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Gustavo, 31, nurse practitioner, meets Bryan, 34, head of sales

Gustavo on Bryan

What were you hoping for?
At worst, a funny date story and a free dinner. At best, a good time with someone I might not have otherwise met, and a free dinner.

First impressions?
Handsome and punctual.

What did you talk about?
Travel, families, our jobs, hobbies, past relationships, music, food.

Any awkward moments?
Nothing springs to mind.

Good table manners?
Yes, although we had a laugh at this question before we even started eating.

Best thing about Bryan?
Hes relaxed, which makes him easy to talk to; the conversation flowed really well all night.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
I would: I think theyd get on well.

Describe Bryan in three words
Funny, charming, interesting.

What do you think he made of you?
I have no idea. Probably that I talk a lot, which is true.

Did you go on somewhere?
We went to a pub near the restaurant, and had a couple of drinks before getting the tube home.

And… did you kiss?
A gentleman never tells.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
That Id planned better and didnt have to panic-buy date clothes because I didnt have time to go to the flat and get dressed.

Marks out of 10?
9, I had a really nice time.

Would you meet again?
We swapped numbers (and Twitter handles). Id be up for seeing him again, definitely.


Want to be in Blind date?

Blind date is Guardian Weekend magazines dating column: every week, two strangers are paired up for dinner and drinks, and then spill the beans to us, answering a set of questions. This runs, with a photograph we take of each dater before the date, in Guardian Weekend magazine (in the UK) and online attheguardian.comevery Saturday. Its been running since 2009 you can read all about how we put it together here.

What questions will I be asked?
We ask about age, location, occupation, hobbies, interests and the type of person you are looking to meet. If you do not think these questions cover everything you would like to know, tell us whats on your mind.

Can I choose who I match with?
No, its a blind date! But we do ask you a bit about your interests, preferences, etc the more you tell us, the better the match is likely to be.

Can I pick the photograph?
No, but don’t worry: we’ll choose the nicest ones.

What personal details will appear?
Your first name, job and age.

How should I answer?
Honestly but respectfully. Be mindful of how it will read to your date, and that Blind date reaches a large audience, in print and online.

Will I see the other persons answers?
No. We may edit yours and theirs for a range of reasons, including length, and we may ask you for more details.

Will you find me The One?
Well try! Marriage! Babies!

Can I do it in my home town?
Only if its in the UK. Many of our applicants live in London, but we would love to hear from people living elsewhere.

How to apply

Bryan on Gustavo

What were you hoping for?
A fun chat with a funny, clever guy who doesnt take himself (or me) too seriously.

First impressions?
Very handsome and immediately engaged, conscientious, and clearly very intelligent. Great jumper, too.

What did you talk about?
Growing up gay in a small town (cue Bronski Beat), our strange families and their niche faiths, genetic testing kits, what it means to be an LGBTQ+ ally, sports, musicals.

Any awkward moments?
Nothing I noticed.

Good table manners?
His were perfect.

Best thing about Gustavo?
Hes completely present in conversation.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
Sure, but heaven knows what hed make of those heathens.

Describe Gustavo in three words?
Attentive, ambitious, accomplished.

What do you think he made of you?
A tall, scatterbrained geek who has a hard time shutting up.

Did you go on somewhere?
We went to a nearby pub for some beers and whisky.

And… did you kiss?
No just two big hugs on the Victoria line. I misheard which stop was his, and clumsily went in for the hug early. Ah well.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Nothing. I had a great night.

Marks out of 10?

Would you meet again?
As friends, 100%. I dont think there was a romantic spark for either of us.

Gustavo and Bryan ate at Granary Square Brasserie, London N1.

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Kate Christensen, 57, a novelist, met her husband, Brendan Fitzgerald, 37, a screenwriter, in New York. They live in Maine with their two rescue dogs

When Kate walked into a New York bar in October 2008, she wasnt in the mood for a night out. Id left my husband two weeks before and was feeling very low, she says. I had a sprained ankle and was on crutches, but a friend of mine was in town and wanted me to meet her partner. I went to be supportive. It turns out it wasnt the only meeting her friend had in mind. She told me I was about to meet a beautiful man and that I should give him a chance, despite his age.

She was introduced to Brendan and sparks flew immediately. I had no idea there was a 20-year age difference when we started talking, he says. But Id dated older women before, so it wasnt something I would have noticed. Overwhelmed by the chemistry between them, Kate took a step back. I wasnt ready to start anything new and he was so much younger than me.

Brendan watched her hobble away. Our mutual friend said I should chase her and I joked that it wouldnt be hard to catch her.

For the next few months, they continued with their lives. Kate was based in Brooklyn and working as a writer of literary fiction, while Brendan spent the winter alone in a farmhouse in New Hampshire, writing poetry and planning his next career steps. When he returned a few months later, he asked Kate for dinner. Our friend had told me that shed talked about me lots, he says.

Thats totally true, Kate laughs. But I still didnt feel ready. I pretended to be under the weather. Luckily, he didnt give up; the pair met up on his next visit to New York, in March 2009. However, Kate still wasnt prepared to take him seriously, due to the age gap. I was wary of words like cougar being thrown around if we dated. I thought it would just be a one-night stand, so I picked out a sexy outfit. But over dinner they discovered how much they had in common. We come from similar families and we were read the same books when we were little. We both sang medieval renaissance choral music, of all things, says Kate. There was no awkwardness at all during the amazing and unexpected evening.

It was like discovering someone youd always known, says Brendan. We talked about poetry, music and the time just disappeared. The pair became a couple that night and have been inseparable since.

For the first few years of their relationship, they travelled extensively, spending time in New York and New Hampshire. We also went to Europe and New Zealand for writers residencies, says Kate. We would set up our desks together and write next to each other. In 2011, they bought a home in Portland, Maine. We put all our money into the house after that, says Brendan. The couple married in September 2016, after Kates divorce came through. It took a long time, she says. We joke that we met two weeks after I split with my ex and married two weeks after the papers were signed.

Kate loves her husbands intelligence and sense of humour. Even when I think hes dead wrong, he turns out to be right, she says. I love everything about him. It doesnt hurt that hes so handsome, too. Brendan says they are able to be themselves around each other. When you fall in love, its like being on drugs for a few years. The drugs wore off and I found myself even more in love. With a wife who is so brilliant and inspiring, he has never worried about the age gap. I knew I didnt want children, he says. I wanted a marriage where we could focus entirely on our relationship.

The couple split their time between Maine and Los Angeles, where Brendan works as a screenwriter. They live with their two rescue dogs.

Before they met, Kate had always been lonely, she says. When we found each other, I think we were both a little lost. But hes my soulmate and I have never been lonely again since the night we got together.

Want to share your story? Tell us a little about you, your partner and how you got together by filling in the form here.

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Since #MeToo, Frances notoriously liberal attitudes to sex and sexual power are under the microscope as never before, says Natasha Lehrer

A few years ago I spent the weekend in a chteau deep in the rural Auvergne region of central France. Even more memorable than the crumbling property with its hectares of forest and decaying outbuildings, were the two elderly men to whom we were introduced when we arrived, who were enjoying an afternoon gin and tonic in the library. One the father of my friend Guillaume was Guillaumes mothers longtime lover until her recent death. The other was his mothers husband and the owner of the chteau where Guillaume grew up. The two men had remained on excellent terms for 40 years.

The setup had all the ingredients of one of those lyrical French films starring Grard Depardieu, replete with lavish interiors and rhapsodic landscapes looping through the changing seasons. It also ticked every box for lascivious British assumptions about the French, among whom infidelity, at least among the rich, powerful and famous, has long been something of a hallmark of a specifically French insouciance.

Franois Mitterrand famously maintained an extra- marital relationship with Anne Pingeot, which began when she was 20 and he was 47 and continued throughout his presidency. They had a daughter, with whom Pingeot lived in a grand apartment paid for by the state. She remained his mistress until his death in 1996. Indeed, during the entire 20th century, apparently only one French president Georges Pompidou was known to have been faithful to his wife. How the other wives felt about this remains undocumented; the stereotype of the Parisian woman is that she is as discreet as she is chic.

Since #MeToo, French attitudes towards consent and power within relationships both personal and professional have come under the microscope as never before. What was acceptable, even admirable, 20 years ago is now considered beyond the pale. The publication in January of Le Consentement, a memoir by Vanessa Springora, detailing her relationship with the prizewinning writer Gabriel Matzneff when she was 14 and he was in his 50s, was like a bomb going off in the country. Gallimard, which published Matzneffs diaries, hastily announced that it was halting sales of his books and he was stripped of the state-funded grant he had been receiving.

The country that has produced some of the most influential feminist thinkers of the 20th century has a legal system that appears to remain in thrall to the male sexual prerogative. Illustration: Michelle Thompson/The Observer

Matzneff had been hiding in plain sight. For decades he has proudly detailed in his published diaries and essays the underage girls and boys he was having sex with when they should have been doing double maths, and openly talked about his sexual predilections on television chat shows. And he didnt come out of a vacuum. French literature features a sizable library of perversity from the Marquis de Sade to Andr Gide, and Robert Desnos to Georges Bataille, not to mention Serge Gainsbourgs hit Lemon Incest, recorded with his 12-year-old daughter Charlotte in 1984 inscribed in which is the notion of the male artistic genius who, like the aristocrat of the Ancien Rgime, remains above the drab moral conventions that govern the lower orders.

Theres a touch of that in the persistent defence by French artists and intellectuals of Roman Polanski, who has lived in France and continued to make films since he fled the US in 1978 while awaiting sentencing for the rape of a 13-year-old girl. His most recent film, An Officer and a Spy, was one of the biggest critical and box office hits in France in late 2019. In the midst of the Weinstein trial, it has so far failed to find a distributor in the US or the UK.

The Matzneff scandalbrought back to the surface a decades-long debate about consent that, it turns out, remains an unexpectedly controversial subject in France. In 2017, a man, 22, was found not guilty of the rape of an 11-year-old girl by a judge who considered the child to have given her consent. Yet in spite of the nationwide horror at this and other similar cases, the following year the National Assembly voted against bringing statutory rape on to the books (though confusingly it did vote to make it illegal to have sex with a child under 15).

Its a paradox Ive struggled to understand: how is it that a country that has produced some of the most influential feminist thinkers of the 20th century has a legal system that appears to remain in thrall to the male sexual prerogative? I married a Frenchman, have lived here for 15 years, and have French children. In 2018, I became a French citizen. I suppose that makes me feel like I should understand this all a bit better, but it turns out that though I speak French, I dont think in French, and Im going to need some help if I want to begin to decode the myths and realities of the sexy French brand that the puritanical British supposedly admire and even envy.

Im in for the occasional rude surprise. One friend, whose job involves working to increase gender parity in the arts, tells me, in the wake of Matzneff, that she is against the concept of statutory rape. Were turning into a culture thats idiotically prudish. She, in common with a lot of French women Ive spoken to, dislikes the impact of #MeToo for what they consider to be a chilling effect on culture and society. In a recent article in the magazine LObs, historian and psychoanalyst lisabeth Roudinesco accused neo-liberal feminist puritans of seeking to purge French culture of every work of art that might offend public sensibilities.

Disgraced: the former IMF head Dominique Strauss Kahn who attended group sex parties. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

Yet surprise, surprise there is a bleak fallout to this culture. A 2018 documentary, Sexe sans Consentement (Sex Without Consent), features women speaking to the camera about an attack by a male friend. The film ventures into an area that is rarely explored in France: the grey zone where sex is forced, without physical violence, threat or surprise (three of the four conditions for rape in French law, the fourth being coercion). All of the women describe an inability to say no or to fight, how they internalised the sense that they were in some way responsible for what was happening to them.

The film also features young men describing their own take on consent: I find it even more motivating even more exciting! when a girl says no, says one with a cheerful grin. The strategy of interweaving these young mens testimonies with those of the women provides a stark illustration of the failure of education to undo the twin ideals of male conquest and female acquiescence.

These ideals are centralto the quintessentially French notion of seduction, dating back to the 17th century and predicated on a dynamic in which the man is the sducteur, and the womans role is to consent. This, in turn, confers some power on the woman to spurn the man, to flaunt his love, or to exact favours or payment in return for her attentions.

Gallantry is another value inherited from the pre- revolutionary aristocracy that I have been told is inherent in French social dynamics. Karine Peyrsaubes, 50, a local councillor in St-Germain-en-Laye, a market town west of Paris, says: I absolutely believe in equality. But I love what we call la galanterie la franaise. Im not a feminist. Men and women arent the same and we dont want to be treated as if we are.

Her words echo the notorious letter opposing #MeToo, published in 2018 and signed by 100 women (including Catherine Deneuve), defending the right of men to harass women in the name of a tradition of phallocentric seduction. Feeling a little tweedy, I ask another woman in her 50s to decipher the notion of gallantry for me. Its a code of behaviour holding doors open, pulling her chair out, kissing her hand. A way of recognising a certain fragility, something delicate about a woman. Nothing more than that. I like it. Its a way of making you feel like a bit of a princess, that you deserve this attention.

Filmmakers hideaway: Roman Polanski has lived in France since fleeing the US in 1978 while awaiting sentencing for the rape of a 13-year-old girl. Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

I cant help but feel that flattering half the population into feeling like compliant princesses, flattening a womans value into a highly codified physical attractiveness, are potent tools of subjugation. Cultivating that allure has historically been the only way for a woman to stand up to institutional powerlessness still a problem in a country that novelist Lucy Wadham once called one of the last great patriarchies. That vertiginous heel might hobble you, but it can also skewer a man where it hurts.

Its salutary to listen to young women talk about their experiences of gallantry on the streets of Paris. Men hit on me in the street at an absolute minimum once a day, says Anita Farrs, 18, a first-year law student. If you ignore them they immediately begin insulting you, calling you a bitch or a filthy slut. It can be quite frightening. I always carry a little tear gas spray with me when I go out. Its like theres an epidemic of male incivility in France.

Farrs links this to a wider culture that still insists on bringing girls and boys up according to different values. My fathers family is Catholic, really strict. Theres a strong idea that women are supposed to know their place, she says.

Fellow student Lylia Djellal, 19, points to the fact that sex education in school is all about the mechanics of reproduction, nothing on the psychological, emotional aspect. We have lots of lessons about contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, all that, but things to do with consent, respect not at all. Farrs adds that theres so much social pressure. If a boy hasnt had sex by a certain age, hes a loser. If a girls done it too young, shes a slut.

Those judgments are just as likely to come from women as from men, in Farrss experience. Theres not enough solidarity between women. Theyre full of judgment, theres a lot of jealousy. Djellal agrees: Maybe we have to learn to be kind and watch out for each other first, before we expect men to be kind to us. Im moved. I can only tell them I agree. I wonder if the jealousy and judgment among women they mention has any link with a history of relaxed attitudes to sexual fidelity, in which notions of loyalty and friendship must be stretched to breaking point. Even when a friendship weathers the tension, as with my friends parents in the Auvergne, I suspect that in reality such relationships owe their existence to an era when many women didnt work and thus could not afford to leave their husbands, and divorce was extremely frowned upon in a country still largely bound by Catholic values.

Age of innocence: Serge Gainsbourg and his daughter Charlotte, with whom he recorded the hit Lemon Incest when she was 12-year-old. Photograph: Everett Collection/Alamy

Anne Karila-Danziger, 53, a Parisian family lawyer, is adamant there is no more acceptance of adultery in France than anywhere else. Theres certainly more tolerance of peoples private lives, but I dont see it as a tolerance of adultery, and I certainly dont have the sense it reflects the way ordinary people live. I deal with divorce, so its true I see a specific demographic, but from what I see, French people are just as unhappy when their spouses cheat on them as people from any other country.

I ask if partouze (group sex) clubs such as the ones disgraced former IMF head Dominique Strauss Kahn was known to frequent are ever cited in the cases she deals with. I think it came up in one dossier I dealt with, and we still talk about it because we thought it was so funny.

While divorce rates have risen over the decades, domestic violence has reached epidemic proportions. Every three days, a woman is killed by her partner in France, one of the highest rates in Europe. Euriel Fierling, 44, a high school philosophy teacher in a working-class suburb east of Paris, grew up with parents who were both far-left activists. That was the world I was brought up in, the radical feminist wave of the 1970s. But 50 years later, the rates of domestic violence, femicide and rape are sky high. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the feminist movement of the 1970s was highly intellectual. It didnt change anything in wider French society. Here we are, in 2020, talking about femicide. We never made it visible enough. How is that possible?

In fact, continues Fierling, I think the May 68 revolution, the sexual liberation of the 1970s, was more about mens right to sexual freedom than that of women. Since #MeToo, it has been all about womens sexual emancipation. Now, as well as violence against women, everyone is talking about female pleasure. I have never heard that before. I mean, from this September, for the first time, school textbooks will have 3D representations of the clitoris.

Explosive memoir: Le Consentement by Vanessa Springora, published in January, details her relationship with the writer Gabriel Matzneff when she was 14 and he was in his 50s. Photograph: Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images

Karila-Danziger agrees that #MeToo signalled a radical change in France, though she cites different reasons. I really think theres an incredible liberation for women thats been going on over the past two or three years. Its extremely complicated, were seeing a real change in our understanding of love, respect, relationships. One phenomenon that is very specific to France is the law that grants equal custody of children to both parents after divorce. The fact that the father is now expected to be equally involved in the everyday aspects of bringing up his children is huge progress.

Writer Emilie Notris, 40, who describes herself as a queer text worker, is excited by the emergence of the voices of women and racial and sexual minorities disturbing the institutional fabric. Theres a desire for representation that matches the reality of peoples lived experiences.

Fierling is similarly upbeat, impressed by the recent resurgence of feminism among her students. For the whole time I was teaching, up until #MeToo, my students didnt think feminism concerned them at all. I tried to tell them it was an illusion to think the struggle was over, but until the #MeToo movement they werent receptive. In the past couple of years, its completely changed. Young women are extremely sensitive now, they explode at any sign of sexism. Its become a dominant ideology. Now all my students, boys as well as girls, call themselves feminists.

Last week the entire committee of the Csars (the French Oscars) resigned in the wake of a letter signed by 400 actors, directors and others from the French film industry, condemning the organisation as a structure where the majority of members dont see themselves in the choices made in their name, and which in no way represents the diversity of French cinema. This has been widely understood to be a specific reference to the 12 nominations received by Polanskis An Officer and a Spy every eligible category except best actress and best supporting actress. Feminist groups, furious at Polanskis decades-old get-out-of-jail-free card, have been picketing cinemas showing the film; even President Macrons equality minister, Marlne Sciappa, expressed her dismay at the idea of a man convicted of rape getting a standing ovation at the ceremony. There have been the usual grumbles about puritanical feminists, but overall theres been a surprising consensus. In the words of culture minister Franck Reister, in the post #MeToo era, even in France, genius should be no guarantee of immunity.

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Love drugs could soon be a reality, and used alongside therapy to help heal broken relationships, claims a new book

For some time, it has been widespread medical practice to treat a range of psychological conditions, including depression and anxiety, with what might be called mind-altering drugs, namely selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which, as the name suggests, affect levels of serotonin in the brain. But theres one mental category that isnt considered appropriate for any kind of biomedical intervention. Its arguably the most talked about of all human states, the cause of much of our finest art, literature and music, and it is celebrated or, depending on your view, commercially exploited once again on Friday: love.

It may be a many splendoured thing, but love is a condition for which there is famously no cure. All you need is love, as the song said, but money cant buy you it. Its viewed as an emotional ideal and yet the source of untold pain and suffering. Ask any 10 people what love is and youre sure to get 10 different answers. Unsurprisingly, given that it is the stuff of romance, we tend to romanticise it. Millions of words have been spilled in trying to describe the feeling, but not many have been devoted to the biochemical processes that lie behind it.

In their new book, Love Is the Drug, Oxford ethicists Brian Earp and Julian Savulescu point out that this neglected aspect of love is just as important as its social or psychological structures. Intuitively, perhaps, weve always known this. After all, how do we explain the lack of interest felt on a new date? There was no chemistry.

Yet while we have largely come to accept that drugs that affect the brain have a part to play in treating psychological illnesses, the idea that the same approach could apply to love goes against the grain. We think of love as natural and healthy and therefore not something that is in need of what Earp and Savulescu delicately call biomedical enhancement.

The authors, however, argue that its time to change our attitudes and explore the possibilities offered by breakthroughs in biomedicine and neuroscience. If it becomes possible to safely target the underlying neurochemistry that supports romantic attachment, using drugs or other brain-level technologies, they write, then there is reason to think this could help some people who really need it.

They go further and suggest that such drugs have already been partially tested, have been used by huge numbers of people around the world, and should urgently become the subject of controlled research. The problem is the drugs theyre talking about are illegal psychoactive substances such as psilocybin and, in particular, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), the active ingredient in the rave drug ecstasy.

They cite studies that show positive results for the use of MDMA in counselling those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and speculate that similar outcomes might be expected for couples whose relationships have hit the rocks.

But isnt that a bit of an inductive stretch? What does the effect of, say, fighting in Iraq have to do with failing romances? Earp points out that there is already a small study showing how couples in which one partner has PTSD have benefited from the regulated use of MDMA. The way the drug is thought to work on PTSD sufferers, he says, is by breaking down the defence mechanisms that prevent their being able to open up.

Our point is that trauma falls on a spectrum and relationships themselves can be traumatic, he explains. What causes a lot of relationships to break down over time is traumatic or semi-traumatic events that take place either inside or outside the relationship. People start to close down and stop sharing with their partners. Insofar as love requires a certain kind of intimacy, the defence mechanism and the kneejerk fear responses that we build up around talking about certain issues with our partners are the very things that this drug directly enables us to overcome.

As may be gathered from that response, Earp is not interested in bringing biomedical enhancement to first dates, for reasons of what he terms authenticity. He wants to focus on those who have already passed that initial chemistry test and whose love has subsequently become worn and torn by the everyday rigours of life.

If you take a drug that all of a sudden makes you feel much closer to someone than you did five minutes ago, theres a risk that its the drug doing the work rather than some sort of established compatibility between you and the other person, he says. I think it was Timothy Leary who coined the term instant marriage syndrome, where people would meet someone at a dance and think, Ooh, Ive met my soulmate and theyd go and get married and as the drug wore off, and they got to know each other better, they found they didnt actually have good compatibility.

Of course MDMA is best known in this country for its starring role in the so-called second summer of love in 1988, when a generation of rave-goers discovered ecstasy, got loved up and shared the mass euphoria of dancing all night in an urban warehouse or field. The social idealism glimpsed at the beginning of that social movement soon spiralled into hedonistic excess, and it wasnt long before stories of teenage deaths related to taking the drug ruined the utopian dream.

Though largely unheard of in the UK before that summer, MDMA was already technically illegal for more than 10 years under umbrella legislation concerning phenethylamines. In the US, it was not made illegal until 1985. Earp and Savulescu are not now calling for its wholesale legalisation. They acknowledge its potential dangers, particularly if taken in the wrong situation with inadequate support, and argue that it should only be available in a therapeutic setting, under the guidance of a professional.

Kristin Kreuk and Adam Sinclair in Ecstasy, an adaptation of Irvine Welshs 1996 story The Undefeatured, set amid ecstasy users in the rave scene. Photograph: Intandem Films/Allstar

Until 1985, as Love Is the Drug reminds us, MDMA had been used by many relationship counsellors in the US. In 1998, psychiatrists George Greer and Requa Tolbert wrote in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, of their experience of conducting MDMA-enhanced therapeutic sessions with about 80 clients in the first half of the 1980s.

These clients had to give their informed consent and were selected after a pre-screening process. Then Greer and Tolbert would meet the clients in their homes, where they would administer a pure dose of between 77mg and 150mg of MDMA, with a 50mg booster if requested later on (the street drug in the UK is said to contain upwards of 150mg, and occasionally as much as 300mg). According to Greer and Tolbert, 90% of their clients benefited from MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, with some, as Earp and Savulescu write, reporting that they felt more love toward their partners and were better able to move beyond past pains and pointless grudges.

A cynic might say, whats left of love after that? But a more serious point is how to distinguish the relationships that are worth saving or enhancing from those that are fundamentally dysfunctional, when there might be a danger that the temporary high could help disguise the dysfunction.

Earp and Savulescu are careful not to be too prescriptive in their definitions of love, allowing that its pretty much whatever those who declare possession of it say it is. Equally, Earp is on guard for external paternalistic judgments of other peoples relationships. His belief is that there is a monogamy/promiscuity spectrum along which we all fall and that no position on it is more natural than any other. So one-size-fits-all classifications are destined to miss the mark.

I think it would be a mistake to say everyone should be lifelong monogamists, no matter what, and were going to enforce that through the criminal code, he says. But it would also be a mistake to say that were all just bonobos and monogamy is a thing of the past and we should have as many sexual partners as we can find. In the world of meaning, subjective experience and how we relate to each other, theres a lot of room for diverse interpretations of whats valuable.

History has a bad track record of deciding what the right relationship is, says Earp, noting that it was only very recently that homosexual love was brought within the fold of acceptability. But there is one objective criterion to which the pair do hold firm. When it comes to violent abuse, weve drawn a pretty strong line in the sand collectively as a society, he says. That is a very strong signal that its objectively a bad relationship.

The book makes several bold claims that seem the product of marketing needs rather than hardcore scientific fact. For example, it states that the biological underpinnings of romantic love are being revealed and that the prospect of real love drugs is upon us. But there remains a great deal of debate, not to say confusion, about the workings of even such fundamental biological constituents as the hormone testosterone regarding its role in the libido. And as you might expect from professional ethicists, the book is at its most impressive when considering the moral, social and pragmatic issues concerned with scientific development, rather than the details of the development itself.

If and when the aforementioned biological underpinnings are revealed, and we are able to regulate emotions and behaviour through biomedical supplements, does that suggest we will become somehow less autonomous and, consequently, more like a programmable machine?

There are lots of ways we take steps to try to shape ourselves and our self-narratives, says Earp. There are ones that were comfortable with because they dont seem to involve the brain and were a little bit scared of interacting with the brain directly.

But the fact is, he says, even words can affect our brains. He cites the example of the Oedipus myth. One moment hes happily having sex with Jocasta, feeling love towards her, the next he discovers that shes his mother. He hasnt taken any drugs but you can bet that all of a sudden his testosterone levels will plummet and his libido will drop.

Our neurochemistry is changing all the time, says Earp, and one way that can happen is by the direct administration of drugs, which have their own benefits and risks.

We just need to identify those cases where intervening with drugs or psychology or chaining our social circumstance will be likely to improve authenticity or autonomy rather than detract from it.

He speaks with such reasoned composure on the subject that it comes as a surprise to learn that he has never taken MDMA himself.

Ive been interested in that experience but I havent had the opportunity to go forward with that because it remains unjustly and inappropriately prohibited, he says.

The solution, he insists, is open research. In the meantime, well just have to continue fumbling away in the dark, breaking up and making up, trying to understand not just ourselves but the other person at least until the love drug arrives.

Microdosing: the perfect prescription?

In praise of ecstasy
Small studies have found that doses of MDMA can have beneficial effects for ex-military and first-responder PTSD sufferers; however, treatment takes place in controlled environments assisted by psychotherapy. There is no good evidence that recreational microdosing is effective or advisable.

Pot potential
Quality research on the effects of microdosing cannabinoids THC and CBD is nascent. A 2017 study found that very low doses of THC reduce stress, yet higher doses increase anxiety. In other studies, CBD has shown potential in the treatment of insomnia and a range of anxiety disorders.

Spore lore
In a recent episode of Netflixs The Goop Lab, employees of Gwyneth Paltrows wellness company decamped to Jamaica to microdose with magic mushrooms in order to solve various emotional or trauma issues. Although many Silicon Valley types are advocates, there is little high-quality evidence that this is effective.

Love is the Drug by Brian Earp and Julian Savulescu is published by Manchester University Press (20). To order a copy go to Free UK P&P on all online orders over 15

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Jack, 27, theatre revenue analyst, meets Nabil, 28, policy officer

Jack on Nabil

What were you hoping for?
I had no socials to trawl through beforehand then feign surprise that hed been on holiday recently, which was actually really nice. I tried to leave expectations at the door.

First impressions?
Great smile. We had the classic Do we hug or handshake? moment. Im always a hugger.

What did you talk about?
Family, music tastes (I can just about forgive him for dissing Girls Aloud just) and formative gay kisses on Hollyoaks.

Any awkward moments?
Not between us, but we got to chat to people at various stages of drunkenness round us, which is always a good way to convince yourself you are completely sober (we were not).

Good table manners?

Best thing about Nabil?
Id say his warmth, and how openly we were able to chat.

Would you introduce him to your friends?

Describe Nabil in three words
Thoughtful, engaging, sweet.

What do you think he made of you?
We got on well he was definitely a fan of my dancing, and we had a lot of shared interests.

Did you go on somewhere?
We stayed until closing, then had a good dance in a little bar nearby. Then we went back to mine

And… did you kiss?
Yup. Quite a bit.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
The place was so loud that I think we had the same conversations a few times over, but we managed.

Marks out of 10?
I think Id give it a 7? Im terrible at ratings. (My hangover was a 10/10.)

Would you meet again?
Happily, I had a really good time. I feel like it might be more of a friend thing though for me.

Nabil on Jack

What were you hoping for?
A free meal and a Call Me By Your Name-type romance. But mostly a free meal.

First impressions?
What a great moustache.

What did you talk about?
Living in London, theatre, books, characters we had played in school plays, our respective love and disdain of X-Men.

Any awkward moments?
I went in to greet him with a handshake and he went in for a hug. The waiter later told me he thought it was a cute moment.

Good table manners?
Excellent; he kept my wine glass generously topped up. He came round and sat closer to me when the surrounding noise became too loud.

Best thing about Jack?
He was very passionate about the things he talked about, but he also just seemed like a really fun guy.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
I think they would probably prefer him to me.

Describe Jack in three words
Handsome, creative, articulate.

What do you think he made of you?
Probably a nerdy northerner with a funny hair colour and an over-fondness for free wine.

Did you go on somewhere?
We bought several pints at a nearby bar, then danced the night away together.

And… did you kiss?

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I somehow managed to fall asleep on his sofa, and not in his bed.

Marks out of 10?
A solid 8.

Would you meet again?
I would indeed!

Jack and Nabil ate at Lost in Brixton, London SW9. Fancy a blind date? Email

If youre looking to meet someone likeminded, visit

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Phil is the happiest person I know, because he never gets bored

Mary Rose Young, 61

Phil and I met and married in the same year, 24 years ago. Three and a half years later, in 1999, he had an aneurysm while we were jogging. He is a musician and had been on a world tour with Iggy Pop; now he cant follow a tune all the way through because his short-term memory is affected.

Hes the happiest person I know, because he never gets bored. He goes from playing his instruments to making coffee, then doing word puzzles. Because of his lack of short-term memory, hes always starting everything afresh. So I call him Five-second Phil. He gets it. Humour is a great crutch for us.

Im a potter and my workshop adjoins our home. I have about six people working with me, which was great in the early years, when my life was thrown into chaos: there were others here who could look out for him. Sometimes I imagine he gets lonely, but he doesnt he really has no concept of it. If were stuck in traffic and Im grumpy, he doesnt realise how long weve been there. And I just look at him and think, well, if youre happy, then Im happy. What I learn from Phil is the joy of living in the moment.

Phil Butcher, 61

Im Five-second Phil! My short-term memory is totally gone. Well, that was my experience of going jogging, anyway. I love doing crosswords and Scrabble. Mary Rose and I usually have a game at lunchtime. I see her during the day, though; I visit her in her workshop. I also like being in my own workspace in the music studio. I used to be a musician. I can still play, but not professionally. I am a man of very simple pleasures.

If you have a story to tell about who you live with, fill in this form and tell us a little about your set-up.

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Even when they grow up, some girls still sometimes daydream about being princesses and having perfect fairytale weddings. Well, one lucky gal, Sthuthi David, is on her way to the wedding of her dreams after an incredibly romantic and creative (and slightly geeky) proposal from her boyfriend, Lee Loechler. Hold on to your seats because this is amazing.

Lee proposed to his GF Sthuthi in a movie theater after spending the last half-a-year animating them both into her favorite movie ‘Sleeping Beauty.’ The scene is about Prince Lee proposing to Princess Sthuthi.

“It’s not every day you get to propose to your high school sweetheart,” that’s what Lee said when he got down on one knee and proposed to the love of his life. She said yes! And the video of the proposal went viral on the net with over 1.1 million views and counting. Scroll down for Bored Panda’s interview with Lee.

Lee proposed to his GF Sthuthi by animating them both into her favorite film, ‘Sleeping Beauty’

Image credits: Lee Loechler

Lee’s girlfriend looked confused when she saw that one of the scenes was different

Image credits: Lee Loechler

Image credits: Lee Loechler

Image credits: Lee Loechler

Image credits: Lee Loechler

Image credits: Lee Loechler

Image credits: Lee Loechler

Bored Panda reached out to Lee and here’s what he had to say. “A few years back, a friend of mine told me he was planning to propose to his then-girlfriend, and I suggested he should “Forrest Gump” himself into her favorite movie, and then have his on-screen character “toss” the ring to his real-life self. I don’t know where that idea came from, but it felt fun and magical, and it played into my skill set as a filmmaker. He didn’t think it was right for him, so I filed it away for later use.”

Lee got down on one knee and proposed

Image credits: Lee Loechler

Image credits: Lee Loechler

Image credits: Lee Loechler

“When things started getting serious with Sthuthi, I started thinking about how I might propose. I still thought that idea had potential, but her favorite movie was animated. And my experience was all in live-action. I know some After Effects, but I am by no means an animator, let alone capable of generating something that would hold up side-by-side with Disney. But, on a whim, I scrubbed through Sleeping Beauty and noted that in the climactic scene there was very little movement. Maybe, if it’s mostly static, I can still pull this off. I went on Instagram and started following various Disney art hashtags, hoping to find an illustrator who was up to the task. It wasn’t until I stumbled on Kayla’s work that the first inkling set in that “this might be possible after all…”

Sthuthi was ecstatic when she realized the movie theater was full of her friends and family members

Image credits: Lee Loechler

Image credits: Lee Loechler

According to Lee, he had all of Sthuthi’s friends and family show up early at the movie theater. “Anyone she might recognize was seated in the back few rows. I worked with the projectionist to make sure all ambient lighting would be off when she entered, to help conceal the familiar faces. Unfortunately, the projector was so bright that the light from the screen still illuminated the whole room. To combat this, we decided to show trailers ahead of the film, which we manually darkened so there wouldn’t be as much light spill onto the audience. So at 7:30 PM when we walked into the room together, it was nice and dark as we found our seats.

“I’m sure there will be Disney elements to the wedding, but we’re still in the nascent stages of planning. That said, if Disney wants to chalk it up as marketing dollars and hook us up with an Aulani honeymoon, we are for sure not above selling out.”

Lee spent the last 6 months getting his proposal just right

Image credits: Lee Loechler

The scene that Lee changed with the help of illustrator Kayla Coombs was the one where Prince Phillip kisses Princess Aurora on the lips to awaken her. Only in the changed version, Prince Lee takes out a box with a ring and then tosses to real-life Lee who catches it.

We don’t know how many times Lee practiced doing everything perfectly, but we can say for sure that he pulled it off wonderfully. Cardiologist Sthuthi is one lucky girl!

Last year was the 60th anniversary of ‘Sleeping Beauty’s’ release. But you might find it strange to learn that ‘Sleeping Beauty’ wasn’t successful initially when released back in 1959. However, over time, it was re-released many, many times and became a big hit.

Critics praised ‘Sleeping Beauty’ for its colors, music, and charm, but some said that the animated film is too similar to ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’ And there’s a very good reason for that. Some parts of the story were initially ideas from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ that were discarded. Including Maleficent capturing Prince Phillip to the escape from her castle.

Dear Pandas, what did you think of Lee’s proposal? Are you at least a little bit jealous of Sthuthi (but in a totally good way)? Would you love to do something similar or do you have some other romantic ideas for a proposal? Let us know in the comments!

People adored how much effort Lee put into the incredibly romantic proposal

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Sleep better, get fit, be kinder and improve your carbon footprint with these simple fixes


Use your voice
The number one thing that people can do, says Libby Peake, senior policy adviser at the Green Alliance, is to press your representatives to hold politicians to account over their environmental promises. Also, onsider switching your pension and bank accounts to companies that dont invest in fossil fuels. If done on a collective basis, Peake says, this will send a clear message to businesses and governments that this is important to people.

Avoid anything single use
Think beyond plastic, says Peake. In a lot of instances, people are switching from single-use plastic to unnecessary single-use wooden cutlery, paper straws or aluminium cans, she says. But those materials will also have an impact on the environment.

If everybody started doing insect-friendly things, it could have a real impact on insect populations. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Let bugs live
Gardens total
5% of UK land, says Peake, so if everybody started doing insect-friendly things, it could have a real impact on insect populations. Cutting out pesticide use, growing insect-friendly plants and refraining from lawn mowing are encouraged.

Shop vintage more often than not
The clothing industry creates more emissions than aviation and shipping combined, says Peake. If you buy secondhand clothing, or at least invest in better-quality items, you will make a real impact on the climate crisis and pollution. No vintage stores or bountiful charity shops nearby? Shop online from Oxfam, Rokit, Beyond Retro and Brag, among a host of others.

Explore flight-free holiday options
By not flying anywhere, says Peake, you can drastically reduce your CO2 emissions and still have a great time. She points out that the UK has 15 stunning national parks. Research rail travel to European destinations, consider Interrailing and house-swapping schemes at destinations reachable by rail or road.

Fear not the used electric car market
If you need a car, the Green Alliance has gathered reassuring data on the used electric vehicle (EV) market; because of lower running and maintenance costs, used EVs work out cheaper over five years of ownership. If you own a high-emissions car like an SUV, even exchanging it for one with a conventional petrol engine, five rungs down the car-tax brackets, would cut your driving emissions by more than a third, while halving your road tax. But, says Green Alliance policy director Dustin Benton, the smarter thing to do is to buy a second- or thirdhand EV, and lower your carbon footprint by two thirds.

Buy refurbished or remanufactured electronics
A little like refurbishing, remanufacturing is a factory-based process where electronics are returned to as-new quality, and resold with a warranty, Peake says. Look out for remanufactured goods becoming more commonplace over the coming year, and in the meantime, buy more refurbished and reconditioned electronics. Most come with decent warranties; chances are youll get something as good as new, a lot cheaper. Every new electronic item that makes it to market, says Peake, creates vast amounts of waste. Smartphones, for example, contain 100g of minerals, but miners must dig through 30kg of rock to find it, according to a Greenpeace report. And Friends of the Earth, she says, estimates that each smartphone requires 12,760 litres of water (160 baths).

Plan your meals
Minimising food waste is a good way to reduce carbon impacts, says Myles McCarthy, director of implementation at the Carbon Trust. Buy only what you will eat and home compost your food waste. If it ends up in landfill, it can produce the greenhouse gas methane. Meal planning and shopping lists are key, says Peake, and will make your life a lot easier. Look for batch-cooking ideas online to save time and energy.

Make meat a treat
While going vegan is ideal, even reducing your meat and dairy consumption can have a big impact, McCarthy says. Beef and lamb are the biggest offenders, and most dairy products are likely to have substantially higher carbon footprints than vegetables. Analysis from the Green Alliance shows that the UK could get on track for zero carbon from land use if we ate 30% less red meat by 2030, combined with other measures. In his book We Are The Weather, Jonathan Safran Foer suggests cutting out meat and dairy until dinnertime, but any reduction is worthwhile, says Peake. Dont let feeling guilty for not going fully vegan stop you.

Adopt a jumper-first policy
Its an oldie but a goodie, says Peake: Put on a jumper before you reach for the heating thermostat. Households are much warmer now than they were in the 1970s. People used to manage in colder rooms.


Go to bed on time
Respect your circadian rhythm by going to bed and getting up at regular times, says Guy Meadows, managing partner at the Sleep School. By doing this, youre more likely to wake up at the right time in your sleep cycle, which means youre more likely to feel refreshed. Wherever your daily sleep requirements sit in the ideal range of between seven and nine hours for adults, keeping a regular sleep-wake cycle impacts everything from appetite hormones to your heart rate and your blood pressure.

Declutter your bedroom
Your bed is for sleep and sex only, says Renata Riha, consultant in sleep and respiratory medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Its not for watching television, knitting, reading for hours on end, or eating. Your bedroom should be a space that invites sleep. Declutter, she says, step by step, drawer by drawer.

Switch off from work earlier
Disengaging from work, email and your phone for at least an hour prior to bed can be helpful, says Riha, who is also co-director of Sleep Consultancy Ltd. Meanwhile, put some thought into activities that help you wind down. She suggests a hot shower an hour before bed, because when you get out, your body will cool to an optimal sleep temperature. Or, sharing your problems, if you can, with an engaged and sympathetic listener.

Dine a little earlier
Eating acts as another marker that tells your brain its still time to be awake, Meadows says. It helps to leave at least a couple of hours between eating and sleeping. Were designed, he adds, to do our eating within a 12-hour window each day and then fast for the following 12. But most of us actually spread our eating over 15 hours.

Take 10 deep breaths
If youre chronically stressed, you can get into a vicious cycle where stress ruins your sleep, and then tiredness exacerbates the stress. Taking 10 deep breaths can be a simple way to take you out of that fight-or-flight state, Meadows says. Socialising is another powerful way to relieve stress.

Become less dependent on sleep aids
If you ask a normal sleeper what they do to sleep, says Meadows, theyll say, nothing. Whereas if you ask an insomniac, theyll give you a list as long as their arm. He observes that for many, its their extreme efforts to try and control their insomnia that push their sleep further away; sleep aids, from ear plugs or lavender pillows to Night Nurse or diazepam, erode trust in your ability to nod off naturally. Meadows says you should start by identifying these mental crutches. He uses mindfulness to help clients view their fears of sleeping without aids as just noise in their heads.

Give your overactive mind a name
Learn how to lean in to the brain chatter that keeps you awake, Meadows says, by giving your mind a name: It could be the inner critic, head of drama, the Death Star. This, he says, can transform the way you relate to your own mental events.

Dim all lights an hour before bed
Light is one of the most powerful circadian synchronisers, Meadows says. Reduce the brightness on your telly, phone or iPad. Its about proximity as well. One of the problems with devices is that we hold them really close, directed straight into our eyeballs and their light-sensitive cells.

Make midday your caffeine cutoff
For optimum sleep architecture, which means getting the right amounts of light, deep and REM sleep, stopping caffeine at midday is the place to start. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours, and a quarter-life of 12 hours, so even quitting at midday leaves you a quarter caffeinated beyond bedtime (unless you keep unusual hours). Many beverages and foods contain caffeine, so check the label, adds Riha. Usual suspects include chocolate, or chocolate or coffee-flavoured desserts and cereals, that bedtime mug of cocoa and some headache medications.

Take your sleep disorder seriously
If you suspect that you or your bed partner (or any other cohabitee) has a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnoea, snoring, restless legs syndrome or insomnia, make a doctors appointment, says Riha.

Bringing video evidence of a sleep disorder to a health professional is, he says, worth a thousand words and allows them to make the right diagnosis or referral.


When weve known someone for a long time, its easy to make assumptions about what theyre thinking or feeling, or what they mean. Photograph: Getty Images

Check your assumptions
When weve known someone for a long time, its easy to make assumptions about what theyre thinking or feeling, or what they mean.
Relationship coach and author Sam Owen suggests asking more questions instead, especially during arguments.

Be kind
Know what your partner likes and use that information to be kind, says Ammanda Major, head of service quality and clinical practice at Relate. Take time to speak and listen. Being kind can simply mean showing interest, even when youre not that interested in, say, someone elses office politics (you should expect the same in return).

Give someone space
Remember that people do need a little bit of separate space, says Major. No one has a right to expect instant responses. Give people time to reflect and dont demand instant answers.

Write thank you notes
Everyone likes to be appreciated, including work colleagues, says Joel Garfinkle, executive coach and author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps To Take Your Career To The Next Level. Thank people for their work, whether theyre above you, below you, or at peer level, he says. As well as handwritten notes, email or voicemail thank yous will strengthen bonds between you and your colleagues, says Garfinkle.

Root out one-upmanship
Whether you are friends, colleagues or lovers, Major says, its very easy to slip into one-upmanship over who has had the worst day. The reason is usually because we feel unheard: Why do I need to keep telling you Ive had such an awful day? Because I dont think youve responded to me in a way that lets me know you understand.

Use I statements
If you moan to someone about their actions, Major says, youre probably going to create a defensive situation. Whereas if you say, I felt really sad when we had that row and I would really like us to talk more about it, nobody can argue with that: its how you feel and youre appropriately sharing it.

Level with new love interests
Be as clear as you can about what you want from a relationship, Major says. If youve struggled with previous relationships, she suggests, sometimes it can be very helpful to get some counselling, to help you reflect on whats important to you.

Be choosy
Socialising is linked to increases in happiness, and being around the good people in your life is energising, Owen says. But people who knock your self-esteem can have the opposite effect. She recommends pruning these draining relationships. Trust the visceral feelings that you get in your body that tell you if you feel good or bad in someones presence.

Give a little
Giving has been linked to increases in resilience and happiness, even if its costly, says Owen, whose latest book is Happy Relationships: 7 Simple Rules To Create Harmony And Growth. Giving can mean many things, from giving your time to an elderly neighbour, or helping your parents more, or giving something to somebody who is homeless.

Try biting your tongue
This is not to suppress expressing your feelings, but rather, learning to become more reflective than reactive. If something bothers you, Owen says, watch it over time. Do something that regulates your emotions. Go for a walk (which can help problem solve), listen to some music. This gives you time to consider how to frame the issue in more productive language.


Put times in the schedule when you can be active. Photograph: Getty Images

Monitor yourself
Susan Michie, professor of health psychology at University College London, says that being your own scientist and collecting data, through regular weighing or wearing a fitness monitor, is a proven route to success. If you dont collect data about yourself, its unlikely that youre going to notice what works for you.

Use visual prompts
If you want to start a fitness habit, its important to leave visual nudges for yourself. Even something small like putting your running trainers by the door, suggests Emma Norris, research fellow for the Human Behaviour Change Project at University College London.

Make if then plans
If Im going to work, then Ill pack some fruit in my bag. Or, If it rains on a running day, then Ill do a YouTube workout instead. Plans like this, says Norris, reduce the option for you to opt out, by programming yourself to think that this is what you would always do in that situation.

Temper your goals
As tempting as it may be to try to do everything at once, setting attainable goals is key, says Margie Lachman, professor of psychology at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. It is hard to make a big change all at once. Small increments are helpful. If you get a pedometer, for example, Norris recommends upping your existing step count by 10% each week.

Give up less easily
Theres some evidence that the time taken to form a habit ranges from 18 days to 254 days, depending on the person and the behaviour, says Norris. So if it doesnt stick quickly, be persistent and use the strategies listed here to help you.

Reward yourself
When you reach those little milestones, Norris says, think creatively about what a healthy reward would be for you: seeing a friend, reading a book youve been meaning to read, or whatever works for you that isnt the obvious cake.

Try a free workout
The NHS website has a virtual fitness studio, says Norris, with a range of free workouts ranging from 10-45 minutes, across aerobics, strength training, pilates, dance and more. YouTube, she says, is chock-a-block with free programmes and videos: Joe Wickss The Body Coach is my personal go-to for 15-20 high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. She recommends trying a variety.

Sneak activity into everyday life
If you are busy and live by your calendar, Lachman says, put times in the schedule when you can be active. Take extra steps rather than shortcuts; walk the stairs instead of getting the lift, park further away from the destination, take a walk during a one-on-one meeting.

Make exercise social
Accountability helps, Lachman says, so let others know you are trying to be more active. Share your accomplishments on social media. Find an activity partner or walking group.

Stand up every 30 minutes
So many of us are chained to our desks every day, says nutrition and fitness author Louise Parker. If you make getting up every 30 minutes or so a habit, not only will it keep you moving, but it can help give your brain a refresh.


A green smoothie is a great way to top up your intake of fruit and vegetables. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Separate mealtimes from screen time
If youre watching TV, scrolling through Instagram or checking your emails, youre not paying much attention to what youre eating, Parker says. The result: you are more likely to eat more, but will feel less full for it.

Make smoothies
For those who struggle to eat enough vegetables, a green smoothie that has at least two portions of veg and one of fruit is a great way to top up your intake, Parker says.

Plan your work food
Were more likely to choose unhealthy foods outside the home. Look at your schedule at the start of the day, advises Parker, and plan meals and snacks, avoiding long gaps when you might feel excessively hungry.

Eat more protein (if you want to lose weight)
The longer something takes to digest, the farther down the gut it will go and the fuller it will make you feel, says Giles Yeo, principal research associate, MRC metabolic diseases unit, Cambridge University and author of Gene Eating: The Story Of Human Appetite. Any protein whether its from meat, beans or other plant sources
takes longer to digest than fats or carbs, he says. Peanuts, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are good protein sources, along with soya products such as tofu and soy milk.

Stop blindly counting calories
The energy load from ingredients varies wildly according to how theyre prepared, plus we all metabolise foods differently, so counting calories isnt much use. If you eat 100 calories worth of sweetcorn and then you look into the loo the next day, its painfully obvious you have absorbed nowhere close to that, says Yeo. But if you eat tortillas made of dried and ground corn, he says, a far greater percentage of the calories become available. Cooking releases more calories in many foods, too, which is why, says Yeo, people lose weight on raw vegan diets.

Focus less on restrictions
Try and focus on what nutrition you can add to your diet, instead of cutting out or restricting food, says Aisling Pigott, NHS and private dietitian, and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. Add flavours with plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and protein, she says. If your favourite meal is spaghetti bolognese, try switching to a sensible portion of brown pasta, bulking the sauce out with vegetables and mixing in different recipes (such as a lentil bolognese).

Dont skip meals
Regular meals are key to building a healthy relationship with food, says Pigott. Stabilising our eating patterns allows us to make positive food choices, whereas skipping meals, or going long periods without eating can lead to overriding our bodies hunger and fullness cues. The trouble with being so busy that we dont stop, she says, is that it can be difficult to recognise these cues, making us more likely to overeat.

Stop and enjoy every meal
Whether you are eating broccoli or biscuits, Pigott says, taking time to taste and enjoy what you are eating is as nourishing as the food you are putting in your body.

Prioritise herbs and spices over salt
Salt is not the only way to make a meal sing with flavour, and as Pigott points out, many of us are consuming too much of it. Salt intake can increase the risk of raised blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Make cooking from scratch easier
As a protective measure against the added sugars in ready meals, Pigott recommends arming yourself with quick and easy recipes. I love Jack Monroes Tin Can Cook book, which has some wonderful store cupboard staples, she says. Swapping recipe ideas with friends and family, she says, can be really motivating. Anything more than a small glass of juice (150ml) will slosh extra sugar into your diet, but will not provide health benefits, says Pigott.

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Isla Rae-Smith, 23, is a teacher and Valente Saavedra, 25, is a dancer. They live in Mrida, Mexico

In May last year, Isla Rae-Smith was cycling to the English school where she works in Mrida, in Mexicos Yucatn peninsula. She stopped at a red light and Valente Saavedra pulled up next to her. He had speakers on his bike, says Isla. Id always wanted to listen to music on my bike, but I was too scared of wearing headphones when I was cycling on the roads. I said: Good idea, in Spanish.

The lights changed and she cycled off, but Valente caught up with her. They stopped at a roundabout, about to go off in separate directions. Valente asked her name, saying he would add her on Facebook.

What did she like about him? He was definitely an interesting character. He was listening to quite heavy music; he had earrings and sunglasses. I was attracted to the strangeness of him, maybe. She laughs. I guess he looked different. Valente says he was really nervous, because I had to go to my school and I was late, but I saw Isla and I thought: Oh wow, shes beautiful. School can wait, no problem. He was delighted she spoke Spanish, although he assumed she was a tourist and would be leaving in a week or so. Did he plan to see her again? I thought: I need to say something. I need to ask her name and her number.

Isla got to her school and told her friend about the man she had met. I felt it was something out of the ordinary. I wasnt looking for anything. I had just come out of a long relationship, but it just sort of happened.

The next night, Isla and her friends, including the one she had told about Valente, were at a bar. The friend spotted him. I said: Oh my God its the boy on the bike, says Isla. It was a strange coincidence. I was really excited. And I was a bit drunk as well.

She approached him; Valente says he was really surprised. He was with a friend he had already told about meeting Isla. I was on the dancefloor and Isla is in front of me, really excited. He had added her on Facebook the day they met. I sent her a sticker of two cats on a motorbike. Isla said: Why didnt you write to me? I said: I did I sent a sticker. She said: No, thats not writing.

They talked for a couple of hours about music, film, their interests then Valente invited her back to his friends house. She went, but soon left. I didnt want it all to happen that night. I went home and the next day he messaged me inviting me to his house. A few months later, she says: Valente said: I never asked you, by the way do you want to be my girlfriend? We were together, but I guess we became official.

Islas contract with the school finished in August, but she stayed on in Mexico because of Valente. They moved in together about a year ago. Were not really sure whats going to happen, she says. Were going to go back to stay with my family in Sussex in November for a few months, then Valente has to come back to Mexico because hes part of a dance company and theyre doing a tour. We dont know whats going to happen; we dont really talk about it because every time we do its a bit stressful.

One of the things she likes about Valente, she says, is that he just gets up and goes. If Valente says hes going to do something, he does it, usually straight away. Hes really creative and funny. I just feel really comfortable around him, that I can say and do anything. I really feel that Im myself with him.

Shes very energetic, says Valente. Her energy is like a bomb. She is always suggesting things to do. I can discover different things about myself.

It was such a chance meeting, says Isla. The window of opportunity in which we met was really a few seconds. If the light had been green, we probably wouldnt be here. Valente must be pleased to have decided to catch up with her once she sped off, I say. He smiles and says: On her birthday, I gave her a new bicycle.

Want to share your story? Tell us a little about you, your partner and how you got together by filling in the form here.

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Some wear their hearts on their sleeves for the entire world to see. Others hide their emotions much better and keep their thoughts secret. However, no matter who we are, what we do, and how well we may hide it, we all have inner monologues that reveal our true feelings.

Cartoonist Tommy Siegel draws witty comics featuring candy hearts that resonate very well with people because they show our honest feelings which we might be scared to share with everyone else. A lot of us would probably agree that we’ve had some of these thoughts running through our minds at least once or twice in our lives. Upvote your favorite cartoons, keep scrolling and let us know in the comments what you enjoyed most about the comics.

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However, candy hearts are far from the only thing Tommy likes to draw — he has a wide repertoire of cartoons that drew in more than 83,400 followers on Instagram and another 54,500 on Facebook.



“I hail from Richmond, Virginia. But for the last ten years, I’ve been based in Brooklyn, New York,” Tommy told Bored Panda in an interview. “I’ve been a full-time musician for most of my adult life in the band Jukebox the Ghost, so cartooning as a serious pursuit is still pretty new for me!”



“I’m self-taught, aside from some drawing lessons in elementary school. I kinda put drawing on hold for a couple of decades while I was focusing on music, but returned to cartooning recently,” Tommy explained about his relationship with art. “My drawing skills increased dramatically in the last couple of years. A few weeks ago, I completed a challenge to draw a comic every day for 500 days! It was… an insane thing to do and incredibly difficult, but it definitely helped me develop a voice and challenged me to become a better artist.”



Tommy also told Bored Panda that his “style swings wildly — I try not to pin myself down. The candy hearts series was part of the 500-day project, so they were interspersed with political cartoons and some totally dumb stuff.”

“When I’m not drawing candy hearts comics, I definitely draw a lot of butts,” he jokes. “So I guess I would describe my current style as “lots of butts and sometimes candy hearts.”



“I drew a comic for Valentine’s Day with candy hearts on a movie date. I noticed it really seemed to resonate with people and realized that the idea of candy hearts having their inner monologues printed on them was a great setup to try again.”

The artist further elaborated about his cartoons: “Sometimes they’re just light and funny, but my favorites are the ones that get at something deeper about human emotions.”

“I don’t think of them as being unromantic, personally. I just think it’s a good format to draw attention to people’s inner lives, which are often in contrast to the way they appear from the outside,” he added about the candy heart comics.



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The Better Health Channel writes that it’s important to communicate clearly in relationships because nobody’s a mind-reader. That’s why we should all find the time to talk without any modern distractions like TV or smartphones, accept responsibility for our feelings, genuinely listen to others without butting in, and avoid the desire to always be right.









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