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We Don't Need This Guy to Say Plus-Size Is Sexy, but It Sure Doesn't Hurt

Corny as it may sound, the best kind of body positivity comes from within. That’s not to say we don’t appreciate a little help along the way, especially if it's coming from someone like Jay Kennedy.

Here’s a man—who fits all of society's measures of what it means to be fit—breaking through the taboos that make some men feel like it's weird or unusual to be attracted to plus-size women. And if Kennedy’s message happens to reach someone who’s plus-size and struggles to see themselves as desirable, that isn’t really a bad thing, either.

Why Taking DNA Tests Can Change How You See Your Family

On the surface, my family appeared to have a genetically uncomplicated story—we believed that we were of Italian and Irish descent. Our relationships with each other, of course, were more complex. My family is small and disconnected: My parents are divorced, my mother had no siblings, her parents died when I was young, and most of my father’s people are widely dispersed, and don’t speak to each other much. Having spent my teen years in foster care, I often felt alone and without anchor—to my family, to my culture, and to a sense of self.

I envied friends whose holidays were filled with cousins and aunts and grandparents, making old recipes handed down from generations past. As I got older, and as more people passed away and visits became rarer, I found that I wanted more and more to unravel the facts behind my own family story. Everyone wants to feel a sense of home, don’t they?

At the outset, I believed that all four of my grandparents had emigrated to the U.S. Although we thought that my mother’s side was mostly Irish, we had a few questions, like the origin of her maiden name, which is very rare (and also… not Irish), and was possibly changed once we came over to America. We didn’t have any records of how these grandparents emigrated, and as I looked into it, I realized that they were actually pretty mysterious to us, these people we had come from. Where had they grown up? And why did they come here? Why hadn’t anyone passed their stories down to my mother? All I have of them are some old, grainy photos.

My beautiful, mysterious family.

My father’s family had clearer stories: They came from the Italian mainland and islands, and as they emigrated in the 1920s, they tried to assimilate and shed their cultural identity in many ways, although they continued to deeply embrace Roman Catholicism. But that was all I really knew.

And so I began solving the mystery by tracking my heritage through ancestry records and DNA tests. I took three separate tests and ran my raw DNA data—which comes with any DNA test—through the GEDMatch ethnicity calculators, then averaged out the results for each. Each testing service has their own sample pools against which they test an individual’s DNA, so there were minor differences in the results, but for the most part, my results were very cohesive.

Unlike one writer—whose test confirmed exactly who she thought she was—my results actually, truly surprised me in ways that I am happy to embrace. After taking these tests, I’m able to confirm that I am roughly equal parts Mediterranean (only 20% of that being Italian!), Northwestern European, Iberian, Middle Eastern, West Asian—with a bit of Balkan and Ashkenazi Jewish mixed in.

I met my second cousin for the first time, who sent me pictures and stories of my great-grandparents.

Another point of interest, which I discovered through the 23andMe Chromosome Painting feature, is that my ancestors were very recently from their locations—the feature can estimate how many generations ago ancestors from certain locations came into your genetic picture.

So how does this whole genetic testing thing work? You buy a test, spit in a tube, and send your results off to be analyzed. The whole thing takes about a month. I’m sure the process of what they do back at the lab is pretty complicated because science, but according to AncestryDNA, their test works something like this:

"We measure and analyze a person’s entire genome…. Then we compare your DNA to… DNA samples from people around the world, to identify overlap. As our database of DNA samples continues to grow, you could receive updates with new information."

Of course, no DNA test is 100 percent accurate—especially with regards to micro-populations, migration, and the fact that countries, are, in effect, just constructs. It’s also important to note that most genetic research—especially where health is concerned—has been focused on Europe, which leaves a lot out of the picture.

Bearing in mind that representative samples can be skewed by migration and tons of other variables (including a lack of representative pool samples for some regions), DNA testing can usually get you close enough to a generalized view of who you are. Some tests may be able to tell you which regions you’re from, while others can narrow it down by country.

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All this new information has been a tremendous help as I attempt to trace my family’s paper trail; knowing what to look for has made narrowing down the search much easier. I started searching for my great-grandparents in countries that I would never have thought they’d come from, and was able to find them—as it turns out, they were from the Balkans.

I’ve also found countless cousins and distant family members in the DNA database who were able to close gaps in my heritage search. I met my second cousin for the first time, who sent me pictures and stories of my great-grandparents—as well as more surnames to search. I discovered that my other family members were creative, like me: We could boast plenty of painters and musicians. And now I have a whole new network of people I’d otherwise never have met.

But this new information also sparked unanswerable questions. In an effort to assimilate to American culture, did my family erase their roots—and all the food, song, politics, stories, and religions that defined their culture? And did my mother’s family—who came to the United States—actually have Jewish roots? Their arrival would have synced with a time when many Eastern European Jews fled Poland and Russia during the pogroms of the 1880s. Is that why some of the stories had remained a mystery?

My ancestors, wearing some lovely hats and boutonnières.

In addition to genealogical information—and the resulting questions—DNA testing can also be used to understand your health risks and help you see if you’re a carrier for certain conditions. Knowing that you carry a gene can help you plan for your future. It was so interesting to see that my genes revealed the exact autoimmune disorder I suffer from. I also found out potential issues that could arise in the future, one being that I may have problems metabolizing certain drugs, like Warfarin, a blood thinner. Though I hope this will never be a problem, that knowledge could be really useful when speaking to my doctor about possible medications. Although I can understand why some people wouldn’t want to know this information, I found it empowering.

For some, genetic testing may reconcile a sense of self lost to transatlantic slavery, clear up false family narratives, or literally reveal migration patterns. For me, DNA testing has helped me fill in the lines. With so much missing and so much forgotten in my own family story, I’ve loved being able to embrace my newly discovered roots and explain certain aspects of myself, and I am grateful to truly know and tell the story of my life.

Lisa Marie Basile is the founding editor-in-chief of Luna Luna Magazine and moderator of its digital community. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Bustle, Bust, Hello Giggles, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, and The Huffington Post, among other sites. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Meal-Prep an Entire Week's Worth of Dinner With Just 8 Ingredients

There's nothing worse than coming home after a long day of work with absolutely zero clue as to what you're having for dinner. That's when pizza happens for the fourth night in a row. Not that we're saying anything is wrong with that: We love pizza too, but since we already ate it three times over the weekend, it's about time we get in a few healthier meals. Thanks to this super-simple meal-prep plan, you won't have to think about dinner again. Except for like 30 minutes on Sunday. Let's do it.

Step 1:Hit up the grocery store.

Got a pen and paper and 15 minutes? Write down these eight ingredients. Yep, only eight. We challenge you to time yourself in the store, because this is the shortest grocery list ever.

Shopping List

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup canned black beans
  • 8 ounces fresh salmon fillet (or fish of choice)
  • 8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 avocado

Don't forget your storage containers:

  • 5 glass containers (1 for cooked sweet potatoes, 1 for salmon, 1 for chicken, 1 for quinoa, and 1 for black beans)
  • 2 large plastic bags for kale
  • Plastic wrap for avocado

And a few kitchen staples (you probably already have on hand):

  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt
  • Lemon juice
Step 2:Prep everything in 30 minutes.

After you go to brunch and speed through the grocery store (but before the binge-watching begins), set aside 30-40 minutes on Sunday to prep the simple ingredients.*

1. Cook chicken. This is the best way to cook chicken so it's not one big piece of dried-up cardboard. *Wait until Tuesday night to cook your chicken. Foodsafety.gov says cooked chicken stays good for up to four days, so it's better to play it safe. 2. Cook salmon: Whether you want to bake it or pan-fry, we've got you covered. 3. Cook quinoa: Quinoa is simple. It's a 1 to 2 ratio; if you're cooking 3/4 cup quinoa, you'll need 1 1/2 cups water. Boil it until water dissolves, about 20 minutes, and it's ready for ya. 4. Roast sweet potatoes: Roasting is so easy. Cube one of the taters and cut fry-shapes with the other. Add them to the same pan but separated, toss with olive oil, and bake for 20-25 minutes. 5. Rinse black beans: Drain and rinse the black beans from the can and store them in a glass container so they're ready whenever you need them. 6. Prep kale: Wash and remove stems from kale leaves. Break into smaller pieces (ya know, the size you'd want if you were eating a salad) then store in a large plastic bag with a paper towel to soak up any leftover moisture. 7. Arugula and avocado can stay as is: No prepping necessary since those boxes of greens typically get triple-washed, and all you have to do with the avo is slice into it.

Step 3:Enjoy ready-to-eat dinners Sunday through Thursday.

We like eating home-cooked meals Sunday-Thursday and saving Fridays for a night out on the town. We deserve it after being good all week.

Start-Your-Week-Off-Right Sunday Night
  • 4 ounces salmon
  • 1/2 of the roasted sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1/4 avocado

How to plate: Toss arugula and avocado with olive oil and lemon juice. If you want to heat up the taters and salmon, pop in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

Meatless Monday
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1/4 avocado

How to plate: Combine all ingredients into a bowl and toss with olive oil and lemon juice.

Taco (Salad) Tuesday
  • 4 ounces chicken, shredded
  • 1/2 of the cubed, roasted sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup canned black beans
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 2 cups kale

How to plate: Heat up the chicken and sweet potatoes in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. Toss kale with olive oil and sea salt and massage so kale starts to soften. Add to a bowl and then top with avocado, beans, and shredded chicken. Shake as much hot sauce on it as you'd like and enjoy sweet potatoes on the side.

Workout Wednesday
  • 4 ounces salmon
  • 1 cup sautéed kale
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup arugula

How to plate: This one requires 4 minutes of cooking if you prefer cooked kale over raw: Sauté the kale in olive oil with sea salt for 4 minutes, until wilted. Microwave the salmon for 1-2 minutes. Combine quinoa with arugula and a drizzle of lemon juice, then pair with salmon and kale.

Thirsty Thursday (a Good Meal to Soak Up Happy Hour)
  • 4 ounces chicken
  • 1 cup arugula
  • Sweet potato fries
  • 1/4 avocado
  • ​1/4 cup quinoa mixed
  • 1/4 cup black beans

How to plate: Before you go out for happy hour, get in a big meal by adding warmed-up chicken over a bed of arugula, a side of sweet potato fries, and a combo of quinoa, black beans, and avocado smothered in hot sauce (if you want). We bet you'll even have leftover fries for those late-night munchies when you get home.

Here's Proof That Photos on Instagram Aren't Always What They Seem to Be

Deep down, we know most of the images we see on Instagram are at least a little staged—the lighting, the angles, the filters. But we still could use a reminder every now and then. That’s why we love fitness blogger Sara Puhto’s recent side-by-side post so much—it shows how a little flexing and posing (not to mention editing) can totally change the way you look.

Here’s what we’re talking about:

It’s tempting to compare our body (stomach rolls and all) to the ones we see in our feed, but that doesn’t mean we should. And we love that Puhto and many others keep reminding us of that.

7 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Work Out at Home When You *Really* Don’t Want To

If getting to the gym is half the battle, it should be easier to just eliminate that half and work out in the comfort of your own home, right?

Well, sort of. Although your place is crazy convenient, it's hard to stay motivated when you're so close to temptation (read: the TV and the couch).

To help you resist said temptation and get in a solid sweat session at home, we went straight to the people who know what it's like: our readers—real people with real lives, real jobs, and really busy schedules just like you. Here they share seven legit tips that'll motivate you to work out at home, even if you don't feel like it.

1. Find your digital fitness fit.

The No. 1 most important thing you can do is find a routine you're actually going to enjoy doing at home. Certain workouts (think equipment-heavy activities) won't translate well. But the good news: It's 2017, and thanks to technology, you have access to an endless amount of at-home exercise options.

Take a moment, think about what types of activities you enjoy, and then do some research. From fitness apps and websites (like this one, ahem) that transform your phone into a personal trainer to live stream videos that turn your living room into a fitness studio, there are plenty of ways to get guidance, motivation, and variety. With a little bit of internet research and soul-searching, you can easily find a fitness routine that will work for you.

"The key for me was finding something I loved doing," says Megan Wakefield of Littleton, CO. "I don't battle myself to do it because I want to do it, and I fully enjoy the process."

Partner Get 30 Days of Free Workouts Need added motivation this winter? Aaptiv is a new app that offers audio-only workouts from top trainers set to music you love. Classes range from strength training and HIIT workouts to yoga and running, so you'll always find something you love. Available at aaptiv.com. Greatist readers get a free 30-day trial using code GREATIST! 2. Pencil it in.

Would you remember to go to your dentist appointment or make it to that weekly meeting if you didn't add it to your calendar? Probably not. The same goes for your workouts. "I schedule it like it's an appointment," says Holly Van Hare of Boston, MA. Prioritize exercise by blocking out time on your calendar and then planning your days and weeks around those blocks.

3. Set your space.

The tricky part about an at-home workout is that—surprise!—your home is not a gym. If you happen to have a gym in your home, lucky you. (Can we come over?) If you're a mere commoner like us, then you'll need to make whatever space you have work. That might mean setting up a mini gym in your basement or simply moving the coffee table over three inches to fit a yoga mat. Whatever you have to move/set up/dismantle, do it well before your scheduled workout (say, the night prior if you plan on getting up and working out), so there are no barriers or excuses. "I make a space for myself that feels like my own personal studio," Van Hare says.

4. Dress for success.

Now more than ever, it's acceptable to wear spandex just about anywhere. Take advantage of the trend and throw on gym clothes as soon as possible, at every given opportunity. Why? Well, one study suggests that simply wearing workout gear can help motivate you to exercise.

"On workdays I come home and change into my workout clothes before anything else, and on weekends I put them on first thing in the morning," says Antoinette Schoenthaler of New York City. "That way I have no excuses later."

5. Go public with it.

Hold the phone—literally. Before you tweet, message, or 'gram your workout plans, read this: You'll have a better chance of actually working out if you keep them to yourself. One study suggests that social recognition makes us less likely to follow through with our intentions.

But after you've crushed your workout, feel free to shout it from the social rooftops. Take a photo #fromwhereyoustand or snap a sweaty selfie. "I find I work harder for that extra satisfaction of sharing my achievement afterwards," Van Hare says. When you share your progress and accomplishments, you'll build a small group of cheerleaders, and you can tap into that satisfied feeling the next time you're on the fence about working out.

6. Use a carrot.

For real, though. It's okay to use small rewards to persuade yourself to work out. Do we hope you're compensating yourself with something as healthy as carrots? Sure. But if it's sometimes pizza, turkey chili, or a salted caramel brownie, that's okay too, because, balance.

"I usually work out right after work, so I hold off on eating dinner until after I’ve knocked out a workout," says Gassaway. "Mentally, it’s a big reward."

If food's not your thing, treat yourself to a new pair of sneakers if you complete all your workouts for a month.

7. Try a halfsie.

When working out at home sounds like the worst thing ever, barter with yourself. "I say I'll do half of what I normally do," Gassaway says. "Then, eight times out of 10, I do the full workout anyway because all I really needed was to get started." And the two times you don't finish? Well, at least you did half, and that's better than nothing.

The Bottom Line

The best way to motivate yourself to work out at home is to find a routine you truly enjoy, so your at-home workout doesn't feel like work. Then, control as many factors as you can to set yourself up for success and make it a habit. Sure, the couch looks damn good when you come home after a long day, but sinking into it will feel so much better after you've earned it.

You Should Never Get Back With an Ex, Unless…

I've seen friends get into relationships that are reminiscent of yo-yo dieting: The couple gets together, they break up, they get together, they break up, start, fail, start, fail. Every time, some small component of their lives haschanged, convincing them that things could be different this time around. But for the most part, these people are still who they were—he'd still rather stay home than go out; she still hates texting him back throughout the day—and it never works out.

This is why I always advise friends to never get back with an ex, despite the fact that every flawed relationship looks so rosy in hindsight, scrubbed of its passive-aggressive arguments and last-minute cancellations. Biology is actually trying to be kind when our brains wipe out unpleasant memories, but that’s a double-edged sword. In this magical hindsight filter, an ex who didn't treat you very well can look pretty awesome.

I’ve had the relationship that started, stopped, and started again—only to stop for good, with some fireworks for good measure. I’ve also had relationships that simply started and ended in tears. So after all I’ve learned, and all the advice I've told my friends, even I was surprised when I got together with my current boyfriend...

Yeah, he’s my ex.

But not every relationship that fizzled initially is doomed to fail a second time. Here’s why this time feels different.

1. The first time around, we were really young...

In the U.S., adulthood may technically start at 18, but our maturity level at that age leaves something to be desired, to say the least. When my boyfriend and I first started dating, we were the ripe old age of 20—not even able to buy a bottle of wine for date night. Our careers were still in the dreaming-planning stage, our parents still financially supported us, and we lived in the bubble that is student housing. We were two people still figuring out how to start our lives, planning our escapes into "the real world." But anticipating the future and actually living it are very different things.

For a relationship to deserve a second chance, the couple shouldn't still be in the same situation they were in the first time around, hoping against hope that some magical thing will be different. But time, distance, and the opportunity to grow can create that necessary change. These days, we're grown-ups who know more about what we want and need from life, so our relationship is able to be more mature as well.

No longer long distance!

2. ...and we were trying to make it work long-distance.

This is a rule I still tell people not to break, because it’s been such a monumental struggle whenever I've broken it. The truth is, dating long-distance hurts. Waiting all day until a video chat, communicating primarily by text, never getting to hold hands or attend events together… none of this is fun. So when my boyfriend and I started dating shortly before we went off to different schools, we braced ourselves for the distance. We did what we could to make it work, and alternated weekends visiting each other. But not only did this adversely affect my relationship with my friends ("Sorry, I can't make it, again…"), it was exhausting. I always felt like I was missing out on both my relationship and my social life.

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So when we got back in touch—years later, with 3,000 miles between us—I knew that this relationship wouldn't work if it were still long-distance. When we were ready, we made the big, game-changing decision to move to the same city. It finally felt like a real shot at being together.

3. When we broke up, we didn't go down in flames.

When we finally decided that the distance was much to bear, we ended things. I’m not going to say the relationship would’ve lasted forever if we hadn't been long-distance, but this external circumstance was definitely the reason we ended things when we did. That meant that when we reignited our relationship, we didn't have any screaming, ugly fights or hair-pulling frustrations coming back to mind. It finally felt like we were meeting in the right time and the right place.

4. We'd never really left our comfort zones.

I think that everybody should move somewhere new and far from home at least once in their life. Whether you grew up in a tiny town or a giant metropolis, there’s an incredible experience to be had by trying something new, and you can learn a lot about yourself that way. The first time my boyfriend and I got together, we were both Californians through and through; we both grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles and traveled only as far as the Bay Area for college. We'd spent pretty much our entire lives within the same state lines. After we broke up, I studied abroad and later moved to the East Coast. He spent months hiking across the country, coming home only to save up for the next great adventure. In that time, we also expanded our occupational boundaries, completely changing our careers. Getting out of our comfort zones undoubtedly helped us grow into our own selves independently, so when we met back up, we each had a greater sense of our individual identities.

Back in the day

5. I’m not thinking about "last time."

I always let people know that we dated before, since I’m bound to tell a story or mention a time from that early year together. But normally, I’m not thinking about it. We don’t say, "I’m so glad we got back together." We just say, "I’m so happy we’re together." Because history or not, the people we are today make this relationship happen. We didn’t even talk for several years after breaking up, so although we have a long history together, we also have long periods of life that don’t involve each other. This gives us a familiar past to share, but the focus is on now… and the now is looking pretty good—especially since we’re not taking selfies with bulky cameras anymore.

Christie is a Seattle-based freelance writer with a deep interest in why we are the way we are, and how we can be a little bit better. She's an LA native, Stanford graduate, relentless vegetarian, and coffee enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter @ChristieBrydon and Instagram @woweezow33.

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