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9 Hacks That Make Calorie Counting A Breeze

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The way many people do it, calorie counting can sometimes be boring, laborious, and downright discouraging. But note that I said “sometimes,” not “always.” Controlling calories doesn’t have to be difficult, and it is perhaps the most powerful tool we have for troubleshooting nutrition.

Maybe you’ve never done it because it seems overwhelmingly complicated, but it can actually be quite simple. Use these easy tips to improve your eating habits and see results without getting bogged down in numbers.

1. Start With How You Actually Eat

No matter where your fitness journey takes you, the nutritional part of it should start where you are now. Create a simple meal plan based on the way you already eat, without making any big changes or thinking about calorie targets yet. Ignore the “daily goal” that apps or calculators will set for you, and don’t worry about BMR and TDEE equations yet.

Quick and Dirty Calorie Counting

Remember, we’re going quick and dirty. Just put together the amount of food you know will get you through the day. If you’re going to make any changes at this point, make them qualitative, not quantitative. In other words, stick largely to whole foods, eliminate totally junky processed items, and do your best to keep sugar fairly low.

2. Use an App

Thanks to modern technology, counting calories no longer has to involve much actual counting. Apps like MyFitnessPal calculate calories for you. You can also put foods together into meals, which is a huge time saver.

Have an activity tracker? Use the built-in calorie tracker that lets you see calories in versus calories out, not just totals. It won’t be 100 percent accurate—especially if you lift and use a basic tracker that just counts steps—but it will be inaccurate in a consistent way, giving you a reliable baseline.

But here’s the key: Be honest and log everything.

3. Identify Obvious Patterns

A common reason meal plans fail is that we tend to underestimate how much we consume during cheats. Maybe your “occasional treat” has become an everyday thing, or what you thought was 200 calories of Greek yogurt is more like 500.

Quick and Dirty Calorie Counting

It’s shockingly easy to more than double your calorie intake, which is why counting calories is so much more effective than just writing down what you eat in a food journal. If you see big spikes, consider finding different delicious foods to indulge in.

Inevitably, you will have days where you don’t stick to the template—whether it’s a planned cheat day or a spontaneous night out with friends. Pay attention to what else is going on when you eat more than you planned. Do wings and fries always come after beer, despite your best intentions? Alcohol impairs our ability to make good food choices, so it might be worth limiting the days you drink.

If you find you’re not eating enough to stay satisfied on a day-to-day basis, look for places to add some satiating protein and healthy fats to your template.

4. Establish Your Baseline, Then Adjust

After tracking your intake for a few days, you’ll probably see it fall into a consistent range. This is your baseline.

If you feel good sticking to the plan, (you aren’t too hungry, and you aren’t seeing any changes in your body composition) the template you’ve created is close to your true caloric maintenance needs. From here, you can play around with things.

Think you need to cut calories? Try reducing your portion sizes, or look for places you can swap oils, nuts, dairy, or grains for less calorie-dense options. Hungry all the time? You might not be eating enough. Try raising your baseline or throwing in an occasional refeed day.

At this point, you can designate targets for daily calorie totals. Try shooting for 100-500 calories below or above your baseline, and see how it makes you feel. If you use an activity tracker app, you can decide on a goal range for your daily calorie deficit or surplus.

5. Build Around a Few Core Meals

Trying to figure out the exact ingredient measurements for each meal and writing it all down can make calorie tracking time consuming. A more time-efficient approach is to structure your diet around a few essential meals that are easy to track and prepare the same way every time. This helps remove the guesswork and cuts down on data entry.

Quick and Dirty Calorie Counting

No, this doesn’t mean you have to—or should—eat the same thing all the time. Far from it! But having a basic lineup of meals with numbers and ingredients you know by heart makes everything easier.

It might sound boring, but you could even try to eat the same thing daily for a while. Doing this means you’ll only have to enter 3-6 meals into the app once. And speaking from personal experience, the repetition can be satisfying if you pick things you like to eat.

Don’t try to be too perfect, though. Healthy eating shouldn’t be about depriving yourself. If having a slice or two of cheese at lunch helps you get through the day, do it.

6. Get Familiar With Pre-portioned Foods

When it comes to switching from eyeballing your portions to measuring them, pre-portioned foods can be a lifesaver. I’m not talking about single-serving bags of chips, but the rule that food needs to come without nutrition labels to be nutritious isn’t always true.

Yes, packaged foods often cost a bit more than bulk produce or meat, but if you ain’t got time for #mealprepsunday, choosing healthy pre-packaged items can save you time and energy. Their nutrition content is marked right on the package, and they’re probably already listed in your app’s food database. Good picks to help kick off your meal-prep journey include individual packets of nuts, protein bars, chicken sausages, burger patties, jerky, canned tuna, sliced deli meats, eggs, protein powder, and single-serving cups of guacamole, hummus, and peanut butter.

Quick and Dirty Calorie Counting

Once calorie tracking stops feeling like a struggle, you can start making more meals from scratch. Initially, though, your goal should be to avoid getting overwhelmed by doing what makes life easier.

7. Have Your Staple Meals Pre-loaded in Your App

This is a serious pro tip! If you know what you’re going to eat, logging it the long way is time better spent elsewhere. Save your meals, and all you have to do is click on “Breakfast” to autofill your oats, protein powder, and eggs. Some apps will even let you autofill an entire day.

Over time, you may change some aspects of your meals, but memorizing the essentials and knowing their numbers will help you learn to eyeball food portions, which will help you stick to your approach over the long term.

8. Don’t Just Focus on Calories

Weight loss has a lot to do with calories, but other factors are also important. Use your app to monitor your fiber intake, and consider tracking your water intake, too. Getting more of both of these can make a big difference in how full you feel, even while eating the same number of calories.

Quick and Dirty Calorie Counting

Once you’re on top of calories, play with your macros and question your habits. Do you need those almonds in your oatmeal to stay full until lunch? What happens if you replace them with protein powder? Are your carb refeeds on point, or are they more like saturated-fat refeeds?

This is where a boring, repetitive meal plan can work for you. Changing one variable at a time will let you know pretty quickly if it’s going to help you or hurt you.

9. Finish the Job and Move On

Once you’ve fine-tuned your template and started seeing your body composition move in the right direction, look at what made the difference and integrate that information into a long-term, sustainable template. Create some alternative meals in your app and become a master at prepping your portions. Maybe you could even stop counting.

That’s right; quit counting! You can always go back to it occasionally, to make sure you’re still on track or to reassess if you plateau, but you should be able to stop using your app daily as your previous eyeballing technique becomes more on point.

Think of it this way: The skills you build through understanding the numbers are far more important than the numbers themselves.



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The Best Protein Powders: Plus, Black Friday Deals On Optimum Nutrition And BSN

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The Best Protein Powders: Plus, Black Friday Deals On Optimum Nutrition And BSN


While few, if any, amateur athletes need protein powder to support their exercise regime, it can be a very convenient way of ensuring you have all the fuel required to repair and build muscle after a workout.

Downing a protein shake every day will, of course, have no effect if you aren’t also putting in the work, but using them after your training is certainly a quicker and easier (if less tasty) method of upping your protein intake than eating a rotisserie chicken.

However, picking between the huge range of protein powders available is difficult, especially when each and every one of them makes grand promises about the effect they will have on you.

You might assume that all of them do the same job, but that’s not the case. Coach spoke to Dr Daniel Fenton, clinical director and GP at London Doctors Clinic, about the differences between protein powders, how much price matters and whether they contain any ingredients you should be wary of. We then assessed the best protein powders out there using Fenton’s criteria and tasted them too so you have a better idea of what you’re buying. But first, browse the bargains on offer during Black Friday.


Black Friday Deals On Protein Powder

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein Powder – 28% Off

This is one powder that an awful lot of people will be hoping gets reduced during the Black Friday sales and Amazon have duly obliged, knocking 28% off the Vanilla Ice Cream and Delicious Strawberry flavours. ON’s whey is popular for a reason – it contains 24g of protein per 30g serving, including 5.5g of BCAAs, with the protein being an easy-mix combo of isolate, concentrate and hydrolysed isolate.

Buy Vanilla Ice Cream flavour on Amazon | £44.99 for 3.18kg (was £64.99)

Buy Delicious Strawberry flavour on Amazon | £44.99 for 3.18kg (was £64.99)

BSN Syntha 6 Edge Whey Protein Powder – 37% Off

Each 37g serving of this powder contains 24g of protein, with that protein being a mix of whey and casein so you get both an instant hit of the muscle-builder plus a steady stream of the stuff over the next few hours.

Buy from Amazon | £27.16 for 1.78kg (was £42.99)

Black Friday Supplement Deals Quick Links

Protein Powder | Whey Protein | BCAAs | Pre-Workout


What are the key things people should look out for when choosing protein powder?

“How much protein you obtain from each serving, the amino acid profile, the cost, taste and number of additives are a few key factors. I tend to focus on yield – the actual amount of protein you obtain from each serving – and amino acid profile.

“I suggest you choose a low-fat, low-carbohydrate, high-protein powder. While you require all three to aid muscle development, balance is key.

“The difference in protein content in various powders can be phenomenal. Do not simply pay for a brand name – the proof is in the numbers. Look carefully at the concentration and type of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) included in the protein. Leucine has been shown to be one of the most important BCAAs so it should contain decent quantities.”

What are the differences between the two main types of protein – whey and casein?

Whey versus casein can be seen as fast versus slow protein.

“Muscle growth is determined by simple science: protein (muscle) breakdown vs protein synthesis. If the synthesis of new muscle protein is greater than the breakdown of muscle protein, you will get a net gain of muscle mass.

“Whey is typically processed very rapidly into amino acids, which will reach peak levels within an hour of consumption and therefore assist muscle synthesis very quickly. However, the peak levels also fall very quickly.

“Whey is considered an anabolic protein because it rapidly accelerates protein synthesis so it’s great for quick muscle regeneration, but has very little effect on naturally occurring muscle breakdown after a workout.

“Casein can take several hours to be metabolised and as a result creates a slower release of proteins to help muscles recover and grow. It is often referred to as an anti-catabolic protein, because it also helps to prevent excess protein breakdown.

“The downside is that casein will remain in the stomach for a substantial period of time, and one can appreciate that it is difficult to complete a high-intensity workout with a full stomach.

“In essence, balance and timing are key for maximum gains. Ignore those who say ‘casein is the key’, or ‘only whey works’ – scientifically, this is simply untrue. Both work very well if used appropriately, complementing your workout and your own natural metabolism.”

What should you get if you pay more money for protein powder?

“There is a natural tendency to think that more expensive products are better – but this is a fallacy. Content is more important than cost. All protein powders will contain some additives including thickeners, preservatives, sweeteners and fillers.

“I would strongly recommend taking a look at the label before you purchase. While your main focus is gaining muscle, you should aim to avoid putting nutritionally-redundant chemicals into your body. Here are a few of the things to look out for.

“Avoid artificial sweeteners, which includes sucralose, aspartame and saccharin. The presumption is that these are better for you than sugar but this is not quite true. There is no good evidence that they reduce weight gain, type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome and some studies actually show an increased risk of adverse health outcomes.

“Milk powders are a cheap bulking agent widely used in protein powders. They are high in lactose sugars which is terrible if you are lactose intolerant. This can contribute to gastrointestinal upset including bloating and loose stools.

“Oils and fats are added to protein supplements to increase richness; they are non-essential ingredients which can contribute to hypercholesterolemia [high cholesterol]. It is fairly common to see high cholesterol levels in bodybuilders and athletes despite their immense fitness levels and generally healthy eating – taking protein powder with added oils is thought to be a contributing factor.”

Is it worth looking out for extra benefits from protein powder such as vitamins and minerals, or fibre?

“The simple answer is no! While these make for an excellent selling point, if you are eating a balanced diet alongside the protein supplement you should not need additional vitamins.

“Is there a limit to how much protein the body can absorb from a serving?

“The human body is an impressive machine, which likes to maintain a balanced constant internal environment. We can fill ourselves with protein, but we will only absorb as much as we require for muscle synthesis.

“The Department of Health recommends approximately 55g of protein a day for male adults and a little less for females. Obviously, if we exercise at high intensity, muscle turnover is higher and protein demand is therefore greater, so we will often require more than this. But if we consume too much protein, the body will simply metabolise and excrete it. This means you could literally be flushing money and protein down the pan.”

Coach Picks The Best Protein Powders

Whey Protein

Natural Nutrients Whey Protein Isolate

This powder uses whey isolate and delivers 24.7g of protein per 30g serving, which is about as good as it gets in terms of protein per gram. There’s 3.2g of leucine in a serving, and 5.6g of BCAAs in total. There’s really nothing else of note in there – fibre and carbs clock in at 0.5g apiece, with stevia used as the sweetener.

Vanila taste test: The powder mixes very easily but the taste tested our tolerance for sweetness to its limits.

Buy from Amazon | £34.99 for 1kg

PhD Smart Protein

The hook with this powder is that the oat flour it contains makes it an excellent ingredient for whipping up a protein-packed baked treat, and it’s also easy to make into a mousse rather than a shake if you prefer a thicker post-workout pick-me-up. Each 30g serving contains 19g of protein and 116 calories, and sucralose is the sweetener used to keep the sugar count low at 0.9g.

Lemon drizzle cake taste test: We assumed this would just taste of lemon, but there is definitely a cake flavour in there as well. It’s a pleasant, if slightly too sweet, taste, while the texture is satisfyingly thick.

Buy from PhD | £24.99 for 900g

Neat Nutrition Whey Protein

There’s no messing around here; this is a simple whey powder that doesn’t feel the need to blast you with extra features. The ingredient list is very short indeed, with two of the five ingredients being whey concentrate and whey isolate, and thaumatin is the sweetener used.

Chocolate taste test: The simplicity extends to the serving, since Neat Nutrition has provided a 30g scoop so you don’t have to double dip to get the recommended serving which helps to avoid a powdery mess when making the shake. The chocolate flavour has caramel hints to it, which is charming, and the powder mixes in water or milk with the minimum of fuss.

Buy from Neat Nutrition | £34 for 1kg

Kin Nutrition WHEYLESS Whey Protein

This supplement is made with 90% whey isolate and delivers a solid 23g of protein in a 30g serving. Kin has also aimed to set itself apart by adding fibre (via flaxseed powder) and probiotics to aid digestion. It’s a welcome touch, even if the 1.3g of fibre you get in a serving is still pretty measly.

Vanilla taste test: It’s vanilla, Jim, and exactly as we know it. A standard but nonetheless pleasing flavour, although we were a little underwhelmed by the consistency of the powder – even a vigorous shaking left some clumps at the bottom.

Buy from Kin Nutrition | £34.99 for 1kg

SiS Advanced Isolate+

Each 40g serving of the Chocolate Orange flavour of SiS’s Advanced Isolate packs in a massive 32g of protein, including 9g of BCAAs of which 5g is leucine (the amount of protein varies a little with different flavours). The carb count is low at 2.7g per serving (0.9g sugars), though sucralose is used to add some sweetness and there’s a mere 0.9g of fat per serving.

Buy on Amazon | £24.75 for 1kg

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey

ON’s popular Gold Standard Whey provides 24g of protein per 30g serving, with the whey being a easy-to-mix blend of isolate, concentrate and hydrolysed isolate. Each serving contains 5.5g of naturally occurring BCAAs including our old friend leucine, and 4g of glutamine and glutamic acid, which is another supplement that helps support muscle growth. There’s just 1.1g of fat in each 113-calorie serving and 1.8g of carbs. Two artificial sweeteners – sucralose and acesulfame K – are used to counter the lack of sugar.

Buy on Amazon | £49.99 for 2.27kg

Multipower 100% Pure Whey Protein

The whey complex in this protein powder is primarily whey isolate and the powder has been instantised, which makes it easier to mix with water. The 30g serving contains 24g of protein, including 5.7g of BCAAs. It’s low in fat at 1.3g per serving and carbs at 1.4g per serving, and the sweeteners used are sodium cyclamate, sodium saccharin and acesulfame K.

Buy on Amazon | £27 for 900g

Scitec Nutrition 100% Whey Protein Professional

There’s nothing especially novel about this protein powder aside from its impressive range of flavours (kiwi banana, anyone?), but it offers a solid package of 22g of protein per 30g serving. There’s just 2g of fat and 1.4g of carbohydrate in a serving, with the sweetness provided by acesulfame K and sucralose.

Buy on Amazon | £26.39 for 920g

Casein Protein

Grenade Hydra 6 Protein

This 50:50 blend of whey and casein uses premium forms of both – whey isolate and micellar casein – to provide what could well be the ultimate mix of fast- and slow-absorbing protein. The isolate ensures the drink mixes easily and you absorb the whey rapidly after a workout, while micellar casein is digested more slowly than other forms of casein so you get a sustained hit of protein throughout the day or night. There are 5g of BCAAs and 2.2g of leucine per serving. Sucralose is used to sweeten the mix.

Peanut Nutter taste test: The name might suggest that the flavour is going to be overbearing, but the truth is quite the opposite – the nuttiness is pitched just right. The shake isn’t too thick or stodgy, either.

Buy on Amazon | £64.99 for 1.8kg

SiS Overnight Protein

This powder is a 50:50 mix of whey protein concentrate and milk protein isolate, with the latter being 80% casein and 20% whey. The whey protein is from milk and high in leucine. It’s a treat to drink hot or cold, but if you are going to drink it before bedtime then obviously warm is the way to go. The carbs and fat content is low – 3.1g and 2.3g respectively – but the powder does contain sucralose sweetener.

Buy on Amazon | £48 for 1kg

Vegan Protein Powder

Supernova Advanced Vegan Protein

There’s all kinds of stuff going on here. Way too much to get your head around, to be honest. The protein is sourced from peas and brown rice, that much we understand, but there’s also a whole load of adaptogens: medical mushrooms like chaga and cordyceps, along with maca and ashwagandha, all of which offer reportedly impressive benefits. We take all of those claims with a pinch of salt, but you get 20g of protein in a serving and all the essential amino acids needed for muscle growth, which is something you can hang your hat on.

Unflavoured taste test: The taste is reminiscent of plaster, but it doesn’t show through when you mix the powder into smoothies or add a couple of shots of espresso into the mix, as you always should when using unflavoured powder. Frankly, we’re not sure we’d trust anyone who drinks unflavoured shakes.

Buy on Amazon | £35 for 480g

Healthspan Elite Complete Vegan Protein

Pea, pumpkin and brown rice proteins are blended in this powder to provide a complete protein that contains all 20 amino acids. There are also added vitamins in the powder, including 100% of your recommended daily intake of B12, which is hard to obtain from food when eating a vegan diet. The powder comes unflavoured but you can add a flavour shot to your order for free. Each 27g serving contains 20g of protein, 100.7 calories, 1.5g fat and 2.8 of carbohydrates.

Buy from Healthspan | £24.99 for 1kg

Stealth Vegan Recovery Protein

This powder contains everything you need to recover from long exercise sessions which makes it ideal for runners and cyclists. Along with the 20g of protein per 50g serving, there’s 19.5g of carbs as well as electrolytes to replace those lost through sweat. The vegan protein is a blend of pea and rice protein, and the sweetener is stevia.

Mint chocolate taste test: The texture is a little thinner than we’d have liked, but that’s the norm with a recovery drink compared to a traditional protein shake. The mint overpowers the chocolate slightly, but that made the shake surprisingly refreshing after a long run in the sun, and the powder mixes very easily with water.

Buy from Stealth | £25 for 660g

Recovery Protein

SiS REGO Rapid Recovery+

A shake that’s packed with nutritional goodies to help you recover after your toughest training days. The hefty 70g serving contains 38g of carbs and 24g of protein (whey concentrate) including 6g of BCAAs. Leucine clocks in at 3g and l-glutamine at 5g per serving.

Lemon taste test: Perhaps surprisingly, after trying a few different flavours of the REGO powder lemon was the clear winner in the taste stakes. The texture is smooth and slightly creamy, and there’s none of the cloying sweetness that often scuppers fruity shakes. The powder also mixes with water without any difficulties.

Buy from Science in Sport | £43



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The Best Air Fryers: Low-Cost Black Friday Deals For Healthier Low-Fat Cooking

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The Best Air Fryers: Low-Cost Black Friday Deals For Healthier Low-Fat Cooking


An appliance that can create crispy deep-fried delights using just a spoonful of oil sounds like the stuff of a George Foreman cheese-fever dream, but an air fryer can do just that by using convection cooking. This works by circulating hot air around food at speed to give it a crisp outer layer as a result of a chemical reaction called the Maillard effect. Which means you can fry chips, pieces of chicken and all manner of things (fried pickles FTW) using around 80% less fat than a deep-fat fryer. And most of these devices can also cook frozen food, roast meat and bake desserts, which makes them a handy addition to any kitchen.


Black Friday Deals On Air Fryers

Morphy Richards Health Fryer – 48% Off

This fryer has a three-litre capacity so no-one in the family goes without, and there are eight pre-programmed settings where times and temperatures are set for you so even those without any culinary nous can make a delicious meal easily. This Black Friday, Amazon has knocked 48% off the RRP of the Morphy Richards Health Fryer, reducing it to just £62.99.

Buy from Amazon | £62.99 (was £119.99)


Best For Speedy Frying: Breville Halo Plus Health Fryer VDF105

With its striking resemblance to a Power Ranger helmet, this mighty gadget could look a little out of place in minimalist kitchens. Aesthetics aside, it’s a durable device that can fry 1kg of chips using about half a tablespoon of oil – and Breville claims it cooks 28% faster than the previous model. Its dual heat function allows you to cook more than one thing at a time and the non-stick rotating bowl comes with a handy tilt mechanism that lets it cook food evenly. As well as frying, you can bake, sauté and roast all sorts of dishes in it, and the removable bowl can be popped in the dishwasher after use.

Buy on Amazon | £80

Best Budget Air Fryer: Tower T17005 Air Fryer

This affordable appliance is a top choice for families with its 3.2-litre capacity (equivalent to roughly five servings). It’s great at producing top-quality fried foods and can crisp up everything from chicken goujons to chips (which are even better when the spuds are parboiled first). It’s sturdy, it’s easy to use and it comes with a temperature range from 80 to 200°C. At this price, it’s a great introduction to the world of air frying.

Buy on Amazon | £50 (RRP £130)

Best High-End Air Fryer: Philips Avance Collection Airfryer XL HD9240/90

This sleek device features a digital display with time and temperature settings and an integrated air filter to minimise lingering food smells. It’s one of the most powerful air fryers you can buy and it heats up in just three minutes. The convex design is said to help circulate the air to provide an even, crispy fry on everything from samosas to sweetcorn fritters.

Buy on Amazon | £200 (RRP £250)

Best All-Round Air Fryer: Tefal Original ActiFry GH840840 Health Fryer

This fuss-free gadget has a capacity of 1.2 litres and is particularly good at churning out healthier-than-average chips and roast potatoes using just one spoonful of oil. An automatic stirring paddle ensures that food is cooked evenly and you can cook two things at the same time using a divider to create separate compartments. The free MyActiFry app is loaded with more than 250 recipes for meal inspiration.

Buy from Argos | £140 (RRP £159)

Easiest To Use: Lakeland Touchscreen Air Fryer

With a large digital LED touchscreen, this compact device from British brand Lakeland is simple to control with an easy-to-use timer and temperature gauge (from 80 to 200°C) as well as an auto-stop function to prevent it being left on by mistake. It’s quiet when in use and any excess oil that escapes during cooking will drop into the tank below. The tank, non-stick pan and basket can all be put in the dishwasher.

Buy from Lakeland | £80



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What Not to Say to Single Women

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What Not to Say to Single Women


I don’t talk much about my personal life, especially on the internet. Why? Partly because I tend to be a pretty private person, but also because I’m a single woman in my 20s. Mentioning my singledom, whether to friends and family or in passing online inevitably leads to a slew of uninvited comments. It definitely doesn’t help that I’m hitting that age where the people I used to eat lunch and talk about philosophy homework with are getting married and having children and posting it all over social media. And as genuinely nice as it is to have people asking about my life because they care about me, it’s also a little much sometimes — and my other single friends seem to run into a lot of the same things. So what are some of the most common things I hear? Here we go.

1. “Let me set you up with my (friend/coworker/brother’s flatmate’s cousin)”

While I appreciate the thought, I really wish people would stop immediately trying to play matchmaker. While blind dates might work for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, more often than not, they’re awkward and forced and the parties don’t actually turn out to have as much in common as the matchmaker thinks. Offers like these put me in an awkward spot: How do I gracefully decline without hurting your feelings or indirectly insulting your friend? If we’re actually close enough friends that I would go to you for dating advice, I promise I’ll ask you directly if I think that guy from your cooking class’s group Insta photo is cute. Otherwise, please let it be.

2. “You must not be trying hard enough.”

GIRL. Believe me, I have tried. I really have a hard time when people say this because it implies that dating is something like riding a bike or learning to speak French; an objective thing that can be “achieved” through sheer willpower and effort. But since you’re dealing with complex things like emotions and other human beings with emotions and free will, dating is not anything like that. Some of the single people I know have tried endless dating apps and hobby groups and all the “right” things and are still single, while some of the happiest couples I know met with almost no effort whatsoever, like something out of a movie. You can’t “try” to fall for someone or “try” to have a connection, either.

The corollary to this: I genuinely think people who say things like this don’t realise how much pressure it can put on the single person they’re talking to. For me, at least, I can get pretty up in my own head when it comes to dating, and it can be hard sometimes to remind myself that my single status is not a “failure” on my part, but a simple fact of circumstance. But when people say things like this, it puts me right back in that mindset — and that’s not conducive to trying to date either.

3. “You’re single? But you’re so (fill in positive adjective)!”

Uh, thanks, I guess? I never know what to say with this one. It’s like a weird backhanded compliment. But, surprise! Singledom is not the domain of the “flawed”; being single does not mean something is wrong with someone. Being attractive / smart / good at talking / whatever is not the only thing that’s important in dating. I know you think it’s a compliment, but from the other side of it, it doesn’t really feel like one. Plus, it’s super awkward to try to figure out a response to that. I can’t say “thank you” because it’s not really a compliment, but I feel like I should because it sort of is one. It’s just uncomfortable. Honestly, I’d rather talk about something related to whatever that trait is — that way, I know you see me as a whole person, not just with the big label “SINGLE” above all else.

4. Anything about how unhappy I must be, aka variations on “Don’t worry!”

OK, I’ll admit it: sometimes I do worry about dying alone. I’m pretty sure everyone who feels romantic attraction worries, at some point, about never meeting the love of their life. But here’s the thing: that doesn’t mean life doesn’t start until then. I’m passionate about my career and have a master’s degree to prove it. I love my friends and family. I have hobbies I enjoy. Pop culture so often portrays romance as the “missing puzzle piece” or something like that, but I don’t think of it like that. It’s more like moving into a different sized apartment: there’s nothing inherently wrong with a small one, life just expands in interesting ways.

The truth is, sometimes I’m unhappy about being single. The truth also is, sometimes I’m perfectly happy being single. There are even times when I’m unhappy and it has absolutely nothing to do with my relationship status. It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing, and it’s certainly not a small-talk topic of conversation. I get it: the people who say something along these lines really do care about me; they say it because they don’t want me to be unhappy. Assuming I’m unhappy single, though, makes me feel like the other things I do aren’t of value or aren’t enough to make a person happy.

What all of this really boils down to is this: please stop making assumptions about me just because I’m single. A relationship is certainly something I want, but it’s still super uncomfortable when everyone tries to give me unasked-for advice, and it puts me in an awkward spot because I know the questions and advice do come from a place of caring. But when it comes down to it, I’m so much more than my relationship status, and in most cases, I’d much rather talk about something related to my work or my hobbies or my friends. And someday when it’s time to introduce a wonderful guy, I’ll feel a lot better if I can feel comfortable knowing the first words out of my loved ones’ mouths won’t be “Oh, FINALLY!”





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