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Emily Skye Says She’s "Getting Stronger" in a Post-Baby Body Photo Showing Loose Skin

The new mom and fitness influencer shares how she’s getting back in pre-baby shape. 

Fitness influencer Emily Skye is enjoying her post-pregnancy workout regimen with her “cutest training buddy ever.” In a mirror selfie with her three-month-old daughter Mia, Skye shared her progress since giving birth.

“Some people might think my progress is due to my genetics or because of breastfeeding but I can tell you it’s got a LOT to do with hard work and consistency!” she captioned the photo, which shows her loose skin. “All those midnight workouts I did after Mia fell asleep and eating healthy meals from my FIT Program are getting me great results.”

RELATED: The Flat-Belly Workouts Celebrities Swear By for Sexy, Sculpted Abs

She goes on to share that she’s getting stronger and leaner and is in good spirits, which she said helps her mini-me, too. “When I’m happy Mia seems happier too,” she wrote.

Since bringing home baby, Skye has been transparent about the body changes she’s experienced. Last month, she posted a side-by-side image comparing her pre-baby and post-baby abs.

Physically speaking I will never be the same (which isn’t a bad thing) and I’m making the most of what I’ve got. I’ve still got loose skin on my belly but my abs are beginning to make a comeback – which shows me that what I’m doing is working (following my FIT Program)! . Some people misunderstand my reasons for living a fit and active lifestyle and think it’s “selfish” because I’m now a mum. Being fit, strong and healthy is important to me mainly because of how it makes me feel. And if I feel good I’m happy, and I’m a much better mum to my daughter Mia and a better partner to my man Dec and so on. I also like being strong for myself because I like it and I love the look of a strong physique! My focus is always on being healthy but I like to look good too and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look good!! I’m not sure why there seems to be a stigma attached to wanting to look good. As long as I’m not ever sacrificing my health to look a certain way and as long as it doesn’t negatively affect my family I don’t see anything wrong with it – in fact I see everything RIGHT with it! . Do what makes you happy regardless of what anyone else thinks – as long as it doesn’t directly hurt anybody. – These are words I live by and what I’ll instil in my daughter. The last thing I want is for her to live to please others (like I used to) – there is a difference between showing love and doing nice things for people and trying to constantly please others at the expense of your own happiness. . This lifestyle makes me happy so I’m going to keep living it and I encourage you to live a life that makes you happy too. 😃 . What makes you happy, and are you doing it? . . #2monthspostpartum #fitmum #emilyskye #postpartum

A post shared by EMILY SKYE Health + Fitness (@emilyskyefit) on Feb 20, 2018 at 6:53am PST

“Physically speaking I will never be the same (which isn’t a bad thing) and I’m making the most of what I’ve got,” she said. “I’ve still got loose skin on my belly but my abs are beginning to make a comeback – which shows me that what I’m doing is working…”

One workout she’s probably doing is her 20-minute core routine, which focuses on developing strong abs as well as the core muscles that help support every body, not just post-partum bodies. 

RELATED: 7 Moves for a Stronger, Tighter Core

“Almost every woman that I talk to wants to have a great set of abs,” Skye told Health in 2016. “It’s one thing to have strong abs, but it’s more important to have a strong core. Your core muscles are the muscles inside you that you can’t see, but do almost all the work. For people that suffer from back pain and poor posture, working on your core strength can go a long way to helping you improve these problems.”

10 Most Depressing States in the U.S.

On its own, where you live isn’t enough to make you depressed. Personal circumstances and genes also play an important role in mental health, so an area that feels like a downer to one person may be home sweet home to another.

That said, mental distress is unusually and persistently common in some states, whether due to economic troubles, lack of access to health care, or other factors.

Using data from federal health agencies, Health.com has identified the 10 states with the highest rates of depression, psychological distress, and other indicators of poor mental health. Here they are, in alphabetical order.

America’s Healthiest Hotels

What is it about a vacation that invites good behavior to fly out the window? When you were a kid, you jumped on the beds. Now, a vacation may prompt you to raid the minibar, blow off workouts, or return home more exhausted than ever. Not at these addresses. The following standout hotel chains place your health and wellness at the center of their missions, offering everything from supercomfortable beds and top-notch fitness opportunities to great-tasting, nutritious food and relaxing interiors.
 

Whether hip, boutique-style lodgings or old-faithful chains, these picks serve up what you deserve: a truly rejuvenating stay thats worth your hard-earned money. And with all these inviting, back-sparing beds, you may have to refrain from jumping.

#1 Fairmont
From $139 per night and up (rates vary based on location and season)

Modern life stressing you out? Fairmont Hotels and Resorts has innovative programs to help you recover. You can take the hotels dog out for a walk to clear your head in some of its city properties, like the Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston. And for the crazed business traveler, Fairmont offers a massage to relieve BlackBerry Hands.

“Fairmont understands the needs of modern professionals,” fitness expert Desi Bartlett says. She praised its approach to fitness, with on-site facilities as well as affiliations with top gyms such as the Lakeshore Athletic Club in Chicago. For a $10 fee, the chains Fairmont Fit program will deliver Adidas training gear—including athletic shoes, preloaded MP3 players, and running-route maps—to your room. For sweet dreams, Fairmont offers top-quality mattresses, and (at several sites) pillow “menus” with everything from anti-allergy to buckwheat options. And the chain also earned kudos from environmental expert Mary Cordaro for its less-toxic cleaning products and natural linens.

Room for improvement: Our experts wished the gym quality was more consistent across properties.

Deal alert: The FairmontSavers program gives you 30% off the best available rate when you pay in advance.

#2 Four Seasons
From $295 per night and up (rates vary based on location and season)

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts nabbed top fitness scores for state-of-the-art cardio and weight-training equipment—plus welcome extras, such as studio classes and personal trainers. Our experts also noted that at the Miami and San Francisco Four Seasons locations, the on-site fitness facility is the stellar Sports Club/LA. Nutrition expert Maureen Callahan praised the progressive approaches to healthy eating at Four Seasons restaurants and in-room dining. “From Japanese-style breakfast and multigrain pancakes in Chicago to Texas grapefruit in Dallas, Four Seasons menus put a big emphasis on fresh, local produce,” she says. Meanwhile, judge Bartlett bestowed a perfect 10 on Four Seasons for its rejuvenating spas.

Room for improvement: While Four Seasons hotels boast good air circulation (many of the windows open), smoking is allowed in some parts of its properties.

Deal alert: Check out money-saving offers, like the Summer With Four Seasons promotion.

#3 Kimpton
From $169 per night and up (rates vary based on location and season)

An innovative urban boutique chain, Kimpton Hotels “thinks outside the box” when it comes to healthy lifestyles, judge Jim Kaese says. Or, rather, inside the room: Kimptons in-room Mind.Body.Spa. makes relaxation private and convenient; it includes massages with organic products, complimentary 24-hour On-Demand Pilates and meditation TV channels, and loaners of yoga supplies. All locations shine with on-site workout facilities (a rarity in urban hotels). Another plus: minibars stocked with organic food and drinks. You can breathe easy at a Kimpton, too. Every hotel is 100% smoke-free, and the chain uses nontoxic cleaning products in guest rooms.

Room for improvement: Our panel found the quality of fitness facilities varied.

Deal alert: From May 28 to September 7, book the Summer Playground package: deluxe room, $20 food-and-beverage credit, free in-room movie and popcorn.

#4 Hilton
Summer rates from $84 per night and up (rates vary based on location and season)

“Like a distance runner with a late-breaking kick,” Hilton Hotels and Resorts is on a mission to surpass its competitors as fitness innovators, says panelist Kaese, who praised a recent upgrade to high-quality Precor USA strength and cardio equipment.

On the food front, Hiltons executive chefs recently worked with renowned culinary institution Johnson and Wales University to create a chainwide Eat Right menu that features delicious, good-for-you choices, including sesame ahi tuna with sweet potato and asparagus tempura. Judge Callahan loved the Hilton Breakfast, a color-coded buffet and à la carte option that lets diners see if their choices are low-fat, low-calorie, low-cholesterol, high-energy, high-fiber, high-indulgence, or a combination.

Judge Cordaro applauded an innovative program at the Hilton Chicago OHare: 13 enviro-rooms with hardwood floors, wooden shutters (instead of fabric curtains), air purifiers, and fragrance- and chemical-free personal products. She also noted small changes that can make for healthier stays, like outlets and communica­tion ports on easy-to-reach tabletops in meeting rooms.

Room for improvement: While Hilton got fairly high marks in healthy-room areas, panelist Cordaro wishes it and other chains would do more to address environmental issues. For instance, blackout curtains (at Hilton and many other chains) are typically made with vinyl, which may pose health risks.

Deal alert: Hiltons are offering a Bed and Breakfast package that includes early check-in, late check-out, and free breakfast.

#5 Hyatt Regency
From $129 per night and up (rates vary based on location and season)

Hyatt Regency aced our fitness challenge: Its StayFit@Hyatt program—with on-demand yoga videos, running-and-walking-route cards, and top-notch Life Fitness equipment—earned top scores from judge Kaese. Theres even a 24-hour fitness concierge service to provide workout clothes and GPS armbands to help runners monitor heart rate and distance (not to mention help them find their way back). Hyatt also serves up innovative healthy dining options with its StayFit Cuisine. “Making healthy food enticing? Now were talking,” Callahan raves. She was especially taken with the chains super-healthy breakfasts like steel-cut oatmeal with roasted fruit.

Room for improvement: Though most locations have smoke-free policies for much of their public space, only guest rooms are guaranteed smoke-free.

Deal alert: Check out money-saving offers like the new Hyatt Retreats packages.

#6 Ritz-Carlton
From $339 per night and up (rates vary based on location and season)

While Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Resorts commits to across-the-board healthy offerings (such as hypoallergenic bedding and 100% smoke-free properties in North America), it also prides itself on signature features that vary from location to location. Judge Bartlett was especially impressed with the snowshoe hike at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch (Colorado); its guided by the hotels yellow Lab. And panelist Kaese offered high praise for Ritz-Carltons spas. “You know exactly what youre in store for at a Ritz spa: tranquil surroundings, well-trained massage therapists, and a wealth of options.”

Room for improvement: Some locations offer a tailored spa menu and have nutritionists available for consultation, so why not implement good-for-you cuisine across the board?

Deal alert: The Reconnect Package provides guests with $50 to $200 of daily credit for spa treatments, tennis lessons, and other activities.

 

 

#7 Westin
From $250 per night and up (rates vary based on location and season)

“Westin Hotels and Resorts receives an A in healthy-lifestyle creativity,” judge Kaese says. From in-room fitness libraries (magazines and DVDs) to guided running tours and state-of-the-art gyms, Westin makes it easy to enjoy an active vacation. Where else can you stay in a guest room with a treadmill or stationary bike in it? Special fun: Westin Wii, where guests can play with WestinWorkout trainers or face off against each other on a specially designed Wii console in the fitness centers. Nutritionally, Westins new superfoods-focused menu offers great choices, including green tea–infused salmon and molten dark chocolate cake (hey, antioxidants!).

Room for improvement: Its spa is great, but youll currently only find it at 13 properties.

Deal alert: With Complimentary Nights at Westin, guests who stay three or four nights get their last night on the house.

#8 Cambria Suites
From $100 per night and up (rates vary based on location and season)

Starting with being 100% smoke-free, Cambria Suites puts your well-being first. It provides separate work spaces that make it easy to shut out stressful stuff like stock quotes and work e-mails. Trying to eat right? This chains menu is completely free of deep-fried foods. And rooms are stocked with organic tea. Fitness is a big part of the Cambria equation: Each property boasts a 2,500-square-foot fitness-and-pool center that emphasizes natural light and views to complement top-tier equipment. Plus, we love that this healthy up-and-comer is so nicely priced.

Room for improvement: Fitness expert Bartlett would like to see trainers on duty.

Deal alert: Stay three times between May 21 and August 13 and earn a $50 cash card.

 

 

#9 Loews
From $149 per night, beginning in May (rates vary based on location and season)

Theres lots to love about the Loews Hotels fitness menu. For instance, a “Monumental” Sunrise-ercise route at the Loews Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C., takes guests around the citys monuments. At the Loews Coronado Bay in San Diego, a state-of-the-art fitness center features belly dancing and kids yoga. Nutritionist Callahan gave the chain high marks for banning trans fats and for its creative take on light cooking (sushi-making for kids!).

Room for improvement: The fitness-facility quality varied. And allowing smoking indoors, even if only in select areas, was a negative.

Deal alert: Check out the As You Wish promotion, which runs through September 8.

#10 The Peninsula
From $550 per night and up (rates vary based on location and season)

“The Peninsula Hotels inspire you to breathe deeper within five minutes of arriving,” Bartlett says. In fact, Peninsulas spas earned a perfect 10, thanks to such offerings as Thai-inspired massage (think: warm herbal compress, ahh!). Back in the rooms, relax to a custom-designed mediation CD.

This small luxury chain is also a great place to get active, with recently renovated fitness centers and classes that complement its high-end style. But Peninsula has always been known for its fantastic pools. “A lot of swimmers stay at The Peninsula Chicago just for the 25-meter pool,” judge Bill Tulin says.

Room for improvement: While the bedding is deluxe, this group could be leading the healthy-room way with all-natural fabrics.

Deal alert: Ask for The Summer Splendor promotion; deals vary by location.

 

Real Women Are Spreading a Message About Body Positivity by Embracing Their Thighbrows

First there was thigh gap, then hip dip, then (yes, sadly) arm vagina. Now the body buzzword of the moment is “thighbrow,” the soft roll of flesh every woman has over her thighs. It’s not a new term, but it’s back on social media thanks to Tuesday’s episode of America’s Next Top Model, when Tyra Banks and Ashley Graham defined it on the show.

To promote the episode, Graham took to Instagram to share a GIF of Banks looking at her thighbrow, running her hand along it, and explaining, “It’s like a brow.”

 

We have a full definition of #ThighBrow on @antmvh1 tonight👅

A post shared by A S H L E Y G R A H A M (@theashleygraham) on Feb 20, 2018 at 7:28pm PST

Terms like thighbrow seem like they were invented to body-shame women into thinking their physical appearance doesn’t measure up. But what’s great about Graham’s post is that her followers totally embraced the term. They’re proudly sharing photos of their own thighbrow; more than 12,000 posts have hashtagged it. 

“Learned something new last night,” wrote one Instagrammer. “Watched this yesterday and absolutely loved this moment,” commented another.

RELATED: Ashley Graham Can’t Get Enough of These 3 Products

Hours after Graham’s thighbrow GIF went up, one young woman posted a mirror selfie and wrote, “The social media trend has shifted from the ‘thigh gap’ to the ‘thigh brow’ … If the thigh brow was the trend when I was a high school girl, I would have saved myself a swimming pool of tears.”

 

 

Resort life #travel #bali #poolside #holiday #glassons #gingham #thighbrow

A post shared by Anna (@bananna__) on Oct 17, 2017 at 5:08am PDT

 

One Instagrammer who used the hashtag even admitted, “didn’t know that was a thing….” Others have spread a new message about body positivity, as one captioned her photo: “No smoke and mirrors just a sweaty Shayna on the beach with her pasty skin and messy hair. But also that thigh brow tho ;).”

 

“Sometimes our thoughts and feelings on positive body image and self care are the only acts of kindness our bodies truly know,” another woman shared on Instagram. “There is some truth in having to teach others how to fully appreciate, respect and worship your body.”

 

For Graham and many other women, thighbrow is something to showcase—not hide or feel bad about. It’s all part of Graham’s super inspirational body positivity, a body trend we can truly celebrate.

25 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be a Happier Person

You know that afternoon mood slump that hits at just the worst time? Well, it turns out that you can eat your way to a happier, more energized afternoon—carbs. For years we’ve been hearing that we should avoid carbs, but in reality, a low-carb diet can make us feel sad and stressed. Carbohydrates actually boost mood-boosting chemicals in the brain. But let’s get something straight here—we want to focus on healthy, whole-grain sources instead of refined carbohydrates to reap the benefits. When you begin to feel down, go for an afternoon snack of 25 to 30 grams of carbs, such as a three-quarter-cup serving of Cheerios.

The Surprisingly Easy Trick That Can Help You Use Your Phone a Little Bit Less

The first thing I do in the mornings is look at my phone. That’s mainly because my phone is my alarm clock, but once my eyes are open and that screen is lit up in my hands, it’s an awfully short trip to checking emails and perusing headlines. There’s no reason for me to be doing this. My emails that early in the morning are mainly junk, and the headlines won’t change much before I’ve brushed my teeth and poured a cup of coffee, right?

My wife says I’m addicted to my phone. I disagree, but I can definitely stand to spend less time looking at it. I’m not terribly active on social media, but I do enjoy me some idle scrolling. And, wow, do these tech companies know how to keep those thumbs constantly swiping up. We’ve got a toddler, and while I think we’re pretty good about limiting her screen time, it would seem that technology has had its hooks in me from the start. So, I decided to try loosening my phone’s grasp on my attention by switching the screen to black and white.

RELATED: Why Turning Off Your Phone Can Help You Have More Sex

Changing the display to black and white is very easy. In your iPhone’s settings, choose General, then Accessibility. Next choose Display Accommodations, then Color Filters. Tap the toggle on and a list of filters appears. Choose Grayscale and you’re all set.

But no one wants to go through all this every time they want to turn color back on to check out an Instagram story. Clearly, you’re not going to always want your screen to be black and white—after all, there will inevitably be photos to view and videos to share—which is what makes setting a shortcut integral. In the Accessibility menu, tap Accessibility Shortcut and choose Color Filters. Now, pressing the home button three times will toggle your display to color, then back with another three.

It seems counterintuitive, with screens boasting higher resolutions than ever, to actively negate one of your device’s primary selling points, but when you consider the subtle neurological factors at play, it’s a small—and easy—price to pay. Technology companies are aggressively competing for our attention. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings famously told Fast Company that his company’s biggest competitor was sleep (“And we’re winning!” he added). Think about that next time Netflix autoplays the next episode of your binge.

The Center for Humane Technology, founded by Tristan Harris, who previously served as Google’s in-house design ethicist, points out a number of more subtle tactics that tech companies use to keep you coming back to your phone. “Notifications appear in RED dots because red is a trigger color that instantly draws our attention,” according to its website. The Center argues that with just a few simple changes to your phone’s settings you can take back a portion of your time. “Colorful icons give our brains shiny rewards every time we unlock. Set your phone to grayscale to remove those positive reinforcements.”

RELATED: 7 Scary Things You Never Knew About Cell Phone Addiction

Saul Rosenthal, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in internet addiction and technology overuse, says that while switching to grayscale most likely won’t be a magic bullet, it’s a good start. “Making any change will have an initial impact on behavior because we notice differences,” he says. “However, for most apps, color is probably not a primary factor in user experience. Apps reinforce use by lots of other things—points for games and likes for posts are probably far more reinforcing than color.” A monochrome screen may make your favorite game less fun–and therefore less of a time vacuum–but you’ll still have to navigate the flurries of notifications and social feedback.

Altering color alone may not result in a personal digital revolution. “We’ve all planned to check our email and end up three hours later watching cat videos,” Rosenthal says. “That’s because technology provides very rapid but superficial reinforcement with the promise of more. Clicking on a link gives a quick little reinforcer. Well, there’s always another link to follow.”

But that doesn’t mean you have to toss your phone off a bridge either. The point is to use technology in the way that’s best for you; aside from going black and white, other small changes, like turning off notifications, arranging apps by importance, and deleting distracting ones, could help too.

If, like me, you want to curb potential overuse, Rosenthal has a few other tips. For starters, keep your phone out of your bedroom (I guess I’ll have to buy an alarm clock). You can also set up Restrictions. Doing so won’t stop you from using your phone, but having to enter a passcode to access certain apps can reduce impulsivity, because you’ll have to decide whether you really need to.

Rosenthal also recommends taking breaks—either by going tech-free for a day or two or working in “micro-breaks” throughout the day. “Sit in your chair with your arms away from the keyboard, close your eyes, and take three slow breaths, low in the abdomen. It takes 30 seconds,” he says. Behaviors that might signal it’s time to take digital detox action include getting less sleep because you’re on your phone later and later and missing or forgetting deadlines, Rosenthal adds.

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Within a couple of days of setting my phone to grayscale, I was unlocking it a bit less. I no longer felt antsy about checking it. I’d open it when I got a notification, but I rarely went looking for them. In fact, there were times when the switch back to color was almost jarring.

But, confirming Rosenthal’s theory that it’s just a good start, it was very easy to backslide. For example, there were times when I’d switch to color for a specific reason in the morning but forget to switch back, and I’d catch myself scrolling brightly colored news pages at lunch. Honestly, I doubt I’ll keep my phone black and white in the long run, but it is nice to know that if I feel the tug on my attention getting a little too strong, I’m only three taps away from a respite.

How Your Smartphone Is Ruining Your Relationship

 

Nothing kills romance faster than pulling out a smartphone, and now, research confirms it. Being attached to your phone seems to sabotage your attachment with your loved one.

Plenty of research has been done on how cell phones affect relationships. Some suggests that they’re a positive influence—that being in easy, intimate touch with a partner through calling and texting makes people happier and more secure in their relationships. Other research reveals the dark side of cell phones. Real-life interactions are dulled when a person feels the urge to check their phone, and the distraction a phone affords one partner doesn’t make the other person feel good.

But smartphones are far more invasive and demanding of our time, connecting us to the world in vastly more ways than the flip phones of yore. A team of researchers thought that smartphones might be making relationships worse, so they wrangled 170 college kids who were in committed relationships to see what role their phones were playing.

In the study, published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, the college lovebirds were asked to report on their own smartphone use: how dependent they felt on their device, and how much it would bother them to go without it for a day. They then answered similar questions about their own partner’s smartphone dependency.

It didn’t matter much how much a person used their device, but how much a person needed their device did. People who were more dependent on their smartphones reported being less certain about their partnerships. People who felt that their partners were overly dependent on their devices said they were less satisfied in their relationship.

In other words, people get jealous of their partner’s smartphone. “I’m more likely to think my relationship is doomed the more I believe my partner needs that thing,” explains Matthew Lapierre, assistant professor in the department of communication at the University of Arizona, who authored the study with his former undergraduate student Meleah Lewis. “It’s not use; it’s the psychological relationship to that device.”

The researchers are now doing a followup experiment to try to understand the causal mechanisms behind their findings and to see whether or not smartphone dependency affects other areas of life, like academic performance, and whether factors like self-esteem predict a person’s smartphone obsession.

“Smartphones are fundamentally different from previous technologies, so their effect is much more powerful,” Lapierre says. “I don’t want to say it’s uniformly negative, but it definitely hints in that direction.”

This article originally appeared on Time.com.

 

How to Enjoy a Less-Stressful Summer

Nothing against the other seasons, but summer is the one that inspires us to be our very best. Temps rise and suddenly all of our good intentions go from being things we intend to do to things we actually do.

Routines are simplified, layers are shed, and fun and healthy decide to hold hands. That’s why we’ve pulled together these 14 little moves to get you off to a good start this summer, when the living is easier—and lighter. Enjoy!

Line dry your clothes
Nothing brings back the lazy days of summer like clothes drying in the warm wind. Instead of giving your wardrobe a manufactured fresh-air scent, you’ll be giving them the real thing. To keep wrinkles at bay, give your clothes a good snap before hanging them on the line; finger smooth each item while hanging.

And did we mention that line drying lightens the environmental load, too? Drying just two loads of laundry on a clothesline every week instead of using an electric dryer saves energy equal to the amount needed to run your fridge for four months, says Elizabeth Rogers, author of The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time and founder of ShiftYourHabit.com.

Add some sunny yellow
“Yellow is happy, optimistic, clean, upbeat,” says Leslie Harrington, PhD, executive director of The Color Association. But, like that perpetually cheerful co-worker, yellow can be exhausting, so go easy. Try a vase of daisies in the entryway to see how you respond to the shade before you make a more permanent commitment. Another option: Paint just one wall bright yellow; we like Benjamin Moore’s St. Elmo’s Fire (a zesty citron yellow) and Sundance (a paler hue).

Give your Spanx the summer off
Park the body shapers until the leaves fall. If you feel the need to look better in that sundress, stand up straight, tuck in your buttocks, and suck in your belly—you’ll do wonders for your posture and your silhouette. (To get rid of bloat, see below.)

And while you’re retiring your Spanx, push anything with a heel to the back of the closet, trade in your heavy leather handbag (the one that resembles a small piece of luggage minus the wheels) for a canvas tote, and send everything that’s black on a three-month vacation.

Perk up your playlist
Enough of that easy-listening music or edgy new rock. ‘Tis the season to fill your MP3 player with tunes that transport you to summers past: The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City,” Martha and the Vandellas’s “Heat Wave,” The Beach Boys’s “I Get Around,” Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do,” Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May”… ah, the list—and the beat—goes on.

Eat fresher
Where to find recipes that help you feel virtuous for making healthy choices and keep you wonderfully satisfied? Health.com/recipes, of course. The antidote for “stressed”: Homemade Peach Ice Cream or Blackberry-Blueberry Shortcakes. Looking for some heat? Szechuan Spicy Eggplant is calling your name. If you crave something crunchy, try the Spicy Pickled Okra.

Get over a grudge
Every time you think about how you were done wrong, your blood pressure can go up, says relationship expert Michelle Callahan, PhD, author of Ms. Typed. Because moving on is about forgetting as well as forgiving, try this: “Write down every detail of what happened. Then have your own personal ceremony of getting rid of it. Seal it up, pack it away, burn it, whatever you want,” Callahan says. You’ll feel lighter immediately.

De-bloat your bod
You’re working out and counting every last calorie—but you’re not losing. What gives? Certainly not the needle on the scale. Try these smart-eating tips from nutritionist Christine Avanti.

• Look for hidden salt. Even so-called virtuous foods like bran cereal, diet dressing, low-fat cottage cheese, and salsa are often loaded with sodium. Aim for no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science recommends.

• Get your daily potassium. P-rich foods (bananas, papaya, tomatoes) will help regulate your body’s fluid levels and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, research from the British Journal of Nutrition shows.

• Go lean. Include 3 ounces of lean protein— chicken, egg whites, fish— with every meal. It’ll make you feel fuller and help you shed pounds, especially in the tummy, according to a recent study.

Skinny up your favorite summer cocktail
Substitute the triple sec in that margarita with sugar-free syrup, make that gin and tonic with sugar-free tonic—or try this antioxidant-rich sangria recipe from nutritionist Christine Avanti, author of Skinny Chicks Don’t Eat Salad.

Get a bright summer smile
Your pearly whites can look dull next to those summery whites you’re wearing, but here’s a bit of good news: Affordable at-home whitening formulas can help lighten your smile—yellow teeth, in particular—up to three shades. Health Expert Network dental pro Michael Apa, DDS, recommends Crest Whitestrips Advanced Seal ($45). Or find a whitening special at your local dentist (some offices are sure to offer bargains during this slow economy, Dr. Apa says), and follow up with at-home products.

Punch up your pop
Summer, with its contrasts of hot and cool (think: the sizzling sun and sand versus a chilly ocean or lake), is a perfect time for a spiced-up frosty treat. Try this: Drizzle juice of half a lime onto a watermelon ice pop; sprinkle with cayenne pepper, to taste. It’ll knock your socks off (although we hope you’re not wearing any)! The lime-and-cayenne combo can add zip to a dish of fruit, too.

Loosen up—and laugh!
Forget that long to-do list and be more spontaneous. “Having open space in our calendars and lives is fundamental to our ability to relax and be happy,” says Mike Robbins, motivational speaker and author of Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Already Taken.

This summer, instead of letting your too-long list make you feel like a slacker, decide which tasks must be done that day (no more than 10 allowed), and bump the rest to a not-doing-now list. Then go to the movies! Skip the doomsday blockbuster (how much fun is that?), and laugh your way through something light like Pixar’s Up.
Go light on the news
All the bad news coming at you—online, on-air, in print—only fuels anxiety. In fact, alternative medicine guru Andrew Weil, MD, says it can make you downright depressed and promote a negative view of life.

Can’t bear to be uninformed? Then take it in the way you soak up sunlight: Limit your exposure to certain times of the day. Also, turn off those TV or radio shows that are 90% screaming and focus on print that gives you more control over what you dive into.

Chill without the calories
Light, guilt-free ways to indulge in summer temptations.
Lemonade

• Light: Glaceau vitaminwater multi-v (lemonade); 8 ounces, 50 calories

• Lighter: SoBe Lifewater Agave Lemonade; 8 ounces, 40 calories

• Lightest: Snapple Diet Pink Lemonade; 8 ounces, 10 calories

Coffee drink

• Light: Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino Light Blended Coffee; tall (12 ounces), 130 calories

• Lighter: Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino Light; tall (12 ounces), 110 calories

• Lightest: Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino Light; tall (12 ounces), 90 calories

Jazz up your walk
There’s nothing better than a summer walk —except a summer walk that lets you enjoy the great outdoors and hike your calorie burn. The secret: Add intervals (short bursts of high-intensity exercise). Celeb trainer Gunnar Peterson, who has worked with Jennifer Lopez and Penelope Cruz and is the author of G-Force: The Ultimate Guide to Your Best Body Ever, suggests this jazzed-up combo, which can burn as many as 300 calories in 40 minutes at high intensity.

What Shay Mitchell Wants You to Know About Birth Control

If you take your birth control pill at 5 p.m. on Monday, what time should you take your next pill on Tuesday? Do all oral contraceptives consist of the same hormone mix?

These questions and more are answered in a new video hosted by Shay Mitchell, called BC Trivia. Tune in, and you’ll learn that oral contraceptives should be taken at the same time every day, and that the hormone levels in different types of birth control pills vary.

RELATED: The Most Effective Birth Control, Ranked

Mitchell is best known for being a Pretty Little Liar, but she also believes that it’s time women got honest about birth control and got over any discomfort talking about it. So she’s partnered with Allergan for the company’s new Know Your Birth Control campaign, helping to separate fiction from fact when it comes to pregnancy protection. 

She tells Health that she was lucky to grow up with parents who didn’t keep birth control information hidden. “I was raised in a household where it was very open and comfortable and a safe spot for me to have these conversations with my parents and at the appropriate time—they brought me to my healthcare provider, where I had further questions and I had further conversations,”  says Mitchell. “But they wanted me to be confident in the decision I was making and the choice that I had.”

Learning the facts is one thing; navigating contraception etiquette is another. Who in the relationship is responsible for providing birth control? Do you take the pill or get an IUD? Is he carrying a condom? Before you and your partner make these and other decisions, Mitchell advises that it’s important to know what works best for you.

“I think every relationship is unique in its own,” she says. “You don’t want to mess around when it comes to your reproductive organs, so it’s something you really want to be educated on in the right way. Knowledge is power—especially when it comes to this and your body.”

If you’ve ever found yourself in an uncomfortable birth control–related situation, or felt pressured to do something with a partner you weren’t cool with, Mitchell says to listen to your inner voice.

RELATED: You Can Now Get Birth Control From an App, Without Seeing a Doctor. Here’s What to Know Before You Try It

“I think you always have to be true to yourself,” she says. “You have a voice inside you, I think you follow that. That’s really what it comes down to, is feeling comfortable with yourself. And again, I think you feel more comfortable and confident when you have the information that’s necessary to know to take those steps.”

From the birth control pill to IUDs to the hormonal implant, it’s easy to find a reliable method that works best for you. As Mitchell says, engaging in open conversations with your partner and your doctor will clear up any questions and make you feel secure when it comes to your sexual health.

Is Dairy-Free Ice Cream Actually Better for You?

If you follow a dairy-free lifestyle, you no longer need to suffer from FOMO when it comes to enjoying a scoop of ice cream. Whether you’re a part-time flexitarian, lactose intolerant, or a strict vegan, grab your spoon because it’s now easy to find oodles of non-dairy options that lack animal products—but not flavor. Non-dairy is now the fastest growing segment of the frozen dessert category; at last count, my supermarket ice cream case featured more than 30 different dairy-free flavors as well as numerous novelties like ice cream sandwiches and bars.

RELATED: 5 Things That Might Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Dairy

The rise in dairy-free frozen desserts is based on one thing: demand. Significantly more Americans are seeking to follow a more plant-based diet. The reasons for living dairy-free are many, but according to consumer data from Mintel, nearly half of those surveyed believe that plant-based proteins are healthier. However, not all non-dairy frozen desserts are healthier than regular ice cream, and some may even be worse for your health.

Here’s why: Dairyless frozen desserts replace milk and cream with an alternative like coconut, soy, almond, or cashew milk. Almost all of the other ingredients remain the same between commercially available dairy ice cream and their dairy-free counterparts. Coconut is popular among manufacturers because its saturated fat makes for rich and creamy vegan frozen desserts–but it can pack in more saturated fat than a dairy version of your favorite frozen treat. Pints made with almond, soy, cashew, or other nut milks tend to be lower in saturated fat and calories than those made with coconut cream or milk.

While great for creating creamy frozen treats, coconut’s high saturated fat count may elevate harmful LDL cholesterol levels, increasing risk for heart disease. Some coconut-based brands can have up to 250 calories, 15 grams of saturated fat, and 20+ grams of sugar per half-cup serving. For context, “regular” dairy-based ice cream has on average up to 150 calories per serving, 2 to 5 grams of saturated fat, and 10+ grams of sugar.

RELATED: Is Ice Cream Healthy? A Nutritionist’s Take on Halo Top and Other ‘Healthier’ Brands

If you’re looking for a better-for-you vegan scoop, choose one with less than 200 calories and 5 grams saturated fat and no more than 16 grams of added sugars per half-cup serving. Brands like So Delicious and Almond Dream have healthier nut-based choices, and Halo Top has some of the most diet-friendly pints in the category. Halo Top’s dairy-free options weigh in at 70 to 90 calories, with low saturated fat counts and less than 8 grams of sugar per half-cup serving. (Halo Top uses calorie-free Stevia and sugar alcohols to keep calories and sugar counts low.)

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When you scream for ice cream, make sure to choose your dairy-free scoop wisely by reading the nutrition facts to find out how your dairyless pick stacks up against the rest.

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