Consider This Weight-Loss Study Your Green Light To Sleep In On Weekends

When it feels like there just are not enough hours in the work week, getting to bed on time is one of the first things to go out the window—which can worsen the negative health effects of stress, such as that pesky weight gain.

Good news, though: You can escape the downward spiral of drowsy mornings, extra-large coffees, and mid-afternoon sugar binges. According to a new study published in Sleep, it may be as simple as sleeping in for a few extra hours on the weekend.

In a study of more than 2,000 Koreans, researchers found that those who had poor sleep during the work week but slept in on the weekend had lower BMIs (a.k.a. ‘body mass indexes’) than those who slept poorly during the week but did not sleep in on weekends, says lead study author Hee-Jin Im, M.D., Ph.D., of Korea University’s Department of Neurology.

The researchers surveyed and interviewed thousands of participants—who ranged from 19 to 82 years old—about their sleep habits, occupations, and other components (like mood and stress levels) that may influence BMI, Im says. While age, physical activity level, and occupation all played roles in each participant’s BMI, the total number of hours of sleep they got per week—and how they slept on the weekend—turned out to be key for those who had lower BMIs, she says. (Im calls the practice of sleeping in on the weekends “catch-up sleep.”)

The participants got an average of seven hours of sleep per night, with those who slept for longer on the weekends banking an extra 90 minutes to three hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Those who caught up on sleep over the weekend had an average BMI of 22.8, while those who did not had an average BMI of 23.1. (BMIs in the range of 18.5 to 24.9 are considered ‘healthy,’ according to the National Institutes of Health.) The change seems minor—but that difference of just 0.3 is statistically significant, making it clear that poor sleep can impact other aspects of your health, the researchers said.

How does missing out on sleep mess with your BMI? Those who don’t get enough sleep tend to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol (which can increase blood pressure and promote fat storage), and often crave high-fat, calorie-dense foods, Im says.

Related: The Truth About Belly Fat

When you sleep well throughout the week, or catch up on sleep over the weekend, you not only help your body function at its best throughout the day, but you also reduce your risk of weight gain and long-term health concerns like heart problems, she says.

Sounds like a plan, right? Just remember that since we all have individual sleep needs, there’s no one ‘dose’ of Zzz’s that will keep your waistline in check, Im says. To put things in perspective, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per night—and in 2014, just 35 percent of Americans reported having ‘good’ sleep quality.

For the other 65 percent of us, making up for lost sleep on the weekends may be our best bet at getting out of sleep debt and keeping our weight—and health—in check. Getting a few extra hours on the weekend isn’t the ideal strategy (getting a full, quality sleep every night is the ideal, of course), but it can clearly make a difference, Im says. Just don’t try to re-stock on sleep by way of napping. “A nap is a fragmentation of sleep,” she says, meaning you can never fall into the deep sleep your body needs to recover from sleep loss.

Related: Check out a number of supplements to support a good snooze.

Despite My Fibromyalgia, I’m Focused On Staying Healthy

Two weeks ago, I woke up aching from head to toe, as though I were coming down with the flu or had just run a full marathon the day before. But I didn’t have the flu and I definitely hadn’t run a marathon.

Instead, I had spent a half hour the prior evening swimming laps in the local pool. It was the first time in nearly a year that I’d gone swimming. After I was finished, I felt fabulousboth recharged and relaxed at the same time. But the next day it was clear I had overdone it.

Since being diagnosed a few years ago with fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, sleep, and memory and mood issues, exercise has become especially fraught for me.

Sitting in a chairno matter how ergonomically advancedfor more than an hour or so straight can send my back into severe spasms and set off a ripple effect of pain that eventually engulfs my entire body.

Before fibromyalgia, it was not unusual for me to leave my apartment on a whim to take a five-mile walk. In the winter, I often donned snowshoes and cross country skis to traipse the New England trails around my home. I loved to hike and rock scramble up steep mountains. I biked for hours on the tree-lined path that ran behind my building.

Related: I Ditched The Gym For The Pool—And It Changed Me

I might not be that active these days, but stagnancy is just as bad for my body (if not worse) than overdoing any exercise. Sitting in a chair
no matter how ergonomically advancedfor more than an hour or so straight can send my back into severe spasms and set off a ripple effect of pain that eventually engulfs my entire body.

Standing still in lines or crowds for more than 20 minutes causes shooting pains in my legs for the rest of day and into the night, keeping me awake at all hours. Even lying down usually does not offer me the pain relief most people would expect. Instead, my body feels its best when (and seems to benefit the most after) it has been engaged in low-impact mobility.

My diagnosis meant I had to educate myself on how to stay in shape without aggravating my condition. But this was a fine line that I had trouble seeing and often crossed unwittingly, especially as my body’s pain levels tend to fluctuate dramatically from day to day.

In my search for some solutions, I recently enrolled in an intensive eight-week rehabilitation program for people with chronic pain. The program emphasizes re-conditioning; it teaches us how to exercise and complete daily tasks in ways that reduce pain. In the program, a team of physical and occupational therapists work collaboratively to modify my weekly exercise regimens in ways that engage me in a level of activity I need to become stronger and more resilient, all the while trying to avoid the dreaded flare-ups.

Related: Browse fish oil products to support healthy joints.

What I’ve learned: Quality over quantity is key when it comes to exercise. As a result, I am learning to be more present in my more fragile body. This means understanding and abiding by my physical limitations, while also staying committed to remaining fit and healthy.

What I’ve learned: Quality over quantity is key when it comes to exercise. As a result, I am learning to be more present in my more fragile body.

When I returned to the pool last week, I began applying what I learned. At first, I took my time treading water for a few minutes. When I progressed to doing laps, I swam much more slowly and mindfully, favoring comfort over speed. I took breaks and deep breaths often, gently stretching my legs beneath me between each lap before setting off again.

When my arms began to ache or tingle, I switched to using the boogie boards the club offered and simply kicked my legs gently behind me to get to where I wanted to go. I repeatedly reminded myself that I was not in any rush or race. And when I woke up the following morning, I was not besieged by body-wide aches that made me regret exercising the night before.

Likewise, when I go for one of my afternoon walks nowwhich are usually only a mile or two as opposed to fiveI incorporate a similar tactic. I pay attention to how my body moves and where it hurts, adapting my movements as needed to accommodate pain or tension. I take breaks as often as I need to.

Related: Shop for products that meet your specific health goals.

I occasionally walk with ankle braces and a cane because it relieves pressure on my aching joints and overactive nerves. I also apply methods for preventing pain before and after I exercise, including gentle stretches, massaging tight trigger points with tennis balls, and icing the sore spots on my body.

With time and dedication, I hope to build up my strength and endurance so I can add more laps and miles to my routine, but in a way that doesn’t make my pain worse.

I’m determined to maintain a quality of life that includes me being physically active on a regular basis. If that means modifying my routines, using assistive devices, and even ultimately accepting that I may not always be able to accomplish all of the things I did before my diagnosis, then I’m willing to do it. Though it may seem like a lot of work, my body is worth the effort.

What Happened When I Finally Took Everyone’s Advice And Started Eating Breakfast

When I decided to start eating breakfast every single morning (on top of documenting its effects on my health, energy, and general ability to conquer the day-to-day), I excitedly told a friend of mine. She was confused: “You? Trying to be healthy?”

“Yep,” I told her. “I’m doing it!” She laughed for a long time. But I was steadfast, determined to find the better, brighter, healthier me that lay dormant somewhere inside.

There were some surprises, at first. For one thing, I realized that eating breakfast meant actually being awake for breakfast. (Noon is apparently not breakfast time, I’ve been told.) I’m a student and a freelance writer, and we are nocturnal creatures: We can see in infrared and easily amass a whole body of work without ever crossing paths with the sun. I’ve tried to actually wake up early in the past, and it’s never gone very well. So, in my efforts to wake up and eat breakfast, past failures at making positive life changes hung over me.

But I remembered something: Last summer I decided to take an accelerated math class (!) at eight in the morning (!!)…because I’m a masochist. Naïvely, I believed this would make me a better person. I thought: A person who woke up at six a.m. to do math would be a person who went on to have a productive day. I would finally learn yoga and figure out how to do my own taxes. I’d be the best version of myself. But in actuality, I ended up being the same person, except that I was in a really bad mood all of the time.

Related:  I Tested 7 Different Health And Beauty Uses For Apple Cider Vinegar

This time around, I promised myself things were going to be different.

Once I got past the initial shock of being awake for breakfast, I began to think about which breakfast foods I’d eat, and how I could make them healthier choices. Saying I’m “not a health-conscious person” is putting it lightly. Friends have categorized my diet as “gas station food” or “food you would eat at a child’s birthday party.” I like dollar pizza, mac and cheese, and greasy breakfast sandwiches. The only praiseworthy health habit I have is avoiding high-fructose corn syrup.

And while I might count a handful of Cheerios as breakfast, I wanted to take this breakfast challenge more seriously.

Once I got past the initial shock of being awake for breakfast, I began to think about which breakfast foods I’d eat, and how I could make them healthier choices.

I love green smoothies, but they’re so expensive! I decided to start making them as my breakfast, and they turned out great. I tossed kale, avocado, plain yogurt, green apples, almond butter, frozen bananas, apple juice, and ice into a blender, and voila!

Related: How To Make The Best Smoothie For Your Goals

It was like a dessert and only vaguely resembled something healthy, which is perfect for me. While I mostly drank a smoothie, sometimes I’d have an egg sandwich or a bagel instead (because I’m not a saint and bagels are a human right).

Unfortunately, I must admit: I began feeling better (which means I have to keep waking up early). Eating breakfast fits squarely into the all-important self-care box. By waking up to eat, I wasn’t beginning my day by rushing out the door on an empty stomach, which has been good for my anxiety.

I was also more aware of what I was eating, because I was doing this as a health challenge. I think that’s called accountability? (I’ve heard of that before but thought it was something for other people.)

Eating breakfast fits squarely into the all-important self-care box. By waking up to eat, I wasn’t beginning my day by rushing out the door on an empty stomach, which has been good for my anxiety.

My blood sugar and energy levels benefited from this experiment, as well. I’ve felt more stable with less spikes and low points throughout the day. The smoothies did make me gain a little weight (maybe all that avocado?), which I’m honestly happy about, since I walk five or six miles a day and tend to lose weight quickly.

Related: Shop superfood powders for all your smoothie-making needs. 

Also, since I started eating breakfast, a couple of people complimented my skin. Disclaimer: I use a bottle of highlighter a day, so it’s hard to know what’s what, but being the horribly vain person I am, I will do almost anything to look better, and so I plan to continue the smoothies.

While I’m not suddenly a morning person, this has been an overall positive experience for me. I have found some healthy breakfast choices that I genuinely enjoy, and it felt good to do something nice for myself. I can’t promise anyone I will always wake up early to eat breakfast, but I will try to when I can. Besides, veggie smoothies are just as good for you at two in the morning, right?

6 Foods That Might Be Messing With Your Hormones

We all know our hormones are important for our health—but how much further does your knowledge on the subject extend?

Thought so.

Hormones are chemicals that act like messengers, traveling through our blood to control various body functions, like our blood pressure and heart rate, bathroom habits, hair growth, libido, and sleep, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

There are many types of hormones, including sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone), thyroid hormones, cortisol, insulin, glucagon, and many more, explains Allison Betof Warner, M.D., Ph.D., medical oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. All of these hormones have different jobs—insulin helps transport sugar to our cells for energy, for example—but they work in tandem to keep our bodies functioning. So when one hormone is off, it affects the whole system, creating what we know as a ‘hormonal imbalance,’ says Warner.

When these chemicals get thrown out of whack, they can cause absolute chaos in our bodies. Often, hormonal dysfunction leads to fatigue, weight gain or loss, headaches, mood fluctuations, acne, insomnia, or digestive problems. Doc-approved plans of action for balancing out different hormonal issues will vary—but chances are they’ll all look at your food habits. Why? Because it turns out the food you eat can impact your hormones more than you think.

Check out the six foods experts say could potentially contribute to hormonal woes:

1. Coffee

Most of us drink coffee precisely because of how it affects our bodies. That jolt of energy is often so needed in the morning, and then again by mid-afternoon.

The caffeine in coffee causes the body to boost its production of a hormone called cortisol, explains holistic nutritionist Kelly LeVeque. A stress hormone, cortisol helps all of our cells communicate. Normally, our cortisol levels are highest in the morning to wake us up, and lowest before bed so we can wind down and fall asleep, according to research published in Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism. (The natural fluctuating pattern of cortisol is a part of our ‘circadian rhythm.’) Maintaining normal cortisol levels and a circadian rhythm helps our immune system function properly—and when our cortisol goes haywire, we may end up with sleep problems, poor blood sugar regulation, a slower metabolism, weight fluctuations, decreased immunity, and potentially even feelings of anxiety or depression, explains LeVeque.

Hence why coffee—no matter what time of day we’re drinking it—can leave us feeling jittery or nervous and make it difficult to fall asleep at bedtime. To avoid jacking up your cortisol levels, LeVeque recommends limiting coffee intake to one cup in the morning, and having a gentler cup of tea in the afternoon instead of another round of joe.

Related: 5 Natural Sources Of Caffeine—Other Than Coffee

2. Sugar

The undeniable truth: Our bodies need some sugar. Our cells store the sugar (a.k.a. ‘glucose’) we consume as glycogen, which we can use for energy later. When we eat sugar, the hormone insulin helps transport that sugar out of our blood and into our cells.

When we eat too much sugar and our body churns out tons of insulin, our cells eventually become resistant to it (a condition called ‘insulin resistance’) and extra glucose is left in our blood stream. This extra glucose is stored as fat, leading to weight gain and putting us at risk for type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC. So it’s no surprise that research published in JAMA found that women who drank one sweetened beverage or more a day had up to an 83 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes over the course of a decade.

People with a family history of insulin resistance or diabetes are more likely to deal with the negative side effects associated with going overboard on sugar, says Warner. However, none of us are immune to the hormone-altering effects of consistent late-night candy bars, or a diet high in Skittles, so Warner recommends only consuming sugar in moderation. (The CDC suggests we limit added sugar to 10 percent—or less—of our daily calories. That’s about 50 grams or 12 teaspoons for someone following a 2,000-calorie diet.)

Related: The 5 Fruits With The Most (And Least!) Sugar

3. Carbohydrates

When we think ‘sugar,’ we think about stuff we just talked about, like Halloween candy and pints of ice cream. Here’s the thing, though: Since our bodies break carbs down into glucose, they can potentially have the same effect on our hormones as the straight-up sweet stuff, explains Elena A. Christofides, M.D., F.A.C.E. The main culprit here: refined, processed carbs. (Think white bread, muffins, and pasta.)

In addition to possibly screwing with our insulin, carbs can also affect other hormones. When we eat carbs, our bodies release the feel-good hormone serotonin—hence why that Sunday morning bagel tastes so dang good. But this carb-serotonin connection also explains why we crave carbs when we’re stressed out (and likely have high cortisol levels), says Christofides. And that’s a recipe for a major mood and energy rollercoaster.

Instead of going cold turkey on carbs (because what kind of life is that…), think about carbs in terms of their glycemic index, Christofides says. Glycemic index is a measure of how much a food will spike your blood sugar; the lower the number—and resulting blood sugar spike—the better for your hormones, she explains.

Basing your carb intake in complex carbs is your best bet at keeping those hormones stable. Foods like apples, lentils, and beans are all carb sources with low glycemic loads—and that also provide fiber and vitamins our bodies need.

4. Meat

We’d be lying if we didn’t admit our love for a good burger—but about the consistent debate over whether meat (namely non-organic or hormone-treated meat) is an enemy to our hormonal health definitely makes us think twice.

A quick recap on the drama: In 1999, the European Union’s Scientific Committee for Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health proposed that the seven hormones commonly found in treated meat products (testosterone propionate, trenbolone acetate, estradiol, zeranol, progesterone, melengestrol acetate, and bovine somatotropin) could potentially threaten our health in a number of ways. It had been partially banning imports of hormone-treated meats since 1981, according to the Congressional Research Office.

Some research suggests these hormones have adverse effects on the health of animals, but large-scale studies have not concretely identified a negative impact of these hormones on humans, according to a risk assessment paper published in Toxicology Research. “We don’t have any way to confirm or deny that hormones-treated meats affect us yet” says Christofides—which is why experts don’t always agree on how (or if) to incorporate meat into your diet.

Meanwhile, the FDA has maintained that because these hormones are found in such small amounts in meat, they don’t pose any threats to human health. (The FDA has approved of the administration of hormones to livestock to help them grow faster since the 1950s.)

While LeVeque recommends decreasing meat consumption overall, Christofides suggests choosing organic meat, eggs, and dairy products whenever possible. As researchers continue to look into the long-term effects of hormone-treated animal products, it’s better to be safe than sorry, she says.

Keep in mind, though, if you are a vegetarian (or are considering going meatless), that plant proteins and animal proteins aren’t exactly equal. Animal proteins are considered ‘complete proteins’ and contain the essential amino acids our bodies can’t produce on their own, but plant proteins are not complete proteins and do not contain adequate amounts of all of these amino acids.(Amino acids are molecules that make up protein that our body needs for a number of functions.) Plus, meat also provides B vitamins and iron, two important nutrients that are harder to find in plant sources.

The less meat there is in your life, the more important it is to regularly include complete proteins like eggs and dairy. Make sure you’re eating a variety of plant-based protein sources, too, or consider a protein supplement.

The bottom line is that there is no bottom line. If you’re a carnivore but concerned about hormones, go for organic, grass-fed meats. And if you have any existing hormonal issues, talk to your doc or a dietitian about how to tailor your diet for your healthiest self.

Related: 7 Protein Sources for Vegetarians

5. Soy

Chances are, you’ve heard quite a bit of back-and-forth about soy. Much of the debate is over phytoestrogens, which are plant compounds that act similarly to the hormone estrogen, according to research published in Front Neuroendocrinology. These phytoestrogens are often used to replace some of the estrogen women lose during menopause, and are found in some other foods. Soy and foods made from it (like tofu and tempeh), though, are the most common food source of phytoestrogens, says LeVeque.

According to LeVeque, phytoestrogens can potentially prevent actual estrogen from binding to its receptors, and increase how much estrogen is then floating around in your blood. (One small study published in Cancer Biomarkers, Epidemiology and Prevention, for example, found that about 30 percent women who ingested 38 grams of a soy protein supplement regularly had increased levels of estradiol—a.k.a. estrogen—in their blood after three months.) This may, in turn, influence testosterone and thyroid hormone levels, LeVeque says. (Remember, when one hormone is whacked out, it can affect the levels of others.)

Overall, research on whether these phytoestrogens are detrimental to or beneficial for our health is mixed. Studies have found myriad results. According to a review published in German Medical Science, they’ve shown both positive and negative correlations between phytoestrogen consumption and certain cancers in women, demonstrated that phytoestrogens support women’s health post-menopause, and also suggested that phytoestrogens can negatively impact fertility. A conclusive, across-the-board verdict, though, just doesn’t exist.

What the research does suggest is that your age, sex, and health status determine how phytoestrogens may or may not affect your body. For most people, noshing on soy occasionally is no big deal, says Christofides. However, since estrogen-blocking therapy is often used in the treatment of women with sex-related cancers, consuming phytoestrogens under these circumstances is a different ballgame. “It could literally affect how effective treatment is,” she says.

She also suggests kids, whose hormones are changing and sensitive, should avoid taking in extra phytoestrogens. (While some animal studies suggest phytoestrogen intake can influence sexual development, conclusive human research is lacking, according to a review published in the Korean Journal of Pediatrics.)

Related: Check out a variety of plant-based protein supplements.

6. Alcohol

You’ve heard it before: Alcohol opens up a Pandora’s box of chaos in your body—and that includes messing with your hormone function.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), alcohol not only affects our body’s production of blood sugar-controlling insulin, but can also impact our sexual hormones, potentially knocking down testosterone in men and derailing women’s menstrual cycle.

In addition to its impact on our metabolic and reproductive function, alcohol can also throw off our stress hormones. At first, alcohol makes us release a rush of the feel-good hormone serotonin, says Christofides. But then, when we’ve used up our serotonin, we’re left feeling pretty down.

Friendly reminder: The USDA defines ‘moderate drinking’ as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. When it comes to alcohol and your hormones (and health), less is more.

Related: 11 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Metabolism

We Put 5 Natural Deodorants To The Test—Here’s How They Held Up

There’s a nasty little rumor floating around out there that natural deodorants just plain, well, stink. Anyone who tells you otherwise? They haven’t gotten a whiff of their pits lately.

No one wants to smell—even in the name of going natural—but just how much truth is there to the rumors? Is it so impossible that we might be able to keep our pits chemical-free without offending other people’s senses? Five of our bravest Health Enthusiasts volunteered their underarms in the name of giving natural deodorant a fair trial—and the results are in.

Nubian Heritage 24-Hour All-Natural Deodorant in Indian Hemp and HaItIan Vetiver

Tested by What’s Good associate editor Lauren Del Turco

“I have been a longtime lover of my Dove Go Fresh Cool Essentials. It keeps my underarms dry, even when it’s absurdly hot out (and I’m a sweaty person), plus it smells like squeaky-clean cucumbers. The Nubian Heritage deodorant felt a little wet and gloppy going on, but it had a light and pleasant scent. My pits felt a little stickier than usual when I was outside in the summer heat, but otherwise I didn’t really notice a difference throughout my normal day.

The real test would be wearing this stuff to the gym, so I wore the deodorant for my usual morning strength-training session. I was dripping more than usual from my underarms, but I still didn’t feel self-conscious about how I smelled, which was a huge win. (Other natural deodorants I’ve tried have all failed the gym test.) I felt confident in this stuff, so I decided to do something bold: I wore it to hot yoga. I sweat everywhere, but was surprisingly stank-free! Seriously impressed.

I also really loved that this deodorant didn’t leave a hard-to-get-off residue on my armpits that I’d have to ferociously scrub away in the shower. I’m not sure if I really love the scent of this one enough to use it every day, but I plan on trying out another scent from this brand now that the experiment is over.”

Related: I Stretched For 30 Days With The Goal Of Touching My Toes—Here’s How It Went

Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant in Lavender + Sage

Tested by What’s Good video producer and editor Jennifer Pena

“I’ve been using Secret Powder Fresh solid for years because it’s the only one that hasn’t let me down in the stank department.  I perspire a lot under my arms, especially when it’s hot and humid out or when I work out.

In comparison to my usual product, I was really surprised at how well the Schmidt’s natural deodorant held up while I slept and throughout my day-to-day stuff. Because the deodorant went on so nice and light—and I’m extremely skeptical about natural deodorants—I kept reapplying it just to be sure.  But it survived all sorts of outfits, busy days at work, and long walks outside. The lavender made me feel really fresh—major bonus!

The big test was an outdoor workout on a very hot summer day. Honestly, I’m not sure how well any deodorant could handle those conditions. I definitely had some stink pouring out of me, so I’ll probably stick to my Secret before workouts.”

Schmidt’s Deodorant in Bergamot + Lime

Tested by Head of Content and Customer Engagement Lisa Chudnofsky

“I normally use Secret Invisible Solid, and don’t find my pits sweaty or smelly (at least I don’t think?) unless it’s really humid outside. I tried the Schmidt’s Bergamot + Lime jar, and was shocked by how much I liked it. Delicious smell (I actually found myself sniffing my pits when no one was looking, just to get a whiff!), and the same coverage I get from the Secret.

The only reason I wouldn’t give it a 10 out of 10 is because of the whole jar situation. I much prefer using a stick to get even and quick distribution. The spatula included was tiny, and although the deodorant spread on okay (like a room temperature butter), it took a while to cover the entire armpit. Definitely more of a process than my usual swipe-and-go. But luckily the product also comes in stick form—I already placed my order on VitaminShoppe.com.”

Related: Why Do Some People Sweat More Than Others?

Crystal Stick Body Deodorant

Tested by editorial graphic designer Samantha Dimsey

“I usually use a basic Dove deodorant—and the Crystal natural deodorant was definitely different! The Crystal deodorant was a clear, solid stick, but it wasn’t wet at all, so it felt like I wasn’t putting anything on. It didn’t have a scent and didn’t leave any marks on my shirt. I realized after the first day that you’re supposed to lightly wet the deodorant stick before applying it—but it had worked really well even when I applied it dry!

I don’t normally sweat a lot, but I didn’t feel insecure about sweating or smelling at all when using this—I really didn’t feel any different than I did wearing my normal deodorant. Now that I know the natural stuff works so well, I’ll probably switch over.”

Tom’s of Maine Long-Lasting Stick Deodorant in Lavender

Tested by What’s Good senior editor, Lisa Basile

“Here’s my deal: I usually either don’t use deodorant at all or use a powder antiperspirant when I’m worried about smelling bad. A huge part of why I limit my antiperspirant use is to keep my body as chemical-free as possible—so I was eager to try the Tom’s deodorant, since it’s more natural. I have to say, it smelled really, really, really good (sort of like a light, airy, lavender-filled field). It went on smooth—not gloppy— and it didn’t irritate my sensitive armpit skin at all.

I’d definitely use this again, since my sweat usually isn’t profusely gross-smelling and my main workouts happen in water (which sort of keeps you fresh-smelling). However, for VERY sweaty people or people who are constantly active, I’d say this might be a little light. If I were outside in 90-degree weather a lot or working out really hard, I think I would probably want something a little more heavy-duty. But for every day, this is great.”

Related: Shop the full selection of health-conscious bath and beauty products.

What It’s Really Like To Suffer From Lyme Disease—And How I’ve Learned To Cope

I used to be an adventurer, a traveler, an athlete, an occupational therapist, and a Pilates instructor. But suddenly, when I got sick with Lyme disease four years ago, I was thrust into a new role: I became The Patient.

Lyme disease is an insidious illness: There was no thunderclap, dark cloud, or bolt of lightning marking the day I contracted this disease. I assume I was doing regular, teenage activities, like hiking the bluffs of my rural hometown in Minnesota, camping, or swimming along the banks of the Mississippi River. But my assumption is just that: an assumption. 

I wonder: At what point did the Lyme disease begin chipping away at my immune system and calculating the day it would hit me? 

My body began to break down bit by bit. First, I was dealing with a series of large ovarian cysts, followed by the surgery to remove them. Next came the onset of interstitial cystitis—a painful, inflammatory bladder condition marked by urinary urgency and frequency. I held fast to the belief that this situation was temporary, and I soldiered on through sleepless nights and continuous pain for four years. 

Then, I began to experience constant vertigo, insomnia that landed me in the emergency room, debilitating fatigue, weight loss, digestive issues, and pain in my brain and spinal cord. My longtime general practitioner could see my health was failing, but she was baffled as to how to help me. I saw one doctor after another, but despite consulting with some of the best physicians, they could do little more than speculate out loud about what was going on with my health:

You’re in between vertigo episodes right now. We’ll catch it the next time!

Maybe an old Epstein-Barr virus has been reactivated?

You’re having silent migraines without a headache.

You have PTSD.

You need to stop eating so many raw vegetables; they’re giving you gas and causing your stomach pain.

You have an unfortunate case of severe chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and multiple chemical sensitivities. It’s one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen!

I went with the latter set of diagnoses: Severe chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and multiple chemical sensitivities seemed to encompass many of my ongoing health challenges. 

In 2012, the doctor gave me a round of steroids to treat my chief complaint: exhaustion. Unfortunately, the medication caused me to tank and land flat on my back in bed; the fatigue was crippling. New symptoms emerged—I couldn’t sleep, sit up, tolerate sound or light, and my brain and spinal cord burned with a ruthless intensity. Eventually, the sound sensitivity escalated to the point where I could no longer talk on the phone–not even to my mother (who lived far away, and who I wanted to talk to!). For months, I lay in a dark, silent room, hoping the symptoms would fade away. But I was wrong. I was 33 years old, and living in complete isolation.  

Eighteen months went by.

 At this point, I had nearly succumbed to the idea that I was unhelpable; this mysterious illness would claim my life, or—in an equally scary thought—it would become my entire life.

For months, I lay in a dark, silent room, hoping the symptoms would fade away. But I was wrong. I was 33 years old, and living in complete isolation.  

With the encouragement of my family, I decided to visit one more doctor. I vividly remember the appointment: I was too weak to walk on my own, so my husband carried me through the doors of the doctor’s office. That’s when I got a new diagnosis.

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Following a two-hour appointment to review my medical history, the doctor diagnosed me with Lyme disease despite two negative western blot tests (Western Blots were the first immunoblot developed to detect Lyme. An immunoblot is a laboratory test that looks for antibodies). That day, I learned that the testing for Lyme disease is not an exact science. In reality, studies have shown up to 50 percent of those infected with the illness will never test positive through traditional blood work or recall a tick bite.

To make matters worse, only about 50 percent of people develop the classic symptom (the all-telling bull’s-eye rash), leaving many clinicians with the difficult task of diagnosing Lyme disease based on clinical presentation.

After endless trial and error, I assembled a team of healthcare practitioners and began a grueling treatment program (sometimes swallowing up to 60 pills a day) that will continue until I’m well or until I can’t afford the burdensome out-of-pocket expenses any longer.

I’ve also used herbs, supplements, medication, diet and lifestyle changes, light therapy, detoxification, exercise, and many other therapies to strengthen my body and mind. While I’ve made some improvements, I deal with unremitting fatigue, insomnia, muscle and nerve pain, and flu-like symptoms on a day-to-day basis.

Treatments are demanding. In the simplest of terms, killing a high infectious load in the body creates a cascade of inflammation for a period of time. Often, I feel worse before I begin to feel better.

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So how do I cope with the constant barrage of symptoms? Some days I laugh. Some days I cry. Mostly, I’m a work in progress learning to listen to my body and respect what it has to tell me. Sometimes it tells me to rest. Sometimes it tells me to take a risk. When you live life with a chronic illness, every day can be a surprise, and you must always re-examine your body’s fluctuating energy reserves. Whatever the message, when I listen, my body always responds by moving me a step forward in my healing. These small victories fuel me to continue the long journey toward recovery.

When you live life with a chronic illness, every day can be a surprise, and you must always re-examine your body’s fluctuating energy reserves.

In addition, I’ve mindfully cultivated relationships, both in person and on social media, with individuals in the chronic illness community. I’ve teamed up with other Lyme patients to create an online support group for the state of Illinois, where I live, and I joined a fierce group of women for the Lyme Disease Challenge to raise international awareness about this emerging health crisis. We cheer each other on, and their support is essential to my recovery; it’s comforting to know I’m not alone in this longstanding fight.

After being diagnosed with Lyme disease, I remained fearful of nature for many years. These days, I have an overwhelming desire to reconnect with it, even if it’s on some paved trails. Being in nature is vital to my recovery. Although I live in an urban setting, there’s a nature preserve near my house, which allows me to walk and daydream (when I don’t feel super-fatigued) about my future ambitions. Though I continue to have physical limitations, the ability to walk, dream, and let my inner wanderlust free is a form of moving meditation for me.

And as an ex-gymnast and Pilates instructor, movement has always been an integral part of my life. For fitness, I incorporate gentle Pilates and yoga into my treatment protocol. In both of these mind-body exercises, the quality of the movement or pose is more important than the quantity of repetitions.

For core Pilates moves, I like the feeling of moving my leg muscles while lying down during the footwork series on the reformer. I like the fluidity of the rowing series on the reformer as well.

In yoga, I like the gentle stretch and spine twist of triangle pose. On days when I feel stronger, I like the physical challenges of crow and side crow, although I’m not very good at them yet. Of course, I love corpse pose, or savasana, as it’s very calming to my nervous system.

The breath work involved with these forms of exercise helps to reinvigorate my body and relieve stress and tension. Despite the fact that I am living a modified life due to waning strength and energy levels, I refuse to give up, and I use mind-body exercises to remind me that movement is life. As long as I am still moving and breathing, I am living.

Lyme disease has cost me a lot: my job, friends, financial stability, and the ability to start a family. Still, I remain mindful of the idea that just because a few chapters of my life ended, doesn’t mean the whole book closed. There are many unfinished chapters to my life story, and I’m writing them one page at a time.  

Life may not always look the way I want it to look, but I’ve discovered a spirit of perseverance within me that constantly whispers in my ear, “Keep going. You can try again tomorrow.”