Happiness, Health

Top-Secret Beauty Tips that Modelling Taught Me

One question I am quite regularly asked is,

“What beauty secrets have you learnt from modelling?”

Although I always seem to get on really well with MUA’s, I’m really not interested in make up at all. I usually sit in the chair, let them do their thing whilst day dreaming or chatting, and voila, there’s a much better looking girl staring back at me in the mirror.

I’m atrocious at my own make-up and don’t wear much at all when I’m not working. So I’m afraid I don’t have any make-up tips… Although Britney Spears did teach me to dab lipstick of my cheeks instead of blusher, when I was a 10 year old watching her “In The Zone” DVD.

The so called ‘tips’ that I have learned are simple and already well known:

  • Bioderma (once secret way before it became available to buy in every pharmacy in London)
  • Coconut oil erry’thing (face masks, hair masks, hand cream, sexy oils)
  • Enough water and sleep – I know it’s mega boring and seems like bullshit but it is 100% annoyingly true

I have replied with these answers, usually met with politely disappointed responses. But actually, the older I get and the more at one with myself I become, the more I realise what I have in fact learnt from my experience as a model.

So without further ado, here are my top 5 beauty secrets that no one will tell you.

1. No one is that beautiful.  

Some people ask if modelling makes you insecure. Sure, it can make you feel insecure for a number of reasons; rejection, not fitting into clothes, bitchy comments that get you right there and linger forever… But in some ways, modelling actually made me feel more secure. Because, I have seen up close, met and shared toilet cubicles with some of the most gorgeous models in the world… And not once have I been so overwhelmed by one’s beauty that I have felt disgustingly unattractive. Don’t get me wrong, they really are beautiful. But so is that girl that lives down the road from you. They’re still human. Some girls have very picturesque, doll like faces and the standard “perfect” body (yawn), yet suffer from bad B.O and even worse breath. Some move like ballerina’s yet sound like a burly truck driver. Some are simply dumb as shit.

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There’s usually two ways this scenario will pan out – I will either see a photo of a girl that makes me feel like the ugliest troll in the world, only to meet her and be shocked by her humanness… Or I will meet women who are sexy, beautiful, attractive and interesting, who’s character and aura is simply too intense to be captured in a 2d image.

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The Western world and particularly the fashion industry is far too entranced by beauty in a 2d image or a film clip that it mostly disregards the unexplainable beauty many people exude; the kind that you can’t bottle and sell, or even pin point. None of the most beautiful, attractive people I have ever met are models.

2. It. Is. Literally. All. About. Confidence. 

Not every model is an intimidatingly confident superwoman. It’s extremely human to be insecure and not entirely self assured. Many models are actually faking confidence, really really really well. And actually, that’s all anyone can do in terms of confidence and beauty; fake it until you make it.

Standing tall. Holding yourself with poise. Speaking with conviction. A smile. Easy and completely free things we can all do which make such a difference to how we feel about ourselves – as well as the less important – how others view us.

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3. Accept your body shape and focus on it’s health more than what it looks like. 

Hardly anyone is naturally that thin. I know that some girls are actually that thin even though they eat 5,000 calories a day and don’t exercise. Yeah, ok…

The majority of models’  – not the 1% of models that become super models but normal, nameless models – careers begin at 15 and end in their early twenties. A lot of them still have their childhood metabolism and prepubescent shape. Some have that typical prepubescent shape their whole lives. Plus the fact that they are taller than the average women, meaning their bodies are longer and someway stretched out. But many fashion consumers are more typical shaped women, who are a lot older than the girls they are bombarded with photos of. I don’t think a lot of people really consciously consider that.

That being said, a lot of women that do not have this natural, thin shape are ultra skinny regardless. They’ll tell you it’s from diet and exercise. But in the case of most of the models I’ve been in close contact with, it’s extreme, sometimes life debilitating: i.e no carbs, dairy or sugar EVER, no more than 500 calories for 5 days of the week, at least an hour of cardio a day, etc, etc.

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Others rely on an unhealthier life style to keep the pounds at bay. It’s a rarity to find a model in London that doesn’t smoke 20 cigarettes a day.

There is a dark side of modelling that I once thought only existed in cliche parodies. I have so many examples and anecdotes about this, but there is one so brutal it sticks out.

One of my closet model friends was working in New York for a few months signed to a top agency. During fashion week, they called her in between castings to have a “polite” word about her weight. She was “too big”. At that point she was eating under 500 calories a day (that’s a banana, two slices of bread and a few pieces of ham), exercising for two hours every morning, and at 5’11, was the skinniest she had ever been. Her Instagram feed scared me. She looked ill and a far cry from the bubbly, happy girl I love. Shocked, she told them that she didn’t know what else to do about it, since she was already fainting and crying herself to sleep. This is when they suggested she try cocaine.

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Of course, it was no secret to me that a lot of the more party loving models used cocaine and other drugs recreationally, and cocaine especially is known for it’s laxative and appetite suppressing qualities. My friend, completely without judgement, is personally against drugs and cigarettes and hardly drinks alcohol. For her to be pressured by the people that were supposed to be protecting her, so far from home, made me feel psychically sick.

I’m not judging anyone’s choices. But I do think it’s unfair that women are duped into thinking that all of these bodies were achieved in a healthy way. The majority of bodies in the fashion world are completely unobtainable for the average woman.

And I haven’t even touched upon eating disorders…

4. Be aware of the fakery. 

A lot of models were not born exactly the way you see them. Although a lot of them had lovely faces already, a good 50% of the girls I know have had nose jobs, sometimes multiple, and even more of the less high-fashion girls have had boob jobs. A few of the ‘celebrity’ models of the moment and countless ‘Instagram models’ have had undeniable face surgery, which for fashion models a few years ago was near unthinkable. I’m ashamed to say I have, more than once, found myself in a black hole of girls’ social feeds, chronicling their changing faces and attempting to pin point exactly what they’ve ‘had done’ and when. It kind of fascinates me…

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Plus, it’s important to remember that you only see models photoshopped to within an inch of their life, with Heaven-like lighting and even better angles. A lot of girls, including myself, have or still do suffer from break outs and adult acne, but you’ll never see that.

I truly believe that the next generation will grow up feeling weirdly human because of their natural human features, surrounded by alien ‘perfect’ features in the media. But that’s for another article.

5. Imperfections really are what make you beautiful. 

Picture your favourite model; Cara’s eyebrows, Cindy’s beauty mark, Iman’s neck, Lara’s gap, Erin’s nose, Lily’s hair… a lot of the most recognisable faces have something unusual about them that makes them stand out from the other hundreds of models wanting to book that gig.

Sculptor Marc Quinn described this perfectly while discussing Kate Moss.

“I think she’s got a very symmetrical face and yet when she opens her mouth she’s got slightly elongated teeth on the top row, so there is a tiny element of threateningness within her beauty, and there’s a kind of balance between seduction and repulsion going on. That’s one thing, she’s not completely flawless. It’s the flaws that make her. In all people, it’s the flaws that make you interesting.”

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It’s a lot easier to say than to do, but accepting and growing to love and appreciate your flaws in probably the best thing anyone can learn from the modelling industry. You begin to see how changeable and fluid our ideas of beauty are and how manipulated we are within societies perceptions. Once a feature or trait is confirmed as attractive and desirable, there’s an uncontrollable domino effect. However, as soon as we start to become aware of just how mindless the trends of what is considered beautiful really are, we can begin to unsubscribe from this forced ideal and truly learn to accept and appreciate our own so called flaws.

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Advice, Happiness

The Ex-Girlfriend Club

When I was 16 I met a boy called Will*. Will was my first everything: first boyfriend, first “I love you”, first other-person-orgasm, first p in my v.

But I wasn’t Will’s first any of those. That title in his life belonged to a girl called Chelsea, subsequently becoming another first for me: the first ex girlfriend.

These were simpler times. Pre Instagram and pre Facebook boom, it took a mutual acquaintance causally mentioning Chelsea for me to find out about her, around four months into our then very teenage relationship.

Of course, I’d recently been experiencing multiple overwhelming emotions for the very first time, such as attachment, sexual connection, vaginal stimulation and the gag reflex. None of these shocked me (the gag reflex comes in at a close second) or hit me quite so hard as the pure stomach turning gut wrenching jealously I felt upon learning of what I envisioned of Will’s “First Love”. Suddenly, our relationship felt tainted, which sounds very Victorian I know, and is strange because it’s not like I ever thought he was a virgin. Funnily enough, the fact that he wasn’t a virgin when he met me made me fancy him even more and installed a confidence that he’d take the wheel on my loss of virginity experience. But now, after discovering the details, I wished that I’d been his first. The awful, juvenile terms “sloppy seconds” and “upgrade/downgrade” was rife in our small town Essex gossip culture. I wasn’t anyone’s seconds. He was. I didn’t feel special anymore.

And to make it worse, she was hot. I tried to find faults in her to comfort my ignorant pubescent woman brain, but failed. She was tall and blonde, with a sexiness about her. I instantly compared this to myself, the unsexed round faced brunette tomboy in thick rimmed glasses, and for the first time ever, contemplated my own attractiveness. My awkward stage went on for longer than most (can we just forget pre-2011 didn’t happen?) whereas it seemed as if she’d never even endured one. As the law of attraction would have it, now knowing her face and name, I started seeing her everywhere on our college campus, but refused to acknowledge her existence, even to my friends. I didn’t need their opinions or even the truth, and I wasn’t insecure enough to put her down in order to pull myself up. She never caused trouble in any way. She was just living her life. But to me, she was the bitch that my boyfriend loved before me.

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(I literally ignored her existence at this party and we still managed to – kind of – be in the same photo.)

We’re raised well prepared for relationships and “love”, but no one ever warned me of the ex girlfriend game. Once over the age of 18, chances are your significant other has known genitalia other than your own. It seems like a simple fact of life, but one we are never emotionally prepped for or allowed to be honest about. No girl wants to be the “psycho” or to ruin her new relationship ‘cool girl’ myth. But if you tell me that you don’t know your S.O’s ex’s name, guess what – I don’t believe you.

Because, for every man I’ve been romantically or sexually involved in, I’ve known at least one ex by name or face, whether I’ve searched them out, stumbled across them or simply heard stories straight from the man’s mouth. Unless you’ve known them personally, they become a ghost like presence in the back of your sub conscious, even if it is a tiny little thought in a darker moment of the day, existing in a universe parallel to your own – still kissing and loving the man that is now yours. Their names become harder to pronounce, as if even the phonetic produces a venom, paralysing your lips. And even if their name is rarely mentioned, no matter what age, to some degree your person shared experiences and parts of their life with this other person. So in getting to know your person to the best of human ability, they’re going to remain in there somewhere, however much hidden.

To date, Chelsea is the only ex I’ve had no choice but to share an intimate space with, i.e a campus, a corridor or a mutual friends party. I’ve seen others in social situations that have been easy to escape from. I even worked with one, but didn’t have to be in close proximity with her. Chelsea is the only ex who’s persona was crafted in real life. All of the others have been created in a cosmic space between my brain and the internet.

For all the advantages that technology has granted us, among it’s negatives are the utensils to feed our curiosity in this particular subject. A simple Google search could show you half a dozen different medias that she has used over the years. I once found myself three years deep into an ex’s blog, flooded with photos of her and the guy on amazing holidays, making that past parallel universe far too present. And as the years have gone on it’s become as easy as a swipe of the index finger to fall head first down the rabbit hole and suddenly find your self finger slipping on a photo she posted 120 weeks ago. Social media gives us the tools to construct these once mysterious figures from the past. A 140 character tweet somehow acts as an autobiographical look into their soul, as does an over used Emoji or a one sentence self-bio.

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^THE WORST. 

You may believe that my behaviour and outlook is “psycho”. I’m ok with that, because I could name you twenty girls that have admitted to the same behaviours, and if we’re all psychos, then I guess we’re psychos. My own mother, at 53, tries to hide the flames in her eyes whenever her partners ex wife is mentioned, but fails. Thank God she doesn’t know how to use Facebook. It’s an organic emotion and action given our lives and culture mixed with our female animalistic instincts. It’s completely out of my usual nature and conscious control: I try my best to love or at least appreciate and support all women. But mixed with this possessive, jealous, stereotypically Leo outlook of needing to be the very best and perhaps a deep down insecurity within relationships, I’ve projected my inward thoughts onto their uniquely-crafted-by-me personas, and created monsters, of which are (probably) very far from their true selves. Take it through extensive experience, stalking is a game you enter with absolutely zero chances of winning, as is comparing yourself or your present relationship to any other human or past relationship. You will never come out of a stalk feeling better about yourself, as much as you like to believe the unflattering drunk photo of her does. Even this paragraph made me hate myself… But truthfully it’s never ever good to feel like that. It’s all about understanding our own brains and situations and having clarity, and not feeling guilt over emotions we don’t understand.

It’s taken me years to establish clarity on why we seek out the ex. I think it begins rather innocently as purely fierce curiosity – trying to work out if he has a type and if you fit it, or measure up to her level, even though a true ‘level’ will never exist. Plus, curiosity over our own metaperception: if I see her a certain way, does he see that in me? Is that how I appear to others? If she is forced into your personal business by way of contact – I’ve had a few weird messages from some scorned ex’s and one that has called the guy while I was sitting next to him to tell him she missed him – it becomes even harder not to investigate a potential ‘threat’. For me personally, this curiosity has at times murdered, butchered and dismembered the cat, and developed into a weird sort of morbid fascination. I’ve paralleled our lives so freely that it’s almost scary – 141 weeks ago when exhibit A. was in New York being a successful supermodel, I was crying after my first fashion week in London. 214 weeks ago when exhibit B. was loved up with my current love… Oh… I was loved up with my ex love… Awkward.

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The worst type of photo to see whilst stalking his ex / anyone could ever post. 

Which leads perfectly to another interesting comparison: unless you males have a secret community with a strict confidentiality agreement, you seem to react to our ex’s in the complete opposite way – remaining so confident in your patriarchal position that you just lack that need to compare, analyse and care whatsoever. When asked if he cared about in any way or had stalked any of his gf’s ex’s, one male friend laughed, and could only muster, “Why would I?”. Following continued probing, he later added, “I guess if she’s with me now, there’s just no need or want to go looking into her past. The past is the past. You girls seem to love the past”.

I can’t help but agree with that generalisation. But in these irrational, jealous moments, we also seem to magically forget that we have our own pasts, once too featuring other people: perhaps even more in love and having even better sex. There have been a few ex girlfriend’s that I have seen as SO beautiful, in a emotionally distressful time when I couldn’t feel worse about myself, convincing myself that I was the ugly one after a string of Candice Swanepoel’s. It didn’t help that a friend of the boyfriend, every time she drank, told me she loved me and that I was so much better than his most recent ex. “You’re great. I mean, she was BEAUTIFUL, but so cardboard. You are so clever and funny!” The first time she said it, I took it as a compliment. By the third time that she’d repeated the exact same sentence, all I managed to hear was, “SHE was BEAUTIFUL” – i.e, you’re not. I felt too embarrassed to tell my boyfriend at that time, so confided in another male, who cuttingly told me, “Even if she is way hotter, why do you care? You’ve had way hotter men than *****, but you still prefer him. It’s obviously the same with him otherwise he’d still be with her and wouldn’t want to be with you.”

Here’s an exercise for you: Close your eyes and picture your “best looking” boyfriend/sexual partner. I don’t mean your most attractive over all to you or the one you fancy or love the most. I mean the usual consensus of what’s physically “good looking” to the general public.

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If it’s your current, lucky you, I guess he’s perfect. But chances are he’s the guy from your past that had good looks and not a lot else. Now compare them to your current, in the same way you’ve compared yourself to his ex’s. In my case, exhibit Lol’sFromMyPast was a 6’4 male model gym buff who turned my flatmate’s gooey eyed and wet knickered. He was also dumb and dull as fuck and gave me nothing but something nice to look at, the novelty of which wore off after three weeks, which was still far too long. Exhibt SexiestManInMyEyes was an intelligent, endlessly interesting and charismatic, 5’9, un photogenic, wonky nosed tech geek, who gave me more orgasms than my right hand. The result? What does “looks” matter? Looks are nothing to do with love or even attractiveness and are always completely in the eye of the beholder anyway. Ask me which man I’d pick given the chance out of the two – I’d pick the latter in a fraction of a heartbeat every single time, with absolutely no thought needed.

We see every little thing that could be wrong with us, when others just see you in all your perfectly imperfect glory. I think women think that men think about “looks” ten times more than they actually do. If my current boyfriend told me he’d been humped over on the sofa stalking my ex on his phone for an hour, accidentally liking a year old picture in the process, I’d be dumbfounded. I’d demand to know what had lead him to such a time wasting activity. The ex couldn’t be further from my mind, living in another parallel universe filled with people who’s body parts once touched your mouth but who’s presence you now could not care less about.

Coincidentally, there’s other people I could not care less about, who’s bodies haven’t been near my mouth or any other orifice: my ex boyfriends’ current girlfriends’.

While conducting an albeit light study on other girls’ feeling towards ‘the ex’, another target came to light organically: 8 out of 10 girls I asked were very interested in their current’s ex, but 7 of those added that they also looked for and resented their ex’s current. This is really interesting to me, as it is honestly something that I am not effected by. Luckily, by the time they’ve moved on, I’ve moved on. I’ve been forced to acknowledge their existence, online and in person, but have never ever ever felt that little jealousy twinge I’ve had for ex’s. When I see the currents, I can appreciate their looks or overall character without compromising my own, sometimes even KNOWING that they are way prettier than me, and – I promise you – not caring one little bit. I don’t know exactly what the difference is, or how I can hold such opposing views on the two, or why some girls feel the opposite way. Perhaps that’s a-whole-nuva article.

Lastly, another super important thing to realise in order to come to terms with their ex is the strong likeliness that you are or one day will be the ex girlfriend to someone’s boyfriend. Imagine a girl you’ve never had anything to do with, examining your thoughtless Instagram posts, thinking you’re dumb and wondering if he found you prettier. Freaky Matrix style shit, huh? Ever had a boyfriend talk shit about his ex? He’ll probably be talking shit about you to his new girlfriend in a year from now.

After the first year of my relationship, I never saw Chelsea again, but if I saw her name on a friend’s Facebook, did I have a little look? Of course. Although, as time went on it became way less frequent, until after three years Will and I broke up for good. As my experience in men grew, so did my experience in mythic “ex girlfriend’s”. In turn, the longer I was with the man, the less I cared about the ex’s. I’ve come to realise, that you really only fully get over the girl when you get over the guy. With no judgement, I can’t help but wonder if the girls that have an issue with their ex’s current, perhaps aren’t over either of them.

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Earlier this year, I received a random LinkedIn invitation from none other than Chelsea. A name that once bubbled my blood now just rung prettily in my ears, and was one I realised had been buried deep in the past. The memories of my past feeling towards her shocked me, and suddenly everything clicked. I found clarity.

I accepted, saw a link to her blog and spent the next hour reading. She seemed cool and clever and exactly my type of girl. I somehow felt I owed it to my 16 year old self, to add her on Facebook and tell her I loved her writing – call it writer karma if you will. A week later we met for the first time. I was excited to finally speak to her and debunk the myths in my head. But like a first date, I was nervous we wouldn’t get on and I’d have to devise an escape route through a public toilet window.

Happy ending alert: we did get on, shared a few bottles of wine and laughed hours away without any weird “what-shall-I-say-now?” moments. In fact, I think I get on with her easier than I ever got on with Will. If you’d have shown a 16 year old me this scene from her future, she never would have believed you.

It’s so weird to think that, the way I feel about Will and whoever his current girlfriend may be now, is the same way Chelsea felt about Will and I way back then. She was over him, not caring who I was. I was in love with him, caring way too much about her. And now seven years later, we were in a bar in Notting Hill together, getting on so well that the topic of our once shared ‘love’ was the dullest and briefest thread of the evening’s conversation.

A POEM:

So remember, ex girlfriends are humans too
living their own unique lives as are you
If you’re cool and he finds you’re cool
chances are she’s cool
and you’d find her cool too.

Give it a few years – who knows – you could be friends.

ALL PHOTOS AND IMAGES FEATURED ARE COURTESY OF GOOGLE IMAGES & FACEBOOK.

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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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Advice, Happiness, Health

THIS GIRL CAN (AND DOES)

Exercise is good for you.

Without a shadow of a doubt.

100%.

Period.

I know I know… You’ve heard it all before. But it really does has no negative consequences, and will improve your life ten fold if done right. Have you ever heard someone say, “Wow, I really regret that work out”, or “I wish I didn’t start exercising” ?

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Only some of the health benefits include:

•up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke

•up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes

•up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer

•up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer

•a 30% lower risk of early death

•up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis

•up to a 30% lower risk of depression

•up to a 30% lower risk of dementia

I’d be a liar if I told you that I exercised purely for the benefit of my health. Not only does exercise make you lose weight, tone and gain muscle, it also improves your skin, posture, produces collagen, and generally makes you appear healthier physically.

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If only there was a magic way to get into shape without all the effort, huh? Because exercising can be a lot of effort. There’s no short cut, there’s no magic spell. Just hard work, motivation and determination.

While I was at university, when I was going through a hard period in my life, I used exercise as a way to escape all of my stresses. I can’t say it made all of my stresses disappear, but it was a lot better than drinking my sorrows away at a bar. Also, the rush of endorphins I got after a work out improved my mental health for the rest of the day, and wore me out ready to sleep well in the evening.

Eventually, I completed university and my dad died. I was having a lot of therapy at this time too, and gradually something in my brain adjusted. I let go of a lot of negativity and became a lot more chilled out. Watching my dad die so young enforced in me the importance of living for the moment and being as happy as possible. Unfortunately, this meant I gradually stopped exercising all together, eating food I had kept from myself for so long, and ending my sober stint.

Although I didn’t put on a huge amount of weight, I was very aware of my lack of fitness and loss of muscle definition. I also had developed a sleeping problem and found my mental health dipping. After a year of not having one solid base, I finally moved into a flat, and finally re joined a gym.

It only took one proper session to get straight back on the saddle. I came out feeling that incredible high of endorphins and wondered how I’d gone so long without it.

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But I can not lie to you… When I am exercising, I am not enjoying myself.

Quite often, a little demon pops into my head, saying

“WHY on Earth are you choosing to do this to yourself?”

“You are literally paying to be in pain.”

“This won’t be over in five minutes. You have to do this for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.”

“You’re in pain, dripping wet, and you’re still not a Victoria Secret Model.”

I ignore it, and keep going. I like to push myself until I am wet with sweat and my legs feel like they can’t move any longer. But that’s just me. Once you get to the stage, the rush of endorphins kick in, and the little demon gets blown away.

Until tomorrow.

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^WHY ARE YOU SMILING? 

I think we should be more honest about exercise.

Feminism in our times and place still has a long way to go. There are subconscious pressures and judgements in all areas of our lives, without the added pressures of trying to exercise and not feel awful about it.

“Fitspo” accounts on Instagram boast incredible bodies without showing all the effort these people went through to obtain it. Not to mention the good camera angles, lighting, editing and poses used to create a perceived perfect body. This, along with news of celebrities, athletes and models, looking amazing down to a so called simple work out regime, only makes us feel awful about ourselves. Don’t forget, there is a lot that these people don’t allow us to see. Nothing annoys me more than when someone claims they love exercise and find it easy. A lot of us, including me, do not. Constantly being fed images of happy, carefree exercise is undermining, patronising and intimidating.

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^Yep, because the difference has nothing at all to do with the angle, knickers, lighting or pose… Sure. 

I am also well aware that the majority of people have actual grown up lives and don’t have the luxury of time to exercise. I am a bit spoilt in this sense, but, I do believe everyone should make time where your health is concerned. It could be as little as walking instead of driving or using public transport. Even walking up the escalator instead of gliding up in the air on the right hand side is an excellent way to exercise.

Thankfully, it seems some companies have got my back on this subject.

Nike’s “Better For It” campaign (2014) proves that even the biggest sport and fitness companies are turning their backs on unrealistic advertising.

Finally! A multi million dollar company is branching out to a wider range of people, and at least begging to recognise the problem with false advertising. This is a powerful and inspiring ad, and definitely made me feel better knowing that other women have a little demon too.

While waiting for my tube the other day, I noticed this poster:

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“This Girl Can is a national campaign developed by Sport England and a wide range of partnership organisations. It’s a celebration of active women up and down the country who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how red their face gets.”

I would urge everyone to visit http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk for more information on the campaign. I am so happy that this has been created, and that we women can inspire and encourage each other without discrimination or pre possessed ideals.

There are many ways to exercise. You do not have to lock yourself in a gym for hours on end. Personally, I love going to classes because there is someone to guide you through it and the group atmosphere really helps with motivation. And at the end of the class, you all feel connected, because you have achieved something great together.

So let’s stop being so hard on ourselves when it comes to exercise. Health is paramount at the end of each day. In order to love yourself you must look after yourself.

Your body is your home – don’t burn it down.

PS. I hightly recommend:

LDN Muscle for everything health and fitness, especially their range of fitness guides for men and women of every fitness level.

Virgin Active for an all round amazing gyms across the UK with an excellent range of classes.

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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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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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