additionally, I honestly feel like the warm weather must be frying off some of the common sense in some people’s brains. I guess when you throw sunny skies and balmy weather into the mix, it’s like everyone suddenly forgot that there’s still a deadly pandemic in our presence which, may I remind you, still has the power to come back to bite us again (like it did to South Korea and their second wave) and force us back into our homes.

Do the people begging for stuff to reopen not realize that means having to wear a bra on a regular basis?

*shudders*

— The Salty Mamas (@saltymamas) May 17, 2020

In light of people filling up their social calendars once again and taking to the city streets, the Department of Health released some guidelines on how we can all be safe when gathering together and dining out. However, what these documents neglect to state or inform us about is how the heck these rules will be consistently enforced. Mayor Bill de Blasio is essentially telling us all of this is based on “trust” and calling people out when you see them breaking the rules. Basically like “if you see something, say something.” While that’s definitely one way of approaching it, despite reporting the situation, the damage will have already been done.

Dr. Sidney Chiu, an emergency doctor at North York General Hospital, reminds us that we must each do our part and continue to take initiatives in safeguarding our community. Furthermore, we made it this far in flattening the curve—let’s not f*ck it up folks! Here are useful guidelines to keep in mind:

When In Doubt, Wear A Mask

MacLeod says that if you want to be safe, you should wear a mask indoors—even if the business doesn’t state that it’s mandatory. “You should be wearing one in confined spaces like at the grocery store, on the transit system, or at a retail store—places where you’re touching a lot of things.” You should be wearing disposable rubber and/or plastic gloves for this as well (think clothing items, transit railing, etc).

Wear A Mask When Walking On The Sidewalk

MacLeod says her major pet peeve is when people don’t walk around each other on the sidewalk: “It irks me that some just don’t care and/or take liberties. They walk by you in close proximity, and this is particularly troublesome when there are small children nearby.” As a mom of two kids, this is especially triggering for her. So she advises that when you see someone approaching, go around them, if you can. Remember, social distancing means you should be six feet apart, which is further than you think.

There Is Still NO Vaccine

“Just based on how I’m seeing some people behave, I think many believe that the pandemic has mostly passed—and that’s certainly not the situation. The reality is that although we’ve passed the first wave, we are constantly at risk of new cases,” MacLeod says. She adds that precautionary measures should be as routine as checking for your wallet, phone and keys before leaving the house. “A mask, disposable gloves, hand sanitizer (making sure that it contains 60-95 percent alcohol), and disinfecting wipes should all be a part of your ‘toolkit,’” which means that these items should be considered part of your “new normal” for the foreseeable future. If you’re forgetful, a good strategy is to set up a daily pop-up alert on your phone to remind yourself of these essential items. Or consider keeping it all in a stylish bag near your door. 

No Hugging Or Shaking Hands

“This is tough, understandably, because we are by nature, social creatures,” explains Dr. Chiu.  He adds that “in lieu of physical touching, air hugs/air high fives, or toe tapping is better than exposing any part of your body to someone else. You just don’t want to run the risk.” As a friendly reminder, he says that COVID-19 is spread through droplets and/or physical contact. “Just think that when you’re embracing someone and that close face-to-face, any number of things could happen: coughing, sneezing—even talking and breathing could aid in transmission.” He adds that what could then theoretically occur is that even though it appears that “nothing happened” during the hug, since you effectively touched that person, you could then absentmindedly touch your mouth, nose and eyes, thereby spreading the virus.

Just Because They “Look Healthy” Doesn’t Mean They Are

“We always assume there are obvious visual cues to someone being ill. However this is certainly not the case when someone is asymptomatic and can transmit the virus to you,” says Dr. Chiu, who adds that these individuals may not even be aware they have COVID-19. “So for your sake, it’s better to err on the side of caution and to wear a mask whatever the social situation may be.” Another scary and not-so-fun fact from him: “the chance of a test detecting COVID-19 is very low if you are asymptomatic, and it is unlikely to be helpful in determining if you have COVID-19 if you have zero symptoms.”

Invest In Anti-Technology For Your Sunnies

Dr. Chiu says that “I’ve heard some people complain about their sun/glasses getting fogged up due to the mask wearing.” To remedy this, he says to do the following: “mold your mask to the bridge of your nose, tighten the mask, or simply invest in some anti-fog spray or wipes which will do the trick nicely (and you should be prepping all of this before you leave your home).” This is an overlooked issue but an important one, and he explains that “you want to minimize the amount of time touching your face. If your glasses are fogged/smudged, etc and you’re constantly readjusting them, you’re increasing your chances of exposure.”

Invest In An Automatic Soap Dispenser

When returning home, immediately wash your hands with hot soapy water before doing anything else (the CDC advises you do this within 20 seconds of entering your home.). To avoid contamination, MacLeod advises people to get one of those automated hand soap dispensers.” Additionally, she says that bar soaps are a big no-no because bacteria and germs CAN survive on them (ewwww).

And in terms of venturing out in the world à la Oh, The Places You’ll Go Post-Pandemic (!), here are a few tips and best practices to be mindful of in the following social scenarios:

Restaurants/Patios

If available to you, always opt to use the restaurant’s QR code, which allows you to see the menu on your smartphone rather than touching paper. An exception to this is if you have a visual impairment and require a hard copy.

Wearing a mask while dining in a patio/restaurant space isn’t required (cuz um, how else can you eat that food if your mouth is covered?!); however, you should absolutely wear one when walking to your table and using well-ventilated washroom facilities (which are 99% of the time located inside of a confined restaurant space). 

Another food-related issue is regarding pick-up and take-out: you just grab the order and go. Don’t linger and/or congregate on the sidewalks.

Hosting Gatherings/Cookouts

The CDC recommends that if you’re welcoming people into your home for, say, a BBQ cookout (specifically an outdoor space like the backyard) to consider keeping a guestbook of attendees for contact tracing needs. Disposable but recycle-friendly cutlery, plates, and cups should be used in lieu of the silverware you have at home.

Parks/Beaches/Outdoor Venues

Both Dr. Chiu and MacLeod say that if you can, visit these spaces on a weekday when it’s less crowded. “Because it’s an outdoor setting, it’s technically safer than, say, a shopping mall because these types of places are conducive to offering more room and fresh air.” For any communal seating (such as park benches and beach chairs), use hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes prior to use. 

Individual Appointments (Including, But Not Limited To, Dental And Medical Offices, Nail Salons, And Hair Salons)

Ensure that it’s not a walk-in situation, and whenever possible, book your appointment in advance. If you’re feeling uncertain, ask what sorts of protocols the business or service has implemented, such as adequate HEPA filters/ventilation, PPEs, and plexiglass barriers to minimize the risk of exposure. When you do arrive for your appointment, wait outside and arrange for the staff to text or give you a call when they’re ready for you. Lastly, if you know you have to fill out any documentation, bring your own pen—don’t use the communal ones supplied at the office/salon. 

Final Thoughts

With all the news and Karen-shaming, I’d like to think that the majority of us are better than that. However, we’re all human and can still be prone to slipping up once in a while. So I recommend screenshotting this handy color-coded infographic to act as your “pocket guide” if you are ever uncertain about venturing into a specific social situation. It’s nice that we can FINALLY see our loved ones IRL again, so let’s not take any of it for granted and remember to be considerate of each other by adhering to these practical and safe protocols.

Images: Gustavo Fring / Pexels; Giphy (2); Twitter / @saltymamas

Why You’re Breaking Out Like Crazy In Quarantine & What To Do About It

As we approach week 9 (58? 102??) of quarantine, many of us are noticing that our skin is reverting back to its acne-riddled high school days. Seriously, what the hell? We’re not spending much time outside getting attacked by free radicals and pollutants, and we have more time than ever to do our involved skin care routines. So, what gives? Dr. Shari Marchbein, a New York-based dermatologist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, spoke with us about why our skin is still not behaving even when we’re in quarantine, and what we can do about it.

Why Quarantine is Causing You to Break Out

According to Dr. Marchbein, hormones are a crucial reason our skin is breaking out rn. There’s no way to pinpoint just one culprit, she says, since our sleep, work, and skin care routines are all out of whack from sheltering in place. The key ingredient in all of these, she says, is stress. 

When we think about hormones, our minds typically wander to testosterone, progesterone, and like, things that relate to the pill or middle school health class. However, Dr. Marchbein explains, the hormone causing our current skin woes is cortisol, “which increases in the blood at times of stress or with lack of sleep and can trigger acne breakouts by stimulating sebaceous glands to make more oil.” Increased cortisol, she says, “can worsen other skin conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis, as well as cause an increased breakdown of collagen and hyaluronic acid, which is the good stuff that gives skin its glow and plumpness.” Yeah, no thanks.

How to Prevent Stress-Related Flare-Ups

To avoid flare-ups in the first place, Dr. Marchbein recommends several ways to de-stress. “First and foremost, get plenty of sleep,” she says. When our body is sleep-deprived, it makes more cortisol, causing inflammation and bodily stress. Staying active is also important, according to Dr. Marchbein. Her go-to ways to de-stress are meditating and taking a yoga class. To help reduce your cortisol and stress levels, you can also go for a socially distanced walk, if possible. 

And just like your mom’s been telling you for years, “maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of water are key.” By following this advice, which tbh you should be doing anyway for your general health, you can be like that meme that’s like, “my skin is clear, my crops are flourishing, my depression is gone” (but like, with actual, non-sarcastically clear skin).

How to Treat Acne Flare-Ups

If you’ve got a particularly aggressive breakout, don’t freak out, because here are a number of treatment methods to try. Under normal circumstances (lol what are those), Dr. Marchbein would advise visiting your dermatologist for a steroid injection. These injections “reduce the pain and inflammation of cystic breakouts,” she says, but at this point, “most medical visits are being done by telemedicine, and in-person visits should be for true emergencies only.” So that’s out.

Then what to do about the acne glaring back at you in your reflection? For starters, Dr. Marchbein recommends certain over-the-counter products to treat existing flare-ups. Retinoids are one useful treatment for acne breakouts—Differin 0.1% gel is the strongest non-prescription one available, she notes. Salicylic acid, a type of acid that can unclog pores, is also helpful. 

“I like St. Ives Blackhead Clearing Scrub with salicylic acid and green tea as a gentle scrub, and I use a St. Ives salicylic acid gel cleanser once daily,” Dr. Marchbein says. She also recommends stronger 1-2% salicylic acid gel for spot treatment. Products with benzoyl peroxide, which is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, can help calm irritated skin too. Dr. Marchbein likes 10% Panoxyl wash and 4% CeraVe wash

Finally, acne patches deliver active ingredients to a pimple. “By occluding the pimple, these active ingredients are able to penetrate the skin more deeply allowing them to potentially work better,” she explains. Watch out if you have sensitive skin, though—acne patches might be too harsh for you and could make the situation worse. 

“Most importantly,” Dr Marchbein warns, “do not pop or squeeze a pimple, as this will cause even more inflammation and can make a potentially bad situation even worse.” I know Dr. Pimple Popper videos can be satisfying, but seriously, don’t do this to yourself.

Skin Care Advice in the Time of Public Face Masks

As much as we’ve been staying indoors these days, we occasionally have to venture out into the real world to stock up on supplies or grab our curbside pick-up order of pad thai. For those of us responsibly following the CDC’s recommendation to wear cloth face masks in public, our skin might be suffering. Dr. Rajani Katta, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at Baylor University, warns against using masks made of irritating materials like polyester that trap sweat, in a blog post for the Baylor College Of Medicine. She suggests masks made of absorbent materials like cotton, which can help absorb sweat and prevent breakouts. 

If you’ve got dry skin, Dr. Katta advises moisturizing before putting on your mask, but if you’re particularly acne-prone, she recommends skipping greasy products like foundation. “These products can get trapped under the mask and possibly cause more skin issues,” she explains. For healthcare workers on the front lines, Dr. Marchbein recommends avoiding retinoids and exfoliants. Wearing abrasive N95 masks daily, she says, “could cause further irritation and shearing of the skin.”

If your quarantine = breakout central, all hope is not lost. There are plenty of products and habits that can help repair your skin and prevent further flare-ups. Plus, it’s not like many people are seeing you these days. If you’ve got a particularly nasty zit, just turn off your video on Zoom.

Images: Andrea Piacquadio / Unsplash; Vera Davidova / Unsplash; Breakingpic / Pexels

The Absolute Worst Wellness Trends Of The Past Decade

It’s no secret that we live in a society obsessed with wellness. According to one statistic, the global wellness market is estimated to reach $4.75 trillion in 2019. And while some wellness trends are genuinely beneficial, plenty are complete and utter bullsh*t. Read on for some of the worst wellness trends over the last 10 years.

2010: The Shake Weight

It’s hard to believe that just ten years ago, millions of people thought they could outsmart common sense science and lose weight by remaining sedentary and holding an oscillating weight for a few minutes each day. *Sigh* a girl can dream. Despite the claim that the Shake Weight can provide a total upper-body workout “in only 6 minutes per day,” this is highly unlikely. What it will do is make the holder look like they’re giving a hand job to a disembodied robot dick.

2011: HCG Diet

The HCG Diet involves taking the hormone HCG, eating a 500-700 calorie diet (not a typo) and forgoing exercise altogether, all for almost a month. There’s way too much to unpack here. First, altering your hormones is far from casual and should be a larger decision made under the care of a doctor. But even without that element, the diet is absolutely insane. The average woman needs to consume 2,000 calories per day to maintain weight and 1,500 calories to lose one pound per week. While these figures are obviously not one size fits all, suggesting that a person should eat one-third or half that amount is not sustainable and frankly, is probably starvation. And no exercise at all? Something’s not adding up here.

2012: Raw Food Diet

Not even Smith Jerrod could convince me to try this farce of a diet. Adoptees eat a diet, usually only plant-based, consisting of completely raw (that is, never heated over 104-118°F or 40-48°C) and unprocessed foods. I could eat 100 pounds of raw carrots and still be starving, so I do not understand how this diet is sustainable for more than one meal. If that weren’t unappealing enough, experts say that all of the slicing and dicing required to prepare raw foods actually strips them of many of the nutrients that proponents of the diet claim are lost to traditional cooking methods. Hard pass.

2013: Open Bar Gyms

I’m not here to ruin your good time on this one. In fact, I’m the first person to crave a cold, hard glass of Chardonnay after a moderately difficult grueling workout class. So why not save yourself the trip and have a one-stop shop in your gym? The issue is that alcohol decreases the level of glycogen in your muscles, which creates the energy the muscles need to repair and strengthen themselves, not to mention increase your metabolism. I guess there’s a reason most gyms don’t have a vodka fountain, and it’s because alcohol basically sabotages your workout. So as tempting as it might be to toss one back immediately after barre, opt for some water instead.

2014: Hot Exercise

We all have that one friend who swears by hot yoga and insists that she “doesn’t feel like she’s getting a real workout” unless she leaves the class in a pool of her own sweat. Unfortunately, these hot classes can do more harm than good. While many hot exercise classes turn the heat upwards of 100 degrees, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends temperatures between 68° and 72° F degrees for athletic facilities. In other words, there’s really no reason to make the room that hot, except for the false perception that you got a great workout because you sweated out half your water weight. Then there’s the risk of dehydration, heatstroke, and heat exhaustion. I’ll stick with my normal temperature yoga, TYVM.

2015: Vaginal Steaming

This list wouldn’t be complete without an entry from our favorite pseudo-medical professional wellness expert, Gwyneth Paltrow. In 2015, she recommended that women steam their vaginas, claiming “It is an energetic release—not just a steam douche—that balances female hormone levels.” The hormone claim is patently false. But that’s the least of the troubles with this bogus trend. First and foremost, the vagina doesn’t need help regulating itself. Second, steaming raises body temperature, opening the door for unwanted bacteria and yeast and poor lubrication. No thanks. And finally there’s the risk of, you know, burning your cooch. As with most things Gwyneth says, you should probably ignore this one.

2016: Detox Teas

Detox teas are yet another product of dubious efficacy shilled by celebrities and, in this case, Bachelor rejects, Kardashian-Jenners, and Real Housewives. Funnily enough, none of the #ads promoting these products show the user sitting on the toilet, even though that’s where these teas will take you. As we’ve explained before, detox teas are essentially liquid laxatives, and prolonged use can cause diarrhea, cramps, dysfunction of the bowels, and dependence on the laxatives. Yikes.

2017: Activated Charcoal

I’ve never really understood this one. The idea of drinking a black smoothie, or worse, brushing my teeth with black toothpaste never really held much appeal. I can kind of see where we went wrong with thinking this would be a wellness product, since activated charcoal is most commonly used in the case of an overdose because of its ability to absorb toxins. But as far as its detoxing properties go, there’s no need to use it to filter out toxins because we have kidneys and a liver to do exactly that. There’s also no clear evidence that it whitens teeth, clears acne, or controls odors. Even worse, it can reduce the effectiveness of certain medications. So basically, it makes you look demonic in pictures and that’s about all we can guarantee.

2018: Colonics

Continuing the theme of completely unnecessary detoxing procedures is colonics, popularized by, you guessed it, the GOOP-meister herself. Colonics are procedures that flush your colon with water in an effort to detox the body. As we’ve covered above, our bodies are more than capable of purging themselves of toxins without any outside help. In addition, colonics can cause cramping, vomiting, electrolyte imbalance, rectal tears and even death. Just a few more reasons to spare your butthole.

2019: Vaping

Despite the douche factor, as vaping began trending, it was thought to be a healthier alternative to smoking. And when used as a means to quit cigarettes and other tobacco products, it may be effective, though it hasn’t been approved by the FDA for this purpose. We are, however, starting to see its risks. Just a month ago, a study found that Juul e-cigarettes deliver nicotine similarly to regular cigarettes. Considering that teenagers are some of the biggest users of e-cigarettes, this raises the concern that e-cigarettes are creating a whole new customer base of nicotine addicts, some of whom will eventually either turn to regular cigarettes or supplement their vaping with smoking. Then there’s the potential link between vaping and lung disease, and the instances of people who have ended up in the hospital because of vaping. While there’s still a lot we don’t know, it’s safe to say that vaping is far from the miracle it was originally thought to be (and still incredibly douchey).

If this list is any indication, our collective obsession with wellness, no matter how absurd, will continue for many decades to come. What other ridiculous wellness trends have you noticed over the past decade? Sound off in the comments!

Images: Shutterstock; Giphy (10)