Talking diets and online expectations with Carly Rowena

national no diet day 2017
Source: http://www.carlyrowena.com

At a party I recently saw a friend who I hadn’t seen for almost a year. She had lost a lot of weight and was being praised for the achievement by all the women at the party. With my history of rapid weight loss, crash dieting, binge eating and excessive exercising I stayed silent. I wasn’t jealous (I swear) but it just didn’t feel right to congratulate her.

I’ve actually put on about 20 lbs in the past eighteen months and I’m still coming to terms with how my body feels since I quit dieting. I’ve immersed myself in an online world where it’s OK to have lumps, bumps and visible cellulite. It’s also OK to be thin and not have boobs, wide hips or a bubble butt. I believe all body shapes are acceptable and should be represented in the media.

When I meet women who still praise each other for weight loss I feel icky. In my opinion weight loss itself doesn’t make you beautiful, nor does it deserve a “well done” sticker. Weight loss may lead to a healthier lifestyle, more confidence and self-love but that isn’t attainable purely from calorie restriction. It comes from learning to accept yourself warts and all.

no diet day

In celebration of National No Diet Day which takes place on May 6th, I wanted to speak to online fitness babe Carly Rowena. She’s someone who promotes an exercise regime, balanced diet and above all self-acceptance for what your body looks like at all times.

In the online fitness world there is SO much pressure to appear lean, muscular and eat a clean diet and I’m impressed that Carly cuts through the bullshit and gets honest with her audience. She’s often captured eating chocolate, ice cream and pizza and will express candidly the negative feelings she’s had towards her own body in the past.

When I asked Carly about diet culture in social media she spoke about the importance of being upfront with her viewers;

“I think there is a lack of honesty to a degree, we need to remind people that we don’t eat like that all the time. That’s why I enjoy Insta-stories, it’s a chance to show a behind the scenes. I always try to share my clean days and my relaxed days, honesty is the only way forward”.

As someone who has always dieted, I’m curious whenever a new brand comes to market promising to deliver the best plan for optimal health and fast weight loss. Even if I don’t follow the plan I’m still interested in the science behind new fad diets and how they claim to work. However, Carly promises there is no one perfect diet that will work for everyone;

“We are all individuals so how can we ever all have the same results from the same diet? I recommend people really think about what they want, how they want to live and what they can afford both to give and to spend. Most people just need to make a few adjustments, swaps if you will. We need to stop thinking about our bodies as something we have to keep changing, we need to think about our lives and want we want our bodies to be able to do”.

no diet day 2017

Dieting has often left me with the overwhelming urge to binge. I would restrict my calories to 1000 per day, only consuming foods which I deemed ‘safe’ such as salad, fruit and vegetables. After a few weeks the urge consumed me and I would eat up to 5000 calories in the space of an hour to satisfy my hunger. The binges continued for days at a time before I forced myself to restrict again, only to result in an inevitable binge eating episode a few weeks down the line.

“Take a step back, rethink what you want from your life. Are you trying to be a bikini competition or an athlete? If the answer to both is no, then why are you trying to diet or train like one? Most of my clients are under-eating which is why they’re forever struggling to reach their goals. Top tip is to write own your food for a week and find out exactly what you’re eating, how many calories, are you getting enough fats, proteins, carbs or fibre, then you have a starting point from which you can make adjustments”.

I’ve found keeping a food diary is a great way to analyse your behaviour if you feel like food is ruling your life. I’ve learned that urge to binge often comes during a stressful time in my life, or after a period of restrictive eating and now I feel more equipped to deal with those urges when they arise.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that ultimately dieting doesn’t work for me. It works on the surface and I can easily drop pounds by making a few simple changes to my food intake but the damage done to my mental state lasts longer and has been a challenge to rectify.

I’m glad that people like Carly Rowena are talking about the realities of over-restriction and the negative affects of dieting. There’s no shame in simply eating for health, exercising for fun and focusing on loving your body as it is!

Will you be celebrating National No Diet Day on May 6th?

 

 

5 subscription services that will make life better

subscription mental health make life better

Is it just me or are the weekends getting shorter? It seems I can’t do anything other than fall asleep on the couch on a Friday night and before I know it I’m having my obligatory Sunday afternoon nap. I guess being over 30 isn’t as exciting as I thought it would be!

I’m trying to be more active at the weekends, as well as during the week. It’s too easy to let time run away from us after the working day is done and I don’t want to waste time slumped in front of the telly any longer than necessary. Because let’s be honest, sometimes it’s necessary.

Here are few subscription services that I think help make life better, more spontaneous, less stressful and more fulfilled without having to fork out too much money.

1. Cinema

I’ve always loved going to the cinema but as prices have steadily increased since I was a teenager I was often put off paying nearly £10 to see a movie, especially when I was unemployed. Even once I was well enough to work again my minimum wage salary didn’t really accommodate weekly visits to the local cinema.

Once I moved to Glasgow city centre and heard about the Cineworld Unlimited card I knew that I had to sign up. I currently pay £17.40 a month and can see as many movies as I like, although some movies like 3D or IMAX cost a little extra.

Working to a tight budget means that even if I’m skint one week, I know I can still go and see a film. With it being my favourite thing to do anyway, I think that’s awesome! It means that all those movies I probably wouldn’t have paid full price to go see (you know, all that Adam Sandler trash) are now available to me within my monthly payment should I wish to waste away a few hours of the day.

My husband isn’t a fan of horror, but now I can go on my own in the afternoon after work and use my Cineworld card. In fact, you might notice that cinemas are now over-run with people going to see movies on their own which I think is a great thing for us little old introverts.

2. Cooking boxes

I’ve never thought of ordering a cooking box. My talents as a chef way exceed anything that I could be sent in the post – joke – so how on earth could it benefit me? I pride myself in cooking most of my meals from scratch so I’ve never thought I needed the guidance of a ‘how to’ style delivery service with pre-portioned ingredients and accompanying recipe card.

However, after a long weekend I was surprised at how helpful a Gousto box was when I returned from holiday, stamping my feet and moaning I DON’T WANNA COOK. I made a tasty Aubergine Katsu Curry (which you can see in the video below) and some Sweet Potato Taquitos.

Although the recipes weren’t difficult, they’re still ones that I wouldn’t have picked out myself because I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand. The best thing about Gousto is that they give you the exact amount of each item, meaning you don’t have to fork out for some random spice or condiment that you’re never going to use again.

This means you can expand your cooking repertoire without wasting food or money in the process. Bonus!

Discount code: To receive a generous £40 discount on your Gousto order (£20 off your first and second box) use the code TORNADO

3. Snack boxes

I’m still getting to grips with intuitive eating after years of restrictive eating, so having snacks on hand can be a tricky balancing act for me. Subscribing to Graze or The Vegan Kind is something that I’ve been looking into trying after my success with Gousto.

I personally tend to get stuck in a rut with what foods I eat, and snacking on the go is something I struggle with. I always eat Nakd Bars and if I can’t find them I often end up eating flapjacks and cereal bars which are full of sugar. Not the best thing if you’re trying to train your brain to escape the binge-eating/diet cycle.

Having tasty, healthy morsels in my bag for when I’m at work or at the gym is something that I know would make my life easier, and take away some of the guilt associated with eating the wrong foods when I haven’t planned ahead. I’m definitely going to be giving these a go.

4. Prescription

It might sound simple but setting up a repeat prescription has changed my life. My anxiety makes GP appointments a stressful affair, but because I take anti-depressants I can only receive one months supply of my medication at a time.

Although I do kind of understand the reason behind this, my mental illness means that I constantly dread making an appointment (using the phone is a fear of mine) and talking to a doctor about my health over and over again.

Now, the doctor is happy because I only get 28 tablets at a time and I’m less worried because I don’t have to go through the torture of making an appointment every month.

subscription mental health happiness hobbies

5. Audio books/podcasts

Instead of mindlessly watching TV or scrolling on my phone, I find it helpful to listen to podcasts and audio books. Although most podcasts are free many of them offer a payment scheme where you can get access to exclusive episodes before anyone else. I love listening to Emma Gannon as well as My Favourite Murder and Generation Why.

Audible is a really affordable app which gives you enough credit to buy one audio book per month and there are thousands to choose from. Once you’ve downloaded it you actually own it and can listen to it a many times as you like. You can also return books that you didn’t enjoy and get a full refund!

I find Audible great for when I want to read up on a subject like healthy eating or time management. It’s also great for catching up on those classic books that you never got round to reading. Either way, it stops me from passing out on the couch and is a great incentive to get outside walking too.

Have you used any subscription services to make life a little easier?

 

How to make self-care a priority on holiday

self care on holiday tips

Do you ever feel like you need a holiday just to recover from being on holiday? I get this all the time, and I realised it’s because I wasn’t setting aside time for self-care when I was away. We often feel obliged to cram in as much sight-seeing or partying as possible, instead of actually taking time to rest when we have the chance. If you’ve got a holiday coming up I suggest being mindful of a few things in order to make self-care a top priority…

Fuel your body

Although being on holiday is a great excuse to enjoy a few treats that doesn’t mean neglecting what your body really needs. I love this post from Rachael about how overeating at the weekend can make you feel terrible, and it’s exactly the same for holidays. Eat what makes you feel good (cake and chips, obvs) but also eat what makes you actually feel good (you know… the odd carrot, lettuce leaf and potato).

It’s easy to get carried away with trying everything on offer just because it’s there, but remember that self-care means listening to your body and knowing what it wants. I like to eat a big breakfast otherwise I get hangry and all of a sudden I’m ordering a burrito, fries and planning dessert before I’ve even finished lunch.

I personally find that fuelling my body early with a big bowl of porridge and fruit helps be feel satisfied and mentally ready to start the day without feeling deprived. I also like to avoid alcohol (just my preference, no judgements) and drink lots of water, eat plenty of greens and avoid too much sugar before bed.

 

Dress comfortably

Wearing summer outfits gives me the fear. I’m not made to exist in a hot climate, so finding clothes that are appropriate is a real struggle for me. I want to wear long, flowing skirts and little white cotton dresses but the truth is chub-rub is REAL. These thighs were not made to meet on such a regular occurrence.

As much as I’d love to look all flirty and feminine on the beach it’s just not comfortable for me. How can I be expected to catch a break when I’m physically uncomfortable? I say wear what feels right.

For me, that’s loose-fitting harem pants, leggings and big-old denim shorts. Being at ease with your physical self is SO important to allow your mind to unwind, so wear what you want and feel free.

Stay active

You should absolutely take time to catch up on some sleep when you’re on holiday. I remember when we were on our honeymoon, we didn’t make it to the breakfast buffet once the entire week and it was fabulous! Waking up naturally without an alarm is an amazing feeling, but try to stay as active as possible throughout the day to avoid any unnecessary fatigue.

Walking outside is so helpful to keep your body ticking over as well as induce those mood-boosting endorphins. It will also help you get a better sleep in the evening meaning you should naturally rise earlier the next morning.

self care holiday tips

Plan some alone time

As an introvert, I personally find a week stuck in other people’s company a little overwhelming at times. I crave downtime on my own because that’s how I recharge my batteries and find energy for the next day.

My favourite way to find alone time on holiday is to go to the gym. It’s my own space where I can reflect but still do something productive that I enjoy and I generally leave the gym feeling more energised that when I went in. Weird, right?

I know this isn’t everyone’s idea of fun though, so try and find the thing that works for you. It might be a soak in the tub, a massage or a good hour getting lost in your favourite book. Whatever works.

Have you made a self-care plan for your next holiday?

How to stay happy on a sick day

tips for sick day

Getting sick is SO frustrating. You eat your veg and take your vitamins but sometimes the body can’t fight off infection without a few rest days. I don’t know about you I can’t wait until we’re all floating heads inside robot bodies (joke).

As someone who prides myself on prioritising fitness and healthy eating I am horrified at the idea of having to take time off work to recover from illness, but I’m starting to see the importance of sick days and nipping it in the bud instead of struggling on and feeling miserable.

With that in mind here are a few simple and easy to follow tips that you might not have thought of for staying happy on a sick day.

Eat carbs

Although you might lose your appetite when you feel sick it’s key to keep eating to ensure you have enough energy to recover. My favourite comforting carbs are pasta, mashed potatoes, rice or a huge pile of toast smothered in peanut butter. If you’re too tired to cook grab a Cliff Bar for an energy boost with zero effort.

If you’re not hungry or you can’t really taste food, I recommend making a smoothie jam-packed with spinach and bananas (I love this post from Amy about the health benefits of bananas) and leave to chill in the fridge before drinking. A nice cold beverage will soothe a sore throat and help keep you hydrated too.

No guilt

There are two types of people, those who call in sick at the drop of a hat and those who would rather die at work than take a day off. Hello! I’m the latter.

I really hate taking days off due to sickness and only do it when my back is playing up because I physically can’t get out of the house. To me, sitting at home feeling guilty is more painful than showing up for your shift when you’re under the weather. I’d rather suffer that day than let anyone else down, but we all know that’s a pointless attitude to have.

I’ve been trying to work on my guilt – in every aspect of my life – for a while now. I’m definitely getting better, but it takes time and practise. If you want to truly feel better about yourself on a sick day then try your best to remember that your health comes first, and without it you’re useless at work, as inconvenient as that may be!

Get dressed

I was ill recently and spent the first day in bed, wearing the same pyjamas all day with my hair matted and my face unwashed. The next day I forced myself to get up, take a shower, get dressed and managed to drag myself to the store to buy some medication.

I felt so much happier on the second day, and although that may have been the medication I also just felt more alive because I was dressed in something other than smelly old PJs. You also might like to take it a step further and treating yourself a face mask. I like this Garnier Sheet Mask because it requires minimal effort but really plumps up dry, dehydrated skin.

Open a window (or at least the curtains)

Fresh air might not be what you’re body is craving, especially if you’re cold, but consider opening all the curtains in your home when you’re feeling unwell.

Studies have shown that workers in sunlit areas are more productive than workers without exposure to natural light, so if you want to speed up your recovery having a natural light source is a good idea.

Not only does natural light increase endorphins and serotonin leading to improved mood, but did you know it can even boost your white blood cell count? Get those curtains open!

Stay connected

Being home alone all day can be a real downer. I’m a total introvert but even I think that being sick needs company! Obviously if you’re infectious (no, I’m not talking about your infectious charm) then it’s a but unfair to subject others to your germs, so you might want to find company via phone. Normally my mum is the first person I speak to when I’m sick because she’s the best at sympathy. Mums are good for that!

Chat to friends on Twitter or WhatsApp but avoid emails in case you get sucked into work related enquiries. Text that friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with, or Skype your long lost cousin. Whatever keeps you occupied and in the loop with other humans is essential.

How do you stay happy on a sick day?

 

10 random acts of kindness you can do today

random acts of kindness

February 12th sees the start of Random Acts of Kindness Week. I don’t care much for these types of campaigns – although I’ll admit National Doughnut Day has made me reconsider – but if there’s something to raise awareness about, being kind to one another does nothing but good things in my book.

From a mental health perspective, showing kindness to a stranger is incredibly powerful. You’ll never know how important a welcoming smile could be to a person with anxiety, or offering your parking ticket to someone who’s so stressed that they forgot to bring change for the meter.

As someone with depression and anxiety I also take pleasure in being kind to others. It can lift my mood, make me feel productive and worth something on days when my brain wants me to feel otherwise.

1. Give to a homeless person

Since living in Birmingham I’ve become very aware that homelessness is a real problem in this city. I pass a homeless person almost everyday on the way to work and I try and give him something to eat. If you can do this today then I know it would help.

2. Give a stranger a compliment

I work in a customer service environment so I meet hundreds of people everyday. I regularly have an inner dialogue which goes something like this, “She has a lovely smile. I love her top. She’s so friendly”. Then I go on with my day and forget all about it. The few times where I’ve actually vocalised a compliment to a stranger have always ended well. People love to receive compliments!

random acts of kindness blog mental health blogger

3. Buy someone a coffee

This is my go-to act of kindness when I’m feeling generous. Who doesn’t appreciate a free coffee? Ask your mate out for a drink and don’t let them pay or simply take a hot drink into work for someone who needs it. You won’t regret it.

4. Listen

We all have those friends or colleagues who can talk for Britain. If like me, you tend to zone out when they speak then try and spend today really listening to what they have to say. It could be that you actually find it interesting!

random acts of kindness mental health bloggger

5. Tip your server

As a cafe worker I’m obliged to ask that you consider us who prepare your food and beverages everyday with a smile. OK I don’t smile all of the time but believe me, I’m making a huge effort not to look grumpy when we make eye contact. I can guarantee you that a generous tip does not go unnoticed to us minimum wage earners, so consider popping an extra few coins in the jar on your way out today.

6. Send someone flowers

Valentines Day may have passed, but giving someone fresh flowers never gets old. It might be an elderly neighbour who helps feed your pet or the childminder who always goes the extra mile for your little ones, but whoever it is you can be sure a surprise bouquet will put a smile on their face.

random acts of kindness mental health blogger

7. Giveaway something you don’t need

Cleaning out your closet is a great place to start if you’re looking for something to giveaway. I recently gave away a few brand new t-shirts that were too small for me and I was glad they went to someone who wanted them. You might find you have something of use which you can give to a friend, if not just fill up a box for charity.

8. Offer your services for free

If you run a business then why not run a competition where someone can win something that you would normally charge for? Or you could simply pick one of your customers at random and give them a special discount. These little freebies are also a great marketing tool that give your business the human touch.

9. Give to a charity

Instead of buying a sandwich at lunch, why not bring in a home made meal and put a fiver in the nearest charity box? You could also donate a box of unwanted clothes or household items to your local charity shop or sign up to a fundraising event like a run or walk.

random acts of kindness mental health blogger UK

10. Make the call

Remember, you don’t need to spend a penny to be kind. Promise yourself that today you’ll make that call you’ve been avoiding. It might be your mum, a sibling or an old work friend that’s gone off the radar for too long. It only takes a few minutes but it can make someone’s day.

Tweet me and let me know what random act of kindness you performed today!

10 things you should stop doing just to please other people

mental health blogger UK stop pleasing other people

When I was 17 I grabbed a box of the brightest red hair dye I could afford and went from blonde to copper one Friday afternoon in my parents’ bathroom. It was the first time I’d thought ‘fuck it’ and done something on a whim. I kept it that way for a few years, but as my career progressed I returned to my natural shade of blonde in the hope that I would appear more ‘professional’ and ’employable’.

Since turning 30 have had a few more ‘fuck it’ moments; including going back to that copper shade I was when I was 17. I’ve decided it’s time to stop doing what other people expect of you. Here are a few examples…

  1. Playing it safe with your hair colour

If you like to experiment with your hair then good for you. Pink and blue hair is kind of trendy right now, but if you want it that colour until you’re 60 then rock on. Some people think bright coloured hair looks unprofessional but nothing says, “I get shit done” like a mermaid inspired bouffant, in my opinion.

2. Settling for a job you hate

For years I climbed the corporate ladder in an industry I hated. I didn’t have any other skills (or so I thought) after doing the same type of work since I was 17. I spent years getting promoted, taking on extra responsibility and earning reasonably good money for what I did. I had an office and my own department and it looked like I had it all together. Really I was terribly unhappy and it took a mental breakdown to realise my career wasn’t making me happy. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough to try something different.

3. Eating something you know makes you feel shit

Sometimes only Oreos will do. I get it. But when you’re sat in a restaurant and you know that eating dessert is going to make you feel overly-full and bloated then don’t do it. You don’t have to order burgers and fries when you know you’d rather have salad (those days DO exist, I promise). You don’t have to keep up appearances for fear of looking like you’re a stick in the mud – eat what makes you feel good.

Fiona mental health blogger UK

4. Drinking alcohol

A glass of bubbly to cheers to someone’s new job or 30th birthday is often seen as obligatory. Just because someone hands you a free glass of cheap cava doesn’t mean you have to drink it! If, like me you know that alcohol brings out the worst in you; why bother?

5. Going for the healthy option

Similarly, it’s easy to feel like you have to eat what people expect you to eat. So you told people at work you’re on a diet and the next day you want a cheeseburger. You probably don’t want to eat it in front of those same people in case they comment on how you’re diet didn’t last long, or they talk about you behind your back. I felt like this for a long time and I would regularly eat ‘healthily’ in front of others and binge on junk food in secret. This often meant that I would overeat when I was alone because I felt so panicked and ashamed of what I was doing. Eat that goddamn cheeseburger.

6. Wearing something conservative

I spent my life trying to dress appropriately according to my peers. Hearing the dreaded phrase “What’s everyone wearing?” before a night out used to put me on edge. I probably already had an idea of what I wanted to wear and if not, I didn’t need a panel of gorgeous ladies giving me suggestions. Wear what’s comfortable. Wear what makes you feel fierce. Wear whatever is clean that day cause it’s not really that important.

7. Agreeing with someone’s politics

I’m the ultimate ‘nod and agree’ person in any social situation. I hate confrontation (who the hell doesn’t?) so I tend to just go along with whatever the general consensus is on a topical subject and hope that we get back to talking about the weather before it gets too complicated. I’ve realised though, that my opinion is just as important as anyone else’s. If I hear someone saying something that I think is racist, sexist or morally wrong then I think I have a responsibility to question it. If they can see my side of the argument that’s great; if not then at least I can say I tried.

What do you do to please other people? Are you willing to try and stop?

 

 

Why I’m not dieting this January (even though I’m a size 16)

no dieting mental health January body positivity

A few years ago I would’ve planned a fresh new blog post ready to go live featuring my favourite fat-loss tips for January, or how to ‘get back on track’ after Christmas. Now, I can’t be f*@ked with all that. 

I still love eating healthily because it gives me the energy to do the things I enjoy, but apart from that I’ve kind of given up on weight-loss. I’ve been there, living the ‘fitspo’ life, and I’m done with it. Here’s why…

I’ve been thin and it wasn’t all that

A lot of people look back on pictures of themselves when they looked different and have distorted memories about how they really felt at the time. When I look back on pictures of myself aged 18 and weighing approximately 200lbs, I was overweight but having the time of my life. I had just moved away from home, started university, was meeting new people everyday and learning who I really was. I was socialising like mad and I was incredibly happy. When I was at my leanest – aged 27 – I was battling depression, anxiety, obsessively over-exercising and following a very low calorie diet. I was still happy but I was very tightly wound and had strict rules about what I ate and was constantly hungry, leading to poor brain function and irritability. I’m not saying that you can’t be thin and happy; but don’t put all your eggs in one basket thinking that it’s the answer to all of life’s problems. You’ll still have problems no matter what weight you are.

Restriction isn’t sustainable

It took me years to understand that pretty much every diet is destined to fail. It’s not your lack of will power that lets you down; it’s the fact that you’re restricting yourself so much for so long that your mind and body inevitably cannot do it any more. The penny started to drop when I read a book called Intuitive Eating, although I still did a few years of crash-dieting before what I read began to make sense in my head. I’ve tried to explain to people that a)learning to love your body as it is will stand you in better stead than trying to change it and b)dieting is almost 100% guaranteed to fail in the long term. The truth is, I didn’t believe it myself until I’d dieted for 12 years, lost approximately 60lbs and gained it all back in the end. Sometimes you have to live through that to see that you’re not the one person that’s going to ‘stick to the plan’ and prove everyone wrong. I get it. Just take it from someone who has restricted food groups for most of my adult life; IT DOESN’T WORK.

You’re not defined by your aesthetic

I’ve written before about how when I feel really low about my body image, I like to remember how I look at other people. I very rarely look at someone and think much about what they look like in a typical sense. I’ll perhaps notice a nice necklace they’re wearing, the smell of their perfume, how friendly they were, if they smiled or held eye contact with me. When I look at my friends and family I see their personality traits; I genuinely don’t think about what they look like in a negative way whatsoever, so the chances are no one else is giving a crap about what I look like either. No one is noticing my double chin, my muffin top and my hairy legs and if they ARE then frankly, they need to get a life. I know that what I bring to the table is more important that a thin body, so why fixate on that small, insignificant part of me?

Your brain can do so much more than just count calories

When I was fixated on counting calories it honestly didn’t leave time for much else. I was always on my phone figuring out what I could eat that day and scrutinizing food labels to see which had the fewest calories. I was always trimming calories at every opportunity, but never eating a proper meal to compensate. I ‘had to’ exercise for a minimum of 60 minutes per day (ideally double that) so my mind and body were both exhausted. I didn’t realise the perpetual use of will power combined with a low calorie diet was draining away all my brain power. Since I’ve stopped fixating on food and exercise I’ve had the energy to socialise and write everyday, which are two things I don’t want to give up.

Food is amazing

I’m sure you’re aware of how flippin’ fantastic food is. We can’t survive without it and we are lucky enough to have almost any kind we desire at our fingertips in plentiful amounts. It’s a great way to socialise, show gratitude, celebrate and commiserate. We don’t need to overindulge but sometimes it’s nice. It’s such an important part of our world that it seems wrong to cut it out and stop ourselves from enjoying it. I’m not saying we should eat what we want, when we want all the time; but maybe its time to loosen up and appreciate what we have?

Have you given up on dieting?

 

 

3 ways the beauty industry has affected my mental health

mental health blogger UK beauty industry

I’ve spent years rejecting the idea that the beauty industry can have a positive affect on my mental well-being. How can a lipstick make you happy? Why are young girls caking their faces in concealer when they don’t even need it? It’s taken me until by thirties to understand how the beauty industry has shaped the thoughts I have about my own body, and how I can reclaim them and make them positive.

It helped me develop a self-care routine

I don’t believe that possessions can make you happy, and for years I refused to spend money on beauty and skincare products because I believed I didn’t need them to feel beautiful. I definitely DO NOT need them to feel beautiful; but taking care of my physical self is something that I’ve done more in 2016, and something that’s sincerely helped me feel less worthless when I’ve been going through a bout of depression.

When I spent weeks primping and preening myself for my wedding day in 2015, I remember thinking there was no way in hell I could keep up this level of attention to my body. Who has the time? When I stepped out in my wedding dress, I felt so happy with myself from the inside out, that I could finally see the value in carrying on a few of the beauty routines I have developed in the run up to the day. I don’t spend much money on make up, but I do have a favourite cleanser, serum and moisturiser that I use religiously and a few face masks that I reach for when I need that extra special care. I don’t think this is the only way to practise self-care, but for me it’s a daily addition to my coping strategies that I do without thinking and gives me a regular lift.

Make-up can help me feel confident

There’s no denying that wearing make-up can make you feel more confident. In the same way that a new haircut and your favourite dress can make you feel like you can conquer the world, I’m not ashamed to say that a smokey eye and bangin’ highlighter make me feel sassy. But I also feel confident when I DON’T wear make-up and I think that’s important.

Washing my face and slapping on some moisturiser is all I do when I’m going to the gym. I like to look in the mirror and see my true self. For me, the gym is a place for honesty. It’s where I’m alone and focused with my own thoughts, listening to and observing my body to see how far I can push myself as well as when to rest. I find it’s healthy to have time without make-up, to appreciate the impact it can make when you really want it.

I realised need representation in the media

I grew up reading the same magazines as everyone else my age – Mizz, Shout, Smash Hits, Bliss – so I believed that to be beautiful I had to be white, thin, blonde-haired and blue-eyed with big breasts. I began dieting around 15 and didn’t stop until I was approaching 30. The penny dropped for me when I saw Ashley Graham on the cover of Sport Illustrated. She’s by no means a fair representation of the millions of ‘plus-size’ (whatever that means nowadays) women who look to the media for inspiration, but for me she’s an inch closer to that dream. In that cover I saw someone with a body shape vaguely like mine, and I’d never seen that before.

That’s when I realised I’d been conditioning myself to believe that my body shape, hair and face was all wrong by consuming the images that were handed to me. Now, I actively seek out women who have bodies I can identify with and a style which I can understand. I feel You Tube is particularly helpful when it comes to the beauty aspect of this, because it’s really relatable for me to watch a woman by age talk about what skincare and make-up brands they use in their everyday lives instead of relying on magazines which are heavily biased towards advertisers.

Check out this podcast called Unsorry, in particular their recent episode talking about feeling beautiful.

 

 

An ode to anyone with depression this Christmas

coping with depression at christmas blogger mental health

It’s Christmas day and everywhere, people are smiling. Children are grinning from ear to ear as they tear open their long-awaited gifts, and parents look on with pride, feeling accomplished after a long year of working hard to provide for the family. Grandparents fall asleep on the sofa whilst the dog nibbles the leftover mince pie that has fallen onto the floor. Mum finally puts her feet up after feeding the entire family without stopping for a break.

To most people Christmas conjures up similar images of warm, familiar sights involving traditions that have gone on for years with family and friends who don’t often see each other. It’s a time to put work aside and focus on relationships, socialising and eating a little too much; all in aide of the festive season.

For anyone with depression, this scenario is unlikely to create a feeling of happiness. I know it’s not my favourite holiday, that’s for sure. If you have depression I want to tell you something.

You’re not a party-pooper.

You’re not The Grinch.

You don’t need to ‘grin and bear it’ for one day of the year because let’s be honest, it spans way longer that one day and you’re expected to be in the party mood for almost an entire month without showing a sign of unhappiness. This is unrealistic and it’s cruel to expect mental health sufferers to somehow put their illness ‘on hold’ for an extended period of time.

Can you just put your nut allergy, diabetes or heart murmur on hold for Christmas day?

Can you not have an epileptic fit or have a broken leg today?

That’s how it feels to be told to ‘cheer up’ when you have depression. We cannot simply choose not to suffer today because it’s inconvenient and makes others uncomfortable. It makes us feel guilty that we can’t, but we genuinely can’t. We want to pretend with every bone in our bodies that we’re ‘OK’ but we can’t.

This is to all the people who went back to bed after opening presents. To all the people who didn’t even want any presents because they feel unworthy. To all the people who would rather skip to December 26th and avoid the big day altogether. To all the people who are crying, screaming and hurting on the ‘happiest day of the year’… I understand.

To us, making it to the end of the day is the biggest achievement we can hope for. If we manage a smile, even a fake one, then today as been a success. If we go to bed without having shed a tear today then that is progress. But if today has been sad, lonely and scary then that’s OK too, because we experience that a lot and we’re learning to cope with it. Better days will come but they doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to live through today.

Merry Christmas

How to survive Christmas day as an introvert

being an introvert on christmas day mental health blogger uk

Christmas Day can be pretty intense. Even for the most outgoing person, the idea of being cooped up with your nearest and dearest for 12 hours straight with nothing but food, alcohol and polite conversation to pass the time can be a little daunting. For someone like me – a textbook introvert – the frivolities of the big day are my worst nightmare. I’m not hugely looking forward to it, but I do have a few techniques up my sleeve to help the day go as smoothly as possible….

Get enough sleep

It’s tempting to go out on Christmas Eve and have a few too many drinks to ease your nerves about the following day, but make sure you still get a good night’s sleep after you socialise. I find my temper is shorter when I’m tired and I have no patience with anyone. It also makes me gravitate towards the Quality Street to keep my energy up, which then makes my anxiety worse as I ride the unpredictable sugar-high whilst trying to remain calm in front of relatives. I’ve heard people say that you often wake up in the frame of mind you had when you went to bed, so try and have a relaxing evening to keep yourself level-headed.

Keep busy

Although I’m a firm believer in keeping my calendar as clear as possible, I also find I’m happier when I’m distracted with day-to-day jobs. OK not always happier, but I’m definitely less anxious and that’s the path to happiness in my world. This doesn’t mean socialising for hours on end but simply keeping my mind and body occupied with enjoyable tasks. For me these include blogging, reading, cooking and exercising. Offer to help chop the vegetables, set the table, clear away used wrapping paper and keep everyone’s drink topped up as a way to keep busy.

Get outside

With that in mind, you may want to take your exercise to the outdoors. Getting some fresh air whilst the turkey is cooking is a nice way to relax before sitting down to a formal meal where the conversation can get heated. Offer to take the dog a walk, or get the kids away from the TV for an hour and you’ll find yourself refreshed with a clearer head, ready to enjoy the rest of the day.

Plan time with people who understand

We all have those friends you just get us. They let us be ourselves and there are no awkward silences when we’re together. They let us vent endlessly about our problems and often have the answers to them too. These are the people that should be by your side on Christmas Day. If you can, try and plan to see them in the evening once the festivities have died down, or at least keep in touch via text message or Face Time. Even if you’re feeling terrible, they’ll listen to what you have to say and help ease the burden of a busy day.

Are you ready for Christmas Day?