By Laura Bijnsdorp

Adult Toy Box owner Pat Hunt says, “Male and female, young and old, tourists and locals, straight and gay; everyone comes into our store.”

I remember the first time I walked into the  Adult Toy Box store in Simpson Bay. I was 18 and my friends and I were looking for Halloween outfits. Sexually inexperienced in mind and body and seeing the rows of outfits, DVDs and numerous toys on store walls made me giggle nervously. My friends and I walked out of the store empty-handed with the overall consensus of “who uses these!”  In actuality, many of us were probably too embarrassed to admit that we did not think these items to be “strange.” In fact, we were quite curious. 

As we grew in our confidence as well as our sexual experience, we soon changed our tune. Talking about sex was no longer flustering; it was a regular occurrence. Sex toys became an acceptable topic and fun gifts at a variety of celebrations. I sat down with Pat on a late afternoon to learn more about Adult Toy Box, which she opened on Sint Maarten 13 years ago. “Everyone has a little kink inside of them. So I knew there was a niche for sex toys and enhancers on the island.”

This turned out to be true. Just two years after opening her first store in Simpson Bay, Pat, along with her good friend  Antoine, opened the second store in Philipsburg.  Antoine, better known to locals as Twanny, is still working at the Simpson Bay store. About her business partner, Pat says fondly, “He is a natural at making anyone feel comfortable. You are guaranteed to leave the store laughing if you encounter Twanny!”

This move might’ve been considered quite controversial on the island 13 years ago, but according to Pat and Antoine, most people today have embraced the idea of “spicing up” their sex-life. “The suspicion of sex toys ‘replacing a man in the bedroom’ has faded; as many have experienced that sex toys actually can add orgasms (don’t forget that women ARE multi-orgasmic), enhance pleasure and improve relationships,” Pat explains.

Sex is healthy; it helps your immune system, relieves stress, helps you sleep better, strengthens women's bladder control and relieves pain. Studies have even shown that sex can help prevent prostate cancer in men and improve heart health. Sex and intimacy can boost your self-esteem and happiness too. It’s not only a prescription for a healthy life, but also a happy one.

The choices are vast. For beginners, Pat recommends, “First talk to your partner, and once you are both open to the idea start slowly. Try massage candles, for example, they add to the romance, get partners in the mood and focus on foreplay. Masks, bullets (small vibrators) and lube are also fun and great “beginner” items.” Walking around the store, you can find toys to tap into wide ranges of “kink” and for those with tastes that are beyond that; Adult Toy Box takes special orders.

If would-be customers are too shy to come in, Pat suggests they invite friends over and arrange a home party with Pat where she can showcase products in a familiar environment. Adult Toy Box offers discreet home deliveries too; so if you are “toy-inquisitive”, there is always a way to comfortably meet your needs!

Whatever your choice, be sure to buy sex toys made with safe materials such as non-porous 100 percent silicone and phthalate-free rubber products. When in doubt and especially if you’re sharing, use a condom on the toy. Washing sex toys with soap and a sex toy cleaner after each use also prevents the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Most importantly, make sure to have the right information so you can have good, clean fun!

Pat: “We always encourage our customers to ask us many questions. This way, they know how to use the toy in the safest and most pleasurable way. Our goal is to make everyone feel 100% comfortable. You can ask us anything! Our staff is professional, trained, friendly and helpful. Also your privacy and anonymity are our priority!”

I experienced this “comfort” myself firsthand. My interview with Pat took over two hours because besides questions pertaining to the interview, I also ended up discussing my sex life with her! I walked out the door that night inspired; which made me happy and I am sure will make my boyfriend happy as well. Happy vibrations, here I come!

Adult Toy Box in Simpson Bay is open 10:00am-10pm and the Philipsburg store is open 9:00am -7:00pm. Contact info: 1 (721) 544-2412.

By Laura Bijnsdorp

Fat-shaming is the idea of placing shame on a person based on weight. This takes place at home, work, school and via media, the latter of which has brought fat-shaming and discussions around it to a whole new level.

One extreme example is YouTube’s “Nicole Arbour – Dear Fat People” video that has over 35 million views on her facebook page. In the controversial video, Arbour says, “Fat shaming is not a thing. Fat people made that up. That’s the race card, with no race.” She goes on to justify her point in the six-minute video that in my opinion is tasteless. Like many other “fat-shaming” posts, it appears to be purposely sensationalistic under a guise of “caring for people’s health.”

On the opposite end of the fat-shaming trend, a “fat acceptance movement” has been gaining popularity. Self-proclaimed “fat activists” fight to combat size discrimination that is experienced in employment, education, interpersonal relationships and the media. Unfortunately, some are just as judgmental as Nicole; condemning persons who “aren’t fat enough.”

Whatever your opinion, fat-shaming to “help” does not actually help. One can argue that fat acceptance can deny the negative realities of obesity. But fat-shaming is not the answer. Many people, especially those who are dieting, battle with the psychological and physical impacts associated with negative body image every day. The research is very clear that stigma and discrimination against overweight people make the problem worse.

According to a new publication of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), obesity and overweight have spread like wildfire throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. This is threatening the health, wellbeing and food- and nutritional-security of millions of people.

The document “Panorama of Food and Nutrition Security” shows that more than half of the region’s inhabitants – close to 58 percent (360 million people) – are overweight while obesity affects 140 million people, which is about 23 percent of the region’s population.

This is mostly attributed to our unhealthy food habits. On Sint Maarten, it isn’t hard to see that our idea of food has more fat, sugar and salt. We eat a lot of rice and beans, macaroni, fried chicken and fast food and we drink plenty of sweetened beverages.

Body shaming is never okay, but we also cannot ignore the fact that too many do live an unhealthy lifestyle on Sint Maarten. We need to work towards better health information, nutrition warnings, reasonably prices, healthy food options, taxes on unhealthy foods and affordable exercise programs.

“A real woman is curvy” is an idea that is also very much alive on the islands. I think that is where the problem truly lies. Fat or skinny; both can be unhealthy underneath. The issue is that most of us can’t go a day without hearing, reading or seeing everybody’s opinions on what a human body should look like.

Bodies are not public property. It isn’t anyone’s place to fat-shame or fat-enable. It is about the personal relationship you have with your own body – YOUR OWN BODY.

The following statements are all incorrect: “Real women have curves.” “Strong is the new skinny!” “That person needs to eat.” “A true man has muscles.” Instead of throwing around your unsolicited opinion, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself: “Am I healthy, happy, and confident in my own skin?”

If your answer is NO, you have to realize that you have a personal responsibility to be happy. You need to make sure you get a clean bill of health from your doctor; and just as people need to stop judging others on appearance, you need to avoid using “I am proud of my body” as an excuse to live an unhealthy lifestyle. If your answer is YES, great! Keep on doing what you’re doing!

We are real people – women, men and children – who have bodies that aren’t just skin, muscles, fat and hair. Our bodies include hearts, brains and souls with each needing its own recipe of food, exercise, love and acceptance to stay healthy.

By Laura Bijnsdorp

I have only done it thrice in my life so far but I’ve found white water rafting to be an absolutely thrilling experience every time! With the waves crashing around you and everyone on your team laughing and shouting, rafting is truly a one of a kind activity. You get a big adrenaline boost and get to see nature like you never have before! In addition to being a fun way to spend an afternoon with colleagues, friends or family, did you know that rafting also offers a number of health benefits?

For a non-mother, it is hard to genuinely simulate the feeling of knowing what it is like to experience what the woman who has children does. However, I believe there needs to be some exposure on the more nurturing aspects of society, besides beauty, exercise and body image.

Given that Sunday was Mother’s Day and we are on our way to Mother’s Day for French and Spanish speaking nations, it would be appropriate to delve into one of the more taboo subjects, as far as other countries are concerned.

As small as Sint Maarten is, there is a very progressive view on breastfeeding and childcare in general. Thus, armed with a question, I took to Facebook and asked some mothers what they thought.

Would you breastfeed your child past a year? Why, or why not? Answers needed.

Here are the responses: 

Saving on Formula: Yes, I just passed the one-year mark. My babies still drank milk after they turned one. And if I still got them [breasts] hey, why not. I'm not going to spend $20 a week to buy formula. Plus it gives you bonding time. Also, though they have teeth, they can't actually bite while nursing because of the position their mouth is in. I have been bitten a couple times but it isn’t that bad. My first child I only breastfed for a month and then switched to formula. So, the second one, I really wanted to keep with it. The baby I breastfed is a lot more clingy to me than my first. Other than that, I haven't noticed any big differences. My breastfed baby completely refuses a bottle or pacifier; guess it is too hard.

Late Bloomer: Unfortunately my milk came in late and then stopped after a month. But if I could have, I would have. It's best for both mommy and baby. Mommy loses baby fat in the process and baby gets all nutrients and vitamins from the breast milk. It's living proof.

Mixing it Up: I’m still breastfeeding and my baby is one year and five months. She has teeth and it is not an issue, also she takes solids. I don’t feel there is a certain age to stop feeding. I kind of just gauged my kids and went on their demands for it. Eventually, they want it less and less. For the first that was about two years and change. The second is still very much in love with my boobies.

Determined Mommy: My baby couldn't latch on to my nipples. I tried nipple shields and different positions. The nurses at the hospital pinched my breasts so hard they turned blue, but nothing worked. So, I pumped and because I did not get enough milk, my boy alternated between breast milk and formula when I didn't have enough breast milk. He did this until he was about seven weeks, when I stopped producing milk. After that was only formula – the Frisian Flag kind because it wasn't so sugary as the others.

Going with the Flow: Yes, it's healthy for the child and cheaper than buying formula! Plus your baby smells better (just my opinion). I did up to two years, but he stopped on his own.

Still Going Strong: I supplement. I mostly breastfeed, but sometimes if I notice after I breastfeed she is still fussy or if I leave her with someone and I haven't pumped, I will leave her a bottle. People in Sint Maarten aren't as sensitive about breastfeeding in public like they are in the States, but I have encountered people who have told me that it makes them uncomfortable. I'm planning to breastfeed for as long as she wants to.

Switched to Formula: For me, I can’t really say I didn't produce enough milk, so I had to switch to formula after about two months, so I can’t say how long I would, but I imagine as long as I felt he needed it.

Breast Bond: I did it for two years and I don't regret a thing! Best thing to do if you can. He never got sick and my bond with him is amazing. And yes it did save a lot of money.

Working Mom: I would breastfeed the recommended six months, maybe up to a year if possible but not any longer. Because I had to return to work when my daughter was two months old, it became impossible to continue producing milk. This is my personal opinion, because children at six months are able to eat solids.

Refined Tastes: Growing up fast: I did for two years only because he did not drink any other milk.

Growing up Fast: I breastfed until my son refused to take my breast milk when he was nine months, then I stopped. He preferred solid foods.

Double Time: My eldest is three years and four months. He still loves it. It's very comforting for him when he's tired, in pain, sad or sick, or just before I have to leave him to go to work. I think it also boosts his immune system, as he's hardly ever sick. I also think it helps with sibling rivalry that he's also “allowed” to nurse and it's not just for the baby. And the baby, who is now 10 months, hasn't had to work for one minute of his life to get enough milk because big brother did the “work”.

Night-time Nursing: My second child just made a year and I do night feedings. It's the best food for them and makes night time a lot easier, the bonding is important as well!

These were real comments written by real women, but I chose not to use their real names, so I could maintain a level of anonymity for them. If you would like to add your own comments and/or share your experience, or if you have a question you’d like to ask other moms, don’t be afraid to reach out to us, we’d love to hear from you!

In commemoration of World Kidney Day which was observed on March 9, we are highlighting some of the underlying causes of kidney disease and steps that can be taken to avoid or limit them. Obesity is a well-known risk factor of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. A less known and recognized, but equally important ramification of obesity is chronic kidney disease (CKD). For that reason, kidney health awareness focused this year on taking steps to reduce global obesity.

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