{“Let’s Talk About Love — Body Love”} Client: WorldLifestyle

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Love is in the air this time of year — carefully chosen gifts, fancy dinner reservations, and single-girls’ celebrations out on the town. We put so much kindness and effort into our relationships with other people, but what about how we love ourselves?

For most of us, our internal self-talk is just horrific, on a daily basis. We put ourselves down — “Ugh, I look so fat in these pants,” “I’m such a lazy bum for skipping my workout,” “Why did I eat that cookie? I’m disgusting …” — in words we wouldn’t use to address our most hated enemies.

In fact, stats show that only 2 percent (TWO percent!) of women say they would call themselves beautiful. That doesn’t seem to add up, considering the millions of selfies posted on Instagram daily — which gave me an idea for an experiment in loving myself better.

Where does this hatefulness come from, I wondered? Are self-proclaimed “fat days” or bad hair days founded in reality? Do we feel ugly because we actually look awful — or might we be projecting something else onto the experience?

Here’s what I did: For a week, I decided I would take a photo of myself at least once a day as I left for work or went to meet friends. At the same time, I’d write down how I was feeling about my weight, mood, and appearance at that moment.

Here’s a sampling of what my week looked like:

Monday:

body acceptance
Feeling very frumpy and lumpy. Woke up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a flight. Ate a breakfast burrito at the airport.

Tuesday:

raising self esteem
Having a fat day (flat shoes are not my friend). My face looks puffy — from the sushi I ate for dinner? Too tired to work out today.

Wednesday:

learning self-acceptance
Walked by the beach this morning. Feeling good and having a good hair day! Plus, this skirt and heels combo makes me feel cute! Breakfast at the hotel — Greek yogurt and berries — was awesome.

Thursday:

gaining confidence
Went for a run this morning. Am feeling pretty lazy that I haven’t cut my hair since moving in September. Yikes. Looking forward to dinner with a friend tonight!

Friday:

cute outfits
I like the color of this shirtdress, but don’t feel the style is the most flattering. Frumpy, again?

At the end of this experiment, I reexamined my photos and my notes, and made a very interesting, very illuminating discovery. My physical weight and appearance did not change day to day. The photo snapshots didn’t lie — I did not actually gain 5 pounds on Tuesday, but perhaps I was projecting the fact that I ate sushi and a red velvet bundt cake on Monday night (it was a Valentine’s Day present!)? While a sodium-packed dinner could contribute to a feeling of bloat, my face didn’t actually appear different.

And is it any surprise someone would feel “frumpy and lumpy” when she woke up at the crack of dawn, flew all morning, and ate a burrito? Odds are, if I’d had a healthier breakfast on Monday, I would have felt better throughout the long workday ahead of me. And, while it wouldn’t have changed my physical weight in the slightest, it could’ve helped my self-love if I hadn’t skipped the gym the next day.

When I thought about it later, my frumpiness on Friday truly had nothing to do with the dress or my weight, and everything to do with the fact that my hair was in serious need of a cut and color. But again, did it help to call myself lazy? It didn’t. It made me feel worse all day about something I couldn’t control right at that moment. Better to take action — throw it in a bun and make a hair appointment right then — than to put myself down, right?

Wednesday was the day I felt the brightest and best about myself — a good hair day, despite it all!

By examining my notes, it’s easy to understand that a little sunshine, a little exercise, and a healthy breakfast set me up for a day that I felt I looked great (a cute skirt didn’t hurt either).

And that was the biggest takeaway for me — the old adage, work to change what you can, and accept what you can’t change, with kindness. Here’s how:

♦  Wear what makes you feel good about yourself, regardless of trend, or your shape or size.

♦  Listen — flats make everyone, even runway models, feel a little stumpy. But you did not gain 10 pounds just because you traded your heels in for a bit of comfort.

♦  Eat what makes you feel good. Don’t eat what makes you feel bad.

♦  However, if you indulge in something that’s not the healthiest, let yourself off the hook. No one became overweight from a single meal or dessert.

♦  If you’re going out for a salty meal — such as sushi or Mexican — drink lots of extra water. Eating clean, green vegetables and fruits the next day can help flush your system.

♦  Exercise makes you feel good about your day. Bottom line. Any amount of exercise, from a short walk to a full-blown bootcamp, is worthwhile. Nothing is insignificant.

♦  A bit of vitamin D goes a long way. Drink your morning smoothie outside in the sunshine. Get out of your cubicle for a 10-minute nature break.

  Travel already dries out skin and saps energy — pack healthy snacks so you don’t squash your confidence further with icky airport food.

♦  Be kind to yourself, in spite of your failures, in spite of any shortcomings.

Here’s the truth — if a friend belittled you the way you do yourself, you would walk away from the toxic relationship and never look back. But as writer John Steinbeck said, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” Time to work as hard on loving myself better as I do on perfecting the details.

{“18 Signs You Probably Shouldn’t Be Dating Him”} Client: WorldLifestyle

ImageImageDating is growing ever more complicated by the minute. The sea is vast and there are a lot of fish in it. And now there’s Tinder. How can you navigate the waters with ease and expertise? Arm yourself with a proven strategy for spotting jerks, duds, and crazies right from the start.

1. He calls his ex-girlfriend a “psycho:” You should talk about your old relationship to a new date the same way you’d talk about an old job at an interview — don’t trash it. In my experience, a guy who describes his ex as a psycho still engages her text messages, still checks up on her Facebook on the regular, and might still be in love with her. Beware.

2. He’s rude to the important women in his life: Pay attention to how this guy talks to and about his sisters, mother, female friends — even coworkers. If he calls his girl friends sluts, run. A guy I once dated called his mom the c-word — YES, really — on the phone, and I couldn’t find the door fast enough.

3. He’s never had a pet: Look, I’m just very, very wary of people who don’t like animals.

4. He gets really messed up every time you hang out: Whether it’s insecurity, immaturity, or a combination of both, you can’t be with someone who’s getting sloppy-drunk during the “Getting to Know You” phase.

5: His Facebook page is full of pictures of his car and/or abs: Remember MySpace? MySpace was full of these types of dudes. You’re older and much wiser now — don’t date this guy.

6. He describes you as “a fun girl:” This is Guy Speak for “I like hooking up with you, but you’ll never be my girlfriend.”

7. His friends start every story with, “This one time, when Mike was soooo drunk…:” The good news is, you’ve met his friends! The bad news is, you’re dating a glorified frat guy with a moderate to severe drinking problem.

8. He doesn’t add you to his Facebook page because he “doesn’t really do Facebook.” I’m not saying he has to make it Facebook Official — but if he has a Facebook page and doesn’t want to be Facebook friends, there’s a reason.

9. His car lease costs more a month than his apartment: Nothing reeks more of insecurity than a status car — and the only thing worse is insisting on driving one he can’t afford.

10. He texts you unsolicited d*ck pics: They aren’t hot; they’re creepy. We’re just going to show our friends at brunch, like, “WTF, did I show you guys this?” and never take you seriously again.

11. He feels threatened by the fact that you’re not a 1950s Stepford Wife: I once dated a guy who yelled at me for walking in front of him on a busy sidewalk, never let me drive, and tried to tell me what to wear and not wear. It’s not about feminism; it’s not about being a fist-pumping Destiny’s Child “Independent Woman” — it’s about respect. Get some.

12. He tells you the things you like are dumb: You don’t have to participate in all the same things (UFC fights, pottery classes, aerial yoga), but you do have to show respect to the things the other person cares about. You have every right to feel hurt when he rolls his eyes at your hard-won Katy Perry tickets, and you have every right to find someone who won’t. Because trust me, as the relationship grows, this problem will only do the same.

13. He hasn’t read a book since … well … he can’t really remember: This is totally just a personal one, but reading is sexy. A haphazard bookshelf or a Tower-of-Pisa-like stack on the nightstand is a total turn-on for me. Maybe this goes along with #12, but I love books, and if you think they’re a waste of time, well, I think you’re a waste of time.

14. He’s always SO busy with work/the gym/ studying/his buddies: Listen up, because this is the truth: If someone wants to spend time with you, he or she will make time. When you’re really excited about someone, you create space in your life. When you’re not that into someone, life becomes the easiest excuse.

15. He’s a fixer-upper: Whatever his pain may be — a bad breakup, a personal loss — you’re not the Florence Nightingale of Relationships. Be a friend, be a shoulder to lean on, but don’t try to date a fixer-upper until he’s past the renovation stage.

16. He’s a professional athlete: I abide by the “no actors, no athletes” rule of dating. Unless you like being one of a roster, in which case, carry on. (Before you yell at me, I’m not saying there are NO respectable, faithful professional athletes out, OK! There are 7.)

17. He’s giving your friends a bad vibe: When your judgment gets clouded by New-Guy Goggles, your friends are still seeing clearly. So listen to them when someone rubs them the wrong way.

18. He leaves his cell phone on the table at dinner — and checks it: I don’t care if you are President Barack Obama, this is the rudest thing ever.

Most important of all — trust your gut. TRUST YOUR GUT. When it feels like a lie, it probably is. When it feels bad, it probably is. Going back to square one can seem like defeat, but think of it this way — you just saved yourself two, three years of heartache and headache down the line. And when you meet the right person, you won’t have so many (or any) questions.

Now go forth and date with confidence, my friends!

{FU: A Journal to Destroy, Rant and Vent Without the Police Getting Involved} Client: WS Publishing Group

FU: A Journal to Destroy, Rant and Vent Without the Police Getting Involved is part of a new venture for me with WS Publishing Group — humor!

It’s a snarky, edgy journal for all the days you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, everything is ticking you off and you just want to scream. It lets you say “FU” to your job, ex, neighbors, coworkers, or anyone or anything else that is on your nerves in a creatively destructive way.

Keep your sanity — enjoy this journal. In all major bookstores now!

{Simple Principles for a Happy & Healthy Marriage} Client: WS Publishing Group

Simple Principles for a Happy & Healthy Marriage offers powerful tips and advice that any married couple can apply immediately to enhance and improve their relationship. This book offers simple principles that couples of any age can follow, including the secrets of communication, trust, romance, finances, and resolving conflict. Whether newlyweds or long-married senior citizens, all couples will all benefit from the wisdom contained in this book.

{Secrets to Love Life and Be Happy} Client: WS Publishing Group

Enjoying life to the fullest is often simply a matter of making changes to your perspective, attitude, and lifestyle. Secrets to Love Life and Be Happy offers 100 powerful principles and 100 insightful journal exercises to put readers on the path to a happy, healthy, rewarding life. No matter your age, faith, or financial and relationship status, this book will give you ideas to apply immediately to begin loving life.

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