Thursday, April 27, 2017

This $15 Product Makes Even the Most Unwearable Shoes Comfortable

This article originally appeared on 

Getting a new pair of shoes has always been a bittersweet occasion for me. Once the joy of finding that perfect pair—and the tiny, happy rush of the purchase—has worn off, I’m left to grapple with the comfort conundrum: those awful initial wears before your new shoes are broken in (or is it your feet that need breaking in?). Whether it’s the highest heels or the lowest flats, I’ve yet to find a pair that doesn’t literally rub me the wrong way, from the common heel blister, to the painful chafing on the tops of my toes, to those more unexpected issues like booties that bite at the ankle.

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That all changed after I hobbled into the office after a full day of running around New York City to different Fashion Week shows—in heels, of course (it’s a hazard of the job). Our kind associate fashion editor, Flavia Nunez, took pity on my poor feet, dug into her bag, and produced a small miracle.

A seasoned marathon runner, Flavia knows a thing or two about blisters (and shoes) and, thankfully, how to prevent and treat them. The product she handed over is from a brand called Compeed, that, unlike other bandage companies, focuses almost exclusively on blisters. At $9 for a pack of six, they’re a little more expensive than a traditional pack of self-adhesive strips, but hear me out—they’re well worth it. According to their website, the products “use hyrdrocolloid technology that fits like a second skin and stays on all day long.” They’re not kidding. The blister cushions certainly do feel like a second skin, are waterproof, adhere smoothly, do not budge, roll, or wrinkle, and will stay on for days, until you pull them off yourself. You’d probably spend the same amount on bandages that wind up needing to be constantly replaced.

RELATED: 8 Stylish, Comfortable Sandals for Walking All Day

I now keep the conveniently-sized packs in my purse at all times. I’ll pop one on at the first sign of chafing or rubbing, but the tiny pads also prevent blisters from happening in the first place—and instantly make the shoe in question wearable. Taking more unorthodox measures, I’ve also used the larger size on the balls of my feet for shoes that don’t have enough padding, put on a double layer to cushion an already-existing blister (immediate relief), and cut the cushions to size to fit an oddly shaped contour or wrap more neatly around a tormented toe.

They can be a little tricky to find in stores, but luckily we have Amazon for that—and yes, they are qualify for Prime.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

5 Things To Know About The Health Issue That Could Shut Down The Government

This article originally appeared on Kaiser Health News. 

Congress must pass a bill this week to keep most of the government running beyond Friday, when a government spending bill runs out. It won’t be easy.

The debate over a new spending bill focuses on an esoteric issue affecting the Affordable Care Act.

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The question is whether Congress will pass — and President Donald Trump will sign — a bill that also funds subsidies for lower-income people who purchase health insurance under the law. These “cost-sharing reductions” (CSR) have become a major bargaining point in the negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, because the spending bill will require at least some Democratic votes to pass.

Here are five things to know about these cost-sharing subsidies:

How are these subsidies different from the help people get to purchase insurance?

There are two types of financial aid for people who buy insurance from an ACA exchange. People with incomes up to four times the poverty line, or $81,680 for a family of three, are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums.

RELATED: Millions of Women Don’t Have Access to Fertility Treatments in the U.S.

In addition to that help, people with incomes up to two-and-a-half times the poverty line, or $51,050 for a family of three, get additional subsidies to help pay their out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and copayments for care, as long as they purchase a silver-level plan. Insurance companies are required in their contracts with the government to provide these cost-sharing reductions to eligible people, then get reimbursed by the government.

Why are cost-sharing reductions suddenly front and center?

The fight dates to 2014, when Republicans in the House of Representatives filed suitagainst the Obama administration, charging that Congress had not specifically appropriated money for the cost-sharing subsidies and therefore the administration was providing the funding illegally.

A year ago, a federal district court judge ruled that the House was correct and ordered the payments stopped. However, she put that ruling on hold while the Obama administration appealed. That’s where things stood when Trump was inaugurated.

If the Trump administration drops the appeal, the funding would cease. However, Congress could also opt to approve funding the payments, which is what Democrats are pushing in the spending bill.

RELATED: The Scary Reason Healthy People Die After an ER Visit

What would happen if these subsidies are stopped?

At the very least, ending the cost-sharing reductions in the middle of the year would cause a serious disruption in the insurance market. The payments are estimated at $7 billion this year, and $10 billion in 2018. They cover about 7 million people, about 58 percent of those purchasing coverage on the exchanges.

Many experts have predicted that if the subsidies end, some or all insurers might leave their markets entirely, leaving consumers with fewer, or possibly no, choices.

But even if they stay, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that insurers would have to raise premiums on the marketplace silver plans by an average of 19 percent in order to offset that loss of government reimbursement. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Ironically, ending the subsidies would actually cost the federal government more money. Premium increases to make up for the lost payments would in turn trigger bigger tax credits for the broader population eligible for help paying their premiums. Those larger tax credits would cost the federal government an estimated $2.3 billion above what it would save on the cost reduction subsidies next year, KFF projected.

RELATED: Repealing Obamacare Would Take Insurance Away From 32 Million Americans and Double Premiums

Who is pushing Congress to fund the subsidies?

In addition to Democrats in Congress who support the ACA, influential health-related groups are urging lawmakers to fund the cost-sharing reductions.

The coalition, which includes America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, points out that the uncertainty surrounding the future of the promised payments could not only disrupt this year’s insurance market, but next year’s as well.

“The window is quickly closing to properly price individual insurance products for 2018,” the groups wrote to Congress on April 12. Most insurers must decide whether they will participate in the health law’s market in 2018 by late June.

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Most Americans don’t support cutting the subsidies as part of a GOP strategy to force Democrats in Congress to help pass a new health law. A new poll reported 60 percent of those surveyed said the president “should not use negotiating tactics that could disrupt insurance markets and cause people to lose health coverage.” On the other hand, two-thirds of Republicans surveyed said Trump “should use whatever negotiating tactics necessary to win support for a replacement plan.”

What does the Trump administration think about this?

Good question. Trump and senior health officials have offered conflicting positions.

On April 10, unnamed officials told the New York Times and other outlets that the administration “is willing to continue paying subsidies” while the lawsuit remains pending, just as the Obama administration did. The next day, however, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services disavowed that statement, saying that “the administration is currently deciding its position on this matter.”

RELATED: The Surprising Thing That Builds Trust Among Neighbors

The day after that, Trump himself said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he was holding back a decision on the payments as leverage. “I don’t want people to get hurt,” he said. “What I think should happen — and will happen — is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”

By the following week, administration officials were dangling the funding for the cost-sharing reductions in the spending bill as a trade for Trump’s request for funding for a border wall. “We don’t like those [subsidies] very much, but we have offered to open the discussions to give the Democrats something they want in order to get something we want,” budget director Mick Mulvaney said on Fox News Sunday. “We’d offer them $1 of CSR payments for $1 of wall payments.”

Democrats, however, are not buying what the administration is selling. “The White House gambit to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans, in order to force American taxpayers to foot the bill for a wall that the president said would be paid for by Mexico is a complete non-starter,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a written statement.

Complicating matters further, it is far from clear that Republicans in Congress want to end the cost-sharing payments.

The subsidies are “a commitment made by the government to the insurers and the people,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said at a town hall meeting in his district, according to The Washington Post. “That needs to happen.”

 Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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Woman Says She Had 'No Body Confidence' When She Was 98 Lbs. and Feels Better with Muscles & Curves

For a Mid-Day Energy Boost, Choose the Stairs Over Soda

This article originally appeared on 

The next time you feel a 3 p.m. slump coming on, skip the vending machine and head to the stairwell instead. According to a brilliant new study, 10 minutes of stair-walking is better for energy levels and work motivation than the amount of caffeine in a can of soda.

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For the new research, published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, University of Georgia researchers wanted to measure the effects of a simple exercise that could be done in a typical office setting where sedentary workers may only have a few minutes at a time for breaks.

So they enrolled 18 female college students, all of whom reported being chronically sleep deprived, and conducted workplace simulations on three separate days. On two of the days, the participants took capsules containing either 50 mg caffeine (about the equivalent to a can of cola) or a placebo. The other day, they spent 10 minutes walking up and down stairs at a low-intensity pace.

RELATED: Fergie and Josh Duhamel Swear by This Power Smoothie for All-Day Energy

After each intervention, the women were given verbal and computer-based tests to gauge their mood and their performance on certain cognitive tasks. Neither the caffeine nor the exercise caused large improvements in attention or memory. But the women did exhibit a small increase in motivation levels after walking the stairs, compared to a decrease after having caffeine or placebo pills.

Co-author Patrick J. O’Connor, a professor in UGA’s department of kinesiology, says the women also felt slightly more energetic after hitting the stairs. “It was a temporary feeling, felt immediately after the exercise,” he said in a press release. “But with the 50 milligrams of caffeine, we didn’t get as big an effect.“

There’s been plenty of research showing that exercising for 20 minutes or more can boost energy levels, the authors wrote in their paper, but this appears to be the first study to look at such a short period of stair walking. They point out that feelings of fatigue were not significantly improved after either intervention, and say that longer bouts of exercise may be required to produce lasting effects. They also note that taking walking breaks outdoors, or with other people, may provide further mood-enhancing benefits.

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And of course, the authors aren’t suggesting that a quick burst of exercise is all you need for overall health. They say more studies are needed to determine the specific benefits of stair-walking—although previous research has shown that spending just 10 minutes on the stairs, three times a week, can have real cardiovascular benefits.

Still, it’s good to know that this quick, zero-calorie energy booster is there when you need it; it’s also free and, in most workplaces, accessible rain or shine. And with recent news linking both regular and diet soda to negative effects on the brain, it’s nice to have an option that’s been shown to work just as well, if not better, than caffeine.

“It’s an option to keep some fitness while taking a short break from work,” said O’Connor. “You may not have time to go for a swim, but you might have 10 minutes to walk up and down the stairs.”

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Being Socially Awkward Is Actually Awesome, According to Science

This article originally appeared on

When I think back to the Bumper Boat Debacle of 1984, I can see the trappings of an awkward moment: I was in middle school; there were unknown bystanders; and people were telling me, “It will be easy.” I was at a family reunion in Colorado resort when my cousins and I stumbled upon the ride, and they suggested we should give it a try. I felt a vague trepidation, but I also wanted to be a good sport, and so a few minutes later I was boarding one of the small, round boats.

As the attendant began explaining how to operate the things, I caught a glimpse of the Los Angeles Dodgers logo on his blue baseball cap and it triggered my strange, encyclopedic memory for baseball statistics. My mind wandered into a vast matrix of strikeouts, earned-run-averages… until I heard the clang of the starting bell.

Despite the straightforward branding of the bumper boat experience, I was startled when I was blindsided by my cousin Jeff. The collision scrambled my mind and sparked a fight-or-flight response. I locked my sights on my cousin’s boat, cranked the steering wheel and slammed my foot on the accelerator.

To my surprise, I never arrived at my target, but instead zoomed on a path of concentric circles. The small engine was surprisingly mighty. As my circles tightened, I felt the collective stare of the other kids intensify as they took notice of my unusual tactic. A panic flooded my mind and washed away common-sense solutions such as releasing the accelerator or straightening the steering wheel.

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I thought I would die of embarrassment. So goes the life of an awkward person.

As I recalled this and other long-forgotten stories and combed through hundreds of social science findings for my new book, I discovered the hallmarks of an awkward disposition: Awkward people like myself have an unusual perspective. We overlook minor social expectations. And we then struggle to navigate routine social situations. But this unique perspective also reveals a surprising upside to being awkward. It may not be as bad as we tend to make it out to be.

Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at Oxford University have found that awkward individuals have an unusually intense focus, which gravitates toward interests governed by rules, such as those of logic or math. Awkward people show an exuberance for taking things apart, obsessively studying the components, then systematically putting those parts together in a new way, which is why they are more likely to “nerd out” over fields like science, technology, engineering or mathematics and are drawn to leisure interests like gaming, collecting or, say, baseball statistics.

Their passionate, intense interest becomes even more interesting when one considers that researchers find a significant association between awkwardness and specialized talent. For example, Pedro Vital and his collaborators at Kings College found that the best predictor of striking talent in children was not their I.Q., but rather the kind of intense focus that is characteristic of awkward people. Not all awkward people will exhibit striking talent. But when their sharp focus, passionate interest and unusual perspective combine with a dash of natural ability, their interaction creates exciting possibilities.

Yet this sharp focus and systematic thinking can be an awkward fit with the messiness of social life. People are not fixed elements. They have different personalities, hold a wide variety of expectations, and sometimes they change their minds for no good reason at all. (I personally found it extremely difficult to make sense of novel social situations in the same way that some of my classmates struggled to solve new problems on an algebra test.) Being awkward can feel like being a traveler in a foreign country when you are not quite proficient in the local language: Routine situations like ordering a cup of coffee or taking the bus can be stressful and slight pronunciation or grammatical deviations can produce blush-worthy moments.

But if you are a determined traveler, you eventually get your coffee or arrive at your desired destination. In the same way, many awkward people find workarounds to social life and achieve a gratifying sense of belonging. One workaround I relied upon as a kid was systematically studying how my socially adept peers navigated daily encounters, rehearsing those skills at home, then pushing myself to try them in new encounters. Another social hack I discovered was that nonsocial skills can become useful at social gatherings, so I taught myself how to cook, take good photos and pour a foamless beer from a keg.

Awkward people are neither better, nor worse than anyone else — they simply see the world differently and have to exert more effort to master social graces that come intuitively to others. If you’re awkward, then your sharply focused attention can get stuck or your intensity becomes difficult to corral. Sometimes this means that you get turned around, spin yourself in circles, and your dad squeezes into a bumper boat to tow you back to shore. But you learn from these missteps and discover that they often take on a humorous flavor as they age.

You also learn that being a little different is not a liability. Embracing your unique perspective and exuberance for uncommon things is the key to realizing your unique potential.

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Never Forget: A Day at The Beach Is Scientifically Proven To Be Good For You

This article originally appeared on

If you’re looking for an excuse to play hooky, don’t forget that science has proven that a day at the beach is downright good for you.

Last year, researchers from New Zealand and Michigan teamed up on a study that revealed that exposure to “visible blue spaces” (read: the Gulf Coast on a nice day) can lower “psychological distress”.

To reach the conclusion that undoubtedly caused a thousand “sick” days, the researchers mapped the New Zealand city of Wellington and then compared the country’s health records with ocean views and those people who spent time watching the ocean waves were generally less stressed out. Even after the researchers took into account factors like age, sex, and wealth, living by the sea still improved people’s mental health. According to one of the co-authors, the reason for that is that the brain simply processes natural backdrops better. “[That] reduces sensory stimuli and promotes mental relaxation,” she told Lonely Planet. “Surely mental relaxation is part of the purpose of travel and holidays.”

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The best part of the study is that it appears that the mental health benefits of staring into the ocean can be almost immediate, so even if you can’t skip a whole day of work, you can still reap the benefits by swinging by the water during your commute or, say, while eating fried oysters at Doc’s Seafood Shack in Gulf Shores or snacking on hushpuppies at Lee’s Inlet Kitchen in South Carolina.

Luckily the South has many places to indulge in a little, ahem, scientific research from Key West to the Outer Banks to Galveston, Texas. Start planning your trip now—doctor’s orders!

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This Woman Stopped Shaving for a Year to Promote Body Positivity—and Here's What She Learned