Happiness, Health, Review

A Love Letter to: Bodyism

I’m not what some may call, a huge “foodie”. I don’t get excited about swanky new restaurants or Michelin Star chef’s. I’d state Whole Foods and my mums kitchen’s as my all time favourite eateries, and I let out a sigh of relief when my flatmate asks, “Shall we cook a big dinner tonight?”

But while walking in my fabulous neighbourhood last week, I noticed a place which conjured excitement within me mostly reserved for upcoming American Horror story seasons and mama’s vegan Banfoffe pie: the Bodyism cafe. I don’t know how I’d missed it.

I recognised the name straight away; I have been an avid follower of James Duigan and the Clean and Lean cookbooks since the start of my healthy living obsession in 2011. If you haven’t heard of James – where have you been? – you’ll most certainly have heard of his clientele; the wellness guru is the highly acclaimed personal trainer of Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Lara Stone and Elle Macpherson. Along with his unworldly beautiful wife Christiane and a team full of experts, he has developed the Bodyism Clean and Lean concept: not a fad diet or patronising unobtainable rule book, but a positive philosophy which is more of an empowering movement than a food and fitness guideline.

 Clean and Lean has a simple philosophy: Be kind to yourself.

Along with a range best selling cookbooks, Bodyism London, a state-of-the-art members club was opened in late 2015, ‘revolutionising the wellbeing experience’. Boasting a perfect team of top performance coaches and fat loss specialists, it is a space designed to help their clients ‘realise their physical and mental potential’. Within the club is the the Bodyism cafe; a hidden treasure, but gratefully easy to access and enjoy, as soon as you enter.

So, last Tuesday, I woke my flatmate up like a spoilt child and pleaded that we wrap up warm and go for brunch at Bodyism. It didn’t take much persuasion.

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As I stepped through the door I felt transported from rainy Westbourne Grove. The tranquil atmosphere is immediately calming; whether it’s due to the warm lighting, clean interiors and greenery, or the very inviting, bright and friendly cafe team, the welcome was similar to the one I receive after turning my keys in the family front door – if my family lived in Australia, and not a seaside town in Essex. Whatever it may be, it’s clear that the principles of the Clean and Lean lifestyle have manifested within the energies of the Bodyism cafe and club. It almost seemed as if I’d travelled out of London in a matter of seconds, only reminded that I was in fact minutes from Notting Hill Gate when I looked out the front window.

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I’d checked out the menu online before I arrived, which being very informing and detailed,  was nothing compared to the knowledge of the team – with no hesitation, they replied to my quizzing of food and products available. As someone with specific, sometimes difficult intolerances, I often find eating out tedious, forever holding the fear that the staff don’t really know what they’re selling, resulting in a unhappy tummy by the time I leave. But here, I trusted them completely. I had faith in my order before it even reached the counter.

That was, after ten minutes of whittling down my order. I went in with the intention of ordering a savoury meal and perhaps a smoothie, but at the risk of sounding cliche, it really was so hard to chose from the wide range of food available. It all sounded delicious, muddling my senses so that my ears could taste. After much deliberation, I decided on the Pancakes (it was Shrove Tuesday, after all), the Protein Boosting Paleo Slice topped with almond butter, the Nourish Me acai bowel, the Berry Burn shake, and a Clean and Lean Cookie. That really was hard enough…

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Instagram worthy #brunchgoals

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Controversial, I know – but I’m not a big lover of pancakes, and would never make my own on Shrove Tuesday. I did mention this when they were recommend to me, but, you know, the whole taste buds in my ears thing… Anyway, I’ll be honest, I was expecting disappointment. What I experienced could only be described as an orgasm in my mouth. They were without a doubt, the best pancakes I have ever eaten (sorry mum). As I ordered, I actually said, “If I don’t finish this, can I take it home in a doggy bag?” (I love that expression). Oh, what a fool I was! I inhaled the whole thing. My brain switched off for a minute or two in pure pleasure, until I attempted to scoop the bottom if the plate. Please, Bodyism, may I ‘av some more?

Buckwheat Pancakes: coconut milk + organic egg + buckwheat flower + berries + coconut oil + maple syrup + almond butter + cottage cheese

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After the inhalation of the pancakes, I doubted that my little stomach could manage the acai bowel – who am I trying to fool? I ADORE acai bowels. They are my favourite comfort food because they are oh so comforting and happy and delicious yet not unhealthy – Bodyism’s acai bowels aren’t just not-unhealthy, they are actually nourishing, metabolism boosting, and will flush out toxins and alkalise the body.

‘Nourish Me’ Bowl: Acai + Body Brilliance + granola + organic berries + almond butter + hemp seeds

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It’s very rare that I eat bread, and when I do my favourite is Pumpernickel. So I thought I’d try something different: introducing the Protein Boosting Paleo Slice. I topped mine with almond butter to continue with the sweet theme. It was melt-in-your-mouth-grainy-perfection, and I wasn’t left with the usual heavy bloat sludge after other breads.

Protein Boosting Paleo Slice: almonds, eggs, coconut flour, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, virgin coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, coconut nectar, sea salt

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Admittedly, I was now happy and satisfied. So satisfied that I had to loosen my belt. So, I took the cookie home with me. Later that evening, I dipped it into an Earl Grey tea with soy milk. When I was young I was a biscuit fiend, and cut them out completely when I went health mad, at risk of overindulging. Biting into this cookie was like looking at a childhood photo album, or reminiscing family holidays at a dinner table. Biscuits, how i’ve missed your sweet crumbly deliciousness! I wanted to weep when I’d swallowed the last mouthful. But instead, I made my flatmate promise she’d buy me another on her travels the next day.

SOMEHOW, how on Earth I do not know, this cookie is made only of lovely, nutritious things, and is completely gluten free AND vegan (and comes in the cutest little cookie bag. Although, I did forget to breathe for a minute while eating this cookie, so probably very appropriate advice).

Clean and Lean Cookies: oats, coconut flour, raw chocolate, coconut oil, coconut palm sugar, vanilla, egg, Himalayan salt, baking soda

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The Berry Burn shake was the perfect finisher to the perfect Brunch. So good, I forgot to take a photo of the actual shake: it was a beautiful rich red and the texture was incredibly thick and creamy without being sickly.

Berry Burn shake: mixed berries, goji berries, coconut water

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Also available to buy is a wide range of amazing supplements. The whole team were so helpful in explaining everything you need to know about them. It’s clear that this isn’t just a job to them – they really are so passionate about the products and food that they are offering. If makes such a difference to the usual boredom portrayed in other cafes and restaurants. Bodyism really is a lifestyle.

I was genuinely sad to end our brunch and leave Bodyism, but not before I signed up for information of their countless classes, with a promise that I would return very soon. I really could eat there every day.

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Check out Bodyism and see (and taste) why it’s my new favourite place to eat!

Clean and Lean Cafe

222-224 Westbourne Grove W11 2RH

Monday – Friday: 7am – 6pmSaturday and Sunday: 8am – 5pm

www.bodyism.com

@cleanandlean / @bodyism / @_theluckyleo

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Advice, Happiness, Health, Interview

“There will always be more parties” – Things I Wish I’d Heard at 23

Birthday’s are funny things, aren’t they? Fundamentally, they serve solely as an excuse to dedicate a whole day to the celebration of you and your life, in which you are rewarded with praise, parties and presents, purely for having won the sperm race and surviving however many years of earth you personally have thus far.

I recently turned 23. 23 is a pretty forgettable landmark – it presents no new allowances like 18 or 21, and no philosophical rush of importance like 25 or 30. Even 22 had a Taylor Swift song. 23 is just a red flag reminding you that you are two years away from 25, and seven short years away from 30. Pause Taylor Swift for a second and you’ll hear a faint, monotonous ticking noise…

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I feel that now more than ever, twenty somethings are feeling an immense pressure to succeed. We are a generation of perfectionists, influenced by the media and countless sources of overflowing information. Technology is developing at the speed of light, and we are expected to hold on tight or get left behind. The Earth, once gigantic, has been made smaller but technology, so that we are all just tiny fishes drowning in one big bottomless pond.

I recently discussed a personal anxiety with my friend Steve, who at 28 isn’t much older than me at all. He told me that when he was my age, he didn’t appreciate being responsibility free and wish he’d used that to his advantage. It made me realise that nostalgia and first hand knowledge allows us to look back on our younger selves and see that we were unnecessarily anxious, because nothing is as bad as it may have seemed once it is in the past. Advice can help us to view things in a different perspective. Listening to others’ regrets could stir something within us early and help to avoid our own future regrets.

So I asked 23 friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances over the age of 30 what advice they would give if they could have a conversation with their 23 year old self:

Fraser, 52, Insurance broker, Essex.

“If you’re not happy in something, whether it’s a relationship or a job – QUIT. It is never too late to change your life, you are never stuck in anything.”

Helen, 52, Hospice nurse, Wiltshire. 

“Follow your heart. If it feels right then do it! If someone else’s advice isn’t quite ‘you’ then go with your gut feeling. I married at 19 after lots of,

Are you sure you’re not too young?/Will this relationship last?”  

I am so glad that I followed my heart… As it was right! We have been happily married for 32 years.”

Vicki Psarias, Film maker http://www.vpsarias.co.uk  and blogger (http://www.honestmum.com) (http://www.mummysgotstyle.com)

“Keep truckin’, follow your dreams (as you will) but be open, always. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself. I had directed my first short film at the time, had just got a distinction in my MA in Screen Direction, but I was too hard on myself, my own worst critic and I would say in retrospect, ‘girl, cut yourself some slack, you’ll find the right job for you, eventually (when technology catches up) that allows you to be whomever you want to be, and it will happen after kids, a time when many will tell you your creative career will die. Well it thrived’.

Remember, things will work out. Hone your talent, be tenacious but also kind and life will work out the way it should.”

Joe, 32, Musician, South East London

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, but don’t expect happiness to be a default setting.”

Ste, 40, Builder, Essex. 

“ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, wear a condom.”

Rory Gullan, 30, Fashion photographer, London.

“At an extremely stressful time of my life, my mum asked me, ”What’s the worst that could happen?” I told her, “Well, this”, to which she repeated, ”What’s the worst that could happen?” So I told her – “I could fail.” And she simply said, “Exactly.”

Since then I’ve used this in everything I do, and everything just seems that much more straightforward. Failing is one less thing to worry about because it’ll teach you a lot more than always succeeding.”

Julie, 49, Yoga instructor, Essex.

“Believe in yourself and all that you do. Don’t worry about what other people think, just know that you are attractive to others.”

Joe Mehmet, Salon owner and top hairdresser. 

“Invest in your future rather than live for now. As time catches up with you and then you realise that you haven’t got enough for the rest of your old life; In your twenties it’s all about fun fun fun but when you hit the fifties you need security as pensions won’t be enough – nor will the state look after you.”

Jake Mavity, 35, Director and producer, London. 

“Slow down. I thought there was a mad rush to achieve stuff when actually life is bloody long and you don’t have to have it completely nailed by 30. And relax. Twenties are rubbish compared to how fucking awesome your thirties are. The fun of the twenties with no insecurities and more cash. Bliss.”

Bobby, 33, Music journalist, Essex. 

“Nothing is ever as bad as we imagine it to be, and that feeling anxious is natural. It is perfectly normally to feel scared, but to let that fear prevent you from doing what is good for you is the most frightening scenario of all.”

Tav, 36, Club manager, London. 

“Don’t expect anyone to provide for you; the sweetest money you’ll ever make will be the money you make for yourself.”

Michelle, 53, Actress, London.

“The minute you have a back up plan you are admitting defeat. Don’t look for love, it will always find you.”

Bobby, 69, Club owner, London 

“If you look around a table and can’t pick out ‘the mug’, you’re it.”

Ian, 32, DJ and photographer, London.

“There will always be more parties.”

Sid, 70, Antique dealer, London.

“Just live life as it comes. Always be polite, manners cost nothing.”

Jo, 42, Makeup artist, London.

“You are beautiful. Just be confident, listen to your inner voice and do what makes YOU happy.”

Mike, 47, Managing Director, London. 

“Think twice before you cross someone because it will always come back to you. Honesty is the key to life.”

Jens, 70, Property developer, Surrey.  

“Don’t rush into things. Take your time and think through your options. You are only 23 and still have 50-60 years of living in front of you.”

Siobhan, 47, Deputy head teacher, Berkshire. 

“Don’t get to your 40’s and say. “I should have done that.” Life presents people with opportunities all the time. Some people take them and some people don’t. Don’t miss out!”

Richard, 35, Film editor, London.

“Don’t panic. Smile. Laugh. Have lots and lots of sex.”

Vero, 43, Saleswoman, Dorking.

“Don’t smoke. Get your cervical smear test. A friend of mine had to have her entire cervix removed in her late twenties because they found cancer.”

Julia, 58, Artist, Surrey.

“Self development, self development, self development. Make it a life long commitment and investment to become the best version of yourself in mind, body and spirit.”

Victoria, 54, Social worker, Essex. 

“Trust your instinct, and don’t let pressure get in the way of it. At 23 I had doubts about my engagement, but went through with the wedding so not to let any one down. As soon as we were married he became extremely abusive and I found myself divorced by 25. Don’t waste years of your life unhappy. As soon as something doesn’t feel right or make your life better, remove it from your life.”

 

 

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Advice, Happiness, Uncategorized

Break Up to Wake Up

I have never heard anyone say a that their break up was easy. Even if it was the obvious option, a mutual decision, or for one parties best interests. Even if the love you shared has slowly dwindled into nothing but a comfortable familiarity. Even if that person ripped your heart into one trillion tiny pieces, the loss of a constant presence isn’t something that can be forgotten in the mili-second it takes to say, “Goodbye”. The simple yet agonising pain of missing someone can be overwhelming and at times inconceivable.

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Of course, some people are quicker to get over than overs, and some are lucky that they are kept busy or disconnected enough that time heals the pain faster without much thought. But, I am almost certain that even those people have at some point found themselves awake at four am thinking, “fuck.”

Love is a real strange thing. You meet a stranger. You like them. You spend your very precious time with them. You share your inner most feelings, emotions and fears with each other. Whether the connection hits you like a punch in the face or is more of a slow burner, creeping up on you unexpectedly, it becomes so strong that our emotions translate it in our brains as ownership. They are yours and you are theirs. Out of the 7.125 billion humans on planet Earth, you have a favourite.

Now take it right back to the begging: you meet a stranger. A stranger that has a whole universe of their own before they enter yours. A stranger that owes you absolutely nothing and to whom you owe nothing in return.

But our brains somehow persuade us that we will never ever ever find a stranger whom we prefer to the present favourite stranger, meaning that when the break up comes, we enter panic mode.

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Cat Stevens wrote, “the first cut is the deepest”. I personally believe that your first break up hurts more than any other. Largely due to the fact that after the first, you have the comfort of experience. You got over them, so you will get over the next. And the next after that.

At 20, I broke up with my first boyfriend after three years together. I honestly, seriously, literally thought I would never meet anyone that made me feel more at home than he did. I thought that, at 20 – 20!!!! – that I would end up un married and childless, with ten dogs and an extremely large wine cabinet, still crying myself to sleep over the loss of my first love.

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I can’t tell you that I felt amazing and free and could laugh at my previous sentiments after two weeks. The cold truth is that I was sad for a good six months. I tried to date after a while, but the table space between the new unknown man and I felt like light years. It wasn’t getting better. I then made the cliche mistake of organising a catch up (let’s-attempt-a-friendship / I-just-want-to-look-at-your-face-in-person) coffee, after which we kissed and I begged him for another chance. Cough he said no cough. I was humiliated, and the hurt I’d felt over the last four or five months quadrupled and hit me in one big blow. I promised I would never beg a man ever again.

After that incident, I felt better by the day. My mindset became completely different, until I met someone whose company I genuinely enjoyed and felt I could have sex with without crying afterwards. I never cried once. A few nice men later, I found myself head over heels in love again. This time, it was my first love that felt light years away, and the forever alone sentiment, down right laughable.

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It is never too late to move on from Mr. or Mrs. Wrong. My mum met her Mr. Right after a failed marriage, two children and countless relationships along the way, aged 49 in Stansted airport after a delayed flight. They have now been together for almost six years and are yet to have their first argument. That’s the best example I have, and it’s a pretty good one.

A big part of waking up after a break up is acceptance; accept who you are, what makes you happy and the kind of person that could add to your unique breed of happiness. Even if your heart is broken and it was completely that persons fault – it wasn’t really their fault – you just weren’t right for one another. Once you come to that understanding yourself through time, self love and rational thinking, that acceptance will come naturally, and forgiveness will follow. If hating that person gives you the power to move on, so be it, but only through letting go of that hate will you truly, truly move on and discover your true love within yourself and for another.

Louis CK said, “Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce.” It’s the same with all relationships, whether you’re married or have been dating for four months. A rational break up is always, always, always good news. Life is far too short to be in a complicated or anything less than happy, fulfilling relationship. Plus, the greatest things in our lives happen because something changes. Perhaps the relationship has been subconsciously holding you back from being exactly who you want to be or doing exactly what you want to do.

Being with the absolute right person for you is the easiest thing in the world. However much you try to tell yourself otherwise, or how ever much the nostalgia and the panic mode clouds it: if someone makes you miserable than they are not that person, and you should not be with them. Period. And anyway… You’ll never find the right person if you never let go of the wrong one.

You – whoever you are, whether I know you personally or not – are amazing, and you deserve happiness. The best thing you can do, the only thing you can do, is turn your hurt and heartbreak into a positive drive. Use this time to find yourself, excel at work, get healthy, sort out your shit with no ties. If you’re the revenge type (maybe you should re read the last few paragraphs if your answer is yes), happiness is the ultimate revenge. Being self destructive will get you absolutely NOWHERE. Take that from someone who has made that mistake and learnt from it.

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THINGS I WISH I’D BEEN TOLD TO DO 

  1. SPEND AS MUCH TIME WITH PEOPLE THAT MAKE YOU FEEL HAPPY AS POSSIBLE. Family, girlfriends, guy friends, your pets, your therapist… Etc.
  2. TREAT YOURSELF. Whether that be buying yourself a break-up-gift, pampering yourself, a holiday. Happiness if priceless, even if it’s fleeting. Although please keep in mind your rent.
  3. TALK ABOUT IT. If you can feel certain friends getting bored of it (insert question of friendship quality, sorrynotsorry), find someone that has perhaps been in your shoes and is a talker AND a listener. It really will help. They might even point out some things as an outsider that will bring you to your own realisations.
  4. DO NOT CALL/TEXT/EMAIL/‘ACCIDENTALLY’ BUMP INTO/MEET FOR ‘FRIENDLY’ COFFEE. Under no circumstances. Unless you share a child. Exchange possessions, get your shit and leave. I KNOW it’s hard but it really will make it a lot easier in the long run.
  5. READ:HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU IT’S CALLED A BREAK UP BECAUSE IT’S BROKEN HEAL AND MOVE ON 
  6. WATCH: 19 Best Movies to Watch After a Breakup  I couldn’t have written this list better myself. 
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Happiness

FUCK YOU, FASHION

Fashion – 

noun: a popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behaviour.

verb: make into a particular form.

As a non celebrity, when you post tweet or a Facebook status, the last thing you expect is an industry uproar.

If you exist within or are at least acquainted with the London fashion universe, you’ll have heard the name ‘Charli Howard’ one hundred times this past fortnight. Her Facebook open letter to the fashion industry – specifically to her now ex-agency – has so far been shared 968 times, garnering so much attention that only days later she appeared on Channel 4 News and the BBC.

On Monday, vogue.com published an interview with her. Now THAT’S a fuck you to her ex agency.

Even the most loyal fashion worshipper is well aware of that this long time controversy within the fashion industry regarding the health of models. I remember an uproar in the mid noughties when the term “size zero” was massively talked about in the news and media after runway models literally starved themselves to death. A decade before that, a teenage Kate Moss was the poster girl for fashion movement “heroin chic”. And even with the seeming rise of plus size agencies, positive body image advocates and models like Cara Delevigne becoming known for their ‘personaltiy’, this issue is now so deep rooted that it has spread way beyond the realm of high fashion runway shows and magazines.

Fashion is arguably the most powerfully influencing industry in modern society. For all the positive, creative and, I suppose, entertaining outcomes, the negatives are terrifyingly dangerous. This is an industry that does not encourage liking yourself, whether you are a model or a consumer. It breeds a sense of genetic hierarchy based on looks alone, no matter how they try to sugarcoat it. It is the romanticism of a one dimensional way of life, that leaves many of us feeling subconsciously empty and not good enough. It is a race in which no one will ever will, because what we are aspiring to achieve is literally impossible.

When I began modelling, I was horrendously naive. I had what I thought was a sturdy high sense of self worth, so that when others around me discussed the negatives on the job, I shrugged them off with such classics as, “It won’t affect me”, “I won’t let myself be pressured into changing”, and “if I get told I’m not good enough, I’ll chuckle and dance and leave, head held high.” I never once considered how something I saw purely as a sweet money maker, could completely transform my self esteem and self perception.

Thankfully, I have never received complaints about measurements from an agency. But I have lost count the amount of times I have been upset by team members and casting managers’ comments about me. Me, a human being. Not a product or a 2d cardboard cut out. When it’s you they’re talking about, it suddenly becomes very personal. But at the same time, there is an underlying sense that it’s your fault, because no one forced you to be a model. You chose this job. You pay your rent because of this job. So, you shrug off all the little looks, whispers, tuts and scribbles, and they quietly store themselves into your subconscious until you start seeing a product when you look in the mirror, instead of a human being with emotions and thoughts.

I am someone that continues to model, albeit very carefully, even though I have recognised this. Maybe because for all it’s faults, being a model can still be fun, rewarding and almost addictive. But I am upset with fashion. I am sick of seeing beautiful, kind, intelligent girls slowly being churned through a factory system and left with broken self esteems and robotic falsities.

I am sick of the thought of normal little girls idolising, thinking that models bodies, features, hair and skin are normal and effortless, and therefore wrecking their minds and bodies striving for something so unattainable.

Since Charli’s honest and down right brave* admission, fresh stories of mistreatment, pressure and negativity continue to surface from current and retired models.

In an ideal world, this negative attention will see this domino effect continue to show ball into gigantic proportion, transforming the industry as a whole. For Vogue, the largest influencer of fashion worldwide, to support Charli, speaks volumes.

*”Brave” is often used lightly in feminist rants. A lot of the time, I disagree with the use of the word. My idea of a brave woman, for right use of the word, is Malala Yousafzai. But if you are too a model, you will agree that Charli’s out pouring was potentially detrimental to her career, so it was indeed brave of her to be so honest on such an open and accessible platform.

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Happiness

Love & other drugs

Romantic relationships seem to be the underlying influence to our emotional and personal lives. Perhaps this is how humans have developed over centuries, but look back to further – Zeus’s lovers and Hera’s jealousy, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Lancelot and Guinevere, Layla and Majnun, Pyramus and Thisbe – and it becomes quite clear that romance, love and obsession are hardly modern ideas.

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The vast majority of movies, books, music and art are focused on love. In our culture, the majority of adults are in (or in and out) of relationships. Every single one of us are on this Earth due to a romantic relationship or at least a romantic exchange. It’s everywhere you go, and it’s inescapable.

I began my first relationship at 16, living my late teen years and early twenties in and out of love, without much time to comprehend the most important love of all – the love you have for yourself.

Around two years ago, I was single for the longest I’ve ever been – a year – and although it pains me to admit it, it was great. Not because I was “free”/able to sleep around, etc. But because for the first time, I met the real stripped down me – who as it turns out, I actually really liked. 

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If a relationship is right, it’s a wonderful place to be. But I can’t help but feel that we grow in a different kind of way when we’re single. There is a lack of intimate emotional support that deems we look after ourselves like Lionesses look after their cubs. Having a Lion is lovely, and in a weird way, reliving, but perhaps not as satisfying.

We are all aware of the cliche, “Love is drug”, suggesting love has good and bad consequences and addicting tendencies. But scientifically, love is a lot more of a drug than you would expect.

Relationships change the way our brain releases chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine, the chemicals that draw and keep us together. Oxytocin and dopamine make us feel a levelled euphoria. Oxytocin is what is released when a mother gives birth, therefore bonding her to her baby.

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The desperation we feel to stay together, no matter how rational a break up, isn’t just a fear of being alone – it is actually due to the withdrawal from oxytocin. Which is exactly why after days, week, or months, depending on the individual, we look back on break ups with the sense that it was the right thing to do, because our brain chemicals have returned to their normal level once the ‘love rehab’ has been completed.

Relationships are amazing, and I of course cannot speak for everyone. But personally, I am beginning to understand “love” as a chemical reaction, and becoming aware of the negative connotations within that “love”.

No matter how positive and loving the relationship may begin, If we’re not careful, co-dependency and the sense of needing each other for all the wrong reasons, can creep up so quietly and gently that we can look down to find ourselves stuck in waist high quick sand before we even have the chance to say, “We need to talk.”

This stage in a relationship is extremely exhausting. In the past, I have definitely felt that this stage has made me lose my sense of self and my self worth. Being in a close emotional relationship changes our understanding of ourselves, because Oxytocin tells us that “we are one” with that person, therefore blurring the lines of our inward individuality.

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I think most of us unconsciously have looked to our partners to meet our emotional needs whilst at least attempting to accept theirs. For me, years of disappointment has only highlighted the fact that you can never emotionally depend on another human. One, because it is totally unfair to them, and two, because only you and you alone can ever completely emotionally support yourself.

Trust me, this is a new admission for me. I once boasted my ability to remain a completely rounded independent individual within my relationships. I was sure that I would never ever obsess over a partner, revolve my life around theirs or let that person influence my choices or personality.

But ask yourself, really and truly – could you say this?

Or, subconsciously, have you craved unrealistic levels of attention from a partner? Let their mood, decisions, or interests influence yours? Become irrationally territorial over them? Felt a hyper sensitive sense of worthlessness due to their behaviours?

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It’s overwhelming to admit, that I have felt this in probably all of my serious romantic relationships, at some point or another. Instinctually, I thought, “Wow. I am really emotionally messed up.” But if I, a relatively normal, privileged, emotionally stable young woman has, maybe these aren’t such abnormal things after all.

 

I have a lot to learn when it comes to love and relationships. In the grand scheme of things, I haven’t finished the first chapter. But one thing I am sure of, is that we can not be responsible to fixing each other. We can support and encourage, but we each have our own needs and paths to follow. If the compatibility in a relationship is wavering, take a step back and reevaluate. I can tell you from experience that the break down of a relationship is not the end of your world – it’s the beginning of a new one. Maybe, on the way, you’ll fall in love with yourself and settle with that.  

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And if you find yourself lucky enough the meet the perfect person for you, a relationship between two happy individuals will be a lot more successful than two halves of one un happy couple.

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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

Attack of the New Year Resolutions

Before Christmas has even properly begun, “New Year, New Me!” is a phrase frequently heard as soon as December hits. The post Christmas ‘urgh’ is inevitably close – that feeling of bloat and uncomfortably after a week of hearty home cooking, biscuit tins, cold nights and duvet days.

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Social networks have been plagued by lists of New Year’s Resolutions; the most frequent contender on my girlfriends list’s are “Get in shape”, “Get my eighteen year old body back”, “Summer body” and “Lose weight”. Often included is a photo of a Victoria Secret model on a beach looking AMAZING. It’s great to feel inspired and motivated after the holidays to start / get back into shape, but it will not happen over night, and there is no secret or quick-slim solution. I think what we really need is to re-think our goals.

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Go into a newsagents and pick up any magazine – chances are, the front cover will be littered with images of female celebrities with headlines concerned with their appearance; whether it’s “Cheryl’s New Hair!”, “Victoria’s Skin Secret!”, or, perhaps the most concerning, “Reality-TV-Star puts on weight!”. Yet the same magazines feature pages upon pages of ‘perfect’ woman, with tiny waists, flawless skin, glossy hair, legs like giraffes and Hollywood smiles.

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We compare ourselves to these women. But these women are not real. They may be pretty or even beautiful in real life, but these images have been tweaked to this perfection. When women look at these images, something in their brain says “I need to look like that.” This sort of perfection is impossible to achieve until some science genius invents a real life Photoshop machine. On top of this, when we see a teeny tiny skinny mini, chances are she has worked extremely hard for her body – whether she’s worked out a lot and eaten very well, or she’s been very un healthy with it (please don’t go down that route, it’s definitely not worth it).

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All women (and men) have different body types. We come in many different shapes and sizes. In most cases, no amount of exercise, dieting or starving will change your genetic make-up. If you are holding onto a little extra padding, of course eating right and exercise will help you lose it. The naturally skinny women are the minority. The average dress size for women in the UK is a 14. Research has confirmed that it is more difficult for women to shed the pounds than men, because women’s bodies are simply more efficient at storing fat. It’s nature. 

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We women need to change the way we think about our bodies, our weight and this idea of ‘perfection’. We need to set ourselves realistic goals and concentrate less on our weight or size (unless you are unhealthily below or above your BMI) – and focus on our health, shape and happiness.

The best way to get this mindset working, is to establish your body shape – whether you’re petite, an apple or pear shape, an hourglass, curvy, tall, etc etc. Now, decide what your goal is – realistically. Forget about the fad diets, they will not work in the long term and are not good for you, mentally or physically. In fact, forget the diet mentality all together. You need to make these changes for life. I’m not saying “never eat chocolate ever again, it’s evil!”, because some ‘bad’ food in moderation will not kill you. The 80/20 rule is what a lot of women live by – 80% of what you eat is healthy and nutritious and 20% is indulgence. This means that you are not deprived of food that you crave, and you are therefore less likely to binge when you tell your mind that it’s not allowed. One piece of chocolate won’t make you put on weight – but the whole box probably will.

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Changing your eating habits will make you lose weight, yes. But, this shouldn’t be the priority. What matters most is your health. We need to change the false views that ‘perfection equals happiness’. It’s not real, and you will never find happiness chasing something as real as Santa Claus. It’s health that can equal happiness.

But whatever you do, do not beat yourself up about it. Food is supposed to be enjoyed while giving you energy and keeping you healthy. Do not make food your enemy. Do not make exercise a chore. Do not waste your life stressing about how you look. Do not look in the mirror and hate yourself, because hating yourself will not make you look or feel any better. All women are different, and the most beautiful woman are those that are happy and healthy and confident in their own skin.

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