Bloated Wardrobe Picks for Summer

As someone with IBS, summer style makes me nervous. Gone are the slouchy sweaters of winter — now, it’s time to usher in a season of crop tops, short shorts and itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow polka dot bikinis. Yikes!

When bloated from the delicious spoils of a summer vacation (or birthday celebration, if you’re a Cancer like me!), putting on a skimpy summer outfit feels nerve-wracking. And while I’m all for #FreeingTheBelly, sometimes, you just don’t want to fight the negative self-talk. It’s okay to take a break from challenging diet culture now and then — it’s okay if you just want to put on a bathing suit and get on with your damn life!

That chic summer outfit can also feel downright restrictive when dealing with a bloated belly. Summer trends definitely weren’t designed with IBS-sufferers in mind — or even for the average girl! It may be alarmingly easy to compare yourself to size-zero models subsisting solely on air, water and laxative tea, but at the end of the day, how many people do you know who really look like that? And would you beat your BFF up the same way for not being able to squeeze into that teeny bikini? Cue Cher from Clueless voice: I don’t think so!

Say hello to a more realistic wardrobe for summer. High-waisted bottoms and swingy dresses are the name of the game — and they’re still just as adorable, and 10,000 times more comfortable, than whatever Taylor Swift or Hailee Seinfeld was wearing on the last cover of Vogue.

High-Waisted Skinny Jeans

$70, Madewell

High-waisted doesn’t automatically equal “Mom jeans” — watch literally any Zooey Deschanel movie or show, and you’ll confirm that pretty quickly. Your booty will still pop in the right pair. But, they’ll also let your bloated belly breathe after one too many high-FODMAP margaritas sipped under the sun.

Lace Babydoll Dress

$88, Free People

The babydoll dress calls back to a more carefree era, when the Beatles were writing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and even your Catholic grandmother was tripping on drugs. Bring trendy back with a bohemian empire waist and enormous, flowing skirt that’s perfect for hiding a briefcase of money, the Seven Dwarves….even the world’s biggest food baby.

Boxy Pocket Tee

$18, Everlane

Gone are the days when women required a different T-shirt silhouette than men. Nowadays, gender fluidity can run free — and unisex cuts like the boxy tee are hipper than ever. Not to mention, the boxy cut falls in favor of the bloated belly, meaning someone other than the heroin-chic Kate Moss can finally fit into the trendiest tops of the moment.

Button-Front Maxi Skirt

$32, ASOS

For years, I thought maxi skirts were off limits to those of us under 5’4.” As sizing becomes more inclusive, however, even trends seemingly designed for the tall people of the world are becoming accessible to us shorties! The billowing maxi skirt pulls any outfit together, while disguising any belly bulges caused by the onion rings you enjoyed last night. #NoRegrets — am I right, ladies?

Strapless One-Piece

$288, Shopbop

In my childhood, bikinis appeared to be the height of womanhood (maybe because I was barred from wearing one until age 13). Now that I’m older, I understand that sex appeal stems from a certain je ne sais quoi. In other words, it’s okay to leave some skin to the imagination. You can still feel sexy and confident in a one-piece swimsuit! You’re never too old to wear a one-piece, just like you’re never too big or too fat to wear a bikini.

And besides, you know what’s never sexy? Skin cancer. I’m just saying…..

Lazy Makeup Must-Haves

Confession: I come to work bare-faced, in sweatpants, nearly every day. Quite frankly, I’m not a morning person — so I roll out of bed and put on my leggings, then change and apply makeup when I get to work.

As a result, I’ve become a master of the lazy makeup routine. For those of us with chronic illness or depression, who frequently have days when they just don’t feel like doing anything (let alone swiping on eyeshadow), the lazy makeup routine comes in clutch when you need to look nice, but want to put in minimum effort.

In college, I rarely cared how I looked for class. Unless I was giving a presentation, I typically showed up in my athleisure wear, comfy yet ready to learn. Now that I’m a grown-ass adult, though, I want to be perceived professionally at my job. I hate that I feel obliged to wear makeup to do that — but dark purple eye bags tend to distract from whatever incredible idea you’re sharing, eliciting the classic surge of “Are you okay?” comments and judgmental glances.

As a woman in the workforce, I’ve accepted that I can no longer spend my day chilling in my college sweatshirt and aerie leggings. That might fly in Silicon Valley, or if you’re a freelancer working from home — but for most of us, professional office attire (or at least business casual) is a daily must.

Thus, the lazy makeup routine is something I recommend every woman keep in her pocket — to compliment the business-casual dresses in her closet, of course. Because seriously: dresses are the next best thing to sweatpants. Not only do you not have to wear pants at all with a dress on, but a dress is also one piece you can throw on in the morning — yet when you wear one, everyone perceives you as “dressed up.” Genius!

Below, I’ll share some of my favorite products for a lazy makeup routine consisting of five simple steps. As always, keep an eye out for the green leaf symbol, indicating a non-toxic, natural option that’s perfect for the natural, organic beauty junkies out there, for anyone with sensitive skin or for those of you who are simply ‘Just Curious’ about clean beauty.

Coola Mineral Face Tint Moisturizer

$38, Coola

With clean ingredients, SPF 30 and a light tint that looks good on a range of skin tones, what’s not to love? This facial sunscreen and moisturizer will give you the perfect base for a full face of lazy girl makeup.

BAREPRO 16-Hour Full Coverage Concealer

$24, bareMinerals

When you’re going light on the foundation like I do, you need a heavy-duty concealer that won’t skimp on coverage. The BAREPRO Full Coverage Concealer by bareMinerals offers the thicc-with-two-Cs coverage I need to cover insomnia-induced dark circles and stress-induced breakouts.

W3LL PEOPLE Nudist Multi-Use Cream Stick

$24, Thrive Market

When I think of a lazy girl makeup product, nothing speaks to me more than W3LL PEOPLE’s Multi-Use Cream Stick. Just the word “Multi-Use” alone makes me want to throw my money at this cream stick over and over again. Use it as a blush! Use it as a lipstick! Use it on eyes! The possibilities are endless — all in a single $24 tube.

Glossier Boy Brow

$16, Glossier

Ah, Glossier’s Boy Brow: one of the very few cult makeup products that actually deserves its crown. Boy Brow is a tinted (or clear) gel that adds just enough color and definition to brows, without the time suck it takes to fill in brows with a pencil or powder. In other words, it’s the ultimate lazy girl staple — perfect for when you want Lilly Collins’ brows yet none of the work involved in maintaining them.

Urban Decay Perversion Mascara

$24, Sephora

This has been my go-to mascara since high school — and as they say, why mess with perfection? Urban Decay’s Perversion Mascara pulls together any lazy girl makeup look in a flash. Something about a face of makeup never feels complete without swiping my lashes with a coat or two of this luscious stuff.

Cozy Candles for Self-Care Junkies

I’ll be honest with you: writing about chronic illness and mental health recovery is tough. Recovery is hard enough on its own, but being frank about my journey? Some days, it takes even more out of me than my own recovery.

For years, I identified as a lifestyle blogger. Depression and chronic illness robbed me of that identity, rendering me too tired and too sick to work. My first professional blog, Haley Marie Blog, closed its doors in 2018. But, now that I’m back in the blogging game, I’m using my talents to raise awareness for chronic illness and mental health.

Yet, given that blogging is a form of self-care to me, and that topics in chronic illness and mental health are so heavy, I think we all deserve to take a break sometimes. So, let’s go the self-care route by talking about one of my favorite things on earth: candles!

I’ve been obsessed with scents for the past couple of years now. Before college, I rarely wore perfume, beyond my signature Bath & Body Works scent. Nowadays, I’m always trying new scents, buying new candles and plugging new air fresheners into my Wallflower. You can take the girl out of Bath & Body Works, but….oh, who am I kidding? You can never stop me from buying my Bath & Body Works!

Scents are a form of self-care in my life. To me, there’s nothing cozier than lighting a candle and snuggling up in a blanket with a cup of coffee. In the summertime, full of 90-degree weather, coziness might be the last thing on our minds – but coziness isn’t a function of the weather. It’s a feeling. And candles help us capture that, no matter the season.

Below, I share some of the coziest candles I’m craving this season, including both natural and conventional options for every kind of self-care junkie. Look for the green leaf logo to signify a natural, non-toxic option! (For candles, this means a soy or beeswax base, natural fragrance and lead-free wicks.)

Inner Strength Candle

$61, Aromatherapy Associates

Cozy doesn’t have to mean vulnerable: our coziest moments can also be some of our most potent moments of inner strength. Rest and recharge with the natural essential oils in the Inner Strength Candle by Aromatherapy Associates.

Cactus Blossom Single-Wick Candle

$15, White Barn

As I said before: you can take the girl out of Bath and Body Works….

White Barn is Bath and Body Works’s home fragrance umbrella. Its new scent, Cactus Blossom, currently fills our living room with the warm, floral aroma of cactus flower and coconut. The candle is made with soy wax and essential oils, so it’s halfway to natural, too!

Tranquil Two-Wick Candle

$27, Levitate Candles

Burn Levitate’s lavender and currant-scented candle, with base notes of chamomile and Ylang Ylang, to bring a little more tranquility into your life. This candle ticks two of the natural boxes as well, as it’s made from soy wax and scented with natural fragrance and essential oils.

Christmas Cookie Classic Jar Candle

$30, Yankee Candle

The classic Christmas Cookie scent from Yankee Candle never fails to bring me back to my childhood on the East Coast. To me, there’s nothing cozier than this candle burning while we unwrapped presents by the tree.

Candle No. 1 by Follain

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$38, Follain

Follain’s all-natural candles are non-toxic, hand-poured and made from a base of coconut and soy. Its notes of lavender, bergamot, sandalwood and vanilla will wrap you up in a warm hug of delightful smells!

Pure Calm Wellness Candle

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$68, goop

UMA’s Pure Calm Wellness Candle utilizes Ayurvedic essential oils grown on a centuries-old family farm to envelop you in a feeling of peace and calm. Light this candle and set an intention for a daily wellness ritual that’s full of pure bliss.

How I Turned Social Media Into a Career

In my recovery journey – from both IBS and mental illness – I’ve witnessed the transformational power of social media firsthand. These days, the world is full of critics bashing social media, claiming it’s robbing us of genuine connection or manipulating us with targeted advertising. But I believe social media can be a powerful force for good.

We live in a digital world where Kickstarter campaigns can fund a child’s chemotherapy treatments; where one hashtag can launch a movement for mental health (as evidenced by #ProjectSemicolon). The moment I realized the power of social media, I knew I wanted to be a part of controlling the narrative.

Still, I started college with the goal of becoming a political journalist or speechwriter. So, how did I turn social media from a hobby into a full-time career – with no agency experience and no marketing internships? My answers might surprise you….

I started a blog.

My first “real” blog launched back in 2016. Before, I’d had two different blogs that I simply considered a “hobby.” Now, for the first time, I dreamed of eventually monetizing my work – and perhaps even turning it into a full-time career.

As a top college blogger, I learned how to grow social media platforms from scratch. I became familiar with analytics, and how social media numbers could be used to pitch clients. Most importantly, I began working with brands on sponsored partnership deals, which gave me experience liaising with clients and delivering on measurable objectives. In interviews with potential employers, I drew upon this experience to share how I could provide a unique insight into influencer marketing — and therefore supply an advantage to my future employer.

I took ownership of my work.

In college, I received Work Study as part of my financial aid package — and accepting it was one of the best decisions I ever made for my career. (If you’re not based in the U.S., Work Study is a form of financial aid that’s earned through working at a nonprofit or college-based job.)

My work study position began as an Office Assistant role at the Boston University Dance Program. At first, social media was just one of my responsibilities; we valued social media, but it took lower priority than many of my other tasks. Eventually, however, I took ownership of it. I offered to create a content calendar, design a style guide and compile monthly analytics reports, on top of scheduling posts.

Thanks to my passion, I became really, really good at this part of my job — and my boss started to notice. By the time I left the Dance Program after three years, social media had become my sole responsibility, and an experience I could be proud of.

I started freelancing.

Companies looking to hire freelancers tend to have limited budgets and to feel crunched for time. As a result, you don’t need much experience in social media to start freelancing. You simply need a resume and a profile that explains your passion for and success with social media — even sharing your personal account’s following and handle is often enough!

The Internet makes it simple to launch a side hustle in freelance social media management. I started on Fiverr (which used to be a more beginner-friendly platform — I no longer recommend it due to some of the changes that took place), then moved to platforms like Freelancer and Upwork. You can also Google listings for freelance work local to your area — Indeed and Blogging Pro both include legitimate listings.

I built a portfolio.

The most important thing you can have as a social media professional is a digital portfolio of your previous work. (View mine at http://www.haleycommunicates.com!) I learned this in my senior year of college, when I took an Intro to Public Relations course that stressed the importance of having a digital portfolio in the world of communications.

Your portfolio should include your resume, professional bio and a gallery of your previous work. As a communications professional, I include both graphic design work and writing, as well as a digital download of my Public Relations portfolio from that senior-year class. For building a website, I recommend Wix — it’s a drag-and-drop editor that makes it easy for even the least tech-savvy person to build a beautiful portfolio.

I framed my experiences.

Alternatively, the worst mistake you can make as an entry-level social media professional is believing you don’t have experience. These days, we all have experience in social media! It’s simply a matter of framing your experiences in a way that makes sense to employers.

When I entered the workforce, I worried because I spent the first two years of college believing I’d pursue a career in politics. As a result, I had multiple campaign and political office internships, but no agency experience. However, on my resume, I learned to frame my poli-sci experiences as relevant to my work. I described my work in a way that utilized skills applicable to social media, such as time management and an eye for detail.

In fact, one of the reasons I landed my current job was that my boss liked my experience on a political campaign — working at a magazine, she said it was important to be able to thrive in a fast-paced environment, and my campaign experience gave her confidence that I could succeed there.

How to Spend Ten Days in Europe

Five countries. Ten days. How did I do it? Lack of sleep, for one thing. But it also took careful planning, spontaneity – and more than one wire transfer, if we’re being completely honest.

Still, those ten days were some of the most memorable of my life. I ordered muesli at a German Starbucks after walking the streets of Munich. I waded in the Mediterranean next to naked Spaniards and took a bus ride past the glittering waters of Nice. I even wandered through the Chocolate Museum in Barcelona half-drunk, after drinking an entire pitcher of sangria by myself at the legendary 7 Portes. True story.

As August descends upon us once more, I’ve been reminiscing about my trip to Europe last summer. This time in 2018, I was packing my bags for the adventure of a lifetime while dealing with some of the hardest events of my life back home. And though I’m miles from where I was then (literally and figuratively!), I can’t help but think back on my trip and marvel at everything I saw, did and ate while I was abroad.

So, to help me ward off wanderlust while stuck at my sweaty work desk, I’m here to tell you exactly how I did it: how I made it through five European countries (Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, France) in just ten short days. Hint: an absurd number of Pain au Chocolat lies ahead!

(Oh, and I should probably mention: this trip took place before my diagnosis of IBS – so I pretty much ate whatever I wanted.)

Days 1-3: U.S.A., Germany and Italy

Day One: U.S.A., Germany & Italy

The first leg of my European adventure began in Logan International Airport, in my hometown of Boston, MA. A seven hour flight took me to Munich, Germany for a 12-hour layover, where I experienced my first day of independent travel in 20 years of life. Hours later, I landed in Verona, Italy – where I, of course, took an Italian taxi straight to my hotel and promptly passed out in my warm, cushy bed.

What I saw: In Munich, I took the train from the airport to the city center, where I visited Marienplatz. This central square of landmark buildings includes the enormous St. Peter’s Church, among other historical sights.

What I did: I made the sweltering trek from Marienplatz to the English Garden. Along the way, I saw the Maximilaneum, the seat of the Bavarian Parliament. Fun fact: my Snapchat caption read “Where you at Angela?” (As in Angela Merkel, the Prime Minister of Germany at the time.)

Where I ate: I learned that German Starbucks tastes nothing like the Starbucks back home – and enjoyed a popular European breakfast of bircher muesli, or overnight oats made with yogurt and milk, mixed with shredded apples, dried cranberries and an assortment of nuts.

On my way back to the airport to catch my flight to Italy, I munched on a traditional German fruit torte: Bavarian cream sandwiched between layers of cake, topped with a gelatinous berry mixture. Mmmm!

Day Two: Italy

After landing in Verona, Italy in the early morning, I took a shuttle to the train station to hop a ride to Milano Centrale in Milan. I spent the rest of the night exploring Milan, chilling at my hostel and enjoying my first taste of Europe since 2010.

What I saw: I arrived at Milan in the evening, and so spent most of my night wandering close to my hostel near Naviglio Grande canal. The neighborhood features both stunning views and cozy, mom-and-pop wine bars by the shore.

What I did: When in Milan, one must drink like an Italian! Not only did I treat myself to a glass of red wine by the waterfront, but I also enjoyed a prosecco spritzer as I watched the sunset by the canals. The view is not to be missed.

Where I ate: I couldn’t tell you the name of the place, but I sat down to eat at a little wine bar along the Naviglio Grande canal. I spent an hour reading Crazy Rich Asians while I dug into a glass of red wine and complimentary antipasto.

Later, after working up an appetite wandering in-and-out of the waterfront shops, I treated myself to a traditional Italian gelato from 70 Anni. The flavor? My go-to stracciatella: a creamy base with decadent chocolate shavings in every bite. Ben & Jerry’s will never taste the same again.

Day Three: Italy and Spain

Come morning, I ventured to Castello Sforzesco by metro, explored downtown Milan and hopped a flight that would bring me to my next destination: Barcelona, baby!

What I saw: Not only did I relive Italy’s medieval past as the Castello Sforzesco fort, but I also ventured to Milan’s premiere destination: Il Duomo. This magnificent church features stunning architecture and stained glass windows. The memory is one I will never forget.

What I did: After finally escaping the long line leading to Il Duomo, I wandered through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a high-end collection of couture fashion shops ranging from Chanel to Prada.

What I ate: Outside the galleria, I sought outdoor seating at Signorvino wine bar, where I enjoyed a glass of dry, refreshing rose alongside the most memorable spaghetti I’ve ever eaten in my life. Decked in a simple pomodoro sauce with burrata and basil, the taste of the pasta at Signorvino will forever be my “last meal” request.

Days 3-5: Spain

(Because I spent so much time on-and-off of planes and in-and-out of airports during my travels, which consumed much of the day- and nighttime hours, I’ll be lumping the rest of the destinations into a single summary from here on out.)

Days Three, Four & Five: Spain

Ever since this trip, Barcelona has ranked as my favorite city I’ve ever traveled to. I long to go back one day to experience the things I never got to see – for example, the sold-out Gaudi steps at the famous Park Guell.

What I did: Of all the cities I visited, Barcelona was by far the most walkable. I wandered in-and-out of shops and museums, including both the Chocolate Museum and the Picasso Museum. From my favorite artist of all time, Picasso’s pieces left me feeling inspired to go into the world and create something beautiful! Finally, I took my first dip into the Mediterranean at La Barceloneta beach. I couldn’t have been more enthused to visit la playa – except, maybe, if I’d been prepared for all the nudity I was about to see there….

What I saw: Much like Paris, Barcelona boasts its own Arc de Triomf. The gorgeous landmark was built in 1888 as an entrance for the year’s Barcelona World Fair (and for the record, no, I didn’t just know that off the top of my head – thanks, Google!).

What I ate: For weeks leading up to my trip, all my boyfriend heard from me was how badly I wanted to taste the traditional paella in Spain. 7 Portes, Barcelona’s original paella restaurant, makes a delicious chicken and vegetable paella that can’t be beat. Wash it down with a pitcher of their homemade sangria for an unforgettable experience that will leave your taste buds dancing a sexy Spanish flamenco!

Days 5-7: Switzerland

Days Five, Six & Seven: Switzerland

Being the political science nerd that I am, I made every effort to add Geneva, Switzerland to my itinerary for one reason, and one reason alone: I wanted to visit the United Nations. What I didn’t anticipate was how much else I would find to love about Switzerland!

What I did: My morning began at the train station, where I ventured to the Palais de Nations, Natural History Museum and Musee d’Art et d’Histoire. The night concluded at Jet d’Eau, Geneva’s iconic water fountain, which – as the name implies – launches a jet of water 460 feet into the sky.

What I saw: As planned, I visited the home of the United Nations at Palais de Nations. Outside, the palace was lined with flags from every delegation. Seeing all the colorful, diverse flags felt like the perfect nod to my trip, and to the global world we live in today.

What I ate: Geneva is, culturally, both Swiss and French in its own unique way. Thus, it felt like the perfect place to enjoy a traditional French breakfast: an espresso and a Pain au Chocolat. (Though, if I’m being completely honest, it wasn’t my first croissant of the trip – nor would it be my last!)

Days 7-10: France, Italy, Germany and Back

Days Seven, Eight, Nine & Ten: France

From Switzerland, my foray into French culture continued in the blue beaches of Nice. As a Francophile, I consider myself a Parisian at heart – but Nice played the perfect contrast to the bustling cities I’d visited previously. Its blue waters and calm skies relaxed me as I drank in the amazing art and delicious food around me.

Following my adventure in Nice, I headed back the way I came: through Verona, to Munich, and, at last, back home to Boston, where my mom greeted me with a hug – and I left feeling like a completely new person. Without getting too dramatic, allow me to say: it’s amazing how travel changes you, and how the places we visit stick with us long after we pack our bags.

What I did: I’m a lover of French food and art, so Nice felt like a playground! I visited the Matisse Museum – where it felt like fate that the exhibit there was a collaboration with my favorite artist, Picasso, whom I’d spent time with in Barcelona not too long ago.

What I saw: As I took the bus across Nice, my favorite part had to be the stunning blue waters of the Mediterranean. After all, Nice is known for its beaches – and while I never found time for another swim, I did revel in the sparkling view before me, more than once marveling how I’d been so fortunate to get to Nice on such a beautiful day.

What I ate: Thanks to my hometown of Boston, I was already a fan of the French Paul Bakery. Eating at a true Paul in France felt more special somehow, so when I found one at the train station, I knew I had to put in my order. For lunch, I enjoyed a multigrain baguette with chicken, tomatoes, lettuce and dijon mustard. And let me tell you: it was delicious, affordable….and just as good as it looks.

Things Women Don’t Talk About

Women talk about plenty of things. For example, where to go to dinner tonight, or who our celebrity crushes are. And other genders have plenty to say about women, too. That we’re from Venus, for one thing. Or, on the opposite side of the spectrum: that we’re nasty.

But there are plenty of things we don’t talk about, too – and many of them are things that I, as a woman, wish we wouldn’t stay silent about. To me, they’re too important NOT to talk about! (Hence why I’m writing this post.)

Before I continue, I’d like to acknowledge that there are, of course, more than two genders. For many of us, our identities are more complex than that of “man” and “woman.” There’s no one way to identify, just like there’s no one way to be a woman. And, as a cis-gender female, my post inherently comes from a perspective of privilege.

That being said, I’m writing this post for anyone who identifies as a woman and feels constrained by the standards society holds them to. I recently finished reading Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, where she talks in great detail about the demands of being a modern woman. Well, on her blog, The Chic Site, Rachel also wrote a post called ‘What Women Never Talk About’ – which semi-inspired what I’m about to say to you today.

These are things that most women just don’t talk about. And when I say ‘talk about,’ I mean really talking: not just whispering about them with your closest girlfriends, texting your mom to ask or typing into Google for answers. They’re topics we tend to think of as ‘taboo’ – even though I happen to think that we’d be better off, both as women and as a society, if we chatted about them out in the open.

Orgasms

I don’t know about you, but I’ve only talked about orgasms with another group of women one time: during a wine night in college, one of my friends said every woman should own a vibrator, and offered to go to a sex shop with us to help us find one (true story!). While that friend is still much braver than I am, I think the world would be a better place if more of us talked about orgasms – not only the orgasms we’ve already had (or haven’t had), but also how to have them if we aren’t experiencing them currently.

What I want every woman to know: If I ever have a daughter, I hope I will have the courage, when she’s old enough, to talk to her about sex – not just the mechanics, but also how to enjoy herself. Namely, I want her to know that her pleasure is also a priority. Despite what she may see in porn or movies, or what a partner may say or do to contradict it, sex should be a positive experience for everyone involved – regardless of their gender or sexuality.

Also, to get a vibrator. The Satisfier Pro is a good start.

Periods

Thankfully, this has changed tremendously since my grandmother was a teenager – and even since my mom was, too. Fewer commercials are substituting blue goo instead of period blood to demonstrate the absorbency of pads. And more options are available for healthy period products that are good for the planet and our bodies. But many of us women still aren’t open about our periods, even around other women who ‘get’ it.

What I want every woman to know: Society’s perception of what’s ‘normal’ and what isn’t when it comes to periods is skewed. For one thing, a menstrual cycle rarely lasts a perfect 28 days, even if that’s what we’re taught by doctors (and the media) to expect. For another, I wish we’d stop depicting women doubled over in pain with hot water bottles and painkillers galore during their periods. Cramps may be a natural part of menstruation for many women, but they also shouldn’t be debilitating. If they are, this could signify a more serious condition, such as endometriosis.

Salaries

How much money does your best friend make at her job? Or your mom? Even if you know the answer, it’s probably not something she casually mentions to the gals at Book Club. But maybe, just maybe, it should be. In the modern era, there ought to be a way to discuss other women’s salaries without sounding impolite. After all, if you never ask, you’ll never know – and if you don’t know, you won’t know if you’re making less than you should expect to earn at this point in your career.

What I want every woman to know: The general rules of society state that it’s probably not a good idea to discuss salaries with people you don’t know well. But around your closest girlfriends, you should be able to talk money comfortably, without feeling awkward or rude. It doesn’t mean you’re bragging, if you make more than all your friends, or that you’re lesser-than, if you’re on the lower end of the pay spectrum. Rather, it fosters an openness that’s essential if women ever hope to narrow the wage gap and become equal earners with men in their fields.

Guilt

Every woman I know experiences some degree of guilt. Whether you feel like a bad parent (even if your only ‘child’ is your dog) or like you should be working longer hours to impress your boss, all of us – because we’re human! – know what it feels like to fall short of our own high expectations. Yet although, deep down, most of us know we’re not the only members of our gender who feel this way, many women also feel beholden to curate an image of perfection. We hide our struggles to save face in front of that one Facebook friend who appears to have her sh*t together – without realizing that our own self-censorship is perpetuating the problem for our own tribe!

What I want every woman to know: You don’t need me to tell you this, but I’ll say it for good measure: you’re not the only mom who can’t make it to school pickup. You’re not the only employee who gets nervous during a big presentation. And you’re definitely not the only woman who experiences this kind of guilt. However, by refusing to subscribe to self-shaming, you give other women permission to free themselves from the chains of perfectionism.

Because when you’re overly hard on yourself around your closest friends and family, they listen – and they learn from your example. Which is why I like to think before I judge myself: would I say the same thing about a friend who was in this situation? Chances are, the answer is no – and chances are, you deserve the same amount of grace you would give to your sister or your BFF.

In short: it’s time to forgive yourself, girlfriend!

What’s On My Bookshelf?

I like big books and I cannot lie….just kidding. I’ll take a 150-page novella over a brick of a book any day. (Trust me: I’ve read Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables cover to cover, and you’re not missing out on anything but endless descriptions of the Parisian sewer system. And I do mean endless.)

But in all seriousness, there’s nothing like curling up on the couch with a good book – even in the heat of summer, it’s chicken soup for the soul. Or, in this case, maybe a freezer pop.

These books made my summer reading list this year for a myriad of reasons; some I’ve already gotten to, some I haven’t and a few I’m smack dab in the middle of. Regardless, however, each of them has something unique to offer.

Whether the topic du jour is mental health, body positivity or simply thriving in the face of adversity, all of these books are must-reads in the self-help genre – and here’s exactly why.

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Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Admittedly, I knew nothing about Rachel Hollis or her brand, The Chic Site, before I read this book. However, once I picked this up – upon the recommendation of literally every blogger ever – I swiftly became a fan. Rachel’s no B.S., tell-it-like-it-is tone suits my personal style. If there’s anything I’ve learned from reading this book, it’s that life’s too short to be any other way.

Highlight: When Rachel opens a chapter by admitting how bad she and her husband used to be at sex, only to go on and explain (hilariously) exactly how they became good at it. Yas, queen!

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Fully Functioning Human (Almost) by Melanie Murphy

I’ve made no secret of how much I love Melanie Murphy in the past – and today’s post is no exception. What reading list of mine would be complete without mentioning this book? Melanie reeled me into her book the same way she reeled me into her YouTube fandom: by being funny, honest and vulnerable about some of the most difficult challenges a human being can face, such as depression, binge eating, orthorexia and recovery.

Highlight: When Melanie writes candidly about how her recovery from binge eating led her down the shameful spiral of orthorexia – and how, exactly, she came to see the light again after this dark moment in her life.

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Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe

This book belongs on everyone’s reading list from now until the end of time, period. I’ve literally only read the introduction thus far, and I can confidently recommend this book to all of you. If you don’t follow Megan Jayne Crabbe (@bodyposipanda), then you’re seriously missing out. Megan’s signature style serves fierce, sexy sass with a side of cheekiness, all while rocking her fabulously fat bod without shame. And yes, I just used the word fat – because “plus-size” is far worse, don’t you think? Megan sure does.

Highlight: When Megan opens the book by immediately calling out society’s obsession with the size zeros of the world, and the desperate lengths some companies will go to Photoshop the bejeezus out of models’ already-thin frames. (Kelly Clarkson, I don’t even listen to your music, but I’m still sorry that happened to you!)

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The Financial Diet by Chelsea Fagan

Sure, I learned how to calculate compound interest in middle school math class – but that doesn’t mean I understood what that meant for me, or my future student loans, as a 13-year-old quivering behind my desk. (For the record, yes: Ms. Murphy, my middle school math teacher, does still terrify me to this day.) I was already a fan of Chelsea Fagan’s YouTube channel of the same name when I decided to order this book, but The Financial Diet in paperback truly sealed the deal. This book taught me practical, concrete ways to save money and manage my finances like a grown-ass woman – without overwhelming readers with technical jargon.

Highlight: When Chelsea seeks advice from a plethora of experts – but most importantly, from her own mother on how to save money in the kitchen (and which foodie-worthy investments are most worth making).

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Doing It by Hannah Witton

Sex: let’s talk about it. We all do it, or most of us do anyways – and I think we can all agree that the world would probably be a better place if we shed the stigma and instead started sexing up a storm. Hannah Witton has been one of my favorite YouTubers for years now, both for her candid advice about sex and her public journey through the gut health rabbit hole. And as a true fan, I can guarantee you that her book is just as good, if not better, than any Hormone Diaries video I’ve ever watched.

Highlight: When Hannah wrote a book featuring the word “MASTURBATION” on the cover in big, bold letters. (Admittedly, I haven’t finished the book yet, so stay tuned for my fully-formed opinion!)