Happiness, Health

Are You Controversy Ready?

There is a protest taking place right now in London’s Hype Park.

But what are thousands of angry Londoners gathering to demonstrate against? Armed conflict? Sexual trafficking? Environmental issues? Foreign aid? Racism?

Nope. Thousands of people are “Taking Back the Beach”, protesting a poster. 

British online fitness company Protein World’s now infamous campaign is the biggest online topic of debate since the Blue+Black / Gold+White dress.

Appearing all over the London Underground, the poster shows a stunning female model standing strong in a tiny yellow bikini, right next to the question: “Are you beach body ready?”

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And the public were so outraged about it that Transport for London have agreed to remove the ad, after countless posters were vandalised by offended commuters.

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And now non commuters all over the country are angry and getting involved, thanks to social media’s tornado effect. Hashtags such as #Everybody’sReady and #EverydaySexism have been widely tweeted.

So strong was the outrage, that the Advertising Standards Authority have received around 270 complaints, mainly under the basis that it “objectified women and that it carried the insinuation that only svelte models were ready to go to the beach.”

And so, a change.org petition was created, boasting 69,204 supporters at the time of writing (4PM Saturday 2nd May).

Furthermore, Dove and plus size clothing brand Simply Be have parodied the poster, instead featuring larger, “more realistic” models.

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Dove said, “In 2004, 75% of women felt advertising and media set unrealistic standards of beauty. Today, that figure is 66%, with the perception being that more diversity is portrayed in the images of women we see around us”.

I must state that I do not support this poster and I do not agree with the ethos it is projecting. However, neither do i agree with the majority of the public outrage and the backlash of a fitness company choosing a fitness model to front their brand.

I find it quite ironic that in the process of defaming a company for their “irresponsible” message and “body shaming”, protestors have in fact extensively body shamed themselves, as have Dove and Simply Be.

Star of the campaign, 24 year old Australian Renee Somerfield, told the Huffington Post,

“I am a real person behind the image. I work very hard and live a healthy and active lifestyle which is why Protein World chose me for their campaign. I couldn’t work every day as a full time model by starving myself, dieting or not looking after my body. Nourish your body, be kind to it and it will love you right back, no matter your size.”

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Renee looks incredible, and in my opinion, she’s not lying about being healthy. She is obviously already of naturally slim build, tall, and her physique is strong. She is apparently a vegan too (as am I), and is probably well read on nutrition and fitness. Her Instagram will give you an insight (trusted or not) into her lifestyle. 

I don’t think Renee herself is the problem. I think it’s Protein World’s ill-advised wording and thoughtless delivery of their company’s values.

“Are You Beach Body Ready?” is offensive as it suggests that we women must conform to certain standards of beauty in order to be accepted on a beach. By placing Renee next to this question, they have connected her body to this notion, suggesting that her body is “Beach Body” standard. And this is wrong. 

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But if Renee’s body is “unrealistic” and “unhealthy”, what is the general consensus of health? Being over-weight? I am sad to say that I think the support of over weight women is just as irresponsible as the original Protein World posters. There is a trend of praising larger shapes. Renee’s physique requires great discipline and effort. Whether you too want to apply yourself to this level of fitness or not, we cannot curse this body shape and praise “curvy” shapes. (I do not agree with the term curvy being thrown around to describe “larger” people. The difference between curvy and unhealthy is quite easy to see when compared.

Every body is beautiful. It is okay to not be heavily body conscious. If you chose not to look after your body strictly, or even not at all, that is okay. But be sure of yourself, true to yourself, and happy with your choice. If you hate that Renee can look like that, don’t complain about it. Except yourself or do your best to create the healthiest version of yourself.

But there is a lot more wrong with this poster than the use of a slim model. In my opinion it highlights a deeper issue much more dangerous than “fat shaming” – it supports the ever growing cultural obsession with how we look, and the constant fetishisation of women’s bodies.

See Protein World’s odd idea of good PR on their Twitter. 

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Health

TOILET TALK

It’s a lovely Spring day. I’m lucky enough to live in London, the best city in the world. There are endless fun things to do with handfuls of friends that I love spending my time with. Also, I am delightfully almost 100% over the worst throat infection of my life, giving me a new appreciation of being able to eat, sleep, work and play free from horrible pain.

Yet, I find myself laying face down on my bed – an all too familiar experience for me.

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It all began four years ago. Almost overnight, I started getting sick after meals virtually everyday. Upset stomachs are relatively normal, but being in so much pain and discomfort that you end up squirming on the floor of a Conde Nast office, eventually crawling to the toilet, is not so normal (I didn’t dare ask for an internship the following Summer).

Turned out, after months of doctors appointment, hospital appointments and holistic method’s, I was told that I had “IBS”.

So what exactly is IBS?

It is thought that 10-20% of people in Britain will experience IBS at some point of their life. Unfortunately for me, I am one of them.

“Irritable bowel syndrome is a common condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.”

That’s the basic description of what IBS is. Everyone suffers differently, so it is impossible for me to tell you exactly what happens and why. Personally, my symptoms come and go in bouts, usually in times of stress or after eating certain foods.

For around six months, I found IBS really hard to deal with. For someone who used to eat everything, suddenly having to restrict food was really tough. I lost a lot of weight because almost everything I ate made me sick. I was extremely unhappy.

After doing some research, I found out that an estimated 3 out of 4 people with IBS will have at least one bout of depression, and just over half will develop an anxiety disorder. It can seriously impact your life.

It got to a point where I realised that living like this wasn’t healthy, and was probably making my IBS worse. So I started researching. I became engrossed in recipe books and health websites. I visited dieticians and started devising eating plans. Through trial and error, I am now at a stage where I can manage my IBS and can usually avoid flare ups. (Today being an exception. I expect the antibiotics I am on for my throat infection have spurred this episode on.)

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How bloating makes me feel…

Toilet talk is still a huge taboo in British culture, especially for a woman.

Most women I meet that suffer from IBS will not discuss it. it’s not exactly a conversation starter, is it? Ladies aren’t supposed to fat, let alone often and (quite often) potent. At first, I masked my problems and made excuses. Now, I am not embarrassed about my IBS at all. Why shouldn’t I talk about it and be open about it, when I am the one who has to suffer it? It is a medical condition, after all. Yes, sometimes I literally sit on the toilet for an hour with diarrhoea. Yes, I fart quite a lot when I’m feeling unwell, it yes, it stinks. Yes, my tummy balloons to look like I’m close to my due date. And I refuse to be embarrassed about it. The people that know and love me are sympathetic to it because they witness how hard it is. It’s no laughing matter. Although, I do try to make light of it – without self deprivation I’d probably be in tears most days.

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But some days it is difficult to stay positive in an industry crucially image based. There are some days where, literally, none of my clothes fit me. I often thoughtlessly blurt out that I feel fat, but it’s more uncomfortable. Not fat, not in debilitating pain.

My job doesn’t exactly help matters. 99% of the time a lunch at a job will consist of crisps, biscuits, and sandwiches at best. I mostly stock up on 9 Bars and Trek Bars to get me through. On days when I can’t get to Holland and Barrett, there is often a very awkward exchange between an assistant and I explaining why I can’t eat even the vegetarian option (bread),

For most models, there is always a pressure to arrive at a job with a perfectly flat stomach and refreshed face. Perhaps because I feel that pressure, and stress is a main contributor to IBS, I always feel an episode stirring when I’m at work; mostly a false alarm, but awful when it’s not.

(Funnily enough, quite a few of my model friends suffer from IBS. But you won’t find that in a Vogue interview.)

Part of me believes dealing with IBS has been a blessing in disguise – I am in much better shape now than I ever was before I got sick. I am incredibly healthy and in a much better mental state than I was before I was diagnosed.

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My tips for managing IBS actually apply to everybody that wants to lose weight, get fit, or just wants to live life a little healthier. They are so simple and easy and most of the time, effort and cost free.

Tips for IBS that everyone should follow.

1. Drink water. LOTS OF IT.

I always have a bottle of water to hand; whether at work, in the car, at home, or when I‘m out. Water will help with all aspects of the digestive processes. We need 2.5 litres a day for the body to function properly. IBS sufferers should be drinking extra water to balance our systems. I make sure that I drink a bottle of water first thing in the morning and before every meal. But everyone should be drinking water; it’s natures biggest secret, and it comes straight from a tap – no excuse! (For the appearance conscious, water also helps with your skin, eye brightness, hair, nails and is the best weight loss aid.)

2. Cut down/off sugar, caffeine and alcohol.

Sugar really messes me up, so I’ve tried to cut it out in food as best I could (obviously natural sugar isn’t as bad). I do not drink anything other than water or green tea – honestly! Everything else should be avoided, or taken in moderation. Sugary drinks are full of air bubbles will add more gas to your digestive system. They are also either laden with calories are artificial sweeteners which are awful for your insides, your teeth and your skin. Caffeine and alcohol are also both stimulants to the digestive system and can increase IBS symptoms.

3. Have an eating schedule to train your body and mind.

I have breakfast within the first hour of your day. It starts your metabolism and gets your body into gear. Don’t skip meals because the digestive system fills up with extra air when it’s empty, which causes cramping and bloating. The best way for me is to eat three meals a day at regular times, usually 8 – 2 – 7. If you install times for eating mentally, you’ll feel less inclined to become ‘emotionally hungry’ (comfort eat) or snack. No mammoth portions – overloading on food which will shock your body. And eat slowly! You need to give your body time to digest food and feel full.

4. Banish junk.

Whether you suffer from IBS or not, junk food is a huge no-no. Your body needs nutritious, fresh food. Not only for the digestive system, but for overall fitness and health. There are many ways to make healthy food interesting and tasty. And once you change your ways, the sight of greasy kebabs and pizza will turn your stomach. JUST DO IT.

5. Get moving!

Without counting weight loss, fitness, muscle building and fun, exercise is great for two main reasons: One: exercise is a brilliant stress reliever. Countless studies have shown that regular exercise can help relieve stress. Two: exercise is critical for the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal system. If your body is sluggish, your stomach will be too; if your body is fit and active, your stomach will be healthier and better regulated.

I try my best to exercise everyday. If I am busy with studying or work and can’t get to the gym, I walk or jump rope – both simple and easy for anyone, anywhere. If you can’t get to the gym today, even walking at a moderate pace for 30 minutes will help!


6. Work out your individual food triggers.

IBS has given me intolerances to wheat, lactose and eggs. Some days, I can eat these things and be fine. But around 70% of the time, they make me ill. A lot of people gamble with food and continue to eat them. But I found that it was easier to cut them out completely, as, for me, the taste is not worth the pain. But even in non-IBS sufferers, certain foods can cause discomfort, bloating (a lot of people say this about wheat) and lack of energy. Starting a diet diary is a good way to work these out – monitor what you eat, what times, how you feel afterwards, and if you really want to get into it, your ‘bowel movements’. And if it means cutting out certain foods, do some research to find out what you can replace them with. For example, cutting out wheat meant cutting wheat bread, but I replaced it with Rye bread. Soya milk is also a nutritious replacement for cows milk.


7. AAAAAND RELAX.

Bubble baths, calm dog walks, yoga, reading and of course, sleeping are my favourite ways to de-stress and relax the body. In many people the main cause of IBS is stress; The body and mind are linked very tightly. Your body works very hard, so be kind and give it the down time it deserves. Your gut will thank you! And ultimately, so will your brain.

There are very few treatments and perscribed medical aid for IBS, but there are also products available over the counter that can help. Lucky for you, four years of my own trial and error can now advise you.

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These are great to keep in your handbag in case of a surprise restaurant. If you realise the flare up early enough, these can actually help to maintain a normal functioning day! Hallelujah!

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Fybogel is designed to maintain regularity and “healthy” bowel movements. When used properly these work very well. I take every morning after a glass of warm water and lemon, before breakfast, and just before you brush your teeth at bed time. Not bad tasting, either.

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I don’t enjoy or recommend using suppositories regularly, but sometimes, IBS leaves you with no other option. Do not use if you’re planning on leaving the house any time soon or engaging in any sexy time.

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I know it’s “expensive” but if you can afford £1.90 for a single tea bag and hot water from Starbucks, buying good tea for your house doesn’t seem that extortionate. It really does chill out your stomach. Replacing caffeine filled drinks with this and sugar and sweeteners with some fruit sugar or Stevia will massively improve IBS symptoms. It’s the new latte, daaaahhhling.

Do you suffer from IBS and can suggest any more tips or products? Let me know in the comments!

Leo X

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Happiness, Health

LIGHTENING BOLTS & TIGER STRIPES

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The media’s boring and frankly dumb obsession with adding negative connotations to our physical “imperfections” (which, by the way, are mostly completely natural and normal and healthy characteristics of the human body) eternally taint our perceptions of our own bodies and appearances as a whole.

One repeated offence which I REALLY don’t get is the issue with stretch marks:

  • external skin scarring caused by the tearing of a under layer of skin
  • mostly caused by rapid stretching on the skin (growth spurts, pregnancy, weight changes, etc.)
  • also caused by hormonal changes (puberty, pregnancy, body building, etc).

A quick Google search will show you the common opinions and conceptions of stretch marks (this list has not been edited or created for your entertainment).

“”How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks: 15 Steps (with Pictures)”

“Top 10 Celebrities Who Are Not Safe From Stretch Marks”

“Stretch Mark Removal Treatments – Types, Cost & Results”

“OMG! Models With Stretch Marks!”

“101 Reasons I Hate Being Fat!: #49 – Stretch marks”

I was kind of laughing to myself at the ridiculousness of my research, until I saw the last two examples

Why should it be such a shock that models (human beings) get stretch marks? Yes, models do get stretch marks. I know because, well, I AM a model and I DO have stretch marks. I rest my case.

Secondly, it breaks my heart a little bit that stretch marks are associated with being “fat”, which is in tern associated with being unhealthy and even ugly.

Again, I am living proof of this, having never been over a UK size 8 in my life.

Come to think of it, I’m almost sure that every woman I know has them. Yet we have been conditioned to hate them by our perfection obsessed society. Online and print publications twist words to make it sound like they’re doing us a favour by teaching us how to prevent or reverse these AWFUL SHAMEFUL UGLY imperfections. We’re recommended creams, oils, laser treatments, even skin surgery! Stretch marks’ cousin, cellulite, is another hated body “affliction”, with maybe even more crazy “solutions” for erasion.

Why should we have to go through the effort of attempted removal of things that occur on our body so naturally, wasting money, breeding negativity and demoting our self worth?

I can’t imagine any woman pre-1960’s having anxieties about stretch marks or cellulite. Then again, there was no Photoshop, no Instagram, no televised Victoria Secret catwalk show to weep over. The fashion industry is SELLING A FANTASY. I’m not one of these people that are passionate about the banning of Photoshop but I do think that people, particularly young girls, need to be aware of this. Reality and fantasy can co exist as long as we are strong enough to not allow it to cloud our judgements of ourselves and others.

So next time a magazine attempts to emotionally bully you into hating your stretch marks / cellulite / grey hair / wrinkles / any other completely NORMAL AND NATURAL physical trait, laugh in the face of ignorance. They are your badge of honour, the lines of a map of your life – be proud that you grew from girl to woman. Be proud that you went through the growth of pregnancy to create new life. Be proud that you are at the healthiest weight for your body and not the weight that a magazine tells you to be.

Next time you look down at your hips or the side of your thighs, realise how cool it is to have glistening purple and white lightening bolts etched across your skin. Would a tiger hate her stripes? 

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Advice, Happiness, Health, Inspiration, Interview

TUESDAY TALKS: Maddie M

MEET MADDIE: There’s definitely something about Maddie… At 5’11 she is a long legged gazelle of a woman with a face so cute it could have been drawn for a Disney film. And yes, she may look and sound like a Scandinavian sex siren, but don’t be fooled in assuming that all you’d get from the magnificent Miss M is a glistening smile and a few girly giggles. When I’m having a down day, she’s the first person I go to for a confidence cleanse. Maybe there’s something in that Swedish air… Whatever it is, we could all learn a thing or two from this lady.

NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE: Maddie is one of the smartest women I’ve ever met and as driven as a golf ball; she is in her final year at Cass Business School, studying Business Finance with hopes of going onto grad school. How’s that for Girl Power?

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What is ‘beautiful’ to you?
I know everybody says it is what you hold on the inside but I really believe that is true. When it comes to modelling you learn how subjective beauty actually is and how everyone sees you – and your looks – differently. At the end of the day it is what you have on the inside that counts.
But I must confess I have always had an extremely weak spot for guys with nice cheekbones…

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What’s your top beauty secret?
Well except from eating healthy and not smoking it is training. And when I say train, I mean actually train, not walking with an incline on a treadmill. You know what they say – skinny girls look good in clothes but fit girls look good naked 😉
Except from that it is my gradual tan facial moisturiser, it makes me look so much better haha. Some girls can rock the pale look, but unfortunately I am not one of them.

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What do you love the most about yourself? 

My abs and my brain. I really make an effort to work out and maintain my muscle. It’s not easy but the results make it worth it!

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Advice, Happiness

The 21 Year Old Itch: Attack of the Quarter Life Crisis

If you were to ask a twelve year old me where I expected to be at twenty one years old, I would have, without hesitation, replied that I would probably (definitely) be in Hollywood, with two (or perhaps, three) Academy Awards already sitting comfortably on my marble mantle piece. I’d be wearing head to toe Chanel, with an equally designer clad boyfriend/ fiancé (probably a previous co-star) who loved me for me, not only just my class, fame and money. I’d be made.

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Flash forward ten years to a newly twenty two year old me. And guess what?

No, I am not in sunny Hollywood. I am 5,437 miles away in a very stormy London. I have – drum roll – zero Academy Awards (are you dissapointed?). I am certainly not dressed head to toe in Chanel, but draped in a comfy mens t-shirt (twelve year old me shudders).  I do have a nice boyfriend at least, although he was most definitely not my co-star. My taste in men has changed considerably since then. Actors make me cringe nowadays.

I’m not completely helpless on the career front either. Since I graduated with a Literature degree I have been modelling somewhat successfully. I’m still an “actress”, going to auditions and taking acting classes. My life, on paper, sounds sweet. And let’s face it, things could be a lot worse. But one day, very recently, as I was minding my own business, it hit me. A little devil in a graduation gown popped in my brain.

“Hi. Where you aware that you’ve been out of education for a whole year and you haven’t even paved out your career yet? Ha! You failure!”

I found myself suddenly overwhelmed with life’s big questions: Am I on the right track? Am I doing well enough? Am I making enough money? Am I really and truly making the most out of my life?

We’re brought up on happy endings; you just happen to bump into your Mr. Perfect and bang, you’re married off with a perfect relationship. Somehow, you’re picked out of a crowd and handed an opportunity for your dream job. Happy endings just don’t come to us quickly or as suddenly, unless it’s the type of happy ending you receive in a massage parlour. My parents always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be, and I believed them. But no one tells you how difficult it is or gives you a step by step guide of how to get there. All this false expectation leaves us with an immense amount of pressure.

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Born in 1992, I am a member of Generation Y. I come from an era in which every thought, goal and achievement is posted on multiple sites for us all to witness on portable screens. It is impossible not to compare our lives to others when it’s shoved in our faces every time we unlock our smart phones.

Let’s face it, we carefully pick and chose what we are sharing with our social network. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”  Oh look, she’s having soooo much fun at that party. He’s making soooo much money. She loves her boyfriend sooooo much. We are forced to keeps tabs on what everyone else is up to, whether it’s getting married and having babies, sitting front row at LFW or getting promoted to CEO of some big shot company. We all know it’s grossly exaggerated, rose tinted and carefully portrayed, yet it still manages to persuade us that everyone else has it better. At the basis, the internet is a platform to show off. No one would dare admit that they too are struggling. It’s all about keeping up appearances.

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So I went searching for some honesty, and the results were surprising: almost everybody I spoke to admitted to experiencing some sort of personal existential panic between the ages of 20-23. Some remember this crux period as a distant memory as long as twenty years ago, while some were, as I am, presently lost in the culmination fog.

If this is something we all experience, why is this quarter life crisis epidemic not openly discussed? Why weren’t we warned?

Everyone tells us that the twenties are our prime. It’s supposed to be this magical time in our lives where we have fun with our friends, build relationships and careers. See the world. Make memories that we can tell our grandchildren around a camp fire. But nothing will ruin your 20’s more than the anxiety that you should have your life together by now.

Perhaps the quarter life crisis is a crucial part of self discovery. Those who have over come it, say that “things just happened naturally”. Many are now happy and successful in fields they had no intention of getting into when they were 21. I suppose life is all about being happy, and success is liking what you do. Instead of looking at the ultimate goal and end outcomes, perhaps taking the one-day-at-a-time approach will help everything fall into place. In the meantime, work on deciding what you enjoy, and enjoy it. Instead of trying to figure out how our lives are supposed to be, maybe we should just live. Instead of comparing every aspect of our lives to that of our peers, maybe we should concentrate on our own individual journeys and on making them more meaningful to us.

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All those suffering from QLC can do is have fun, be nice, take risks and and work hard, and the rest should (will) work itself out. I’m yet to discover my purpose in life, but I refuse to stay stuck in this quick-sand of self doubt. So here I embark on a new lease of positivity and forthrightness, open to new experiences and willing to learn.

If you need a little faith that success is a gradual process, see what some of the most successful people in the world were doing in their early twenties here.

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